Ann Coulter correctly noted in her book Slander that the New York Times did not report controversial statements of Jessse Jackson in 1994 comparing U.S. conservatives to Nazis but Al Franken changes the context of what she said to single out only her statement “The New York Times did not report the speech” and use it as an example of lying by “overloading a search” by including terms relivant to her criticism of the Times.
In her book Slander, Coulter wrote
…on British TV on Christmas Day, 1994, Jesse Jackson compared conservatives in the U.S. and Great Britain to Nazis: “In South Africa, the status quo was called racism. We rebelled against it. In Germany, it was called fascism. Now in Britain and the U.S. it is called conservatism.” The New York Times did not report the speech.
The fact it was a Christmas speech worked in Franken’s favor. Who would associate a Christmas speech with the kind of hate Jackson spewed? All Franken had to do was leave out the most important part and his spellbound readers would hold on tight and enjoy the lie. Only Franken knows how many lies were available to choose from, but in the end, he accused her of “overloading” a search. This is it:
On page 8 of Slander, Coulter refers to a controversial 1994 Christmas Day speech given by Jesse Jackson on British TV “The New York Times did not report the speech,” she complains. Checking the endnote reveals her methodology. “LexisNexis search of New York Times archives from December 1994 through January 1995 for ‘Jesse Jackson and Germany and fascism and South Africa’ produces no documents.” Well, yeah.
A more reasonable search (Jesse Jackson and Christmas and Britain) shows that, yes, the Times did run an article on December 20 about the controversy using excerpts of Jackson’s speech, which was prerecorded.
Using Coulter’s technique, I can prove that no newspaper has ever covered anything…
While it was deceptive to withhold the significance of the words “Germany” and “fascism” and “South Africa”, Franken had even finer arts of deceptive communiqué up his sleeve. Notice that he used the word “overload” while subtly leaving it up to the reader to determine whether “overload” referred to the number of words or to the relevance of the words. As you will see, that left a lot of wiggle room that he was able to utilize to manipulate the innocent reader.
This is how it worked.
The few readers who happened to know the relevance of the words she used were left to think she “overloaded” the search by using too many. Franken leaves the rest—the vast majorities—of the readers to assume the word “overloaded,” means Coulter sabotaged the result with words having nothing to do with the speech and therefore being unlikely to appear in the article. Franken had his bases covered. All he had to do was say “Well, yeah.” and if they did not fall into one trap, they would fall into the other.
In order to seal the deal on his clever phony argument he just needed to doctor some evidence that Coulter’s search method produced a false negative. To do this he uses a very benign search (“Jesse Jackson and Christmas and Britain”) that is both short and leaves out the supposed sabotage words. This satisfies both interpretations of “overload”. Then Franken throws out this lie:
…yes, the Times did run an article on December 20 about the controversy using excerpts of Jackson’s speech…
“About the controversy”? The Times article does not even mention the controversy. However, Franken is covered once again. If his readers look the article up, they find a reference to a different “controversy”; the station aired Jackson’s speech at the same time as the Queen’s Christmas Day broadcast. Here’s a quote from the article, aptly titled, “Will Jesse Jackson Beat Queen in British Ratings? Stay Tuned”:
Billed by the station as an “alternative (to the) Queen’s speech,” Mr. Jackson is appearing at the invitation of station officials, who are promoting his appearance as part of a week-long schedule of holiday programming devoted to minority affairs and entertainment, built around the theme of celebrating a ‘Black Christmas.’
As for the supposed “excerpts from the speech” that Franken claimed were in the article, this is all there was:
‘The lives of too many of our young people are going to waste,’ Mr. Jackson is quoted as saying. ’The oppressed must engage in sane, sober, sensitive and disciplined resistance to their oppression.’
Other conservatives have been smeared in similar fashion.