Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple is raising questions about the Washington Times' relationship with the National Rifle Association after the paper ran a "Special Report" sponsored by the gun group featuring several articles from the Times' news coverage.
Wemple highlighted an August 27 "special pullout section" in the Times that was clearly "sponsored by the NRA" and featured disclaimers on each page explaining the pullout was "A Special Report Prepared by The Washington Times Advertising Department." Instead of being filled only with advertisements, the section featured past gun-related news stories from Times reporters Kelly Riddell, David Sherfinski, and Jessica Chasmar, which Wemple cites as evidence that the paper's news coverage "pleases the mighty gun lobby."
But when Wemple asked Times editor John Solomon whether the presence of news stories in "a special advertising section cross[es] some sacred journalistic trench," Solomon defended the paper by arguing that the articles had all "already been written."
Solomon also defended the paper from Wemple's suggestion that there might be a "risk" in the Times' behavior, since reporters may "be inclined to tilt their stories" to appease pro-gun advertisers:
Though Solomon says the stories piled up in the Washington Times archive in the course of normal journalistic business, isn't there a risk here? Once reporters see how the paper monetizes their work via pro-gun advertisers, won't they be inclined to tilt their stories in that direction? No again, says Solomon: "Writers never know, and it's no different thantomorrow waking up and seeing a Boeing ad in The Washington Post and having a defense story in the newspaper."
The Washington Times has long had a cozy relationship with the NRA. David Keene, who edits the paper's aggressively pro-NRA opinion page, is a former NRA president. In a move that sparked concern from journalism experts, Keene has continued to operate as a spokesman for the gun group and sit on its board while also serving as the Times opinion editor. Solomon told Media Matters this year that Keene's dual role avoids conflict since he "recuses himself from editing any pieces in his department that are focused on the NRA."
The Times has previously partnered with anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage for a June 2014 event. The paper's "Advocacy Department" put together a "Special Report" supplement for the event with articles from its news and opinion sections. The Times has long been a platform for virulent homophobia.
Former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, who has a financial relationship with Gov. Scott Walker, is using his Washington Post column to lavish praise on the Wisconsin Republican and help position him for a 2016 presidential run.
In 2013, Thiessen co-authored Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge with Walker. According to the book's publisher, Unintimidated "tells the dramatic story of how one brave leader drove real change in his state, and what the rest of the country can learn from him. ... It's not just a memoir -- it's a call to action."
A few months ago, Post reporters Philip Rucker and Robert Costa documented the trend of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates attempting to "study up on issues and cultivate ties to pundits and luminaries from previous administrations." Among those listed was Walker, whom they reported has "developed a bond with Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen." According to the Post, "when Thiessen helped Walker write the governor's memoir, they talked via Skype about many issues."
The Post reported after the book's announcement that considering Walker's looming re-election campaign and possible 2016 presidential run, "writing a book with a high-profile GOP strategist is a notable step onto the national stage." Thiessen's help in getting Walker on the national stage isn't limited to the book -- he has also devoted significant column space to praising him, often at the expense of potential 2016 rivals.
Given his career of service to Republicans in the White House and on Capitol Hill, Thiessen's support for Walker at the Post may preface a future role with a Walker campaign or administration.
Conspiracy website WND is using Robin Williams' recent suicide to try to sell DVDs about celebrities using "demonic" powers to gain stardom.
On August 14, WND reprinted an excerpt of an opinion piece by Joe Schimmel that argues Williams used the help of "demonic powers" that "aided him on stage," but these "insidious forces" eventually "drove him to suicide":
Everybody is currently talking about Robin Williams and his tragic suicide. Many are puzzled as to how a man, who made so many people laugh, could be so depressed that he would violently end his life. What people are not learning is the deeper truth about the insidious forces that tormented Robin Williams and drove him to suicide.
Robin Williams acknowledged that he had opened himself up to transformative demonic powers that aided him on stage. Without the aid of such demonic powers, it is likely that you would have never have heard of Robin Williams and many other famous celebrities. Williams also recognized that these powers had manifested a very evil influence on stage and that there could be a hefty price to pay for their assistance.
At the end of the excerpt -- the full piece is published at "Good Fight Ministries" -- WND links to its website store with the text, "Is Satan using music to corrupt our youth? See Joe Schimmel's shocking three-hour video: 'They Sold Their Souls for Rock 'n' Roll.'"
For the "Discount Price" of $15.95, readers can purchase the "3 Hour Version" -- which has been "condensed from the best of the full 10-hour version" -- of Schimmel's movie, which argues "how Satan has been effectively using popular music to undermine God's plan for the family and ultimately heralding the coming of the Antichrist and his kingdom on earth."
