Back in April, Howard Kurtz was shocked that Sean Hannity would misleadingly snip a quote by President Obama in order to criticize him, saying he "never imagined" Hannity would do such a thing. As I noted at the time:
Really? This wasn't even a 6 on the Sean Hannity Dishonesty Scale. Howard Kurtz could never imagine that Sean Hannity would criticize Barack Obama in such a way? Of course he would; this is what Sean Hannity does. He isn't honest. It's Howard Kurtz's job to know these things.
Now, with Sean Hannity caught red-handed by Jon Stewart inflating the size of a recent anti-health care rally by illustrating his report with video from a previous rally, Howard Kurtz still can't imagine that Hannity would do such a thing intentionally.
Here's Kurtz in today's online Q&A:
Seattle, Wash.: ... the story was that FOX News appeared to be manipulating the story. The fact that Hannity made an apology should tell you something. FOX was caught trying to make the GOP's anti-health care crowd seem much bigger than it was.
Don't you think there is some obvious manipulation? Who edited the tape, and if Hannity had been there, why didn't he call the out the tape error as it happened?
Howard Kurtz: I have no way of knowing. Hannity did the right thing by apologizing; I have no evidence that it was done intentionally, which would mean someone decided to risk getting caught in huge embarrassment for the sake of 10 seconds of video...
(Well, Howard Kurtz, the nation's most prominent media critic, could certainly pick up a phone and start asking folks at Fox some questions, but let's set that aside for now.)
Hamilton, Va.: This week on "Inside Washington" Nina Totenberg mentioned Hannity and Stewart re the "mix up" of demonstration footage. Gordon Barnes just blew her off by saying, "Yeah, well he apoligized," as if that just ended it. I was disappointed that Gordon thought you could fake the news but then apologize and all is good.
Howard Kurtz: It was an embarrassing incident for Hannity and Fox. But "fake" the news sounds like it was deliberate, and there is no proof of that. There are other times where Hannity and his staff have deliberately truncated Obama sound bites to distort his meaning or delete an important qualifier, and I have criticized him for that. That is no accident. But the rally footage could have been a staff blunder.
Sure, it could have been! But Fox News is deeply dishonest. Howard Kurtz knows Hannity and his staff have "deliberately" edited Obama sound bites "to distort his meaning." And yet he persists in giving Hannity the benefit of the doubt; to simply assume that this time, Hannity and his staff weren't being dishonest; they were being sloppy. And Kurtz refuses to pursue the obvious questions these examples and others raise about what Eric Boehlert described last week as the "larger cultural problem inside Fox News."
Like so many claims in the health care debate, Beck has taken a kernel of something in the bill and spun it to an absurd conclusion.
Included in the House bill is the creation of a Public Health Workforce Corps to address shortages in the public health workforce. The program would provide scholarships and education loan repayment assistance for public health professionals serving in areas of need. Veterinarians are included among those public health professionals.
"The rationale is that with mad cow disease, swine flu and other animal-borne diseases and issues, there is logic in helping to create more and better trained individuals to treat animal health," said Vincent Morris, spokesman for the House Rules Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
But the inclusion of veterinarians in the health bill didn't sit well with Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who noted on the House floor on Nov. 7, 2009, that the loan repayment program will cost $283 million over five years.
"So the real question I have for you folks (Democrats): Why are veterinarians part of this health care bill?" Stearns asked.
Rep. Slaughter responded: "Have you ever heard of swine flu? Have you ever heard about food safety? Have you ever heard that 70 percent of all of the antibiotics produced in the United States are given to cattle and poultry even though they are not ill? But swine flu should make you worry a little bit, don't you think?"
The bill also would provide funding for fellowships to support public health training, and again, veterinary medicine is included in the mix. Lastly, the bill would create an advisory committee to assess the health workforce and to make recommendations to ensure that workforce is meeting the nation's needs. The bill says that would include public health professions "including veterinarians engaged in public health practice." In other words, not the local vet who gives your dog heartworm pills.
Two other things about the scholarships and loan assistance programs. In order to qualify, the bill says applicants must "have demonstrated expertise in public health" and as quid pro quo must serve for a period equal to their scholarship in a public health program assigned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Again, not your pet vet down the street.
