Paul Gigot, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor since 2001, was named chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board on Monday. Under Gigot, the Journal editorial page has had several ethical lapses and has been a regular source of misinformation on climate science, health care, the Iraq War, and a host of other issues.
Pulitzer administrator Mike Pride told Media Matters a new board chair is chosen annually and the board member or members who have served nine years of their 10-year term normally get the post.
Gigot, who is going into his 10th and final year on the board, was the only member in that position this year, Pride said.
"It is really relatively automatic and nine years on the board give you a greater understanding in the way things work."
Pride, a former board member from 1999 to 2008, left in April 2008 after one year as co-chair with Joann Byrd. He is also the former editor of Concord Monitor. Pride became board administrator in September 2014.
But while Gigot's appointment is fairly routine, his position is one of power and influence over the board that distributes the most coveted awards in journalism, Pride said.
"The chair has some powers for sure in deciding which things we emphasize and which things we focus on," Pride said, later adding, "It's not a weak position at all, it's a strong position."
"He is on all the committees and is really involved in everything."
Gigot's appointment comes at a time when the Pulitzer Prizes have undergone sharp changes in recent years. In 2008, the categories were opened up to allow online-only entries, a major shift for the prizes that had previously been limited to newspapers.
And this year marked the first time magazine entries were allowed, in two categories. As board chair, Gigot can influence what changes are made or not, Pride said.
"The chair has a big effect on that so if the chair decides to slow down something the process will slow down," he explained. "If the chair decides to move faster, it will move along. It is a person that helps to determine the future of the prizes."
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen called news of Gigot's new position "strange," noting that the Journal's newsroom "often rolls its eyes at the editorial page's evidentiary standards."
In 2011, Women's Wear Daily reported that the Journal's newsroom "often has objections to Paul Gigot's editorial page." The New York Observer noted that "under editorial-page editor Paul Gigot, opinion writers freely dispute the facts reported in the rest of the paper," while "news staffers disavow the contributions from Mr. Gigot's side."
One staffer told the Observer in 2006 that the editorial section is "wrong all the time" and that "they lack credibility to the point that the emperor has no clothes."
Rosen also noted it should "concern journalists" that the Journal editorial page under Gigot "has been a leader in the manufacture of doubt about climate change." As evidence, he linked to a Journal editorial comparing modern climate research to the party dogma of the Soviet Union.
The Journal's editorial page has also been criticized for ethical lapses under Gigot. In the run-up to the 2012 election, the paper routinely failed to disclose columnist Karl Rove's ties to political organizations acting to prevent President Obama's re-election and published at least 23 different op-eds from various Mitt Romney advisers without disclosing their blatant conflict of interest. (The paper eventually added a mention of Rove's political groups to his bio.)
In addition to its climate coverage and ethical problems, Gigot's editorial page has misled on several issues over the years, including electoral politics, the labor movement, health care, and the economy.
The Journal editorial page's low point under Gigot was probably its role in furthering falsehoods in the run-up to the Iraq War. The Journal routinely promoted the idea that Saddam Hussein either had -- or was on the verge of obtaining or producing -- weapons of mass destruction. A characteristic Wall Street Journal editorial from 2003 claimed that the coalition force would find "nasty weapons and the cheering Iraqis...when it liberates the country."
Newsmax's Christopher Ruddy detailed the entanglements between several media properties owned by Rupert Murdoch that are promoting the upcoming book Clinton Cash from conservative activist Peter Schweizer.
In an April 27 column headlined "In Defense of the Clinton Foundation," Newsmax CEO and editor Christopher Ruddy -- who is himself a donor to the Foundation -- discussed the allegations made against the charity in Clinton Cash, which were recently hyped in a Fox News special. He writes that the claims in the book, which suggests the Clintons used donations to influence foreign policy, are "unsubstantiated, unconnected, and baseless," and tells journalists to "follow the money" when discussing the book itself, warning that "where there's smear, there's not always fact."
Ruddy notes, "The sister companies of News Corp and 21st Century Fox own HarperCollins, which published Peter Schweizer's book; they own The Wall Street Journal, which first raised the issue of the foreign donations; they own the New York Post, which broke the details about the Schweizer book; and they own Fox News, which gave the story oxygen and legs."
He adds, "With so much media mojo from one company, there is no doubt they will be doing some pretty good 'cashing in' from the many millions of dollars their new best-seller will generate."
Schweizer has a long history of errors and retractions, and the stories released from Clinton Cash fail to implicate former Secretary Clinton, President Clinton, or the Foundation in any wrongdoing. However, Murdoch properties have still promoted its claims.
