Paul Ryan and the “testy interview” meme
Here’s a textbook example of how to rapidly assemble and propagate a false media narrative, proving Mark Twain’s assertion that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Paul Ryan sat down for an interview with reporter Terry Camp in Michigan on Monday, delivering what Politico notes is his 197th interview since joining the Republican ticket, versus exactly one interview for Joe Biden. Ryan’s interview with Camp apparently left no one involved feeling terribly satisfied with the experience.
At the end of the encounter, Camp tried lobbing a loaded question about gun control at Ryan, who said the United States has a crime problem, not a “gun problem.” The exchange, as summarized by Politico, went like this:
Asked again by Camp whether the United States has a gun problem, Ryan responded that “If you take a look at the gun laws we have, I don’t even think President Obama is proposing more gun laws.”
“We have good, strong gun laws,” Ryan continued, adding: “We have lots of laws that aren’t being properly enforced.”
“The best thing to help prevent violent crime in the inner cities is to bring opportunities to the inner cities, is to help people get out of poverty in the inner cities and teach people good discipline, good character,” Ryan said. “That is civil society. That’s what charities and civic groups and churches do to help one another make sure that they can realize the value of one another.”
Camp then asked Ryan, “And you can do that all by cutting taxes? With a big tax cut?”
“Those are your words, not mine,” Ryan responded.
A Ryan staffer moved to wrap up the interview, which had run for longer than its allotted five minutes. As he was disconnecting his microphone, Ryan remarked, “That was kind of strange. You’re trying to stuff words in peoples’ mouths.” He joked with other reporters about the interview with Camp afterwards. At no point did he “storm” out of the interview, as you can see by watching Camp’s video report:
But that’s how the incident was swiftly re-characterized in liberal media reports, which dinged Ryan for being “testy” and “cutting the reporter off” or “storming away.” Lefty blogs filled with stories about Ryan’s “thin skin.” But as you can plainly see from the video, Ryan didn’t stomp off in a huff. He stands there sipping water and chatting with Camp after his microphone has been removed.
Nowhere was this misreporting more egregious than at Buzzfeed, which concocted the entirely false headline “Paul Ryan Gets Testy and Walks Out of Interview.” Fortunately, conservative bloggers were on hand to call them out for this distortion, ultimately convincing them to make a minor correction to “Paul Ryan Gets Testy and Ends Interview.”
But the Obama campaign team had already blasted the false Buzzfeed headline around the Internet, declaring it a “game changing” moment. “Do we really want someone a heartbeat away from the presidency who can’t handle a press question and then storms off? Nice choice, Mr. Romney,” said Obama flack Brad Woodhouse, presumably typing with one hand while he used the other to breathe into a paper bag.
That’s pretty sad coming from a campaign whose awesome super-candidate turns into Jell-O on the rare occasions that he sits for an interview with anyone tougher than Entertainment Weekly. Ryan responded entirely reasonably to a ridiculous loaded question, which he entertained well after the allocated time for the interview had expired. How was he supposed to unpack the concentrated stupid in Camp’s question in a few quick seconds?
If any of your reporters can actually manage the nearly miraculous feat of getting Barack Obama or Joe Biden to sit still for a few minutes of tough questions, try tossing a verbal hand grenade loaded with false premises at them when they’re getting ready to leave, and see what happens. Here, let me give you a hint: it will look something like this.