The Fox News Version of the Facts

A story on Fox News really was too good to be true.

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A morning phone call between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner yielded little progress.

Some of the worst mistakes made in journalism have to do with the stories that are "too good to check." It's a story that's so delicious, that just sounds so much like it could be true, that the reporter in question doesn't bother conducting the necessary due diligence to be sure it's really the way it looks. The tendency toward that mistake is higher when the Internet is involved, and the misbehaving reporter can simply point to something that was "out there," or published somewhere else, as justification for spreading a lie.

Such was the case with Fox & Friends' Anna Kooiman, who reported over the weekend that "President Obama has offered to pay out of his own pocket for the Museum of Muslim Culture, out of his own pocket." The "story," taken from a satirical news site called National Report, seemed especially appealing to Obama critics since it was such a perfect companion to the tale of the poor war veterans who can't access the war memorials in Washington while the government is shut down.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Of course, the story – that there even exists some such museum, and that Obama would really tell people to while away their furloughed time by visiting it – is wrong, and really just absurd on its face. But it fits so well with the conservative narrative about Obama, whom enemies portray as illegitimately in office, not really an American and a secret Muslim to boot who is hell-bent on taking the country into some sort of socialist state with himself as dictator.

Kooiman apologized and said it won't happen again (we should hope not – and where was the producer who should have been asked to vet the "story?"). But that doesn't solve the problem, which is that there is so much anger and pure hatred out there – and not just on the right – that people will believe anything, no matter how crazy, as long as it confirms their narrow view of the world.

Tragically, the Internet, which ought to make a variety of news and information sources more widely available to everyone, has merely made it possible for people to self-select their news and non-news. Truth is secondary to simple affirmation. Hatred and narrow-mindedness have no use for facts.

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