And Afghanistan, too!
The Times' David Carr belatedly joins a very long line of tsk-tsking pundits who in the last week have all said the exact the same thing (that's why it's called The Village), and announced that the White House was way off base when it criticized--when it fact-checked--Fox News. Fox News is just doing its job, Carr suggests. It's the White House that has to change its behavior. It's the White House that's out of line here.
I'm guessing that Kevin Jennings, the Dept. of Education official relentlessly targeted by Fox News as a statutory rape-loving "pervert" would disagree. But the elite pundits (the same pundits who have ignored the homophobic witch hunt of Jennings) have spoken: it's unseemly for the White House to call out the press by name.
Still, I couldn't help notice a rather warped sense of media self-importance in Carr's lede:
The Obama administration, which would seem to have its hands full with a two-front war in Iraq and Afghanistan, opened up a third front last week, this time with Fox News.
Really, criticizing the media is like sending U.S. men and women in combat? I realize the comparison isn't necessarily meant to be taken literally, but still. Seems like a painful, and inappropriate, stretch to me.
And speaking of The Village, where have I seen this Iraq/Afghanistan comparison before? Oh yeah, in the Times' direct competitor, the WashPost:
The White House is now fighting a three-front war: Iraq, Afghanistan and Fox News.
Good to know.
From Weisberg's October 17 column, "The O'Garbage Factor":
Whether the White House engages with Fox is a tactical political question. Whether we journalists continue to do so is an ethical one. By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations. Respectable journalists-I'm talking to you, Mara Liasson-should stop appearing on its programs. A boycott would make Ailes too happy, so let's try just ignoring Fox, shall we? And no, I don't want to come on The O'Reilly Factor to discuss it.
Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli, last seen saying the Post needs to be more responsive to conservatives, seems to have been less than honest about what he knew about the WaPo's widely-denounced attempt to sell access to its reporters off to the highest bidder.
When the story of the Post's planned corporate-sponsored dinners broke over the summer, one of the most criticized aspects of the whole affair was that the Post was marketing them as off-the-record. At the time, Brauchli told the New York Times that he had always been "explicit" with his paper's marketing department that the dinners would be on the record, suggesting that he was unaware the dinners were being marketed as off the record.
It turns out that wasn't exactly true.
Yesterday, the New York Times' corrections section included an unusual item billed as a "postscript" to its July 3 article about the dinners. In the postscript, the Times explained that a lawyer for Charles Pelton, the Post marketing executive who lost his job over the controversy, had provided the Times with a letter in which, as the Times described it, "Mr. Brauchli now says that he did indeed know that the dinners were being promoted as 'off the record,' and that he and Mr. Pelton had discussed that issue."
Later yesterday afternoon, Politico reporter Michael Calderone got his hands on the Brauchli letter, and posted it online. Here's the key part:
I knew that the salon dinners were being promoted as "off the record." That fact was never hidden from me by you or anyone else. For instance, the dinners were described as "off the record" in two slide presentations that I attended. You and I discussed the off-the-record nature of the dinners. The phrase was also used in marketing materials for the salons and in correspondence to the newsroom that you e-mailed to me.
Interestingly, the Times postscript didn't mention Brauchli's letter went on to claim that "The New York Times reporter apparently misunderstood me."
Even more interestingly, Calderone says he, too, talked to Brauchli over the summer:
Brauchli made similar comments to me that he gave to the Times, and my understanding from our conversation was that he did not know the salon dinners were being promoted as off the record.
So ... Either two separate reporters at two separate news organizations misinterpreted two separate comments Brauchli made to them, or Brauchli wasn't telling the truth over the summer.
The New Republic's Gabriel Sherman explains how the Times' postscript came to be:
According to a series of letters, Pelton was successful in proving that Brauchli changed his story and the Times' reporting failed to reflect that he walked-back from his original claims of not knowing about the off-the-record ground rules. It wall began on September 25, when Pelton, through his lawyer George Frost, succeeded in getting Brauchli to send him a personal letter stating that he "knew that the dinners were being promoted as 'off the record.'" For Brauchli, the letter was an embarrassing reversal of his prior public comments and an admission that he knew far more about the conferences than he first let on.
With Brauchli's revised-comments in hand, Pelton and his lawyer pushed back hard against the Times. On Sept. 28, three days later after receiving Brauchli's letter, Pelton's lawyer Frost wrote a letter to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, executive editor Bill Keller, Pena and the public editor that cited Brauchli's revised comments on the off-the-record question and demanded the Times issue a correction.
