As I explained in a column posted yesterday, The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb's claim that the White House has threatened to close a Nebraska Air Force base if Sen. Ben Nelson doesn't support health care reform is more than a little far-fetched. In fact, it's pretty ridiculous -- even before you consider Goldfarb's history of fabrication.
But now things may be getting really interesting. Goldfarb, remember, claimed only one source, described simply as "a Senate aide." But I've just been forwarded an email that appears to show that a GOP operative was pushing the allegation the night before Goldfarb -- or, apparently, anyone else -- wrote publicly about it.
The From field of the email reads "email@example.com" -- that's apparently David Merritt, Vice President and Director of National Health Policy for The Gingrich Group (yes, that Gingrich.) Merritt wrote at 10:16 pm on Monday, December 14 (about 14 hours before Goldfarb's post):
[Nelson] is the only obstacle to 60. Word is he's been threatened for the last 10 days with losing Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha on next round of BRAC review (he's on Armed Services, but wouldn't be involved with appointing review committee...something like that). Sure sounds like Rahm, doesn't it?
The McCain angle doesn't end there. As a result of Goldfarb's story, 20 Republican Senators sent a letter requesting a Senate Armed Services Committee investigation. That letter was sent to committee chair Carl Levin and ... ranking member John McCain. But McCain doesn't appear to want to have anything to do with an investigation, according to Greg Sargent:
John McCain is staying mum on right wing calls for his Senate committe to probe claims that the White House has been privately threatening to close an Air Force base in Nebraska to force Ben Nelson into line on health care.
Turns out, though, that McCain, the relevant committee's ranking Republican, is laying very low on this story. McCain spokesperson Brooke Buchanan confirms to me that the Senator has no comment on the story or on whether he thinks the probe should move forward.
McCain's refusal to endorse the probe suggests that he doesn't place much stock in the charges and perhaps doesn't want to be publicly associated with them. But he may not want to say so publicly, in order to avoid alienating those on the right who have been pushing it with such fervor.
And Nelson? Nelson reportedly says an investigation would embarrass the Republicans:
Nelson told KLIN/Lincoln radio hosts Jack Mitchell and John Bishop that he knows who started the rumors and when it comes to light it will be "embarrassing for the other side of the aisle," presumably meaning a Republican senator or senators is behind it.
From the news channel that hosts the guy who says Obama a racist and a communist and a socialist and a thug, comes today's sudden concern that maybe some Democrats just aren't civil enough. (Hint: it's a phony story.)
Double irony alert! The Fox & Friends crew mocks Al Franken as an "angry comedian" and an "angry clown." Hmm, an angry comedian/clown. Does that sound like anyone the Fox friends might know on-staff?
Funny how liberal media critics are proven right, over and over again
Back in 2007 when Murdoch sealed perhaps the worst media deal in the history of media deal-making (i.e. when he bought the WSJ for top dollar just before the newspaper industry collapsed), progressives warned that when a open partisan like Murdoch got his hands on the Journal, the mighty newspaper would never be the same. That Murdoch would infect the news hole with politics and, just like he did with the once-mighty Times of London, he'd turn a great newspaper into a just an okay one.
Well, voilà! mission accomplished. Murdoch has dumbed down the Journal news team in the pursuit of partisan reporting. On Monday, the New York Times' David Carr noted how the Journal's news was now "tilting rightward." And today, Politico's Michael Calderone calls attention to the Journal's No. 2, Gerald Baker, an Obama-mocking British columnist (and Weekly Standard contributor) who Murdoch hired.
I've been noting all year how the Journal's D.C. reporting has, at times, been spectacularly bad. (See exhibits A, B, C, and D.) And bad because it seemed to be stretching so hard to make gotcha, partisan points. Now we're beginning to see that perhaps editors and reporters are being pressured by Murdoch's Obama-mocking team to make those misguided points.
But isn't it all very interesting that when liberal media critics raised these very warnings about a Murdoch-owned Journal at the time when he was making his pitch for the paper, they were often called naive and pollyannish. The smart, savvy media people insisted that Murdoch would never tamper with the Journal; that he'd be a fool to mess with the newspaper's winning news formula. (The WSJ's editorial page was already home to the `wingers, of course.)
As I pointed out back then, Rupert Murdoch does not buy news properties in order to keep his hands off them. He has very little history of that. So of course he was going to meddle with the Journal, and of course he was going to hire his men to turn the whole enterprise to the right. And of course he was going to dumb the newspaper down.
Fact: It's very hard to find news properties that Murdoch has acquired and improved, journalistically. It's rather easy though, to find examples of news outlets he has dumbed-down.
The Journal's days a sterling news gathering operation were numbered when Murdoch purchased the daily, and now the newspaper's decline is on full display. Can't can't say we're surprised.