Newsmax is a conservative publication, which has gone after the Clintons and other Democrats and progressives for years. But in the course of writing about the Clinton Cash allegations, Ruddy explains that he doesn't want to go back to the 1990s, "when one allegation led to a daisy-chain effect, and the GOP ended up looking bad as the Democrats kept winning."
Fox News' special based on discredited conservative journalist Peter Schweizer's book Clinton Cash dishonestly promoted several of the author's speculative attacks on Hillary Clinton.
In the April 24 special, The Tangled Clinton Web, host Bret Baier gave Schweizer a platform to discuss a series of stories that fail to connect the dots between donations to the Clinton Foundation, speaking fees earned by former President Bill Clinton, and policies supported by the State Department during Secretary Clinton's tenure in the Obama administration.
Schweizer is a Republican activist whose previous reporting has been marked by false claims and retractions.
Journalists who have reviewed Schweizer's Clinton book have noted that his reporting lacks a "smoking gun" to back up his suggestions of impropriety. Reporters have also pointed to several errors in his book. But host Bret Baier warned at the conclusion of the program that the claims could lead "people" to "worry that another Clinton administration could mean influence peddling on a scale never before imagined."
Schweizer and Baier tried to connect the decision by Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson to pay Bill Clinton for a speech in November 2011 with the exclusion of the telecommunications industry from sanctions against Iran, which does business with Ericsson.
From the special:
SCHWEIZER: Beginning in 2009, the Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is coming under pressure in the United States, because it's selling telecom equipment to oppressive governments around the world. In the midst of all of this, they decide to pay Bill Clinton to give a speech for the first time ever. They pay him a whopping $750,000.
BAIER: Soon after, Hillary Clinton's State Department urged new, broader sanctions against Iran, but the guidelines did not include telecom, which is Ericsson's business.
In fact, the Iran sanctions in question actually took the form of executive actions from President Obama, and not State Department initiatives.
Baier and Schweizer provided no evidence that telecommunications were excluded from the sanctions as a result of the speech. In fact, the sanctions in question specifically targeted Iran's energy sector. As CNN reported at the time, "The U.S. government tightened restrictions on companies that provide Iran with equipment and expertise necessary to run its vast oil and chemical industry."
When Yahoo News reviewed the chapter of Clinton Cash featuring this allegation, they noted that there was "no smoking gun" connecting the speech and the sanctions. Yahoo News further noted that a Clinton aide pointed out that telecommunications manufacturers like Ericsson have not been added to the sanctions since Clinton left the State Department, casting doubt on the suggestion of a connection between the 2011 Bill Clinton speech and U.S. sanctions policy.
Schweizer and Baier baselessly suggest that a donation to the Clinton Foundation from Saudi Arabia's Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi caused the State Department to certify Ethiopia's human rights record, allowing them to receive U.S. aid.
Schweizer reports that Al-Amoudi's 2009 donation was highlighted at the time by "Ethiopian groups in the west, because they are very concerned about the repressive government in Ethiopia and the fact that Sheikh Al-Amoudi has a large business empire in Ethiopia." He goes on to connect these concerns to the fact that "when Hillary Clinton becomes secretary of state, one of the things that she needs to do is certify Ethiopia on human rights, but Hillary Clinton granted them a waiver which allowed them to continue U.S. assistance even though that they weren't complying with U.S. law."
But contrary to the special's suggestion that Ethiopia was allowed access to U.S. assistance directly because of this Clinton Foundation donation, that access predated and continued after Clinton left the State Department. In fact, the document Fox showed on-screen in support of their claim actually postdates her tenure.
As evidence of their theory, Fox aired an image of a Department of State Public Notice 8553, titled "Waiver of Restriction on Assistance to the Central Government of Ethiopia":
That waiver, signed by then-Deputy Secretary William J. Burns, is actually dated July 10, 2013 -- months after Clinton left office. It appears in the December 18, 2013, edition of the Federal Register, which also reports that identical waivers were granted to the governments of 11 other African nations.
Such aid is not a new phenomenon. The State Department's Agency for International Development has provided economic assistance to Ethiopia for decades, including throughout the Bush administration.
Baier and Schweizer baselessly suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor.
During the segment, Schweizer detailed the sale of Uranium One, chaired by a Clinton Foundation donor, to the Russian state corporation Rosatom. He and Schweizer then had the following exchange:
BAIER: Now, does Secretary Clinton factor into this?
SCHWEIZER: For that deal to go through, it needs federal government approval and one of those people that has to approve that deal is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
NBC News has noted in discussing a similar story by The New York Times that this implication "doesn't hold up that well." Indeed, as Media Matters has noted:
NBC News has conceded that the flimsy anti-Clinton allegations contained in a New York Times report fail to deliver on the hype surrounding them. The Times report was based in part on a chapter from discredited conservative author Peter Schweizer's Clinton Cash, and a series of facts surrounding the story's allegations supports NBC's negative conclusion.
