Ex-Newsweek editor: Is right-wing living in ‘a mental institution?’

By John Byrne
Monday, November 8, 2010 9:26 EDT
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Correction: Fahreed Zakaria recently left Newsweek and is now with Time.

A rumor that a trip by President Barack Obama to India would cost as much per day as US war in Afghanistan recently exploded across the blogosphere, catching the attention of the liberal host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

“I saw this all over the right wing news-o-sphere yesterday, that Obama’s trip to India is costing $200 million a day, that 10 percent of the Navy is going with them,” Maher quipped on his program Friday. “It did come out of one blogger in India. It’s amazing to me now that people in politics, [Rep.] Michele Bachmann said this. Sharron Angle said Sharia law was taking hold in Texas. And when asked why, they say, oh, I read it somewhere.”

The rumor actually originated in the Press Trust of India, a large national news site, and was based on a single anonymous source: “a top official of the Maharashtra government privy to the arrangements for the high-profile visit.” It was then picked up by conservative news sites like The Drudge Report, without consideration of the fact that the figure — $200 million a day — is about as much as the US spends on the entire Afghan war, per day.

Maher rebuked “the Internets” for contributing to what he sees as a devolution of reality. “This is a credible news source now: ‘I read some sh*t on the Internet.’ Do you think the right wing lives in a bubble?” Maher asked his panel.

“Or a mental institution?” added Fahreed Zakaria, now a contributing editor at Time magazine.

A conservative congressman — who’s likely to be investigating President Obama — backed Obama up

“One of the biggest challenges we’re facing is a decline in responsible journalism — journalism where if they make a mistake, they have to print an apology so to speak,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) remarked. “That’s going away, and it’s hurting us.”

Zakara is himself from India: he is the “son of the late Indian politician Rafiq Zakaria and former Sunday Times of India editor Fatma Zakaria.”

A video of the exchange appears below. The video was originally caught by Mediaite.

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