Here's Politico's Mike Allen, in his article about Fox boss Roger Ailes supposedly weighing a presidential campaign:
It was Ailes who recently held a private meeting with top White House adviser David Axelrod to ease tensions. The meeting was not a success.
Shortly after, the White House stepped up its attack on Fox - and Fox has proudly fired back.
Fox executives are relishing the public spat - so much so that virtually every on-air personality talks about it, and Sean Hannity has made it a central part of his show's promo.
The biggest reason: ratings at Fox are through the roof.
Allen doesn't provide any evidence that ratings are, in fact, "through the roof." And as Eric noted this morning, it isn't actually true.
This is something you see often -- a reporter wants to justify the media's behavior, or suggest that politicians' criticism is backfiring, so they claim ratings are up. But they don't actually provide the numbers. They just assert it. It's weird -- it's as if reporters think ratings are a matter of opinion, and you can just assert what you think must be happening.
Oh, so close. I almost got a member of the right-wing media to address the the Rush Limbaugh 2009 quote about how Americans are being told to "bend over," "grab the ankles" and hope Obama succeeds because of his "father was black."
I first issued the challenge on Monday because all last week, as Rush Limbaugh's NFL bid crashed and burned thanks to a football league that wanted nothing to do with his hate speech, Limbaugh and the Dittoheads stomped their feet and claimed Rush had no history of making race-baiting comments. None. Which is like saying Glenn Beck doesn't dabble in conspiracy theories. (Paging OnStar!)
So I challenged the right-wing to address the "grab the ankles" quote and explain exactly what Limbaugh meant by the comment (what mental image he was trying to paint for Dittoheads), and why the rest of us shouldn't consider it to be a race-baiting quote.
But alas, Graham's effort was more like a check swing:
Most people would agree that "slavery had its merits" and "hurray, Martin Luther King's assassin" are not in the same universe of racial remarks as "bend over because Obama's father was black." You can be turned off by the last one, but it doesn't suggest blacks deserved slavery or assassination.
But what does it suggest Tim? What does bend-over-and-grab-your-ankles-because-Obama's-father-was-black mean? Grraham doesn't want to go there and I think I know why.
So after a week of beseeching Dittoheads to address the Limbaugh quote head-on, they've all refused. Yet they continue to cling to the Dittohead fantasy that there's no proof that Limbaugh's a race-baiter.
P.S. The central point of Graham's very angry piece (dude, let the whole NFL thing go) is a hollow attempt to tie Media Matters to the two race-baiting quotes that were attributed to Limbaugh during the NFL debate; quotes Limbaugh insists he never made. (i.e. The "slavery" and "assassin" quotes.) The problem for Graham is nobody at Media Matters ever suggested Limbaugh said those things. (Note to Newsbusters: it pays to have a crack research staff.) Graham wants Media Matters to apologize for quotes that nobody at Media Matters ever cited in original reporting. He wants Media Matters to apologize for quotes some big city sportswriters used in their columns.
I ask because the ironclad Beltway CW this week has been that the White House's decision to fact-check Fox News has been a huge tactical mistake, partly because it will simply spike Fox News' ratings.
"Beck and O'Reilly were nearly orgiastic. Every presidential harrumph sends their ratings through the roof," announced columnist Michael Wolff. (He mocked the the anti-Fox News as being "ass-backward.") And trust me, everyone has been hitting that note this week about the sure-fire ratings boon for Fox News. It's an automatic.
But if that's true, shouldn't the White House attacks on Fox News be driving up Glenn Beck, the channel's hottest hitter, ratings-wise? Shouldn't Beck's Nielsen overnights be shooting into the stratosphere, climbing maybe 20, 30, even 40 percent, thanks to the PR bonanza that the White House gift wrapped the channel?
Well, guess what? Glenn Beck ratings are not up this week. In fact, they're down as compared to last week even though the topic of the White House/Fox News fueled has exploded this week across the media landscape. All the pundits who announced the White House completely screwed up by fact-checking Fox News, were sure Fox News' ratings were going to soar. Except they haven't. Instead, they've gone down this week.
