Earlier this morning on MSNBC, Norah O'Donnell picked up the GOP spin about "double-standards," asking Rev. Al Sharpton what the reaction would be if a Republican had made the comments Sen. Harry Reid is reported to have made about Barack Obama being "light-skinned" and lacking a "Negro dialect."
But as The American Prospect's Adam Serwer pointed out this morning, while Reid's choice of words was unfortunate, the substance of Reid's purported comments was not particularly unusual:
The raw political calculation Reid made here was also one Americans of all races were making. I always knew that someday it would be embarrassing that the press spent 2007 and 2008 hosting panels of white people discussing the political implications of Obama's racial authenticity -- or lack thereof -- but I never imagined that we'd all decide to pretend it never happened.
Indeed, throughout 2007, the question of whether Obama was "black enough" -- or "too black" -- was a common one among the news media. If MSNBC is interested in the topic of double-standards, they should devote some air-time to examining what their own colleagues were saying at the time Reid purportedly made his comments. And they should devote a segment or two to the fact that MSNBC employs Pat Buchanan, and gave him a platform from which to marvel that Barack Obama is "not what you would expect from a black guy from the South Side of Chicago."
UPDATE: MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall is now discussing Reid's comments in the context of the broader conversation that was happening in the media in 2006/2007, for which she deserves credit.
What an awful piece of reporting from Mike Allen and Jake Sherman regarding the Harry Reid kerfuffle. Here's the hysterical, GOP-friendly headline [emphasis added]:
Democrats launch counterattack to save Harry Reid's career
So Reid's "career" is now teetering on the brink, and if Dems don't' scramble to "launch" a "counterattack" he's doomed. How does Politico know? Because the GOP says so!
As we noted yesterday, if you look at the facts on the ground inside the Beltway right now, the Reid story, at this moment, isn't going anywhere. Meaning, not one single prominent Democrat or African-American leader has come forward to fault Reid for the semi-controversial comments he made about Obama during the 2008 campaign; a campaign in which Reid supported the election of the country's first black president.
So my question to Politico is this: How is Reid's career in need of saving if nobody within the party is challenging it? Last time I checked Republicans were helpless in terms of forcing out Democratic leaders, which means the RNC and the GOP Noise Machine can yell and scream all they want and demand Reid stop down. But in terms of practical matters they don't have a say in Reid's standing among Democrats. Republicans are powerless.
But not inside the Politico newsroom, where the minority party is suddenly the the one that really matters.
UPDATED: Behold, as Politico offered up a laundry list of supposed Reid verbal faux pas over the years:
He called President George W. Bush a "loser," Justice Clarence Thomas "an embarrassment" and Bill Frist, his predecessor as majority leader, "amateurish." He referred to Alan Greenspan as a "hack." And he had to backtrack after saying the U.S. was "losing" the war in Iraq.
Boy, that Reid is just crazy.
Let's take a look at the Right's idea of media criticism, shall we? Here's Media Research Center Senior Fellow and Vice President for Research and Publications Brent Baker:
At the end of Sunday's This Week this morning, George Stephanopoulos announced it was his last broadcast as the host ... and an item in Sunday's Boston Herald revealed that ABC had to purchase a special chair for Stephanopoulos, in his new job as co-host of Good Morning America, so Robin Roberts would no longer "tower over" the "diminutive talking head."
The accompanying top screen shot is from December 14, Stephanopoulos's first day as the new permanent co-host and the image below is from this past Thursday's program. Judge for yourself, but Stephanopoulos is certainly lower in both.
Well, George Stephanopoulos is a media figure, and making fun of his height is criticism, so I guess this qualifies as "media criticism." Certainly more so than this entry from Baker's colleague Noel Sheppard yesterday: "Schwarzenegger On Ben Nelson's Kickback: 'It's Illegal to Buy Votes'"
Not surprising, but still unsettling.
In this case, the target is Mark Fiore, an online cartoonist for NPR who poked fun at the Tea Party movement. Apparently that's not allowed in RW America (free speech? what free speech?), so the RW PC police basically tagged Fiore as an enemy combatant, and naturally the death threats started to flow:
The death threats keep coming this fine morning. I guess the Tea Party crew is determined to have "death panels" one way or another.
To date, the failure to condemn the threat of physical attack on Fiore seems to be universal within the RW blogosphere, which isn't surprising since RW 'media critics' remain committed to little more than portraying journalists as evil and un-American. The dirty little secret has always been that RW press-haters don't want a better press corps. They want want a press corps that doesn't exist.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some RW bloggers, at least privately, approve of the death threats as a way to intimidate the free press.
For instance, thin-skinned, loud-mouthed press hater Andrew Breitbart tweeted that he'd condemn attacks on any writer. But of course, in the wake of the Fiore death threats Breitbart hasn't done that on his 'media criticism' site Big Journalism. What Breitbart routinely does though, is attack journalists as immoral, corrupt, and dangerous to democracy. But gee, why would any unhinged readers take those attacks literally and translate that hate speech into a call for physical action against journalists, right?
Breitbart tweeted that he'd condemn any RW death threats against the press: "Show me offenders, evidence & I'll condemn." But Fiore has already come forward and confirmed he's received scores of death threats, yet Breitbart remains silent. So is Breitbart calling Fiore a liar? Does Breitbart not believe that the "all capital letters" death threats have been sent to Fiore? Is that Breitbart's response, to claim the death threats don't exist? To attack Fiore once again; to blame the victim?
