From Sargent's "The Plum Line" blog:
CNN has acknowledged in a statement to me that a high-profile Republican commentator who frequently discusses health care on the air is also the media buyer for one of the ad campaigns bankrolled by America's Health Insurance Plans, the major industry trade group currently waging war against the White House and Dem reform proposals.
CNN tells me his ties to the industry will be disclosed in the future.
The CNN contributor, well-known GOP consultant Alex Castellanos, is best known for producing the racially-charged "Hands" ad, has repeatedly appeared on the network attacking Dem health care plans and the public option, which is strongly opposed by AHIP.
Castellanos's consulting firm, National Media, also recently placed over $1 million of TV advertising for AHIP, according to info obtained by Media Matters. AHIP's most recent $1 million ad buy attacks the health care plan as a threat to Medicare.
This connection, you'd think, should be disclosed whenever Castellanos appears on CNN discussing health care. Asked for comment, CNN spokesperson Edie Emery acknowledged the tie and promised full disclosure in the future. She emailed:
"When Alex Castellano returns from his vacation and next appears on CNN, we will clearly disclose to our viewers relevant information including his firm's relationship with AHIP."
CNN doesn't appear to have known about Castellano's work, and this is not the first time outside help retained by AHIP in the health care wars has created a PR mess. AHIP took heavy criticism after the firm it retained to release a study faulting the reform proposals publicly undercut its own findings.
In recent weeks, Fox News' Glenn Beck has displayed an utterly shameful amount of disrespect toward Jewish people. Yesterday, Beck compared Fox News to Jews during the Holocaust, imploring journalists at other news networks to "[a]sk yourself this question: When they're done with Fox, and you decide to speak out on something. The old, 'First they came for the Jews, and I wasn't Jewish.'" He went on to add: "Do you really think that this man is then not going to turn on you? That you and your little organization is going to cause him any hesitation at all not to take you out?"
The comments quickly made the rounds on the progressive blogosphere and over at MSNBC. But Beck has employed the analogy on his show before. Back in June, referring to the closures of auto dealerships under the bankruptcy deals of GM and Chrysler, Beck declared:
This is fascism. This is what happens when you merge special interests, corporations, and the government. This is what happens. And if people like you don't take a stand...at some point, you know what poem keeps going through my mind is 'First they came for the Jews.' People, all of us are like, well, this news doesn't really affect me. Well, I'm not a bondholder. Well, I'm not in the banking industry. Well, I'm not a big CEO. Well, I'm not on Wall Street. Well, I'm not a car dealer. I'm not an autoworker. Gang, at some point they're going to come for you.
Both Beck's comparisons of Fox News and auto dealers to the Jews are so colossally stupid and absurd that they deserve to be dissected and mocked, but that's probably best done over cocktails at happy hour or by Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's Daily Show. Much more troubling is how frequently he uses Nazi analogies and how offensive they are.
In fact, Beck's use of Nazi analogies occurs so frequently -- and on such a large stage -- that Godwin's Law ought to be renamed in Beck's (dis)honor.
Among Beck's greatest Nazi hits misses:
Beck apparently has no sense that drawing such analogies on a regular basis diminishes the very meaning of the Holocaust and thus the meaning of those who were victimized by it. Has it never occurred to him that his use of these analogies might offend Jews? Or does he just not give a damn?
Huff Post's Sam Stein reported on Wednesday that the use of such analogies by Beck and others has led to "growing alarm among Jewish groups and anti-defamation activists." Anti-Defamation League's Deborah Lauter told Stein that "we are seeing more of it than usual," particularly in the health care debate. "Using a Nazi analogy just to say that your adversaries position on health care is bad," Lauter said." It "demeans the experience of those who died and those who are still around. It is so offensive on so many levels."
Further evidence of Beck's insensitivity toward Jews is his (failed) attempt to encourage his listeners to set aside September 28 - Yom Kippur - as a "day of Fast and Prayer for the Republic." In a September 19 tweet, Beck wrote:
Today, I'm being ripped apart by some Jewish organization and the Huffington Post is reporting it. Is Glenn so stupid he didn't know that was the day of atonement for Jews? ... No, I just thought it would be a good idea. It could bring people together. And you know, honestly, we don't really have a day of fast and prayer in Christianity. At least my faith doesn't really have a day that you do that, so I figured if they're already doing it, we could just join them. I mean, they're already gonna be miserable on that day. We could all not eat together but do it for the republic. Atone and begin again.
And on his September 23 radio show, Beck still refused to let it go.
This man has no shame. Absolutely none.
