I didn't expect much from Andrew Breitbart's BigJournalism.com, and Breitbart's introductory post, in which he accidentally admitted he's a terrible journalist, confirmed that I was right to set the bar low.
But I think I might have made a mistake. I didn't set the bar low enough.
For example, I never imagined that the fourth-ever post on BigJournalism.com would be written from the perspective of President Obama's dog. I never dreamed that it would go on for over 2,200 words. And I certainly never imagined that it would contain the phrase: "Peggy [Noonan]... she smells good, like mahogany and oranges."
Radio host, Townhall.com columnist, and Fox News Channel contributor Sandy Rios wants to know if Rep. Mark Kirk is gay, or if Kirk's roommate is gay. Probably whether Kirk has ever even met a gay man, too, though she doesn't quite spell that out in her strange diatribe.
Nor is Rios entirely clear on why she wants to know if Kirk is gay. On the one hand, she keeps suggesting that as a gay man, Kirk would be vulnerable to blackmail, apparently for fear of being ostracized if he was outted. On the other hand, Rios writes "Homosexuality has now been mainstreamed and de-stigmatized. Any reason not to be open and honest has now been removed," which would seem to undermine the whole "blackmail" fear.
One thing Rios is sure of: Being gay is just like sending sexually-explicit messages to teenagers working as congressional pages:
[P]ress and Republicans alike are rushing to pooh-pooh what, in spite of the weakness of the messenger, has been the topic of discussion in Washington and elsewhere for quite some time. So, where is the reporting? Where are the cameras? The gleaning of records? The follow up on accusations?
Republicans did the same thing in the Mark Foley/Congressional page scandal. Republican leaders knew about Foley but for some inexplicable reason, covered for him. Do they want to repeat the same here?
The rest of Rios' anti-gay screed is just as spurious, like her claim that we need to know if Kirk is gay "Because we are at war" and a gay Kirk might vote to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, "in spite of the fact that military experts from the top down have argued continually that open homosexuality will harm unit cohesion and have a detrimental effect on morale."
That would be news to General John Shalikashvili, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has said "if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces." And to Charles Larson, a four-star admiral and former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy who joined more than 100 other retired Admirals and Generals in calling for the repeal of DADT. And to former Defense Secretary William Cohen and Colin Powell, both of whom have said the policy needs to be reviewed.
Veteran Washington Post reporter Sally Quinn noted in her piece yesterday afternoon that there has been a reluctance to fire [social secretary] Desiree Rogers due to the fact that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is mulling a bid to run for mayor of Chicago and doesn't want to upset the popular and influential Rogers back in their shared hometown.
Quinn's a "reporter"? That's news to me. But anyway, Christie clearly suggested Quinn had nailed down hard facts in the Post yesterday. Christie's Obama hit piece claimed that Quinn had discovered a startling quid pro quo: Emanuel wouldn't fire Rogers because he'd need her Chicago ties if he ever ran for office from Illinois.
But of course that's not what Quinn wrote. Here's what she wrote [emphasis added]:
It's possible that he has other considerations. Emanuel is said to have told people that the chief-of-staff role is an 18-month job and that he is considering a run for mayor of Chicago. And Rogers is a major social and political player in the Windy City.
Bottom line: Quinn had no idea why Emanuel wouldn't fire Rogers. In fact, Quinn had no idea if Emanuel wanted to fire Rogers. In her column, Quinn simply suggested (i.e. guessed) that Emanuel wouldn't fire Rogers for political reasons. Meaning, Quinn had no proof the claim was true. And the ace "reporter" made no effort to verify it. But Quinn liked the way it sounded so she typed it up in her column.
And what did Christie then do? He pretended that Quinn reported that claim as fact, and then he pointed to the "fact" as very troubling news.
Ugh, talk about the blind leading the blind.
In between childish Twitter fits and chasing down Maoist Christmas tree ornaments, Andrew Breitbart somehow found the time to launch the third of his "Big" websites, introducing to us all this morning BigJournalism.com. Breitbart himself authored the introductory post, offering a maudlin retelling of a telephone conversation he had with Bertha Lewis of ACORN, and in the process explaining how Andrew Breitbart's BigJournalism.com will be a celebration of how great and courageous a journalist Andrew Breitbart thinks he is:
I couldn't believe I was having this conversation. It felt like a scene from a movie that conveniently ties plot points together when two critical characters in the storyline share a moment of implausible significance - where the intrepid reporter finally runs his target to ground.