According to Sherman, Pelton's request was denied -- by the Times' general counsel, not a newsroom executive -- and the Times ultimately ran the post-script only after Pelton's lawyer threatened legal action.
Politico's Calderone tried to reach Brauchli for comment yesterday, but was told by a Post spokesperson that "The letter speaks for itself."
Obviously, it does not. But the letter, combined with the Times' reporting and Calderone's account of his own conversation with Brauchli and the refusal of Brauchli and the Post to discuss further, certainly suggest the top editor at one of the nation's top newspapers has been lying about his involvement in a newsroom scandal -- a scandal in which the Post was caught trying to auction off access to its reporters to corporate interests. It's worth keeping in mind that just a couple of months after trying to develop such a relationship between the Post and corporate interests, Brauchli began talking publicly about the Post listening more to conservatives.
If Brauchli will not answer questions from journalists he previously misled, perhaps he will answer to Washington Post readers. Brauchli is currently scheduled to participate in an online Q&A Monday at noon on Monday. It seems certain questions will be submitted about Brauchli's honesty in addressing the dinners; it will be interesting to see if he takes those questions.
It will also be interesting to see if he takes any questions asking him to reconcile his absurd claim that the Post needs to be more responsive to conservatives with the Post's shameful treatment of Al Gore, its notably pro-Bush coverage of the 2000 election, or its role as cheerleader-in-chief for Bush's Iraq war. Brauchli's deputies dodged just such a question last month.
From Rush Limbaugh's October 16 Wall Street Journal op-ed, headlined "The Race Card, Football and Me: My critics would have you believe no conservative meets NFL 'standards.' ":
The sports media elicited comments from a handful of players, none of whom I can recall ever meeting. Among other things, at least one said he would never play for a team I was involved in given my racial views. My racial views? You mean, my belief in a colorblind society where every individual is treated as a precious human being without regard to his race? Where football players should earn as much as they can and keep as much as they can, regardless of race? Those controversial racial views?
The NFL players union boss, DeMaurice Smith, jumped in. A Washington criminal defense lawyer, Democratic Party supporter and Barack Obama donor, he sent a much publicized email to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell saying that it was important for the league to reject discrimination and hatred.
When Mr. Goodell was asked about me, he suggested that my 2003 comment criticizing the media's coverage of Donovan McNabb -- in which I said the media was cheerleading Mr. McNabb because they wanted a successful black quarterback -- fell short of the NFL's "high standard." High standard? Half a decade later, the media would behave the same way about the presidential candidacy of Mr. Obama.
The talker takes to the friendly pages of the WSJ today to explain why being rejected by the NFL reflects poorly on everyone else but him and the brand of hate speech he's perfected.
And get this, it's all Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson's fault! They totally hypnotized NFL owners, players (both current and former) and union reps into rejecting the Limbaugh offer. I mean, who knew? Sharpton and Jackson, who both belatedly wrote letters to the NFL's commissioner's office in opposition to Limbaugh, apparently have super-human powers over not only African-American NFL players, but the all white, country club owners of the NFL.
Is there nothing Sharpton and Jackson can't accomplish?
And of course Limbaugh's still steamed about a couple race-baiting quotes that were attributed to him and which he claims he never said. Limbaugh conveniently believes they're the entire reason the NFL told him to get lost and frankly, Rush is dismayed:
I never said I supported slavery and I never praised James Earl Ray. How sick would that be?
How sick would that be? It would be about as sick as making this comment, which Limbaugh quite clearly did:
"We are being told that we have to hope [Obama] succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles ... because his father was black."
Rush wanted to be an NFL owner. He wanted to be part of that super-exclusive, Masters of the Universe club, but the NFL said no. In fact, his own investor partners threw him under the bus. Now Limbaugh's in permanent pout mode and he, of course, is completely blameless.
Hey Rush, enjoy the rest of the NFL season.
Over at Daily Beast, Conor Friedersdorft has a good piece examining why it's impossible to take seriously Rush Limbaugh's whining about how the 'other side' always injects race into the debate, when Limbaugh himself has spent 2009 pretty much doing nothing but that:
It is also understandable that a professional sports league wouldn't want to associate itself with someone who so frequently plays the race card. That doesn't mean Mr. Limbaugh is a racist. I take him at his word that he isn't. He is merely a racial provocateur whose ire at being called a racist doesn't prevent him from affixing the label to others with stunning frequency.
