• WSJ editorial page advertises its ignorance

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Today, it's in the form of a brief editorial (no link found) headlined "Obama's Press List," which chastised Obama for referring to a list of reporters he was going to call on during his Monday press conference

    The President was running down a list of reporters pre-selected to ask questions. the White House had decided in advance who would be allowed to question the President and who was left out.

    We actually agree with the main point; that presidents ought not to use cheat sheets at press conferences for the simple task of calling on reporters. (It tends to cheapen the process.) But the Journal then immediately drove into a ditch when it claimed Obama's predecessor would have never done something like that:

    We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with pre-screening his interlocutors.

    Except, of course, when Bush did pre-screen his queries, like during his primetime news conference on the eve of war with Iraq in 2003. From Lapdogs [emphasis added]:

    At one point while making his way through the press questioners, Bush awkwardly referred to a list of reporters who he was instructed to call on. "This is scripted," he joked. The press laughed. But Bush meant it was scripted, literally. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer later admitted he compiled Bush's cheat sheet, which made sure he did not call on reporters from some prominent outlets like Time, Newsweek, USA Today, or The Washington Post.

  • Caught red-handed using GOP talking points, Fox caves with apology ... for typo

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Yesterday, Media Matters noted:

    In purporting to "take a look back" at how the economic recovery plan "grew, and grew, and grew," Fox News' Jon Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods -- all of which came directly from a Senate Republican Communications Center press release. A Fox News on-screen graphic even reproduced a typo contained in the Republican press release.

    My, how a day of criticism from media critics and progressive bloggers changes things – even at Fox News. Today, Scott offered... an apology of sorts (emphasis added):

    Yesterday on Happening Now we showed you how the stimulus bill has grown over time. Our story prompted by a news release from the Senate Republican Communication Center. There point that a $56 billion proposal in September has grown to $838 billion in five months. In compiling the story, our producers and researchers did what we always do -- we verified the accuracy of the material. But in double checking the newspaper quotes referenced in that news release we made the same mistake they did. We labeled a Wall Street Journal article as having run in 2009 when in fact it was 2008. That was our error, and we apologize.

    Of course, I'm kidding.

    See what Scott does there? He apologizes, not for passing along a one-sided argument made in a Senate Republican Communications Center's press release as Fox News' original reporting, but for reporting the typo.

    In his initial report, Scott didn't tell his audience that the citations in his report were based entirely on a press release from the Senate Republicans – a fact he glosses over in his half-hearted apology for the typo.

    I'd question Fox News' journalistic integrity; that is of course if they had any to question in the first place.



  • Examiner whitewashes Richard Berman's anti-worker record

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Today's Examiner features an op-ed by Richard Berman titled "Employee Free Choice Act may backfire on unions." At the bottom of the column, the Examiner identifies Berman:

    Richard Berman is executive director of the Center for Union Facts, a non-profit 501(c3) union watchdog organization. Learn more at

    Now, you might think from that identification, and the column headline, that Richard Berman's opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act is motivated by a desire to look out for the well-being of the nation's labor unions.

    In fact, Berman is an anti-union activist and lobbyist who does the bidding of big business via front groups he creates with warm-and-fuzzy sounding names like "The Center for Consumer Freedom" and "The Employee Freedom Action Committee."

    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.

  • Jake Tapper as the new David Gregory?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Rachel Sklar offered up an interesting take on the comparison, in the wake of Tapper's "pissing" match last with WH flak Robert Gibbs. (Tapper pretty much lectured Gibbs following a rather mundane exchange between the two. Y'know, just like reporters used to lecture Ari Fleischer back in February 2001.....)

    According to Sklar, the much-discussed scuffle caused quite a tizzy inside the press room.

    Tapper won that point—we've seen just how pertinent it is to Cabinet nominees that they pay their taxes—but with it came something else: the title of Briefing Room Badass.

    And then came the inevitable comparison with NBC's David Gregory. Reported Sklar:

    No less than three separate Washington political reporters spontaneously compared him to Gregory, who made his name being a thorn in the side of various White House press secretaries.

    Interesting point. But here's where the lack of context comes in within the WH press room. The Tapper/Gibbs exchange took place during the third week of the Obama administration. David Gregory however, did not make a name for himself as a thorn in the side of the Bush White House until like four years after Bush was sworn into office.

    Interesting, right? The WH press corps is all atwitter just days into the Democratic term over who's going to be the official press room "Badass" during the Democratic administration. But that's something nobody in the same press room even thought about becoming until 50 months into Bush's tenure.

    No double standard there, right?

    In fact, get this. During the first 100 days of the Bush White House back in 2001, Gregory, rather than being a pitbull, was honored by the right-wing Media Research Center as the Best White House Correspondent for Gregory's pro-Bush coverage.

  • 2009, meet 1993

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In the Financial Times, columnist Martin Wolf, addressing Obama's handling of the unfolding financial crisis, writes:

    Has Barack Obama's presidency already failed? In normal times, this would be a ludicrous question. But these are not normal times.

    I had to chuckle. Wolf prefaced his comments by ackowleding it normally would be "ludicrous" for a pundit just weeks into a new president's term to declare it a failure. Sheer madness.

    What Wolf should have suggested was that it would be ludicrous for a pundit just weeks into a new Republican president's term to declare it a failure. Because that truly is crazy talk. Nobody in the press would ever air such an insulting claim. But when it comes to declaring Democratic presidents to be complete failures just weeks into their tenure, that's old habit by now.

    See, members of the press did the same thing back in 1993, the last time a new Democratic president arrived in the White House. As I noted in a November column:

    On January 31, 1993, 12 days after Clinton had been sworn into office, Sam Donaldson appeared on ABC and made this jarring announcement: "Last week, we could talk about, 'Is the honeymoon over?' This week, we can talk about, 'Is the presidency over?' " (At the time, Clinton's approval rating hovered around 65 percent.)

    I'm chuckling again reading about Clinton's 65 percent approval rating at the time of the media's failed presidency meme: Isn't that the exact same approval rating Obamaacknowledging enjoys today?

  • Zogby embarrasses itself with anti-stimulus push polling

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Get a load of these "some say" and "most Republicans oppose" questions:

    "Some people say that the nearly one trillion dollars in debt and subsequent interest incurred by the stimulus bill during an economic downturn will make the recovery hard to achieve. Do you agree or disagree?"

    "Some Republicans say the Obama stimulus package spends too much and stimulates too little. Do you agree or disagree?"

    "Most Republicans oppose the currently proposed stimulus bill supported by President Obama because they say there is too much money being spent for non-stimulus items. Do you agree or disagree that too much money is being spent on items that won't improve the economy?"

    How loopy is the poll, done in conjunction with something called ATI-News? It doesn't even register the response among Democrats. It only measure answers from Republicans and Independents. (At least, that's what the press release does.)

    Naturally right-wingers are pushing the "Zogby poll," but if a single news organization runs with this data it will be a disgrace.

    UPDATE: As we learn from the ConWebBlog:

    ATI News is merely an aggregator of other news websites and generates no original content, and O'Leary is author of the WorldNetDaily-published Obama-bashing speculative fantasy "The Audacity of Deceit." So O'Leary clearly has a biased agenda to push, as if the Zogby poll he commissioned wasn't evenough proof of that.

  • Old habits die hard

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Actual question from Politico's Patrick Gavin to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: "Do you think you look pretty in pink?"

    If chiding the White House press secretary for wearing a pink tie seems like the kind of behavior you would expect from an insecure 13 year old rather than a prominent national news organization, you haven't been paying attention. This is just the latest in a long pattern of media figures attempting to feminize promintent male Democrats -- from jokes about John Kerry getting manicures to calling John Edwards the "Breck Girl" to Maureen Dowd's comparison of Barack Obama to Scarlett O'Hara.

  • Scary rhetoric?, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We noted this earlier; this media meme about how Obama shouldn't be saying all these bad things about the economy. And that he's trying to scare people into supporting his stimulus bill. We also detailed how Americans, according to the polling data, have pretty much been freaked out of their minds about the economy for months, and long before Obama began talking about passing legislation.

    At FDL, they caught the fact that the AP's Jennifer Loven played that same card during Obama's primetime presser [emphasis added]:

    Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier today in Indiana, you said something striking. You said that this nation could end up in a crisis without action that we would be unable to reverse. Can you talk about what you know or what you're hearing that would lead you to say that our recession might be permanent when others in our history have not? And do you think that you risk losing some credibility or even talking down the economy by using dire language like that?

    Ugh. What had Obama been hearing that led him to use "dire language" about the country's economic crisis? Honestly, if Loven doesn't know, she shouldn't be asking questions at the WH.

  • Dept. of Bad Timing

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Via Calderone, it seems Esquire has a new profile of Fox's Shepard Smith. In it, the anchor offers a common defense of Fox's objectivity:

    "There has to be news at a place called Fox News," he says, and he's not the only one. It's the mantra of the network, the fallback equation that — until the recent entrance of Glenn Beck, anyway — has enabled its employees to distinguish between the programming that takes place between nine in the morning and eight at night, which is called News, and the programming that takes over thereafter, which is called Opinion. "I think we do a pretty good job of labeling it for the viewer," Shep says.

    Again: that's the Standard Fox Line. O'Reilly and Hannity may be ideologues, but during the day, Fox is straight news. Fair and balanced.

    That has always been an absurd claim, of course. But today, it's particularly funny. See, on today's edition of Fox's Happening Now, one of those supposedly unbiased daytime news programs, Fox tried to pass off a Republican press release as its own reporting. As Media Matters demonstrated, the Fox "reporting" copied the GOP press release word for word -- right down to a typo.

    So, what was that you were saying, Shep?

  • Politico uncritically reports Huckabee's "anti-religious" nonsense on economic recovery plan

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    As Washington Monthly's Steve Benen notes, former Arkansas Governor and current Fox News host Mike "Huckabee doesn't know what he's talking about."

    Perhaps Politico should have taken that into consideration before uncritically repeating Huckabee's false claim that the economic recovery package is "anti-religious." Though the provision Huckabee cited is correct -- the bill would not provide money to be used on a religious "school or department of divinity" -- Politico did not note that, contrary to Huckabee's suggestion that this provision is a consequence of the liberal trifecta of Pelosi-Reid-Obama, such provisions were included in bills passed when the Republicans were in the majority, as Media Matters has noted.

    Benen continues:

    Look, if Mike Huckabee doesn't like the stimulus bill, fine. But to tell people the legislation is "anti-religious" is just insane. Or, to put it another way, Huckabee is bearing false witness, which as he may have heard, is generally frowned upon.

    Regular readers know the story by now, but if you're just joining us, this myth has been making the rounds in right-wing circles for about a week. Originally, the American Center for Law and Justice, a right-wing legal group formed by TV preacher Pat Robertson, said the stimulus bill includes a provision that would prohibit "religious groups and organizations from using" buildings on college campuses. Soon after, religious right groups and right-wing blogs were up in arms, demanding that lawmakers fix the "anti-Christian" language of the bill. Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network helped get the word out to the far-right base about the nefarious measure. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) actually tried to have the provision removed from the bill.

    There was, however, one small problem: there was no such measure. The ACLJ doesn't know how to read legislation, and didn't realize that the standard language in the bill simply blocks spending for on-campus buildings that are used primarily for religion (like a chapel, for example). This same language has been part of education spending bills for 46 years. It's just the law, and it's never been controversial.

    More on this issue: Fox promotes falsehood that provision in recovery bill would prohibit any religious activity in facilities receiving money