• We'll wait for Tucker Carlson's response

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As Media Matters notes, not that long ago pundit Carlson, like virtually all members of the conservative tribe, claimed that "dismissing your opponents by calling them racists and bigots" is "name calling" and "beneath contempt."

    The GOP Noise Machine hated it whenever liberals (allegedly) played the race card. Pundits like Carlson decried the rhetorical practice as a cheap, emotional stunt designed to steer the conversation away from what really mattered.

    And yes, this is the same Carlson who has been out in front of the Sotomayor's-a-racist bandwagon. So we'll wait to hear from Carlson as to why he once thought it was despicable to call a political opponent a racist, and why today he's going online and on TV to do that very thing. (i.e. Sotomayor's a "racist kook.")

    We'd be especially curious to know if Carlson's recently penned contract with the far-right Fox News is responsible for this obvious flip-flop.

  • Mona Charen plays dumb about "racist" rhetoric

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The conservative columnist actually sets out in the right direction with her column headlined:

    It's Not Fair To Casually Call People Racist

    The point seem blindingly obvious, but it's one that very few media people have been willing to make in the last seven days. But rather than take Limbaugh and Gingrich to task for their hateful "racist" rhetoric, Charen falls into the same predictable trap that every other Beltway player has and dutifully plays dumb about Sotomayor's "Latin woman" quote.

    But this was the passage that really jumped out at me:

    Nevertheless, the instant labeling of the woman, based on one unwise remark, is hardly fair. If Democrats are learning this now, that's excellent news. One hopes they will remember this discovery when the wheel turns and a Republican nominee is before the Senate. Certainly they didn't seem to get it as recently as 2002, when President Bush nominated Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    A-ha! Charen found an example from the recent past when a Republican president nominated a judge to the federal bench and Democrats casually, and incorrectly, labeled the judge a racist!

    Slight problem: That's not what happened because that's not what Democrats did. At least Charen can't cite a single example of any Democrat ever calling Judge Pickering a "racist." (If she could, I assume Charen would have included the quote in her column.)

    It's true there was a very heated debate about Pickering's civil rights record on the bench; a record that stretched back many, many years. But the Democratic attacks on Pickering were not built around a single sentence from a speech, the way the "racist" assault is being waged against Sotomayor and a speech she made in 2001. The concerns Democrats had about Pickering were based on his judicial record. Plus, Democrats never called Pickering a racist, the way right-wing pundits are denouncing Sotomayor.

    So basically, there's no comparison between the two nominations, but Charen pretends there is.

  • WaPo posts smear of La Raza without rebuttal

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    From a Washington Post online discussion with reporter Ed O'Keefe:

    Dunn Loring, Va.: Although The Post has had several stories about Sotomayor quoting her friends and even had a chat with the head of an organization of which she was a board member, when can we expect a story about her involvement with La Raza, which supports the return of the western US to Mexico?

    Ed O'Keefe: There'll be plenty of time between now and confirmation.

    The National Council of La Raza does not support any such thing.

  • See Politico for how the law has nothing to do with Sotomayor's nomination or the press coverage. Zero.

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Politico headline:

    Right demands tougher fight on Sonia Sotomayor

    The article itself is what the Beltway press adores: process. It's about how movement conservatives are demanding GOP senators filibuster Sotomayor's nomination, but that appears very unlikely to happen, and how two prominent conservative activists got into a tiff at a closed door meeting last week about their Sotomayor strategy, etc.

    What's telling is that news outlets like Politico don't seem to think it's odd that there's a conservative movement afoot to stop Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination and the movement has virtually nothing to do with the law or her rulings from the bench. Conservatives aren't even talking about Sotomayor and the law, yet the press treats their opposition as being very important and newsworthy. Because when conservatives play hardball, it's news.

    It's hard to believe that if liberals opposed Bush's SCOTUS nominees Samuel Alito and John Roberts with attacks that had nothing to do with their legal opinions, that the press would have taken that opposition seriously. But today conservatives don't even pretend to be interested in Sotomayor's legal record, and the press acts like that's completely normal for a confirmation battle.

  • Newsbusters' increasingly creepy criticism of Tiller reporting

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday, Newsbusters' Kyle Drennan complained that a news report about the murder of Dr. George Tiller didn't describe him as "controversial." In response, I wrote:

    Calling Tiller "controversial" just because because conservative anti-abortion terrorists tried to, and finally did, kill him is insulting, and suggests some justification for the assassination. Calling him "controversial" blames the victim. Drennen's complaints that CBS didn't offer such justification for Tiller's assassination is creepy, at best.

    Today, Newsbusters' Colleen Raezler makes it explicit, complaining: "In failing to highlight what Tiller's work actually entailed, reporters do nothing to help their audience understand why this man was targeted."

    I thought conservatives usually criticize people for offering "understanding" to terrorists?

    Raezler goes on to complain that the media has portrayed Tiller as a "martyr":

    Tiller as Abortion Rights Martyr

    Broadcast networks painted Tiller as a man willing to die in defense of women's rights.

