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Frank Luntz: I Am A Paid Liar, But Aren't I An Awesome One?

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From the Department of Telling You What You Already Know, I wanted to flag this particular excerpt from PBS Frontline's terrific piece on global warming. Reporter Deborah Amos interviews, among others, top Republican pollster Frank Luntz about his famous memo in the mid-1990s that told Republicans to deliberately distort scientific facts about global warming. Frontline notes that the memo is still being used by ExxonMobil as a way to build Republican congressional opposition to measures that would curtail global warming.

So what does Luntz have to say for himself? Well, he both admits his memo advocates distorting scientific data, and then he goes on to effusively brag about his talent for coming up with language that makes brazen lies seem mildly truthful (I would call him an expert in "truthiness" but "truthiness" implies that what is being said has a grain of actual truth - Luntz takes total lies and only makes them seem like they vaguely relate to the truth).

Here's the relevant quote from Luntz:

"Look, you want me to say it? It was a great memo. It was great language. I busted my ass for that memo. I have spent many sleepless nights going over focus group tapes, writing exercises, trying to figure out what language would work. And in the end, for that time, I think I found good language."

I guess Luntz gets a shred of credit for being so honest about what he's paid to do. At the very least, he went on television to admit that he is a specialist in lying. That explains why he keeps getting hired by Republican politicians and corporate PR departments. But it doesn't explain why Beltway reporters constantly quote him as some sort of credible voice on the issues of the day.

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