The web site ‘ Talking Points Memo’, better known as TPM, has long been a Liberal stalwart, a go-to site for a left wing point of view. Apparently no more.
A former reporter for the the right wing paper, The New York Sun, Benji Sarlin, blasted readers with a HuffPo type headline “Obama Mangles U.S., World History In Energy Speech” today, a headline that was false and intended solely to garner clicks, primarily from right wingers.
President Obama got a laugh out of a Maryland audience on Thursday when he mocked the Republican Party in a speech, comparing their skepticism of alternative energy to the “Flat Earth Society” in Christopher Columbus’ day and President Rutherford B. Hayes’ apparent dismissal of the telephone. But while Obama thinks the GOP is in need of a science lesson, he may need to bone up on history himself.
In mocking the GOP, Obama cited an anecdote about Hayes in which, upon using the telephone for the first time, he said, “It’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?”
“That’s why he’s not on Mount Rushmore,” Obama said. “He’s explaining why we can’t do something instead of why we can do something.”
In painting his energy critics as being mired in the past, President Obama made a joking comparison with a predecessor, the 19th President of the United States Rutherford B. Hayes.
The quote itself is often cited, is listed on Wikiquote, and was intended by the president to be humorous, a quality which Mr. Sarlin is apparently unfamiliar with. President Obama:
“One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes. He said “It's a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?” talking about the telephone. That's why he's not on Mount Rushmore. He's explaining why we can't do something instead of why we can do something. The point is there will always be cynics and naysayers who just want to keep on doing things the same way we have always done them.”
President Obama also made a quip about Columbus and the flat earther type wingnuts:
“If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society,” Obama said. “They would not have believed that the world was round.”
Mr. Sarlin, I dislike having to disillusion you, but the majority of Americans still believes that during Columbus’ time most people thought that the earth was flat.
A reader offers an explanation for the outrage seen in the comment section:
“I think the nerve you've struck is that the substance of the "error" doesn't in any way match the language and primacy which you've shown it, to the point of being absurd. Obviously that's an editorial decision, and some thought goes into it. But this was so obviously a bad call, that it makes some of your long time readers here question what has happened to this site. Perhaps, it's time you guys, y'know, 'boned up' on some journalism.”
My contention is that anecdotal cracks regarding technologically impaired presidents such as Rutherford Hayes, and flat earth societies used as a rhetorical device for laughs/humor, using generally/widely accepted, albeit erroneous, beliefs, does not qualify as a "mangling of history”.
Mr. Sarlin, I sincerely hope that your editor has enlightened you because your regular readers certainly tried in your comment section, and I think that if you are unable to do better, Josh Marshall would do best to kick you to the curb.