• CBS's Andrew Heyward: I'd pander to the right again

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    NPR reports on Dan Rather's ongoing court battle with CBS over Memogate. As CF recently detailed, Rather's lawsuit has shed new light on just how far CBS went to make sure its "independent" panel investigating the matter made conservative critics happy; to make sure its principals would "mollify" the right. (CBS considered including Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh on the "independent" panel.) In other words, CBS kowtowed.

    NPR asked Andrew Heyward, who was president of CBS News at the time, about the network's desire in 2004 to skew its investigation:

    "This was my view of what we needed to do to cauterize the wounds and have a credible result across a broad spectrum, including our harshest critics," Heyward says. "I would do the same thing today."

    Walter Robinson, the Boston Globe reporter who first broke the Bush National Guard story in 2000, remains dumbstruck by the CBS kowtowing. He tells NPR:

    "It's inexcusable that CBS would attempt to rig the panel...The idea that a serious news network would consider Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh to pass some sort of fair-minded judgment on something — it's mind-boggling."

  • David Gregory plays dumb with Condoleezza Rice

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Somebody should write a book about the press coverage Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been able to manufacture for herself over the last eight years. It's really quite amazing how she managed to sail through the demolition derby that was the Bush administration--and have her fingerprints all over some of its biggest failings--and come out smelling like a rose inside press rooms.

    Not only has she managed to escape unscathed from the press, the Beltway press actually adores her and has remained absolutely committed (especially the TV talking heads) to never asking her an uncomfortable question and never, ever asking a pointed follow-up. As we mentioned recently, it's literally become media game: The TV hosts ask innocuous questions to Rice about Iraq. She responds with misleading information knowing full well that her host is never going to call her on it. And then the two dance onto another topic.

    So it makes perfect sense that MTP's new hosts David Gregory broke in his chair over the weekend with a "pillow soft" interview with Rice, as Crooks and Liars put it. The display (see it here) really had nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with Gregory subscribing to Beltway social customs.

  • The L.A. Times hides a writer's anti-union bias

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The daily this week published a full-throated anti-union opinion piece (screed?) that attacks Labor Secretary nominee, Congresswoman Hilda Solis. It was written by Bret Jacobson. Who's he? Here's how the LA Times describes Jacobson at the bottom of his op-ed:

    Bret Jacobson is founder and president of Maverick Strategies LLC, a research and communications firm serving business and free-market think tanks.

    Sounds rather innocuous, right? Not quite. Blogger Matt Browner Hamlin fills in the blanks. Bottom line:

    The most important piece of Jacobson's biography - his professional connection to one of the biggest anti-union groups in America - is left out of a column that specifically pushes [an anti-union] agenda.

    Seems if the Times wants to allow Big Business surrogates to denigrate unions and their workers in the pages of the daily, than the Times ought to at least be upfront about who's doing it.

  • Politico, please define "some Democrats"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Mike Allen preps the release of the internal Obama report regarding contact between his staff and Blago's re: filling his U.S. senate seat. The press has been hyping the issue, and the pending report, beyond recognition, with all sorts of claims the new Democratic team has become ensnared and that dark clouds have descended.

    Reporters now, it seems, don't even bother to offer up evidence when suggesting Obama has been tainted by the soggy story. Here's Allen [emphasis added]:

    The complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose conversations had been secretly taped by federal investigators, tested the smoothly running Obama transition, with some Democrats fretting that the case presents a distraction that could last into the new administration.

    Number of Democrats quoted or mentioned in the article suggesting the Blago "distraction" could drag on? Zero.

    Number of Democrats even quoted or mentioned in the entire article, period? Zero.

  • Chris Matthews compares Obama to Nixon and W.

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Neat trick, right?

    First, what's the nation's most pressing issue? On Matthews' weekend syndicated show, the first topic up for discussion was Obama's relations with the press. Because, as Crooks and Liars noted, "it's all about the media, dontcha know?"

    Second, that's where Matthews compared Obama to Nixon and Bush. Both Republicans displayed an open contempt for the media (with Nixon, it was more of an unhinged hatred), and Matthews suggested Obama (aka "this guy") was going to be just like them.

    Third, it's curious that Obama hasn't even taken office yet and already Matthews was harping on the president-elect's press relations. I'd sure be interested to see, during Bush's eight years in office, how many panel discussion the Chris Matthews Show hosted to complain about how Bush treated the press. We doubt there were many during the Lapdog days.

  • About Howie Kurtz's "Obama Adulation Watch"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It's a way for the WaPo's Kurtz to mock journalists who he thinks write overly positive things about the new Democratic, president-elect.

    Note that in 1992, The New Republic ran its "Clinton Suck-Up Watch," in order to mock journalists the magazine thought wrote overly positive things about the new, Democratic president-elect.

    Note who's missing from these journalism watches? The Republican, of course. In 2001, president Bush was rewarded with soft, loving press coverage. But we don't recall reading running installments at TNR or the Post that mocked journalists for writing overly positive things about the new Republican president. Did we just not see them at the time, or is fawning coverage of a Republican not considered to be a big deal?

  • The WSJ telegraphs how it's not going to let the Blago/Obama story die

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    No matter what the released report says about the contacts between Obama's team and Blago.

    Monday's Journal news report acknowledges that Obama sources insists the report won't contain any damning information. And Stephanopoulos over the weekend reported that Rahm Emanuel was caught on tape telling Blago all he'd receive from Obama was "appreciation" if an Obama favorite was selected to fill his U.S. senate seat.

    But the Journal, on behalf of the Beltway press corps, announces that it already has a back-up plan in order to hype the non-scandal [emphasis added]:

    Regardless of how clean the Obama camp is, the release of the report isn't likely to be clean. Thursday, former President Bill Clinton released a list of 205,000 donors -- many of them foreign governments -- to his foundation, which he had promised to do as a condition for his wife Sen. Hillary Clinton's nomination as secretary of state. That set off a scramble to tie donors to policy predicaments facing the Obama administration.

    See, similar to Isikoff, the Journal suggests Obama's just like Clinton.

    But at least the Journal's upfront about its future Blago coverage: Regardless of what the report indicates, the press isn't going to drop the story.

    Behold your press corps at work.

  • Will the Beltway press follows Stephanopoulos' lead, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, the answer is a resounding no.

    Technically, Isikoff's Blago piece, which takes breathlessness to new heights, was likely written before Stephanopoulos' Sunday scoop about how there may be no 'there' there re: Emanuel and Blago; the angle the press is praying provides some actual spark to the soggy saga. But even if Stephanopoulos' scoop completely deflates Isikoff's almost comicly innuendo-driven report, it's still worth a look just to understand the sad state of Beltway journalism, where concocting what-if's about Democrats has become a full-time profession.

    Isikoff's headline: "If I Had Subpoena Power: Five Questions for Obama."

    Note right away Newsweek invokes the spector of Obama being dogged by subpoenas, which is interesting considering prosecutors have made clear they don't think Obama or Emanuel did anythng wrong in the Blago case. But Newsweek wants to create the Clinton-like impression of the Democratic president seeing supbeanas at every turn.

    Isikoff's lead:

    Invoking his wartime commander-in-chief authority, NEWSWEEK Editor Jon Meacham has granted yours truly, a lowly investigative correspondent, sweeping subpoena power to demand that President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team answer all my questions about their dealings with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who stands accused of putting Obama's vacant U.S. Senate up for sale to the highest bidder. (He vowed on Dec. 19 to fight the charges "until I take my last breath.") It remains unclear whether Obama's assorted spinmeisters and lawyers will honor these subpoenas-or even return my phone calls. But in the meantime, the public at least deserves to know the most crucial questions.

    A couple things are telling here. Note the almost fooling around/ha-ha tone at the top; Iskikoff's editor has granted the "lowly" reporter subpeana power. See, it's a game. Newsweek's just having a laugh while it smears the president-elect by painting a false picture of him at the center of a criminal investigation, which he is not.

    Second, don't you love how at the end Isikoff claim's he's only wallowing in what-if's because the public deserves to know. See, it's not the Village that's obsessed wtih the Blago story, it's the public. (We have our doubts about that.)

    But this part is also priceless: Isikoff thinks the public needs to know what the most crucial questions are. Not the answers, but the questions. Why is that key? Becuase any journalist can sit around and dream up Blago-related questions. That takes no actual reporting, which is why the Blago story remains such a big hit. Answers, though? Those are much harder to produce. (Credit Stephanopoulos, he seems to have uncovered some.)

    As for the hyped five questions Isikoff would ask if he could put the president-election under oath (gee, nothing presumptuous with that premise, right?), trust us, his five have been floated, literally, by every other Blago-obsessed pundit in the Beltway over the last two weeks.

    Behold your press corps at work.