Assume, for a moment, that you are a cable news executive. You are responsible for maintaining a certain standard of journalistic credibility on your airwaves and, as such, insist upon a clear line separating practices like reportage and commentary from issues advocacy and politicking.
But now you're faced with a problem -- one of your more popular prime-time personalities is seeking to expand beyond the media sphere and enter the world of political activism. It's a thorny issue, given that this personality's program is almost exclusively devoted to commentary, and it would be very easy for this person to give the impression that he is using his media perch to promote his own brand of politics. What do you do? Do you make no changes, trust that your newly political host will police himself, and hope against hope that your network doesn't come off looking like paid political programming? Do you insist that this personality retool his program to minimize the incidences of perceived politicking? Do you issue an ultimatum, forcing him to choose between being a politician and a cable news host?
Well, if you're Fox News and that politically inclined host is Glenn Beck, you do nothing. Fox News has thus far shown no interest in policing Glenn Beck's behavior, no matter how outrageous. They readily admit that their opinion bloc of programming is devoted to Republican-boosting, progressive-bashing conservatism (and their news programming isn't much different). And they already have a host whose political ambitions are nakedly obvious -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The failed candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination graduated to his spot on Fox News' weekend lineup before the campaign season had ended, and has already used the show to collect e-mail addresses for his political action committee. In the last year he's made two trips to Iowa, site of the first Republican caucus of the 2012 primary.
So don't expect anything different from Beck or Fox News. It's just part of the network's natural progression from untrustworthy news outlet to untrustworthy political outfit.
In May, new Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente told TVNewser that "probably the most important imprint [of Fox News] has been the fact that no big story has ever had to be taken off the air, that for almost 13 years, there hasn't been the kind of issue that others have had in terms of having to take things down, or apologize, or pay out on. So I'd love to have the next 13 years be as strong as the previous 13 have been."
Today, FishbowlDC posted a Fox News memo acknowledging "a series of mistakes on FNC in recent months" and pledging to "quality check everything before it makes air, and we never having [sic] to explain, retract, qualify or apologize again." The memo added that "[m]istakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action" and "jobs are on the line here."
Fox News' first year under President Obama has been rife with errors, falsehoods and smears. We've documented that Fox News has apologized for some -- but certainly not the vast majority -- of its misinformation.
Over the years, Fox News has protected its brand by pushing the myth that it hasn't had to issue retractions for its stories. Like Clemente, in 2005, Fox News chairman and chief executive officer Roger Ailes was quoted by the Washington Post claiming that "in his nine years at Fox, 'I've never deleted a word, a phrase, a story. ... Unlike Newsweek and the Koran incident, [Ailes] adds, Fox hasn't just done a major retraction."
While Fox News management may quibble about the definition of "big" and "major," the Fox News "no retraction" line is silly. Even before Clemente and Ailes' remarks, Fox News issued multiple retractions and apologies. During the 2008 campaign, Fox News was one of the leaders in spreading the smear -- later retracted -- that Obama "spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father -- as a Muslim and was educated in a madrassa." If you followed the cottage industry of smears against Obama, this was certainly a "big" story.
It's clear that Fox News has a cultural problem. What's not clear is whether Fox News management will make good on its threats.
To wit, Fox & Friends has been repeatedly admonished for airing multiple fake stories -- including the madrassa smear. Then-Fox News executive John Moody issued memos and statements warning staff to get things right. Sound familiar? Yet Fox & Friends and the offending hosts are still on the air, pushing smears and falsehoods - when not photoshopping pictures of New York Times reporters, or remarking on America's lack of pure genes.
More recently, Fox News apologized for starting the fake story that Obama watched an HBO documentary of himself instead of election returns. Fox News was apparently so serious about its apology that Fox News Watch host Jon Scott repeated the fake story again days later while mocking Obama.
Los Angeles Times' Andrew Malcolm tries a nifty little sleight-of-hand in his November 23 blog post titled "Sarah Palin v. Barack Obama: The approval gap silently shrinks to a few points" and gets rewarded by Drudge for it. Problem is, it's not even close to true.
