Just the Facts. Please, Please, Any Facts, Oregonian!

Once again, the Oregonian relies on syndicated material from a columnist too lazy or biased to do some fact-checking. In his examination of Michael Moore’s contentions about being banned from Jay Leno’s and Bill O’Reilly’s shows, LA Times writer Patrick Goldstein is all-too-willing to accept what people say without asking any questions — so long as the people aren’t Moore.

Goldstein quotes Moore: “[Leno] went out of his way to to incite violence against me by showing ‘Michael Moore’s house’ being blown up.” Note the single quotes. Goldstein reports that Leno disputes the charge by saying that a shack in the desert was shown being blown up, not a house. Goldstein accepts that as a denial without noting that if Leno described the shack as “Michael Moore’s house”, Moore would refer to it in quotes to denote that it wasn’t actually his house. Goldstein doesn’t ask (or doesn’t report) what connection Leno drew between Moore and the shack.

As for Bill O’Reilly, if Goldstein finds him even marginally credible, perhaps he should turn in his journalism degree. The day after attending the screening of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” O’Reilly compared Moore to Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and the Hollywood celebrities who attended the event (which he also attended, in part) to “the people who would turn out to see Josef Goebbels convince you that Poland had invaded the Third Reich.” Lloyd Grove of the “New York Daily News” posted a much different version of O’Reilly’s exit from the screening. Who to believe? Goldstein comes down on the side of the guy who calls Bill Moyers “a Far-Left bomb-thrower”, and lied about calling Al Franken a new Joseph Goebbels.

Goldstein apparently perceives Moore as less credible than O’Reilly — someone who’s got a long, proven record of not only making inflammatory comments but also denying he made them, and Leno who is — after all — a comedian. His credibility meter seems to be seriously off-kilter.

It’s bad enough when the Oregonian uses columnists who accept one version of a story without bothering to check their facts. It’s far worse when that columnist is making the case that someone is untrustworthy, because it further damages the credibility of the Oregonian. The story wasn’t as clear-cut as Goldstein make it out to be. If he’d asked just one more question of Leno’s representative or done just five minutes of research on O’Reilly’s comments about the screening rather than blandly accepting their statements over Moore’s, his case would be at least more credible even if he somehow incredibly came to the same conclusion.