Today we have the first-ever guest post on Hoystory. The following is “the rest of the story” about the Dixie Chicks (cumulative IQ = -3) and their claim that the Red Cross refused their money because they’re controversial, courtesy my brother-in-law, Ronnie Short.
I am bothered about a false statement the Dixie Chicks are making concerning the Red Cross. I’m a fan of the Dixie Chicks, but I am a bigger fan of the truth, and the Dixie Chicks have not been telling the truth about their supposedly declined offer of $1 million to the Red Cross. And what is even more disturbing to me, the media seems to be letting them get away with it. I can find very few sources on the internet that challenge the Dixie Chicks assertion. What follows is the story I’ve pieced together. I share it with you to find out if you and the blogosphere are aware of this story. Maybe I’m just doing a bad job of research and the story has already been thoroughly covered. But if it has not, I thought you might be interested in pursuing it for your blog.
A few months ago, I listened to the Chicks being interviewed by Terri Gross on the NPR show Fresh Air. During the interview, Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, indignantly recounted the Red Cross’s refusal of their money, implying that the Red Cross simply refused to take their no-strings-attached money because of the Chicks 2003 statement about George Bush. Well, this story had a powerful effect on me. It was great rhetoric. I immediately sympathized with Maines and marveled at the Red Cross’s asinine behavior. But about a week after the initial airing of the interview, I happened to be listening to Fresh Air when the host read a brief statement from the Red Cross telling their version of the Dixie Chick story. In the statement, the Red Cross claimed the Dixie Chicks money had been offered with strings attached. I don’t remember the exact wording of the statement, nor can I find the audio of it on the Internet, but the gist of it was that the Chicks wanted something from the Red Cross for their $1 million, namely for the Red Cross to attach their name to the Dixie Chicks summer tour.
I filed this information away in the back of my brain and did not think about it again until last night when I heard Natalie Maines make the same statement about the Red Cross. I was at the Landmark theater in Hillcrest, which is a theater dedicated to the showing of independent films. As one can imagine, the patrons of this establishment are overwhelmingly liberal and the previews were appropriately targeted. One of these previews was for a new documentary to be released at the end of this month. It is called, Shut Up and Sing. It is a documentary of the Dixie Chicks. In the trailer, there is a clip of Maines stating, with a horrified expression, that the Red Cross would not accept their money. It was a powerful clip. I could hear excited mumbling in the theater. But I was mumbling under my breath was for a different reason. I knew the statement was not true, or at least it was completely one-sided.
Intrigued, I woke up this morning and proceeded to check my facts about this story. I wanted to hear the exact words of the Red Cross statement as it was presented on the radio. But when I went to the NPR archives, I found that the audio for the Dixie Chicks segment had been removed with the following explanation: the audio for this segment is not available due to rights issues. So, pressing on, I googled Dixie Chicks Red Cross. Of all the return hits, only one source correctly reported the Red Cross’s side of the story. Another mentioned the Red Cross, but cut up the Red Cross’s statement so that its meaning was twisted, and the rest of the hits were for fan sites and bloggers who failed to even mention that the Red Cross had a version of the incident.
Here is part of the report from the one person who got the story right, Mario Tarradell in the Dallas Morning News:
The fallout from Natalie Maines’ now infamous remarks in 2003 bashing George Bush is well documented: radio boycott, CDs publicly destroyed, a sharp decline in sales, death threats, and ridicule from the country music industry.
The Dixie Chicks vs. the Red Cross
Natalie Maines : “Politics got in the way of people having food and clothing and homes. That is what hurt and angered me, not country radio.”
The Red Cross: “(We) may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.”
But what bothers Ms. Maines the most, she says, is that the American Red Cross refused a $1 million donation from the Dixie Chicks in 2003.
“It has nothing to do with being taken off of the radio,” says Ms. Maines, 31, by phone from New York . “It has to do with the absurdity of death threats and the absurdity of being so awful that people won’t even touch you. That the Red Cross won’t take a million-dollar check from you. How can the Red Cross turn away a million dollars for charity?”
But it’s not as simple as that, responds national Red Cross spokesperson Julie Thurmond Whitmer in a prepared statement.
The band would have made the donation “only if the American Red Cross would embrace the band’s summer tour,” writes Ms. Whitmer, referring to the group’s 2003 U.S. tour after the London incident.
“The Dixie Chicks controversy made it impossible for the American Red Cross to associate itself with the band because such association would have violated two of the founding principles of the organization: impartiality and neutrality…
“Should the Dixie Chicks like to make an unconditional financial donation to the American Red Cross, we will gladly accept it.”
Now look how Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald manipulated the Red Cross statement:
Even the nonpartisan American Red Cross wouldn’t take their money. Red Cross spokeswoman Julie Whitmer says the organization declined the Chicks’ donation three years ago because ”the controversy made it impossible to associate with the Dixie Chicks” and would have ”violated” the Red Cross’ policy of ”impartiality” and “neutrality.”
This version of the Red Cross story leaves the reader believing that the Red Cross would not take money from the Dixie Chicks because of the controversy surrounding them. There is no mention of the fact that the Chicks wanted to use their association with the Red Cross to enhance their image and sell tickets.
This makes me sick.
Cohen obviously spun the story to serve his agenda.
Cohen changed the meaning of the Red Cross’s statement by cutting and pasting it to fit his agenda, which is deplorable, but at least he mentioned in his story that the Red Cross had a statement about the affair. No other site that I can locate even mentions that the Red Cross commented on Maines’ statement.
Now, this is understandable because all the other people talking about the story are tendentious amateur bloggers and fans of the Dixie Chicks. I don’t expect fans and non-reporters to fact-check every statement made by Natalie Maines or to seek out the Red Cross’s side of the story. But what about those who claim to be journalists? I’ve always believed they checked out what people said to see if it was true, or at least presented both sides of the story. But why has the mainstream media simply let this slide?
The Dixie Chicks have been spreading their version of the story everywhere they can, and with the release of their documentary, this story will gain even more momentum. Won’t someone in the media call them on this? Won’t someone stand up and say it isn’t true. I thought that was the job of the media.
Hoystory responds: Yes, the media should be standing up and correcting the record. However, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the story is treated this way. These aren’t metro reporters interviewing Maines, these are features/celebrity reporters. They aren’t so interested in the facts as they are in how Maines’ and her cohort “feel.”
Another part of this is the fact that most of the media is sympathetic to Maines’ political leanings and are just less skeptical of anything she says. You can bet that if Mel Gibson had made similar claims, the majority of the reporting would’ve been more along the lines of the first article you reference, rather than the second.
You take a swipe at “tendentious amateur bloggers” — the ranks of which you have just joined (sorry) — but you’ve got the blogosphere and professional journalists backwards. Journalists typically work on tight deadlines and too often the reporting is he said/she said. They’re limited by time and space. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It’s amateur bloggers — in their role of watchdogs of the watchdog — who typically take the time to use the Internet to fact-check journalists, are not limited by the newspaper’s “news hole” or the TV broadcast’s “air time.” Journalists are key in covering events and doing first-draft-of-history reporting, but bloggers often add depth and context to that reporting that journalists can’t or won’t.
It’s what you’ve capably done here.