September 28, 2004

Who among us expects this misquote to go away?

One of the things that drives me nuts every four years is the way legends spread about things the candidates supposedly said or did that just happen to confirm the conventional wisdom about them.

It doesn't matter whether I support the candidate or not. For years it angered me well beyond what was called for that people believed George H.W. Bush was amazed by a supermarket scanner or that Bob Dole called Arnold Schwarzenegger's True Lies a "family friendly" film. [Update: Or that Al Gore claimed he invented the Internet, obvs.] This isn't about politics, it's about lazy punditry becoming lazy public opinion.

So thank you Mike Pesca in Slate for exposing another too-good-to-be-true campaign moment: John Kerry's, "Who among us doesn't like NASCAR?"

That's right, Kerry never said it.

Based on what Pesca and Bob Somerby have learned, here's what I figure happened:

Kerry made a speech in February that was supposed to include the line, "Now, I happen to like NASCAR." But he departed from his prepared text, which, as usual, wasn't convoluted enough for him, and instead said, "There isn't one of us here who doesn't like NASCAR and who isn't a fan."

This struck Sheryl Gay Stolberg as funny, and she repeated it to Maureen Dowd, but inadvertently sexed it up a little, giving us the version that's now famous.

Kerry's actual quote, while clumsier than what he was supposed to have said, isn't at all the forehead slapper that would have been repeated gleefully throughout the campaign.

Still, I guarantee you we'll be hearing the false version way past November. At least today there are bloggers who can help keep the real story in the mix.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


From tonight's Daily Show (as best as I can transcribe quickly):

Ed Helms: "We [reporters] write our stories in advance based on conventional wisdom and then fill in the details to match the narrative."

Jon Stewart: "Why?"

Ed Helms: "Because we're lazy."

There was more but I didn't get it in time.

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