    All of the broadcast coverage noted past attempts people have made to disrupt Tiller's work - a bombing of his clinic in the 1980s and a 1993 attack in which he was shot in both arms - which, while pertinent to the story, also increased the aura of martyrdom that now surrounds him.

    Notice what Raezler doesn't say: she doesn't so much as hint at disapproval of the terrorists who bombed Tiller's clinic and shot him. Instead, she is unhappy that mentioning those events increases "the aura of martyrdom that now surrounds" Tiller.

    UPDATE: Two months ago, Raezler complained that media didn't make clear that a plane crash victim "made the money for this exclusive vacation was paid for partly through abortion [sic]." Here's Raezler:

    Media Ignore Abortion Connection in Montana Plane Crash Coverage


    [C]orrectly reporting the deaths of fourteen people as a tragedy doesn't mean the media necessarily did their job. If they feel compelled to note that victims were "ultrarich," they should also note the business that made them that way. Particularly if it's as controversial as abortion.


    though the AP deemed it necessary to include facts about family's economic status, they failed to think it necessary to include that Feldkemp made the money for this exclusive vacation was paid for partly through abortion.

    Feldkamp is listed as the president of Family Planning Associates Medical Group, Inc., a health care organization that is California's largest for-profit abortion provider. Its Web site lists 17 different abortion clinics throughout the state, and the group provides abortions up to the 22nd week of pregnancy.

    Gingi Edmonds, a pro-life activist, reported this on March 24. Yet as of April 2, the mainstream media appeared to have whitewashed Feldkamp's abortion connection.

  • Michelle Malkin wishes liberal partisans had the decency to restrain themselves

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And yes, she wrote it without an ounce of irony.

    For the record, Malkin condemns the killing of Dr. Tiller. But she also condemns anyone who claims the far-right is the blame, and refuses to condemn the radical, hateful rhetoric used by the right-wing media to depict abortion providers as murderers and baby killers.

    In fact, Malkin, like most conservative pundits this week, won't quote any of the blood-chilling attacks that have been aired in the past. According to Malkin and company, that's just part of the abortion media "debate" in America; you call the other side killers and murders and then play dumb then tragedy unfolds.

  • NewsBusters faults media for "do[ing] nothing to help their audience understand why [Tiller] was targeted"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From a June 2 NewsBusters entry:

    George Tiller, the Kansas doctor notorious for his commitment to performing late-term abortions, was killed May 31 while attending a Sunday morning church service.

    By his count, Tiller performed 60,000 abortions. His clinic, Women's Health Care Services in Wichita, was one of only three clinics in the United States that offered abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy.

    Loss of human life is a tragedy and should be reported as such, and premeditated murder is always wrong - something all the mainstream pro-life groups were quick to affirm in the wake of the killing. But in reporting this tragic story, the news media have much to say about a man who helped provide women with the "right" to end their pregnancies, but have little to say about lives he helped to end. In failing to highlight what Tiller's work actually entailed, reporters do nothing to help their audience understand why this man was targeted.


    Newsbusters wants media to call Tiller "controversial"

  • Slate's Saletan plays with fire

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Slate's William Saletan seems to think he's come up with a brilliant rhetorical device to convince abortion opponents to stop calling the procedure "murder." But I wonder if he considered the possibility that he might not persuade everyone - and if he considered how some of those he doesn't persuade might react to things like this:

    If abortion is murder, the most efficient thing you could have done to prevent such murders this month was to kill George Tiller.


    The people who kill abortion providers are the ones who don't flinch. They're like the veterans you sometimes see in war documentaries, quietly recounting what they faced and did. You think you're pro-life. You tell yourself that abortion is murder. Maybe you even say that when a pollster calls. But like most of the other people who say such things in polls, you don't mean it literally. There's you, and then there are the people who lock arms outside the clinics. And then there are the people who bomb them. And at the end of the line, there's the guy who killed George Tiller.

    If you don't accept what he did, then maybe it's time to ask yourself what you really believe. Is abortion murder? Or is it something less, a tragedy that would be better avoided? Most of us think it's the latter. We're looking for ways to prevent abortions-not just a few this month, but millions down the line-without killing or prosecuting people. Come and join us.

  • The Weekly Standard offers no defense for Bill O'Reilly

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Reading the headline, "The Campaign to Blame O'Reilly for Tiller's Death," I assumed Weekly Standard writer John McCormack was going to explain why it was completely unjustified to connect Fox News' Bill O'Reilly to the death of Dr. George Tiller, even though we all know O'Reilly's show ambushed the doctor on TV, called him a so-called baby killer, and waged a very public crusade against the private physician.

    Now a suspected right-wing domestic terrorist, perhaps an O'Reilly viewer, put the Fox News' host's words into action and killed the man in a church, as right-wing domestic terrorists tend to do. And guess what, lots of bloggers pointed out O'Reilly's not-so-cameo role in the Tiller drama.

    But Weekly Standard was going to explain it all away; it was going to tell us why, even though O'Reilly had attacked Tiller on-air more than two dozen times, the Fox News' hands were entirely clean in Sunday's tragedy.

