Yesterday on WCHB’s morning talk show, Mildred Gaddis’s Inside Detroit, I happened to hear a reference to a story about “a Clinton pastor” who was just sentenced to 3 years in prison for child sexual abuse.
Ms. Gaddis, and some of her callers were wanting to know why the media was ignoring this story. After all, if the Clinton's own pastor just got sentenced for abusing a 7-year-old, that would take some serious wind out of Hillary’s sails after all the criticism she’s heaped on poor Obama for his refusal to denounce Rev. Wright.
As one blogger repeating the story wrote:
The blogs are talking about it, but the mainstream news is not. Still, this is interesting. Blogs such as AdvanceAmericablog, commondreams. org, the National Journal's Hotline, and wakeupfromyourslumber. com are talking about the scandal that has enveloped the former Pastor of the Clintons, but it appears only the Utica, NY newspaper is covering the story. The rest of the mainstream media is silent. Perhaps the story isn't divisive enough for the mainstream media to take notice. Of course, it is as unfair to blame Hillary Clinton for her former pastor's abuses just as it is unfair to blame Barack Obama for Rev. Wright. Still, that means the mainstream media is far more enamored of condemning Obama for his Rev. Wright's tirades about 9/11 and race than it is concerned with the plight of a seven year old girl abused by Hillary Clinton's former pastor.
Then I heard Ms. Gaddis mentioning it again this morning, and again with the emphasis on why no one in the media was talking about it.
Ms. Gaddis is very smart and runs a good talk show.
Which is why I was surprised she was still talking about it today. Because, based on what I heard yesterday on WCHB, I was able to find out before 8:30 am Thursday that the story is false, as it’s being told, and predicated on a pretty silly mistake.
It turns out the convicted pastor, Rev. William Procanick, 54, is a former pastor of Resurrection Assembly of God Church in Clinton, N.Y. So he is a "Clinton pastor" in one sense only, that he used to be a pastor in a town called Clinton. Moreover, it's fairly well known that Hillary is a Methodist. Nor does the original report even mention the former First Lady and her husband.
That’s it. No connection with the Clintons at all.
But the story of the Clinton pastor that Hillary must now denounce still has wheels, for now.
It was being told on a website called AlterNet, and it's appeared as a topic for discussion at Democratic Underground (no relation to the true Underground).
Sample comment on the posting: “Hillary sat in the pews for 20 years and watched this creep sexual [sic] abuse children?”
When I tried to get the details for myself after hearing it on WCHB, I soon found out why the media wasn’t covering it. The mix-up was briefly explained by Madison Times reporter George Curry. ("Wright’s words used for political gain").
It was a small-time story about a nasty crime--grave enough for the victims, but hardly a national story except when linked --erroneously--with the notion that it involves the former President and Hillary.
The interesting thing to me is the carelessness with which this story was picked up by people who should have known better, such as Ms. Gaddis, and the next thing you now it is a national "scandal."
Ms. Gaddis--who really is quite sharp, was still repeating it as a fact even after 24 hours, when it could have been easily vetted and debunked with minimal Googling and, in her case, she might have been corrected by a message from one of her thousands of listeners advising her of her error.
Also, on the discussion boards, I saw no posters either challenging the truth of the story, or even curious about the when, where, how, and why of a “Clinton pastor” emerging in a town the Clintons never lived in, and that no one had ever heard of before, nor why the story doesn’t even mention the Clintons.
This isn’t sloppy journalism, or at least not as far as I can tell. I don’t know if it was a journalist at all who first saw the phrase, “Clinton pastor sentenced,” and gleefully started calling his Obama-supporting friends about a story to good to be true.
But for some people in the country right now, the sentencing of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s pastor for a sex crime with a child is almost as solid an historical fact as the occurrence of their own birth.
That's how easy that can be. And this particular urban legend, in my estimation, was probably the result of an accidental misreading of the original report.
Now, imagine the opportunities for mischief from someone really trying to spread disinformation.