On Monday evening, as a small group of residents of Fairfield, CT, were attempting to light a menorah at the town's gazebo, three masked men appeared, carrying Nazi flags. They screamed obscenities, trying to disrupt the celebration of the third night of Hanukkah and intimidate the participants, before fleeing upon the arrival of the police. Their identities are unknown; they remain at large.
You probably haven't heard this story. Unlike certain other tales of holiday celebrations, it hasn't received coverage from the national cable networks.
As Christmas approaches each year, Fox News' correspondents and hosts go looking for evidence that the holiday is under attack. Their subsequent reports typically claim that political correctness, godless liberals, or some combination of the two are responsible for the removal of a crèche from public property or the banning of Christmas-themed gifts from school gift shops or the tendency of retailers to say "Happy Holidays." The stories let Fox News demonstrate outrage, whip up their viewers, and pack their on-air hours with tales of the War on Christmas.
Memo to Fox: This is what an actual war on a holiday looks like:
That was Monday evening. According to the searches of the Nexis and TVEyes.com databases I've done (and believe me, searching the various permutations of "Hanukkah" is no small chore), Fox News hasn't mentioned the story. I don't mean to suggest that Fox News are hypocrites, or that they are insufficiently focused on Hanukkah, merely to say: this is a story.
So Fox News, how about it? Why not send a correspondent to Fairfield, create some graphics, host Fairfield First Selectman Flatto or Rabbi Landa on O'Reilly?
Why not expose hate, instead of targetting supposed political correctness?
Like Jamison Foser earlier this week, I was struck by this passage from David Carr's recent New York Times column. The topic was how the WSJ news team is skewing its Obama news coverage to the right [emphasis added]:
Reporters say the coverage of the Obama administration is reflexively critical, the health care debate is generally framed in terms of costs rather than benefits.
But the Journal is hardly alone in this regard. It's a disturbing fact that when covering the health care debate, Beltway reporters and pundits are very interested in writing and talking about the costs involved, how it might impact the federal deficit, and the general downsides involved in instituting a fundamental change in American health care. In other words, for many journalists the issue of health care is a financial and numbers-crunching one.
But it's federal number-crunching only. Meaning, most of the media emphasis is on the important dollars involved. The numbers that are not being crunched are the numbers that millions of American families without health insurance crunch as they try to hold off bankruptcy when medical emergencies strike.
The very real and personal impact of America's ongoing health care crisis has been of little interest to members of the Beltway press corps (most of whom enjoy full health care benefits), who prefer to spend their time pouring over CBO analysis and repeating Republican talking points about how health care reform would be a budget buster. Why health care reform has been sought in this country for going on five decades seems to be of very little interest to elite Beltway journalists.
And that's why this recent report from the Newark Star-Ledger sort of jumped off the pages; because the press has shown so little interest in telling stories like this:
The pain in Dan Abrams' leg throbbed so much he could barely stand.
Still, the 60-year-old Somerville resident, who friends say had just canceled his health insurance because of the tough economy, debated from a hospital emergency room whether he should stay and run up thousands of dollars in debt, or take antibiotics from home and hope they arrested the mysterious infection in his leg.
Fearing he could lose his home and flooring business, Abrams chose to leave Somerset Medical Center after a hospital physician said staying would "run him a lot of money," said Connie Dodd, a close friend who drove him to the hospital and heard the conversation. "I begged him to stay. But Dan's a proud man. Talk of all the bills got him scared."
When Connie and her partner, Cindy Weiss, brought Abrams dinner the next night, July 29, they found his lifeless body in bed. Weiss performed CPR but it was too late. "It was a nightmare," Dodd said.
This hopeless campaign really is shaping up to be one the truly epic fails in the history of political blogging. I'm hard-pressed to think an instance in which such a large portion of the supposed A-list blogosphere went so bat-shit crazy for a story for so long, posting so many name-calling rants, and yet had so little to show for it. To say that it's crickets out there in the real world re: the Jennings story would be an exaggeration.
But the most amusing part is that the leaders of this misguided pack (Cough! Cough! Andrew Breitbart, Gateway Pundit) show no signs of letting up on the gas. They're oblivious to the sad spectacle they've created and don't realize that people are literally laughing at them. Instead, they think they're rounding third and heading for home. And they've convinced themselves that if they post just one more nasty, impossible-to-follow, guilt-by-association diatribe, than all the pieces of their gay-baiting hate campaign will magically come together and Kevin Jennings will finally be driven from Washington, D.C., preferably by a pitchfork-waving mob.
If you say so guys. Although honestly, I'm not ruling out a Gateway Pundit post next March or April ("Fistgate LXXVII"?), where he assures readers he's just about to bust this story wide open.
But for the record, it's now been two weeks of obsessive updates and relentless "fisting" headlines (read Tbogg's side-splitting take on Gateway Pundit's gay sex obsession), and nobody outside the right-wing world cares. (As for Media Matters, as long as the right-wing keeps posting the misleading Jennings attacks, we'll keep debunking them.)
One week ago I reported that at the time not one serious news organization had picked up the Jennings story. Which means not one reporter, editor or producer looked at the hysteria that was posted online about Jennings and thought, hey, that's a news story. Instead, everyone ignored it. (Frankly, I think most journalists sprinted away from it.) Why? Because the stuff was patently bogus, not to mention relentlessly creepy. Well, here we are after week two and let's go to totem board, courtesy of Nexis.
Number of serious news orgs that have reported on the Jennings 'scandal': 0.
Number of right-wing posts about the Jennings 'scandal': Dude, I've completely lost count.
As I noted last week:
The endless stream of hollow allegations the right-wing traffics in has now largely become background noise, albeit unpleasant and unwanted noise. They represent a cacophony of endless allegations that virtually never pan out. So can you blame journalists for simply tuning it out?
And therein lies the silver lining. The more right-wing bloggers discredit themselves with Jennings-like witch hunts, the less likely it is journalists will take them seriously.
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 December 17 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
One day after freaking out because Time magazine did not include the tea party protests in its memorable moments of the past year, Glenn Beck complained on his Fox News show that "Time magazine didn't even recognize them in any way, shape, or form of even existing this year."
But Beck's claim ignores the fact that Time did recognize the tea parties - one week earlier in its year-end list of the Top 10 Untruths.
Checking in at No. 7 on Time's list was the effort by tea party rally organizers to inflate the attendance level at its 9-12 rally in Washington, D.C:
When all was said and done, the point of the tea-party march on Washington on Sept. 12 was not to compare estimates on the number of attendees but to show that grass-roots anger about government spending could lead to a full-on demonstration in the nation's capital. But there were a few snags along the way. One problem was that a group that helped organize the protest, FreedomWorks (slogan: "Lower Taxes, Less Government, More Freedom"), vastly overestimated the number of participants. FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe stated onstage at the rally that ABC News had reported that 1.5 million were in attendance. Later, when the network said it had made no such claim, Kibbe apologized on his blog for the erroneous attribution, which by then had been repeated in other reports. "With a dead iPhone, I had been shown tweets from a number of different folks behind the stage citing the ABC estimate," he said. "They didn't say it. I regret misrepresenting the network." Most other mainstream news outlets had been sticking to estimates of "tens of thousands" or "between 60,000 and 70,000." (To avoid political battles like the one that occurred in this case, Washington officials do not release estimates.) Meanwhile, the thornier issue was whether the grass-roots tea-party protests should be characterized as AstroTurf, i.e., a sophisticated campaign orchestrated by lobbyists. Tea-party participants denied the allegation.
Then again, if Beck were to acknowledge that Time called out the event organizers for vastly overestimating attendance at 1.5 million, he'd probably need to address his own dubious claim -- citing a university he could not recall -- that 1.7 million attended.
From Kenneth P. Vogel's December 17 Politico article:
Glenn Beck may be blowing off concerns that he's gotten too cozy with gold-sellers who sponsor his shows, but Fox News is taking the gold endorsement issue a little more seriously.
On Thursday, the network indicated it would ask Rosland Capital, a gold retailer, to remove from its website the logo for Bill O'Reilly's Fox show, the O'Reilly Factor, which Rosland features along with an audio clip of O'Reilly urging listeners to buy gold because "The U.S. Dollar is under attack!"
Fox's concern was that O'Reilly's endorsement of Rosland was specific to the radio show he no longer does, and Rosland is not a sponsor of his television show.
Rosland spokesman Steve Getzug said the company had not heard from Fox but was already "in the process of pulling the reference down as part of an overall update of Rosland's website." He called the O'Reilly endorsement "dated" and said "it's been a while since the company has updated its website."
Last week, Fox, which also airs Beck's television show, requested that Beck clarify his relationship with another gold retailer, Goldline International, leading the company to tweak its trumpeting of Beck's endorsement. Goldline removed an identification of Beck as a "paid spokesman" from its website, but left the rest of the site - which prominently features his endorsement, photo and a radio interview he did with the company's president Mark Albarian - intact.
In fact, Beck's critics have not suggested that he was actually influencing the price of gold, which had been rising steadily until this month, by encouraging his fans to buy coins from Goldline.
But some financial analysts and precious metals experts did tell POLITICO that potential gold investors would be wise to look into bullion or exchange traded funds intended to track the price of gold, rather than the coins sold by Goldline and a handful of other firms that advertise on Beck's shows and those of other conservative talkers. That's because those firms focus on collectible or antique coins, which they sell for many times the value of the intrinsic gold and promote as being exempt from a potential government seizure of gold like that which occurred under Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. Beck has suggested that gold coins are a good buy now because President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats are steering the economy towards disaster.
And that feedback loop - Beck stoking fear of economic collapse, hyping gold as a hedge against collapse, and endorsing a company selling gold - prompted liberals from the watchdog group Media Matters to MSNBC host Keith Olbermann to Comedy Central's faux-news hosts Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart to allege a glaring conflict of interest.