• Howard Kurtz: Rich but bankrupt?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Another day, 2,200 more words from the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz -- and still none about CNN president Jonathan Klein's embrace of Lou Dobbs Birther conspiracy theories. None about CNN (where Kurtz also works) at all, actually.

    I have a new column up today about Howard Kurtz' glaring conflict of interest -- far worse than the conflicts he frequently hits other reporters for. Here's a taste:

    Clearly, for journalists ... television is the key to big-bucks success. ... The public has a right to expect that those who pontificate for a living are not in financial cahoots with the industries and lobbies they analyze on the air. Too many reporters and pundits simply have a blind spot on this issue. They have been seduced by the affluence and adulation that comes with television success. They are engaging in drive-by journalism, rushing from television studio to lecture hall with their palms outstretched. ... The talk show culture has made them rich but, in a very real sense, left them bankrupt.

    Oh. Wait. No, I'm sorry -- that's from Howard Kurtz's 1996 book Hot Air. See how Kurtz has become what he once denounced here.

  • I think Chuck Todd owes Arianna Huffington an apology

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    On Wednesday, MSNBC's Todd attacked Glenn Beck for calling Obama a racist. Todd then used that incident as a jumping-off point to vent about what else was wrong with the press. In the process though, he seemed to take a gratuitously cheap shot at Huffington and her ground-breaking site, as well as compare it to the standard-less nonsense that seeps out of Fox News [emphasis added]:

    It's getting nuts that the folks who are creating the perception of an ideological/polarized media world are people who have never really spent their lives being journalists. Whether it's former political consultants-turned-TV execs or former radio DJs, or former California socialites, the folks helping to accelerate the public's perception of the media off a cliff made their livings trying to do other things.

    To me, the first and third references are clearly to Roger Ailes and Arianna Huffington. (Politico agreed.) In the eyes of Beltway insider Todd, they're both equally responsible for tarnishing the good work of journalists. Really? The Huffington Post is driving the public perception of the media off the cliff? How? In what way? I suspect there are millions of HP readers who would say the opposite; that the site has restored their faith in journalism and what can be accomplished when outsiders are empowered.

    To me, it seems Todd is practicing the age-old Beltway game of blaming the right and left even though the left is pretty much blameless. I mean, why would Todd drag Huffington into a discussion about the rancid behavior of Fox News' Glenn Beck? There's zero connection. But it seems Todd wasn't comfortable simply writing a post that knocked Fox News (liberal bias!!), so he threw in a reference to Huffington in order to cover his butt.

    Meanwhile, did Todd really suggest Huffington wasn't a journalist? She's a big girl and can defend herself, but honestly, just look at her resume. Prior to launching HP, she was an award-winning author/biographer and worked as a nationally syndicated columnist.

    Bottom line: The next time somebody on Fox News says something offensive and idiotic and hateful, Todd ought to just say so, and not play the I-blame-both-side game.

  • opinion piece: "Obama's to Blame for the Birther Movement"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a July 29 opinion piece posted on, Tommy De Seno writes that "since no one has shown any proof [Obama] was born in Kenya or elsewhere, it's OK to conclude he was born in Hawaii" but the "Birther movement is Obama's fault for not releasing the records. I hope the Birthers continue to bite his ankles until he releases the records. He deserves nothing less."

    De Seno casts doubt on the birth certificate Obama posted online and speculates on Obama being born in Kenya:

    Two birth announcements from Hawaiian local papers show Obama's birth. The Birthers have a couple of good arguments about them. First, Hawaii is where Obama's grandparents lived and it's not unusual for grandparents to announce a birth to their friends, even if the grandson lives elsewhere. Also, if Obama's parents lived in Hawaii then moved to Kenya when they birthed him, it wouldn't be unusual to announce the birth in the old neighborhood for friends to see.

