UPDATE: For photographic proof that one of the rallies Fox News presented as being from Palin's book tour actually took place last year on the campaign trail, go here.
As the folks over at Think Progress note, Fox News's Gregg Jarrett today used old stock footage of a McCain-Palin rally from last year to illustrate how Sarah Palin is "continuing to draw huge crowds" during her book tour. He was apparently not tipped off by the McCain campaign "Country First" sign in one of the shots, nor did he wonder why Palin would be using a teleprompter to plug her book.
This is the second time in ten days Fox News has been caught deceptively using video to advance a misleading storyline - and that's just the tip of Fox News' video-doctoring iceberg. Maybe now Howard Kurtz will admit that there's a larger cultural problem with Fox News?
In late August, the Washington Post's Style section featured a friendly profile of National Organization for Marriage executive director Brian Brown. The profile, by Post writer Monica Hesse, portrayed Brown and NOM as a "rational" "sane" "mainstream" organization, and their critics as shrill and vitriolic. In order to portray Brown in such a friendly light, Hesse omitted evidence of their history of gay-bashing, and excluded any criticism of the organization.
Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander agreed with complaints that the piece was one-sided, as did Style editor Lynn Medford:
[I]t deprived readers of hearing from others who have battled Brown and find him uncivil and bigoted. To them, he represents injustice. They should have been heard, at length.
In retrospect, Style editor Lynn Medford agrees. "The lesson is to always, in some way, represent the other side," she said.
Compounding the story's problems were passages like: "He takes nothing personally. He means nothing personal. He is never accusatory or belittling."
These types of unattributed characterizations are not uncommon in feature writing. But many readers thought Hesse was offering her opinion of who Brown is, as opposed to portraying how he comes across.
Finally, the headline: "Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile." To many readers, The Post was saying Brown's views are sane. The headline, written by editors, not Hesse, should have been neutral.
Apparently that lesson didn't take.
Today's Washington Post Style section features a profile of another anti-gay activist, Bishop Harry Jackson.
For 2,200 words, Post writer Wil Haygood tells readers about Jackson's faith, and about his childhood. Haygood tells us Jackson "found himself" in the Bible after his "Daddy died." We learn that during his working-class childhood, his parents scraped together money for tuition for private-school, where Jackson was, as he puts it, "the black kid at Country Day who stayed in the houses of wealthy white people." We learn that he got into Harvard Business school, and was "smitten" when he ran into a childhood acquaintance, who he later married.
And we learn that Jackson's critics are dangerous, angry people:
His admirers have multiplied, and so have his critics. More than once, police have stopped by his Southeast Washington apartment to check on his safety.
"I was in line someplace recently," Jackson says, "and a woman who obviously opposes what I'm doing looked at me and said, 'You better go back to Maryland.'"
His wife says: "We have been verbally abused by the best."
Some of his appearances unleashed vitriol, even threats.
But we never really hear from Jackson's critics. Not in any meaningful way. One is quoted saying Jackson is on TV a lot and is "fighting for political ideas in the religious arena." Another is quoted saying "It's an unfortunate reality ... that one can't preach discrimination without inciting homophobia."
And that's it.
Haygood reports that Jackson has won favorable reception for his writing about black families, but makes no mention of Jackson's claims that black people are more prone to "physical intimacy with a nonspouse or enjoyment of pornographic materials" than white people.
Haygood doesn't mention Jackson's claim that God told him to work for George W. Bush's re-election. Or that Jackson has been, as People for The American Way put it, "somewhat of an all-purpose activist and pundit for right-wing causes - everything from judicial nominations to immigration and oil drilling."
And the Post mentions nothing of Jackson's association with far-right gay-bashers:
While Jackson personally avoids venomous language, he has allied himself with some of the hardest line anti-gay activists on the white Christian Right. One of them is Ohio-based Rod Parsley, the evangelical mega-church preacher whose book, Silent No More, sells three for $10 in the front lobby of Hope Christian's 3,000-member church. A chapter entitled "The Unhappy Gay Agenda" argues that gay people are much given to depression and deviance, including their "substantially higher participation in sadomasochism, fisting, bestiality, ingestion of feces, orgies ... obscene phone calls ... shoplifting, and tax cheating."
