Media Matters for America has obtained evidence that CNN contributor Alex Castellanos' political consulting firm, National Media, is the ad buyer for the insurance industry group America's Health Insurance Plan's (AHIP) new ad blitz attacking Democratic health reform plans. CNN has a responsibility to insure that Castellanos' obvious conflict of interest does not tarnish their future coverage of the health care debate.
According to the detailed ad buy information obtained by Media Matters, Castellanos is responsible for placing, beginning October 11, more than $1 million of AHIP advertising in five states. Castellanos last appeared on CNN September 30; during a debate with Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) on The Situation Room, Castellanos defended Republican health care proposals.
If Castellanos returns to CNN's airwaves to discuss health care, it shouldn't be as a Republican strategist and CNN contributor, but as what he is - an industry spokesman. He shouldn't be arguing against Democratic strategists like Donna Brazile or James Carville, he should be paired off with progressive health care reform advocates like the leaders of Health Care for America Now. And -- it should go without saying - he must be identified as someone who is taking money from the insurance industry.
Last August, we noted that Castellanos - best known as the creator of the racially charged "Hands" advertisement - was hired as a CNN contributor three days after the New York Times reported that he was part of John McCain's "panel of outside advertising consultants." CNN subsequently failed to disclose Castellanos' connection to the McCain campaign while he was, for instance, applauding the McCain campaign's ads. If they hope to live up to their "most trusted" brand, CNN must do a better job of handling Castellanos' new conflict of interest.
UPDATE: A quick look at National Media's client list indicates that his work for AHIP isn't Castellanos' only conflict with regard to health care reform. National Media has done work for the Federation of American Hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry group PhRMA, and the HCA Sunrise Hospital. That's three more reasons CNN should label Castellanos as an industry shill, not a political analyst.
From an October 14 ESPN.com article:
Rush Limbaugh is expected to be dropped from a group bidding to buy the St. Louis Rams, according to three NFL sources.
Dave Checketts, chairman of the NHL's St. Louis Blues and the point man in the Limbaugh group attempting to buy the Rams, realizes he must remove the controversial conservative radio host from his potential role as a minority member in the group in order to get approval from other NFL owners, the sources said.
Three-quarters of the league's 32 owners would have to approve any sale to Limbaugh and his group. Earlier this week, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay predicted that Limbaugh's potential bid would be met by significant opposition. Several players have also voiced their displeasure with Limbaugh's potential ownership position, and NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith, who is black, urged players to speak out against Limbaugh's bid.
Ultimately, the sources said, Checketts must reconfigure his group and find another investor to make his bid more viable.
Exactly when Limbaugh will be dropped is uncertain, though some familiar with the situation said it could be within the next week. It is unclear if the two sides even have spoken.
Limbaugh's "color-blind" history of racially charged comments
NFL commissioner Goodell: Limbaugh's "divisive comments are not what the N.F.L. is all about"
Stick a fork in Limbaugh's NFL dream, it's done
Colts owner Irsay "couldn't even think of" supporting Limbaugh's Rams bid due to his divisive rhetoric
NFL players' union opposes Limbaugh's bid for Rams, says football "overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred"
NFL players reportedly say they "wouldn't play for" Limbaugh-owned team due to his "flat-out racist" comments
Sports media gang-tackle Limbaugh's bid to buy St. Louis Rams
As the Dow Jones Industrial Average bounces around 10,000, it's worth looking back at the pathetically cynical way Fox News host Sean Hannity has treated the stock market during the Obama administration.
Back in March, the Dow was at its recent nadir - and Hannity knew just who to blame. "Obama, since he's elected, has tanked the markets," Hannity told former Democratic National Committee financial committee chair Michael Brown. "Oh, that's Obama's fault?" Brown asked. "That's right," Hannity proclaimed. That same month, Hannity declared it "Obama's Bear Market," and claimed that "Markets react to numbers. If they had faith and hope in [Obama's] plan, why wouldn't they react more confidently?"
Either the markets found their "faith in hope" in Obama, or Hannity has no idea what he's talking about, because the day before Hannity claimed that Obama "tanked the markets," the Dow hit its low point and started to climb.
On May 1, Fox Business Network anchor Alexis Glick pointed out to Hannity that the Dow, then at just over 8,200, had made it back to the level it was at before Obama's inauguration. But while Hannity was happy to hand Obama all the blame for the Dow when it was falling, he wasn't about to give Obama any credit now that it was rising. "The market doesn't mean anything to me," Hannity said "Alexis, you're the first person to tell people don't look at the market unless you're in it for five or 10 years, right? All right, so we're not looking at the market." Glick was either unaware or too polite to point out Hannity's hypocrisy.
Almost three months later, with the Dow passing 9,100, Hannity decided that the market did, in fact, "mean something" to him - it could be a convenient excuse to attack Obama. On July 27, Hannity did a segment linking "President Obama's approval rating," which he said "has dropped 7 points in the last month," to "the Dow Jones industrial average," which he noted is "now back over the 9,000 mark." After displaying a graph mapping the Dow and Obama's approval rating, Hannity asserted, "Now you can see that as the president's job approval rating crumbles, well, the Dow has been on the rise. Is it just a coincidence? We'll let you be the judge."
