Pants On Fire: Fact-Checking Hartford Courant
Earlier this week, dealing a blow to the vulnerable sick, elderly, and disabled, California governor Jerry Brown signed an assisted suicide bill into law; the ink is barely dry.
Please read Leslie Wolfgang’s excellent analysis here. In it, she writes, “Don’t worry about being outspent.” This, plus the recent developments on the West Coast, reminds us that it’s time to correct the record on some important facts.
Sunday, June 28, 2015 was a particularly ignoble day for the nation’s oldest continuously published newspaper: The Hartford Courant managed to get at least one egregious whopper each into the A, B, and C sections of a single day’s edition. We’re not the first or only entity to give “Pants on Fire” awards, but we congratulate the Courant on sweeping the entire category!
Here’s what the Courant got wrong about assisted suicide, and what else was wrong in that day’s edition:
Pants on Fire Award — Gold
Every year, Connecticut media publish an end-of-session “Winners and Losers” review; every year, victories over assisted suicide are consistently snubbed; every year, we have to tell the stories that they refuse to tell (see a concise and blistering smackdown from our disability rights allies). “For Top Ten Lobbying Spenders, Was It Worth It?” is a story we don’t recall seeing last year. The average reader could be forgiven for coming away with the impression that the Connecticut Catholic Conference and the Knights of Columbus spent, combined, over $600,000 combating assisted suicide, while little old Compassion & Choices (the Group Formerly Known As Hemlock Society) spent $70,000. It’s a convenient narrative for both C&C and the Courant, whose editorial board were beside themselves when the bill got pulled; the problem is, it’s not true.
The article’s numbers are pulled from State Ethics Office reports on the total spending through June of each lobbyist client in 2015. These totals cover everything that the given organization lobbies for. The Catholic Conference advocates on a wide range of social issues, from poverty to immigration to conscience rights; one can visit their website and see their efforts in several areas. The Knights of Columbus are hardly a one-trick pony, either: as a major insurance agency and massive engine of charity, their interests are diverse. This past legislative session, an obvious issue for the Knights was the attempt to get proper signage for the (founder) Father McGivney memorial in Waterbury, which unfortunately didn’t succeed. Worthy as that was, they may still have had bigger priorities.
C&C is a single-issue, special interest group that has done basically squat for the state of Connecticut in the last three years. …Their record player is stuck on one tune — assisted suicide.
It’s highly unlikely that the Catholic Conference and the Knights spent $600,000 just to fight assisted suicide or that “Don’t Jump” and the polling by Marist combined cost anywhere near that amount. Making matters worse, at least part of this money may have been counted twice in the Courant’s summary.
We cannot emphasize enough: C&C is a single-issue, special interest group that has done basically squat for the state of Connecticut in the last three years. Asked about our cutting-edge MOLST pilot program, a spokesman could do nothing but redirect the topic. C&C was nowhere to be found on the Right to Try. Their record player is stuck on one tune — assisted suicide.
Had the Courant examined the same records for the years 2013-2014, it would have found C&C spending almost $425,000 — only about $12,000 less than the Knights and nearly 2 1/2 times as much as the Catholic Conference.
When we talk about C&C’s half-million-dollar spending blitz, we are only talking about C&C. If we tried to be as misleading as this Courant piece, we would surely have to lump in all lobbying by the ACLU, C&C’s most influential ally at the Capitol — and completely ignore anything else on its agenda. That adds about $40,000. Or how about the CT Bar Association, which submitted testimony in favor? There’s another $100 grand. If we were to compare every group on both sides that spent anything to lobby the legislature, it could get very interesting, very fast. We’d also have to ask how much of this money went toward good-old-fashioned showing off, like the free breakfast and free lunch voucher our staff member was offered when he investigated the ACLU’s lobby day with C&C and Betty Gallo (our lobby day participants footed their own meals, thank you very much).
Pants on Fire Award — Silver
In the B section, one finds a full-page spread entitled “State’s Decade of Marriage Equality.” We call BS. The Courant is fudging the distinction between civil unions with same-sex “marriage” to make Connecticut appear more significant than it really was. Even our opponents thought civil unions were an unacceptable substitute, or there would never have been a Kerrigan ruling.
Pants on Fire Award — Bronze
In section C, we find this gem from ex-staff-columnist Susan Campbell (apparently the Courant is a lot like the Hotel California, where you can check out but never leave): “Students of Connecticut’s recent history will remember back to 2008, when our state Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples could legally wed, and the next day the sun dimmed and the birds stopped chirping. The day after that, all our children turned gay and then we mated with our pets. I’m lying, of course, but such were the exaggerated predictions of our local naysayers…” This is pretty standard Campbell fare, and we will leave it at that. Still, it’s pretty funny to hear her accuse pro-family advocates of “making stuff up.”