Tuesday, Sarah Palin made her Fox News debut, where she, as Simon Maloy has pointed out, basically got paid by Fox News to give an infomercial about herself. The Fox News community has expressed nothing but glee over Palin's appearance, with Fox Nation going so far as to declare that Palin was "on Fire in Fox News Debut." Fox & Friends spent a good chunk of their show yesterday discussing Palin's appearance and her "common sense conservatism," but there was one part of Palin's interview that really struck a chord with them -- when she declared that the negative stories about her in the recently released book on the 2008 elections, Game Change, were "a bunch of B.S."
During the interview, Bill O'Reilly gave Palin the opportunity to respond to several anecdotes in the book, including that she didn't "know the difference between North and South Korea"; that she "thought Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11"; and that she "didn't know why" her son was being deployed to Iraq. Palin dismissed most of these claims as "crap"; "lie[s]," and "B.S." (except for Saddam's ties to 9/11--she had "questions" about that). Palin said "these reporters were not there, adding, "I don't think I've -- that I've ever met these guys. They didn't interview me for the book."
Palin's declaration seemed to blow the Fox & Friends crew's minds, and they immediately took up Palin's cause. Gretchen Carlson said of Palin's self-defense: "It's a really interesting point, actually, that the reporters were not there. So they're depending on people allegedly who were there to give them the story. How do they know they're telling the truth?"
Apparently it had not previously occurred to Carlson that the book's sources could be less than reliable. Prior to Palin's remarks, Fox & Friends had spent a considerable amount of time breathlessly reporting on numerous thinly sourced rumors that appear in Game Change with nary a hint of skepticism ...so long as the rumors related to Democratic politicians, of course.
For instance, on Monday, Steve Doocy reported that the book's authors, Mark Halperin and John Heilmann, "have gotten all of the juicy stuff from behind the scenes during the run for the presidency" and described as a "fact" that "candidate Obama's own political team, some staff members would refer to the candidate as the black Jesus." Brian Kilmeade went on to report that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign staff "lost confidence" in her after her "bizarre reaction to her loss in Iowa," adding that Clinton thought that Obama's past drug use "should have been in play. And Bill Clinton, her own staff did a background check to find out about rumors about him having relationships with other women and they found one, a long-term one in 2006 and they set up in there their own war room on just Bill Clinton." Can't you hear the skepticism in their reporting?
Or how about yesterday, when, in its first news segment of the show, Kilmeade declared: "No one is looking at this book and saying, 'You lie.' You're looking at this book and saying 'I can't believe everybody knows this story.'" For her part, Carlson said of the book's reporting on the Clinton campaign: "[S]ome are saying...because one of the leading sources in this book was somebody directly on the inside of Hillary's campaign, so there really is no disputing the facts. Although that hasn't really stopped anyone before from disputing the facts." Yesterday Fox & Friends reported with hardly a whiff of disbelief that former President Bill Clinton accused Sen. Ted Kennedy of only "endorsing" Obama "because he's black"; that Bill Clinton said "a few years ago" Obama "would have been getting us coffee"; that when Obama was Senator he was of the opinion that Biden was "absolutely the most condescending U.S. Senator towards him"; that Bill Clinton was alleged to have been engaged in an extramarital affair; that Hillary Clinton wanted to push stories that Obama was a drug dealer; and that in the book, the Edwards family was "laid bare," by "eye-open[ing]" revelations.
I'd be inclined to give the Fox & Friends team the benefit of the doubt that they never thought to question the validity of the claims made in Game Change before their idol Palin complained about it, if they had immediately stopped treating the book's stories as fact. Sadly, that was not the case. After Carlson questioned "how" one could know if Heilmann and Halperin's sources were true because the "reporters were not there," Fox & Friends later reported on the book's description of Elizabeth Edwards as "a crazy woman" without a question as to the accuracy of the book's anecdotes. The on-screen text during that segment was, "A Marriage in Turmoil? Book Paints Negative Picture of Edwards." Clearly, they must believe that as long as the story isn't a negative one about Palin, then it must be true.
Take a look at Fox & Friends selective skepticism of Game Change's reporting:
That should put to rest any doubts that right-wing media figures own the conservative movement and by extension the Republican Party.
