Yesterday, Anne Applebaum was one of two -- two! -- Washington Post columnists who argued for leniency for child rapist Roman Polanski. Applebaum's argued that Polanski shouldn't be imprisoned because he has suffered enough -- he's had to pay lawyers' fees, and was unable to pick up an Oscar he won for fear he'd be taken for jail. No, really -- that was Applebaum's argument:
He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers' fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar.
That's just dumb. People who commit crimes do not pay their debts to society when they write checks to their lawyers. And saying that someone has paid for the crime of child rape by being unable to receive an Oscar may be the single most clueless thing ever written by a Washington Post columnist.
Anyway, Applebaum's defense of Polanski drew some well-deserved ridicule, here and elsewhere.
Well, today, Applebaum responded. And, as Paul Campos points out at Lawyers, Guns and Money, she responds by saying, basically, that the Polanski case isn't "straightforward and simple" because Polanski's victim -- a 13-year-old child -- had asked her mother for permission to be photographed in a jacuzzi.
Applebaum doesn't bother to explain why a 13-year-old child asking her mother for permission to be photographed in a jacuzzi in any way gets a grown man off the hook for subsequently drugging and raping the child. She just assumes we'll understand. But, in any case, Campos points out that Applebaum got it wrong; the victim didn't ask her mother if she could be photographed in a jacuzzi. So Applebaum's defense of Polanski is not only strange and bizarre, it is factually inaccurate as well.
Applebaum also defends herself from criticism that she should have disclosed the fact that her husband, a Polish government official, is currently lobbying for Polanski's freedom. Applebaum writes that at the time she wrote the original blog post, she "had no idea that the Polish government would or could lobby for Polanski's release, as I am in Budapest and my husband is in Africa."
I actually find that reasonably compelling. Unfortunately, that isn't Applebaum's only defense of her lack of disclosure. Applebaum:
For the record, I will note that I mentioned my husband's job in a column as recently as last week, and that when he first entered the Polish government three years ago I wrote a column about that too. I have to assume that the bloggers who have leapt upon this as some kind of secret revelation are simply unfamiliar with my writing.
This is nonsense. If a conflict exists, it isn't sufficient to disclose it once. It must be disclosed every time it is relevant. Applebaum seems to assume that Washington Post readers make a mental catalogue of every Post reporter and columnist, their relationships, and their conflicts of interest. That anyone who ever reads anything she writes will take it upon themselves to keep a running tally of her conflicts, so she need disclose them only once. That, obviously, is not going to happen. And it displays a stunning arrogance -- she thinks everyone who reads her column cares enough about her to know where her husband works.
Finally, she's misstating the nature of what she mocks as the "secret revelation." The criticism wasn't that her husband is an employee of the Polish government. Nobody cares about that. It's that her husband is a Polish government official who is currently lobbying for the very thing Applebaum is arguing in favor of. Surely she understands the difference?
The implication, in any case, that I am a spokesman for my husband -- while not quite as offensive as the implication that my daughter should be raped -- is offensive nevertheless.
That's a pretty poor attempt to play the victim. Does Anne Applebaum expect us to believe that she doesn't think it would be newsworthy if, say, a United States Senator casts a vote that would benefit her spouse's business, without disclosing the interest?
There's a clear difference between saying someone is incapable of thinking independently and is merely a puppet of their spouse, and saying someone should disclose conflicts of interest that arise from their spouse's work. The former would, indeed, be offensive. The latter is what people were actually saying.
UPDATE: Applebaum also includes this priceless line:
Note that the only legitimate disagreements Applebaum can bring herself to refer to came from her Washington Post colleagues. Note also that she doesn't actually tell us what those disagreements were. Or which of their "points" she "takes." It's a secret. And, finally, note that neither Robinson nor Cohen actually mention her in any way, and that Cohen agrees with her that Polanski should not be jailed.
From conservative web publisher Andrew Breitbart's Twitter account:
Michael Calderone at Politico has been tracking this stunning case of conservative press-bashing, which seems to break new ground with its reckless execution.
The short version is that Americans for Limited Government has sent out three press releases claiming that a producer at NBC News, Jane Stone, after receiving an ALG email alert, returned the email to a ALG staffer with the anti-Semitic note, "Bite me Jew Boy!" NBC News chief Steve Capus immediately, and adamantly, denied the claim and announced that a complete IT email analysis by NBC proved the email the producer sent to ALG never included the hateful "Bite me Jew Boy!" phrase. (Instead, it simply read "Take me off this list!")
