Does Al Franken Lie?

In a Pit thread, Psycho Pirate offered the following link as a cite that Al Franken is a Liar:

I thought that I would give my two cents on the validity of the claims on this website. For the record, I’m relatively liberal, and a big fan of Al Franken.

I’m going to restrict my comments to the factual content of the site, not its tone, etc.

The site offers 17 supposed lies in Al’s latest book, Lies, and the lying liars who tell them: A Fair and Balanced look at the right. I’ll go through them one by one.

#1: I’d like to know more facts about the situation (did Philippine intelligence operate entirely on their own?), but, assuming that US intellinence was involved somewhat, it’s a standard linguistic convention to say that “Clinton did XXX” when what is really meant is “elements of, and allies of, the US government, which is headed by Clinton, did XXX”. A minor quibble, assuming that there was some US involvement in the capture.

Even without any US involvement, I don’t think the language “Clinton thwarted them. Clinton thwarted them all” is making particularly specific claims about the precise actions taken by Clinton, although it’s obviously a bit disengenous. Some more context would be appreciated. Is this is an entire chapter about anti-terrorist successes during the Clinton years? Is “he thwarted them all” referring to more than just those 3 terrorists?

#2: What does Al claim, precisely? That these fliers were found. That appears to be true. Is it possible that the fliers are a hoax of some sort? Beats me. Again, a minor point, about one of a variety of pieces of circumstantial evidence being used to present a larger pattern. However, not a claim I dismiss out of hand. Do other dopers know more about this situation?

#2b: Irrelevant. Sure, there are scumbag democrats who are more or less on the same side of the political continuum as Al. What’s your point?

#3: <<Even, surely a Franken-friendly web site, has reported that the ad had “no provable ties to the Bush campaign” and "according to the official books, they had absolutely nothing to do with it."2>> Note the words “provable” and “official”. Sounds like is trying as it hard it can to say precisely the opposite. So the specific organization that produced the most famous negative attack ad of the past 20 years was not “officially” tied to the RNC. Who’s surprised by that? As for the specific claim about Roger Ailes, does anyone know if it’s generally considered to be true?

#4: This seems like a basically fair claim. Although note that Bill Clinton actually admits when he makes mistakes!

#5: Vague and meaningless. What, specifically, was Al lying about, if anything? The fact that the voting rolls needed to be reformed doesn’t prove that Al’s claim is false.

#6: Al was joking. Obviously.

#7: This is a rehash of #1

#8: What’s your point, precisely? A very minor quibble, at best. Certainly not a “lie”.

#9: Al is a humorist who enjoys satire. Satire and lying are two different things.

#10: There’s no purported lie here, as far as I can tell.

#11: What, precisely, is the purported lie here? I thought one of the most effective chapters in Al’s book was the hypothetical discussion between the two women about the Bush tax cuts and the actual impact they’ll have on poor people.

#12: So Al’s claim is a “lie” because he uses the word poverty to mean something which is technically defined as “extreme poverty”, not something which is technically defined as “poverty”. OK, you got him. And what’s with right-wingers constantly bringing up Clinton in irrelevant situations?

#13: This would be a more meaningful claim if we were told the context in which blogs were being cited. There are some situations in which citing blogs would be quite reasonable…

#14: What’s the lie, precisely? As far as I can tell, the claim being made here is that, sure, Al was right about what happened, but that Glick guy only got what was coming to him. Oh, and it seems clear to me (although this is totally irrelevant to whether Al lies) that Glick was using the word “alleged” as in “Al Qaeda are the alleged masterminds of 9/11” as opposed to “9/11 allegedly happened”.

#15: This is vague. Was there an article in the briefing with that title? Where did the title come from? More details would be nice… But again, if the CIA presents a document, it’s generally accepted to describe the report as being presented by the CIA director to the president, even if it’s some low level functionary who does the actual presentation of the document.

