USA Today Dowdifies Fred

Byline: | Category: 2008 Presidential Election, Blogging, Media | Posted at: Saturday, 29 December 2007

SEE UPDATE BELOW: It appears that Jill Lawrence, not Bill Theobald, is the culprit.

The USA Today’s Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence reprint on their blog a Bill Theobald story. At least Theobald, and perhaps all three, apparently studied journalism under Maureen Dowd.

Here is the unexcerpted text of their story about Fred Thompson:

BURLINGTON, Iowa — Fred Thompson said Saturday he does not much like the modern form of presidential campaigning and that he “will not be devastated” if he doesn’t win the election.

“I’m not particularly interested in running for president,” Thompson said, but rather he feels called to serve his country.

“I don’t know if you have a desire to be president,” Burlington attorney Todd Chelf told Thompson during a question and answer session raising an issue that has dogged his campaign.

“I am not consumed by personal ambition,” Thompson responded. “I’m offering myself up.”

Given the volatile state of the world, the actor and former Tennessee senator said he was not “sure it is a good thing if a president has too much fire in his belly.”

“I’m only consumed by a few things and politics is not one of them,” he said.

Chelf said after the event that it was “almost refreshing to hear that approach.”

“I think there is a passion there,” he said. “I think it’s sort of a Southern gentleman passion.”

Thompson also had stops scheduled Saturday in Washington, Williamsburg, Montezuma, and Newton, Iowa.

“Wow, he really doesn’t want to be president at all,” is what you’re probably thinking after reading this.

But when you read the whole unexcerpted interview, you come away with a far different picture–a refreshing and uncommon picture of a man at the highest level of politics who takes his country and his responsibilities far more seriously than he takes himself.

I approach life differently than a lot of people. People, I guess, are wondering how I’ve been as successful as I’ve been in everything I’ve done. I’ve won two races in Tennessee by twenty points in a state Bill Clinton carried twice. I had never run for office before. I’ve never had an acting lesson, and I guess that’s obvious. (laughter). When I did it, I did it. It wasn’t just a lark. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. I’ve always been a little more laid back than most. I like to say I’m only consumed by very few things, and politics is not one of them. The welfare of my country, and my kids and grandkids, growing up, is one of them. (applause)

If what people really want in their president is a super type A personality, someone who has gotten up every morning and gone to bed every night and been thinking about, for years how they can be president of the United States… someone who can look you straight in the eye and say they’ve enjoyed every minute of campaigning… (laughter) I ain’t that guy. (more laughter) [To questioner] So I hope I’ve discussed that, or I haven’t talked you out of anything. I honestly want… I can’t imagine a worse set of circumstances than achieving the presidency under a false pretenses, especially if you feel the way I do. I’ve gone out of my way to be myself, because I don’t want anybody to think they’re getting something they’re not getting. I’m not consumed by this process, I’m not consumed with the notion of being president. I’m simply saying I’m willing to do what’s necessary to achieve it if I’m in sync with the people. And if the people want me, or somebody like me, I will do what I’ve always done with everything else in my life. I will take it on and do a good job. You’ll have the disadvantage of having someone who probably cna’t jump up and click their heels three times, but will tell you the truth. And you’ll know where the president stands at all times.

There’s more. Read the whole thing to see how wrong Theobald was in his portrayal of Fred Thompson.

And so that Bill Theobald can now understand how it feels to be “dowdified” (second item), here is my excerpted recap of an earlier story of his that I remarked about once:

“Bill Theobald . . . has . . . a history of . . . being gobbled up by presidential candidates, especially Republican Fred Thompson.”

Theobald also has a history of being wrong, and then not acknowledging his errors. That is why I mentioned his reporting when two months ago he made a glaring historical error in that earlier story. I notice now that the Tennessean online story corrects the error, but apparently makes no mention that the earlier version was false. The fact that remains, however, is that Bill Theobald has twice now ignorantly and/or willfully distorted facts to fit his preconceptions.


FRED THOMPSON responds: “Today I had this story written about me regarding what I said at a Town Hall event in Burlington, Iowa by a reporter who wasn’t even at the event. Incidentally, I declined to be interviewed by this particular reporter yesterday for reasons which will soon be apparent.”

Outside the Beltway thinks that it is much ado about nothing. His commenters disagree: ” . . . yesterday I watched for the first time PJ Media’s Nov 2001 interview with Fred Thompson and came away with the impression that Thompson is far more serious and solid than the narrative MSM is feeding me . . . “

CNN, using less words, provides more context: “Thompson took heat for not jumping into the White House race until September — significantly later than every other candidate — and has since been criticized for his laid-back campaign style and often-times light schedule. But the former actor has criticized his rivals for launching their presidential bids months ahead of his, and continually touts the fact he hasn’t harbored presidential ambitions his whole career.”

DailyPundit: “Remember, you have to go to journalism school to learn how to lie, distort, and propagandize at so professional a level.”

The Sundries Shack: “Twice in ten days someone standing in the same room who makes pretty good money to pay attention to what someone says and then report it accurately has gotten a story on Fred Thompson completely wrong.”

Miss Beth: “Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? Well, Fred just may be that tortoise–slow and steady and eventually, win the race. That is if he can get past the idiotic MSM determined to derail him.”


FoxNews gets it right

The New Republic, whose credibility is already mortally damaged, inflicts additional wounds upon itself by reinforcing the Fred is lazy meme.

Right Wing Nuthouse: “It’s too late for Thompson to change the minds of the press regarding the importance of having an overweening ambition to be president. Collectively, it appears they have decided that this is an extremely relevant and serious criteria by which to judge a candidate’s worthiness for high office. Somehow, a candidate’s thoughtfulness, integrity, instincts, temperament, and views on the issues have become secondary to an artificial measurement of the heat given off from how much fire is in his belly.”