    The newspaper announcements cut against the Birthers, but they are hearsay documents and don't answer the citizen question any more than his grammar school records prove he is a Muslim. The original Birth Certificate will end it all. of speculation about the legitimacy of Obama's birth notices:

    But here's the thing. Newspaper officials he checked with confirmed those notices came from the state Department of Health.

    "That's not the kind of stuff a family member calls in and says, 'Hey, can you put this in?'" [Honolulu Advertiser reporter Will] Hoover explained.

    Take a second and think about that. In order to phony those notices up, it would have required the complicity of the state Health Department and two independent newspapers - on the off chance this unnamed child might want to one day be president of the United States.

    De Seno's piece was promoted by The Fox Nation:


    Fox News still trafficking in birth certificate theories

    Fox Nation again posts birther story with picture of Obama in Somali clothes

    UPDATED: Fox Nation still obsessing over Obama's birth certificate

  • NYT accentuates the negative in health care polling article

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The New York Times' write-up of its new poll paints a dire picture for health care reform:

    Poll Shows Obama's Clout on Health Care Is Eroding


    President Obama's ability to shape the debate on health care appears to be eroding as opponents aggressively portray the effort as a government takeover that could limit Americans' ability to chose their doctors and course of treatment, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

    Americans are concerned that overhauling the health care system would reduce the quality of their care, increase their out-of-pocket health costs and tax bills and limit their options in choosing doctors, treatments and tests, the poll found. The percentage who describe health care costs as a serious threat to the American economy - a central argument made by Mr. Obama - has dropped over the past month.

    Uh-oh! Sounds bad, doesn't it? But look how easy it is to write that article differently, based on the same poll (PDF link):

    Poll Shows Strong Support for Reform; Obama More Trusted Than GOP


    President Obama continues to enjoy significant advantage over his Republican counterparts when it comes to who the public trusts to reform health care, and the American people continue to overwhelmingly favor sweeping reform, even in the face of efforts by opponents to negatively define Mr. Obama's proposals, according to the latest New York Times/CBS poll.

    The poll found that fully 90 percent of Americans think it is necessary to make "fundamental changes" or "completely rebuild" the health care system. President Obama enjoys a 29-point advantage over congressional Republicans on the question of who has better ideas to reform the system. The percentage of people who think the health care system needs to be fixed now as part of fixing the overall economy has increased in recent weeks, and the percentage who think the US cannot afford to fix health care now has decreased.

    Seventy-six percent of Americans consider the rising cost of health care a threat to the nation's economy. Sixty-six percent support the "government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan - something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get - that would compete with private health insurance plans?" Sixty-five percent support tax increases on "Americans with high incomes" in order to pay for reform.

    Eighty percent of Americans are concerned that if the government does not create a system for providing health care for all Americans, the number of uninsured people will increase. Sixty-six percent are concerned that absent such reform, they personally might be without coverage at some point. Seventy-five percent worry that absent such reform, the cost of their own health care will go up.

    Keep that in mind when you see cable news freak out over the Times article tomorrow: The very same poll contains a ton of data that should be encouraging for those who favor significant reform.

    UPDATE: Also worth noting: Much of the public skepticism the real New York Times article detailed is based on misconceptions -- like the concern that reform would "limit ... options in choosing doctors." Well, it wouldn't. So who cares if people think it might? If such reform is enacted, they'll pretty quickly see that they can still go to their doctor, and that concern will dissipate.

  • Rep. Boehner, er, Fox Nation, asks: "Why Don't Dems Want Americans to See This Chart?"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox Nation's front-page headline "Why Don't Dems Want Americans to See This Chart?" parrots House Minority Leader John Boehner's floor remarks -- a video of which Fox Nation provides -- during which he said, "Democrats in Congress don't want the American people to see this chart."