Since late last week, ALG has refused to produce any sort of hard evidence back up its vicious smear, such as the email headers that came attached to the supposed anti-Semitic message.
And today, Calderone notes:
Communications director Carter Clews told me that ALG does not plan to release email "headers"—as NewsBusters was told Saturday—or a taped phone conversation with Stone, where she allegedly first claimed to have not sent any email to the organization. Clews mentioned the taped phone call on New Majority. Also, ALG declined my request to visit the group's Fairfax office to look at their evidence firsthand.
Calderone correctly concludes, "NBC firmly stands behind Stone, and I feel the burden of proof is now on ALG to produce something that clearly ties her to this allegation."
And so far, it's crickets from ALG.
UPDATED: In his denunciation of ALG, NBC's Capus mentioned he was "shocked" by the group's irresponsible behavior. I guess my question is, Why? I suppose Capus was shocked because NBC was the unfortunate target this time. But honestly, the right-wing is addicted to this kind of hateful, anti-press garbage, and the sooner mainstream news outlets admit that and start reporting on it, the better off we'd all be.
NBC's Chuck Todd in an online Q&A today:
[Comment From Sabrina] Chuck, why is this administration treated with such kindness by the media and the previous administration was not? Isn't the media suppose to report the news and not give their opinions of the news?
Chuck Todd: Sabrina -- This criticism comes across to me as incredibly empty... apparently folks forget how the first three years of the Bush administration were covered... I think too many folks mistake opinion-driven commentators for journalists and it skews things. But the level of scrutiny given to Obama in this first year is the same as for Bush 43, same as Clinton 42, same as Bush 41... I've witnessed and been involved with all of it back to Clinton... We tend to have MUCH shorter memories on the issue of so-called media bias especially if it doesn't fit the sterotype point we are trying to make... It's frustrating to watch and, with all do respect, I don't accept the criticism as legitimate. [Ellipses in original]
It would have been great for Todd to explicitly point out that claims of "liberal media bias" ring hollow in light of the media's handling of Iraq, the 2000 election, and their relentless hyping of Clinton-era non-scandals.
But, at this point -- with journalists tripping all over themselves to agree with every media criticism from the Right, no matter how inane -- we'll take it. Good for Todd for clearly rejecting the attack.
From a September 29 article on the conservative website Newsmax.com:
Media phenomenon Glenn Beck recently sat down with Newsmax for an exclusive interview offering his take on everything from President Obama, to the threat to talk radio and even a worry that our Constitutional government may disappear after a "Reichstag" event takes place.
Beck, who is also thriving on the radio, in bookstores and on the comedy circuit, sat down with Newsmax magazine's Editor in Chief Christopher Ruddy and voiced his concerns about a coming attack on talk radio.
But his real worry is that many Washington elitists really don't like our form of government and want to see it abolished.
"I fear a Reichstag moment," he said, referring to the 1933 burning of Germany's parliament building in Berlin that the Nazis blamed on communists and Hitler used as an excuse to suspend constitutional liberties and consolidate power.
"God forbid, another 9/11. Something that will turn this machine on, and power will be seized and voices will be silenced."
Ah, more inspired work by Big Hollywood's Christian Toto. Last time we saw him he was completely mangling the facts regarding The Onion. Toto claimed the mag never made fun of Obama. We showed that the mag hasn't stopped making fun of Obama for the last year. (i.e. It's a humor publication.)
Now, Toto's attacking the Huffington Post because so many of its bloggers are (supposedly) defending Roman Polanski; the site had gone "all in" on behalf of the director.
The popular liberal site has posted numerous essays since news that Polanski was arrested in Switzerland broke over the weekend, each arguing vehemently against the Oscar winner's persecution.
He points to three blog posts to defend his claim of pro-Polanski fever sweeping at HuffPo. Yet once again, just as with Toto's embarrassing Onion blunder, the Big Hollywood blogger seems unfamiliar with the concept of a search engine. Because when you type in "Polanski" into the HuffPo's engine, it spits out plenty of recent blog posts that attack Polanski and urge his prosecution.
Yesterday, we highlighted a Newsmax column by John L. Perry essentially advocating a military coup to resolve the "Obama problem" (while, of course, claiming he was advocating no such thing). It's just the latest example of extreme right-wing rhetoric directed at President Obama.
