Yesterday, Dean Baker and I argued that journalists should remember that they don't know what politicians think or believe, they only know what politicians say -- and their reporting should reflect that.
Now here's MSNBC's Kelly O'Donnell explaining Joe Lieberman's opposition to the Medicare buy-in a few minutes ago:
Some moderates, most notably Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, were against this idea, feeling it would put too great a burden on a federal program that's already stretched very thin.
No. Kelly O'Donnell does not know that Joe Lieberman feels any such thing. She knows he says it -- but, if she's been paying attention at all, she has good reason to suspect he isn't telling the truth.
See, O'Donnell didn't mention this, but Lieberman has supported the Medicare buy-in. He supported it as long ago as 2000, and he supported it as recently as three months ago. Between that and the fact that so many of his comments about health care this year have been false or inconsistent, there's no reason to assume his stated reasons for opposing the Medicare buy-in are true.
And, indeed, there is a growing universe of journalists who recognize this.
The NBC News political unit notes there is "growing evidence that Lieberman's objection to the Medicare 'buy-in' compromise isn't necessarily based on principle. ... This is why the charge of playing politics with the left is looking so believable to some." The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reports that "there have apparently been a number of private assurances given -- and broken -- by the Connecticut senator in recent weeks." And even Lieberman defender Charles Lane says Lieberman is motivated by a desire for political "pay back."
So why do Kelly O'Donnell and the New York Times continue to take Lieberman's claims at face value? Do they understand that when they do so, they're covering up -- rather than revealing -- what's really happening? That they're helping a politician mislead the public?
Does the New York Times have some sort of policy against pointing out that Joe Lieberman's justifications for opposing health care reform are bunk?
Two days ago, Times reporters Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn quoted Lieberman saying the public option would "add to the deficit" without noting that the Congressional Budget Office says it will reduce the deficit. (Pear and Herszenhorn know the CBO says that -- they've reported it in other articles. They just kept quiet about it when it would contradict Lieberman.)
Today, Herszenhorn and David Kirkpatrick devote (another) entire article to Lieberman's opposition to health care. Here's how they present Lieberman's stated reasons for opposition the public option and Medicare buy-in:
Mr. Lieberman says he favors the essential elements of the health care legislation but fears that expanding government programs would compound the federal debt.
Again: no mention of the fact that the CBO says the public option would reduce the deficit (and, therefore, would not "compound the federal debt.")
At this point, a key part of the health care story is that Joe Lieberman is either deeply dishonest or has absolutely no idea what he is talking about (or both), Steve Benen and Jonathan Chait, among others, have noted. Yesterday, Marc Ambinder pointed out that Lieberman has been breaking promises to colleagues. Even Lieberman's defenders say he is killing health care reform to get revenge against liberals who opposed him in 2006. Yet the New York Times persists in taking Lieberman's obviously bogus claims at face value, and ignoring facts they have reported elsewhere that undermine his statements.
Somebody alert Bill O'Reilly, because if he's truly concerned about the so-called War on Christmas, he should start policing the right-wing blogosphere, where overexcited partisans like Andrew Breitbart and The Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft have taken to openly mocking the Christian holiday in the name of waging partisan, homophobic attacks.
The smear stems from the duo's relentless, yet thoroughly ineffective, campaign directed at the Obama administration's openly gay "Safety School Czar," Kevin Jennings. Rehashing a well-told story from nearly a decade ago, the duo--still without any actual proof--claim Jennings knew about sexual explicit topics that were discussed with school children as part of conference at Tufts University, sponsored by the group Jennings ran, Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.
One of the explicit topics reportedly covered a conference workshop was fisting (a revelation that Jennings later criticized), so naturally Breitbart and Hoft started referring to the smear campaign as "Fist-gate." (Get it?!)
But the overly-excited anti-gay duo didn't stop there. Perhaps driven by simmering frustration over the fact nobody in the real news world cares about their pointless story, Breitbart and Hoft, for some bizarre reason, starting tying Fist-gate" in with Christmas, dubbing it "Fist-mas."
I kid you not.
From Breitbart's Twitter:
And here's the Big Government headline from Jim Hoft:
Merry Fist-mas Media Matters… No, We're Not Finished Yet
Yep, Breitbart and Hoft decided to make the connection between the birth of Jesus Christ with an anal sex act. Isn't that kind of blasphemy just so clever and funny? It's it just priceless when conservatives demean one of Christianity's most spiritual days in order to try to score partisan, gay-baiting points?
I doubt I'm the only one offended by the need of unhinged, Obama-hating partisan to belittle even the Christmas holiday in order to try to tie in with their pointless Kevin Jennings crusade. And like I said, if Bill O'Reilly and the whole Christmas Police Dept. at Fox News were serious about calling out people who demean the miracle birth, they ought to demand that Breitbart and Hoft cut with the Fist-mas attacks on Christmas, and demand that they offer up public apologies.
That is, if the two `wingers even think the holiday is worth honoring.