"Veterinarians are a part of the public health workforce, especially those that deal with disease outbreak," said Brian Cook, press secretary for Pete Stark, D-Calif., chair of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. "We have a shortage of veterinarians right now who are trained to deal with disease outbreak."
Still, scholarships, loan assistance and fellowships to veterinarians is one thing. Providing government health insurance to dogs is quite another.
"We are not offering insurance for dogs," Morris said.
We pored over the bill and came to the same conclusion. There is no health insurance of any kind for dogs -- no public option for Rex, no death panels for Fido.
So we've got to put Beck in the doghouse for this one -- Pants on Fire!
CNN on Monday featured a fifth grade student who is refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance in his classroom until gays and lesbians have equal rights.
Despite all its pretense of being an impartial, neutral network compared to MSNBC, the advocacy of CNN comes through in almost every story it does.
"Tea Party" protests featured people with tea bags dangling from their hats and the frames of their glasses, people who had no coherent explanation of what they were protesting, who were misusing the iconography of the American Revolution-era tea parties that were protests against taxation without representation, and involved crazy comparisons of Barack Obama to Mao and Hitler, claims that Obama has a "Marxist agenda," allegations of fascism and socialism, references to Nancy Pelosi being a witch, .
By comparison, Arkansas fifth-grader Will Phillips offers a clear and straightforward explanation of his position, without resorting to silly props or name-calling:
Well, I looked at the end and it said "with liberty and justice for all." And there really isn't liberty and justice for all. There's -- gays and lesbians can't marry. There's still a lot of racism and sexism in the world, yes.
Yeah, it's really hard to see why CNN would treat this fifth grader "with far greater respect" than they treated a bunch of screaming nut-cases with tea bags dangling from their hats and signs comparing the President of the United States to Adolf Hitler. It must be liberal bias!
The conservative columnist has been quite clear in recent days in his belief that Sarah Palin is not a serious contender for the White House, or a serious person. She is, as Brooks put it over the weekend, "a joke." So why didn't Brooks point that out last year when she was, y'know, running for the White House?
As Greg Mitchell writes at Huffington Post:
It was amusing -- if appalling -- to watch David Brooks on the TV yesterday declare that Sarah Palin is a "joke" and only qualified to be a TV "talk show host." Last year, during the 2008 campaign, he believed exactly the same thing but refused to put it in print. It was a Profile in Cowardice and one of the biggest stains on Brooks' career in journalism and punditry.
Indeed, in 2008 I needled Brooks again and again about how, at the height of the election season, he was clearly hiding his true feelings about Palin from his New York Times readers. In real time, Brooks praised Palin in print as a "smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable." But at a media panel for elites at the Le Cirque in New York City, Brooks denounced her anti-intellectual candidacy as a "cancer" on the Republican Party. He also conceded she was completely unqualified for the VP slot.
But from his influential perch on the New York Times Op-ed page, Brooks refused to make those observations in print.
In an article about the Chamber of Commerce shopping around for an economist willing to put his or her name on a study touting the Chamber's predetermined conclusions about health care reform, the Washington Post engages in a nifty bit of false equivalence:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an assortment of national business groups opposed to President Obama's health-care reform effort are collecting money to finance an economic study that could be used to portray the legislation as a job killer and threat to the nation's economy, according to an e-mail solicitation from a top Chamber official.
The proposed economic study by the Chamber is the latest example of attempts by advocates and opponents of health-care reform to influence the debate with economic studies whose authenticity is later questioned by their adversaries.
In mid-October, just as the Senate Finance Committee was drafting the final wording of its health bill, the insurance industry released a study suggesting that the bill would dramatically increase the cost of insurance in the country.
The White House and reform advocates pushed back hard, arguing that the study by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) was a self-serving document that did not consider all of the relevant information in the legislation.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, the firm retained by AHIP, later said it had not considered some parts of the health-reform proposals that might affect the cost of insurance on households.
The Post suggested both "advocates and opponents of health-care reform" are equally guilty of trying to influence the debate with dubious studies -- but couldn't come up with a comparable example of reform advocates doing so. Or even an incomparable example.
That AHIP study, for example, got a great deal of largely uncritical coverage from the Washington Post. And long after it was clear that the study was bunk, the Post granted AHIP's president a coveted slot on its op-ed page to tout the study.
So ... where's the example of a similarly-flawed study supporting reform that got as much attention from news organizations like the Washington Post?
