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  • Politico's Kady cites 6-month-old poll to claim last week's shootings haven't affected public opinion about guns

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Politico's Martin Kady's lede:

    The heavy coverage of mass shootings in Binghamton, N.Y., North Carolina, Washington state and the cop killings in Pittsburgh has had little apparent effect on the nation's appetite for new gun laws.

    Headline on Gallup report on which Kady based his post (emphasis added):

    Before Recent Shootings, Gun-Control Support Was Fading

    True, Kady did later admit, "It's important to note that the poll was taken before the massacre in Binghamton, but other mass shootings have been in the news for a few weeks."

    But ... well, maybe he should have read that Gallup release a little more closely:

    The latest figures come from the most recent installment of Gallup's annual Crime survey, conducted Oct. 3-5, 2008.

    "Other mass shootings have been in the news for a few weeks," Kady tells us -- but the poll was conducted last year! That's long before the past few weeks.

    Not only is Kady citing a 6-month-old poll to make assertions about whether attitudes have changed in the past week, he's cherry-picking results to overstate public opposition to gun control. Kady mentions exactly one poll result in his post:

    A Gallup Poll out this morning shows support for a ban on private hand gun ownership at an all time low, with 29 percent of respondents saying they support such a law. It's the smallest percentage since Gallup started asking this question 50 years ago.

    That leads him to conclude: "The poll may show why virtually nobody in Congress is rolling out new gun control legislation."

    Well, OK. It's true politicians haven't had much appetite for new gun-control legislation in recent years, and almost certainly true that for many of them, politics is as much a part of the reason as are policy considerations.

    That aside, Kady's post paints a pretty misleading picture of public opinion about gun control. He cites only one poll result, one showing little public support for a complete ban on private handgun ownership. And from that, he draws conclusions about "the nation's appetite for new gun laws."

    Well, guess what? There are all kinds of potential new gun laws other than a complete ban on private handgun ownership. Like reinstating the assault weapons ban, or closing the gun-show loophole. When Gallup asked if gun laws should be more or less strict, 49 percent said more strict. That paints a far different picture than the 29 percent support for a handgun ban Kady cited.

    UPDATE: Kady has updated his post:

    UPDATE/CORRECTION: The folks at Media Matters have made a fair point in criticizing this post, noting that the polling was done several months ago -- even though Gallup posted this poll just today. It's still worth noting that there isn't yet a ground swell of support in the Democratic Congress for new gun control laws in wake of the tragic shootings, but I should have drilled into this polling data more closely. Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign, writing in HuffPo, has also taken Gallup to task, calling the release of the poll today misleading.

    Kady also added a line in the body of the post acknowledging "the poll also notes that 49 percent of Americans want stricter gun control laws than what's on the books now."

  • Another Examiner inadequately identified Richard Berman

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In February, the Washington Examiner glossed over Richard Berman's anti-labor record; on Monday, the San Francisco Examiner did likewise. The paper ran an op-ed by Berman attacking the UAW; here's how the paper identified Berman:

    Rick Berman is executive director of the Center for Union Facts, a 501(c)3 union watchdog organization.

    That's it.

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has much more about Berman on their Berman Exposed web page, including this summary:

    Richard Berman has been a regular front man for business and industry in campaigns against consumer safety and environmental groups. Through his public affairs firm, Berman and Company, Berman has fought unions, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, PETA and other watchdog groups in their efforts to raise awareness about obesity, the minimum wage, the dangers of smoking, mad cow disease, drunk driving, and other causes. Berman runs at least 15 industry-funded front groups and projects, such as the Center for Union Facts and holds 16 "positions" in those organizations.

    Each year, Berman, using his front groups to spread misinformation, spends millions of dollars distracting the public with misleading ads.