The Times story suggested that donations to the Clinton Foundation may have influenced Hillary Clinton's State Department, when they signed off on the sale of Uranium One, a Canadian company with uranium mining claims in the U.S., to Rosatom, a Russian atomic energy agency. Alleging that individuals who had previously donated to the Clinton Foundation may have benefited from the deal, the Times' reporting has been used as the springboard for commentary hyping the supposed connection, despite the lack of evidence.
But the April 24 First Read column on NBCNews.com admits, "upon reflection, that Times article doesn't hold up that well 24 hours after its publication."
Indeed, a series of facts supports NBC's conclusion and unravels the innuendo in the Times piece:
Other media outlets have found that this and additional allegations in Schweizer's book about donations to the Clinton Foundation are unpersuasive. Time magazine noted that Schweizer's allegation about Uranium One "is based on little evidence," and "offers no indication of Hillary Clinton's personal involvement in, or even knowledge of the deliberations," while CNN's Chris Cuomo noted that the "the examples that have come out so far in [The New York Times] were not that impressive." ABC News reported that Clinton Cash "offers no proof that Hillary Clinton took any direct action to benefit the groups and interests that were paying her husband," while Fox News' Ed Henry noted "there's a lot that's murky" in Schweizer's claims.
Even Times writer Patrick Healy admitted that the allegations are "not smoking guns."
Image via Flickr user samchills
Conservative media figures are floating a baseless conspiracy theory that President Obama's televised statement on a CIA drone strike was scheduled in order to distract from news stories about Peter Schweizer's upcoming anti-Clinton book, Clinton Cash.
On April 23, President Obama announced that a CIA drone strike in Pakistan targeting Al Qaeda terrorists had also killed two of the hostages they were holding. Conservatives are suggesting Obama's announcement was timed to divert media attention away from stories prompted by Schweizer's book, but the administration was reportedly in the process of revealing the CIA operation before the latest round of Clinton Cash stories came out. Politico reported that "Senior U.S. officials" approached Wall Street Journal national security correspondent Adam Entous with details of the operation the night of April 22, since the "White House was planning to make the disclosure and decided to give Entous a heads up, with the request that he agree to an embargo."
Entous reported that "Typically, it can take the CIA weeks or longer to determine who was killed in a drone strike" and that the determination by U.S. intelligence agencies that the hostages had been killed in the strike had been made only "a few days ago." Entous further reported that after making that determination, the administration "then began the process of notifying relatives of the deceased as well as the Italian government and key congressional committees."
Opening his April 23 show, Rush Limbaugh said that while cable news was "devoted" to covering the Clinton Cash story, "all of a sudden, we were treated to a news story" about the drone strike, adding that the story was announced "right in the middle of the heat on the reporting of the fraud going on at the Clinton family foundation." Limbaugh added, "the conspiracy theories are alive and they're on fire."
Internet gossip Matt Drudge tweeted "Obama rushes to podium and breaks 4 month old terror op... just as media saturating with Clinton scandal news?"
On Fox News after Obama's statement, America's Newsroom anchor Bill Hemmer asked National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg that since Al Qaeda terrorist Adam Gadahn has "been dead for four months, why did we not know that?" Goldberg said the release of information about the strike "does lend itself to the sort of convenient political timing accusation, but we don't know that that's true either," noting that he was originally booked on the program to discuss the book but was now discussing the operation.
Discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson will host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings for Sinclair Broadcast Group across its 62 stations, the group announced April 22.
TV Technology reported that the show will be able to reach 37.5 percent of U.S. TV households and will air "on Sinclair's Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates nationwide." The magazine added, "the 30-minute program, which will be based in Washington, D.C., will be a blend of investigative and political journalism, with a focus on accountability, according to Sinclair. Attkisson will join Sinclair in June, and the show is expected to launch in the fall of 2015."
Media Matters has documented Attkisson's long history of sloppy and inaccurate reporting, including her confused allegation that someone in the government broke into her computers. After leaving CBS, Attkisson has been producing reports for the conservative Daily Signal, which continue to be plagued by her inaccurate reporting.
Sinclair Broadcasting has often injected conservative messages into their news broadcasts. A few days before the 2004 election, Sinclair reportedly ordered its stations to pre-empt regular programming in order to air a film leveling several false allegations against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard told former Hewlett-Packard CEO and possible Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina that he "never met a presidential candidate with pink nail polish on" during a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
In response, Fiorina told Bedard, "There's always a first."