Since then, Hannity has largely been silent on the issue - a search of the Nexis database for (dow or stock market) indicates that Hannity has not mentioned the Dow's 900-point rise since late July. On August 19, he did, however, share some investment advice with his audience:
HANNITY: Stuart, I've taken half of the money that I had in the stock market, which was not a big part of my portfolio out of the market. I want to get out totally. And I say that to people and they say, well, historically, over the years, you're going to do -- you're going to be better off in the long term. You're fairly young. You should keep it there.
I have a feeling that if the market continues to rise and Hannity misses out on it, he'll somehow find a way to blame it on Obama.
Fox News employee Tucker Carlson weighs in on the White House/Fox News flap:
Tucker Carlson: In the long run it doesn't hurt any news organization to find itself on a White House enemies list, but Fox didn't start this. Anita Dunn did. Very foolish I think.
Regardless of what one thinks of the White House strategy for dealing with Fox News, nobody who has watched more than ten minutes of Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity can seriously think Anita Dunn "started it."
Did Dunn and the White House escalate "it"? Sure, maybe. Was it a good idea? I'm actually not sure; there are reasonable arguments both ways. But to say "Fox didn't start this" doesn't just strain credulity -- it takes credulity out back and beats it to death with a shovel, as Beck might say.
Actually, the fact-free talker is threatening to sue journalists who report what Limbaugh claims are falsehoods regarding him. Hmm, suddenly, Limbaugh doesn't like being on the other end of misinformation? Suddenly he's demanding folks back up and source all their information, in a way that he almost never does?
Good to know.
Meanwhile, is this a precedent Limbaugh really wants to create for his show? Does the chronic misinformer really want to start a movement where those who are demeaned by his lies are encouraged to contract their attorneys and threaten legal action against the host until he retracts his statements. (If so, Limbaugh's gonna have to put more lawyers on retainer.)
I love how Limbaugh reflexively reaches for the phone to call his lawyers when people say things about him that might be inaccurate. But when Limbaugh spends hour after hour behind the microphone concocting whatever version of reality strikes him that day, all that misinformation is protected by the right-wing notion of free speech.
UPDATED: Limbaugh is complaining that in the reporting on his effort to buy an NFL team, some journalists have attributed to him racially inflammatory quotes that are phony.
Well, here are some that are real.
My guess is that members of the NFL community who oppose Limbaugh ownership bid will also oppose it after reading how he called Barack Obama a "Halfrican-American," and claimed Americans are being urged to "to bend over, grab the ankles" and hope Obama succeeds "because his father was black."
The point is that when Limbaugh's NFL bid officially fails (and it will), right-wingers will claim it's because nasty reporters manufactured race-baiting quotes from Limbaugh. Truth is, there are plenty of real ones to go around.
I ask because over the weekend blogger and WashTimes columnist Andrew Breitbart was back hyping the tall tale of Kenneth Gladney, the conservative African-American activist who was reportedly "beaten" by "union thugs" outside of town hall forum hosted in St. Louis in August. At the time, the right-wing noise machine went bonkers over the dubious Gladney tale, claiming it showcased how vicious and violent unions really are. And Breitbart himself published an unintentionally hilarious column headlined "I Am Kenneth Gladney," in which Breitbart immortalized Gladney's "horrifying" tale, and also lied by claiming the White House had "directed" "union thugs" to rough up anti-health care protesters.
The problem for Breitbart and company (and yes, this is a chronic problem for Brietbart), is that the facts didn't stand up, and the lavish tale of the Gladney "beating" quickly collapsed. (Bloggers were sure he had been rushed to the hospital clinging to his life. Not true. Not even close.) Even a former St. Louis pal of Gladney's suspects the incident was seized upon by Gladney's lawyer/agent as a way to make a quick buck. (Was it Gladney's attorney who told him, days after the incident, to show up a right-wing rally in a wheelchair even though Gladney had no discernible injuries?)
Yet there was Breitbart over this last weekend tweeting about the vicious Gladney "hate crime," which is interesting because the Gladney episode (i.e. the savage "beating") was captured on video, and the St. Louis police know who the suspected culprits are. Yet here we are nearly ten weeks after the alleged beat-down, which according to right-wing blogs left Gladney blooded (fact: it did not), and nobody in connection with the "hate crime" has been formerly charged.
As of right now, St. Louis prosecutors don't seem to share Breitbart's conviction that a hate crime, or any crime, was committed by union "thugs" that night at a St. Louis town hall forum. (And of course, even if prosecutors do someday file charges, defendants will have a chance to defend themselves, or would Breitbart prefer that right be waved?)
So yes, if Breitbart has some super-secret evidence from the Gladney case, by all means he should share it with the St. Louis police department. If not, I'd suggest Breitbart stop advertising his ignorance. Then again, he's sort of turned that routine into his full-time job, so I suspect we'll be be hearing much more martyrdom talk about Kenneth Gladney.
