The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Anderson Cooper on Egypt Pt 2: Our real position on lying lies

February 14, 2011 |  5:30 am

Mubarak Anderson Cooper hit the leaders of Egypt last week for repeatedly lying, in what seemed like a marked departure from the moderate tone we once expected on CNN. It was unusual enough to write about here on The Big Picture, as I detailed how the CNN host used derivations of “lie” 14 times in just one “Anderson Cooper 360.”

I noted in my post that it was “hard to find fault with what Cooper had to say” about Egypt’s authoritarian regime. After all, as I wrote, we had all seen evidence of the government’s deceit on live TV, as the crisis around Tahrir Square built before our eyes.

Out here in the blogosphere that mild commentary — and my opinion that Cooper, despite being correct, sounded a little one note — has been twisted into something quite different. Apparently, I've learned that I'm guilty of a flat-out denunciation of the cable journalist and his truth-telling. Further tortured recastings suggest I also have a problem with those who speak truth to political power. To which I respond…..huh?

It’s not worth figuring out where this all started. But I'll take a swing at setting the record straight:

The website Mediate may have gotten the revisionism rolling. It headlined that I accused Cooper of going “overboard” and asserted that I “somewhat cynically suggest” Cooper’s outrage must be based on some “simple ratings lust.” That’s just dandy, but not what I said at all.

I simply noted that Cooper had been tilting for some months in the direction of the commentary-heavy reporting made popular by Fox News and MSNBC. The old barriers between news and commentary are less and less discernible on cable TV--an observation that I think hardly anyone would refute.

 In this instance, Cooper’s accusations of lying seemed well supported by the facts and, therefore, not open to any sort of factual challenge. As noted, I found no fault in the reporting.

What I wrote related, instead, to degree and editorial approach. It was fairly apparent that Hosni Mubarak and his gang had been less than trustworthy stewards of Egypt for some time. Wouldn’t it have been more instructive, once that deceit had been reported, for Cooper to try to explain a few other things? For starters, how about giving viewers a primer on why the U.S. snuggled up to the dictator in the first place?

Yet another report, this one on Huffington Post, about my Cooper commentary clearly left some readers believing I disagreed with the CNN host in principle. That, in turn, provoked hundreds of comments and messages to me about how I (cowardly mainstream media hack that I am) didn’t want anyone trifling with my soul mates in the Egyptian autocracy.

The scolding included a Twitter rebuke from Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald: “Someone should tell the LA Times that pointing out ‘lies’ of powerful political leaders is what good journalists do.” (I wouldn’t have known.) Greenwald followed with this: “That said, I'd be more impressed with Anderson Cooper using such language with US rather than Egyptian officials.”

Thanks, again. That would be helpful, except it’s exactly the point already made in my original report. I quoted USC Annenberg journalism professor Marc Cooper (no relation to the CNN star) as saying he would like to see CNN's Cooper take it to the next level, calling out not just foreigners but “American politicians when they overtly lie.”
Not that anyone has to rely on original meaning in the cyber world. Why look at what someone actually said, when there are so many other versions out there that you can riff on. You know, what people said you said.

 Nuff said.

--James Rainey
--Twitter: latimesrainey

 Photo: Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian leader just forced from power. On CNN, anchor Anderson Cooper took the unusual step of calling out Mubarak and other leaders for lying. Credit : Amr Nabil / Associated Press