"Homosexuality is not just sick," writes Parsley, "it is sin."
Jackson works with Parsley and a number of other Christian fundamentalists through his High Impact Leadership Coalition (HILC), a collection of black and white evangelical mega-church leaders who've banded together to fight same-sex union rights and campaign for conservative candidates. Standing next to Jackson at the HILC's coming-out press conference in February 2005 was the Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, an anti-gay organization so hard-line that it is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
And the Post couldn't find space among those 2,200 words to mention Jackson's opposition to the Matthew Shepard hate crimes legislation -- or the disturbing language Jackson used in opposing the bill:
"God's getting ready to shake us up," roared the Harvard MBA-turned preacher, rousing the audience to divinely ordained political action. With the crowd cheering, applauding, and speaking in tongues, Jackson shouted, "God's looking for a SWAT team ... he's looking for a team of Holy Ghost terrorists!"
Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander may as well just take the rest of the week off, and re-run his September 6 column about Monica Hesse's profile of Brian Brown. Apparently there are some people at the paper's Style section who missed it the first time.
UPDATE: Just to bring things full-circle: Guess who Hesse quoted saying Brown and NOM are "not gay bashers"? Yep: Harry Jackson.
Dems alarmed as independents bolt
Number of Dems quoted in article who say they're alarmed: 0
I really wish Newsweek writer Katie Connolly had named names in her brief online article headlined, "Outrage Over Obama's Bow Is Contrived and Unhelpful."
In it, Connolly wrote [emphasis added]:
I've been a little hesitant to weigh in on the debate about what it means that President Obama bowed when he met Japanese Emperor Akihito. It seems that the folks who are outraged by the bow are just seizing on it as yet another outlet for an increasingly unhinged disdain for anything and everything the president does.
I thought her take on the bow non-story was dead-on, but I wished she said more than "the folks who are outraged by the bow." I wish she had been more specific about whose those "folks" were. (Answer: Right-wing, Obama-hating loons. What, you have a better description?) It's important for Connolly and other journalists to start naming names and move beyond acknowledging in vague, cryptic ways, the type of tell-tale idiocy that Obama's dedicated haters shovel in and out everyday.
Journalists get what's going on. They understand that the almost daily contrived 'controversies' dreamt up nowadays by the GOP Noise machine are often just too dumb for words. (i.e. The bow.) They realize that Obama haters will try to push virtually any half-assed attack into the mainstream conversation. Journalist who take their jobs and who take politics seriously understand that the right-wing loons are using lies and smears and are slowly but successfully making a mockery out what used to be considered a serious pursuit in this country and inside the Beltway.
Journalists get all that. (How could savvy, serious people not get it?) And every now and then some of them, such as Connolly, call the BS out. They stand up and say that today's menu of Obama hate is "contrived and unhelpful." And that's good. It's important that journalists take that step and at least occasionally express that outrage at what now passes for 'news' and 'controversy.'
What's almost always missing from those efforts though, is the naming of the names. Too many Beltway journalists are still not comfortable being specific about which loud right-wing voices are trafficking in lies and nonsense on any given day. And so Connolly, for instance, settles for "the folks."
Who are "the folks"? In this case, they're Charles Krauthammer, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin and the morning crew of Fox & Friends, just to name a few. And oh yeah, the entire right-wing blogosphere. That's who hatched the utterly irrelevant 'controversy' about whether Obama made an unspeakable error in bowing before Japan's Emperor Akihito. (I have not seen or read of a single expert in Japanese culture who thinks Obama did.)
As I noted earlier this year, collectively the right-wing press, including Fox News, is becoming the story. Fox, for instance, no longer operates as a news organization. Instead, it has transformed itself into the Opposition Party of the Obama White House, which means that real journalists need to treat Fox News as the political entity that it is. So when it launches a phony story like the "bow" controversy, and hammers it relentlessly, journalists like Connolly ought to state clearly who's pushing the partisan attack. Time and again this year, the Beltway press has politely refused to call out Fox News' new political role.
