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Posted by on Apr 24, 2012 in Media, Politics | 5 comments

Fox News’ Steve Doocy Corrects Embellished Obama Quote After Mini Firestorm

Fox News’ Steve Doocy has finally corrected a quote he used from President Barack Obama or, rather, the embellishment of a quote. Or was it an innocent mistake? As someone who was a fulltime journalist, does blogging and writes a weekly column I full know how easy it is to mistakenly paraphrase someone (I even just submitted for my weekly column a piece where I offer a satirical Mitt Romney standup routine to make him more likeable but it’s clear it’s my creation). But the problem here is that a)Doocy’s quote mistake was in a way that seemingly advanced his own abundantly clear political agenda and political preferences b)his correction was issued after only delay and a minor firestorm which included him being the target of a withering bit by Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.

Here is what Obama actually SAID:

Now here’s Doocy talking with Romney — and his characterization what Obama said came out differently:

This set off a firestorm, particularly among partisan weblogs. Talking Points Memo gave the misquote higher profile and Doocy promised a “clarification.”

Stephen Colbert did this brutal bit about the incident – the epitome of snark. But NOTE how Colbert also points out a)the mainstream news media picked up the Doocy mischaracterization (like Jimmy Carter supposedly saying “malaise” which Carter never said) and b)Obama has used this line about “silver spoon” for years.

This led to Doocy’s “clarification,” which he attributes to “some paraphrasing”:

Net result, stripping away judging if this was an intentional misquote for political reasons or (as some partisans think) an intentional distortion and — use the word — lie about what Obama actually said:

If Fox News wants to go beyond being characterized and perceived and dismissed by some as a Republican mouthpiece and propaganda wing during election year, it can’t allow this kind of incident to linger if it occurs. If it’s an error, errors DO happen: on newspapers, in broadcasting, on weblogs. A very quick correction could have laid it to rest — some kind of statement issued immediately. Instead, it just hung out there and festered for too many hours, until the correction seemed almost like a journalistic tooth extraction.

FOOTNOTE: Working journalists do know the danger about the mind assuming. That’s why journalists often recheck quotes and notes or even may call a source back and recheck what was said. I had many editors tell me: “When you assume it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me'” — a little quote that might have spared Doocy his clarification. Only, more than ever, this incident made Doocy appear as an unabashed (braying) elephant.

The misquote and correction was a big topic on the internet (the word “fabrication” was used in many stories).

TV Newser:

Doocy stood by the interpretation that the original quote was a dig at Romney, while also acknowledging that the quote he used in his question was not accurate. At least there was an on-air clarification, which is more than you can say for most TV news outlets.

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple vets the Doocy correction:

(1) Technically correct: It was interpreted as a big dig at Mitt Romney, especially by the people at Fox News. Others, citing Obama’s extensive use of the silver spoon remark long before Romney 2012, didn’t share that interpretation.

(2) There was no “seeming” involved here. The tape shows conclusively that Doocy misquoted the president. Had he not misquoted the president, surely he wouldn’t have taken time out of his day to issue this crow-eating correction.

(3) Good that Doocy detailed the president’s quote. Yet without repeating the preface that he attached to it, the quote doesn’t do much for viewers; it may cause as much confusion as it resolves.

And it’s too bad Doocy didn’t address the telltale smirk that accompanied his question to Romney.

Those are quibbles, however. Fox News did the right thing here. Though it could have been better articulated and more complete, Doocy’s correction was delivered directly to viewers, in the same medium where the mistake originally occurred. Wish we could say the same thing about NBC.

Huffington Post:

Doocy had drawn growing criticism over the week after Talking Points Memo caught him quoting Obama as saying “unlike some people, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth” last Thursday in an interview with Mitt Romney. The problem was that Obama never said “unlike some people.” Doocy’s misquote was picked up in several major outlets. As the controversy around the error grew, Stephen Colbert even ran with the issue, mocking Doocy in a lengthy segment on his show.

Doocy did not apologize for the mistake on Tuesday, and, for whatever reason, only said that he had “seemed to misquote” Obama, not that he had actually misquoted him.


Doocy’s rendition made it easier to portray the remark as a jab against Mitt Romney while interviewing him — Romney portrayed it as an attack on his father’s success. The misquote was then picked up by the Washington Post and New York Post — both of which later ran corrections — as well as conservative blogs.

The top-rated network came under fire Monday for the error, with a devastating critique by Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple as well as coverage from the Huffington Post, Politico, Mediaite and TVNewser. By late afternoon a Fox spokesperson told TVNewser that Doocy would correct the mistake.

It isn’t the first time Doocy has put words in Obama’s mouth. Last October he falsely reported the president was planning on apologizing to Japan for U.S. actions during World War II, only to later concede that what he said was false.