From the July 24 Washington Times op-ed of American Spectator founder and editor-in-chief R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.:
As I read his enjoinder against making important decisions, the telephone rang. A media booker was at my ear inquiring whether I would accept the invitation of a well-known cable news show to talk about how the Republican Party was being affected by Obama critics who have been harassing Democratic politicians with claims that the president did not have a legitimate birth certificate and was born abroad, perhaps in Botswana or Upper Volta or Lapland. On his provenance, there is no unanimity among these critics.
Well, my doctor's instructions did counsel that I not "make important decisions," but how would that hinder me on a political talk show? As I saw it, I would be in perfect condition to answer the witty ripostes of cable news' talking heads, say Tucker Carlson or Jon Stewart.
I agreed to do the afternoon show so long as I did not have to drive a car or use heavy machinery to get to the studio. Moreover, I had good news for the booker. Choosing me to discuss the president's national origins was an inspired choice. A crack reporter of mine at the American Spectator had investigated the matter when it was a hot rumor during the presidential election and found no empirical evidence in support of the story.
Better yet, the Spectator's reporter found evidence militating against the story. At the time of President Obama's birth in 1961, a notice of the blessed event was published in the major Hawaiian newspaper. I would not rule out dark and treacherous conspiracies by a Democratic president, especially one in cahoots with Rahm Emanuel, but a conspiracy going back almost five decades exceeds even Mr. Emanuel's diablerie.
Thus, I would gladly appear on this news show and present evidence that the questions about the president's place of birth are without merit. The news story is nonsense. Those who dwell on it are distracting us from today's real issues: the Obama administration's bankrupting of the country, its attempt to transform American health care into a rationing system against senior citizens and the chronically ill, its "cap-and-trade" bill guaranteeing high unemployment and higher energy costs in time of recession.
Well, ha-ha-ha. Back comes my disappointed booker after conveying the good news that we would be setting the record straight on the show shortly. Alas, the show's producers did not want me to set the record straight. They had wanted me to defend the false story. But I reminded the booker that I knew the story to be false. In fact, I had provided the show with irrefutable proof that the story is false. Mr. Obama is American-born.
The show proceeded to find a guest who would repeat the false story, either knowingly or out of ignorance -- so much for getting to the truth of issues on television. As for me, I would never knowingly publish anything I knew to be untrue, not in this column or in the American Spectator.
As Media Matters for America has documented, Tyrrell has written several smear books that feature numerous unverified -- and, to the point of absurdity, poorly sourced -- claims about the Clintons. In his October 20, 1997, "Media Notes" column, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz wrote that in the Spectator, "Tyrrell himself has weighed in with two pieces on Bill Clinton's supposed ties to drug-running at the Mena, Ark., airport and another titled 'Is Clinton on Coke?' "
While Kurtz couldn't bring himself to criticize Dobbs, he did devote a section to the ever-pressing topic of Michael Jackson. And a lengthy section to the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, in which he asserted that President Obama's answer to a question about Gates was "a tactical mistake." An odd focus for a "Media Notes" column, but it does have benefit of allowing Kurtz to fill column inches without criticizing CNN, which signs his (other) paycheck.
Because when a Republican somewhere, in some venue, criticizes Obama, it's news.
So Politico's Ben Smith rushed up a post yesterday after Minnesota's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty appeared on Fox News and called Obama's health care reform proposal "a joke":
Pawlenty blasts Obama plan
In the eyes of Politico pros that's news. It's important and it needs to be documented (complete with video!) for all the Beltway to see. The deep irony of course is that, from a journalism perspective, a Republican appearing on Fox News to attack Obama (about anything) is pretty much the opposite of news. It's ordinary, expected and predictable.
But at Politico, which seems to have been created in order to give Republicans a bigger platform at attack Democrats, the dog-bites-man sight of a Republican criticizing a Democrat (on Fox News, no less), has been elevated to a hallmark event and one that must--must!--be reported quickly, quoted at length, and treated as gravely important.
From the July 24 edition of the Fox Nation:
From the July 24 edition of Fox News' FOX & Friends:
Courtesy of Charlie Rose, who invited a round table of Politico players to go on and on about how wonderful and powerful the site is.
I'd just like to state for the record that Politico truly represents the future of journalism; we're all in deep trouble.
And am I the only one who thinks it's odd listening to Politico bosses lecture the Old Media about how it needs to change, and what it needs to do to survive in the New Media world when the truth is Politico's website remains a money loser and is essentially subsidized by its small-circulation print edition?
Via TV Newser (emphasis added):
CNN's Campbell Brown sat down late last week with Julie Menin. And right out of the gate, Brown explained what sets CNN apart from its competitors. "CNN is the only one who's still doing journalism," said Brown, anchor of CNN's 8pmET program. "I don't mean that as a criticism of what the other guys are doing, it's just...we're comparing apples and oranges. Fox has made a choice to go in one direction, MSNBC has made a choice to go in the other direction."