See, it's not just "folks" who are trying everyday to undermine the president. It's the staff at Fox News, and their allies in the right-wing media. Real journalists need to start pointing that out. They need to start naming names.
If one thing has been clear in the debate over the Stupak amendment, it has been that Chris Matthews has no idea what the amendment is about. No matter how many guests he has on who explain the amendment to him, he still seems convinced that the Stupak amendment would simply extend legislation prohibiting federal funding for abortion to current healthcare reform legislation. Otherwise, how can you explain exchanges like this, in which Matthews allows Stupak to claim that his amendment is a continuation of the "current law," which wouldn't restrict "insurance policies or individuals from using their own money to get abortion service?"
Well, maybe this will help Matthews understand how Stupak's amendment goes far beyond the status quo. TPM is reporting that a new study by the George Washington University School of Public Health finds that, in TPM's words, "The Stupak amendment to the House health care bill--which will prevent millions of women from buying health insurance policies that cover abortion--is likely to have consequences that reach far beyond its supposedly intended scope." Here's the key takeaway from the study's findings: The "treatment exclusions required under the Stupak/Pitts Amendment will have an industry-wide effect, eliminating coverage of medically indicated abortions over time for all women, not only those whose coverage is derived through a health insurance exchange."
Is that clear enough for you Matthews?
According to the study, the Stupak amendment also "will work to defeat the development of a supplemental coverage market for medically indicated abortions" because in "any supplemental coverage arrangement, it is essential that the supplemental coverage be administered in conjunction with basic coverage. This intertwined administration approach is barred under Stupak/Pitts because of the prohibition against financial comingling." Furthermore, the study found that "because supplemental coverage must of necessity commingle funds with basic coverage, the impact of Stupak/Pitts on states' ability to offer supplemental Medicaid coverage to women insured through a subsidized exchange plan is in doubt." Sounds like a change in the status quo to me.
In my column last week about media coverage of health care reform and abortion, I pointed out some flaws with arguments by Chris Matthews and others that money is fungible, so any government funds that go to any insurance company that also provides abortion coverage constitutes federal funding for abortion.
In today's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus makes an excellent point I wish I'd thought of:
The same folks who squawk about money being fungible when it comes to federal funding and abortion take the opposite view when it comes to federal funding and parochial schools, or federal funding and faith-based programs.
When the Catholic Church takes government money to run homeless shelters or soup kitchens, it frees up dollars for other, religious expenses that wouldn't be a permissible use of government funds. Somehow, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which pushed the Stupak amendment, isn't bothered by this reality.
When the government gives low-income families tuition vouchers to use at parochial schools, or sends educational material and equipment to parochial schools, the bishops aren't worried about whether that money is being commingled to subsidize religion.
"The simple fact that broad governmental social programs may have some effect of aiding religious institutions . . . cannot be cause for invalidating a program on Establishment Clause grounds," the bishops argued in one case before the Supreme Court.
Last week, Matthews insisted:
Everybody knows that money's fungible and that this is basically an accounting trick. And I don't think it'll work with people who have a moral problem with abortion funding by the federal government.
For some reason, I doubt he'll address Marcus' point on his show tonight.
We've noted that conservatives such as Jon Henke have called for a boycott of WorldNetDaily because it traffics "in the paranoid conspiracy theories that take away from our ability to discuss more important issues." Yesterday at the Capitol, four House Republicans found no more important issue than promoting and legitimizing the conspiracy website.
As the Washington Independent's David Weigel noted, actual GOP members of Congress appeared at a press conference to endorse and promote the efforts of WorldNetDaily to deliver 5 million "pink slips" of paper to Congress. The press conference featured WND CEO Joseph Farah and columnist and campaign organizer Janet Porter, along with "U.S. Reps. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn.; Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; Steve King, R-Iowa; and Trent Franks, R-Ariz., [who] hailed the effort as an innovative new vehicle for the American people to express themselves to members of Congress."