He must not. I mean, if he did, wouldn't he notice the silliness of this claim?
President Obama's decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in New York City along with four others accused of helping destroy the World Trade Center and attack the Pentagon on 9-11 paints a bulls-eye for terrorists right on New York City, their favorite target. Now Obama has identified where the terrorists should focus their energies - on New York City.
Um ... If "New York City" is already the terrorists' "favorite target," why do they need a bulls-eye painted on it? Does Dick Morris think terrorists don't know where New York is? Or does he think they've forgotten what their "favorite target" is?
And don't get me started on the next sentence, in which Dick Morris offers advice to the terrorists, telling them they "should focus their energies" on New York City.
In any event, President Obama is affording the terrorists exactly what they wanted in the first place - a global stage right near New York's theater district.
Really? The terrorists were that concerned about their proximity to New York's theater district? I find that a little hard to believe.
Finally, there is the disturbing question of what will happen if Mohammed and/or his some of his confreres are found to be not guilty. Where will they be released? Will they walk out of the courtroom free to prowl the streets of New York, their transportation having been paid courtesy of the taxpayers?
Now, I don't have Dick Morris' track record when it comes to predicting the future, but I'm going to offer a prediction anyway: No.
At times like this, it sure would be great if the Washington Post's media critic wasn't getting paid on the side by CNN.
Last week, CNN's Lou Dobbs abruptly resigned (or, if you prefer, "resigned") his job as perhaps the cable channel's most famous anchor. In the wake of the resignation/"resignation," CNN President Jonathan Klein continued his pattern of bizarre and often contradictory statements about Dobbs. But Howard Kurtz, who earns what we can only assume is a handsome salary from his side job as host of CNN's Reliable Sources, continues to give Klein a pass.
It all started over the summer, when Lou Dobbs was hyping the crazy Birther conspiracy theories about Barack Obama's birth certificate. After this nonsense went on for a while, Klein sent around a memo to CNN employees declaring the story "dead," adding "anyone who still is not convinced doesn't really have a legitimate beef." But Lou Dobbs didn't consider it dead, and he kept on flogging it.
That's when things got interesting. CNN President Klein, who had previously declared the story "dead," flip-flopped, calling Dobbs' treatment of the topic "legitimate" and blasting Dobbs' critics as "people with a partisan point of view from one extreme or another."
One of the critics of Dobbs' relentless hyping of the Birther conspiracy theories had been Howard Kurtz. And Kurtz had mentioned Klein's memo on Reliable Sources. But, oddly, he never mentioned criticized CNN's president for endorsing Dobbs coverage -- in fact, he never even mentioned Klein's flip-flop.
Nor Kurtz ever mention that Klein's descriptions of Dobbs' Birther reporting were inaccurate.
Nor has Kurtz noted the obvious falsity of Klein's repeated claims that Dobbs had removed opinion from his broadcasts this year and begun doing straight news broadcasts. Klein has been pushing that line since the Spring, at least, and continues to do so in the wake of Dobbs' departure from CNN:
CNN President Jon Klein said the decision grew out of weeks of discussion with Dobbs after he had directed the anchor several months ago to rein in some of his more controversial opinions.
"We both came to the conclusion that the mission of the network was different from the mission he wanted to pursue," Klein said. "He was very friendly and engaging about it. . . . A few months ago, Lou removed opinion from his show for the most part, in an earnest effort to live up to the mission of the network. It occurred to him that was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He came to us and we agreed. . . . 'Lou Dobbs Tonight' was increasingly standing apart from the network."
Again: that is obviously false, as a few brief moments watching Lou Dobbs Tonight (or browsing Media Matters' extensive Dobbs archives) would have made clear. But Howard Kurtz has never mentioned that the president of CNN was making obviously false claims about the content of one of its most famous programs. On Reliable Sources yesterday, Kurtz noted "CNN president Jon Klein said that he had asked Dobbs several months ago to take the opinion off his program and Dobbs had largely complied." But he politely avoided assessing the truthfulness of Klein's statement.
It's hard to believe the nation's most prominent media critic would ignore Klein's defense of Dobbs' Birther reporting, and his repeated false statements about the content of Dobbs' broadcasts -- until you remember that CNN probably pays Kurtz more than the Washington Post does.
