Here's Howard Kurtz today:
If you look at MSNBC's lineup after 6 p.m., Fox isn't the only network that goes heavy on the opinionated hosts.
That's a reference to Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Ed Schultz, all of whom Kurtz considers to be liberals. They combine to host three hours of television every evening.
What Kurtz didn't mention -- what he never mentions -- is that if you look at MSNBC's lineup before 6 pm, you'll find an opinionated host there, too. Former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough. Guess how many hours a day he hosts? Yep: Three.
Kurtz does this all the time: He portrays MSNBC as a liberal cable channel by, among other things, pretending Joe Scarborough doesn't exist. It would be one thing for Kurtz to acknowledge Scarborough's existence while arguing that he thinks on balance the channel leans left. But that isn't what he does. Instead, he dishonestly ignores Scarborough entirely. There's absolutely no reason to only look at MSNBC's lineup "after 6 p.m.," other than to exclude Scarborough -- and Kurtz knows this.
Take another look at Kurtz' wording today:
If you look at MSNBC's lineup after 6 p.m., Fox isn't the only network that goes heavy on the opinionated hosts.
There is absolutely no justification for limiting the discussion to "after 6 pm." It does nothing to further Kurtz's ostensible point that Fox isn't the only network that has "opinionated hosts." It does nothing to further the reader's understanding of the situation. All it does is obscure the fact that MSNBC has an opinionated host who is a conservative. It's deeply, wildly dishonest.
Oh, and by the way: CNN has an opinionated host, too: right-wing nut Lou Dobbs. Kurtz didn't mention Dobbs, perhaps because he moonlights for Dobbs' employer.
Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a front-page article by Ceci Connolly hyping an insurance industry attack on health care reform. Connolly and the Post didn't mention glaring flaws with the industry-funded study that claims reform would result in a $4,000 increase in insurance premiums. Flaws like the fact that the study was based on assumptions it admits are unlikely to actually come true:
"We have estimated the potential impact of the tax on premiums. Although we expect employers to respond to the tax by restructuring their benefits to avoid it, we demonstrate the impact assuming it is applied."
Got that? The study demonstrates the impact of something they don't expect to happen. The Post didn't mention that, though The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn had pointed it out the night before. Nor did the Post mention that the PricewaterhouseCooper, the firm that conducted the "study" for the insurance industry, conducted bogus studies for the tobacco industry in the 1990s. Those are two rather glaring reasons why the current study shouldn't be taken seriously -- but Connolly and the Post stayed silent about both, offering readers no reason to be suspicious of the study other than the predictable disagreements from reform advocates.
Well, today, Connolly is back, with an article all about the insurance industry study. Maybe today she gets around to exposing some of its flaws? Nope. It's all he-said/she-said, with no independent analysis, no discussion of the flawed track record of the firm that conducted the study, no explanation of the assumptions and limitations of the study.
The study, and the way the insurance industry is using it, is so misleading PricewaterhouseCooper -- which conducted the study -- released a statement last night emphasizing that "the report itself acknowledges, other provisions that are part of health reform proposals were not included in the PwC analysis." That's right: PwC released a statement last night distancing itself from the way its own study is being used, and pointing out that their study is not a comprehensive look at health care reform proposals but rather a narrow assessment of "four components" of the Senate Finance bill that ignored "other provisions" in it.
And yet Ceci Connolly didn't mention that in today's Washington Post article. Connolly covers health care reform full-time. That's her beat. And she's now written a second article in two days about an insurance industry funded report that is so flawed even the firm that prepared the report -- a firm with a spotty history on these matters -- is distancing itself from the industry's conclusions. And yet neither of her articles has contained a word about any of this. Neither has given readers so much as a hint of any of these flaws -- the nonsensical assumptions, the narrow focus, the firm's track record.
What is the point of having a reporter assigned full-time to the health care reform beat if she is incapable or unwilling to give readers that kind of information? Anyone can type up some quotes from the insurance industry, type up a response from the White House, and call it a day. What, exactly, does Ceci Connolly bring to the table?
From The Fox Nation, accessed on October 13:
From a separate post on The Fox Nation:
Jamison hit the Los Angeles Times earlier today for regurgitating GOP spin about how the party is going to hang Pelosi around the necks of Democrats and recapture Congress. The spin is dubious since the GOP has tried that in recent election cycles and failed. So why does the press think it's a big deal heading into 2010?
Here's the funny part, though. Today's Wall Street Journal published the exact same article. No joke.
Pelosi Key to GOP 2010 Playbook
So not only do Beltway reporters dutifully repeat GOP spin, but they do it on the very same day. What are the odds?
It was always absurd that Ronald Reagan, whose political project led to the end of the gulag and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and who gambled his personal standing in the world for a system that would protect the common man from annihilation in a nuclear missile attack, could not win it. But nobody wept over it, and for one reason: because everyone, every sentient adult who cared to know about such things, knew that the Nobel Peace Prize is, when awarded to a political figure, a great and prestigious award given by liberals to liberals. NCNA--no conservatives need apply.