Okay, I'll bite, even though the smear against MSNBC is simplistic and misleading.
If all that is true, then what direction has Lou Dobbs gone off in? Furthermore, is crazy actually a "direction"?
This week we've seen the staff at ESPN and a group of 23 bipartisan members of Congress simultaneously reach the same conclusion: Murdoch's 'news' outlets can do real damage to our culture.
ESPN banned staffers from the New York Post from appearing on any of its programming on Wednesday after the newspaper published photos this week taken from a video showing sideline reporter Erin Andrews nude in a hotel room.
The Post published three images from the blurry video Tuesday.
"While we understand the Post's decision to cover this as a news story, their running photos obtained in such a fashion went well beyond the boundaries of common decency in the interest of sensationalism," ESPN senior vice president of communications Chris LaPlaca said in a statement Wednesday night.
Second, the Congressional group:
As members of Congress and veterans of the United States Armed Forces, it was with incredulity and disgust that we watched Fox News Strategic Analyst Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters (Ret.) suggest on your airwaves that Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, "abandoned his buddies, abandoned his post, and just walked off," and stated that, if this is true, "the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills."
It's satisfying to see more and more people realize what Media Matters has been saying for years: Murdoch's brand of 'journalism' is often just dangerous and hateful.
UPDATED: Attorney for ESPN's Erin Andrews unloads on Murdoch-land and the slime that seeps out there:
"The Post's attack on ESPN and Erin is clearly an attempt to draw attention away from its despicable print coverage and that of its sister company Fox News."
Just a note about Dan Rather's lawsuit over his firing from CBS in connection with the so-called Memogate story and how it continues to haunt the network. As the New York Times reported, Rather and his lawyers just won a key victory and were given permission to look at thousands of internal CBS documents.
My guess is that that will translate into more embarrassments for CBS. Because you'll recall that late last year we learned, via Rather's lawsuit, that internal memos indicated that CBS when first facing the right-wing firestorm over its 60 Minutes report about Bush's National Guard years, considered appointing Matt Drudge to sit on an "independent" fact-finding board to investigate the scandal. (A board which Bush refused to answers questions about his Guard service from.)
In fact, we learned that CBS was in full panic mode and was willing to take whatever step necessary to placate the right-wing fanatics frothing about Memogate. The picture painted by the CBS memos and documents already reviewed by Rather suggest a craven news organization that was less interested in uncovering the truth about the disputed memos, and more interested in appeasing Rush Limbaugh. It wanted to "mollify the right," as one internal CBS memo put it.
As I said, my guess is that with Rather and his lawyers about to dive into a new batch of documents, that portrait will only become more vivid.
And here's the kicker for the former Tiffany Network: Rather has vowed to never settle the case out of court.
Could it be because they are both employed by CNN?
Lou Dobbs' leap onto the Birther bandwagon has been big news this week. CNN reporters have debunked the conspiracy theory; MSNBC has covered it; Jon Stewart has mocked it; Chris Matthews has suggested the faux controversy is "not about documentation, but pigmentation." CNN officials have even felt compelled to comment.
Everybody, it seems, has weighed in, denouncing Dobbs' walk on the wild side.
Everybody, that is, except the nation's most famous media critic. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz hasn't managed to criticize Dobbs.
He has certainly had the opportunity. With a column in the print edition of the Post, and expanded online "Media Notes" column each day, a weekly "online discussion" on the Post's web site, a widely-read Twitter account, and a gig as a host and commentator for CNN, Howard Kurtz has more opportunity to weigh in on high-profile media stories than any other media critic in America.
Yet Kurtz has been all but silent. Here is every single word Howard Kurtz has written about Dobb's Birtherism:
Lou Dobbs has also raised questions about Obama's birth certificate.
Kurtz couldn't even bring himself to note that Obama is, in fact, a US citizen, fully qualified for the office he holds -- much less actually criticize Lou Dobbs.
And that's it. Not so much as a Tweet of criticism of Lou Dobbs.
That's an awfully big media story for the nation's most famous media critic to take a pass on.
It should be noted that Kurtz's dual role as media critic for the Washington Post and employee of CNN has raised conflict of interest concerns in the past. The Post's Ombudsman had to address the issue recently after Kurtz defended CNN in an online discussion without disclosing his ties to the cable channel.
So, let's see: A Washington Post reporter has taken a pass on the biggest story in the beat he covers -- a story that just happens to reflect poorly on a company that the reporter draws a paycheck from on the side. Sounds like something the nation's leading media critic should take a look at! Oh... damn.
If Kurtz doesn't devote a column and/or this week's Reliable Sources broadcast to his CNN colleague Lou Dobbs' reckless birth certificate nuttiness, he should spend that time examining his own conflict of interest.
UPDATE: Here's another (somewhat amusing) example of Kurtz tripping over his dual roles at CNN and the Post.