For all the protestations from Fox News management that there's a clear delineation between their "news" and "opinion" programming, it's frequent that you'll encounter a Fox News "journalist" mouthing the same conservative, pro-Republican talking points as their "commentator" colleagues. That's exactly what happened just now on America Live, as host Megyn Kelly offered a nonsensical defense of the tea party movement's false and inflammatory rhetoric to Alan Colmes. You have to watch it to get the full flavor.
Yesterday, Vice President Biden spoke at an anti-violence event in Illinois. Here's how local media covered the speech:
Vice President Joe Biden, speaking Wednesday at an anti-violence event in central Illinois, called for "educating the whole society" to dispel cultural attitudes that lead to sexual assaults.
Biden was joined by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., at the Center for Prevention of Abuse fundraiser, attended by 1,100 people at the Peoria Civic Center.
The vice president, a former Democratic senator from Delaware, discussed his work to pass the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. In advancing the legislation, Biden said, he had to confront state laws that permitted rape within a marriage and combat cultural assumptions that women "ask to be raped" when they wear short skirts or walk alone late at night.
Joe Biden update: Opposes domestic violence but favors shiny shoes
Wednesday was another busy day for Vice President Joe Biden. He visited that effing epicenter of perceived middle America to take on another subject, understandably not the economic stimulus plan he's been in charge of driving.
Alongside Transportation Secy. Ray LaHood and Sen. Dick Durbin, Biden came out unequivocally in favor of reiterating his long-standing opposition to domestic violence and sexual abuse.
"No man, no man, no man," the vice president told 1,100 in the audience, "under any condition other than self-defense, has the right to raise his hand to a woman. No condition. None. Zero."
Malcolm later linked to that post, calling it a "somewhat related item" in a post about a Congressman expressing concern that, in Malcolm's words, "loading too many people onto Guam could capsize the island."
If you've read Malcolm's previous coverage of Biden, you'll likely recognize his sarcastic post as a continuation of his attempts to portray Biden as ridiculous. The last several Malcolm posts about Biden have headlines like "Joe Biden update: Obama found VP's effing gaffe hilarious highlight of historic day" and "Joe Biden update: VP goes 2-for-2 today -- 2 speeches, 2 gaffes" and "Joe Biden update: Another closed day" and "Joe Biden gaffe update: A century here, a century there, pretty soon they all look alike." Andrew Malcolm simply doesn't write about Biden other than to make fun of him.
A frequent Malcolm theme is that Biden doesn't do anything important. Malcolm's wording -- "Biden came out unequivocally in favor of reiterating his long-standing opposition to domestic violence and sexual abuse" -- implies Biden's speech was on a topic so blandly uncontroversial as to not be a pointless waste of time. It isn't an uncommon construct for mocking a politician -- think: he took a bold stance in favor of mom and apple pie. But it's more than a little jarring to see it applied to a speech about domestic abuse and rape -- particularly in light of Biden's account of the circumstances surrounding the Violence Against Women Act.
Think I'm reading too much into Malcolm's tone? Think again: the LA Times reporter tagged his post "humor."
So what, exactly, is funny about Joe Biden's work to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault?
BTW Larry, Sen. John Kerry -- a Massachusetts liberal, no less -- was decorated with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam.
Daily Finance, an AOL Finance and Money site, is taking FoxBusiness.com to task for a slanted health care reform poll.
Noting that "Fox News has been roundly criticized for selectively citing poll data to make it look like Americans are overwhelmingly opposed" to Democratic health care reform efforts, Zac Bissonnette reports:
The question itself, posted on foxbusiness.com, is straightforward enough: "Will the passage of the health-care reform bill impact your vote in the mid-term elections?"
Notice anything missing? How about the lack of any option for respondents to say passage of the bill will influence them to vote in favor of those who supported it? That option might come in handy, seeing as, according to a Gallup Poll last week, "Nearly half of Americans give a thumbs-up to Congress' passage of a healthcare reform bill last weekend, with 49% calling it 'a good thing.'"
With no available choice reflecting that position, an apparently commanding 73% of poll-takers elected to criticize the bill. "Not a scientific poll" indeed.
Taking polls, reporting on polls... heck polling in general really confuses the Fox News family.