Challenging the party line now is akin to showing one's John Birch Society membership card. It's a form of intimidation that creates timidity in those not ideologically in line, and grants free rein for leftists to use establishment journalism as a cudgel with which to beat their ideological opponents. In one year there have been too many administration lies and too many media cover-ups and passes to treat the future as anything but a hostile environment.
I'm skeptical and biased - and I think it's what makes me good at what I do. No journalism symposium can convince me otherwise.
Throughout the ACORN story I applied my conscience to the material. Strategy and tactics were built around my understanding that the mainstream media would be the enemy of the truth, and that we would have to go to extreme measures to get the American people to see and to contemplate what was on the shocking and historic O'Keefe and Giles tapes.
Fittingly, much of Breitbart's post is devoted to the fact that he posted a correction to the BigGovernment.com story falsely claiming that Bertha Lewis was the "Bertha E. Lewis" who showed up in White House records as a visitor to the executive mansion. According to Breitbart: "This week I issued my first correction, even though I wasn't proved wrong. I just couldn't prove I was right. I can live with that rule." There are three things to point out here: First, he was proven wrong. Bertha Lewis of ACORN bears the middle initial "M". Second, it may have been the first correction he issued, but it certainly wasn't the first time a correction was needed. Third, saying you ran a correction even though you didn't think you had to doesn't make you a good journalist, it shows that you pay lip service to journalistic standards about which you don't really care.
And, of course, it wouldn't be a Breitbart dispatch without a little ridiculous self-contradiction. After recounting how Bertha Lewis denied visiting the White House, Breitbart wrote:
I respected her for staying on the phone when she had no reason not to hang up. I even believed her when she claimed she wasn't Obama's personal guest in their White House residence even though in the last four months Bertha Lewis rarely uttered a statement in public that wasn't a provable lie.
A few paragraphs later:
Back to the weird phone conversation: "I issued a correction on my site clarifying that I couldn't prove whether you were at the White House or not."
"That's good," she said.
But I don't really believe it wasn't her.
Breitbart headlined his post with a purported quote from his conversation with Bertha Lewis, in which she called him "a Bad, Bad, Bad Journalist." He clearly intended to use it ironically, even though by his own words he showed it to be true.
UPDATE: Breitbart demonstrates BigJournalism.com's commitment to quality journalism with a 2,200-word piece written from the perspective of Bo, the White House dog.
For the second time this week, Fox's America's Newsroom hosted "Gunny" Bob Newman, senior fellow at the Rocky Mountain Foundation, to discuss the Christmas Day bombing attempt. Newman is a "terror expert" with such genius solutions for homeland security as calling for all Muslim immigrants to the United States to "be required by law to wear a GPS tracking bracelet at all times."
One wonders why a network purportedly trying to achieve a "fair and balanced" reputation would host someone who questioned whether President Obama's visit to a concentration camp was somehow to blame for the shooting of a guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in June 2009.
Then again, we're talking about Fox News.
Some other highlights from the estimable "Gunny" Bob:
From the January 6 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
What kind of independent polling firm, while writing up its latest survey results, inserts this kind of loaded non sequitur? [Emphasis added]:
Hope for a stronger overall economy has declined in recent months, too, with pessimism up sharply from a year ago. Just 38% of Americans now believe the U.S. economy will get stronger over the coming year, while 39% expect it to be weaker up eight points from a year ago.
According to news reports, the Obama administration's program to protect homeowners from foreclosure may have done more harm than good.
Because we're only one week into 2010 and the LA Times has already published the same piece twice.
From Jan. 1, Times' speculative headline [emphasis added]:
GOP poised for comeback in midterm elections: Republicans could have a big year, but they need to win 40 House and 11 Senate seats to regain control of Congress. That's a tall order.
From Jan. 5, Times' speculative headline:
Swing states may be on the move: The voter sentiments that put Democrats on top in 2008 could turn against the party in November's midterm. Obama's proposals for healthcare, the economy and immigration could deepen divisions.