  • WSJ ed board member seems to have forgotten his paper's role in pushing Clinton conspiracy theories

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Near the end of a fawning column about Warren Stephens and the investment firm he chairs, Stephens, Inc., Wall Street Journal editorial page member Holman Jenkins suggests the firm's ties to the Clintons were overplayed by the national media:

    As he tells the story, his family never once supported Bill Clinton in any of his campaigns, until the fateful 1990 gubernatorial race, when his GOP opponent was a bitter foe of the Stephens clan. A year later Mr. Clinton called in his "new best friends" and said he was running for president. They figured he'd be "smoked" by the superlatively popular President Bush, but donated a few bucks to keep the governor happy.

    Then came Mr. Clinton's stumble in the early primaries amid the Gennifer Flowers eruption, and Mr. Stephens picked up the paper to learn that Worthen Bank, partly owned by his family, had fronted Mr. Clinton's campaign an emergency loan of $3.5 million. The loan may have been secured by federal matching funds. It may have carried a steep interest rate. But a story line was sealed in the national press that painted the Stephens family as the jerkwater Svengalis behind the Clinton campaign.

    The Clinton experience, he says, was bad for Arkansas, and bad for Stephens Inc. "The publicity cost to the firm was awful . . . You'll never know what business you lost because of it."

    Now, where would anyone get the idea that the Stephens family were the "Svengalis behind the Clinton campaign"? Maybe from Holman Jenkins' own Wall Street Journal editorial page. Journal editorials were a hotbed of Clinton conspiracy theories throughout the 1990s; in 2003, the paper published a piece titled "A Whitewater Chronology: What really happened during the Clinton years" that was peppered with mentions of Stephens, Inc.

    The Journal certainly wasn't alone in theorizing about Stephens & Clinton. David Horowitz, for example, claimed that Jackson Stephens was Clinton's "Clinton's chief political backer." And the Whitewater non-scandal was eagerly peddled by news outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post, as well as the explicitly conservative media. But if Holman Jenkins is going to suggest that the "national press" went too far in connecting Stephens and Clinton, he might browse through the editorials he presumably helped write in the 1990s.

  • The Red Scare Index: 67

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communistic, Marxism and Marxist.

    Here are the numbers for yesterday, Tuesday, April 7, 2009:

    TOTAL: 67
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 28
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 36
    Marxism/Marxist: 3

    By Network:

    CNN: 7
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 7
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    CNN Headline News: 10
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 10
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    Fox News Channel: 30
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 12
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 15
    Marxism/Marxist: 3

    Fox Business Network: 14
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 13
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    MSNBC: 3
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 2
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    CNBC: 3
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a TVeyes.com power search for these terms on these networks.

  • Then again, it "may" not

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Los Angeles Times suggests this is news [emphasis added]:

    Obama's travels may give voters jet lag: The president's supporters worry that the timing of his trips could suggest a detachment from the concerns of ordinary people.

    That's the headline. The problem is the article itself offers virtually no evidence, aside from the reporter's opinion, to back up the shaky claim. But that doesn't stop the Times from laying on the what-if angle pretty thick about Obama's travels:

    It's the sort of thing that can get a political leader into trouble, jetting out of town while the home front suffers...The economic downturn has created so much anxiety, the president may be hard pressed to make the case that a week spent abroad would provide concrete relief.

    It's part of the press' silly he's-got-too-much-on-his-plate meme; an idea voters have already rejected. But what about the "supporters" who worry about the president's overseas trips? Yeah, they pretty much don't exist. In the article, the Times quotes Democratic strategist James Carville, who says the trip will end up being a "neutral" to "a slight positive" for the White House.

    The daily does find an unnamed "former campaign adviser" who says, "It's a very delicate time to be seen as doing things overseas." But that falls short of predicting the Times' possible backlash. And besides, according to the headline, there are "supporters" (plural) who are worried. If there are so many, why couldn't the Times locate them?

  • Who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I don't mean that in a partisan sense. But rather I ask the question in terms of journalism and newsworthiness.

    Oops, I wrote the exact same thing one month ago. But I don't mind repeating myself: why does the press, 11 years after Gingrich left office, seem to treat his every partisan utterance as a newsworthy occurrence?

    It's odd. Not only was Gingrich effectively driven from Congress more than ten years ago, but I can't think of a single Bush initiative from this decade that had Gingrich's fingerprints on it. Now, Newt can't be bothered with running for office any more and he doesn't seem to represent any larger institution. So why has the D.C. press corps carved out a special niche for what's-Newt-thinking-today coverage?

