Not on purpose, but happy to have accidentally done so...
By Brad Friedman on 11/25/2009, 9:38am PT  

First, my thanks to Michelle Malkin, and all her of sycophantic re-linkers in the wingnut echosphere for all the swell traffic yesterday while I was on the road all day.

Second, how desperate the poor, sad, angry woman must be to try to find some story, somehow, somewhere, by someone, that she thinks she's gotten right and others must have gotten wrong, after having gotten so many stories completely and embarrassingly wrong over and over again over so many years.

Her latest: Apparently she believes that Andrew Sullivan and/or The BRAD BLOG (both of us, great mavens of "the Left," dontcha know?) have something to "retract" concerning the story of U.S. Census worker Bill Sparkman whose death by hanging in Clay County, KY, last September --- which appeared to be a possible murder by rightwing fomented "Fed"-haters --- is now believed by officials to have been a staged suicide meant to appear as such a murder...

According to the Kentucky State police yesterday:

The Kentucky State Police Post 11 in London, with the assistance of the FBI, the U.S. Forest Service, the State Medical Examiner’s Office and the Clay County Coroner’s Office, has concluded the investigation into the death of William E. Sparkman, Jr.

The investigation, based upon evidence and witness testimony, has concluded that Mr. Sparkman died during an intentional, self-inflicted act that was staged to appear as a homicide. While all the details of the investigation will not be released at this time, the unusual level of attention and speculation attributed to Mr. Sparkman's death necessitates this release of information.

So why, after so many years of often making stuff up outta whole cloth, is Malkin suddenly concerned with accuracy in the media, and wondering "When will the Left retract the Kentucky census worker case smear?" And linking to us, as she goes after (mainly) Sullivan?

Apparently the graphic that we lifted (and credited, just as you see above) from Jesus' General for use in our original coverage of the story, headlined "Federal Census Worker Found Hanged in Drug, Election Scandal-Ridden Clay County, KY" has gotten under her skin --- or, perhaps, hit a little too close to home.

She spends much of her time on Sullivan, apparently for having outrageously said:

It's possible, I suppose, that anger at the feds in general could make a drug dealer murder a census worker. But the most worrying possibility - that this is Southern populist terrorism, whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk radio cohorts - remains real. We'll see.

Well, he certainly needs to retract that right away! (He didn't. Here's how he replied to Malkin's latest plea for attention on Tuesday).

For our part, our own coverage was actually focused on sharing information about other reasons why Sparkman might have been killed (along with various reports about the possibility that it may have been a suicide) other than the obvious knee-jerks that it might have been related to comments by folks like Rep. Michele Bachmann who, not long before Sparkman's death, had suggested that U.S. Census workers were the enemy of good Americans. To offer context beyond what was being speculated upon, we shared some of what we had learned while spending quite a bit of time in the months prior reporting on the years-long federal probe in Clay County, KY, which had, earlier this year, culminated in the arrest of seven election officials for having gamed election after election from 2002 through 2006.

But where we did allude to the obvious primary "suspect" at the time, a rightwing radical inspired to kill a Census worker by scrawling "FED" on his chest, duct-taping his census badge to his neck, and hanging him from a tree in the national forest, here's what we had to say...

Despite fomenting by comments like Bachmann's "enough is enough" (as seen in the video at right), Sparkman's death having come on September 12 (the day which Beck had called for his "9/12 Movement" Teabagger protests in D.C.), and the letters scrawled on Sparkman's chest, there is not yet definitive evidence that the hanging was tied to the Bachmann/Beck movement, though the blogosphere is understandably abuzz about it today.

We shared the background context of what had been going on for so long in Clay County which could present an alternate reason for such a "murder," had that been what had occurred:

As we spent quite a bit of time speaking to folks in Clay County last March while covering the election fraud scandal, we learned a bit about what's been going on there over the last several years. The hanging could be as much related to those events, and more that preceded them, as to Bachmann/Beck's ill-considered fear-mongering, even as that recent fear-mongering may well have served to inflame the local residents' already-inherent distrust of federal authorities.
In short, there are many reasons and many people who are likely to have a deep distrust for the federal government in that part of Kentucky.

And, yes, we did discuss the speculation that such a hanging could be related to all of the Teabagging madness from the previous month of August's health care town hall frenzy, even while noting that "It's still too early to jump to direct conclusions" to that end...

With all of that in mind, however, it's admittedly damned difficult not to look back at the kind of wildly-irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric being slung casually across the airwaves to millions of viewers and listeners every day by folks like Bachmann, Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh, and all the rest, without pondering questions such as: "What the hell are these people thinking?" and "Do they not realize that people are actually out there paying attention to what they have to say?"

We've long suggested on these pages that it would be remarkable if the rightwing Summer of Teabagging didn't eventually result in somebody's death. It's still too early to jump to direct conclusions here, as Marcy notes, that it did. But it's very difficult to avoid wondering if that's exactly what may now have happened.

If the killer or killers are ever found, anybody here want to bet that they are found to be avid fans of wingnut media?

So what are we supposed to "retract" exactly? Jesus' General's graphic which she says "smeared" her? Not on your life. The anger fomented towards the federal government and the President of the United States by radical, formerly-fringe alarmists and conspiracy theorists like Malkin and her ilk have already proven to be damned dangerous --- see the murder of Kansas obstetrician Dr. George Tiller after months of being tarred by the rightwing media as "Tiller the Killer," the Tennessee church shooting spree of Jim David Adkisson who wrote that he'd been inspired to kill "liberals" by wingnut Bernie Goldberg's book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And All Franken Is #37) and other wingnut media, just to name a few such recent incidents.

