Last night, Media Matters posted an item detailing how CNSNews.com, in a January 14 article, falsely portrayed references to "Christian identity" in a 2008 interview by Erroll Southers, nominated to head the Transportation Safety Administration, as generic references to Christianity. In fact, the context of the interview shows that Southers was referring to the Christian Identity movement, which according to the Anti-Defamation League has "virulently racist and anti-Semitic beliefs" and is tied to several domestic terrorists.
Now, you'd think that after this story was demonstrated to be false, CNS would issue a correction or withdraw it. Nope -- we just checked a little bit ago, and not only is the story still live and unchanged hours after it was proven to be false, it's the top story on the CNS website's front page:
We'd be embarrassed if such an obviously false claim was left uncorrected on our website -- and we sure wouldn't be playing it up long after it was debunked. The Brent Bozell-operated CNS, it seems, operates by a different set of rules.
I feel comfortable handing out the award for "Worst Talking Point of the Decade (So Far)" to the emerging consensus among conservative media figures that President Obama is somehow at fault for reacting quickly to news of the Haiti catastrophe, while waiting a few days to make public comments about the failed bombing attempt on Christmas.
Limbaugh got the ball rolling on Wednesday, sounding incredulous about the fact that Obama waited a few days to address the failed attack while responding to the Haiti news in less than 24 hours. Later that day, Fox Nation echoed his attack with the headline "Pres. Obama Reacts to Haiti Earthquake Faster Than Christmas Bomber." Not content to let Fox and Limbaugh monopolize the insanity, Glenn Beck got into the action on his radio show today, saying that "Obama is dividing the country" by reacting "so rapidly on Haiti." This is certainly true - the country is divided on this. On the one hand, we have rational, thinking humans, and on the other we have Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox Nation. On what planet are these events comparable?
Tens of thousands of people are dead and a country is in shambles, but to Limbaugh, Beck, and Fox Nation, this is on par with a man failing to detonate a bomb on an airplane, killing no one. I'm not trying to minimize the failed attack, but to elevate it to the level of this catastrophe is self-evidently ludicrous.
This is indicative of an emerging trend we've seen this week, where the chief concern among sections of the conservative media has been to use this week's events to score cheap political points against President Obama. (For a perfect example of this, see Fox Nation's headline this morning "Obama Moves to Grant Amnesty to Haitian Illegal Aliens.")
And setting aside the absurd comparison for a moment, this latest inanity from the conservative noise machine has the added bonus of lacking any historical context. As we've pointed out, George W. Bush waited six days to publicly address the shoe bomber incident in 2001.
Discussing Fox News' decision to all-but ignore the tragedy in Haiti on its top-rated programs, Jamison Foser wrote in his column that "I don't even want to think about the bizarre claims Glenn Beck would come up with." Well, these are the results, and they aren't pretty.
The only reason I ask is that on today's WSJ opinion page, Caddell and Schoen write a piece announcing how unseemly and disturbing it is that liberals have been criticizing pollster Scott Rasmussen. (You don't say.) For Caddell and Schoen, the polling criticism indicates a "disturbing attitude toward dissent" and is akin to "intimidation."
In other words, it's all very bad and liberals should stop [emphasis added]:
As pollsters for two Democratic presidents who served before Barack Obama, we view this unprecedented attempt to silence the media and to attack the credibility of unpopular polling as chilling to the free exercise of democracy.
"Unprecedented"? Oh brother.
So again I'll ask, did Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen slumber through the Bush years, because what they may have missed was the fact that right-wing bloggers and activists routinely and emphatically attacked polls that they didn't like; they demeaned and insulted pollsters for producing "bias" and "skewed" results if those results were not sufficiently pro-Bush.
Right-wing poll bashing was an epidemic, but I don't remember hearing boo from Caddell or Schoen. Plus, the right-wing attacks were often wildly dishonest and factually inaccurate, unlike most of the criticism being leveled at Rasmussen today.
There's nothing wrong with Caddell and Schoen sticking up for their polling pals. But why didn't they do it during the Bush years?
As this Media Matters research item indicates, Fox News has been much less interested in covering the Haiti earthquake as compared to the cabler's competitors. This doesn't really surprise me, and for two reasons.
