the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

November 29, 2005

Cillizza Strikes Again


I complained a while back about a gratuitous attack on Howard Dean by Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza. Since then I’ve seen more indications of right-wing hackishness in his blog, The Fix, but haven’t bothered to write about them — until today, when I ran across the third example of a pattern I’ve come to recognize. Cillizza has a habit of throwing in an irrelevant fact (often statistical) to tilt a story in a direction that favors Republicans.

The first time I noticed was last month, in the first installment of his “Friday Line” roundups of races to watch. He listed 10 Senate seats he thought might change hands, and then ended the post with “If every Senate seat listed above changed hands in 2006 — and I’m NOT saying they will — the Republicans would still keep their majority.” But he listed 6 Republican seats and 4 Democratic ones, so if all changed hands that would be a net gain of only 2 for the Democrats — and a pretty bizarre political event. If just the Republican seats flipped — a much more likely event, though still very unlikely — that would give the Democrats the majority. The statistic about all seats changing hands was completely irrelevant.

Then yesterday Cillizza wrote about Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s resignation and included this:

The San Diego-area district is tough sledding for Democrats; President Bush won an 11-point victory there in 2004, outperforming his statewide showing by 21 percent.

Now, the 11-point win by Bush means something, but how is the statistic at the end relevant? A Democratic candidate hoping to take the seat doesn’t need to outdo Kerry’s California percentage but only needs to beat whatever Republican is running. It doesn’t matter how much more Republican the district is than California as a whole; the only thing that counts is how Republican the district is in absolute terms (and how enthusiastic those voters are currently about the Republican Party). The “21 percent” number is just a distraction that makes things look better for Republicans, at least if readers aren’t paying attention.

Finally, today Cillizza gives us something that could be useful: a “Political Scandal Scorecard”. But as you may have guessed, he manages to slant it with an irrelevant fact. It’s not that he excluded anything going on in the White House:

We limited the scorecard to members of Congress and governors currently in office to keep the list manageable.

It’s that he violated his own restriction when he found that otherwise he could only work in one Democrat (Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich):

Former Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.): Yes, we said we’re limiting this list to current members, but this is a fairly recent case so we’re making a small exception to the rule.

Ballance (interesting name for someone introduced only to supply fake balance) resigned from the House in June 2004, so he wasn’t even a recently departed member of the current Congress. What possible excuse is there for inserting him into the scorecard, except to slightly thicken the veneer of bipartisanship in the scandal list?


  1. Cillizza Update

    Last week I wrote about an example of false balance in which Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza added an irrelevant Democrat to a list of scandal-plagued elected officials, apparently to make the corruption look like a more bipartisan problem. No…

    DCDL10:13 am, December 8

  2. The Quest for Corruption “Balance” Continues

    We’ve written before about the media’s desperate attempts to portray congressional corruption as being a problem affecting Republicans and Democrats equally. Nowadays you’d expect those seeking bipartisan scandals to be rejoicing ove…

    DCDL11:48 am, May 30, 2006

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DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

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