When Washington Post ombudsman wrote a few weeks ago about the "inescapable conflict" of interest represented by Kurtz' dual employment at CNN and the Washington Post, Kurtz responded:
"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."
That was obviously false at the time. Kurtz's continuing kid-glove treatment of his CNN boss drives that falsity home even more.
From the November 16 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Because yes, the right-wing site is much more Newsbusters than it is Media Matters. (i.e. It doesn't let facts get in the way of telling a good story.)
Follow this bouncing ball. On her Facebook page, Sarah Palin attacked those who dare fact-check her book by writing this [emphasis added]:
We'll keep setting the record straight, and we'll keep reminding some in the media that Americans are very tired of their non-objective reporting. A great, recent post that accomplishes this is a Conservatives4Palin post. It's got some nice fact checking included. As always, they did a great job holding some of the media accountable for spreading more misinformation and for making things up. You can read it here. Enjoy!
To which, Politico's Ben Smith wrote:
Conservatives4Palin is a fan site unconnected to the former governor; it functions, though, as Palin's Media Matters, driving aggressive media pushback that's basically her only line of defense.
To which, Conservatives4Palin wrote.
Ben Smith at Politico apparently noticed the shout out, as well. We would prefer to be known as "Palin's NewsBusters" rather than "Palin's Media Matters" though, Ben.
To which we say, amen!
Conservatives4Palin is so much more akin to Newsbusters than it is Media Matters. Meaning, Conservatives 4Palin is a typical right-wing site that, unlike Media Matters, plays quite loose with the facts.
For instance, note this C4P claim from last week:
As we've already noted, the Associated Press illegally obtained a copy of Gov. Palin's book to give themselves and others a chance to misreport it and put a negative spin on it before she could legally reply.
That's right, AP reporters likely walked into a bookstore last week, bought a copy of Palin's book before its 'official' release date, and broke the law. I'll pause while you chuckle. What, were the HarperCollins detectives not looking when those criminal AP staffers made their dastardly move??
Note to C4P: It's not illegal to buy a book prior to its official release date, even if the title's "embargoed" by the publisher. The so-called embargo is a joke; a marketing tool designed merely to retain some control over the rollout of the title. I guarantee you that hundreds, if not thousands, of people bought Palin's book last week, and not one of them broke the law.
So yes, we're in heated agreement with C4P, they're much more like Newsbusters, which distinguishes itself with its habitually clueless and fact-free commentary on the media, than it is with Media Matters category, which is a fact-based operation.
UPDATED: C4P is even more like Newsbusters than we thought. From a different post:
Basically, the AP just pulled a Pearl Harbor-like sneak attack on the Governor. They bought a copy of her book illegally on the black market.
On the black market. LOL. Just like Newsbusters, C4P provides endless entertainment.
UPDATED: Oh no! It appears Palin also broke the law last week. Remember this part, from C4P:
As we've already noted, the Associated Press illegally obtained a copy of Gov. Palin's book to give themselves and others a chance to misreport it and put a negative spin on it before she could legally reply.
But oops, Palin did reply prior to the official release date. No word yet on whether C4P is going to press charges.
At the end of her forthcoming book, Going Rogue, Sarah Palin thanks, by name, the "bold and patriotic, fair and balanced media folks" who "mak[e] the idiots' heads spin":
To some media professionals whom I admire because you don't let anyone tell you to sit down and shut up, please keep making the idiots' heads spin. Thanks for not taking our Freedom of the Press for granted, you bold and patriotic, fair and balanced media folks. Keep calling it like you see it: Amanda, Andrew, Ann, Bill(s), Bob, Cal, Dennis, Dick, Eddie, Fred, Glenn, Greta, Hugh, Joey, John, Jonah, Larry, Laura, Lou, Mark, Mary, Michael, Michelle, R.A.M., Rich, Rush, S.E., Sean, Tammy, Walter ... and there are more. I join you in standing up for what is right. Remember that as your voice is heard and your spine is stiffened, the spines of others are stiffened, too. (Going Rogue, Page 413)
So who are all these people? Well, we can think of a Bill, Glenn, Greta and Sean whom Palin may have reason to thank. Oddly, Bill, Dick, Fred, Laura, Michelle, Rich, S.E., and Tammy are also names that sound familiar to those of us who like our cable news "fair and balanced."