I’ll bet many of my colleagues in the press were smiling and congratulating themselves over their Alan Keyes /Mary Cheney “gotcha” story.

In case you missed it, that was last week’s story about how Alan Keyes accused Mary Cheney, daughter of the vice president, of being a hedonist and a sinner because she is a lesbian.

A good story, except for one thing: It just wasn’t true.

The finger-pointing and the tongue-clicking began immediately among the media class. Nobody, it seemed, actually bothered to see what Keyes really said.

“The essence of … family life remains procreation,” Keyes said in the controversial radio interview. “If we embrace homosexuality as a proper basis for marriage, we are saying that it’s possible to have a marriage state that in principle excludes procreation and is based simply on the premise of selfish hedonism.”

From that simple statement of fact, a radio interviewer tried to turn Keyes’ thoughtful statement into a personal attack on Dick Cheney’s daughter.

Here’s how the Associated Press, the largest and most powerful news organization in the world, reported the story: “Illinois Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes labeled homosexuality ‘selfish hedonism’ and said Vice President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter is a sinner.”

The “headline” on the wire story read: “GOP Senate candidate says vice president’s daughter is sinner and part of ‘selfish hedonism.'”

Never mind that Keyes never mentioned Mary Cheney’s name nor used the word “sinner.” That was the “straight” news story account of this interview.

Of course, there was nothing “straight” about it. It was a news story with a purpose – to discredit Alan Keyes’ candidacy for the U.S. Senate in the state of Illinois.

Was Keyes ever given a chance to explain his comments and to put them in proper context?

Yes, at least one news organization allowed him to have his say in the form of a lengthy Q&A-style treatment of a follow-up press conference. I would commend you to read it because the establishment press is treating the serious issue of same-sex marriage like it’s some kind of cartoon.

Alan Keyes was asked point-blank the same inane question about Mary Cheney and he gave a longer, thoughtful answer. Did anyone else in the media report it? No.

Keyes explained patiently that he was trying to address the issue of same-sex marriage, not the challenge of homosexuality.

“The heart of marriage is the commitment to procreation and child-rearing,” he said.

He concluded by saying: “Trying to turn this issue into an issue of personality is again, as I have often said about the media, an effort to engage in polemics.”

I would say that’s putting it mildly, even kindly.

What the establishment press did to Alan Keyes’ remarks about same-sex marriage last week was a disgrace to journalistic standards and practices developed over the last 100 years in this country.

Words were put in his mouth by the largest news organization in the world.

Other words were twisted and distorted.

A complex issue addressed by a serious and thoughtful statesman was turned into a bumper sticker by a politically, ideologically partisan press.

Can we have a serious political debate in this country any more?

Why is it that when a politician, addressing an important national issue – articulating the position held by an overwhelming majority of Americans – is ridiculed, his words distorted, twisted, caricaturized?

I think we all know the answer to these questions.

I’m still waiting for even one other national commentator to point out the obvious and jump to Keyes’ defense.

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