Blue Crab Blvd: “The Mad Magaizine School Of Journalism”

Eric Schulze: “Thompson’s quote about not being consumed by ambition almost directly echoes a famous quote from Dwight Eisenhower, quoted disapprovingly by Richard Neustadt in his classic book on presidential power. Neustadt, like most critics of Thompson, believed that a man who did not live for power could not understand it and would make a mess of the oval office. Ike either didn’t thrive on politics — or he didn’t find it helpful to convey the impression that he thrived on politics. . .

Either way, it has always struck me as a paradox that we resent presidents and presidential candidates for having warped personalities, but then we set up a path to the office on which only a warped personality would embark. So there is something fundamentally charming of Thompson’s indifference to it all.”

ABC News gets it: “That’s Fred. Fred is Fred. He has disdain for the process. And I think probably most of us can understand why.”

BitsBlog: “I suppose it’s been several generations that the press has not seen the kind of politician that we used to have in this country near its founding, where every waking moment of a candidate’s life was taken up with government. So it is their reaction to such a pol is oe of fear.”

Race 4 2008: “The MSM Can Bite Me and My Red Pick Up”

Ronald Winter: “Thompson has been slammed by the media because he isn’t playing by the media’s rules. Yet for all the criticism, Thompson is moving steadily upward. The truth is, Thompson is simply walking a different path to the same goal, and it may be a better route. “

MacsMind: “The MSM types want to hammer candidates when they get it wrong, it’s time for them to come clean when they do.”

Mark Levin: “Wrong they said of Fred”


It appears that I was too harsh on Bill Theobald. According to this report Jill Lawrence was the culprit.

After putting [the original report] up, she had to correct herself when Bill Theobald told her she got it wrong.

“Bill calls to clarify that Thompson said he doesn’t like the process of running for president but he does want to BE president.”

Perhaps she could have gotten it right the first time. After all, it wasn’t even her own first hand reporting. She was reporting on what another reporter reported.

It was, afterall, her reporting of his reporting that I made mention of, so Bill is deserving of my apology.

Secondly, since when do reporters report the reports of other reporters? As a business model, it would appear that Gannett is making a mistake by paying two reporters to do the work of one.

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14 Responses to “USA Today Dowdifies Fred”

  1. Bookmarks Tagged Facts Says:

    […] bookmarks tagged facts USA Today Dowdifies Fred saved by 1 others     rodrilx bookmarked on 12/29/07 | […]

  2. Bob Owens Says:


    Thompson wasn’t Dowdified.

    He was Simonized!


  3. Daily Pundit » It Takes A Degree (To Raise A Lie) Says:

    […] » USA Today Dowdifies Fred The USA Today’s Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence reprint on their blog a Bill Theobald story. At least Theobald, and perhaps all three, apparently studied journalism under Maureen Dowd. […]

  4. Math_Mage Says:

    Wow. You’d think they’d give this s*** up…but then, they’re counting on more people hearing the original story than the criticism.

  5. Michael F Says:

    How can a “journalist” commit this sort of malpractice and think no one is going to notice? This display of craven mendacity should make Mr. Theobald change occupations and hide. But I am sure it won’t.

  6. MSM Reporters Misreports Yet Another Fred Thompson Campaign Stop : The Sundries Shack Says:

    […] Twice in ten days someone standing in the same room who makes pretty good money to pay attention to what someone says and then report it accurately has gotten a story on Fred Thompson completely wrong. First it was The Politico’s Roger “Editors? What Editors?” Simon who apparently fell asleep during a Thompson visit to an Iowa fire house. Now it’s the USA Today’s Bill Theobald who Dowdified his way through a question and answer session. […]

  7. Justin L Says:

    Skimming to find the dirt quicker than a Hoover…pasting together unrelated thoughts faster than a sugared-up preschooler…skewing news coverage more than Baghdad Bob….it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s SUPER-JOURNALIST!

    Invincible to anything but the “read more” button.

  8. Clyde Says:

    Be careful what you wish for, Michael F! The weasel might just go into POLITICS!

  9. John Casteel Says:

    Jill Lawrence? Isn’t that the same genius who wrote after the 2004 election that it was hard to imagine Democrats doing or saying anything mean or nasty? Right after an election in which the Dems serially called President Bush a liar, a dunce, a drunkard among other niceties. Guess you can put a lot of faith in her objectiveness.

  10. Jack’s Newswatch Says:

    […] Bob Krumm | USA Today Dowdifies Fred […]

  11. Warren Says:

    “The fact that remains, however, is that Bill Theobald has twice now ignorantly and/or willfully distorted facts to fit his preconceptions.”

    Or a third option.

    Perhaps its delusonial.

    I’d allow Mr. Theobald to choose one of the three options.

  12. M. Simon Says:

    Bob Owens Says December 29th, 2007 at 9:03 pm,


    Thompson wasn’t Dowdified.

    He was Simonized!



  13. Dave Mastio Says:

    I am sorry, I just don’t get the rage over this. The story portrayed typical charming Fred Thompson. The fact is all stories have to cut down the quotes to get them to work in the space available.

    The impression I got from reading the story was almost exactly the impression I got from reading the transcript.

    Normally, I am all over biased stories, particularly when my old employer runs them, but this all seems a waste of breath.

  14. Volunteer Voters » The Fred Doesn’t Really Want It Controversy Part 49 Says:

    […] Others say that Fred’s comments were taken out of context and that the press twisted his words in order to fit a long-standing narrative that Fred Thompson is a man too lazy to become President. […]