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Lies (and the Lying Liars who Tell Them): A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right

by Al Franken

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Lies (and the Lying Liars who Tell Them)
ISBN: 0525947647
The Penguin Group, 2003

Infantile, outlandish, hypocritical.

All of these words could be used (and at varying degrees correctly) to describe the critical style of Al Franken, the comic turned author/liberal spokesperson, whose follow-up book to his bestselling Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations is titled Lies (and the Lying Liars who Tell Them): A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.

In Big Fat Idiot, Franken set his sights on that particularly noxious of all political commentators, Rush Limbaugh. Taking on Limbaugh with the same schoolyard name-calling that the top-ranked radio host uses against his guests on a daily basis, Franken opened a lot of eyes, and ruffled even more feathers with his unique mix of humor, smarts, and attitude. He continues this tactic in Lies, taking wider aim at the Right-wing of the American political media, in particular focusing on Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly (or O'Lielly as Franken likes to call him), O'Reilly's stablemate at Fox Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter, author of the best-sellers Slander and Treason,
all of whom have written very successful books over the past year in which in some way or another they call out the "liberal bias" in the American mainstream media. Franken, like most liberals, refutes the claim that this bias exists, or even that the media is left-of-center for that matter, noting the influence of über-conservative outlets like Fox News which have brought conservative radio fervor to television audiences.

Franken has a big problem with the claims of O'Reilly, Coulter, and Hannity. Mainly, he says, because they lie over and over and over, and don't even have the common decency to admit it when they've been caught. With Lies, Franken sets out to expose some of these untruths by reading each of the author's books all the way through (no easy task according to Franken) and explaining just how they are mislead their readers. If there is one thing you must give Franken credit for, it is his thoroughness. His wonkish knowledge of American politics, foreign and domestic issues, and his intense attention to detail in researching his subjects gives Franken an upper-hand on some of his opponents who, as it would seem, rely a little too much on their personal opinions,
without doing the appropriate fact-checking and legwork to back them up.

With the help of a few Harvard smart-alecks modestly called "TeamFranken," Al sets out to expose these lying liars for the lying liars that they really are. In Coulter's case, as Franken describes in two sequential chapters titled "Ann Coulter: Nutcase" and "You Know Who I Don't Like? Ann Coulter," Franken says Coulter uses manipulative tactics throughout her book Slander, like front loaded NexisLexis searches and duplicitous use of endnotes, to back up her cause even when the facts don't necessarily give support. Franken doesn't contend Coulter so much because of her ideological differences, but moreso because she intentionally misleads her readers.

As for O'Lielly (excuse me, O'Reilly, it really is catchy, isn't it?), there is a more personal feud, as he and Franken have had several run-ins, including a much ballyhooed confrontation at a BookExpo event in which Franken publicly accused O'Reilly of having lied about winning two Peabody Awards, a statement which O'Reilly claims to have never made.
Franken addresses this BookExpo event in Lies and follows it by citing not one, but four occasions where O'Reilly is on record as saying he was the recipient of two Peabody awards. I felt an intense feeling of Schadenfreude when reading Franken's description of his parsing of O'Reilly at BookExpo, probably in much the same way O'Reilly's viewers do whenever he unleashes himself on one of his guests.

Hannity, though, seems to be the target that Franken is eyeing most these days, and it is apparent as he dedicates several chapters of Lies to discussing not only Hannity's book (Deliver Us from Evil) but also his highly-rated Fox News show Hannity and Colmes. Franken takes devilish delight in demeaning Alan Colmes, the liberal half of the panel show, whom Franken sees as little more than a punching bag for Hannity's all-on conservative assault. He also criticizes Hannity for using false information in his books to back up his bluster. Namely, Franken cites a chart that Hannity uses in Deliver Us from Evil to explain how Congress, not President Ronald Reagan, ran up the humongous budgetary numbers in the 80s. Franken has enough sense to ask where the chart came from.
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