It was just two weeks ago that numerous Fox News figures were playing fast and loose with a "survey" of doctors on the impact of health care reform on doctor retention, falsely claiming it was published by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Of course it wasn't true. The NEJM set the record straight saying that the 3-month-old email "survey" was not published in or conducted by NEJM.
Earlier today we posted a clip of Fox's Don Imus and Chris Wallace attempting to explain away their February exchange in which Wallace responded to Imus' question of whether Sarah Palin would be "sitting on [his] lap" during an interview saying "one can only hope."
The pair found themselves back on the subject following criticism from NPR contributor Cokie Roberts during an interesting discussion about women in public office. Huffington Posts' Jason Linkins reports:
Roberts played this clip from the Don Imus show, in which Wallace and Imus joked about whether or not Sarah Palin would be sitting on Wallace's lap during her "Fox News Sunday" interview. Roberts responded:
"It's appalling. It's just appalling. It really is. You know, it's the last place that men feel that they can just make jokes. They would never make such jokes about a minority, you'd be in terrible trouble. But you can still make sexist jokes about women and get away with it."
"Terrible trouble" indeed and if anyone should know the consequences of such commentary it should be Don Imus who was fired from his CBS radio program and MSNBC morning show after calling the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos."
Then again, maybe Imus and Wallace know that in the Fox News family they can say nearly anything they want -- be it homophobic, racially charged, misogynistic -- with absolute impunity.
It's as if Fox News and Fox Business have a strictly enforced blind eye, deaf ear policy.
On the bright side, it's nice to know Fox is enforcing some sort of policy on a consistent basis. After all, we already know the network cares little about enforcing its much publicized accuracy policy.
Plus, USA Today uses a misleading headline on the same article. But other than that, great effort.
Here's the headline:
Poll: More blame Obama for poor economy, unemployment
When I read the headline I assumed that the poll had found that Americans were blaming Obama "more" than anyone else for the poor economy. Meaning, the blame for the bad economy had finally shifted from president Bush to Obama. And yes, that would certainly qualify as news.
Well, turns out that according to the USA Today/Gallup poll, an overwhelming number of Americans still say Bush deserves a "great deal" of the blame for the poor economy, which to me would be the news article's lead, especially given the fact that Obama's opponents for months have been claiming Americans blame Obama entirely for high unemployment, etc.
So what does the "more" in the headline refer to? It simply refers to the fact that more Americans blame Obama today (26 percent says he deserves a "great deal") than did last summer, which makes perfect sense since the longer Obama is in office the more likely it is that voters will hold him responsible. That progression is completely expected and predictable. i.e. It aint news. Because guess what, six months from now even more Americans will hold Obama responsible.
So why did USA Today make that pedestrian fact the lead, and why did it run such a misleading headline on the story? The fact is that nearly 16 months after leaving office, a strong plurality of Americans still blame Bush for the poor economy.
That's the lead, and that should have been the headline.
Yesterday, an RNC aide sent reporters an email listing a bunch of mundane DNC expenditures -- money spent on hotels and travel, mostly -- in an apparent attempt to draw some sort of equivalence between staying at the Hilton and visiting a sex club. As Time's Jay Newton-Small put it, the DC expenditures are "very milquetoast" and "none of them were particularly controversial."
Naturally, Politico's Jonathan Martin posted the list -- the entire list -- under the over-heated headline "RNC drops oppo on DNC high-falutin' expenditures." Because, as you may know by now, Politico really is just a GOP bulletin board. Martin breathlessly explained:
RNC spokesman Doug Heye just blasted out raw oppo detailing the fact that the other guys also drop some cash for fancy purposes (mostly to stroke donors).
Writes Heye above the research goodies: "I thought you might find the list below of DNC expenditures of interest."
Wow, "Blasted out raw oppo" really makes it sound impressive, doesn't it? But it was just a list of payments to hotels. Not many "research goodies" there. And Heye's I-thought-you-might-be-interested line? Was that really quote-worthy? Basically, Heye sent around a whole big pile of nothing, and Politico's Jonathan Martin tried desperately to hype it into something.
It gets worse.
Politico then followed up with an article about the email, in which reporter Andy Barr listed several of the "research goodies" the RNC provided, just in case anyone missed Martin's blog post. For example: "During the past year and half, the DNC has paid $4,464 to the limousine service Carey International." That should just about lock up a Pulitzer, don't you think?
