It's a pattern we've seen before and will likely see again. Often during the Clinton presidency, stories embarrasing to the administration - many of them with no basis in reality - were written about in the British press with little to no actual sourcing then highlighted by domestic conservative outlets as if there was some validity to them. This would then infect domestic discourse and prompt reporting from U.S. news outlets about the invented stories. To call this sort of behavior shoddy journalism is almost generous.
Today's example is this story from the London Telegraph, headlined "Barack Obama furious at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan". Who does the story cite for its evidence of President Obama's allegedly "furious" state? "[S]ources close to the administration", an "adviser to the administration", "[s]ome commentators" and "critics". Even those anonymous sources discuss differing views on policy, not the supposed events the article's hook relays. No named sources, or even administration sources, support the headline's contention about the President's supposed emotional state.
Predictably conservative bloggers are taking the ball and running down the field.
The city council for Mount Vernon, Washington was not nearly as wild about the idea of "Glenn Beck Day" as the mayor:
On Wednesday night, the City Council of this town of 32,000 distanced itself from Mayor Bud Norris, who plans to give the keys to the city to talk-show personality Glenn Beck on Saturday.
The seven-member council unanimously passed a resolution proposed by member Dale Ragan that stated, "Mount Vernon City Council is in no way sponsoring the Mayor's event on September 26, 2009 and is not connected to the Glenn Beck event in any manner."
The resolution came after two dozen people who had signed up for the public-comment part of the session spoke in often emotional language to oppose honoring the controversial talk-show host.
Beck, who just made the cover of Time magazine, was in the news recently for labeling President Obama a "racist," a statement that brought a boycott of dozens of advertisers from his Fox TV show. He is recognized as a polarizing figure.
Writing about the recently leaked memo from General Stanley McChrystal about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, Bill Roggio of The Long War Journal wrote this under the headline "McChrystal to resign if not given resources for Afghanistan":
According to McClatchy, military officers close to General McChrystal said he is prepared to resign if he isn't given sufficient resources (read "troops") to implement a change of direction in Afghanistan [emphasis mine]
Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he'd stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy [emphasis mine].
Which, as clear as day, is mighty different from the story Roggio published. As usual, this apparently did not stop conservative bloggers from doing the hard work of clicking the link to see the story for themselves. They took Roggio's misrepresentation as gospel.
Fox News ran a full page ad today in the Washington Post, NY Post, and Wall Street Journal touting their coverage of the Tea Party protest.
Of course as Media Matters has documented, Fox essentially acted as a sponsor of the protest. But even worse, Fox claims in the ad that their competitors (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN) didn't cover the demonstration. But as TVNewser reports, they did.
NBC News had crews on the mall and correspondent Tom Costello reported live for NBC Nightly News Saturday. A Nightly News spokesperson tells TVNewser, "and more than 5.2 million viewers watched our coverage." It was Weekend Nightly's best Total Viewer delivery since April.
ABC News was there too with reports for Good Morning America Saturday and Sunday. Kate Snow interviewed GOP Sen. Jim DeMint who was a speaker at the rally. ABCNews.com even had to correct a report about the number of attendees which was erroneously attributed to the network. Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, the organizer of the event, made that claim. He would later say, "I regret misrepresenting the network as [ABC's] coverage that day was fair and honest." And from NoonET Saturday to NoonET Sunday, ABC News Radio referenced the rally in 69 separate newscasts.
And CBS News was there -- with multiple crews -- TV and radio. Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reported it as the lead story on Saturday's CBS Evening News. CBS Radio News provided hourly reports throughout the day and CBSNews.com reported the story as the rotating lead all day, using Cordes' video before it appeared in her Evening News story.
CNN was there as well, their Radio correspondent even got up close with the crowds.
If Fox can't tell the truth about a simple issue like this...
Conservative bloggers and media continue to insist without the benefit of actual facts that there were millions of tea party protesters on the Mall last Saturday. Here's another data point that makes these claims quite inconvenient.
According to the Washington Metro Area Transportation Authority (WMATA), 437,624 people rode on the Metro Rail system on Saturday, September 12th. How does that day compare to similar Saturdays?
September 5th, 2009: 300,963 riders
August 29th, 2009: 303,997 riders
August 22th, 2009: 293,200 riders
So, was Metro ridership up on the day of the protest? Sure. but the increase in riders could at best be charitably described as modest (and surely some of those riders were participants in the National Black Family Reunion event).
By comparison the Metro ridership for President Obama's inauguration - an event where most counts put the attendee count at above 1 million - was 1,120,000. This was described by WMATA as "the highest ridership day ever in the transit authority's history".
No recent events have been described this way by the Transportation Authority.
Las Vegas TV anchor Nina Radetich got caught red handed offering the PR services of her husband to a local auto repair chain that her station, KTNV, was doing an investigative report on. So far, Radetich hasn't been fired. But then again, isn't that just emulating what we see time and time in the national media?
Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz pretends as if his employer, CNN, doesn't broadcast birther-proponent Lou Dobbs every night. And NBC/MSNBC regularly features analyst Gen. Barry McCaffrey without disclosing his DynCorp ties.
The national media - with an audience in the millions - regularly plays fast and loose with the ethics of journalism. What incentive is there for a local anchor to do the right thing?
In a blog entry discussing Fox News' skewed coverage of President Obama's speech Wednesday night, the NY Times made this odd characterization of Special Report host Bret Baier:
Fox News did call upon Bret Baier, its decidedly un-opinionated Washington news anchor, and a pair of veteran Washington correspondents to handle coverage of Mr. Obama's speech and the Republican response.
Wow, "un-opinionated"? I'm wondering which Baier the Times is referencing?
Fox News hosts have recently fixated on the House's decision to terminate a pilot program to -- in the words of Bret Baier -- "kill the patriotic tunes callers hear when they're put on hold."
Stoddard, Baier agree that reconciliation "used to be called the nuclear option"
Fox News' Bret Baier repeated Sarah Palin's false assertion that the end-of-life counseling provided for under the House health care reform bill would, in Baier's words, "not be voluntary as the president says."
During the "All Star Panel" on the July 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier asked: "Is the president overexposed? Is he out there too much? He had 11 health care events in many as many days pushing the health care reform legislation."
Baier, Bream selectively cited Obama interview to claim he "may have contributed to the atmosphere of fear"
Wait, wait, just wait. Here is Bret Baier being "decidedly un-opinionated" as the New York Times describes him:
Fox's Baier describes Gore as a "global warming alarmist"
That's it. There you go. Parroting conservative misinformation and characterizations are the height of "un-opinionated". Definitely.
We're used to Glenn Beck being "out there", but today's show was special. Beck's hour (the second day in a row in which he didn't say a thing about the passing of Sen. Kennedy) was all about the supposed secret army being built by President Obama. This secret army idea, not supported by any facts, though possibly written in invisible ink that Beck can interpret, is a pet cause of fringe radio host Alex Jones.
Jones is something of a leader in the underground 9/11 "truth" movement. They believe that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job and that all the governments of the world are controlled by a cabal of the uber-rich who want to kill 2/3 of the world's population. Really.
Jones has repeatedly alluded to the existence of a secret army being built by Obama, a similar charge to the one leveled by Beck on today's show. The difference of course is that Jones mostly transmits over the internet and shortwave radio. Beck has a show on a cable "news" network. Beck's previous flirtation with the idea that FEMA was building detention camps is also an article of faith with Jones and his followers.
The focus of the Jones/Beck secret army conspiracy theory is the AmeriCorps program, which was created during President Clinton's presidency. AmeriCorps describes itself like this:
Each year, AmeriCorps offers 75,000 opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. Whether your service makes a community safer, gives a child a second chance, or helps protect the environment, you'll be getting things done through AmeriCorps!
I will get things done for America -
to make our people safer,
smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together
to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy,
I will take action.
Faced with conflict,
I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity,
I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment
with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member,
and I will get things done.
Well, that should convince everyone. Those are clearly the words of a secret army being run by the President.
Recently Alex Jones has taken to posting bizarre YouTube videos where he attacks President Obama's policies while dressed up as the Joker. Considering the regular antics on Beck, it's probably only a matter of time before cable news imitates the lunatic fringe. Again.
If you were to take Fox News host Andrew Napolitano's word for it, Rep. Barney Frank was just being rude to his constitutents when he had a heated exchange with a voter last night.
But if you were to look beyond the edited moment presented by Fox and Napolitano, you would learn something else:
"On what planet do you spend most of your time?" Frank retorted when a woman in the crowd compared President Obama's push for health-care reform to the policies of Nazi Germany while holding up a pamphlet depicting the president with a Hitler mustache, a LaRouche anti-Obama health reform campaign image.
"This policy is actually already on its way out. It already has been defeated by LaRouche. My question to you is, why do you continue to support a Nazi policy?" the woman had asked.
"You stand there with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis," Frank, who is Jewish, blasted back.
"Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table," he continued. "... I have no interest in doing it."
Oh, so the woman held up a sign of President Obama with a Hitler mustache then asked Rep. Frank why he supported Nazi policies. I can't imagine why Rep. Frank might be upset about that. For the record, here's the exchange you wouldn't have seen if you were watching Napolitano's presentation on Fox:
On his program today, Glenn Beck told the life story of scientist Stephen Hawking (a recent recepient of the Presidential Medal Of Freedom) from an interesting perspective. In Beck's version of history, Hawking dealt with his illness (ALS) without any handouts, pulling himself up via his own bootstraps and apparently without the sort of health care system Beck claimed was a form of goose-stepping.
The British physisist spoke out after Republican politicians lambasted the NHS as "evil" in their effort to stop President Barack Obama's reforms of US health care which will widen availability of treatment but at a cost to higher earners who will pay higher insurance premiums.
"I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS," he said. "I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."
Recent attacks on the integrity of the NHS were protested via a campaign by British users of Twitter.