Now, it appears that Newsmax has removed the column from its website; the link to it defaults to Perry's main column page. Fortunately, we made a copy.
As of this writing, Newsmax has posted no explanation or apology on its website -- arguably par for the course for Newsmax when it gets caught screwing up. But Media Matters has received the following statement from a Newsmax spokesperson:
In a blog posting to Newsmax John Perry wrote about a coup scenario involving the U.S. military. He clearly stated that he was not advocating such a scenario but simply describing one.
After several reader complaints, Newsmax wanted to insure that this article was not misinterpreted. It was removed after a short period after being posted.
Newsmax strongly believes in the principles of Constitutional government and would never advocate or insinuate any suggestion of an activity that would undermine our democracy or democratic institutions.
Mr. Perry served as a political appointee in the Carter administration in HUD and FEMA. He has no official relationship with Newsmax other than as an unpaid blogger.
Interesting that Newsmax makes a point of highlighting that Perry worked in the Carter administration, as if it somehow proves he's not really a right-wing nut. And its dismissal of Perry as nothing more than an "unpaid blogger" is a tad disingenous since Perry has been writing for Newsmax since 1999 and Perry's Newsmax bio touts how he "contributes a regular column to NewsMax.com."
Fox Nation has a thought-provoking question for their readers:
That is a good question. I've got a quick follow-up question of my own: Does Fox Nation not understand the difference between someone who writes a program and someone who uses it, or are they just making things up again?
Fox Nation is clearly implying that an Obama supporter authored this poll. But, as they are wont to do, they helpfully link to an article that completely undercuts that suggestion:
Jesse Farmer, of Bumbalabs in Palo Alto, Calif., has given permission for Facebook to reveal that he was the developer, but, significantly, not the author behind the poll that nauseated many Monday.
Whoops. The article goes on to point out that Farmer is an Obama supporter. However, as Farmer further explained in a diary posted on Daily Kos yesterday, he had nothing to do with authoring the poll itself and removed it as soon as it was brought to his attention:
Polls are created by other Facebook users, not me, anyone affiliated with me, or Facebook.
Thousands of polls are created daily, sometimes as many as 10,000. Each poll has as many as 2MM votes and 200k comments. Of those thousands of polls, most are gibberish and a few are offensive, libelous, or otherwise beyond the pale.
The poll was created Sunday evening and I deleted it first thing Monday morning.
Just to run through this again quickly: Jesse Farmer develops an application that allows Facebook users to create their own polls. The application becomes very popular, leading to thousands of polls created daily. Someone uses the application to create an incendiary, outrageous poll about President Obama. Fox Nation blames Jesse Farmer for posting the poll.
If Fox Nation is suggesting Farmer is at fault because he should have checked each of the several thousand polls first, I would just like to point out that Fox Nation would have had to read only the one article they link to in order to realize it disproves their headline.
I guess "Why Would An Obama Supporter Develop A Program That Someone Could Eventually Use To Post A Crazy Poll About Obama?" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
From The Hill:
A cycle after the Democrats went all out to stretch the map to new lengths, Republicans are doing their best imitation. The GOP is attempting to go after a number of seats it hasn't pursued in decades, along with others that have gone by the wayside in recent cycles.
The hyper-aggressive strategy stems from "an environment shift" politically. The Hill stresses that, "the magnitude of the change in the environment" means the GOP is now landing better candidate. The "environment" is never defined, but readers can assume it's referring to a downturn for Democrats.
But as John Amato at Crooks & Liars recently noted, while the press seems completely tuned into polling data that might reflect poorly on Obama and Democrats, the same press seems utterly disinterested in GOP polling results that are worse.
Wrote Amato [emphasis added]:
Mitch McConnell is polling at an 18% approval rating. That's eighteen percent. John Boehner is polling at 12% approval rating. Just think about that one. And it doesn't take much to make him cry. Mitch and Boehner are viewed less favorably than Dick Cheney was during the dark days of the Bush administration. Why don't we hear about that on teevee? The overall approval ratings of Congressional Republicans is 17% as a party!
I have no doubt the RNC is expanding its list of targeted Democrats. But in reporting the strategy, news outlets such as The Hill ought to acknowledge that the GOP itself faces a very difficult "environment."