Politico's Michael Calderone reported yesterday that Beck said of his selection, "CPAC is my kind of people." An astute observation to be sure given the wing-nuttery on display at CPAC gatherings in years past:
What is unclear however is where Beck came up with the following notion: "CPAC is, I think they're as angry at the Republicans as I am."
If that is true, someone really needs to tell CPAC. Here is just a sampling of the GOP big-wigs past and present invited to speak at this year's conference (from the conference website):
Former Republican Senator and Bush-era Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Bush-era Ambassador John Bolton, Republican Senator John Barrasso, Republican Senator Tom Coburn, Republican Senator Jim DeMint, Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, Republican Governor-elect Bob McDonnell, Republican Congressman Ron Paul, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, Republican Governor Rick Perry, former Republican Governor Mitt Romney, Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio and former Republican Senator Rick Santorum.
Some may have expected newly minted Fox News contributor and half-term former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to take the role as keynote rather than Beck. Well, apparently CPAC doesn't pay its speakers unlike the National Tea Party Convention.
One day after a major earthquake in Haiti, Pat Robertson used his platform on The 700 Club to state that Haitians had "swor[n] a pact to the devil" to get "free from the French" and that "ever since, they have been cursed." Robertson continued:
ROBERTSON: Desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It's cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I'm optimistic something good may come. But right now, we're helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable.
Robertson's comments followed a pattern in which he has assigned blame for tragedies and disasters.
Despite condemnation of his most recent outrageous remarks, Robertson chose not to address his comments about Haitians' "pact to the devil" on today's 700 Club, though he did say that "the hearts of many of us are grieved" by the earthquake there and that it is "a tragedy of major proportions."
A January 14 tweet by conservative radio host G. Gordon Liddy:
Way back on September 30, 2008, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric asked then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin a simple question: "[W]hat newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?" Palin flubbed the answer, proclaiming that she read "all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years," and declined to name even one before suggesting that Couric, in asking that question, was somehow belittling Alaska as "a foreign country."
The response from the right was nearly uniform -- defend Palin's awkward answer by attacking Couric's questioning.
On The Corner, National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote: "Obviously the governor of Alaska reads. And what it looked liked to me is the governor of Alaska decided she wasn't going to play along with Couric. Whatever she answered would be scrutinized for the next 24 hours for what she included and left off. So instead she let Katie badger her a little."
NewsBuster Brent Baker offered an even more strident assault on Couric (emphasis in original): "Couric declared a McCain-Palin policy position 'misleading,' deliberately highlighted a policy disagreement between the two (drilling in ANWR), condescendingly demanded that Palin list the names of newspapers she read in Alaska and then treated Palin's conservative views as alien and thus in need of explanation."
The defense never made a whole lot of sense, but now, after Palin's sit-down last night with Glenn Beck, it completely falls apart. If Palin's flub of the newspaper answer was the fault of an overly aggressive interrogator who "condescendingly" "badgered" the poor, beleaguered candidate, then how would they explain this from last night's interview?
BECK: Who's your favorite founder?
PALIN: Um... you know... well, all of them, because they came collectively together with so much--
BECK: Bull crap. Who's your favorite founder?
PALIN: --diverse. So much diverse opin--So much diversity in terms of belief but collectively they came together to form this union.
Consider the scenario -- Palin had everything going for her. She had none of the pressures of a presidential campaign (or elected office, for that matter) bearing down on her. She was facing an accommodating (one might say creepily sycophantic) interviewer who had created a finely woven cocoon of crazy in which she would feel perfectly comfortable. The question Beck asked was better suited for a third-grade civics class than a nationally televised interview on a cable news channel.
And yet, Palin flubbed it. She flubbed it in the exact same way as Couric's newspaper question. The only difference was that this time she got paid to look like a fool.
If news pros still actually convened ethics panels, I'd suggest they hold a new one, because this Tea Party convention is just getting nuts on so many levels. And who knows? Maybe the Beltway press will finally start asking questions about the confab set for Nashville next month.