The Schimmel excerpt is currently featured prominently on WND's opinion section with the headline, "Robin Williams: The Sad Truth Media Won't Tell You":
WND's Superstore regularly attempts to profit off of crass paranoia, selling products claiming President Obama's birth certificate is fake, Harry Potter is "witchcraft," and John "Lennon may well have sold his soul to the devil and that the assassination was merely Satan collecting his due."
Following the arrest of two journalists covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, some conservative media figures are attacking the reporters for being insufficiently deferential to police, doing "the opposite of journalism," and trying to make the story about themselves.
Protests in Ferguson are ongoing following an August 9 incident that resulted in a police officer shooting and killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown. On August 13, Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly and Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery were both detained by police in a Ferguson McDonald's.
Initially, both Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and I were asked for identification. I was wearing my lanyard, but Ryan asked why he had to show his ID. They didn't press the point, but one added that if we called 911, no one would answer.
Then they walked away. Moments later, the police reemerged, telling us that we had to leave. I pulled my phone out and began recording video.
An officer with a large weapon came up to me and said, "Stop recording."
I said, "Officer, do I not have the right to record you?"
He backed off but told me to hurry up. So I gathered my notebook and pens with one hand while recording him with the other hand.
As I exited, I saw Ryan to my left, having a similar argument with two officers. I recorded him, too, and that angered the officer. As I made my way toward the door, the officers gave me conflicting information.
One instructed me to exit to my left. As I turned left, another officer emerged, blocking my path.
"Go another way," he said.
As I turned, my backpack, which was slung over one shoulder, began to slip. I said, "Officers, let me just gather my bag." As I did, one of them said, "Okay, let's take him."
Multiple officers grabbed me. I tried to turn my back to them to assist them in arresting me. I dropped the things from my hands.
"My hands are behind my back," I said. "I'm not resisting. I'm not resisting." At which point one officer said: "You're resisting. Stop resisting."
While some conservative media figures have been critical of the arrests, others are responding to the incident by lashing out at the reporters and media coverage of the incident.
UPDATE: In an August 13 blog post, New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal praised Maureen Dowd for the "masterful" analysis in her latest column of a recent Hillary Clinton interview. He did not address the criticism of that column.
Maureen Dowd's long descent into anti-Clinton self-parody hit a new low last night when she managed to transition from discussing the death of Robin Williams to an attack on Hillary Clinton.
In her August 12 column following the news that Williams died in an apparent suicide, Dowd opened by recounting an interview she once conducted with the comedian, before abruptly transitioning into an attack on Hillary Clinton (emphasis added):
As our interview ended, I was telling him about my friend Michael Kelly's idea for a 1-900 number, not one to call Asian beauties or Swedish babes, but where you'd have an amorous chat with a repressed Irish woman. Williams delightedly riffed on the caricature, playing the role of an older Irish woman answering the sex line in a brusque brogue, ordering a horny caller to go to the devil with his impure thoughts and disgusting desire.
I couldn't wait to play the tape for Kelly, who doubled over in laughter.
So when I think of Williams, I think of Kelly. And when I think of Kelly, I think of Hillary, because Michael was the first American reporter to die in the Iraq invasion, and Hillary Clinton was one of the 29 Democratic senators who voted to authorize that baloney war.
Dowd's bizarre segue was immediately greeted with widespread ridicule from both conservatives and liberals.
Conservative website Twitchy -- which Media Matters agrees with very seldomly -- asked, "How does that make any sense whatsoever?" The site also highlighted criticism from numerous pundits, including NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who wondered whether "the New York Times is too embarrassed to edit Maureen Dowd anymore"; Bay Area News Group editor Daniel Jimenez, who called the column "stupefyingly embarrassing" and posited that Dowd was "destroying" the Times' brand; and Forbes contributor Tom Watson, who said the Times should "be ashamed."
Fox News contributor Mary Katharine Ham, writing for conservative site Hot Air, called Dowd's transition from Williams to Clinton "the most graceless, tacky, incoherent segue in recent memory." Referencing Dowd's ill-fated experiment with edible marijuana, Washington Examiner senior writer Philip Klein wrote, "From now on, I'm just gonna assume that Maureen Dowd writes all her columns from a Denver hotel room." (Examiner colleague Tim Carney replied, "I literally assumed there was an editing error.")
