Letter in Liberty, December 2003, p. 52

Punch, But Not Punchline

I can't remember the last time I read a book review that so thoroughly misrepresented the content of a book as Tim Slagle's review of Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them does. Slagle attempts to portray Franken's book as though it doesn't expose blatant lies and misrepresentations by Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and George W. Bush. But it does, and Slagle focuses only on the more ambiguous and questionable ones, and even misrepresents what Franken says the lies are.

The "lie" regarding Sandy Berger and Condoleezza Rice was not just that there were two different accounts of a meeting between the two--the lie is that Rice claimed in one interview that Berger had not warned her that Osama bin Laden was a threat, when in fact he did--as Rice later admitted. Rice's statement to the New York Times was the lie; the account given in Time was correct.

The "lie" regarding Evan Thomas, Jr. and Norman Thomas is that Coulter wrongly said Norman was the father (rather than grandfather) of Evan Jr.--again Slagle failed to reveal what Franken pointed out. It would have been fair to criticize Franken for hypocrisy in his attempted satire of using end notes to illustrate one of Coulter's techniques of dishonesty, but Slagle's description is just as dishonest.

Slagle is correct that Franken is an unabashed left-winger, and that he comes across as worshipful of Bill Clinton. Some of his jokes fall flat, and he does occasionally commit the same kinds of failings that he points out in others. But Slagle's failure to find humor in the book, as well as its exposure of abundant dishonesty by right-wing pundits and politicians, reveals more about Slagle's character than Franken's.

Jim Lippard
Phoenix, Ariz.

[There is a very strong case to be made that Al Franken repeatedly misrepresents and distorts facts in his book, as documented at the website frankenlies.com. -jjl, 27 December 2007]