Limbaugh's defense is part of the emerging, albeit bizarre, right-wing view that conservatives are allowed to do and say whatever they want under the guise of political debate, but nobody--nobody--is allowed to hold those words against them. Suddenly, in the far-right corners of the political spectrum, "free speech" means never being held responsible for anything you say.
So when Limbaugh spends the first eight months of Obama's first term relentlessly, and divisively, injecting race into every day's debate, he can never be labeled a race-baiter. That's an attack on his right to free speech.
The NFL (and the real world) begs to differ.
So much for that experiment.
In August, I gave Bill O'Reilly credit for having the guts (since almost nobody else at FNC will) to put an smart, persuasive, articulate liberal on his show. At the time he invited Fox News contributor, and Columbia University professor, Marc Lamont Hill to discuss the right-wing's unhinged response to Obama's presidency. Hill, as the old saying goes, made mince meat out of O'Reilly.
Well, no more awkward moments for the over-matched O'Reilly, because Hill, one of Fox News' few liberal contributors, has been fired for his political views. Apparently, right-wing purifiers were calling for his head, so Roger Ailes showed Hill the door.
More conservative political correctness run amok. (Quick, somebody alert Rush Limbaugh!)
P.S. Why on earth would Mediaite.com think Fox News' decision to fire Hill was "surprising"? Because Fox News is such a bastion of diversity? Please, the move is utterly predictable as the RNC's cable outlet continues to narrow its sanctioned talking point between far-right and really far-right.
Should we start the Geraldo countdown now?
UPDATED: News Hounds nicely captures the stench of hypocrisy that surrounds Hill's firing:
Despite repeated whining on Fox News that Rush Limbaugh was punished for his political views, the "fair and balanced" network seems to have done the same thing to one of its own.
NewsBusters' Ken Shepherd sneaks in right before the deadline with the runaway winner for "Worst Example of Purported Liberal Media Bias of the Week." His latest blockbuster scoop is headlined: MSNBC Promo Narrator Also Does Work for Pro-ObamaCare Group. Take it away, Ken:
But it's not just the on-camera talent that has all the fun cheerleading liberal policies. It seems a promotional ad narrator for MSNBC also does voiceover work for a pro-ObamaCare group, Health Care for America Now (HCAN).
I noticed the HCAN ad at 11:20 a.m. EDT today and worked up a mashup featuring excerpts of the HCAN ad and a promo for tonight's MSNBC programming.
You can watch for yourself, but a quick note for Shepherd: when your video hinges on the premise of people being disturbed by a narrator saying things like "What's MSNBC talking about tonight?" and "MSNBC: The Place for Politics," you probably don't have much of an argument. Though in Shepherd's defense, I could definitely detect the narrator subliminally encouraging a public option in the way he pronounced "tonight."
Helpfully, Shepherd does most of the work demolishing the entire point of his post with his final paragraph:
NBC Universal's Alana Russo informed NewsBusters via e-mail that MSNBC's announcers are freelancers, "not in-house staff employees." Asked if there were any "contractual limitations" barring those freelancers from "doing political ads while under contract with MSNBC," Russo answered that "[t]hey do not have exclusive contracts with MSNBC."
I have spent the better part of an hour trying to determine how Shepherd thought this was worth posting after receiving a perfectly reasonable response from MSNBC. The narrator is a freelancer. Let's hope Shepherd doesn't hear the same narrator in a promo for Dan Brown's latest DC-based thriller -- he'll be connecting those dots for weeks.
Here at County Fair, we have made it a bit of a cottage industry mocking the blog commonly seen as our counterpart on the right, and with good reason. By comparison, let's have a look at what an actual conflict of interest surrounding health care reform coverage at a major news outlet looks like, courtesy of fellow County Fair blogger Matt Gertz:
Media Matters for America has obtained evidence that CNN contributor Alex Castellanos' political consulting firm, National Media, is the ad buyer for the insurance industry group America's Health Insurance Plan's (AHIP) new ad blitz attacking Democratic health reform plans. CNN has a responsibility to insure that Castellanos' obvious conflict of interest does not tarnish their future coverage of the health care debate.
One of these things is not like the other.