#16: This is a classic case of missing the forest for the trees. Of course, Al isn’t claiming that there was an actual, literal, operation called “Operation Ignore”. Rather, he’s claiming that the Bush administration, pre-9/11, placed a very low emphasis on terrorism, both in an absolute sense, and compared to the Clinton years. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

#17: This appears to be a legitimate claim.

OK, so my scorecard, based on the information I have at hand, reads:

One seemingly definitely legitimate claim: (#17)

One reasonably legitimate claim, although the language is a tad ambiguous, and I’d like more details: (#4)

A few situations in which, depending on the precise details, Al probably ought to have added a disclaimer of some sort (assuming, of course, that he didn’t add a disclaimer which the fine folks at ignored). Certainly, I’d be interested in more precise and impartial information about all of these:
#1, #2, maybe #3, maybe #13, maybe #15, and (if you’re really really stretching) #12.


Doesn’t matter if the site contains any truth or not. What matters is that it is allowed to be up there, and people can make their own decisions. No matter how much one despises the curent corporate administration, one must allow their supporters the same freedom of expression, and be prepared to make their own determinations based on what they perceive to be the truth. What also matters IMHO is that sooner or later, even if Franken gets killed or smeared, someone will replace him.

I believe that the real importance of Franken’s work is that he proposes in his own jingoistic fashion that the recent administration of America is based on fear and fraud. People will choose to make up their own minds, and the more attempts made to stifle him over absurd and illogical reasons, the more his point gets proven. Since I happen to agree with some fo his views, I can only hope that others may consider the situation in that context.

I wouldn’t want him as president, but I would hope that he may convince people into a more independent view of the the power circles, rather than what they are spoonfed on the networks.

I imagine you can also explain away many of Franken’s accusations against conservatives if you apply the same standards. Franken’s defense when he is caught is to claim that he is only a satirist, and that therefore his lies don’t count.

Anyway, you have answered your own OP. Franken does lie. He is therefore no better than Ann Coulter. Worse, in fact, since he has set himself and his standards up as higher than hers.

Neither side has any monopoly on hypocrisy. Certainly Franken is lying if he claims that this is solely or mostly from the right.


Well, of course. Who supported silencing anyone? Criticizing something isn’t the same as claiming its publication shouldn’t be allowed. For instance, I think Anne Coulter’s Treason book is a hideous blot on the public discourse, and I can’t believe that everyone doesn’t recognize her for the harpy that she is. Doesn’t mean I don’t think she has the right to have, express, and publish those abhorrent views.

That’s an interesting way of judging who is a worse liar. Personally, I would say that Coulter’s many, many more lies make her a much, much worse liar.

Do you really not see the difference between satire and a lie? I hate Ann Coulter’s Treason book almost more than I can express, but I recognize that the title is meant as satire. I don’t respond to it in a literal-minded fashion and say “Ann Coulter claims that all liberals are guilty of treason. But, in actual point of fact, very vew liberals have been accused, tried, and convicted of the capital crime of treason. Ann Coulter lied!”

You’re also claiming that Al’s response to any mistake in his books is to say “I’m a satirist”. Which just isn’t true. When it was pointed out in another thread that there was an error in Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot (having to do with preliminary vs. final results of a study), I emailed Al’s official website, and promptly got a polite response admitting, and explaining, the error.

So you’re saying that most of it comes from the left? Or that it’s precisley evenly split? Even if all of the accusations against Al were 100% correct, he’s till be dozens of times more honest and stable than Bill O’Reilly, not to mention the really off-the-wall conservatives like Michael Savage.
Obviously, if one is writing a book pointing out lies and misttatements, one should go out of one’s way to fact check that book as carefully as possible. But mistakes do slip through. Which is why the most important question I have is what response, if any, Al will make to these purported lies. But as far as I could google up, no such response has, as of yet, been forthcoming. On the other hand, the website is relatively new. (less than a month old, I think).