Sarah Palin's poll numbers are strengthening.
And President Obama's are sliding.
Guess what? They're about to meet in the 40s.
Depending, of course, on which recent set of numbers you peruse and how the questions are phrased, 307 days into his allotted 1,461, the 44th president's approval rating among Americans has slid to 49% or 48%, showing no popularity bounce from his many happy trips, foreign and domestic.
Riding the wave of immense publicity and symbiotic media interest over her new book, "Going Rogue," and the accompanying promotional tour, Palin's favorable ratings are now at 43%, according to ABC. That's up from 40% in July.
One poll even gives her a 47% favorable.
Most recent media attention has focused on the 60% who say she's unqualified to become president. Her unfavorable rating is 52%, down from 53%, which still doesn't ignite a lot of optimism for Palin lovers.
The problem is that Malcolm is comparing Obama's approval ratings (his job performance ratings) with Palin's favorability ratings. In fact, when asked whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Obama and Palin, the gap is hardly "a few points."
|ABC News/Wash Post||61-38||43-52|
Even in the Fox poll, there is still a 7-point difference in favorability. Referring to that poll, Malcolm writes that "[o]ne poll even gives her a 47% favorable," yet he neglects to mention the 7-point difference or that Obama is at 54% favorable, which is above the "49% or 48%" he suggests Obama has.
I didn't list the CBS News/New York Times poll because its most recent question on Obama's favorability was in July, but a November 13-15 CBS News survey found that 23% -- less than 1 in 4 - had a favorable view of Palin. Obama's approval rating was 53% in that November poll - again, a far cry from Malcolm's claim of a "few points" difference.
Moreover, Palin's 23 percent rating in November is the same as it was in July when she resigned as governor. Even Malcolm notes that Palin is now "[r]iding the wave of immense publicity and symbiotic media interest over her new book, 'Going Rogue,' and the accompanying promotional tour.' " (And that coverage has certainly been nothing but positive and exhausting.) ABC News/Wash Post has her up three points since July - which Malcolm cites - but she's down three points in the Gallup poll since July.
Even as she rides the crest of that wave of "immense publicity and symbiotic media interest," Palin remains just about as unpopular as when she left office in July. And she is certainly nowhere near as popular as Obama.
From a November 23 post on the blog American Thinker:
The question was recently posed to me, "Do you think Obama is a racist?" I answered, "Obama is the best kind of racist to whites, but the worst kind of racist to blacks." My questioner was perplexed.
I began by explaining that Obama's racism against whites is upfront, in your face racism, that he discussed in his book Dreams from My Father:
I ceased to advertise my mother's race at the age of 12 or 13, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites.
I found a solace in nursing a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity against my mother's race.
Obama learned this racist ideology during his formative years from his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, a self-admitted communist and sexual deviant, and most certainly a racist -- the kind that blacks say cannot exist.
One would think that with BET and The WB, and the all-black radio stations that you can find in any major city that there is no longer a need for Black Nationalists like Van Jones, or a Black Nationalist movement. However, no sooner was Van Jones appointed, we were treated to the racist styling of Mark Lloyd, his most famous quip being, "...white people need to relinquish their power to others." Others being "non-whites."
As for Obama's racism against blacks, you don't have to be a genius to understand it. However it is easier to understand if you are not a product of government schools. Obama's racism against blacks is much more subtle, though exponentially more insidious.
Obama actually believes he helps blacks through his policies, when in fact the outcome devastates blacks. A good example is education.
Blacks recognize almost universally that education is the key to escaping the cycle of poverty and other ills plaguing the black community.
Obama's first racist act as president was to remove the voucher program that Bush had established in DC, and a program that Democrats vote against overwhelmingly. A program that was producing proven positive results was eliminated -- and black children in DC were relegated to socialized schools in crime and drug-infested neighborhoods. Simply put, why give black children the choice to opt out of the indoctrination?
Here's the wrap:
Is Obama a racist? Of course he is! But as I say about racists, most just need to see what the other side is like. Obama only knows conservatism anecdotally, as he has never had a conservative friend. He only understands one side -- the racist radical side. This is why sanity appears to be radical to him, why patriots are persecuted, achievers neutered.
A true conservative would never befriend a person like Obama. Obama needs to be surrounded by sycophants and suck ups, or radical leaders he can admire. My hope is that Obama will actually get to know a few conservatives, black and white. Then maybe, just maybe he will understand how he is both the best and worst kind of racist.
We've been pointing out the obvious for months now, that Fox News has stepped well beyond the norms of traditional journalism and has transformed itself into a purely political--and partisan--entity in 2009. That Fox News has basically supplanted the RNC as the center of the Republican Party.
But boy, when the White House tried to point that out in September, the Beltway press rushed to defend Fox News. The Beltway press played dumb on a massive scale, pretending it couldn't tell the difference between Fox News, and say ABC News. The White House was way off base in its attempt to fact-check Fox News and its attempt to point out the obvious partisan path its taken this year, the pundits sang in unison, as they refused to cover Fox News as the political entity it has become.
So how does Fox News thank the Beltway press for attacking the White House and defending Fox News? It thanks the Beltway press by making them look like fools. It thanks the Beltway press by proving Media Matters' point.
From the New York Times:
Glenn Beck, the popular and outspoken Fox News host, says he wants to go beyond broadcasting his opinions and start rallying his political base — formerly known as his audience — to take action.
To do so, Mr. Beck is styling himself as a political organizer. In an interview, he said he would promote voter registration drives and sponsor a series of seven conventions across the country featuring what he described as libertarian speakers.
In light of these revelations, I can't wait to hear from all those very serious, important pundits who defended Fox News, and who belittled the White House in recent weeks. I can't wait to hear as they step forward again and explain how, by semi-endorsing specific candidates, registering voters, and holding conventions, Fox News is still just a regular news org. How it's just like MSNBC.
Good luck with that.
What, exactly, is the point of Fox News Watch, Fox News' purported media criticism show?
On the show's November 21 installment, host Jon Scott told viewers, "I had better be accurate on a media criticism show." He's not.
We've noted that Fox News Watch routinely gets facts wrong, while excusing or ignoring criticism of its own network. Recently, the show falsely claimed that President Obama watched an HBO documentary about himself instead of election returns - days after Fox News apologized for starting the incorrect story. (Fox News Watch has yet to correct the record on its program.)
There's a special irony in having Jon Scott host a media criticism show. Scott has been repeatedly caught cut and pasting GOP talking points and press releases as his own research. After one Jon Scott cut and paste incident, Washington Post and CNN media critic Howard Kurtz blasted Scott for failing to apologize "for using partisan propaganda from the GOP without telling your viewers where it came from."
On November 21, Fox News Watch took on Obama's bow and Scott painted it as upsetting "a lot of people":
SCOTT: There was the announcement that he made as he got ready to jump on the plane that he was going to hold a jobs summit. This, after it came out that unemployment is, what, 10.2 percent now.
ELLIS HENICAN (Fox News contributor): That's right. Uncomfortable news. And you do anything you can as a politician to bury it.
To me, what was a little disappointing about the coverage was it didn't have a lot of discussion how it is, when we see our banker, always an uncomfortable situation, and it was the kind of silly stuff. It was the bowing and the political hits back and forth and the buried fact. I wish we had a discussion about the other stuff.
SCOTT: Symbolism did matter. I mean, the bowing did offend a lot of people.
RICH LOWRY (Fox News contributor, National Review editor): Yes, I find it offensive. I believe it's an offense against smaller "R" Republican manners for any president of the United States to bow to a foreign potentate. Look, this is a classic narrative story where a Republican -- you know, Nixon can do it, and it's not a big deal. But Obama does it, because the idea's out there, justifiably in my mind, that he's a weakling abroad, that he has an overly submissive attitude towards foreign countries. And that's why it was exploded. And kudos to the blogosphere, which was onto this way before the mainstream media.
Scott claims that "the bowing did offend a lot of people." But Americans overwhelming say that Obama's bow didn't offend them - according to a Fox News poll. 67% of Americans view Obama's bow as appropriate, while 26% view it as never appropriate. Even a majority of Republicans (53-40) view Obama's gesture as appropriate. Shockingly, Scott never mentioned the poll.
Daily Kos' Jed Lewison wrote, "Perhaps Fox should change their slogan: we report and you decide, but only if it's something that we think will make you hate President Obama." Indeed, when given a chance to note Fox News' polling days after its release, and while discussing public perception of that very topic, Scott - Fox News' designed media critic - claimed the opposite of what his own poll found.
Then again, with Fox News' own history of deception and inaccuracy, maybe Jon Scott is a 'perfect' fit as Fox News' media critic.
Today's typically breathless Politico headline:
Forecast for Dem primaries: Ugly
And lede [emphasis added]:
Republicans aren't the only ones staring at the unnerving prospect of a 2010 primary season filled with smash-mouth intraparty contests that threaten to distract the party and leave Senate nominees bloodied and cash-depleted.
In a handful of next year's most competitive Senate races — and for a few of the Democratic Party's most precariously perched incumbents — discordant Democratic primaries are already taking shape, complicating a midterm election landscape in which the party will be playing defense for the first time in four years.
A couple things here. Politico suddenly thinks it's just amazing and shocking that Democrats are competing in primaries. Why Politico expresses such astonishment is unclear, since the primary system has been in place for many many generations. Yet for some reason Politico suggests the Democratic primaries next cycle could cripple the party.
And hey, if Politico wants to play dumb, it wouldn't be the first time. But the article really falls apart when Politico starts lumping in Democratic primaries in which there is no Democratic incumbent. Meaning, we all know the notion of a contested primary is really only interesting and newsworthy if an entrenched incumbent faces a stiff intraparty challenger, the way Joe Liberman was defeated in the Democratic primary in CT. in 2006.
It is a big deal when a primary challenger takes on an incumbent and makes a strong run at the party's favorite. And from the headline of the Politico piece, you'd think that's what's happening to Democrats all across the country. Except as you read the article, Politico quickly focuses on Democratic races in Kentucky and Illinois, where, in 2010, there will be no Democratic incumbent running for re-election. In those instances, the primaries are just old fashion open contests, and the fact that several Democratic candidates are battling to win their party's nomination in those states is not news at all. In fact it's utterly mundane. It happens all the time. But Politico decides to treat it like a very big deal.
In the end, the only truly contested Democratic primary that Politico points to is the one in Pennsylvania, which is hardly surprising since the incumbent, Sen. Arlen Specter, recently switched over from the GOP, and everybody knew that would spark a strong primary challenge.
So yes, the only thing "ugly" in this primary story is Politico's (GOP-friendly) analysis.
From Politico [emphasis added]:
Additionally, POLITICO has learned that Beck's 9.12 Project is co-sponsoring a march on Washington on Sept. 11, 2010 to voice unhappiness with the agenda of President Obama and the Democratic congress, and that the group will also become involved in voter registration drives.
The idea of trying to politicize the 9/11 anniversary in such a naked way is shocking. But of course nothing actually shocks us any more about Beck's tasteless, Obama-hating campaign. What would be amazing though, is if Beck is able to get away with this. (At least this year's anti-Obama rally was held the day after Sept. 11.) Meaning, if Beck's followers really follow through with their plan and use the hallowed anniversary of 9/11 and turn the tragic terrorist attacks of 2001 into a day for hurling hateful attacks against the President of the United States, will there be no outcry?
Will the Beltway press corps look away from the right-wing attempt to turn a day of healing into a day of hate? And will leaders of the conservative movement in America stand by silently while rodeo clown Glenn Beck and company make a mockery out of our collective mournful memory?
After all, news of the 9/11, Obama-hating rally has been out for several days now, and so far the silence has been deafening.
UPDATED: Of course, remember that Beck hates the 9/11 families.