    And guess who's leading the charge in (fake) Gingrich news? Politico, of course.

    April 5, from Politico:

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told "Fox News Sunday" that he would have disabled the long-range missile before North Korea launched it, saying too many people "do not appreciate the scale of the threat that is evolving on the planet."

    April 6, Politico breathlessly reported:

    "The U.S. is at greater risk of terrorist attack because of the Obama administration's actions," Newt Gingrich said Monday.

    Again, where's the news? What is Gingrich's standing in American politics that requires Politico to provide almost daily updates on the failed House Speaker's often partisan proclamations?

    Gingrich was critical of Obama in recent days? We're pretty sure he was critical of the president last month and will be critical next month, and probably will be for the next 40-plus months. Tune in to Fox News and watch it at your leisure.

    But my original journalism question still stands: who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks? Where's the news?

    UPDATE: Yesterday during his online chat with readers, WashPost media critic Howard Kurtz was asked why Gingrich's utterances are considered newsworthy. Here's how Kurtz responded:

    First, Newt is on the air several times a week as a Fox News contributor. Second, there is a vacuum, which is not uncommon for the party out of power, and Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are not seen as the world's most exciting television personalities. But perhaps more important is that Gingrich, who honed the skill before he became speaker, is quite adept at drawing media attention. He knows how to frame an issue or ratchet up his rhetoric in a way that will generate headlines. And he has a big platform to do that with his regular appearances on Hannity and O'Reilly, where he always appears alone and therefore is never challenged by another guest.

    So Gingrich has somehow cracked the code for generating headlines? He has concocted some rhetorical formula so that when he speaks, reporters are forced to type it up as news? I don't buy it.

  • Ramesh Ponnuru and gay marriage

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Ramesh Ponnuru disagrees with my disagreement with what he describes as his "hasty sketch of an originalist argument against court-imposed same-sex marriage." He does so politely, so it almost pains me to note that his defense is just as empty as his original post.

    In his initial post on this matter, Ponnuru wrote that last week's Iowa Supreme Court decision "has no democratic or constitutional legitimacy" because "nobody can plausibly claim that Iowans meant to ratify same-sex marriage when they approved a constitution including equal-protection language."

    The first point I made was that nobody can plausibly claim that Americans meant to ratify integrated classrooms when they approved the 14th Amendment, either. So, by Ponnuru's logic, Brown v. Board of Education "has no democratic or constitutional legitimacy." At this point, Ponnuru can either take the position that Brown was an illegitimate decision, or he can retract his initial post. Doesn't really matter to me which he choses, but those are his options.

    After a paragraph in which he neither squares his position on the Iowa case with Brown nor comes out against Brown, Ponnuru writes:

    Second, Foser believes that I have refuted my own argument in observing that it is perfectly legitimate for courts to set aside statutes when deciding a case forces them to choose between ignoring a statute and ignoring a provision of a constitution. My original item was short, but I think Foser may nonetheless have read it a bit too quickly. My point was that it can be appropriate for courts to set aside democratically-enacted laws, but only under conditions that do not apply in this case.

    That may have been Ponnuru's point, but that isn't what he wrote. Maybe he wrote too quickly. In any case, he simply didn't then -- and doesn't now -- indicate what conditions that do not apply in the Iowa case must be met in order for courts to set aside laws. Unless he does so - and explains why those conditions are consistent with Brown, states clearly that he thinks Brown was a mistake, or retracts his original post - there really isn't much more to discuss.

    Actually, even if he does so, we probably still won't find much room to agree; I tend to think that "equal protection" means "equal protection," not "something else that we might imagine that people meant that falls short of either 'equal' or 'protection.'" But at least his case will, perhaps, make more sense than it does now.

  • More poll trouble for Newsbusters

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Last week, Newsbusters ran a poll on its web site asking "Will Obama be a one term president" -- but the four answers readers could choose from didn't include a "yes." It takes some effort to come up with four responses to a yes/no question, none of which are "yes." But Newsbusters pulled it off.