First, outside of Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel, Fox News doesn't do foreign coverage. Period. It has no commitment to global journalism. And second, because the Haiti natural disaster does not have an obvious partisan angle, Fox News doesn't really know what to do. Without an RNC, Obama-hating talking point to guide the newsroom, Fox News seems clearly adrift as they grapple with practicing actual who/what/where/why/how journalism. (It's like trying to speak that second language that you haven't used since high school.)
But Fox News' abdication of its news gathering responsibilities is not new. The cabler did the same thing in the wake of the 2004 tsunami.
At the time, I noted this at Salon:
Whereas rival CNN has torn up its regular programming and dispatched an army of staffers to the ravaged region, Fox News appears to be going through the motions on the colossal story. Rather than breaking news, Fox feeds off partisan sparks. And it's hard to get angry about a natural disaster because empathy does not lend itself to outrage -- although that hasn't stopped the high-priced talking heads at Fox from trying to turn the tsunami into a contentious issue.
If the Republican National Committee doesn't have an angle on the story, then neither, apparently, does Fox News. And the last time we checked, there were no GOP talking points on natural disasters of biblical proportions.
National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez unleashes a vicious smear of Massachusetts Senate Candidate Martha Coakley, suggesting under the header "It's a Good Thing for Martha Coakley That There Are No Catholics in Massachusetts" that Coakley said Catholics shouldn't work in emergency rooms:
The radio host, Ken Pittman, pointed out that complex legal principle that "In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom."
Coakley agrees that "The law says that people are allowed to have that." But, making clear her view - the attorney general who wants to be the next senator from Massachusetts - she declared that "You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn't work in an emergency room." (Listen here.)
In fact, Coakley said that if you refuse to provide legal medical services to rape victims, you probably shouldn't work in an emergency room. Lopez cut off the quote before that was clear, suggesting instead that Coakley's position is simply that Catholics shouldn't work in emergency rooms.
There is a massive difference between what Coakley said and what Kathryn Jean Lopez claims Coakley said. Just enormous. Lopez suggests Coakley's position is "Catholics need not apply"; in fact, Coakley's position is more like "people who don't want to do the job shouldn't take it." It says something about Lopez' confidence in the merits of her own position that she feels the need to dishonestly portray Coakley's.
This isn't Lopez's first fast-and-loose description of the issue this week. Here's something she wrote on Wednesday:
What Coakley and her campaign are referencing is a 2005 bill that mandated that hospitals provide emergency contraception to victims of rape. At the time, Scott Brown sponsored an amendment that sought to protect the consciences of hospitals and hospital personnel with religious objections to the medication, which sometimes works as an abortifacient.
As the Boston Globe explained last week, the amendment would have referred rape victims at a hospital that would not dispense emergency contraception to another hospital that would, at no additional cost. In an urban center like Boston, this is not akin to making emergency contraception unavailable to these women.
Set aside the callousness of Lopez' suggestion (reminiscent of Sen. Joe Lieberman's famous "short ride" comment) that it's ok to turn a rape victim away from an emergency room because there's another nearby. What's really striking about Lopez' description is what she leaves out: Not all of Massachusetts is "an urban center like Boston." For many people, there isn't another emergency room nearby. Again: it says something about Lopez' confidence in the merits of her position that she feels the need to mislead readers about its consequences.
It comes courtesy of Bloomberg News:
Republicans May Win Even If They Lose Massachusetts Senate Seat
Voilà! Pretty much sums up the Beltway coverage, yes? i.e. The GOP can't lose because--ta-da!--even if they lose, they "may win."
Why do Dems even bother?
UPDATED: The Bloomberg headline has been tweaked [emphasis added]:
Republicans May Gain Even By Losing Massachusetts Senate Race
Last October, Washington Post/CNN media critic Howard Kurtz insisted "My track record makes clear that I've been as aggressive toward CNN -- and The Washington Post, for that matter -- as I would be if I didn't host a weekly program there."
In fact, Kurtz's track record -- particularly his kid-glove treatment of CNN president Jonathan Klein, who endorsed Lou Dobbs' promotion of Birther conspiracy theories -- directly undermines that assertion, as I pointed out at the time. As for Kurtz's "aggressive" coverage of the Post, that leaves something to be desired as well. Here's a refresher:
Just a couple of weeks ago, news broke that Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli apparently misled The New York Times over the summer about his knowledge of the Post's marketing of controversial (and since abandoned) dinner parties at which corporations would pay for access to Post reporters. In his defense, Brauchli claimed he hadn't misled the Times; the Times reporter had misunderstood him.
