Monday, July 16, 2012

Episode 4: I'll Try to Fix You

Episode four is a little more fact driven and a little less political than the last episode. That being said, they still didn’t get it all right.

Mackenzie’s boyfriend, Wade, is an assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecutes financial crime. He claims that financial crimes were supposed to get $165 million but only got $30 million after congress “rolled over to the GOP.” This is factually unclear. I can’t find any bills passed by the 111th Congress that would have had this effect, and since the 112th Congress was not sworn in until five days after this conversation apparently took place, I’m not sure how the shift in power could have affected any funding to this point. What I do know is that multiple former white-collar defense attorneys inhabit the office of the Attorney General. In fact, Attorney General Eric Holder used to be a partner at Covington & Burling, a firm that represents companies like Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan Chase.

When discussing the price of President Obama’s 2010 trip to Mumbai for a G20 meeting, the show gets it absolutely right. Considering our nation’s military presence in Afghanistan at the time reportedly only cost about $190 million per day, it’s a little ridiculous that any media outlet grabbed a hold of the $200 million per day number for this trip. However, by January of 2011 nobody would have believed that number unless they had just come out of a coma that started on November 5th or so.

In their attack on the idea that “Obama is after your guns,” their argument falls a little flat since their source of “facts” is not a very solid one. The first problem is that the Brady Campaign does not regularly do a report card on policymakers' handling of gun laws. The straight F’s earned by President Obama are torn from a cover illustration from a report by The Brady Campaign on his first year as President. The supporting “facts” come from that same report. While the show paints a picture of a pro-gun President, the report does admit that the problem isn’t the President’s stated intentions, just his inaction. The report maligns his not living up to the tough-on-guns image everyone, including The Brady Campaign, attributed to him before he was elected. The spike in gun sales was not, after all, based on any of his policy decisions as President but was based on image.

The last ten minutes or so of the show are dedicated to the January 8, 2011 shooting of Gabrielle Giffords (among others) in Tucson, Arizona. The team is shown gathering information and doing what they can to stay on top of the story. When Maggie sees that NPR has reported Giffords dead, she brings it to Jim. They hold off as more and more news outlets report the death based on the NPR report. Finally, they get confirmation that Giffords is alive and going into surgery. The NPR mistake really happened, and many news outlets really repeated that report as fact. In this case, News Night chose to get it right. If the real-life media had done the same, many friends and family members would have been spared a terrible moment of real life drama.

Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.


  1. re-gun control, Newsroom left out two other important facts concerning why the right side was heavily pushing Obama attacking 2nd amendment rights.

    1st - the events of "Project Gun Runner", an investigation started by Congress in Jan 2011 resulting from an inquary in the shooting of Boarder Agent Brian Terry on 12/14/10.

    2nd - the passage of H.R. 5552 (111th): Firearms Excise Tax Improvement Act of 2010 on 6/16/10 which was the prompt for this reaction.

  2. As a huge fan of the ideas espoused by "The Newsroom," I am gratified to have my Google search lead me here. I hope the show's creators read this each week and remember it for season two. (As other commenters have said, please do post the relevant links/sources from your research to ensure credibility.)

    Keep it up!

  3. Agree with Rob. Thanks for this. Keep it up!

  4. the Blaze did an article on this that i think your readers and yourself might find interesting.

    1. I listened to his commentary.

      He purposefully says that Liberals were so stupid, they thought The West Wing was true.

      He also claimed that Obama purposefully tried to get guns into the hands of the cartel, in reference to a botched sting operation.

      He says Obama called Romney a felon and still can't defend his own botching of the facts.

      He even says the $200 million a day thing IS possible, for whatever reason.

      Also, while I agree that Limbaugh may not have said the words "Obama will take your gun, buy one today" he definitely implies it. Sorkin should get his mess straight, that's for sure. But here's a quote from Limbaugh.

      "AP says that firearm sales are surging because buyers fear that anti-gun politicians may use the shootings to seek new restrictions on owning weapons. That's a very reasonable fear."

      That's from the wake of the DKR shooting. Here's the link.

      He hasn't said it, but I believe he's sure thinking it. Especially since he says in the video you posted that he wouldn't say that, because "I'm more careful than that."

  5. "The spike in gun sales was not, after all, based on any of his policy decisions as President but was based on image."

    The Newsroom made no such claim. Here's what the show actually said:

    "Why are Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the head of the NRA so colossally lying to you? I don’t know. But I know when they do, ratings go up, political contributions go up, membership in the NRA goes up, the president's approval rating goes down, and gun sales go through the freaking roof."

    So the implication is that gun sales go up because of their lies.

  6. @Kenric, thank you for being the first to take both this blog and the show out of context. Maybe you misunderstand the point of this blog. I didn't make any assertions except that their facts were flawed. I am not here to argue about who in the real world lied or didn't. In this case, The Newsroom lied. That's the truth.

    1. Ouch. That was a harsh response to a genuine reply. At no point do you provide evidence to make the leap from "their source of 'facts' [being] not a very solid one" to the Newsroom being a liar (in this instance). The only lie I can tell that you're trying to point to is your statement that the Brady Campaign does not regularly generate report cards on policymakers' gun control policies. While true in a sense, they do annually create report cards on state gun violence prevention policies (dating back to around 1996 according to a quick Google search). The show claims that they regularly generate report cards on elected officials, not statewide legislation. Whether they intended to mislead by claiming the Brady Campaign releases report cards for elected officials instead of state governments and not noting the report card for Obama was atypical or if they just didn't fact check that statement before adding it to the script is unclear. Besides, whether or not the Brady Campaign reports on elected officials regularly has no bearing on the validity of the report.