    The media's web of misinformation

    Conservative outlets provide forum for Republicans' "baffling" health care "flow chart"

    Hannity, Jenkins report on the how the GOP chart depicts the "Candyland" of the health-care reform bill

  • Chris Matthews is lying about Barack Obama

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Chris Matthews just said on Hardball that Barack Obama's initial comments about the Gates arrest was a case of "profiling":

    CHRIS MATTHEWS: "He was profiling in a sense. The president. He was looking at it as a classic case, he thought. ... I mean, he was profiling the situation. He was saying 'This is a situation I'm familiar with, therefore I know what happened.' He doesn't know what happened."

    Except that isn't what happened. Not at all. What actually happened is that Barack Obama said, very clearly, that he did not know what happened in this situation, or whether race played a role. Here, take a look at Obama's exact words:

    BARACK OBAMA: "I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that."

    How is Matthews able to get away with such a gross distortion? Easy: When he plays video of Obama's Gates comments, he leaves that part on the cutting-room floor.

    That's spectacularly dishonest.

  • New York Daily News, please define "election-ready"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Sigh, it landed a Drudge link and is making the rounds today, but this Daily News piece pretty much defines what's wrong with journalism today.

    The headline:

    No political race in sight, but Hillary Clinton's camp is election-ready

    The article is almost too dumb for words. For instance, the catchy "election-ready" phrase is one the Daily News concocted. Meaning, nobody from the Clinton camp makes that claim. The Daily News, based on virtually zero evidence, announces to the world that Clinton is "election-ready," in a lame attempt to gin up controversy. (i.e. Will the overly ambitious SOS challenge Obama????)

    Here's the feeble peg for the entire non-story [emphasis added]

    Hillary Clinton says running for office isn't on her "radar," but she still has an eight-person political team and sports two overflowing campaign war chests.

    Her team transformed the former Democratic White House contender's massive campaign debts into a $3 million mountain of political cash, according to federal fund-raising records through the end of June.

    Only in the clueless world of the Daily News does $3 million represent a "mountain" of political cash for a potential presidential candidate. (Pssst NYND, Obama and McCain last year spent more than $1 billion on their campaigns.) And only in the clueless world of the Daily News does a staff of eight mean Clinton's "ready" to wage a national campaign.

  • Conservative: Birther is liberal media plot

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Who didn't see this angle coming?

    The good news is that writing in CQ, GOP political consultant Bill Pascoe writes:

    "Dear Birthers,



    "Serious Conservatives."

    The bad news is that Pascoe can't help blaming the liberal media for the birther mess:

    Am I the only one to notice that mainstream media attention to the "Birthers" has picked up in recent weeks -- and that this increased attention is coincident to the turn in Obama's approval ratings?

    A search of The Washington Post web site, for instance, on the term "Birther" yields as its oldest hit this one from July 6; a search of The New York Times, though, shows one June reference in passing and then the first real mention of the term on July 22.

    Far be it from me to assume one is the cause of the other -- as faithful readers know, I do my best to avoid falling into the post hoc, ergo propter hoc trap -- but, still, it is an interesting coincidence.

    Ironic, eh? In debunking the conservative conspiracy theory about the birthers, Pascoe suggest it's a liberal conspiracy theory in the press that's given the story legs in recent weeks.

    Hmm, so Rush Limbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy and Lou Dobbs are in on it, too?

  • UPDATE: No WaPo correction for Feldstein falsehood

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by Martin Feldstein that falsely claimed that President Obama supports a British-style health care system in which "the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are salaried."

    It was a glaring and obvious falsehood based on Feldstein's incorrect definition of the phrase "single-payer." The kind of thing that is so obviously false, it shouldn't have taken the Post more than 30 seconds to write up a correction once the mistake was pointed out. And the mistake was explained by The New Republic's Jonathan Chait by mid-day yesterday, and by Paul Krugman later in the day. But the Washington Post has not yet run a correction, online or in print.

    In case the Post hasn't noticed, the health care debate is kind of a big deal right now. Correcting this obvious falsehood as soon as possible is the only responsible thing to do.