UPDATED: And if Breitbart's such a Gladney fan, why doesn't he pay the overdue bills and get the alleged beating victim's website back up and running? After all, it was Breitbart who wrote "I am Kenneth Gladney."
UPDATED: Breitbart responds (relentlessly) via Twitter. As expected, he doesn't dispute a single fact posted here. Maybe he's saving all the good stuff for the St. Louis PD.
Air America's Beau Friedlander writes:
You've heard the rumors. The time has come. Today marks the launch of Air America's new web site--the change you want to see, the place to go for the latest news and opinion on the issues that matter most to you.
We're pushing for the issues that matter most to Americans today, and we need you to help. The tide has turned. Health care, the climate bill, education, energy--America is on the brink of a new solution-oriented epoch. It's a group effort. Click around. Interact with our hosts and editors. Tell us what change means to you. Let us know what you're thinking about. Get involved as a member of the Air America community. Sound off. Act up. This is your site. Own it.
Air America's mission remains unchanged, but now you will find the most up-to-date news, a progressive take on issues that matter to you—war policy, social equality, education, the economy, energy and the environment—alongside insightful commentary, smart bombs of political theater, and the context you need to form and inform your take on the world of politics and beyond.
And of course there's the same great programming from Air America's on-air talent including Rachel Maddow, Ron Reagan, Jack Rice, Richard Greene and Ana Marie Cox, as well as other well-known hosts like Randi Rhodes featured on WZAA in Washington DC.
Visit AirAmerica.com and poke around its new digs.
Mickey Kaus, Friday: "the possibility for a Nobel backlash seems non-farfetched."
Time magazine, Friday: "Why Winning the Nobel Peace Prize Could Hurt Obama"
Gallup, Monday: "Barack Obama appears to have gotten a slight bounce in support after he was announced as the Nobel Peace Prize winner on Friday. His 56% job approval rating for the last two Gallup Daily tracking updates is up from a term-low 50% as recently as last week, and 53% in the three days before the Nobel winner was announced."
Huh. Maybe it turns out that Americans don't hate their president for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Weird.
(A quick pre-emptive note to commenters: Read that again. I didn't say anything about whether Obama should have won the award. My point is simply that the idea that it was absurd to suggest that winning the award was some sort of disaster for Obama.)
As I wrote in my column this week, Fox News has filled the conservative leadership vaccum that emerged following Sen. John McCain's campaign defeat last November, and has obviously transformed itself into a purely political entity. That means the press needs to change the way it treats Fox News.
One of the points I stressed is how the RNC now often plays catch-up to Fox News; a fact nicely illustrated by a recent must-read piece in Salon.
From the column [emphasis added]:
Truth is, in recent years the RNC used to use Fox news to help amplify the partisan raids that national Republicans launched against Democrats. It was within the RNC that the partisan strategy was mapped out and initiated. (i.e. it was the RNC that first published the Al-Gore-invented-the-Internet smear). But it was on talk radio and Fox News where the partisan bombs got dropped. Today, that relationship has, for the most part, been inversed. Now it's within Fox News that the partisan witch hunts are plotted and launched, and it's the RNC that plays catch-up to Glenn Beck and company.
And here's Salon:
*March 17: Talking to guest Kevin Williamson of the National Review, Beck has his first discussion of the supposed proliferation of czars in the administration. But the only explicit complaint comes from Williamson, who says, "We have way too many people named czar in their job title."
*May 29: Beck makes his own first comment. "And, I'm so excited. We're getting a new czar, everybody! Yes. Can we stop with the czars, please?" He continues to refer to the phenomenon almost daily over the summer. Obviously influenced by Jonah Goldberg's book "Liberal Fascism," Beck links the czars to early American progressives like Woodrow Wilson, and through him, naturally, to Hitler, Mussolini and Lenin.
*July 15: Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., introduces the "Czar Accountability and Reform (CZAR) Act of 2009." By September 16, the bill has 99 co-sponsors, including one Democrat.
*July 30: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor writes an op-ed in the Washington Post accusing the Obama administration of making an "end run around the legislative branch of historic proportions." Notes Cantor, sagely, "At last count, there were at least 32 active czars that we knew of, meaning the current administration has more czars than Imperial Russia."
In two separate articles today, the Washington Post makes a point of mentioning that Sen. Joe Lieberman said he won't support the Senate Finance Committee health care reform bill -- but neither article says anything about whether Lieberman says he'll filibuster it.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Tuesday that he would not support the finance panel's bill because of cost concerns.
"I'm afraid that in the end the Baucus bill is actually going to raise the price of insurance for most of the people in the country," he said on Fox Business Network's "Imus in the Morning" program, referring to Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
And the other:
Dodd's Connecticut colleague, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I), said Tuesday that he could not support the Finance Committee bill, citing insurers' concerns that the fees and taxes it would impose on their industry would drive up premiums. Connecticut is home to numerous health insurance companies.