But then, the Politico's Michael Calderone revealed that Brauchli had told him the same thing he told the Times, and that Calderone had interpreted it the same way the Times had. That's quite a blow to Brauchli's defense -- it seems improbable that two different reporters at two different news organizations misinterpreted two different Brauchli statements in precisely the same way.
Calderone tried to reach Brauchli for comment, but Brauchli wouldn't talk to him. Brauchli did, however, give Kurtz an interview. In the article Kurtz wrote for the Post, he noted Brauchli's assertion that the Times had misunderstood him. But Kurtz didn't mention Calderone's revelation that Brauchli had told him the same thing the Times said Brauchli told them.
That's a key fact, and one that does a great deal to undermine Brauchli's defense. But Kurtz left it out of his article. Brauchli, of course, decides whether Kurtz continues to stay on the Post's payroll. And now Kurtz insists that he doesn't pull his punches when it comes to the Post. Yeah, right.
That brings us to today's Washington Post, which features an article by Howard Kurtz about the paper's new policy for journalists' participation in events the Post company sponsors. Here's Kurtz' explanation of the background:
Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth apologized in July for an aborted plan to stage a series of off-the-record policy dinners at her home, with sponsors paying up to $25,000 to break bread with administration officials, lawmakers, business leaders and Post journalists. Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli also took responsibility for not blocking the plan, which the paper's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, described as "an ethical lapse of monumental proportions."
But once again, Kurtz politely avoids mentioning Brauchli's apparent lie to multiple reporters about his knowledge of the scheme. Some things never change.
From a January 15 LA Times article by James Rainey:
Why dwell on one of our closest hemispheric neighbors in its hour of dire need, when -- like both Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck -- you can conduct prolonged, frothy promotional interviews with Fox's newest contributor, Sarah Palin?
Why focus on all that misery, if, like Hannity on Wednesday, you can engage conservative virago Michelle Malkin in a soaring conversation about the Obama administration's "culture of corruption."
Bill O'Reilly played his no-Haiti card too, managing a gripping discussion Wednesday with Bo Derek about the threat to the West's wild horses. Not to mention those whales being hunted by the Japanese in the Southern Ocean.
Cable operator MSNBC couldn't match CNN's boots-on-the-rubble immediacy either. NBC anchor Brian Williams, morning host Ann Curry and others were holed up at the Port-au-Prince airport Wednesday evening because of security concerns, before getting into the city Thursday to cover the story more directly.
But at least the cable affiliate did its best to tell the story from outside the epicenter. It dedicated more than two hours to the quake in its three major prime-time shows, compared with less than seven minutes presented by Fox's biggest stars Wednesday night, according to the liberal media watchdog, Media Matters.
Here's the latest, from a batch of media-related queries. The problem is the polling questions are so poorly worded that the Rasmussen results, in the end, tell us almost nothing about how Americans feel about the press. At least not anything interesting about how they feel about the press.
From Rasmussen [emphasis added]:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of likely U.S. voters believe the news media have too much power and influence over government decisions, up six points from October. Just eight percent (8%) think the media have too little power and influence, and 19% think their level of power is about right.
But what does that mean? i.e. If a telephone pollster called my house and read off a script asking me if I thought the media had too much power and influence over government decisions, my immediate reaction would be, "What does that mean?" I've read the question innumerable times now, and I still don't have the faintest idea of what the question is about or what kind of information it's trying to obtain from voters.
Does it mean that the media literally dictate what the government does? ("Build this road! Pass this bill!") Does it mean corporately owned media are too closely aligned with governmental interests? Does it mean that government officials rely on the media to gather information, and the media therefore have influence over decisions? Although even there, I'm still not clear how the media would "have power" over "government decisions." And are we talking about the news media or all media?
And good Lord, what are "government decisions"? Is that just an incredibly clumsy phrase for "policy" or "legislation"? Or something. And which government? Town hall? Congress? The Pentagon, which, after all, is part of the "government"?
I don't know why Rasmussen consistently goes out into the field with poorly worded questions that make no sense. I do have a hunch, though: Rasmussen does it in order to garner a big reaction number (67 percent!) that conservatives can then spin online to mean whatever they want it to mean.
So in that narrow regard, this poll is a success. In terms of public polling, though, it seems rather pointless.
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his January 14 sponsors, in the order they appeared: