While many national outlets are dismissing the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry as political payback, Texas journalists warn that such claims are misguided, incomplete, and the product of a "rush to judgment."
On August 15, news broke that Perry was being indicted for "abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant," both of which are felonies.
The charges relate to Perry's threatened and completed veto of $7.5 million in state funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit.
The case claims that the threat and veto were retaliation against Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat and the head of that unit, who ignored Perry's call for her to resign after she was convicted of drunk driving. At the time Lehmberg's unit was investigating corruption in a program Perry had heavily touted; if she had resigned, Perry would have appointed her replacement.
Following the announcement, a split has emerged among press covering the story. Much of the Lone Star State media has covered it as a valid legal proceeding and part of a greater picture of misconduct, while national media are treating Perry's indictment as mere politics.
The New York Times editorial board speculated that it "appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution." Liberal New York magazine reporter Jonathan Chait labeled the indictment "unbelievably ridiculous." A USA Today editorial dubbed it a "flimsy indictment," while The Wall Street Journal called it "prosecutorial abuse for partisan purposes."
But Texas journalists say many on the national level don't know the facts and context and are too quick to judge from afar.
"The national pundits -- and some of them are very thoughtful people -- tend to focus first and most easily on the politics," said Wayne Slater, a columnist at the Dallas Morning News. "How does this particular event help or hurt that candidate in the potential horse race? Many reporters in Texas know Perry and are much more familiar with the details in this case, the fact that these are Republicans investigating this and that Perry has a history of hardball politics in forcing people out. This is a much more nuanced story than some in the Beltway understand."
Slater adds, "Rick Perry is getting good press because he has been masterful in the way he has framed this as a matter of partisan politics. Instinctively political journalists and reporters and outlets at some distance understand that Perry is winning the politics at the moment and that his narrative of events really comports with their general sense of how things work, that politicians threaten people and coerce people."
Forrest Wilder, who is covering the story for the Texas Observer, noted in a recent piece that the criminal complaint against Perry filed in June 2013 by Texans for Public Justice was assigned to a Republican judge who then appointed a former prosecutor in the George H.W. Bush administration as special prosecutor. In comments to Media Matters, Wilder said the charges were something "we should take seriously."
John Dean, former aide and counsel to President Richard Nixon, denounced right-wing media for "rewriting" the history of Watergate in order to attack President Obama, calling comparisons of current events to the historic scandal "nonsense" and "absolutely silliness."
August marks the 40th anniversary of Nixon's resignation in the wake of Watergate, a vast scandal that The New York Times explained included, "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."
Dean served as Nixon's White House counsel during Watergate and is promoting a new book on the subject. In an interview with Media Matters, he slammed Republican officials and right-wing commentators who have compared Watergate's historic criminality to various supposed Obama administration scandals, with some going so far as to call for the president's removal from office.
"It's absolutely silliness," Dean said. "The conservative media just doesn't seem to understand the impeachment clause. It is not designed to ... besmirch a president with, and that's all they're doing with it."
"They don't understand it, they don't have a clue what happened during Watergate, do not have a clue," he added. "They want to distort that history, rewriting it, ignore it and then use it. That's the conservative media."
Dean's book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It (Viking 2014), is based on hours of tapes from Nixon's years at the White House, many of which were never catalogued, he said. It attempts to set the record straight on the scandal and Nixon's involvement, arguing the president's actions had broader implications than previously understood.
Today, however, Dean noted that conservative media "know" an Obama impeachment "can't prevail in a trial," and that "even talking about it is nonsense and there's no high crime. For them it's a high crime to be a Democrat and serve as president."
Citing conservative media's attempts to compare Watergate to a never-ending litany of supposed "scandals," including the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi terrorist attacks and the IRS targeting investigation, Dean said, "I told my publisher that they should send a copy of my new book to every Republican in the House so they can understand what impeachable behavior looks like." Dean later declared: "It does not work at all, in fact they don't even raise to the level of scandal ... both Benghazi and IRS."
The Tampa Tribune has pulled a controversial column that alleged Disney is indoctrinating children with its "pro-gay agenda." The column, which was highlighted by Media Matters, had also drawn criticism from gay rights activists and Florida journalists.
On August 11, Douglas MacKinnon, who is listed on the since-pulled column as "Tribune staff," argued that Disney has been engaged in an underhanded effort to wrongly "indoctrinate" children. He also contended the company is trying to subtly push an agenda through its children's programming.
The piece, titled, "Disney's pro-gay agenda is disturbing," quoted an anonymous "former Disney executive" saying, "the company has taken direct aim at children to indoctrinate them about gay lifestyles and gay marriage through shows it airs on The Disney Channel and Disney XD."
MacKinnon later added:
The former executive said one of the more subtle techniques is to incorporate the colors of the gay-pride flag in as many shots as possible. The colors are woven in as a wink and nod to the gay community and show up on shirts, hats, posters, stacked cups and rings. The practice has been picked up by other children's networks and national advertisers. Disney also pushes the gay agenda by introducing openly gay characters and couples on its children's programing. Again, that is their right, but should they be in the business of entertaining children or indoctrinating them?
As of publication, Media Matters had received no response to requests for comment from the Tribune.* The column was removed midday today.
The newspaper posted several letters to the editor critical of the column, which termed it "boring" and "hate-filled." The Tribune's "letter of the day" on August 14 also focused on the column, stating it was "disturbing."
Prior to the column's removal from the Tribune website, several gay rights activists and journalists expressed concern to Media Matters about its stereotypical and offensive arguments. Among them, Nadine Smith, founder and CEO of Equality Florida and a former Tribune reporter.
"The first time I read it I thought it was satire," said Smith, who worked at the Tribune from 1989 to 1993. "It's absurd. He's so fixated on this bizarre, paranoid fantasy that he's actually missed the larger story. Businesses are speaking up and being very visible and speaking out quite publicly for equal rights."
Ted Nugent's recent spate of offensive and racist comments that have sparked protests and canceled shows are damaging his image and could well cripple his income if he continues, according to veteran concert promoters and industry journalists.
In a week when two casinos operated by different Native American tribes canceled three separate Nugent shows set for next month and dozens protested a concert in New Jersey, concert touring experts say the National Rifle Association board member and conservative commentator is doing real damage to his money-earning potential.
"If you're going to say something political, you're going to have some backlash, it doesn't matter who you are or what you say," said Larry Magid, a Philadelphia-based promoter who has handled Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, and Bette Midler. "Nugent seems to have taken it to extremes. I don't know that you can blame anyone for not wanting to play him for all of the baggage that he brings."
Magid, who also organized the famed 1985 Live Aid benefit show in Philadelphia, said Nugent was never a huge concert draw, but his declaration earlier this year that President Barack Obama is a "subhuman mongrel" may mark a turning point.
"I don't know if that is frustration at not being a viable act, but it is stupid," Magid said of Nugent. "If you are a musician, you are trying to bring your music, your art to a broad group of people. It is one thing to take a stance, it is another thing when you are talking about the president of the United States.
"For all of the people enamored with him, there are 20 or 30 or 40 times that who are not enamored with him. To me, it's not bright. If I'm a promoter I have to think two or three or four times before I take a shot with this performer."
"No one should be surprised by any of this," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar USA, which tracks concert touring receipts. "It's a free country and Nugent has always had a big mouth. But if he keeps making incendiary statements his future tours may be limited to NRA conventions and Fox News events."
Bongiovanni said the public reaction is not unusual: "Why be surprised if you can't sell tickets to them after you insult people who are gay, animal rights, or gun control advocates, or just in the majority of people who voted for Obama?"
National Public Radio is backing away from a revised job description for its ombudsman that suggested the person in the position should avoid "passing judgment" on any errors in NPR News coverage, calling that listing "a mistake."
Earlier this week, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen highlighted a job listing for the NPR ombudsman/public editor position, which has historically reviewed and critiqued NPR's reporting. The listing asserted the role did not include "passing judgment" or providing "commentary."
In one section it stated, "The NPR Ombudsman/Public Editor focuses on fact gathering and explanation, not commentary or judgment." Another section added, "In addressing audience complaints about journalistic errors in NPR News coverage, the Ombudsman/Public Editor will gather facts and can interview key news managers. The Ombudsman/Public Editor will then explain any errors without passing judgment."
Citing the concerns of two former NPR ombudsmen, Rosen declared that the outlet had "downgraded the ombudsman position."
Following the criticism, NPR CEO Jarl Mohn issued a statement to Media Matters calling the language a "mistake":
The Ombudsman is a critically important role at NPR and the expectations of the job have not changed. The Ombudsman must be fully independent and fully transparent in order to do their job on behalf of the public. The language in the current job description about not providing commentary or passing judgment is a mistake and we are removing it. I take this position very seriously and am committed to recruiting an outstanding journalist for the job and ensuring he or she has the resources required.
Several NPR member stations had expressed concerns to Media Matters about the apparent reduction in the power of the ombudsman.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who criticized Chelsea Clinton's speaking fees as "unseemly," brings home less than half as much as the former first daughter for her own paid engagements.
American Program Bureau, one of two speaking bureaus that broker speaking appearances for Dowd, said she receives an average of $30,000 per appearance, plus travel expenses. An APB agent who requested anonymity, confirmed Dowd averages at least eight to 12 such appearances per year.
Dowd's other speaking bureau, All-American Speakers, declined to release fee information for Dowd.
This is less than half of the $75,000 Chelsea Clinton receives per event according to a previous New York Times story. That article noted that all of her fees go to the Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which "works to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment."
Dowd, who has a decades-long history of viciously criticizing President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, took on their daughter this past Sunday in a column that said there was "something unseemly" about the younger Clinton being paid to speak:
Why on earth is she worth that much money? Why, given her dabbling in management consulting, hedge-funding and coattail-riding, is an hour of her time valued at an amount that most Americans her age don't make in a year?
Dowd went on to write that if Clinton "really wants to be altruistic," she should "contribute the money to some independent charity not designed to burnish the Clinton name" or "speak for free."
Could the same be said of Dowd's own work on the paid speaking circuit? She has appeared at college campuses ranging from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to Hofstra University and the University of Rochester in the past. Her paid appearances have also spanned the likes of the Philadelphia Bar Association and Temple B'nai Abraham in Livingston, N.J.
"We don't pay all of our speakers, but in her case I am sure we did," said Dan Anderson, vice president for university relations at Elon University in Elon, N.C., where Dowd spoke in 2012.
Dowd did not respond to a request for comment seeking to determine whether she donates her speaking fees to charity.
Ads urging five major newspapers to drop George Will following his offensive column demeaning campus sexual assault victims are being sponsored by the women's rights group UltraViolet and highlight a survivor who first told her story to Media Matters.
The ads seek the removal of Will's syndicated column from the Chicago Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Orlando Sentinel, The Detroit News, and Richmond Times-Dispatch. The group has been running an online petition urging The Washington Post, Will's flagship paper, to drop him as well.
"Rape is a crime that keeps women from having equal access to essential services, like education, and addressing that is essential to equality," Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, said in a release.
At issue is Will's June 6 column that sparked outrage from women's organizations, U.S. senators, and college rape survivors for suggesting that sexual assault victims -- or people who Will decided were only claiming to be sexual assault victims -- enjoyed "a coveted status that confers privileges." To make his point, Will relied on an anecdote from a Philadelphia magazine article about a young woman from Swarthmore College, implying that he didn't believe her story qualified as an actual incident of assault.
That woman, Lisa Sendrow, spoke with Media Matters in an interview published earlier this week, stating: "I absolutely have not received any privileges from sexual assault. [Will] has clearly never experienced the fear of sexual assault ... He clearly has no idea how hard it is to sleep, to walk around, thinking at any moment this person that you live down the hall from could come out."
Since the column was published, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced it would stop running Will's column, while the Tribune Editorial Page Editor Bruce Dold declined to run the particular campus rape column, telling Media Matters it was "misguided and insensitive."
A statement from Sendrow is included in UltraViolet's press release about the ad campaign, in which she notes that survivors are "further victimized by people like George Will" when their stories are "dismissed, diminished, and brushed aside."
The ads are running online through banner advertisements and Facebook in the cities where the newspapers are located.
UltraViolet also offered the testimony of "Elizabeth B," another survivor of campus sexual assault, who said: "In my junior year of college I was assaulted by a serial rapist while walking from campus to my apartment. People from the police to other students questioned my story or made comments that suggested I was responsible. George Will's destructive column brought the pain of that trauma right back for me, and makes it even harder for survivors to come forward. He has a right to free speech but no god-given right to write a biweekly column in the Washington Post or anywhere else."
The Washington Free Beacon's claim that it's being singled out by the University of Arkansas Library for unfair treatment in its reporting on Hillary Clinton-related documents was debunked by CNN, which confirmed it followed the same rules the Free Beacon was punished for not following.
The Free Beacon was informed on June 17 by the library that its access to their archives had been suspended because Free Beacon researchers had not followed standard procedures for gaining permission to publish library documents related to Clinton back in February. The Free Beacon suggested the revocation of their access was political retribution.
But CNN officials confirmed to Media Matters that its researchers were required to fill out permission forms to first gain access to the library's collection of private documents in February related to Hillary Clinton, and later submit separate requests for approval to publish the documents on its website.
"We do have policies that are in place for all researchers and we expect all of our researchers to comply," said Laura Jacobs, associate vice chancellor for university relations for the University of Arkansas. "The idea that we would single out any researcher is false. It is unfortunate that we have been characterized as trying to stifle academic freedom. It is one of the core tenets that we take seriously. Frankly, this is a simple procedural matter."
In a story on June 20 about an interview Clinton had given in the 1980's, the Free Beacon claimed it was never told to file any forms or seek permission.
"I find that hard to believe," said Jacobs. "The process is when you come in to research in our special collection, you sit down with the research manager, you sign something saying you will comply with our policies, you tell the reading room manager materials you would like to access and it is pro forma."
In fact, the University of Arkansas Library provided Business Insider with copies of the request forms that Shawn Reinschmiedt, a GOP operative who worked with the Free Beacon to provide research for the story, signed, including an email that noted that he would be required to fill out an additional form if he wished to publish.
The Free Beacon did not comment on the forms, but told Business Insider they did not believe the University had the right to restrict publication of the documents.
"You can get materials for personal use, we will provide materials for you all day long," Jacobs added. "When you ask us to duplicate materials, if you intend to publish them you are required to complete the permission to publish form."
CNN officials on Monday confirmed CNN researchers who posted a similar story in February did file such forms and requests for permission and were granted approval.
The Chicago Tribune declined to run George Will's controversial column on sexual assault, labeling it "misguided and insensitive."
Will has been under fire following a column he wrote earlier this month about "the supposed campus epidemic of rape" and how some schools' efforts to curb the problem "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." The column sparked outrage and calls for his removal from the Washington Post by prominent women's rights groups, including the National Organization for Women and UltraViolet. Several U.S. senators have also criticized Will.
On June 18, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced it was dropping Will's column from the paper following his "offensive and inaccurate" piece.
The Tribune, one of the largest papers in the country, told Media Matters that the paper turned Will's column down after reading it.
In comments to Media Matters, Bruce Dold, editorial page editor of the Tribune, explained why his paper, which runs Will on occasion, passed on the June 7 column.
"I thought the column was misguided and insensitive," Dold told Media Matters Thursday. "We didn't publish it. Marcia Lythcott, the Op-Ed editor, made that decision and it was the right call."
The paper has no plans to abandon Will permanently, however.
"That doesn't mean we pulled Will for that week, though. We don't anchor syndicated columnists," Dold explained. "We run George Will on occasion. I checked our archives and it looks like we've run him four times in the past year. We will continue to consider him on a column by column basis, as we do with other syndicated columnists we buy."
Marriage equality advocate attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson see the media opposition to their cause softening, and believe that while conservative media "are not prepared to embrace marriage equality," they are shying away from the issue because "they think that the wave of the future is against them."
Boies and Olson garnered attention when they joined forces in 2010 to battle California's anti-marriage equality ballot measure, Proposition 8, which was ultimately overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer.
The duo, who had previously worked in opposition during the 2000 Bush vs. Gore case, kicked off a book tour this week to promote Redeeming the Dream, their account of the legal battle for marriage equality and the landmark ruling that struck down Proposition 8.
Prior to an event in Maplewood, N.J. Wednesday night, the lawyers-turned-authors spoke with Media Matters and said they see the media coverage of marriage equality becoming increasingly supportive, marking a notable change from even the recent past.
"The media in my view covered this issue very poorly for many years," Boies said. "The whole area of gay and lesbian rights was something that the media didn't know how to deal with, were a little uncomfortable dealing with it, didn't want in their view, to get too far out ahead of some of their readers. Because it was a sensitive issue [they] didn't cover it nearly as much as they should have."
Now, according to Boies, media figures "are beginning to feel uncomfortable opposing it ... I think there have been a number of people who you might think of as conservative commentators who have either been modestly favorable to us or silent on the issue and waiting to see."
Olson added, "We had one or two favorable Op-Ed pieces by members of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. National Review has been pretty consistently on the other side of this. Ed Whelan, who writes in the National Review is very, very strong on the other side of the issue. But a lot of the conservative press is staying away from the issue because I think they think that the wave of the future is against them. So that tells you something right there."
"I think the shift's continuing," Boies noted. "I think some of the more conservative media are sort of standing back. They are not prepared to embrace marriage equality, but I do think they see that that is the wave of the future. Remember, as much as between 75 to 80 percent of people under 30 ... liberals, conservatives ... 75 to 80 percent of those people favor marriage equality. You don't want to get crossways with that kind of demographic wave."
Media Matters has documented Fox News' lack of coverage of marriage equality court decisions since the 2013 Supreme Court rulings, with many major cases receiving less than a minute of coverage on the network.
Both Boies and Olson felt they had personally been well-received by both conservative and mainstream media outlets, and that their issue had received fair coverage.
"Lots of different media reacted in different ways, but we were received very warmly, or I was, on Chris Wallace's show, on Fox," Olson recalled. "Of course, places like MSNBC have given us more access than some of the other outlets, but the novelty of the two of us coming together have caused curiosity. I'd say we were fairly favorably well-received in most places."