      It seems Kenric was simply pointing out that at no point did the show say that President Obama is pro-gun to the point of making policy decisions as you *assert* here: "While the show paints a picture of a pro-gun President...," and reinforce with the comment Kenric mentioned: "The spike in gun sales was not, after all, based on any of his policy decisions as President...." The show uses the liberally-based agency's report that is critical of President Obama's policies in an effort to refute claims by Governor Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the director of the NRA that "Barack Obama has a secret plan to get our guns" and not in an effort to describe President Obama as a champion of anti-gun control policy.

      To me, Kenric seems to take both the show and this blog entirely in context. The show used the report to refute blatant lies designed to advance the conservative agenda. You seem to be the one misrepresenting the show to claim that they lied. The only lie that you mentioned is the fact that the show claimed the Brady Campaign regularly releases report cards on elected officials rather than state policies, but you failed to mention the whole story there. It's unclear whether the show was wrong in that case on purpose (meaning that there was intent and, thereby, making it a lie) or due to lack of research.

      However, if you had mentioned the fact that there is seemingly no evidence of Rush Limbaugh advocating his "listeners to go out and buy guns before President Obama outlaws them all" as the show claims and Red's link above somewhat refutes (simply by placing the burden of proof on the show and not by any argument provided in the article), I would concede that that was most likely a lie unless someone from The Newsroom could provide a source for such a claim. They seem to be unable to do so as they have audio and video samples of their other targets but not even a quote from Rush Limbaugh.

      I stumbled upon this blog after a Google+ search for The Newsroom, and, as a fan of Sports Night, The West Wing, and, so far, The Newsroom, I was genuinely interested in seeing some of the facts checked. However, after seeing you tear into an honest rebuttal of one claim of your post (which, I might remind you, is exactly what you are attempting to accomplish with the blog in regards to the show), I'll be a bit more skeptical of your fact checking. Especially since you seem to have ignored the incredibly fallacious article posted by Red and the insane, ignore-any-and-all-facts rants by the majority of the commenters on that article due to the fact that Red seems to be on your side and jumped straight to criticizing Kenric for attempting to engage in frank discussion rather than pandering to your beliefs.

    2. Matt,
      I don't have any beliefs on this issue beyond that the show lied. I don't feel I attacked Mr. Kenric, just his use of both my words and that of the show in a way that is misleading. I can't abide such blatant disregard for the truth of the entire context of the show and my analysis of it.

      A lie does not require intent, by the way. However, their misrepresentation of that report had clear intent. They chose one sentence and a cover illustration to support their argument. I'm not saying that they, as a drama, aren't allowed to do whatever they can to make the point they want to make. I'm just here to tell you what they left out and got wrong. Nothing more. And, I'm pretty sure the fact that I even published his and your comments shows that I'm not afraid of a little discussion.


  7. I still don't see where the show lied in that case, nor do I see where Kenric misrepresented either you or the show. Most definitions for lie include intent; however, you're correct, there are some definitions that don't require intent (from

    verb (used without object)
    5. to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive.
    6. to express what is false; convey a false impression.

    I'm still confused where you're getting the show misrepresenting the report. As you mentioned, the report card itself they use is copied from the cover of the report. The report goes into detail on the shortcomings of President Obama's policies regarding each subject on the report card the show mentions. (They leave off the last 'F' grade for "Leadership" in the show.) The details include his failure given many opportunities to discuss and enact gun control issues on which his campaign was run, but it also describes several actions taken which run counter to the anti-gun rhetoric used to obtain office. As one example, the show mentions from the report that President Obama has signed into law in one year more repeals than President Bush (43) did while in office. The Brady Campaign report shows that President Obama failed to repeal an amendment that his campaign promised to do, and, in contrast, included some of its language in one of his budget proposals. The report goes on for 26 pages, including three pages full of 100 references for supporting evidence, to show that President Obama has taken little to no action in regards to preventing gun violence, and, in some cases, taken action weakening or repealing laws that could prevent gun violence. I feel the show used the report exactly how the report was intended, and I feel that it does a good job showing, contrary to the rhetoric used by Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the NRA director in the preceding clips, that President Obama is not out to "get our guns" as they claim, at least not yet.

    Also, I didn't realize before my post that you approved the comments. You're right, your approval of these comments and your reply to mine show you're willing to engage in discussion. Thanks for that and for creating this blog to get the discussion started in the first place.

  8. The question becomes one of timing, I suppose. The biggest spike in gun sales happened soon after Obama was elected. This was due to his image of being anti-gun. Nobody knew at the time that he wouldn't do anything, and his statements in the past, as outlined even in the report, say that he is all of the things that the pundits say he is. His policymaking in the White House hasn't supported that. I don't refute the report. The show, however, uses one of the few lines in the report that is not footnoted as its basis for calling Obama more gun-friendly than Dubya. The shows assertion was, indeed, that the sales went up due to the "lies" of the pundits. They counter with a report that actually confirms the reasons for those worried about infringement of the 2nd Amendment to go out and buy guns. My statement is that the show leaves out the fact that the Brady report shows disappointment that Obama had not done as much as they hoped he would based on his own statements. Kenric took my statements out of context, and ignored the thrust of the show. I chose not to repeat myself (in different words as I have here) initially but I guess further explanation was necessary. The show left things out to make its point. It happens in the real media too, and that's when it's unforgivable. In this case, the dramatic effect is enhanced by their misappropriation of facts.