• Still waiting for George Will's correction

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The conservative columnist's stab at becoming a global warming denier has attracted lots of attention and ridicule this week. But perhaps more important than the guffaws is the question, where's the WashPost correction regarding the sizable factual error at the center of its writer's column?

    As blogger Dan Kennedy noted:

    Syndicated columnist George Will presents only one piece of evidence in his Sunday piece denying global warming — and he gets it wrong...What does it take for Will and/or the Washington Post to append a correction? As of 6:30 p.m., there was still nothing. Is it because his entire commentary looks ridiculous if he retracts the sole relevant factual nugget he included in his diatribe?

    Good question. Is anybody at the Post listening?

  • Even Pat Robertson thinks Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" comment was "a terrible thing to say"

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    From Huffington Post:

    In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, conservative Christian leader Pat Robertson denounced talk show host Rush Limbaugh for saying he wants President Obama to fail.

    "So you don't subscribe to Rush Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" school of thought?" asked interviewer Dan Gilgoff.

    "That was a terrible thing to say," Robertson responded. "I mean, he's the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn't, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally."

    How long before Robertson joins Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) in groveling at Rush's feet for forgiveness?

  • I repeat, Conservative claims of ACORN money in Obama's recovery plan are just nuts

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    In today's idiocy watch over at Washington Monthly's Political Animal, Steve Benen notes that on a local Minnesota conservative radio show Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachman made the provably false allegation that President Obama's economic recovery plan gives the community action group ACORN "$5 billion."

    Benen writes:

    A friend passed along an item from the weekend, with an audio clip of Michele Bachmann chatting with a conservative talk-show host in Minnesota. In the ongoing debate as to which member of Congress is the single most ridiculous, this interview is very compelling evidence that Bachmann is, at a minimum, near the front of the pack.


    Bachmann "explained" to the host and Minnesota audience:

    * ACORN is "under federal indictment for voter fraud," but the stimulus bill nevertheless gives ACORN "$5 billion." (In reality, ACORN is not under federal indictment and isn't mentioned in the stimulus bill at all.)

    Benen is spot on. This is a lie that Media Matters has debunked time and again. Attacks like these on ACORN have become standard operating procedure for conservatives of late. Think of it this way... you know how Lou Dobbs can twist any report or purported scandal into an indictment of undocumented immigrants (illegals, as many on the right refer to them)? Well, ACORN is the right's new boogeyman.

    Perhaps they don't like that an organization actually exists with the sole purpose of assisting low and moderate income people through voter registration, community organizing, issue campaigns, ballot initiatives, and direct services to communities in need.

    And before the righties leap to the comments thread with allegations of ACORN voter fraud, they should get their facts straight.

  • What if the press did context, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Last week we noted it might--just might--be helpful for news consumers if the press, while covering the stimulus 'debate,' reminded people how Republicans treated then-new president Bill Clinton's centerpiece economic initiative in 1993. (Hint: Republicans uniformly dumped all over it and claimed it would ruin the U.S. economy. Sound familiar?)

    Over at Crook and Liars, Jon Perr adds more context to the 1993 vote:

    As it turns out, Obama wasn't the first Democrat to learn the hard way that bipartisanship is a one-way street for the GOP when it comes to the economy. In 1993, Bill Clinton's $496 billion stimulus and deficit-cutting program passed without a single Republican vote.

    Perr also provided the helpful table below. But don't look for it to be reproduced anywhere in the mainstream press. Journalists are too busy playing dumb about 1993, which, c'mon people, has no relevance to current events.

  • Privileging the lie, continued

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Matt Yglesias catches Politico's David Rogers privileging the lie in an article about high-speed rail funding in the stimulus bill. Rogers quotes GOP Rep. Candice Miller "explaining" that she voted against the bill because "the Senate majority leader has earmarked $8 billion for a rail system from Las Vegas to Los Angeles." The problem is, that isn't true - and Rogers doesn't tell his readers that.


    Rogers ... knows what the truth is, knows what conservatives have been saying, and knows that the two are different things, but he can't quite seem to describe what's happening with regular English words. ... Rep Miller wasn't "explaining" anything, she was lying to her constituents. Nor were conservatives running a "campaign to find pork barrel projects int he stimulus bill" they were inventing fictional projects. Nor were obscure House backbenchers like Miller running a rogue operation here. House Minority Leader John Boehner led the charge on peddling this lie, and Senator Jim Demint was on the case as well.

    This doesn't seem very complicated to me, but many reporters still don't seem to understand that when you quote a false claim without making clear that it is false, you are spreading a falsehood. You are granting an advantage to dishonest claims at the expense of truth.

    And -- this part really should go without saying -- that's bad.

  • Taking the "bi" out of "bipartisanship"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Eric Boehlert and I have both written a lot lately about the media's fetishization of bipartisanship -- and the fact that they insist on attempts at bipartisanship from Democrats much more than from Republicans. I devoted my latest column to that fact on Friday.

    Today, Digby provides a striking example: Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen -- ostensibly a liberal columnist -- praising Republicans for their principled opposition to President Obama after having blasted liberals for "The demonization of Bush" during the 2004 campaign.

    Anyway: Go read Digby.

  • Center for Economic and Policy Research: "The media badly failed in its responsibility to inform the public"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    A new statement from the Center for Economic and Policy Research blasts the media's coverage of the stimulus:

    The media badly failed in its responsibility to inform the public about one of the most important economic policy proposals to come before Congress in the last decade. Most of the public still does not even know what stimulus means, in large part because reporters apparently did not want to call attention to the fact that spending is, almost by definition, stimulus.

    The media also failed to put the proposal in any perspective, routinely using adjectives like "enormous" or "massive" without any reference to the size of the demand gap the stimulus was designed to fill. They also failed to put the various components of the stimulus in perspective by, for example, informing the public that the $50 million in funding for the NEA, that was so despised by the Republicans, was equal to less than 0.007 percent of the total package.

    The media have the time to familiarize themselves with the concept of stimulus and to look up the numbers that would allow them to put spending and tax proposals in a meaningful perspective. Their audience does not have the time to do this work. The media once again badly failed the public in its reporting on a major economic issue."

    Quite right. I have argued several times that the news media's obsessive focus on politics rather than policy serves their readers and viewers poorly. Here's one example:

    Consumers of news lack the time, expertise, and, in many cases, ability to determine which of two contradictory statements by competing political figures is true. ... That's where news organizations should -- but, with depressing frequency, have not -- come in. They have -- or should have -- the expertise and the time to assess those claims, and to report the facts. That's what readers, viewers, and listeners need. That's what journalism should be all about.

    On the other hand, as consumers of news, we don't need journalists telling us what the "political impact" of something is going to be; how it will "play at the polls." It's our job to decide that. It's our job to decide who we'll vote for and why; how we'll assess the parties' competing agendas and approaches to the problems we face.

    Instead of telling us how they think we'll react, we need journalists to give us the information upon which we can make an informed decision. To tell us the facts, and the truth, and the relevant context. Then we'll tell them the political impact.

  • Politicians don't "grab" headlines; news organizations grant them

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    MSNBC's First Read:

    John McCain has conducted yet another interview in which he argues that Obama has failed to live up to his promise of bipartisanship. You've got to give McCain credit; the guy knows how to continue to grab headlines. During the Bush years, he was the go-to Republican for Democrats who were looking to prove they could work with a Republican and find middle ground. Now, he's serving as the one-man judge and jury on whether something's bipartisan or not, despite running a hyper-partisan presidential campaign (remember that fellow Bill Ayers?). It's going to make the Obama White House crazy, but McCain's got enough of a following to pull this off for a few months.

    MSNBC didn't mention this, but McCain's claim to be "judge and jury" on Obama's bipartisanship is particularly weak, given that a key message of McCain's presidential campaign was that Obama was insufficiently bipartisan -- an argument that last year's election results suggest the public just didn't buy.

    That aside, it's clear that MSNBC recognizes that McCain is an imperfect messenger here, given the "hyper-partisan presidential campaign" he ran against Obama. Yet MSNBC doesn't seem to realize that the only reason McCain is able to "grab headlines" is that news organizations like MSNBC give him headlines.

    If McCain's complaints don't have merit -- and MSNBC seems to suggest they don't -- but they get coverage anyway, that says something about the news media. So when MSNBC says "McCain's got enough of a following to pull this off," it's clear who that "following" consists of: The news media, including MSNBC.

  • When Rasmussen asks suspect polling questions

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It's likely to get suspect results. I'm just sayin'.

    Here's the latest regarding a new Rasmussen poll that shows a drop in support for the Fairness Doctrine, which, if you listen to over-excited right-wing talkers and scribblers, represents the most pressing concern facing the nation today.

    Problem is, we're not sure Rasmussen understands what the Fairness Doctrine was, or what it did.

    According to Rasmussen [emphasis added]:

    Only 26% of voters believe conservatives have an unfair advantage in the media, the argument several senior congressional Democrats use in pushing for the restoration of the Fairness Doctrine. Sixty-four percent (64%) disagree.

    Most (52%) liberals say conservatives have an unfair advantage, while 79% of conservatives and 64% of moderates disagree.

    Even a majority of Democratic voters (53%) say that conservatives do not have an unfair advantage in the media.

    Seventy-four percent (74%) of voters overall say it is possible for just about any political view to be heard in today's media with the Internet, cable networks, satellite radio, newspapers, radio and TV available. Just 19% disagree.

    It's sort of odd that Rasmussen asked people lots questions about whether conservatives enjoy "an unfair advantage in the media," and if people wanted to, they could find any political view if they searched the media landscape, including "Internet, cable networks, satellite radio, newspapers, radio and TV."

    It's odd because those points have virtually nothing to do with the old Fairness Doctrine, which hasn't been the law of the land for more than two decades. Even when it was the law, the Fairness Doctrine did not deal with the Internet (obviously), or cable networks, satellite radio or newspapers. It only had to do with radio and TV (i.e. the public airwaves.) So why would Rasmussen be asking Fairness Doctrine questions and polling people about political views on media outlets completely unaffected by the Doctrine? Seems odd to me.

    What also seemed odd was demanding to know if conservatives enjoy "an unfair advantage in the media." Again, the Fairness Doctrine did not apply to "the media." It only applied to radio and network TV. So why didn't Rasmussen ask that question? (Possible sample question: According to a 2007 study, 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming in America is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive. Do you think conservatives enjoy an unfair advantage on talk radio?)

    Meanwhile, Rasmussen's press release announced [emphasis added]:

    Just 38% of U.S. voters think that the government should require all radio stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary. Forty-seven percent (47%) oppose government-imposed political balance on radio stations, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

    Again, that's not what the Fairness Doctrine did. Seems that if Rasmussen is going to poll about the long-gone Fairness Doctrine, than Rasmussen ought to, y'know, figure out what the statute actually said.

    I'm just sayin'.

  • For media elites, their class slip is showing

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Headline from ABC News [emphasis added]:

    More Billions for GM, Chrysler? Auto Beggars to D.C.

    We're having trouble remembering headlines that have depicted Wall Street bankers as "beggars" when they lobbied from government bailout help. Then again, in recent months the press has been pretty open about its contempt for middle class autoworkers.