A story hit the news this morning in two different publications saying that President Barack Obama has a plan to change the cover (cap) the Marines wear with their uniforms.
The story was posted on the New York Post and the Washington Times within minutes of each other, and had the same sentence structure and phrases. This would give any real editor or copy editor warning signs that one of the stories was plagiarized. Putting that aside, the headline in the Post was, “Obama wants Marines to wear ‘girly’ hats.” The Times headline was “U.S. Marines turn up noses at Obama’s new ‘girly’ hats; some fear it looks too French.”
Then both stories stated:
Thanks to a plan by President Obama to create a “unisex” look for the Corps, officials are on the verge of swapping out the Marines’ iconic caps – known as “covers” — with a new version that some have derided as so “girly” that they would make the French blush.
“We don’t even have enough funding to buy bullets, and the DoD is pushing to spend $8 million on covers that look like women’s hats!” one senior Marine source fumed to The Post. “The Marines deserve better. It makes them look ridiculous.”
So let me break it down.
The Post reporter Jeanne MacIntosh — who has a history of backtracking on stories, misinterpreting information, and throwing sources under the bus — stated that the president has a plan.
According to the U.S. Marine Corps statement released today, “The president in no way, shape or form directed the Marine Corps to change our uniform cover.”
The suggestion for the change in the covers originated with the Marines’ Uniform Board. This was already known several days ago when it was reported in the Marine Corps Times on Oct. 21.
MacIntosh says there’s an Obama plan. There is no plan. That’s a fabrication — a lie.
The same is true with the Washington Times’ story written by Cheryl K. Chumley. I sent an email to Chumley asking her to provide some information on the alleged plan. As of this writing she has not responded. Her story also is a fabrication — a lie. While Chumley may be on the Times’ payroll she also writes for conservative publications, and was the editor of the Tea Party Review magazine. That’s not in itself a problem, what is a problem is a Washington Times’ editor not vetting her stories more closely when she alleges a Democratic president has a plan where none can be found. Another problem at the Washington Times is they fail to disclose her affiliations and political leanings when she’s taking a shot at the Democratic administration. In other words, they are not transparent so readers can decide whether her stories are accurate and true.
Back to the Post/Times stories.
The stories state the reason for the change in covers for all Marines is that the Dan Daly cap (the proposed cover) will save the Marines “$284,043, because the current female caps are more expensive.”
Not true — at the minimum it’s a factual error that should have been caught by an editor. At worst it’s another fabrication.
The Marine Corps is proposing a change because, as the Marines Corps’ press release states, “We are looking for a new cover for our female Marines for one overriding reason: The former manufacturer went out of business. … The Marine Corps has zero intention of changing the male cover, ” said Marine spokesperson Capt. Maureen Krebs.
The rest of the stories have anonymous quotes from people who allegedly are Marines. None of the quotes are attributed to anyone.
When I first read the stories this morning I thought they were spoofing the readers like The Onion or its military equivalent The Duffel blog. But then I realized these were phony stories written, passed through editors, and then sent to the Internet where it got picked up by right-wing sites and misguided (well-meaning but gullible) people with blogs or Facebook pages.
That is just wrong.
One can expect the New York Post to take swings at the facts, but complete fabrication of a story written to take a political swipe at a politician is dishonest. The Washington Times has a solid crew of real military reporters, a few I know and have collaborated with. Chumley is not one of them, she only puts a drag on her colleagues’ hard-earned reputations. I hope they meet with their editors over this phony story.
The people who really got hurt by this are the readers and the people on social media sites where the story went viral. Yes, we can expect the right wingers to jump all over this, including Fox News which they did later in the day (Fox and the NY Post are affiliated via their owner, Rupert Murdoch). But unsuspecting readers and social media users were the most misled.
The power of social media moves a story — real or fake — through the Internet like a wildfire. Once it’s out there, it’s difficult to call it back or even make corrections that may change the story altogether. That’s why news organizations need to put more effort in getting it right the first time.
But you, the reader, need to step up to the plate as well, and become more skeptical about believing and forwarding stories. Because if you don’t you only add gasoline to the wildfire. Unfortunately for you, journalism is now a caveat emptor business — and MacIntosh and Chumley will readily sell you anything, and sell you out.
So where will this story go? I’ve got a dollar bet that within a few days there will be someone in Congress calling on the Marines and White House to explain this (no points on which party it will be) — and then the taxpayer gets to pay for that, too.
Here’s the link to the Marine Corps Uniform Board’s memo requesting feedback on the proposed change to the female Marines’ cover.
Other journalists are starting to weigh in on the phony stories.
Read Paul Szoldra’s piece “The Story About Obama Wanting Marines To Wear ‘Girly’ Hats Is Total B.S.”
Read Jennifer Hlad’s piece “Marines shoot down Internet story on Obama’s alleges push for ‘girly hats.'”
Oct. 26, 2013, 9:17 a.m. Stars and Stripes provides more information, including that the Marines have pulled the survey.
The New York Post released The Marine Corps Uniform Board document (all yellow highlights are from the Post). You will note, there is nothing indicating the President of the United States was involved in this. Additionally, you will note the Marines specifically say the manufacturer went out of business, not because it’s less expensive as the original NY Post story claimed.
Oct. 25, 2012, 12:24 p.m.
MILINET: CMC Intent On new Covers
Just spoke to CMC. He wants to aggressively debunk the Post/Fox stories. 3 key points:
1. The President in no way, shape or form directed the Marine Corps to change our uniform cover.
2. We are looking for a new cover for our female Marines for one overriding reason: the former manufacturer went out of business.
3. The Marine Corps has zero intention of changing the male cover.
Please disseminate as widely as possible.
Standing by, should you have questions.
LtCol. David Nevers, USMC
Public Affairs Officer
Office of the Commandant
Oct. 25, 2013, 1:19 p.m.
By Cpl. Chelsea Flowers Anderson | Headquarters Marine Corps
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. — Recent headlines in the media have created confusion regarding a Marine Corps uniform item, the male dress cover. Some in the media have implied that the President of the United States directed a change in this dress cover.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos said, “the President in no way, shape or form directed the Marine Corps to change our uniform cover.”
While the Marine Corps Uniform Board is currently looking for a new cover, or cap, for female Marines because the current manufacturer is going out of business, there is no intent to change the current male Marine dress cover.
A survey released by the Marine Corps Uniform Board eliciting input from Marines in regard to uniform items, sought opinions about the “Dan Daly-style” cover.
Pictures of male Marines wearing this cover were included in the survey material. This is standard practice while conducting surveys. For instance, when the Marine Corps transitioned to the current MARPAT camouflage design several years ago, surveys included a number of proposed cami-patterns and additional uniform options.
“The surveys often contain photo illustrations that portray what a uniform article might look like when worn by a Marine,” Col. Todd S. Desgrosseilliers, Marine Corps Uniform Board president, said. “This is a very standard practice. While there was never any desire or intent to change the male Marine dress cover, the feedback we have received to maintain this iconic cover has been heard, loud and clear. ”
Surveys conducted by the Uniform Board serve to inform the commandant, who has the final say on all changes to the Marine Corps uniform.