Several critics noted Dowd's tendency to turn any news event into an attack on the Clintons. Wonkette's Rebecca Schoenkopf called the piece "as glowing an example of Maureen Dowd's Hillary vendetta as any we've seen yet," while Mother Jones' Kevin Drum asked, "I wonder if there's anything left in the world that doesn't remind Dowd of Hillary Clinton?"
The answer is no. Dowd's bizarre obsession with Hillary Clinton dates back more than two decades, during which she has attacked the former secretary of state and first lady in at least 141 columns. A Media Matters analysis of Dowd's work since 1993 found that the columnist has repeatedly used popular culture references to attack Clinton, managing to link her to everything from the movie The Stepford Wives to a Picasso painting.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's resignation announcement in the wake of the Watergate scandal. As MSNBC's Steve Benen has pointed out, for more than five years, conservatives have invoked Watergate in an attempt to amplify the importance of numerous scandals of the day involving President Obama.
No Obama "scandals" have matched the vast criminality involved with Watergate. The New York Times noted of Watergate's reach: "Entangled in that skein were dozens of men implicated in the scandal, many of whom were top aides to the President. As it steadily unwound, the American people watched a parade of witnesses expose the details of a political crime whose proportions were nearly unfathomable: wiretapping, money laundering, destruction of documents, payment of hush money, character assassination, disinformation and deception -- all perpetrated by people at the highest levels of Government. More than 30 people pleaded guilty or were convicted of crimes like perjury, burglary, wiretapping and obstruction of justice."
Below is a list of the various supposed scandals conservative media figures have compared to Watergate. The list, originally published in 2012, has been updated with several more recent Watergates.
Numerous conservative radio, cable news, and Internet media stars provided testimonials and other support to Move America Forward, a purported "pro-troop" charity that funneled money to the GOP consultants who run it.
In an exposé for ProPublica and The Daily Beast, reporter Kim Barker lays out how Move America Forward (MAF), a charity that collects millions of dollars purportedly to send care packages to troops overseas, "has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms."
Various MAF transgressions highlighted by Barker include: claiming to send hundreds of care packages to a battalion fighting in Afghanistan while the battalion in question was actually deployed in Japan; misleading donors about a non-existent partnership between MAF and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; appropriating "images and stories from other groups and from veterans themselves without permission to use in fundraising appeals"; and using group assets to apparently "subsidize three conservative political action committees."
As Barker explains, MAF has gotten a major fundraising boost from leading conservatives like George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and numerous conservative media figures like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin.
The group's ties to conservative media run deep. Move America Forward was co-founded by Melanie Morgan, a right-wing radio host. And based on a review of MAF's website, YouTube page, and fundraising materials, the amount of support from conservative media figures for the group is staggering, particularly through its annual "Troopathon" fundraisers.
While the media figures who supported MAF undoubtedly thought they were aiding a legitimate group that was helping troops overseas, there were several warning signs surrounding Move America Forward.
Barker points out that MAF has "earned zero stars out of a potential four from the rating organization Charity Navigator" and notes that Republican consultant Sal Russo, the "driving force" behind the group, has previously come under criticism for shady use of political funds. Russo's Tea Party Express, which has also gotten a helping hand from numerous media outlets, has repeatedly been criticized for directing money to Russo-connected consulting firms. Questions about Russo's spending practices date back to at least 2009.
Some previous supporters of MAF and Troopathon in the conservative media are already calling foul. Hot Air writer Ed Morrissey, who describes himself as "a donor and sponsor of Troopathons" for years, responded that Barker's investigation "disappoints" him "profoundly." He adds that if the allegations are true, it "saddens, angers, and sickens me -- and I'm sure I'm not alone."
Below is a list of various conservative media figures who have helped Move America Forward fundraise in the past few years (note: the list of participation by conservative media figures is just a sampling and is not intended to be comprehensive).
Allen West is chiding Democrats for fundraising off of the prospect of impeachment, which he assures his readers is "not happening." But in recent weeks, West has repeatedly solicited donations from subscribers to his email list to help bolster the impeachment movement, which he claimed was "gaining speed!"
In a July 30 post to his website, West, a Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman, advised readers, "As much as you'd like to, don't fall into the impeachment trap."
He explained that "evil" Democrats had "successfully made the word 'impeachment' verboten in America," adding, "In fact, they've managed to turn it into political heyday as they celebrate fundraising records based on generating fear among their base over something that's not happening."
West lamented how Democrats "have effectively outmaneuvered the fail safe measures entrusted to us by our Founding Fathers to replace the rule of law with the rule of one." Instead of impeaching the president, West posited that Republicans "must do that which the Democrats truly fear: ensure they lose control of the U.S. Senate and expand the GOP House majority."