From an October 10 post on BigGovernment.com:
Here's the headline on a blog post by Los Angeles Times reporter Johanna Newman: "Secret Republican weapon for 2010 -- attack Pelosi."
Now, you're probably thinking to yourself "What's so secret about that? Republicans have been running against Nancy Pelosi for years."
And sure, enough, Newman acknowledges:
Republicans have used this playbook before, without success, running against Pelosi in 2006 and 2008.
The Republicans have been running the playbook all year.
So, basically, it isn't "secret," it isn't new, and it hasn't been effective in the past. So why does Newman hype it as though it's news? Because:
Republicans are salivating over Pelosi's low ratings, Obama's slipping popularity and a stubborn recession, convinced the mid-term elections give the anti-Pelosi campaign new promise.
Except, of course, that Pelosi's "low ratings" aren't really any worse now than they were when Republicans tried to use this same "secret" playbook in 2008. (The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds slightly more people have positive feelings towards Pelosi now than right before the 2008 elections, and slightly more have negative feelings toward her, while slightly fewer have neutral feelings or are unsure.)
Oh, and except that "Obama's slipping popularity" still leaves him with about a 15-point net positive rating.
But other than that, Newman's analysis is spot-on.
During an online Q&A today, Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon gave a pretty good demonstration of how the media does a lousy job of holding politicians accountable.
Bacon was first asked why, after "The Republicans, media talking heads, and some conservative Democrats, have focused intensely on the cost of health care (to taxpayers and to the deficit)" CBO estimates that show a public health insurance option would "save the country money" have been all but ignored. The questioner also asked whether the dynamic in which politicians who oppose a public option claim to be concerned about costs shows that they're really just "bought and paid for by the insurance industry."
In response, Bacon essentially denied the politicians in question have talked about costs. Here's his whole answer:
Perry Bacon Jr.: I think people have reported on the public option saving money. I think conservative Democrats and Republicans have said they don't want such as an intervention of the government into the health care system, an argument more about philosophy than about cost saving.
Now, anybody who has paid the slightest bit of attention has heard countless "conservative Democrats and Republicans" invoking costs and deficits as reasons for being skeptical about a public health insurance option. In early July, for example, members of the self-described "fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition" sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer a letter about health care reform. Their very first demand? That reform contain "deficit neutrality."
Here's another example: "Lincoln: Public Option Too Expensive" -- that's the headline on an article about conservative Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln. The article quotes Lincoln declaring: "I would not support a solely government-funded public option. We can't afford that."
That's pretty explicit. And, with no real effort at all, you could easily find many more examples of conservative Democrats and Republicans -- not to mention media figures -- saying similar things.
But Perry Bacon pretends that never happened; that those politicians opposed a public option because of "philosophy" rather than making arguments about "cost saving." In doing so, he lets them off the hook for making giving factually incorrect reasons for opposing a public plan.
This is not exactly an arcane concept. It's been obvious for months. Paul Krugman spelled it out in July, and even then it was already understood by many who had been paying attention. Here's Krugman in July:
So what are the objections of the Blue Dogs?
Well, they talk a lot about fiscal responsibility, which basically boils down to worrying about the cost of those subsidies. ... even as they complain about the plan's cost, the Blue Dogs are making demands that would greatly increase that cost.
There has been a lot of publicity about Blue Dog opposition to the public option, and rightly so: a plan without a public option to hold down insurance premiums would cost taxpayers more than a plan with such an option.
Anyway, another reader called Bacon on this:
What's that "philosophy," Perry: They're fiscal conservatives only until it's a -government- plan that saves the most of their constituents' tax money over the long haul? They want things to be revenue neutral, until it means their insurance-industry backers have to make changes and act competitively in a free market with a private option? What kind of twisted "philosophy" is that?
Perry Bacon Jr.: Not sure what to say about to you public option advocates, who have frustated with the Blue Dogs and other Dem opponents of the public option for months. I feel like these arguments have been aired for months, and the conservative Democrats simply feel they can't back the public option for political reasons.
Again, Bacon refuses to acknowledge the obvious: that one of the primary reasons given for opposing a public option is simply false -- and he appears exasperated with readers who ask him about that obvious truth. Note, however, that he shifts his explanation for the conservatives' opposition to a public option -- it's no longer about "philosophy"; now it's "for political reasons."
That, too, lets them off the hook. Polling has shown that a public option is popular in the home states of people like Sen. Lincoln. So what are the "political reasons"? Maybe it has something to do with the campaign contributions from the insurance industry Bacon was asked about, and ignored?
Instead of doing his job -- holding politicians accountable for their statements and assessing whether those statements square with reality -- Bacon just keeps ignoring the obvious and inventing excuses for them.