In an April 16 column about the event, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, who was also in attendance, noted that Bedard's comment "set off murmurs of sexism on my side of the table." Capehart followed up by interviewing Fiorina about the exchange, and reportedly asked how she would deal with "situations where people focus as much on her appearance as on her policies." Fiorina told him, "I've been dealing with it all my life."
Media Matters has repeatedly documented sexist media attacks on female politicians, ranging from Bill O'Reilly arguing in 2014 "there's got to be some downside to having a woman president" toNewsweek's demeaning coverage of former Governor Sarah Palin following the 2008 presidential campaign.
George Will ignored Hillary Clinton's substantial accomplishments as secretary of state, senator, and first lady in order to suggest that her support from Democrats is due solely to "identity politics."
In his latest Washington Post column, Will describes the Democratic Party as "adrift in identity politics, cling[ing], as shipwrecked sailors do to floating debris, to this odd feminist heroine," and writes that Clinton's "performance in governance has been defined by three failures." Will goes on to cherry-pick instances from Clinton's career, ignoring her achievements in the White House, Senate, and at State to portray her as a failure.
In citing Clinton's time as first lady, he omits, for example, Clinton's role in the passage of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which expanded health insurance for children in lower-income households. Will also ignores her pivotal role in the Adoption and Safe Families Act, which eased processes allowing the removal of children from abusive situations.
Clinton also helped to create the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women and used her platform to raise the issue of abuse against women internationally, telling the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women in China that, "It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and for the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights."
Will says Clinton's tenure in the Senate was "an uneventful prelude to her 2008 presidential quest," failing to note that she sponsored or co-sponsored 54 bills that eventually became law. These including writing a section of the No Child Left Behind law addressing recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers; co-authoring a law compelling drug companies to conduct pediatric safety tests on products prescribed for children; working with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on language in a defense authorization bill giving members of the military access to the Tricare health system even when they aren't deployed; and sponsoring a bill which would mandate more efficient distribution of flu vaccines.
Going on to describe her appointment as Secretary State as a "consolation prize," Will downplays Clinton's accomplishments during her years in the position. These include opening up Myanmar as the first secretary of state to make an official visit there since 1955, negotiating a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas with the help of Egypt in 2012, and tightening international sanctions on Iran to their highest level ever with nearly a dozen countries significantly reducing their purchases of Iranian oil in 2012.
Will concludes by ominously noting, "Another Clinton presidency probably would include a reprise of the couple's well-known patterns of behavior." But readers won't get a clear picture of those "patterns" by reading Will's dishonest column.
The press has almost entirely ignored the revelation that after the "richest man in Wisconsin" made secret donations benefitting Republican Governor Scott Walker, his company received special tax credits for that same donor's company.
By contrast, the media have frequently invoked donations to the Clinton Foundation in their coverage of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, baselessly suggesting that those donations create conflicts of interest.
Yahoo News reported March 23 that John Menard Jr., the billionaire owner of a chain of hardware stores in the Midwest, donated over $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which "pledged to keep its donors secret." Walker helped generate large, undisclosed donations for the group, according to records unveiled as part of a criminal investigation into whether the interactions of such groups with Walker's campaign committee violated state campaign finance laws. The Club defended Walker in the 2012 recall election, where he prevailed.
Since then, Menard's company "has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs, according to state records." Walker appointees also scaled back enforcement actions by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, "a top Menard priority."
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow gave a detailed account of the story on her March 24 broadcast:
Yet the pay-to-play allegations swirling around Walker, a possible Republican presidential candidate, have been widely ignored by others in the media.
The story hasn't been covered on the three major broadcast networks, CNN, or Fox News, according to a search of Nexis and Media Matters' video archives. The Rachel Maddow Show appears to be MSNBC's only mention of the story. Besides a reprint of an Associated Press article noting a denial of wrongdoing from the Walker administration, the New York Times hasn't covered the story. And the only references from The Washington Post are in a post on the progressive Plum Line blog and the same AP story the Times reprinted.
By contrast, the media has repeatedly raised the specter of "ethical concerns" over donations to the Clinton Foundation by foreign governments and individuals, among others. They have persisted with this coverage despite the clear indications from Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state that the donations did not influence her politically and the reality that the donations went to a global charity, not a fund benefiting her election.
Larry Klayman, a conspiracy theorist and WND columnist who has been at the margins of the conservative movement for decades, is behind a dubious lawsuit accusing Hillary Clinton of racketeering. Klayman is utterly lacking in credibility, having filed numerous far-fetched lawsuits targeting the Clintons over the years. He has also repeatedly suggested the Clintons "orchestrated the murders of several of their associates in the 1990s."