The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

27 October 2006

Al Franken, Air America Radio, Ohio GOP


Stuart Parody Image Used In Campaign PR, Left Angry

Proving that political silly season has truly reached its pre- election peak, the Ohio Republican Party has been falsely accused of doctoring a photo (seen here) in order to smear Air America Radio host Al Franken.

Unlike the brilliant work done at Little Green Footballs, Michelle Malkin's site and elsewhere on real instances of fauxtography, often used as anti- American propaganda by overseas media agencies, this one simply doesn't fit the bill.

First alleged by political reporters at the Cincinnati Enquirer, it was picked up by a number of other sites, including one run by the lefty Center For American Progress. This is their link to the original press release.

Here's the Enquirer's initial report:

The Ohio Republican Party sent this photo out today in a news release criticizing Rep. Sherrod Brown for enlisting the help of comedian and Air America talk show host Al Franken. Franken plans to rally Democratic supporters tonight during a conference call to various house parties in Brown's U.S. Senate race against Republican Sen. Mike DeWine. Franken stumped for Brown earlier this month in Akron.

Ohio GOP spokesman John McClelland said, "It is not surprising that Sherrod Brown is enlisting the help of a Hollywood liberal, who like him, is so far out of the mainstream of Ohio values. What is troubling is that Brown would solicit support from someone who compared conservatives to Nazis 'who should drink poison and die,'" quoting a book by Bernard Goldberg.

UPDATE: Andy Barr, director of Al Franken's Midwest Values Political Action Committee, said, "The picture is a fake. . . Both the photograph and the quote are particularly hacky works of pure fiction. No wonder Sherrod's up by so much" in recent public-opinion polls.

Gee, it must be time for another Think Progress retraction! Here we go again:

Ohio GOP Smears Al Franken In Press Release With Doctored Photo, Fabricated Quote

Yesterday, the Ohio Republican Party sent out a news release (full text here) attacking Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) for enlisting the support of comedian Al Franken:

It is not surprising that Sherrod Brown is enlisting the help of a Holly- wood liberal, who like him, is so far out of the main- stream of Ohio values. What is troubling is that Brown would solicit support from someone [Franken] who compared conservatives to Nazis “who should drink poison and die.”

The quote used in the news release is taken from Bernard Goldberg book, 110 People Who Are Screwing Up America, in an alleged interview between Goldberg and Franken. But in his book, Goldberg makes it clear that the exchange is completely fictional. The Ohio Republican Party represented it as fact.

The news release was accompanied by this photograph, showing Franken dressed up like a baby bunny, wearing adult diapers and clutching a fluffy white teddy bear.

Andy Barr, director of Franken’s Midwest Values PAC, confirmed, “The picture is a fake.” The Ohio Republican Party used a 2004 AP photo of Franken for the doctored image:

From there, the ball got rolling on the left side of the blogosphere.

In each instance, it seems clear the GOP itself is being accused of "doctoring" the photo, as though this is something they'd just undertaken for the purpose of the press release. See the last sentence of the Think Progress piece above if you're unclear on their allegation.

Here's why they're dead wrong on that charge:

This image of Franken has been kicking around the Internet for over a year. Who was behind this obvious photoshopping effort isn't known, but it has often been posted at Free Republic and on blog sites during that time.

Here's an example from July, as well as another from February. It's possible the image has run here as well, but seems unlikely.

Second and most obvious, it's meant as a parody. Because it's simply a gag, there's no scandal here. Thanks to David and Pete, our image editors, we've run dozens of silly Franken images of our own over the last couple of years. Three of their works are featured here.

Not once were we accused of "doctoring" photos, because they were obvious photoshops, just like this one. Nobody really believes Al would pose in a nappy holding a teddy bear and wearing rabbit ears, do they?

At the same time, none of our readers actually thought Franken had turned into a giant golf ball, had suddenly begun to appear on Iranian currency, or was really turning Ann Coulter and Katherine Harris into a tasty snack.

As for the text of their press release, it does appear that the Ohio GOP was duped by Goldberg's book. With a simple retraction, that can be remedied.

Otherwise, any suggestion that Republicans were behind the creation of the image itself is hereby proven false.

UPDATE: Think Progress still pushing this story today. Commenters think Franken should sue the GOP.

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  • "it does appear that the Ohio GOP was duped by Goldberg's book"

    How were they duped? Goldberg's book, supposedly, clearly stated the "interview" as fake.

    Oh - they must've wanted to have been duped.

    I don't think a "simple retraction" would quite do in that case.