Last week, Beck's show averaged 2.9 million viewers, which is consistent with the viewership Beck has been drawing for several weeks now. So far this week, the show is drawing 2.6 million viewers. It's a small dip, to be sure. But again, the pundits have been in heated agreement that the Fox News ratings were going to skyrocket thanks to the administration's obvious blunder. But Beck's ratings certainly have not. And overall, Fox News' total day audience has also dipped slightly, from 1.4 million last week, to 1.3 million so far this week.
So I'll ask again, why are Glenn Beck ratings down this week?
UPDATED: For additional context, two week's ago, prior to the public White House/Fox News dispute, Glenn Beck averaged 2.6 million viewers, which is what he's averaging so far this week. In other words, since the controversy erupted, and since pundits announced it would produce a huge ratings gain, Glenn Beck's numbers haven't changed much.
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his October 22 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
In case you hadn't noticed, I'm on something of a Cleon Skousen kick. Skousen, for those who aren't aware, was an ultra-conservative whackadoodle who spent his glory days in the '60s and '70s traversing the fringes of the radical right loudly denouncing the communist conspiracy to take over America, warning of the much larger capitalist-communist conspiracy to take over the world, and approvingly quoting historians who thought that white slave owners got the raw end of the slavery deal. Accordingly, his theories and writings have been tossed into history's Dumpster.
So why all the scrutiny?
Because Glenn Beck dove deep into that Dumpster and fished Skousen out. Beck loves the guy.
"Divinely inspired" is how Beck refers to Skousen's writings, which he hawks as part of his 9-12 Project. Beck also talks Skousen with the guests on his TV and radio programs, asking them if they're on board with the man's sermonizing. In that spirit, it's worth taking a look at who, exactly, Glenn Beck is recommending to his followers.
I've been reading Skousen's The Naked Capitalist, which details the existence of an all-powerful "Establishment" of super-wealthy capitalists-cum-communists who are enacting their centuries-old secret plan to dominate the planet. It's scintillating stuff, it gets crazier by the page, and some pages are so loony as to merit reproduction, as is the case with pages 98-99, in which Cleon Skousen addresses the assassination of John F. Kennedy:
In 1963 the Left-wing forces induced President Kennedy to recommend the passage of a whole series of hard-core socialist proposals and these were soon dumped into the hoppers of Congress. However, there were sufficient Americans awake at the grass-roots level to protest against these measures and demand that Congress reject them. That is what happened. Even under Presidential pressure the Democratic-dominated Congress refused to pass these bills. The frustrated Establishment press turned the heat on Congress but to no avail. By September the prestige of President Kennedy had taken a serious drop in Establishment circles and there was some question as to what might happen if JFK decided to seek a second term. Then suddenly, on November 22, President Kennedy was assassinated by a Marxist revolutionary, Lee Harvey Oswald, who was connected with Castro's main Communist front-organization here in the United States.
Under the emotional shock of this tragic event, the Establishment realized the nation might react politically and demand that the whole Soviet-Communist apparatus be outlawed. Establishment spokesmen such as Earl Warren immediately blamed the President's murder on the "Radical Right," but when the arrest of Oswald revealed that it had been done by the Radical Left, the Left-wing machinery went into high gear to assure the American people that Oswald could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be part of an international Communist plot. He must be accepted as merely an isolated psychopathic individual who acted on his own initiative. To prevent any independent investigation by anti-Communist Democrats and Republicans, the Communist Daily Worker suggested that President Johnson appoint a special commission to do the investigating with Earl Warren as chairman. Four days later that was precisely what President Johnson did. The real story of the Kennedy assassination was soon buried beneath an Establishment-supervised white-wash designed to pacify the American people.
To recap: JFK was assassinated as part of a Communist conspiracy that may have been tied to the "Establishment," which subsequently covered up this conspiracy by having the Daily Worker instruct Lyndon Johnson to have Earl Warren "white-wash" the "real story" of the assassination.
And remember, the "Establishment" did this in order to preserve the "Soviet-Communist apparatus."
And don't forget, this is Glenn Beck's favorite scholar.
