Washington Post Columnist Fails at Facts

ParkerSpitzerSyndicated columnist Kathleen Parker may have a Pulitzer Prize, but we really have to wonder how. In Parker’s most recent column, she takes shots at a Farm Bill amendment from Iowa Congressman Steve King. King’s amendment, which was inserted into the House version of the Farm Bill with bipartisan backing, has been the subject of a desperate campaign from the Humane Society of the United States, which wants it killed.

King’s amendment seeks to prevent state interference in interstate agricultural trade. For example, take California. Following HSUS’s successful Proposition 2 state ballot campaign, which experts predicted would bankrupt the state’s egg farmers, California legislators passed a state law applying Prop 2 standards to out-of-state egg farmers. That’s clearly economic protectionism, and King’s amendment would nullify it.

Over at The Hill, we have our own piece arguing that the amendment is better than the status quo. And The Wall Street Journal has also editorialized in favor of the amendment:

Animal-rights activists have been lobbying Congress for years to adopt costly new food and environmental regulations in the name of more humane conditions for farm animals. Congress has repeatedly declined, and so groups like the Humane Society of the United States took their campaign to California, land of green salads and free-range chickens.

They succeeded in getting California to pass a law in 2010 barring the sale of eggs in the state unless they are laid by chickens housed in cages that are significantly larger than the current industry standard. Any U.S. farmer who wants to sell in California must meet the requirement by 2015, and the cost of compliance can be up to $40 a hen. That’s a lot of scratch for a farm of, say, 50,000 chickens.

Eggs are already regulated for safety under the Federal Egg Inspection Act. California’s law imposes a different standard that threatens the economic health of egg farms nationwide and amounts to rank trade protectionism for California’s home-state egg industry.

But back to Parker. She’s not only on the wrong side regarding the amendment, but she also takes shots at King personally in her column. And she veers off the rails.

Parker writes that King’s record “is poster material for cruelty (and dunderheadedness) — he thinks dogfighting is fine and children ought to be able to watch.” She links to the liberal website ThinkProgress for “proof” of this.

But what is the actual evidence? Last year, the lobbying arm of the Humane Society of the United States created a TV ad attacking King along similar lines. Four Iowa TV stations rejected the ad:

Ray Cole, president and chief operating officer of Citadel Communications, which includes WOI in West Des Moines and KCAU-TV in Sioux City, said his company didn’t object to the spot based on the images portrayed. “We have opted not to run the spot in both Des Moines and Sioux City more so, if not exclusively, based on the fact that we believe the message is patently false,” he said.

A review of congressional records shows that King made it clear to his fellow members of Congress that he is opposed to all forms of dog fighting, but believes the issue is a state matter rather than a federal issue, Cole said.

You can see a video of King speaking at a committee hearing at this link.

Now, let’s be clear—we don’t endorse or oppose politicians, including King. And we don’t necessarily agree with his positions. But what we do oppose is the slash-and-burn mentality of animal rights activists at HSUS, PETA, and other groups—and columnists who carry their water. Their attitude is “you’re with us, or you support animal cruelty.” It’s a false dichotomy and a sleazy communications campaign. Yet, ironically, many of these same people claim to represent the word “humane.”

The amendment may not be perfect, but it’s a big step in the right direction. And while Parker is entitled to parrot HSUS arguments against it, she’s not entitled to her own facts about the record.