    Meanwhile, there is also an huge difference between a couple of fringe websites using a pic versus a state party sending it out. At best, it is slimy, so why not call them on it?

    Frankly, I'm surprised you told so much of the truth on this one, Brian - though you did focus on the wrong issue - the fake quote is much more of a problem than the pic.

    But, I don't think you're the first one to focus on the pic first, so you can be forgiven for that.

    By Blogger TJ, at 27 October, 2006 11:42  

  • Brian - I take back the forgiving...once more, I fooled myself by not following the links you provided:

    Those two examples of the pic appearing on the web? ONE of them was a message board comment. NOT a website posting, but a COMMENT.

    In other words, only one of the two sites you provided as an example "used" the photo - the other instance was a commenter posting the pic.

    Not as much validity to your argument that the pic was "out there" as you tried to portray.

    Shame on me for expecting you to be honest.

    By Blogger TJ, at 27 October, 2006 11:48  

  • From a link on the Drudge Report, read an interview from someone named Camilla Paglia, who is apparently yet another in a depressingly long (as in just about everyone - there is no diversity of ideas in the college classroom, except left and more left) list of pro-Democrat professors.

    Although her comments are a rehash of the same nonsense that typically comes from the so-called "intellectual" pro-Democrat left (and of no real interest), her comments on talk radio are worth repeating, as it gives an insight into how the "hard" left looks at the medium:

    "This overblown fear of Fox News is such a sentimentality on the part of too many Democrats. Talk radio is infinitely more powerful than Fox. Radio hosts are blanketing the country with round-the-clock conservative ideology -- not because they're dastardly conspirators manipulating the media but because they've achieved their success, market by market, in creating programs that millions of people want to listen to.

    "The recent filing for bankruptcy by Air America dramatizes my party's abject failure to produce shows that are informative and entertaining and that systematically build an audience --the way all the top radio hosts did who climbed the ladder from obscurity to their present prominence. Aren't we the party of Hollywood?

    "The fact that we've failed so miserably at this central medium of communication shows how something has gone very wrong in Democratic sensibility....

    "I had great hopes for Randi Rhodes for a while, but she drove me away with her monotonous kvetching. Radio is an entertainment medium and requires variety of tone. Rhodes constantly sneers -- it's the shallow Maureen Dowd syndrome, turning political players into babies. Well, come on, we're dealing with issues of life and death on a global scale. You can't constantly reduce politicians to cartoons.

    ...Don't even mention Al Franken -- I can't listen to him for 30 seconds without falling asleep. A voice like molasses and never a fresh idea."

    Lots of frustration here, right?

    By Blogger thinkcon, at 27 October, 2006 12:20  

  • Radio Equalizer: Good job on calling the Ohio Republicans on this.

    They need to apologize for this to both their opponent and (sigh) Mr. Franken.

    It goes without saying that they need to fire a staffer or two over this as well.

    By Blogger Lokki, at 27 October, 2006 13:16  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger TJ, at 27 October, 2006 14:27  

  • Lokki? How is Brian "calling" anyone on anything? Your humor is too subtle here, if that's your intention...

    After all, Maloney's title to this is "Phony Frankenflap" or somesuch, which means Brian apparently doesn't find anything terrible about what the Ohio Republicans have done here - more than the need to simply "retract" the fake quote.

    By Blogger TJ, at 27 October, 2006 14:34  

  • IMHO the whole subject is too silly to be even taken seriously.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 27 October, 2006 23:40  

  • Ahhhh Baloney,

    Today Al Franken was paid for hosting a talk show on the radio in a number of media markets...

    and you weren't...

    And Camille Paglia is right about Al Franken - he's not a particularly good talk host. But he travels around the country, he has interesting guests and he pisses wignuts off.

    He's doing a good job in my book.

    By Blogger Dovish, at 28 October, 2006 02:27  

  • Yep.

    Let's lock all the Rethugs up in a FEMA camp and play Noam Chomsky lectures to 'em 24/7!!

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 29 October, 2006 01:05  

  • The image is silly, an obvious fake. It's weird that the Republican party of Ohio would release it in an official press release though.

    But you are missing the point, probably deliberately.

    The real issue is the made up quote from Al Franken that the Ohio Republican party is passing off as a real quote. They could be sued.

    It is not surprising that Sherrod Brown is enlisting the help of a Hollywood liberal, who like him, is so far out of the mainstream of Ohio values. What is troubling is that Brown would solicit support from someone who compared conservatives to Nazis 'who should drink poison and die,'

    How can you not get sued for saying something like that?

    By Blogger qw3rty, at 02 November, 2006 21:49  

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