What has he been “caught” at? I fail to see one legitimate catch of a dishonest claim on that site. I don’t even grant #17. There was no “vandalism.” There was one practical joke which involved removing the w’s from some keyboards. BFD. The rest is just the normal missing pencils and scuffed furniture that accompanies any transition of staff.


Prove that he lies. Tell me the specific lie.

When has he claimed that?

Assuming that the claims on are correct (and I’m curious to hear Al’s response, as I said), it’s more serious than that. Al takes a quote from a preliminary investigation and claims that it’s the final conclusion from the final investigation.

It’s not particularly egregious, or about a particulalry key argument, but it’s definitely an error.

As far as 17 goes, that’s supporting evidence enough to be claimed as true.

Doesn’t anyone remember that? After all the hubub, the later report that, “Oh, well… nothing really.”

I remember that. I was pissed. Who made that crap up? Didn’t they know that it would just make the Repubs look bad once it was clear that it wasn’t true?

I have to say that while liberal satire is entertaining, it is far too easy to criticize. If you use satire or sarcasm people can just call you a liar, and then write off whatever good point you may have had.
The pathetic thing is that while Franken is accused of lying when he wrote letters asking about abstinence, and Bush is accused of lying about his reasons for going to war (or many other things, for that matter), they are treated as equal indiscretions by right-wing-nuts. Hello!?!? A prank is not equivalent to getting my neighbor’s son killed! My Dad thinks Clinton is the biggest SOB ever for “lying under oath” about a blow job. He is shocked that my sister and I don’t care. He really wonders where our “morals” are. Well, I’m just a little more concerned about other things, like the true state of National Security or the horrible things the Taliban was doing in Afghanistan at the time, or other things that I can safely say are WAY more important than the President’s last sexual encounter.

The hypocrisy never fails to amaze me. With any luck, this whole two-party system will collapse…and soon

I don’t know much about this either. I think you’re mistaken though. Franken credits Clinton with preventing the attacks. IF and it’s a big if, this cite is correct then it appears to me that Franken is dissembling.

I’m glad you agree that it’s “disingenuous.” That means you think it’s a lie if your cite is correct. Me. I’m not so sure. Someone would have to check the footnotes, and get a handle as to whether Clinton can be credited with responsibility here. Frankenlies isn’t exactly an impartial cite. Assuming Franken is incorrect, it’s still a reach to assume that this innacuracy is automatically a lie.

Similarly, Coulter is widely called a liar for a statement she made about Dale Earnhardt’s death not making the front page of the times (it did.) But here innacuracy is not proof of a lie, just proof of innacuracy.

This is interesting, and harder to explain away, IMO. The fact that this flier was fraudulent was I believe well known on this message board shortly after it first turned up. For Franken to attribute this to Republicans seems dishonest to me. As for 2b it doesn’t suggest a lie, but simply a one-sided presentation which calls credibility into question.

I think both of these are legitimate issues to look at Franken because of his extraordinary claims to fairness and accuracy which he makes regarding the content of his book. Again, no lie can be proven, but it doesn’t look good to me from a competency or fairness standpoint in light of his claims.

I agree, only if the claim being made was “Franken makes mistakes” or even “Franken can be deceptive”, (which you do later mention), but anyway . . .

In Item #1, as it’s quoted on that site:

I would be interested in exactly what was taken out of the original and replaced with the second set of ellipses. It looks odd since it appears immediately before the conclusion, which was the reason it’s listed in the first place. And also because both Matt Drudge and the more “respected” Charles Krauthammer, have recently taken some “liberties” when they used ellipses.

And the website’s extensive use of a Richard Mininter book from the Scaife-owned Regnery publishing house (publishers of Slander and other conservative “non-fiction”) as a source is a bit suspect.

Like how Limbaugh claims he’s an “entertainer”, yet does election day political analysis on election day for a network (NBC, I believe)?

And would Coulter agree with Franken? Of course not, she would insist she’s in a higher ground. Much like Coulter insisted her meticulous research and voluminous footnotes served as proof of the accuracy of her laughably inaccurate book, Slander. And doesn’t she also have some silly titles or honors from partisan think tanks that are used when she is introduced on television?