How is WND helping Americans "express themselves?" By graciously allowing us to buy pink slips of paper at the "WND SUPERSTORE" for the "Discount Price" of $29.95.
So not only is WND receiving congressional praise, it's also getting help making money.
Here are some of the WND conspiracy theories and smears those pink slip profits can help pay for:
Porter has also warned that voting for Obama would send you to hell; passed on the rumor that Obama's a secret soviet mole; said that "this movement toward a global currency is a sign that the last days are coming"; claimed that "Pushing away an unwelcome advance of a homosexual, transgendered, cross-dresser or exhibitionist could make you a felon under this [hate crimes] law"; and warned that if we don't stop the Obama "dictatorship ... we'll lose our lives" (good thing we have the pink slips!).
Noted serious people Farah and Porter with members of Congress:
The avalanche of free Palin publicity being generated by the press continues unabated. And that's why Palin and her marketing team must be having a good laugh at the press' expense these days.
Specifically, Palin still has not allowed herself to be interviewed by an actual, professional political journalists this week. Palin has completely snubbed Beltway media elites (the same ones who won't stop writing and talking about her), yet there hasn't been a single murmur of discontent.
In other words, Palin's using the Beltway press to generate free publicity. And then Palin snubs that same Beltway press corps. I'd think that kind of smack-down would sting. But apparently not. I guess political journalists think it makes sense that a high-profile political figure would launch a very political book and begin paving the way for a possible 2012 political campaign and, y'know, not talk to the political press. And I'd also think that a few political journalists might even raise doubts about Palin's future if she's unwilling to sit down with a single A-list reporter and answer tough, detailed questions.
And I'd think that skepticism would be especially strong considering how Palin so famously botched her big-time interviews last fall during the fall campaign. (i.e. She didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was.) Palin bombed in her serious press interviews in 2008. And now in 2009, she's rolling out a new book and what do you know, she's stiffing the serious press.
Instead, she's opting for lifestyle interviews (i.e. Oprah and Barbara Walters) as well as taking questions from her professional enablers, such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levine, Bill O'Reilly, Matthew Continetti, NRO, RedState, etc. But nowhere on her press schedule do I see where Palin's agreed to take questions from serious political reporters who might press her on specifics, as well as the contradictions found in her book.
Palin is completely snubbing Beltway journalists; she's going right around them. But they're so busy helping her sell books that they don't even notice. Or care.
UPDATED: And oh yeah, there's evidence that Palin lied about journalists in her book. But pay not attention to that, press corps members. Keep selling more Palin books!
NBC Washington Bureau Chief Mark Whitaker thinks it's sexist to say Sarah Palin isn't ready to be president:
Still, the widespread suggestion in some of the media commentary that she simply isn't qualified enough to be considered a viable presidential candidate is ridiculous.
For male politicians, it's always been a rule of thumb in politics and the media that once you were on a presidential ticket, you were automatically elevated onto the short list of contenders for future races. If George H.W. Bush had lost in 1988, does anyone think Dan Quayle would not have been talked about as a potential candidate for 1992, even with all the political flaws he revealed in that race? Would the media have taken John Edwards as seriously in 2008 if he hadn't been John Kerry's running mate in 2004?
I don't buy it.
By the end of the 1988 campaign, Quayle had served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was in the middle of his second term in the Senate. And as much as his performance during the '88 campaign was ridiculed, I don't recall him being incapable of naming a single newspaper he read. By the end of the 2004 campaign, John Edwards had served six years in the Senate, where he served on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Like Quayle, Edwards wasn't stumped by a question like "What newspapers do you read?"
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, served about 60 percent of a term as Governor of Alaska before abruptly and bizarrely quitting. And her Vice Presidential campaign made both Quayle and Edwards look positively Jeffersonian.
Oh, and even after serving a term as Vice President, Dan Quayle was widely portrayed as an idiot. I find it amazing that Whitaker thinks that if Bush/Quayle had lost in '88, nobody would have questioned whether he was ready to be a viable candidate in 1992. Amazing. And Whitaker can't possibly be under the impression that John Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign was free of media figures claiming he was a lightweight or mocking him.
There is plenty of sexist media treatment of Sarah Palin. Arguing that she has displayed no qualifications for, or ability to function in, the highest office in the land isn't it.
UPDATE: Here's a reminder of a media question about the qualifications of a prominent woman running for President that was in appropriate: ABC's Charlie Gibson asked Hillary Clinton if she would be a "credible" candidate were it not for her husband. I suspect the next time Gibson asks a male candidate that question will be the first. John McCain, first elected to Congress on the strength of his wife's money and connections, certainly never got a question even remotely like that.
And the suggestion that Clinton -- a United States Senator with a grasp of policy detail that few of her harshest critics would deny -- was only a viable candidate because of her husband was a constant feature of her presidential campaign, as Whitaker's colleague Chris Matthews can remind him.
Point being: there certainly are sexist ways in which the media can question the qualifications of women running for office. Unfortunately, Palin will likely be the target of some of them. But simply questioning the qualifications of someone who can't name a newspaper she reads doesn't fit the bill.
That phrase makes me nostalgic for 2002 or 2003, because, let's face it, that's probably the last time people actually had that debate about Fox News. Clearly the question on the table today isn't whether Fox News is "fair and balanced." (Almost nobody thinks it is.) It's whether Fox News still even resembles a legitimate news organization. (Hint: It does not.)
But that doesn't stop Robert Lichter from the Center for Media and Public Affairs, who argues in Forbes that Fox News is really, really fair and balanced, specifically when it comes to the channel's coverage of Obama. Not surprisingly there are all sorts of problems with Lichter's pitch. The first rather obvious hurdle is that Lichter spends a lot of time dissecting Fox News' 2008 treatment of Obama. Lichter claims Fox News is fair and balanced today based on how it covered Obama 12 months ago.
I don't mean to be a stickler here, but the latest debate sparked by the White House is that in 2009 Fox News no longer functions as a legitimate news organization. And that in 2009 Fox News has basically cut the chord with traditional journalism. So I'm just not sure about the usefulnesses of Lichter's commentary since he spends a lot of it looking back on 2008.
That's actually only the first glaring problem in Lichter's piece. The second? To prove Fox News was "fair and balanced" to Obama in 2008, Lichter notes the results of an on-going Center for Media and Public Affairs study which monitors political news coverage on TV. As part of the study, CMPA monitors the first 30 minutes of Fox News' nightly Special Report. And that's it. Yet from that tiny, almost laughably small 30-minute daily sample, Lichter draws sweeping conclusions about whether a 24-hour news channel is "fair and balanced"? That's almost too silly for words. Lichter makes conclusions about Fox News while ignoring more than 90 percent of its programming day?
More? Sadly, there is. In his Forbes piece, Lichter actually concedes that even judging Fox News from just that 30- minute chunk of Special Report last year, the channel delivered more negative coverage of the Democratic candidate than did the nightly newscasts for ABC, CBS, and NBC. In fact, on Fox News last year, 64 percent of Special Report's evaluations of Obama were unfavorable. But somehow Fox News was "fair and balanced" in 2008?
More? Yep. Lichter eventually addresses how "fair and balanced" Fox News has treated Obama in 2009, at least according to CMPA. The conclusion? [Emphasis added]
It turns out that Fox's coverage of President Obama has been even more negative than its coverage of candidate Obama: From Inauguration Day to Oct. 10, only 27% of Special Report's comments on the president were favorable
I'm not making this up. Lichter claims Fox News has been fair to Obama, yet concedes that on one of Fox News' few remaining 'straight' news program, the commentary has been overwhelmingly negative toward the president this year, just as it was toward Obama in 2008.
Safe to say, Lichter's attempt to exonerate Fox News is lacking. But hey, at least the guys at Newsbusters like it.