Here's the bottom line: The right-wing convention is basically locking out reporters. Tea Party followers, who have built their political movement by rallying around the need for transparency, are going to hold a political convention and listen to speeches from, among others, Sarah Palin. But journalists are banned. Well, not all "journalists." The Tea Party convention is going to allow Fox News, which employs Sarah Palin, to be among the select few "reporters" allowed to cover the convention, where Sarah Palin will speak.
Now, I realize ethics and journalism guidelines do not exactly rule the day within Fox News headquarters, but I would think that even Murdoch execs can admit that they're facing a rather gargantuan conflict of interest with regards to the Tea Party convention.
Question: Will Fox News actually accept the tainted Tea Party credentials for the Sarah Palin show even though Fox News pays her, and even though Fox News understands that all other news orgs have been banned from the convention?
And yes, I wrote "all other news orgs" are banned because the other outlets that Tea Party convention officials are letting in consist of dubious, partisan sites such as WND, Townhall, and Breitbart.com. And, oh yeah, the WSJ made the cut, although I'm assuming the credentials are for its dubious, partisan opinion page and not the news team.
But if the WSJ news team did get credentials, I can't imagine editors there would accept them, knowing the extreme restrictions that are attached.
Back when I was a Republican political operative (everyone experiments in their youth) the path to the White House was fairly standard: form a leadership PAC to help other candidates, launch an exploratory committee, raise a lot of money ($20 million!), do well in the Iowa Straw Poll, line up some good endorsements, build momentum in time for the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary and maybe, just maybe you'd end up in the Oval Office.
Things have changed considerably since I worked for Lamar Alexander and John McCain in the 2000 primaries – again, everyone experiments in their youth.
It's looking more and more like the GOP path to 2012 runs directly through Fox News.
Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee who is widely considered to be eyeballing 2012, has his own Fox News program each weekend. Just last month Fox executives were forced to tell Huckabee to stop plugging a website on-air, which he'd repeatedly promoted, after it learned "that it linked to his political action committee, which the network deemed a conflict of interest." Despite his bosses' reported order to stop the promotion, Huckabee has continued to plug, both on-air and on FoxNews.com, his personal website that leads visitors to his PAC.
Then there is the former half-term Alaska Governor who announced this week that she'd signed on to be a contributor at Fox News. In what was surely a glimpse of things to come, Sarah Palin's first day on the job included a softball interview with Bill O'Reilly. As Media Matters' Simon Maloy noted:
The financial terms of Palin's agreement with Fox News have not been disclosed, but it's safe to assume that she isn't working for peanuts. With that in mind, it's worth pointing out that Palin spent much of her Fox News debut defending her own record and reputation, hawking the biography she pretended to write, and promoting the Tea Party convention at which she is being paid to speak (though she claimed that the money she makes from the event will go towards campaign donations). The rest of her "analysis" consisted of conservative bromides about the evils of government and tired attacks on the media. She was essentially paid by Fox News to put on an infomercial for herself.
There's also been bizarre, perhaps crazy, speculation on the network that Palin will form a ticket in 2012 with Fox News' Glenn Beck. Quit laughing.
Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich even announced this week that he's considering a run for the White House in 2012 – the same speculative announcement he made in 2008 mind you.
So there you have it. At least three potentially major candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are going head to head in the 2012 Fox News shadow primary.
So, when are Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty going take the plunge and join in the fun?
How Fox News expects to provide the 2012 Republican primaries with "fair and balanced" coverage when it employs so many of the potential candidates is anyone's guess.
If you haven't already listened to this clip from Limbaugh's program yesterday, you ought to. Media Matters highlighted it because Limbaugh stressed to listeners that the Obama administration would use the Haitian relief effort to "burnish" its credibility with the "light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country."
But I was also struck by Limbaugh's comment near the end of the clip, as the clearly annoyed host was bemoaning the Western Hemisphere catastrophe, simply because it might somehow help Obama politically. Or as the exasperated Limbaugh put it, the epic Haiti earthquake was "made to order" for Obama.
Talk about taking Obama Derangement Syndrome to previously unknown depths. But of course, the GOP Noise Machine won't say boo about this because being a conservative pundit in America today means having to pretend Rush Limbaugh doesn't shovel hate for a living.
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 13 sponsors, in the order they appeared: