The Daily Beast's Benjamin Sarlin reports on Media Matters' work exposing Fox:
The White House's war on Fox News may be a new chapter in the administration's relationship with the media. But bashing the conservative press has been an Olympic sport among liberals for years. And no one has done it better than Media Matters.
In an effort to undermine Fox's claims that its editorial and news reporting are separate, Brock's site has launched a video series of Fox clips Media Matters sees as anti-Obama-using the tagline, "Fox is not news. It's a 24/7 political operation." That's a problem he thinks has grown much more pronounced since the 2008 election. But perhaps most importantly, his group has played a major role in defending administration officials from Fox attacks-sometimes more effectively than the White House itself has.
Earlier this month, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, who has spearheaded the anti-Fox effort, came under fire from Glenn Beck for a recent speech in which she referred to Mao Zedong and Mother Theresa as her two "favorite political philosophers." Anticipating the story could have legs, Media Matters staffers raced into action, frantically scouring the Internet for examples of conservatives citing Mao themselves, and published their first quotes within a half hour of the show ending. By the time Beck tried to extend the attack later that week to another Obama official who had cited Mao, "manufacturing czar" Ron Bloom, the list of similar Republican quotes included John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and Ralph Reed. Beck's story bounced around the right-wing press for several days but failed to migrate to the mainstream media.
Brock believes that effort helped contain the story's spread. "Speed was of the essence here," he said. "We're the first line of defense for the progressive movement."
Earlier this month, Media Matters rallied around another one of Fox News' top White House targets, education official Kevin Jennings. Sean Hannity called for him to be fired for reportedly failing to report a statutory rape case to the authorities when a 15-year old gay student asked for Jennings' advice on a relationship with an older man. But Media Matters quickly confirmed with the student in question himself that he was 16 at the time, the legal age of consent in the state, and that he denied any sexual contact with the person in question. The group then posted a Facebook exchange between the student and a Fox News reporter in which the network inquired about his age. Fox issued a correction and without a criminal angle the story failed to gain traction outside of the conservative press. The Atlantic's Chris Good reported that Media Matters' reporting was the key to deflating the attack-especially given the White House's reluctance to rebut the Fox accounts directly.
Two days ago, my esteemed colleague, Jamison Foser, wrote on these pages on the startling possibility that Politico could have become too dumb for even Drudge. Turns out they hadn't, a point which was proven again today. This morning, Drudge is trumpeting Politico's latest piece of explosive journalism--that the House health care bill released yesterday clocks in at $2.2 million a word. Take a look:
It runs more pages than War and Peace, has nearly five times as many words as the Torah, and its tables of contents alone run far longer than this story.
The House health care bill unveiled Thursday clocks in at 1,990 pages and about 400,000 words. With an estimated 10-year cost of $894 billion, that comes out to about $2.24 million per word.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that this treat comes to us from Jonathan Allen, who, as Foser noted earlier this week, was one of the two winners who informed us that an anonymous contestant in the Organizing for America health care video contest was upset that one of the videos featured "defacing the flag." The right has been having a field day with that ever since.
But, if you thought that Allen taking the time to calculate that the House's health care bill cost $2.2 million a word was the worst of that article (never mind the fact that, using Allen's calculation, the bill actually saves $260,000 per word), you'd be wrong. Take this:
And for those who cry "read the bill," beware. There are plenty of paragraphs like this one:
"(a) Outpatient Hospitals - (1) In General - Section 1833(t)(3)(C)(iv) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395(t)(3)(C)(iv)) is amended - (A) in the first sentence - (i) by inserting "(which is subject to the productivity adjustment described in subclause (II) of such section)" after "1886(b)(3)(B)(iii); and (ii) by inserting "(but not below 0)" after "reduced"; and (B) in the second sentence, by inserting "and which is subject, beginning with 2010 to the productivity adjustment described in section 1886(b)(3)(B)(iii)(II)".
The section deals with "incorporating productivity improvements into market basket updates that do not already incorporate such improvements," if that helps.
After reading this, I have to ask, is this the first time Allen has attempted to read a piece of legislation? He seems surprised that they are more or less unreadable. He goes on:
Asked why the House will vote on the roughly 400,000-word bill in a week when it takes a congregation a year to read the 80,000-word Torah at a synagogue, Rothman, who is Jewish, exhibited the wisdom of a Talmudic scholar.
"It only takes a year because you read one section a week," he said.
Is this really what journalism at the Politico has come to?
That's clearly what's being pitched by more hysterical Fox News defenders in the press corps who are trying to mainstream this completely unique notion that if politicians, and specifically if White House administration members, publicly criticize the press, that means they're trying to police and control it.
It's sort of ironic. Fox News defenders, in the name of free speech, now apparently want to ban the Obama White House from having an opinion about journalism. They want to take away the White House's free speech right to step forward and correct the press.
Over at Mediaite.com, Glynnis MacNicol offers up some of the more ridiculous the-White-House-is-trying-to-trample-journalism rhetoric [emphasis added].
From the beginning, the ultimate danger of allowing the-White House to take on a news organization the way it has with Fox, is that it has now set a precedent. One that they apparently have no qualms about extending. Does the public really want its president determining what news is fit to consume?
"Allowing" the White House to take on a news organization? What does that even mean? Is MacNicol suggesting the White House is suddenly not allowed to criticize the press? It's not allowed to exercise its freedom of speech. It's not allowed to call out falsehoods? And is MacNicol really so naive to suggest the White House, by having an opinion about Fox News, is somehow "determining" what news is consumed?
More painful prose:
Earlier this week Valerie Jarret told CNN that the White House's was not just taking on Fox, but anyone who spreads false news. This week that apparently includes both the AP and the "highly-respected and influential car site Edmunds.com" for an analysis piece they did on 'cash for clunkers.' You can read the White House blog rebuttal "Busy Covering Car Sales on Mars, Edmunds.com Gets It Wrong (Again) on Cash for Clunkers" here. Starting to sound like a bit of a disturbing trend, no?
Got this? The AP and Edmunds posted news items for news consumption, and then the White House offered up detailed public rebuttals, claiming the AP and Edmunds got the facts wrong. Yet MacNicol presents this as a deeply "disturbing trend." Why? Has the White House voice suddenly been banned from public debate?
The ugly conclusion:
The White House is on a slippery slope, here. What's next? A re-edit of the NYT? Perhaps a vetting of the Nightly News? The Internet has certainly made it possible for anyone to become a media watchdog, but it is not the White House's responsibility to be approving our news for us. Ever. There are a lot of things the White House should be policing, our media is not one of them. Ten Glenn Beck's will always be preferable to a media comprised of all the news the White House sees fit to print.
Again, almost too dumb for words. The White House has expressed its opinion about Fox News, so MacNicol hysterically claims the White House is "policing our media," and it's "approving" the news.
If MacNicol wants to play dumb and pretend Fox is a legit news organization, that's her right. But this kind of completely uniformed argument is just embarrassing.
Also, I'm assuming that MacNicol slept through the Bush years when the GOP White House routinely pushed back and publicly criticized mainstream news organization, while partisan White House fans attacked targeted news outlets as being traitorous. I make that assumption because MacNicol never mentions the often hateful press-bashing from the Bush days, and instead pretends the Obama's critique of Fox News is the first time a White House has ever taken issue with the press.
And it's disturbing.
As conservatives have rent their garments over President Obama's decision to honor fallen soldiers by going to Dover Air Force Base to be there when they were returned to U.S. soil yesterday morning, they've invented a new talking point: President Bush was more respectful to the troops, because Obama "used the troops coming home in coffins as a photo op," while Bush would do so without getting the press involved. The talking point is half-right; Bush never brought the press to Dover to take pictures of him receiving the coffins, because Bush never went to Dover to receive to coffins.
Liz Cheney got the ball rolling yesterday on John Gibson's radio show by saying:
I think that what President Bush used to do is do it without the cameras. And I don't understand sort of showing up with the White House Press Pool with photographers and asking family members if you can take pictures. That's really hard for me to get my head around...It was a surprising way for the president to choose to do this.
Rush Limbaugh jumped on board this afternoon, airing Cheney's comments and saying:
President Bush used to do it, did you know that? We didn't know it, she just told us something we didn't know. Bush used to do it, but there were no cameras. He did it privately with the family.
Unfortunately, the reason we "didn't know it" is that it didn't happen. CBS News reported yesterday:
Mr. Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush, visited the families of hundreds of fallen soldiers but did not attend any military funerals or go to Dover to receive the coffins. In a 2006 interview with the military newspaper "Stars and Stripes," Bush said he felt the appropriate way to show his respect was to meet with family members in private.
So there you have it. Bush never took the press to Dover because he never went there in the first place.
And in a sense, why should editors continue the charade? Nonetheless, when John Solomon took over as the Times' editor he claimed, much like Fox News does today, that sure, it's opinion leaned right, but its news whole was legit.
I don't think anybody actually buys it, considering on the complete lack of standards that guide the partisan newspaper on a daily basis.
Now here in a new Washington Independent article about the roll out of the daily's right-wing hub, TheConservatives.com, the editor of the WashTimes goes on and on about how wants to plug the newspaper into the right-wing conservative political movement. Note I didn't say the WashTimes opinion page editor, I said the editor, like the guy who oversees the newspaper news coverage [emphasis added]:
Solomon sold the new site as a way to bring the energy and distributed reporting of conservative activists into the Washington mainstream. "We're not trying to supplant or replace RedState or Townhall," he said. "We love those sites–they play valuable, valuable roles every day. We want to create a new medium where things from Townhall and RedState and Twitter and Facebook are all aggregating up, and the most interesting ideas from grassroots, from the meritocracy of ideas, bubble up, using technology. And then we use our relationship with The Washington Times to marry the grassroots to the leadership every day."
In his pitch at the Heritage Foundation, Solomon made all of this explicit. The Times, he explained, played an important role in pushing stories that the White House didn't like. "Before Andrew Breitbart did the ACORN series," he said, "we did 47 stories about ACORN." He explained how TheConservatives.com could run the news cycle by arguing that its "Right People" aggregator, which collects tweets and news from a small group of influential conservatives, changed the debate over Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Again, this naked cheerleading by the WashTimes news editor surprises nobody. I'm just glad Solomon is no longer even pretending the Moonie newspaper aspires to anything more than being another player in the conservative echo chamber.
And oh yeah, the punchline: WashTimes claims its working on a similar site called TheProgressives.com. I'm sure Solomon, at this very minute, is taking meetings with MoveOn.org and Daily Kos, explaining how the right-wing daily desperately wants to marry far-left grassroots to the "leadership of every day."
CBS ponders the implications of next week's off-year elections in NJ, NY and VA. But CBS only ponders the implications of Republicans winning. Seems odd.
From CBS News blog [emphasis added]:
If both Christie in New Jersey and McDonnell in Virginia win, expect vocal celebrations from the Republican Party and maybe some swagger suggesting that the Democrats are slipping.
Former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove suggested the worst for Democrats in his Wall Street Journal column Thursday: "Tuesday's election will provide the most tangible evidence so far of how strong a backlash is building—and just how frightened centrist Democrats should be of 2010. For Republicans, it looks as if hope and change are on the way."
In reality, while Republicans will undoubtedly be energized, Democrats still have a year to fire up their voters to prevent Republican gains in 2010.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with looking at the possibility of Democrats losing all three elections next week. And I guess there's nothing wrong with quoting uber-partisan Karl Rove giving his doomsday scenario for Dems.
However, there is something wrong with the fact that the CBS article never imagines the flip side. It never ponders the implications of Dems doing well next week by retaining the NJ governorship and pulling off an upset in the Upstate New York Congressional race, both of which, according to recent polling, remain a real possibility.
Next week's elections are already being framed as bad news for Democrats and a boon for the GOP. Might be nice if the press considered that the opposite remains a possibility as well.
UPDATED: Right on cue, Mike Allen at the GOP bulletin board (i.e. Politico) publishes this gem today:
COULD DEMS GET BLOWN OUT ON TUESDAY?
Keep in mind that the headline is for an item about how the NJ race is too close to call. Y'know, the race in which the GOP candidate enjoyed a double-digit lead just a few months ago and his now fading in the polls to Dem. John Corzine. But Allen only has one question: Will Dems will get "blown out."
UPDATED: More Allen idiocy:
New Poll Shows Corzine Could Lose
Earlier this week we reported on how the mainstream media, and especially cable news, had gone bonkers over the dispute between the White House and Fox News. Because let's face it, when journalists are somehow involved in a story, it's suddenly very, very important.
In fact, according to Pew research data, the cablers last week devoted three times as much coverage to the Fox News story as they did to the unfolding swine flu outbreak, which has killed more than 1,000 Americans to date.
Well now the other shoe dropped with yet more Pew data. it shows that among news consumers, nobody cares about the Fox News story, but people are obsessed with following the latest on the swine flue.
How's that for a massive disconnect?