No, Franken is nowhere near being the liar that is Coulter and he’s certainly not worse.

Franken has a strange idea of what constitutes freedom of expression…

I certainly don’t want to disparage The Washington Times, that very epitome of full and accurate reportage, whose motto ought to be “Facts Before Ideology,” but the WT’s version of Franken and the Heckler is at substantial variance with the local news paper’s. Take a look at this for a news piece by a reporter with no ax to grind :

I always go to editorials in The Washington Times when I want full and objective reporting on the issues of the day.

What’s really stunning with Shodan’s view on this issue, to me, is his extreme eagerness to call Franken a “liar,” while simultaneously defending the dissemblings of the Bush administration tooth-and-claw. Were he to apply the same standards Bush that he applies to Franken, he would long ago have concluded that Bush was a “Lying liar.”
Or was Bush’s claim that that vial of botulinum found in Iraq was “proof that Saddam was a threat to the world” intended as satire, do you think?

Is this a cottage industry now? Only telling a part of a story initially to distort its first impression, so that later when other facts are brought out, one can retort that they don’t change anything?

The LaRouche supporters weren’t attempting to speak. They were trying to disrupt other people’s speaking. They were shouting their heads off, barely intelligible, and had already been hussled out of the building once already, and then sneaked back in.

If it were not so important to our nation, and because of our nation’s power, the whole world, you might be tempted to regard the whole damned thing as a parody.

Questions from reading this take on the events of that night:

  • why did security move in on a heckler in the first place - doesn’t the (albeit nutty for supporting LaRouche) heckler deserve free speech too? Franken has supported hecklers in the past, and criticized Bush for keeping hecklers from his events.
  • the article says Franken took down the man because his glasses were knocked off. Unless by sheer coincidence the heckler was standing next to Franken when he started his tantrum, Franken must have moved next to the man for some reason. Judging from his later actions, it wasn’t to say hi.
  • isn’t it the job of security to take care of this guy anyway, if he was indeed getting violent? I think most of us, in similar situations, would stand by and let the guards take care of it - that is their job. Franken got close to the guy and didn’t just grab his arms, but tackled him to the ground.
  • no offense, but how do we know this article is unbiased? While the WT/NYPost/etc. painted Franken as a villain, this article is painting him as a hero, complete with people saying he should be considered a patriot. That’s laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think? Especially since it’s encouraging a form of vigilantism at political events - do we really want people to start taking matters into their own hands because “I thought the protestor was going to get violent”? This is why candidates have security details!

Editorial sections are always bunk, no matter what the paper. To be fair to the Times, though, Bill Gertz’s articles are usually quite good.

Look Max and all the others: I hate to tell you this, but trying to debunk internet hatchet jobs is a sucker’s game, and twice as much so if they come from conservatives. Anybody who has nothing better to do with their lives than setting up and/or reading websites designed to prove that a comedian is a liar is obviously not going to care whether or not said websites stand up to an in-depth analysis or not.

Al Franken published a brilliant book poking fun certain ridiculous right-wing personalities. Then the leading conservative news source in the country embarrassed itself by filing a ridiculous lawsuit. The end result was that Franken’s book dominated the bestseller lists for months, helped in no small part by the fact that no significant errors were found in it. However, for the group of people who know that conservatives are always right and always wrong regardless of the facts, it’s necessary to come up with some explanation for why Franken is a liar, even if there aren’t any lies in the book. So what to do? Set up a site that misleads, quotes deceptively, and uses every trick in the book to make it look like Franken is a liar. The people who actually care about such nonsense aren’t going to care when such nonsense gets torn to shreds. Spend your time on something more productive.

Apropos of nothing: when I first started reading “Great Debates” I was surprised by the sheer quantity of topics. Now it seems to have become primarily a political discussion board; and the world needs another one of those like it needs another right-wing radio talk show. :stuck_out_tongue: