Texas Senate Showdown: The Houston Chronicle's Lise Olsen is a Pseudo-Journalist

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A Houston Chronicle article this weekend titled, “Cruz's life defies simplification” is poorly written and parrots GOP talking points.

Chronicle “investigative reporter” Lise Olsen explains Cruz's complexity by writing, “While comfortable with billionaires and establishment politicians, he's also a favorite of the tea party insurgency and prominent social conservatives including Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and Jim DeMint.” Those are not contradictions in terms. It is a documented fact that billionaires like the Koch brothers are the financial engine of the Tea Party. For Olsen to pretend there is a fundamental difference between billionaires, social conservatives and the tea party is journalistic malpractice because she is omitting the facts. Readers – especially voters – deserve to read the facts, not Olsen's deceptively rosy profile of Cruz. This is the definition of pseudo-journalism.

“There's always a problem when people try to use labels because labels are oversimplification,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told Olsen. “The reality is he's a very principled person, and he has unique abilities to define what those principles are and to persuade others.” Does a principled person run ads to brag about allowing Texas to execute a Mexican nation? That is the behavior of a man determined to shake his Hispanic heritage by being viciously anti-immigrant, not a principled man. Indeed, Cruz's dumb, vicious immigration policy reflects that. How about pointing out the outcry against that ad, Olsen?

“To have suggested to that 18-year-old boy washing dishes that his son might serve as a U.S. senator would have been unimaginable,” Cruz told Olsen about his father. “That's the opportunity America offers. That's freedom.” Yeah. It is. And its enemy is Ted Cruz, who wants to slash government to the bone and thus make quality public universities impossible. That fact clearly deserves airing in this article, but finds none. Cruz is the most depraved kind of politician, one who wants to burn the ladder he climbed to reach his success. Just like Paul Ryan, who wants to eliminate Social Security despite going to college on its funds.

The laudatory article pushes Cruz's alleged love for the Constitution in readers' faces. Olsen writes that he's used his “expertise…advocating high-profile conservative causes and defending corporate lawbreakers.” In the two cases Olsen lists, Cruz defended a polluting Chinese company which stole an American invention, and a pharmaceutical company who fired a whistleblower calling out their dangerous marketing practices. Olsen includes no actual consideration of Cruz's willingness to represent these despicable companies and even defend those who steal American patents, nor his deep corporate ties. “Cruz counters he was simply representing clients. He still found ways to perform public service – defending the right to erect a cross at a veterans' monument on national park lands and attempting unsuccessfully to win reparations for a death row inmate from New Orleans who'd been exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing,” Olsen allows unrebutted. Is this is an “investigative” account you trust, no matter your political affiliation? It's unconscionable.

This article amounts to a simultaneous promotion and defense of Cruz. It has no place in an objective newspaper. This drivel belongs on RedState, not in the Chronicle.

Edit 11:18 A.M.: Olsen has written some good articles. But an “investigative reporter” can legitimately be called out for acting as a pseudo-journalist when she so drastically misrepresents the facts and lauds Cruz in an article that will be read as objective. A politician who tells a big lie only once in a while is still a liar. Texans can easily be deceived by this pseudo-journalism, with real consequences on the way they vote. No one contests the importance of a Senate election. If Olsen cares about journalism, as many suggest she does, she'll correct this article and make sure her future coverage of the race relates the facts Texans expect and deserve to hear from investigative reporters.

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About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

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