• Conservative columnist dismisses liberal media bias claim

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby notes that the simplistic right-wing claim that newspapers are failing because they're too liberal just doesn't make any sense:

    Conservatives often accuse liberals, with reason, of clinging to emotion-based fantasies even when they are contradicted by real-world facts and results - of preferring to see what they believe, rather than believe what they see. But the right has its shibboleths too, and one of them is that liberal bias explains why so many newspapers are hurting.

    Adds Jacoby [emphasis added]:

    if liberal media bias is the explanation, why are undeniably left-of-center papers like the Globe, The New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle attracting more readers than ever when visitors to their websites are taken into account? How does liberal bias explain the shutdown of Denver's more conservative Rocky Mountain News, but not the more liberal Denver Post?

    Newspapers are hurting because their traditional business model has been made obsolete. (Is this a mystery to anyone?) But conservatives prefer to concoct their own partisan, alternate universe explanation.

  • TNR owes Sonia Sotomayor a correction

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    It's getting more and more clear that Jeffrey Rosen's TNR article about Sonia Sotomayor is nothing more than a hatchet job.

    First we learned that Rosen wrote the piece before -- by his own admission -- he had read enough of her opinions or talked to enough people to get a "fully balanced picture of her strengths." Then we learned that Rosen misrepresented a statement by a colleague of Sotomayor in order to make her look bad. Now it turns out that Rosen also cropped a quote to omit praise of her intellect -- praise that would have been inconsistent with his premise that Sotomayor is intellectually inadequate for the Supreme Court.

    Here's Rosen:

    The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was "not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench," as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. "She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren't penetrating and don't get to the heart of the issue." (During one argument, an elderly judicial colleague is said to have leaned over and said, "Will you please stop talking and let them talk?") The Second Circuit judge Jose Cabranes, who would later become her colleague, put this point more charitably in a 1995 interview with The New York Times: "She is not intimidated or overwhelmed by the eminence or power or prestige of any party, or indeed of the media."

    But Cabranes wasn't making the point that Sotomayor was "not that smart," charitably or otherwise. In fact, he made precisely the opposite point. The New Yorker's Amy Davidson explains:

    Actually, Cabranes was making a different point. Here's the part of his quote that Rosen-oddly enough-omits: "She's tough and tenacious as well as smart." That "smart" bit would have been helpful in a piece about whether she's smart. (One wonders, too, about Rosen's use of a quote that another judge "is said to have leaned over and said"-why the double said? If he couldn't get a transcript, then a citation, or some context, would be interesting; maybe she is a big bully. Or is this a line Rosen heard secondhand and couldn't nail down?)

    So Rosen took a quote in which Cabranes called Sotomayor "smart," cropped out the bit about her being smart, and claimed that Cabranes was making the point that Sotomayor is "not that smart."


    Wow. That's "No Exit"-level dishonest.

    Maybe someday someone can explain to me why Stephen Glass gets (rightly) fired for making up quotes for The New Republic, but Jeffrey Rosen can crop a quote to make someone look like they said the opposite of what they really said -- and TNR doesn't even bother to correct the article.

  • Ambinder responds

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday, I noted that Marc Ambinder suggested that Rep. Steve King thinks "sexuality shouldn't matter at all" - a description of King that is inconsistent with his opposition to gay rights. That followed a post on April 20 in which I questioned Ambinder's description of Republicans who wage anti-gay campaigns as "pro-gay."

    After yesterday's post, Ambinder emailed a response, which I am posting below with his permission. Back in February, Ambinder wrote the following, under the headline "Get Out Of Your D$*#( Shells":

    Here's a simple way to increase intellectual cross-pollination on the web: honest bloggers of the left and the right should try to interview at least one author/historian/politician from the other side of the aisle at least one a month. So -- Media Matters shouldn't just criticize Bernard Goldberg; they should interview him. Glenn Greenwald should, I don't know, see if Jack Goldsmith from Harvard would chat with him online. ... Righties interviewing righties has gotten so boring and repetitive; lefties fawning over lefties is lazy. Who's going to be brave enough to reach out to an ideological or intellectual opponent, promote their new book, or interview them?

    In the spirit of the open dialogue between people who disagree that Ambinder advocated, I have interspersed responses to his email below.


    A response:

    "I excuse no one and nothing. I meant to mock Rep. Steve King for his inane and dangerous comments. My "generosity" was meant ironically, but I guess it doesn't come off that way in print.