Will Republican do well in Congressional races and pick up seats this year? History says it's a virtual lock, since the party out of power almost always succeeds during a new president's first mid-term election cycle. (i.e. The GOP got clobbered during Reagan's first election cycle.) Which means the possibility of the GOP doing well in November isn't exactly breaking news.
But more importantly, is the Times simply going to report that story ad nauseam all year long?
Your show on Monday was truly exciting. It's always encouraging to learn that one's work is being followed closely, and after you dedicated an entire program responding to Media Matters' labeling of you as 2009's Misinformer of the Year, I no longer had any doubt that you and your team take the time to read what we write.
And so, I thought I would write you this blog post, just to make sure that you have heard the story of a woman I'll call Mary. She's one of your biggest fans.
2009 was a big year for you, Glenn. Your Fox television program débuted, and became a network hit -- so big that you were kept on even after a major advertiser boycott significantly limited your show's profitability. You published a new book which soon became a top seller. Your radio audience is immense. You began re-imagining yourself as an insurgent leader at the head of throngs of followers. And of course, you were rewarded handsomely for your efforts, raking in tens of millions of dollars.
What will 2010 hold?
Glenn, I watch your show almost every day. I even take notes, like you often ask your viewers to do. What's more, I went to the 9-12 protest in Washington, DC. No, there weren't 1.7 million people there, as you claimed, but there were indeed tens of thousands -- some of your most passionate supporters, no doubt. For more than five hours, I recorded interviews with as many people as I could, repeatedly asking them why they were there, and which news sources they trusted. (Here's one of the videos that came of it.)
And then there was Mary. She was eager to share her views, and I spoke with her for a long time, not far from the Capitol building. Mary was from Maryland, and after we ran through some of her deepest concerns -- ACORN, Obama's czars, and so on -- she felt comfortable enough to really open up. On the brink of tears, she talked about how much your show meant to her, how she rushed home every weekday to make sure she caught it at 5 p.m. on Fox News. Mary talked about the community she now felt she was a part of -- that no matter how bleak things looked, she could always go to the 9-12 website, and put her thoughts down in a message board, and that others would write her back with words of encouragement and support.
And she talked about how much she trusted you.
Glenn, you reach millions of people every single day. People trust you. They listen to you. They count on you to help them understand their world.
There is nothing wrong with challenging conventional wisdom. There is nothing wrong with, as you so often claim to do, speaking without fear. I'm not interested in silencing the passion of your supporters. Yes, there are those among them whose ideas I find deplorable and unworthy of the best traditions of this country. But I also recognize that there are plenty of people out there who feel like Mary does, who just want a government that works for the average person.
Mary's energy is a good thing. Her desire to better her country is encouraging. And you are abusing it.
You are abusing it, Glenn, because you are confusing her. You are misleading her. You are misinforming her. You are distracting her from that which impacts her life the most. You are making her tilt at windmills, and lunge at shadows - and all while you are profiting so mightily from her deception.
At Media Matters for America, we documented hundreds of your statements throughout 2009, taken from your radio show, from your TV show, from your public appearances, and from your books. Sometimes, we would highlight moments of deliberate intolerance and xenophobia, or unprovoked attempts to incite racial fears and tensions. At other times, we focused on your dramatized efforts to convince the public that the Obama administration was literally attempting to physically harm them, or the instances when you joked about killing public officials.
We focused on moments such as these because of our fears concerning the harmful impact you were having on the tenor of our public discourse -- and because we know, as do you, that there are unstable, troubled people among your listeners and viewers who simply need one more push before they do something terrible.
But I'm not worried about Mary being one of those people. I'm worried about Mary for another reason. She watches your show because she wants to be informed, because she wants to know where she should be devoting her energy. And every day, you point her in the wrong direction.
Mary cares about corruption in our government. But because of you, she thinks the source of federal corruption resides solely with ACORN employees. When we talked, she didn't seem concerned with, for example, the massive military contractors and lobbyists that misused far more public money than ACORN could have dreamed of receiving from the government. And little wonder: over a two-and-a-half year period, your TV programs mentioned ACORN 1,045 times. They mentioned Jack Abramoff, Bob Ney, Blackwater, Halliburton, and KBR 28 times combined.