    Except the weird part was the Weekly Standard never even bothered to make that claim. Instead, the item noted bloggers were connecting O'Reilly to Tiller, but than floated the muddled idea that some of the same bloggers targeting O'Reilly have also been critical of Bush's torture policy and used harsh language to describe it:

    Since it appears that the campaign to blame O'Reilly for inciting the murder of Tiller began with [Andrew] Sullivan's post, it's worth noting that The Atlantic blogger routinely compares those who support harsh interrogations of al Qaeda members to the Gestapo and the Khmer Rouge.

    Honestly, it didn't make much sense to me, either. The gist seemed to be that critics of torture on the left are just like anti-abortion critics on the right (i.e. just like O'Reilly) because both felt compelled to speak out against something they thought was morally wrong. The coo-coo part is where McCormack suggests both groups use the same type of vigilante rhetoric to make their point. Except, of course, they do not, which is where the whole argument collapses.

    But what was really telling I thought, was that when the Weekly Standard tried to come to O'Reilly defense in terms of his hateful Tiller rhetoric, the Weekly Standard realized it had no defense. It didn't deny O'Reilly's involvement, it simply tried to claim that everyone does it. Not true.

    P.S. Note the disingenuousness when McCormack includes a link which the writer suggests proves that Sullivan had equated "those who support" torture with being members of the Gestapo. Instead, what the link does is showcase items that Sullivan had written in which he described torture techniques as being used by the Gestapo.

    Sullivan did not, as McCormack claimed, suggest torture-backing Bush administration officials were akin to members of the Gestapo. Meaning, Sullivan did not, as McCormack claimed, wage a personal crusade targeting private citizens. He didn't ambush Bush officials in public and routinely call them Nazis, the way O'Reilly led a public crusade against a private citizen who's now dead, killed by a suspected right-wing domestic terrorist.

    As Sullivan noted earlier this month:

    It is, moreover, unfair to say I have compared the Bush administration with the Nazis. I haven't.

    I have shown how the exact techniques deployed by the Gestapo were used by Cheney and called by the exact same name - verschaerfte Vernehmung; and how the exact techniques used by the Khmer Rouge were authorized by Bush. These are simply facts that people have to face. This does not mean that the American system of government is the same as that under Hitler in Germany, or that Bush was Hitler. It does mean that human acts are human acts. The act of torture is the same whoever perpetrates it. There is no moral way to torture someone. America is not by virtue of being America somehow immune from the same evil that has occurred throughout human history; and the human beings running the American government are no more and no less human than those who controlled ghastly regimes in the past.

  • Speaking of the troll under the bridge ...

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Tell me again why MSNBC keeps Pat Buchanan on payroll?

    Think Progress catches Buchanan smearing Sonia Sotomayor:

    BUCHANAN: Well I, again in that Saturday piece, she went to Princeton. She graduated first in her class it said. But she herself said she read, basically classic children's books to read and learn the language and she read basic English grammars and she got help from tutors. I think that, I mean if you're, frankly if you're in college and you're working on Pinocchio or on the troll under the bridge, I don't think that's college work.

    Buchanan was referring to this New York Times article:

    Judge Sotomayor is not known to have identified herself as a beneficiary of affirmative action, but she has described her academic struggles as a new student at Princeton from a Roman Catholic school in the Bronx — one of about 20 Hispanics on a campus with more than 2,000 students.

    She spent summers reading children's classics she had missed in a Spanish-speaking home and "re-teaching" herself to write "proper English" by reading elementary grammar books. Only with the outside help of a professor who served as her mentor did she catch up academically, ultimately graduating at the top of her class.

    It's clear from the article that Sotomayor was not, as Buchanan claims, reading Pinocchio as her Princeton coursework, but rather in an effort to sharpen her English. As Think Progress notes, Buchanan has previously stressed the importance of learning English:

    Buchanan has long claimed that Hispanic immigrants are resistant to learning English and has said that it would be easier for them to "assimilate" if they did so. When writing about Mexican immigrants in 2006, Buchanan said that in contrast to Italian immigrants, "millions of Mexicans are determined to retain their language and loyalty to Mexico." Similarly, he has also said that "the road to culture is language" and "they want to keep their Spanish language."

    But it turns out that if Hispanic immigrants* do make an effort to strengthen their English language skills, Buchanan will make fun of them and lie about their academic accomplishments. Kind of makes you wonder whether his comments about language have ever been sincere, or if they were merely a fig leaf meant to hide his real problem with Hispanics, doesn't it?

    Pat Buchanan's track record is clear: He's a bigot. He doesn't think women or minorities are the equal of white men like Pat Buchanan and Richard Nixon. He has made that plain over the past 40 years. And yet he continues to be employed by MSNBC -- and you never hear a word of complaint or criticism about it from other journalists, because Pat Buchanan is a respected member of The Village.

    * Sotomayor isn't an immigrant, but the situations are pretty directly analogous for these purposes.