West's warning about the dangers of impeachment stand in stark contrast to what he's been saying on the issue for months. In June, following the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, West called on the House of Representatives to "draft articles of impeachment as no one is above the law in America."
While he now claims impeachment is "not happening," fundraising emails he recently sent to his followers struck a decidedly different note. For example, on July 10, after fellow Fox News contributor Sarah Palin joined the conservative calls for impeachment, West sent out an email soliciting "emergency contribution[s]" to help his PAC distribute a survey asking people whether the House should impeach the president. According to West, Palin's support for impeachment was evidence "This movement is far from over....it's gaining speed!" He also described impeachment as a "growing movement" and a "huge grassroots movement."
On June 28, West asked for "emergency donation[s]" to his PAC, telling subscribers, "the time has come to hold [Obama] accountable." West pointed to House Speaker John Boehner's lawsuit targeting the president as the "initial steps that I believe will lead to impeachment."
In a June 19 email to subscribers with the subject line, "Breaking- Enough votes to impeach Obama?", West touted comments from Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) claiming the House "probably" had enough votes to impeach the president. Once again asking for an "emergency donation," West explained, "Now - more than ever - we need to get the Guardian Fund's impeachment survey into the hands of every conservative in America."
Right-wing media and Republicans are blaming Democrats and President Obama for allegedly "ginning up" the issue of impeachment for political benefit, but that Pandora's Box was opened by conservatives themselves, who have been demanding impeachment since Obama first took office.
In an interview with conspiracy website WND (which has its own "Impeachment Store"), Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) told conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi that President Obama "wants us to impeach him now" because "his senior advisors believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat. Evidently Obama believes impeachment could motivate the Democratic Party base to come out and vote."
Stockman's proclamation that the president is "begging to be impeached" was quickly trumpeted as the top story on the Drudge Report and Fox Nation, and Stockman isn't the only one trying to pin the increase in impeachment discussion on Democrats. While refusing to answer whether impeachment is off the table for House Republicans, incoming House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) claimed "this might be the first White House in History that's trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president."
Fox News America's Newsroom host Martha MacCallum also attempted to distance impeachment rhetoric from the right and pin it on Democrats, claiming that while "some" Republicans have called for impeachment, "The White House itself has been talking a lot about this potential impeachment, even though a lot of members of the GOP want nothing to do with it."
She continued, saying impeachment was "kind of crazy when you think about it," and dismissed Fox News contributor Sarah Palin's impeachment call, saying "it really gained no traction among Republicans. A couple talk show hosts also liked the idea, apparently, but that seemed to be pretty much as far as it went. And now, there seems to be a move to convince Americans that all Republicans are interested in that option." Her guest, Republican New Hampshire Senate candidate and former Fox News contributor Scott Brown, responded by saying that there is "no appetite" for impeachment among Americans.
While MacCallum claimed Palin's call for impeachment "gained no traction among Republicans," in Fox News' own poll released last week, a majority of Republicans (56 percent) endorsed the idea of impeaching Obama.
Furthermore, these attempts to pivot and shift blame towards Democrats for invoking impeachment severely downplay conservatives' responsibility for the narrative.
There's a brewing conservative media war over whether to impeach President Obama.
Largely relegated to the fringe for years, the prospect of impeachment has been invigorated thanks to conservative media figures like Fox News contributors Sarah Palin and Allen West, who have spent recent weeks loudly demanding Obama's removal from office. But not everyone in conservative media is on board, with several prominent figures arguing that impeachment is ill-fated, politically toxic, and could severely damage Republicans' chances in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.
Last week, Fox News polled on the question, finding that while a strong majority of Americans (61 percent) oppose impeachment, 56 percent of Republicans are in favor of it.
Over the weekend, impeachment got another boost thanks to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the incoming House Majority Whip, appearing on Fox News Sunday and refusing "to take impeaching President Barack Obama off the table if Obama takes executive action to limit deportations." On Saturday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced on Breitbart News Saturday that if the president uses more executive actions on illegal immigration, "we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives."
In June, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a plan to sue the president over the delayed implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While Boehner has repeatedly dismissed impeachment talk, reporters like the New Republic's Brian Beutler have speculated that the lawsuit was designed to "serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment."
If Boehner's lawsuit was designed to cool impeachment fever, it's not working. Several conservative media figures have lashed out over his "political stunt" and continue to bang the impeachment drum. As November approaches, the fight over impeachment among conservative media is getting increasingly acrimonious with each side convinced the other is hurting the country.
Media Matters looks at where various conservative commentators currently stand on impeachment.