From an October 22 FoxNews.com article headlined, "House Republicans Defend Conservative Commentators, Decry White House Feud":
House Republican leaders on Thursday rushed to the defense of conservative commentators after President Obama dismissed Fox News as "talk radio" -- part of the White House campaign to marginalize opposing viewpoints.
Rep. Mike Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference, said conservative commentators speak more for Americans than the national media outlets that have targeted them for criticism.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, derided White House criticism of Fox News as "Chicago-style politics."
"The White House and congressional Democrats know that their liberal special interest agenda is unpopular," he said at a news conference. "And now they are following a familiar pattern: when you can't win an argument based on facts, launch vicious political attacks.
"This is Chicago-style politics' shutting out the American people and demonizing their opponents," Boehner said. "Democrats are writing the health care bill in secret, despite the president's promise to do it on C-Span. Instead, Democrats are targeting those who don't fall in line immediately -- like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, doctors and Fox News. This administration promised to usher in an era of 'post-partisanship' in Washington, but what they are doing is flat-out despicable."
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor called the White House criticism "nothing more than a distraction."
"Under fire for its management of a wave of problems, the Obama administration has reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a new bogeyman: Fox News," he said.
"This episode is about much more than just Fox News," he added. "Today the administration's target is Fox; tomorrow it could be someone else. The administration apparently feels entitled to receive friendly (or what it subjectively deems 'balanced') news coverage at a time when it is making monumental decisions that will have sweeping consequences for years to come.
"Its heavy-handed treatment of Fox is unseemly in a democracy that depends on the free flow of information," he said.
It's a two-fer, as the staff at Politico continues its noble tradition of typing up as news whatever conservatives are talking about.
First up Mike Allen who didn't simply report on how Sen. Lamar Alexander had given a speech on Wednesday and claimed the Obama White House now resembled the dirty trickster from the Nixon years and that Obama was busy compiling an "enemies list." Nope, Allen's article went one better--he reproduced Alexander's entire senate speech; all 37 paragraphs.
Then came Eamon Javers who wrote an article about the fact that the Drudge Report has been linking to lots of articles about the weakness of the U.S. dollar. That's is. That was the news; Drudge had linked to 18 articles this month about the dollar.
From Ken Rudin's October 22 post on NPR's Political Junkie blog:
I made a boneheaded mistake yesterday, during the Political Junkie segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation, that I'd like to correct right away.
It was part of a conversation regarding the White House's war with Fox News.
I happen to think that the administration made a mistake in deciding to take on Fox. Yes, you can make the case that Fox "started it," as the White House is saying, though that sounds a bit juvenile to me. Fox News has been baiting President Obama from Day One -- and before. Yes, there are commentators on Fox (Glenn Beck comes to mind, but there are others) who trash the president on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Yes, there are some days where the work of good, legitimate Fox journalists -- such as Major Garrett, for example -- get overlooked because of all the attention directed at the rancor coming from its commentators.
Yesterday, in expressing my belief that the White House should have known better, I actually said this on the air:
Well, it's not only aggressive, it's almost Nixonesque. I mean, you think of what Nixon and Agnew did with their enemies list and their attacks on the media; certainly Vice President Agnew's constant denunciation of the media. Of course, then it was a conservative president denouncing a liberal media, and of course, a lot of good liberals said, 'Oh, that's ridiculous. That's an infringement on the freedom of press.' And now you see a lot of liberals almost kind of applauding what the White House is doing to Fox News, which I think is distressing.
Where do I begin. I will tell you, that the Nixon "enemies list" is the first thing I thought of when the topic came up. And obviously, that's what was going through my mind during yesterday's conversation.
But comparing the tactics of the Nixon administration -- which bugged and intimidated and harrassed journalists -- to that of the Obama administration was foolish, facile, ridiculous and, ultimately, embarrassing to me. I should have known better and, in fact, I do know better. I was around during the Nixon years. I am fully cognizant of what they did and attempted to do.
I still think the Obama administration showed a childish, thin skin in its dealings with and reaction to Fox.
But childishness is a far cry from illegal and unconstitutional activities. And for that I apologize for a dumb comparison.