From Jerome Corsi's December 14 article at WorldNetDaily.com:
Watching the Senate press last week toward passage of President Obama's universal health care, my Red Alert is forced to contemplate whether a socialist agenda is intending to bankrupt the United States with trillion-dollar social-welfare programs there is no way the country will ever be able to afford.
In "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," I clearly established that Barack Obama is trained in the Saul Alinsky "Rules for Radicals" methodology of lying to voters to disguise a true intent to transfer wealth from the "haves" to the "have nots."
But as we watch President Obama expand the social-welfare state to an unprecedented level, the question is this: Is Barack Obama silently pursuing the Cloward-Piven strategy with an intent to destroy private-enterprise capitalism itself?
Is President Obama intentionally placing so many on the government dole, including the inclusion of illegal aliens in Obamacare, because he wants to bankrupt the United States to destroy the private enterprise system, following the lead of the leftist radicals that employed the Cloward-Piven strategy to bankrupt New York City in the 1970s?
Three months ago, Fox News was forced to issue a humiliating retraction of the false allegations it had leveled against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings. Now, Maxim Lott, the FoxNews.com reporter at the center of those falsehoods, has re-emerged with more smears of Jennings.
This time, in an article headlined "Obama's Safe Schools Czar Tied to Lewd Readings for 7th Graders," Lott reported that Jennings "is under fresh attack after it was revealed that the pro-gay group he formerly headed recommends books his critics say are pornographic." In the article, Lott grossly distorts the contents of books recommended by GLSEN for grades 7-12 and waits until the 13th paragraph to disclose that the list of books included the disclaimer that they "contain mature themes" and the recommendation that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability."
And just who are the "critics" who apparently inspired Lott's article? In short: anti-gay bigots.
There's Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who last year announced his desire "to export homosexuals from the United States" -- a comment for which he later apologized (sort of). FRC's website states: "Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects."
Lott also quoted Peter LaBarbera of American for Truth about Homosexuality. LaBarbera has explained that his attacks on Jennings are "all about homosexuality and the 'gay' activist agenda whose singular goal is to normalize homosexuality as a 'civil right.' "
The fact that Fox continues to allow Lott to report on Jennings is some of the strongest evidence yet that the network isn't a news outlet at all but is actually a right-wing political organization whose mission is to concoct dishonest, bigoted attacks with which to damage progressives and the Obama administration.
Let's revisit some of Lott's past work on the Jennings beat.
On September 30, Lott reported as fact that more 21 years ago, as a young teacher in Massachusetts, Jennings "didn't report that a 15-year-old boy told him that he was having sex with an older man."
At the time, there was substantial evidence available that Lott's claim was false. As Media Matters pointed out, a publicly available 2004 letter from Jennings' lawyer stated that the student was actually 16 years old when the conversation took place. The Massachusetts age of consent is -- and was at the time -- 16; Jennings was under no obligation to report anything. (The student later said that he "had no sexual contact with anybody at the time.")
On October 1, after reporting as fact that the student was "15," Lott apparently decided to check whether this claim was true. As Media Matters exclusively revealed, Lott sent a Facebook message to the student, asking if the "rumor" that he was 15 at the time was "accurate."
Normally, this is the sort of thing journalists ask before leveling allegations at public servants. But Lott and Fox News are apparently so obsessed with gay-baiting that accuracy has become a secondary matter that can wait until after they've run with their charges.
On October 2, two days after Lott's story ran, Media Matters published a statement from the student and a copy of his driver's license, definitively proving that he was 16 at the time of his conversation with Jennings. That same day, the student wrote to Lott and demanded a correction. Eventually, Fox added the following editor's note to the top of Lott's article: "Since this story was originally published, the former student referred to as 'Brewster' has stepped forward to reveal that he was 16 years old, not 15, at the time of the incident described in this report."
Three months later, Lott's back. And he's got a new smear.
In yet another effort at conspiracy theorizing, Glenn Beck placed his target squarely on environmental cultists who are sterilizing your drinking water and limiting your energy use though secret control of your thermostat. No, really -- he even complained that pro-choice activists have not protested non-existent laws prohibiting more than "one child per family." But his real victim was Victorian literature.
It all began when Beck realized that these enviro-cultists were taking over government to establish a utopia with fewer humans, more polar bears, and government control of a woman's uterus. But the real fun began when Beck decided to cite Dickens to emphasize his point:
BECK: We don't know what this ultimate utopia will be, but as we approach Christmas this year, the climate cult, to me, is looking more and more like Scrooge. I believe it was Scrooge -- you know, before the change and the Tiny Tim, "I'd like more please" -- I think it was before all of that, when Charles Dickens wrote the words for Scrooge's mouth, "Well, if we all are going to die anyway, perhaps we had better do it and decrease the surplus population." I, for one, don't believe there's a surplus population. How about you?
Now, it's possible that Beck owns a Charles Dickens anthology that contains both Tiny Tim and the phrase "I'd like more please." Actually, that's technically not possible. But an anthology might have both Tiny Tim and the phrase, "Please, sir, I want some more." Those words would, of course, be spoken by Oliver Twist, the epyonymous orphan in Dickens' novel, not Tiny Tim, perhaps best recalled for appending his father's Christmas toast by exclaiming, "God bless us every one."
