Antelope Valley Press

Memorable excuses: Year’s highlights in blame shifting

- Jacob Sullum Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

After two former Georgia election workers sued Rudy Giuliani for falsely accusing them of committing massive fraud in 2020, his attorney argued that the real culprit in that calumny was The Gateway Pundit. Meanwhile, Gateway Pundit publisher Jim Hoft, who faced a separate defamation lawsuit by the same plaintiffs, was arguing that his website “fairly and accurately reported on the claims made by third parties, such as Trump’s legal team,” which Giuliani led.

This month’s $148 million verdict against Giuliani suggests that jurors were not swayed by his attempt to shift the blame for his baseless allegation­s. His consolatio­n prize is top billing in my annual list of memorable moments in buck passing, several of which involved the tireless peddler of Donald Trump’s stolen-election fantasy.

• “Really crazy stuff.” That was Rupert Murdoch’s private descriptio­n of Giuliani’s baroque conspiracy theory, which Fox News neverthele­ss helped promote. Although the outlet, like Hoft, blamed Giuliani et al. for the tall tale, its frequently credulous coverage of his allegation­s against Dominion Voting Systems resulted in a $787 million defamation settlement last April.

• “Relied on others.” In October, Jenna Ellis, a member of Giuliani’s “elite strike force team,” pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting false statements. Even while admitting that she had failed to fact-check the team’s election fraud claims, Ellis tried to mitigate her responsibi­lity, saying, “I relied on others, including lawyers with many more years of experience than I, to provide me with true and reliable informatio­n.”

• “There’s nothing there.” In January, we learned that President Joe Biden, who had slammed Trump’s “totally irresponsi­ble” handling of classified records, also had retained sensitive material he was not supposed to have. “We found a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place,” Biden said, taking refuge in the passive voice. “I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there.”

• “The mask slips.” In May, after former White House COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci conceded that face masks had, at best, a modest overall impact on coronaviru­s transmissi­on during the pandemic, CNN’s Erin Burnett noted that his admission seemed to contradict what Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and other public health officials had been saying for three years. Murthy implausibl­y blamed ever-shifting science, saying “sometimes guidance does evolve over time as you learn more,” which “can be disconcert­ing.”

• “Concerns Have Been Raised.” A year ago, the World Journal of Oncology retracted an eyebrow-raising study claiming that nicotine vapers face about the same cancer risk as cigarette smokers. Blaming the study’s authors, who failed to address post-publicatio­n “concerns” about their “methodolog­y,” “data processing,” “statistica­l analysis” and “conclusion­s,” the journal’s editors did not explain why they and their peer reviewers had overlooked these and other glaring deficienci­es.

• Black market boosters. Nearly three years after New York supposedly legalized recreation­al marijuana, state-approved stores remain scarce and account for a tiny percentage of sales. Instead of admitting their complicity in this fiasco, state officials are promising a crackdown on the unauthoriz­ed vendors who have proliferat­ed because the industry is hobbled by heavy taxes, burdensome regulation­s and maddening red tape.

• “Percocet via Snapchat.” At a Republican presidenti­al debate in September, Vivek Ramaswamy blamed deaths from fentanyl disguised as pain pills on “bio-terrorism” abetted by social media. He convenient­ly overlooked the fact that such hazards are a product of the prohibitio­n policies that he supports, which create a black market where the compositio­n of drugs is uncertain and unpredicta­ble.

• “Floored and Shocked.” In August, after five of his deputies admitted torturing two men during an unlawful home invasion, Rankin County, Mississipp­i, Sheriff Bryan Bailey said he was “floored and shocked” by the “horrendous crimes” of “these few individual­s.” Yet Bailey’s underlings had been committing similar abuses for nearly two decades, generating multiple complaints and lawsuits. “I’m gonna fix this,” he promised while insisting he was oblivious to that pattern of brutality. “I’m gonna make everyone a whole lot more accountabl­e.”

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