Interestingly, Barr vouched for the accuracy of the RNC's email, writing "the data the RNC presents is accurate." Why is that interesting? Because Time's Newton-Small wrote that "the RNC couldn't provide the Federal Election Commission links to each of the searches and the DNC disputed at least one item: the catering charge at the Elysian which wasn't at the Bahamian beach resort but, rather, the Elysian Hotel in Chicago." Barr didn't address that discrepancy.
Gee, you don't think Politico's Andy Barr affirmatively vouched for the accuracy of the RNC email without first checking the information himself, do you? Because that would be dishonest and wrong.
Believe it or not, there was a time when reporters didn't simply re-print opposition research without checking into it first -- particularly when the research in question is as mundane as a list of car companies and hotels. And when affirmatively proclaiming the accuracy of partisan political attacks without actually looking into them would get a reporter in some hot water.
The Fox Nation -- Fox News' bastion of "fair and balanced" -- is currently blasting this headline: "Obama appointee: 'Gay Sex is Morally Good,'" below a picture of Chai Feldblum, President Obama's appointee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It links to a FoxNews.com article about how social conservatives oppose Feldblum's appointment because they're "disturbed by her work to promote gay, lesbian, and transgender rights" and are convinced that she'll impose her agenda on federal workplace discrimination laws. The article also mentions that she once said, "gay sex is morally good."
Three things about this stand out:
It's no secret that CNN is in trouble. They've been hemorrhaging viewers for some time now and have demonstrated little success in stanching the flow, putting them solidly behind Fox News and MSNBC in the ratings race.
Now CNN is fielding advice from all quarters on how to "fix" the flagging network, much of it a variation on a single theme: ditch the straight-down-the-middle routine and inject a little color into the programming, be it ideological or personality-driven. And on paper this makes sense. Fox News' brand of hyper-partisan programming (only sometimes dressed up as "news") has proven successful at attracting viewers, and MSNBC's "slanted" evening coverage has certainly helped to improve their standing in the ratings. But one must take into account the tension that develops between ratings and reportage.
Is there anything more predictable than a David Broder column lamenting an excess of partisanship on both sides? If so, it's a David Broder column lamenting an excess of partisanship on both sides without actually providing an example of excessive partisanship by Democrats.
Broder begins with a singularly odd complaint: that among members of Congress there is "no consensus about the accomplishments or outrages of this historic session." Why on earth would Broder expect there to be consensus among members of Congress about accomplishments and outrages? He does understand that we have multiple political parties because we don't all agree on everything, right?
Broder then attempts to explain why voters don't like Congress:
Most Republicans I have talked with say they are convinced their outnumbered legislators have done the right thing by denying virtually all their votes to Obama and using every device possible to slow down or derail his agenda.
Most of the Democrats I interviewed are just as certain that the folks in the White House and the House speaker's office were justified in pushing the health-care bill to final passage in the face of polls showing that most voters were opposed.
But the partisanship on both sides was a turnoff to independents.
Notice that what Broder describes the Democrats doing -- passing health care reform despite (some) polling suggesting it was unpopular -- isn't actually "partisanship." Depending on your point of view, it might be called "leadership" or "defying the will of the people" -- but it isn't "partisanship." Broder continues:
They were the people who had taken Obama seriously when he said he wanted to move Washington beyond the recriminations of the George W. Bush years. Regardless of their views on health care -- or the economy or education or anything else -- they are turned off by the inability of both parties to overcome their parochial concerns and agree on steps to curb the joblessness and debt that are consuming the country.
But Broder offers no example of Democratic inability to "overcome their parochial concerns" in order to get things done. Indeed, Democrats have repeatedly incorporated Republican-friendly ideas into their initiatives. Last year's stimulus package, for example, was smaller and more tax-cut-laden than many economists thought it should be, in a largely-unsuccessful effort to woo Republicans. And the health care package contained many ideas Republicans had previously supported before deciding to oppose anything and everything President Obama wanted to do, just because he wanted to do it.
And that is, in fact, what the Republicans decided to do. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has admitted as much. That is partisanship. Democrats passing legislation despite a lack of Republican support even after Democrats incorporated their ideas -- that is not partisanship.
Maybe that's why Broder didn't actually explain specifically what each party has done that constitutes an excess of "partisanship" -- if he did, it would be quite obvious that he's drawing a false equivalence and setting up a scenario in which the only way Democrats can avoid criticism for being partisan is by capitulating completely to Republicans.