    It doesn't. Here's what Ambinder wrote of King: "You don't have to be Rep. Steve King -- who here implies that gay people wouldn't be bashed so long as they don't tell people about their sexual orientation -- to have a vague sense of that sexuality shouldn't matter at all, that sexual orientation should be irrelevant as a way of judging someone for any job, anywhere."

    The construct "You don't have to be X to believe Y" clearly suggests that X does believe Y. I take Ambinder at his word that he did not mean to suggest that King thinks sexuality is irrelevant - but that's what he wrote.

    As of 12:30 pm today, Ambinder's post still contains that language, with no clarification, despite the fact that he acknowledged yesterday that his comment about King "doesn't come off" the way he intended.

    Ambinder, continuing directly:

    You're writing about a report, incidentally, who regularly calls a significant portion of the GOP base "anti-gay" - not "anti-gay rights" or some circumlocution, but anti-gay. They oppose gay people, primarily, and as a consequence, oppose gay rights.

    Many GOP strategists - most of the major names - and virtually all of the ones who work regularly in DC - are personally sympathetic to gay rights, although they often use the issue against gays, because that's how Republicans get elected in Republican areas. These strategists are cynical, yes, and they're not morally committed to the cause. They're more like alcoholics who failed rehab, they can't help themselves. That's what reporting suggests.

    These two paragraphs seem to be a reference to my April 20 post. In that post, I took Ambinder to task for describing Republicans who participate in anti-gay political activity as "pro-gay." In his email above, Ambinder again stipulates that the Republicans in question "often use the issue [gay rights] against gays, because that's how Republicans get elected." This time Ambinder describes them as "personally sympathetic to gay rights" but "cynical" and "not morally committed to the cause" and "like alcoholics who failed rehab." Had he described them that way on April 17, I would not have criticized him. But he didn't describe them that way; he called them "pro-gay."

    I stand by my contention that "pro-gay" is an absurd description for people who, by Ambinder's description, run anti-gay campaigns.

    Ambinder, continuing directly:

    Media Matters very often conflates "is" and "ought;" it takes observations and it turns them into prescriptions.

    And reporters very often hide behind the contention that they are simply describing the world as it is. That defense often rings hollow, but rarely as hollow as it does here. Saying that Republicans who run anti-gay campaigns are really pro-gay isn't an "observation," it is a characterization. An obviously silly one. And neither of my posts have anything to do with what "ought" to be; they have to do with Ambinder's faulty descriptions of what is. Steve King is not someone who thinks sexuality doesn't matter. It is not the case that people who run campaigns attacking and opposing gay rights are pro-gay.

    Further, Ambinder began his email by conceding that what he wrote about King did not convey his intended point. Now it seems he wants to be judged based on what he ought to have written.

    Ambinder, continuing directly:

    That's why we reporters ignore your criticisms most of the time. They're provocative, but often illogical.

    My post went online at 3:25 yesterday afternoon. Ambinder's email response appeared in my inbox at 3:58 yesterday afternoon. Just sayin' ...

    Ambinder, continuing directly:

    Jamison's implication today is pretty audacious, and it's factually inaccurate, and easily correctable. Hence my response."

    I don't know what Ambinder thinks I was implying, because he didn't say what he thinks I implied. But my point was quite clear: For the second time in recent weeks, Ambinder downplayed the extent of Republican anti-gay bigotry. That point is pretty well-supported by the facts, and I implied nothing beyond it.

    For the record, I asked Ambinder what was factually inaccurate about my post, since he did not specify in his email. He declined the opportunity to identify any such inaccuracy. Should he or anyone else do so, I will correct my post.

    In the meantime, I await a clarification to his post, explaining that he did not mean to suggest King does not think sexuality matters. As he has acknowledged privately, his intended point did not come through in print.

  • WashPost adopts GOP spin as news

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The A1 article is about Obama's proposed budget and the cuts the WH is proposing:

    Obama's Budget Knife Yields Modest Trims

    Right in the headline readers get the spin; Obama wants cuts, but they're not enough. (i.e. 17B? Puh-lease.)

    But is that really the Post's job to make that claim that Obama's cuts fall short in a straight news story? By comparison here are some other news org headlines which treat the story in a much more straight forward manner:

    -""W.H. on Budget: $3.55 Trillion...With $17 Billion in Cuts" [ABC]

    -"Obama set to suggest $17B in cuts" (USA Today)

    -"Obama Will Propose $17 Billion in Budget Cuts" [WSJ]

    '"Obama Plans $17B In Cuts" [The Hill]

    -"Obama Will Propose $17 Billion in Budget Cuts " [NYTimes]

    Meanwhile, where did the WashPost get the idea that Obama's cuts were too "modest"? The GOP, of course:

    The relatively short list of proposed program cuts quickly drew fire from Republicans who learned of them yesterday.

  • Karl Rove picks the Supreme Court

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    There are all kinds of suboptimal things that happen when you give Karl Rove a column. The most predictable consequence, of course, is that you regularly publish things that just aren't true, or are so misleading as to render the difference between "misleading" and "false" obsolete. Steve Benen catches one such example today.

    But it isn't just the falsity of Rove's columns that sets him apart from your run-of-the-mill lying right-wing hacks. It's the audacity.

    Consider, for example, Rove's column today, in which he criticizes "activist" judges and favorably quotes Antonin Scalia saying "It is simply not compatible with democratic theory that laws mean whatever they ought to mean, and that unelected judges decide what that is." Then he criticizes "judges who think of themselves as legislators" and says Republicans and the nation "favor[] judges who strictly apply the law"

    And then consider that Karl Rove got his cozy West Wing office because Antonin Scalia and like-minded Justices handed down a decision that was so at odds with precedent, law, common sense and basic principles of democracy that they explicitly wrote that it should not be used as precedent in any future case.

  • After hyping Luntz memo, Politico downplays pro-health care memo

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday, as you may recall, Politico's Mike Allen copied-and-pasted nearly 1,000 words from a Frank Luntz memo advising Republicans on how to defeat health care reform. Allen didn't bother to include any fact-checking or opposing voices; he just passed on Luntz' GOP spin.

    Well, today, Politico got its hands on another health care memo, by another famous political pollster. This one was by Democrat Celinda Lake, and it offers advice on language to use in support of health care reform. So, did Politico extensively quote this memo without providing a counterpoint?


    This memo got a mere blog post, not full article placement. And that blog post only quoted 25 words from the memo. And the blog post included -- again! -- Luntz' advice on how to defeat health care.

    Maybe Politico would take Celinda Lake's memo more seriously if she got herself reprimanded by the American Association for Public Opinion Research, like Luntz? Nah, she'd probably have to oppose health care reform, too.

  • The Red Scare Index: 25

    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, Socialists, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communists, Communistic, Marxism, Marxist, Marxists, Marxistic, Fascism, Fascist, Fascists and Fascistic.

    Here are the numbers for yesterday, Wednesday, May 6, 2009:

    TOTAL: 25
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 9
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 8
    Marxism/Marxist: 2
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 6

    By Network:

    CNN: 2
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    CNN Headline News: 2
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox News Channel: 6
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 5
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 1
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox Business Network: 5
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 3

    MSNBC: 8
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 2
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 2

    CNBC: 2
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 1
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

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

  • WashTimes makes up more stuff about DHS "extremism" report

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    At this point the Times has so mangled the facts of the story I seriously doubt anyone at the paper even pretends they matter.

    Here's today's installment of misinformation [emphasis added]:

    House Republicans demanded Wednesday that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano detail how the controversial "right-wing extremism" report was compiled, using a rare legislative maneuver that ensures that the Democrats must take a public stand - one way or another.

    The request asks Ms. Napolitano to release information on how the report was compiled. The report sparked a furor from conservatives included in the definition of "right-wing extremism" and prompted Ms. Napolitano to apologize to the nation's veterans.

    False. In fact, it's the exact opposite: the report sparked a furor from conservatives who were specifically not included in the definition of "right-wing extremism." That's what made the who pseudo-controversy so odd. The DHS released a report that made passing reference to homegrown, right-wing domestic terrorist (think, skinheads), and mainstream conservatives who were not mentioned in the report jumped up and down and claimed it was about them.

    Don't ask us why Republicans saw themselves in a report about violent terrorist groups, but they did. And now to cover up that comfortableness, and to stoke their beloved victimhood status, they claim the report was about picked-upon conservatives, even though it was not. And eagerly spreading the misinformation is the WashTimes.

    Then again, isn't that pretty much its job description?