    Now, they're back at it:

    That's right: they forgot to include a "yes" option. Again.

    The next time Newsbusters complains about polling methodology (as they tend to do whenever a real poll contains results they don't like) you should keep in mind that the Newsbusters crew doesn't understand that when you ask a yes-or-no question, you have to give people the ability to answer "yes" or "no."

  • Ed Gillespie is a really bad media critic

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Almost as bad as Jonah Goldberg! (I kid. Sorta.)

    But that didn't stop National Review from running the former RNC chief's Ground Hog Day critique about how the news media are too liberal. (They're nothing if not persistent, right?)

    The premise pretty much writes itself, but Gillespie commits a mortal media critic sin; he doesn't show, he tells. Like here:

    When I joined the White House in June 2007, I was still naïvely hopeful that we could get an honest hearing from the MSM. It did not take long for the scales to fall from my eyes. The national press corps loathed the president — not personally, I don't think, but politically. Their reporting dripped with disdain, and their stories were frequently riddled with negative adverbs and adjectives. On issues like the Iraq War, the environment, and life, there was often little distinction between our treatment in liberal blogs and our treatment in major daily newspapers.

    Well, that's certainly a sweeping generalization. But what did Gillespie offer in his piece to back up the claim? i.e. What were the reporting examples he cited that dripped disdain for Bush? Answer: He didn't. Gillespie took the lazy way out and just assumed everyone who read his piece would agree with his allegation. That's certainly true within the GOP echo chamber. But in the real world, not so much.

    Elsewhere, Gillespie isn't so much lazy as he is loopy. Like when he dips into the Rush Limbaugh story that percolated within the Beltway about whether the AM talker was the de facto leader of the GOP. At one point, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, responding to Limbaugh's endless on-air taunts and hate speech, simply suggested reporters ask Republican members of Congress whether they agree or disagree with Limbaugh's comments.

    Here's Gillespie's take:

    Now, this is the kind of suggestion that operatives from both parties give reporters from time to time, but it's usually whispered at a campaign event, or after half a bottle of wine at one of those painful black-tie press dinners. President Obama's press secretary can say it right out loud from the White House podium. And instead of being insulted, or asking Gibbs whether it's proper for a public official paid with taxpayer dollars to say such a thing, the reporters carry out the hit.

    Because apparently the First Amendment no longer applies to the White House? Because White House spokesmen are not allowed to mentioned Limbaugh's name without first being granted permission? Honestly, only a sap would think Gibbs' innocuous request represented a "hit," or would be insulted by the question, or would whine about taxpayer dollars.

    But what was our absolute favorite part of Gillespie's very serious dissection of today's "biased" press and how unprofessional journalists insert their opinion into news reporting? No mention of Fox News. It doesn't exist in Gillespie's essay.

    He laments that "too many reporters no longer report; they comment" and that "the lines between news and 'news analysis,' and between 'news analysis' and opinion, have been all but washed away." That's Gillespie's big beef with the press, yet he's stone-cold silent about Fox News.

    Folks, playing dumb doesn't get much harder than that.

  • The press still doesn't do policy

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Howard Kurtz doesn't have a problem with Fox hosting anti-tax protests:

    Minneapolis, Minn.: What's your take on Fox News throwing "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties" and having Hannity, Beck, Greta and Cavuto host them across the country? Seems to cross the line, even if the folks involved are "opinion" hosts.

    Howard Kurtz: They're free to stage whatever kind of protest they want. I only complain when talk show hosts join fundraisers for the Republican or Democratic parties, or become part of candidate rallies. That says to me they have relinquished any semblance of independence.

    Participating in a fundraiser for a political candidate certainly relinquishes any semblance of independence in covering that campaign. But no more so than participating in anti-tax protests relinquishes any semblance of independence in covering taxes. Given that much of the point of elections is to decide which policy approach we take, it's arguably worse for journalists to take such clear policy positions. Kurtz's attitude is just another example of the Beltway media's constant prioritization of politics over policy.