See, contrary to Beck's mistelling of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge did not change after Tiny Tim's brave call for more in the face of want; it was Tiny Tim's expression of being blessed despite his family's obvious want that moved Scrooge.
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 14 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
For those who haven't followed the controversy surrounding Glenn Beck's promoting of Goldline while suggesting on his show that people should buy gold because society might collapse, Jon Stewart summed it up nicely last week:
That's kind of a nice little feedback loop. Glenn Beck is paid by Goldline to drum up interest in gold, which increases in value in times of fear, an emotion reinforced nightly on Fox by Glenn Beck.
The relationship between Goldline, Beck and Fox News would actually make for a great, dare I say it, chalkboard diagram.
As the media began to pick up the story and question the relationship between Goldline and Beck, Fox News clarified the relationship this weekend. A senior executive at Fox News told the New York Times that Fox's legal department contacted "Beck's representatives," who "sent back word that he is not a paid spokesman." But according to the exec, it would be "problematic without question" if he was a paid spokesman.
And to make things even clearer, according to the Times, Fox released a statement outlining its official policy: "Fox News prohibits any on-air talent from endorsing products or serving as product spokesperson."
If you're wondering how what Beck does for Goldline is any different than that, you're not alone.
Goldline sponsors Beck's television program and his radio program, but the relationship doesn't end there. Beck's face appears on Goldline's website, where, until the relationship began to be questioned, he was listed as a "paid spokesman." Not so, said Beck's representatives to Fox News. These aren't the droids you're looking for.
On Friday's radio show, Beck used a preview for his Friday night television show to plug Goldline.
Here's our sponsor this half hour. Our sponsor this half hour is Goldline. Gold is something that I have invested in. I bought when it was about $300/oz and I've never done it for an investment. Don't listen to me for an investment advice. Please. I can tell you directions that I think, but I could be wrong. And have been in the past. Gold is something that I buy as an insurance policy. You don't put all your money into gold or anything like that. Because if the dollar falls apart and please watch tonight's show and I'll show you what's coming. If the dollar does fall apart, what do you have? Now you may not be able ot afford gold and for god's sake don't go and get into debt. I know they offer payment plans. Please don't. Please. Don't rack up any debt. But you have to have something of value as an insurance in case things go haywire. For me and my family that's gold. You decide on your own. Call Goldline and find out all the options. Ask them how I buy gold, why I buy the gold that I buy. I buy the coins. I will tell you that that's a little off the deep end. But I'm off the deep end if I'm going to have an insurance program, I want an insurance program. Find out all about it. Go to goldline.com. Go to 866-Goldline. Full disclosure: Goldline is a sponsor. That's why I'm telling you this is a paid commercial. 1-866-Goldline.
Sure enough, on Friday night's program Beck essentially suggested that people better start buying gold because the country's about to fall apart. Beck first used a stoplight metaphor to explain how our economic system works. Green light means everyone buys stocks, yellow light means T-bills and red light means "Gold, Guns and God." Beck claimed we are at yellow for one of the few times in our history. But there are signs it all might fall apart:
Anybody who has a ton of money and they put their money where their mouth is, they don't feel comfortable where we're going. It is yellow.
And, by the way, you're seeing flashes of red. Gold is massively down in the last week, but it may zoom up again, it may not. But it's a warning sign of flashing red light, which we also rarely, if ever, see.
If that wasn't clear enough, Beck said: "The smart money is saying 'hunker down.'"
The same show, Beck employed another metaphor:
[A]s a country, it's like we've moved to California where it's the land of earthquakes. But we've never had earthquakes before, OK? If you're in Washington or if you're in New York and say to somebody, where is the safest place in your house besides under the table in an earthquake, a lot of people wouldn't know.
It's in the door frame, OK? You stand in the door frame. If you're from the west coast, you know that. Stand in the door frame. Why? It is the threshold. It is the place that is most secure for you.
The country has never had earthquakes, financial earthquakes like this. So, the door frame on this side is the stocks and T-bills.
I talked to this guy, and he said, "Glenn, I'm here. The door frame of insanity, really, is gold, God and guns, because you don't know what's on this side of the door, right? So you're standing here with the treasuries, and you're just hoping you're going to jump back out, but you really don't know. He said, for the first time, he doesn't know which way he's going and he has no idea. Nobody has ever thought about what's on this side of the door frame.
Does that make sense?
Uh, not exactly, but it's pretty clear you want us to consider buying gold.
Over the weekend, Beck posted an online video on his site responding to the controversy, asserting:
I wasn't aware that apparently was the most powerful man on the planet. I didn't know that by me suggesting to you to buy gold through a fine establishment like Goldline.com, 866-Goldline, that the global price of this trillion dollar industry, global industry, would actually start to wildly fluctuate.
Beck's obviously not going to seriously answer these questions. And by refusing to hold him accountable - again - Fox is allowing everyone to see who really runs the show.