Mary cares about limiting the influence of special interests. But because of you, "special interests" for her means SEIU. She's a working person, but you've worked to turn her against a union that tries to better the lot of its more than two million dues-paying members -- and hence millions of working families. Rather than focus on the substance of its work, you have relentlessly and dishonestly portrayed it as a self-interested gang of thugs that should have no impact on legislation.
At the same time, throughout 2009, you repeatedly hosted Phil Kerpen, the policy director for Americans for Prosperity. According to available transcripts, Mr. Kerpen was a guest on your Fox News program at least 7 times during the year (on 6/26, 8/4, 8/21, 8/24, 8/25, 10/19, 10/20 if you are interested). But not once did you mention where Americans for Prosperity gets its money, including more than $3 million in recent years from the Kochs, a billionaire oil family that has also given more than $9 million to the libertarian Cato Institute. Does that count as a special interest in your mind, Glenn? Do you think you owe it to Mary to tell her who is paying the guests you hold up as trustworthy, honest brokers?
This past year, you told her that the White House is using the NEA as a propaganda organ. But where were you when it was revealed that numerous mainstream media outlets -- those same media outlets you constantly castigate for their supposed liberal bias -- failed to divulge that some of their top military analysts had ties to military contractors, seriously compromising their credibility? In May of 2008, a Media Matters study found that over a six-year period, those same analysts had made 4,500 television appearances collectively. I checked the transcripts from your old Headline News program. You didn't mention the story once. That isn't propaganda in your eyes, Glenn? A single NEA conference call represents an existential threat to Mary's liberty, but this massive breach of the public trust didn't?
Where is the consistency here, Glenn? What are the principles you are acting in the name of?
Sadly, these are just a few of the pseudo-scandals you lavished such attention and rage on throughout last year. By doing so, you have engaged in misdirection of the worst sort, abusing the trust of the best members of your audience and fueling the unpredictable ire of the worst.
But it's a new year, Glenn -- and that means you have a new opportunity to use your platform as a tool to help, rather than hurt, this country and your viewers. Imagine if you committed yourself to real reporting, and embraced serious commentary and a balanced selection of independent, uncompromised guests. Imagine if you used your precious airtime to sincerely investigate the issues that tens of millions of Americans are contending with every day. Imagine how much good you could do.
Of course, I'm not expecting you to change. Indeed, you've already promised to double down on last year's strategy. And so, Media Matters and progressive groups everywhere will be ready, exposing the xenophobia, the ignorance, the fear-mongering, and the misinformation that you so cavalierly embrace. And we will continue to do everything we can to help people like Mary understand that they deserve more than to be lied to.
It's odd that since Christmas the right-wing media have been screaming about inadequate airline security. (Too soft!) But then when somebody they know and admire is momentarily detained at an airport for refusing to answer questions, the same right-wing screamers scream that airport officials are harassing the wrong people.
And so, as conservatives continue their never-ending quest for martyrs, real and imagined, we have the tale of conservative darling, and milblogger, Michael Yon was was recently stopped by TSA officials at the Seattle-Tacoma airport upon his return to the U.S.
Blogger Michelle Malkin did not approve [emphasis added]:
I've met Michael and have blogged about his enterprising war coverage as an embed in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. The idea of him being treated as a national security threat and handcuffed is as ridiculous as anything we've seen from Janet Clown-itano and her cadre.
Actually, according to Yon's own telling of the event, he was detained by TSA officials after he repeatedly refused to answer their questions while they randomly searched his luggage. (Apparently Yon decided which TSA questions were appropriate, and which ones were not.) But was he ever detained as a "national security threat," as Malkin stressed? Not even Yon makes that claim.
Also, note that in Yon's original telling he claimed he was "arrested" at the airport, which is not accurate. As he later explained, the TSA never placed him under arrest and neither did local port authority police. Yon made the "arrested" claim because he was placed in handcuffs by airport officials, and that meant he'd been "arrested." But that's just not true.
So to summarize, Yon claimed he was "arrested," which was not true. And then Malkin claimed it was because Yon was targeted as a "national security threat," which was also not true. But hey, other than that it makes for a great story.
UPDATED: Blogger Ed Morrissey might want to change his "Michael Yon arrested at Seattle airport" headline since, y'know, Yon was not arrested.
Just a thought.