That Sparkman was inspired to try pin the blame on wingnuttery for his suicide, given how easy the Right has made such a killing to be envisioned, is something "the Left" should apologize for or retract? In fact, Malkin actually goes so far as to the say "the Left" served as "Sparkman's enablers". Really?! Okay.

"Never let the facts get in the way of a good smear campaign, eh?" the desperate Malkin concludes, in a statement unclear if she's referring to "the Left" or to her own storied failures --- one after another --- over the years.

In a piece headlined "Is Michelle Malkin really the best person to be demanding retractions?" today, Eric Boehlert highlights some of Malkin's greatest lowlights as he's covered them over the years. As Glenn Greenwald has painstakingly documented, they've become legion.

In Boehlert's January 7, 2007 article, "Michelle Malkin's credibility, R.I.P." we learn of her weeks-long campaign "accusing the Associated Press of manufacturing a source in Iraq and colluding with the insurgents," only to see the entire thing blow up on her and her dedicated repetitionist warbloggers when the source they said didn't exist was acknowledged by the Iraqi government as actually existing, just as AP had originally reported. No retraction was forth coming for her dozens of articles on the matter.

In his April 23, 2008 piece, "Michelle Malkin and the warbloggers get everything wrong --- again", we read of her perhaps even more embarrassing, months-long campaign charging that an AP photographer was actually a terrorist sympathizer himself, only to see him be taken into custody and then released, as it turns out the U.S. Army seemed to have been acting on the trumped-up "evidence" presented by Malkin herself along with her fellow 101st Chairborne Brigade. No retraction was ever offered.

And more recently, in September of this year (just a week or so prior to the Sparkman death, reports from "the Left" about which Malkin is now so enraged) Boehlert reminds us in "Michelle Malkin and the anatomy of the 2 million protester lie" that her reportage concerning two million on the D.C. Mall for Glenn Beck's 9/12 protest rally was "only off by 1,930,000 people. In other words, Malkin, citing fictitious press accounts, led the charge to falsely inflate the size of the crowd by 30 times."

Her error on that report continues to echo to this day, of course, as Tea Bag history, despite its enormous inaccuracy. In our recent short film, Rise of the Tea Bags, we featured a friendly, if disinformed, fellow (at appx the 5:50 mark) who is convinced that 2 million folks were there, but, as he "heard it on the news", the news refused to report it. (You're free to untangle that bit of paradoxical Tea Baggery as you like. Malkin and friends rely on the good natured confusion of such folks as their stock in trade readership.)

Of course, the Rightwing excels at nothing if not echoing reports, incorrect or otherwise, across their often fact-challenged blogosphere. So, naturally, we've been getting a lot of links from all of them over the past 24 hours (thanks!) including from "Gateway Pundit" Jim Hoft who has still failed to retract or correct his story from last week headlined with a phony quote he attributed to Barack Obama, despite the fact that the video he posted along with his inaccurate headline shows that Obama didn't say what Hoft had incorrectly reported he had.

Over at Wingnut Central (The Weekly Standard), Mary Katharine Ham has, linking and bouncing off of Malkin's call to arms naturally, rounded up a bunch of commentary from "The Left", including a link to The BRAD BLOG, speculating about the possibility that Sparkman's death came at the hand of wingnut sympathizers.

We've reviewed all of her quotes, presumably the most damning ones out there on the net, but fail to see that any of them require a "retraction", as Malkin desperately seeks. Virtually all of the speculation was couched in plenty of "if this turns out to be" qualifiers, etc.

We're more than happy, even eager, to offer corrections and, as needed (and it's only been needed once) retractions to anything that we get wrong here. While we appreciate Malkin's desperation to find someone out there who screws up so spectacularly as she does on such a regular basis --- such hilarious failures have damned near become her meat and potatoes at this point --- this story hardly appears to be the one on which she should, pardon the tasteless pun, hang her hate hat on.

In the meantime, as the drumbeat continues from the Right to foment still more domestic terror than we've already seen from their ilk, including even calls for the assassination of Barack Obama, as former Rightwing evangelical Frank Schaeffer has detailed on these pages (see the previous link for the latest such example), we can only hope it won't be necessary someday to call for Malkin's retraction of her silly story calling for a retraction. My god, has she and her friends made this world an ugly, and dangerous one in which to live.

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And while we're on the topic...If you haven't done so already, please sign on to' campaign to help Stop Domestic Terror by calling for an investigation and action from both the DoJ and Congress, into rightwing hate-mongering across our public airwaves, before it's too late. [FULL DISCLOSURE: The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VR.]

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UPDATE 11/25/09: Boehlert follows up his earlier piece to ask "When will the Right retract the Kentucky census worker case smear?" If you Malkin readers think "the Left" smeared someone, get a load of what "the Right" had to say about Bill Sparkman. We'll also add to Boehlert's question to ask: "When will Michelle Malkin call on 'the Right' to retract their smears?" Have a feeling the answer to both questions will be: Never. As usual. Hypocrisy kinda works that way, doesn't it? (We'll be happy to retract this update if Malkin proves our assertions wrong here.)

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