It's just yet more proof that right-wing 'media critics' really need get control of their hatred for journalists. And and at the bare minimum they need to loudly and clearly condemn RW death threats; death threats that the RW blogosphere helped spark in the first place.
From the Fox Nation on January 11:
From the January 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
From a January 10 NewsBusters post:
Less than a year ago, ABC global-warmist weatherman Sam Champion was warning people against moving to Florida because of the supposed danger of disastrous sea-level rises due to global warming. Maybe Sam was on to something-but for the diametrically opposite reason . . .
Check out the Weather Channel's forecast for the town of "Frostproof, Florida" for tonight: 22 degrees-a full 10 degrees below freezing. Yikes! Maybe Sam's right: a mistake to move to Florida because the climate is . . . just too darn cold.
Hey Algore: we want our global warming, and we want it now. Has anyone noticed near the MSM attention to the weather trends that might be derived from the current cold snap compared to the hysteria they exhibited when temps get above normal?
PS: here in my hometown of Ithaca, NY, it was below zero this morning. Not unusual, but the mercury hasn't gotten above freezing in going on three weeks.
How else would you explain the newspaper's decision to go A1 with the blip-of-a-story about Harry's Reid Saturday apology for "for once predicting that Barack Obama could become the country's first black president because he was "light-skinned" and had "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." The quotes are reported in a new book about the 2008 campaign.
I say "blip" because Reid quickly apologized and Obama just as quickly accepted the apology, "without question." That's it. That's the extent of the story. (The WashPost wisely put the Reid story on A3.) The Times article contained no indication there would be any further political fall out. Meaning, no fellow Democrats criticized Reid, nor did any African-American leaders.
So yeah, please explain to me how this is A1 material. I realize the Times piece claimed that the old Reid quotes had "set off something of a political furor for Mr. Reid." But the newspaper completely failed to detail or prove that any kind of "furor" had actually been set off.
And BTW, I loved the fact that the Times blew the Reid story out of proportion on the same A1 today that included a lengthy tribute to Fox News chief Roger Ailes, and how powerful and savvy and super-smart he is.
I just wish the Times newsroom would stop being so darn liberal!
UPDATED: I see the GOP is trying to score political points by attacking Reid for his comments. It's interesting that the GOP didn't really mount an offensive until after the Times put the story on A1.
Greg Sargent gets a comment from Jay Carney, Vice President Biden's communications director, about a new book's claims that Biden and President Obama had a strained relationship:
We aren't going to comment on rehashed rumors about the campaign. But I can say that if the authors were concerned with accuracy they might have checked their reporting with people on the Vice President's staff. They did not. I can also say that the President and Vice President have worked together very closely and successfully this past year.
It's worth keeping in mind that the book in question is co-authored by Mark Halperin, an editor-at-large at Time magazine -- where he worked with Carney, who served as Time's Washington bureau chief before going to work for Biden.
Also worth keeping in mind: concern for accuracy is not among Halperin's strong points:
Halperin says (repeatedly) that President Obama was the one who failed to seek bipartisan agreement. That is the exact opposite of what happened. This is not a matter of interpretation; it is a matter of clear facts. The Republican proposal consisted entirely of tax cuts. That happened. It's a fact. The Democratic stimulus package included a mix of tax cuts and spending. That happened. It's a fact. When Mark Halperin says it was Obama and the Democrats who refused to seek bipartisan agreement, he is demonstrating that he is either so woefully uninformed about basic facts or so blatantly dishonest that, in either case, he cannot be taken seriously.
If you were a reporter, and you were typing up RNC chairman Michael Steele's call for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's resignation over a racially-insensitive remark, would you maybe find room to mention that just a few days ago, Steele used the phrase "honest injun"?
If so, that's another difference between you and the good folks at The Politico.
Politico quotes Steele blasting Reid for having an "old mindset" and "using language ... That harkens back to the 1950s." That might have been a good place to insert a line about Steele's use of "honest injun," don't you think?
Incredibly, Politico's write-up of Steele's call for Reid's resignation includes this passage:
"When Democrats get caught saying racist things, an apology is enough," Steele said on "Meet the Press."
"There has to be a consequence here if the standard is the one that was set in 2002 by Trent Lott."
Even while quoting Michael Steele claiming a pro-Democrat double-standard when it comes to racially-insensitive language, Politico doesn't mention Steele's own insensitive comment, which is less than a week old.
UPDATE: Rather than challenging Steele's assertion of a double-standard by pointing out his own comments, Politico echoes it on their front page:
UPDATE 2: Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza does the same thing:
Steele calls on Reid to resign
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) should resign from office after acknowledging that he had described President Obama as "light skinned" and possessing no "Negro dialect" in a conversation with reporters.
"There is this standard where Democrats feel that they can say these things and they can apologize when it comes from the mouths of their own," said Steele in an interview with "Fox News Sunday. "But if it comes from anyone else, it is racism."
Like Politico, Cillizza doesn't bother to mention Steele's own controversial comment, made less than a week ago.
UPDATE 3: During Steele's appearance on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked him about the "honest injun" comment. That's right -- Politico and Cillizza offered less scrutiny of RNC chairman Michael Steele than did Fox News.