And when I say nobody cares about the Fox News story, that's not really an exaggeration. According to Pew, less than 1 percent of Americans said that the Fox News dispute was the news topic followed most closely last week, compared to 32 percent who said the swine flu was the on top of their news radar.
To recap, by a margin of 32: 1, consumers were interested in swine flu vs. Fox News. But on cable TV last week by a margin of 3:1, Fox News took precedence over the swine flu.
Again, how's that for a massive disconnect?
From Los Angeles Times media columnist James Rainey's October 30 column:
The debate over the meaning of Fox News has become so routine, and so routinely partisan, that one hesitates to join the fray again. But when the debate reaches a presidential level, it seems worth reminding everyone, again, how much the boundaries between news and opinion have blurred and how sanguine most people have become about it all.
Fox employs some other neat devices for infusing its newscasts with the view from the right. How about zippy headlines, like the one this spring that asserted: "House Dems vote to protect pedophiles, but not veterans."
Outrageous! And outrageously misleading. That claim referred to hate crimes legislation designed to protect gays and others, a proposal which at least one Republican lawmaker falsely claimed could protect pedophiles, even though federal law already made it clear such statutes covered only consenting adults.
What about those tea party promos? I suppose the constant stories, listing times and locales for the protests, could be explained away as strictly informational. So why did Fox offer up a "virtual tea party" online for those who couldn't make the real events?
Fox's news hosts don't offer up extended screeds as Hannity and Beck do, but some can't seem to resist lending their voices to the company line.
When Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann in March decried a government that seemed to be pushing "toward socialism," Martha MacCallum, host of the day-time "The Live Desk" seemed to have no reservation saying: "I think you're absolutely right about that."
Just this week, MacCallum's on-air partner, Trace Gallagher, asked Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell sympathetically how Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada could possibly accuse Republicans of being obstructionist when they "haven't seen what's in this bill, much less how much it's going to cost."
After guiding McConnell gently through his interview, Gallagher then challenged and interrupted health reform defender Eliot Engel, a Democratic congressman from New York.
And that's why Pew gets such obvious results. i.e. Of course, Fox News is viewed by a plurality of Americans as being "mostly conservative." And yes, Fox News is seen by far more viewers as having an ideological slant.
But those findings, as well as the related questions involved in the survey, strike me as being left-overs from a by-gone era when people actually had a debate about whether Fox News was conservative or "fair and balanced." I don't even think Fox News staffers, busy promoting political rallies in 2009, think that tag still applies.
The debate, in part driven by the White House, has clearly moved on and the critical issue today now centers around the very important question and distinction of whether Fox News is still actually in the news business as it's commonly defined and recognized in the United States. The question now on the table is whether Fox News is legitimate.
i.e. Nobody's even debating whether Fox News is "mostly conservative." A) That fact is obvious. And B) that's certainly not why the White House has made Fox News an issue. It picked a fight with Fox News because it views it as a purely political entity; the leader of the Opposition Party.
Frankly, I'm amazed no pollsters have yet posed the relevant Fox News question to U.S. voters (is Fox News legit?), given how the topic has been at the center of a nearly three-week media storm. Obviously, my hunch is that self-unidentified Republicans would support the notion that Fox News is, and Dems would likely disagree. But what about independents and centrist, what would they say?
Beltway insiders seem aghast at the mere suggestion that Fox News isn't legit, and maybe Beltway polling firms and their media sponsors dismiss the notion out of hand, which is why nobody's asking the key question. Maybe the Beltway press doesn't want to know how Americans really feel. Maybe Beltway insiders, who've gone all in defending Fox News, don't want to be embarrassed if, in fact, sizable portions of the population don't even think Fox qualifies as a news outlet.
And P.S. This Pew finding is very poorly worded [emphasis added]:
The public is split over whether it is a good thing or bad thing for hosts of cable news shows to have strong opinions about politics; 42% see this as a good thing while as many see it as a bad thing.
But what does that phrase, "hosts of cable news shows" mean? Does it mean Bill O'Reilly? He hosts a show on Fox News but I certainly wouldn't call The O'Reilly Factor a "news" program. Not even close. Or does that phrase mean someone like Fox News' Megan Kelly, who hosts what Fox claims is a straight news show, but clearly displays her "strong opinion about politics."
Again, I wish Pew would go back to the drawing board and do everyone a service and mine opinions about Fox news that really matter to the debate at hand.