It's hard to imagine how he could top comparing his news organization to the victims of the Holocaust and trying to co-opt Judaism's most sacred holy day and turn it into a partisan protest, but knowing Beck, he will.
In the meantime, he will continue to say what he wants about the tenets of national socialism -- at least it's an ethos.
Beck's only motivation appears to be himself.
This is incredibly stupid, which gives it a pretty good chance of catching on with the conservative media and blogosphere.
Fox Nation is currently featuring this on its home page:
Everyone hates the DMV, and people will be livid that they have to go there for health insurance. Here's Terry Jeffrey at the headlined CNSNews.com article with the stunning revelation:
Page 19 of the committee's "plain English" text says: "The Secretary and/or states would do the following: ... Enable customers to enroll in health care plans in local hospitals, schools, Departments of Motor Vehicles, local Social Security offices, and other offices designated by the state."
Sound the alarm! The bill will actually "enable customers to enroll in health care plans" at a wide variety of places, including the DMV. Oh, wait, that doesn't sound controversial at all. Can you enroll in health insurance at the DMV under the Baucus bill? Apparently. Will you, as the headline suggests? That seems to be up to you. The headline also absurdly suggests that the DMV may suddenly function as a treatment center if the Baucus bill passes. No, the DMV won't suddenly be performing surgeries on the hoods of cars; they'll simply be providing people with the forms necessary to enroll in health care plans (as they do with voter registrations)
Jeffrey continues with his blockbuster find:
This is the bill's most revelatory passage because it sublimely symbolizes the bill's true aim: a government takeover of the health care system.
Cue scary music. Apparently this passage "sublimely symbolizes the bill's true aim," but I think Jeffrey and Fox Nation have inadvertently "sublimely symbolized" the true aim of the bill's opponents: trying, desperately, (per Frank Luntz's lead) to recast the bill as a "government takeover," despite all the evidence to the contrary. Sometimes I marvel at the right's straw-grasping abilities. To recap, according to CNSNews.com and Fox Nation, a clause enabling people to enroll in health care plans at their DMV (in addition to local schools, hospitals, Social Security offices, and other designated offices) somehow becomes: You Will Get Your Health Insurance At The DMV - Literally. How bereft of substantive health care criticism does the conservative media have to be for this "revelatory passage" to be worthy of prominent placement on Fox Nation?
Maybe I'm misreading Jeffrey's post, and this is just some biting satire about the lengths health care reform opponents will go to fearmonger and foster confusion about various proposals. Jeffrey:
This is no joke.
A potential ownership group that is attempting to purchase the St. Louis Rams has dropped radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh as an investor.
The group includes Dave Checketts, the chairman of hockey's St. Louis Blues, and announced the decision to drop Limbaugh on Wednesday.
"Rush was to be a limited partner--as such, he would have had no say in the direction of the club or in any decisions regarding personnel or operations," Checketts said in a written statement. "This was a role he enthusiastically embraced.
"However, it has become clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction to our intentions; endangering our bid to keep the team in St. Louis. As such, we have decided to move forward without him and hope it will eventually lead us to a successful conclusion."
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 October 14 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
Earlier today, Steyn was completely stumped as to why anyone would think Rush Limbaugh has a history of making race-baiting statements. Steyn just can't understand where this notion, now being discussed in the context of Limbaugh's dubious attempt to become an NFL owner, was coming from.
Specifically, Steyn couldn't understand why sportswriter Jason Whitlock claimed that "Limbaugh doesn't get the benefit of the doubt on racial matters."
Maybe this is why:
"We are being told that we have to hope [Obama] succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles ... because his father was black."
"I do believe" Obama is an "angry black guy."
"[I]n Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering."
"Obama's entire economic program is reparations."
Obama is "Halfrican-American."
"Obama has disowned his white half ... he's decided he's got to go all in on the black side."
"Here you have a black president trying to destroy a white policeman." [Limbaugh on Gates controversy]
"NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips."
"African-American tribe" worst swimmers, Hispanics "will do things other people won't do." [Limbaugh on Survivor series]
Maybe that's why the NFL, where nearly 70 percent of the players are African-American, has a problem with Limbaugh.
UPDATED: Steyn's item centered on a handful of racist quotes attributed to Limbaugh which the host claims are phony. All the above quotes are legitimate and verified.
Media Matters for America has obtained evidence that CNN contributor Alex Castellanos' political consulting firm, National Media, is the ad buyer for the insurance industry group America's Health Insurance Plan's (AHIP) new ad blitz attacking Democratic health reform plans. CNN has a responsibility to insure that Castellanos' obvious conflict of interest does not tarnish their future coverage of the health care debate.
According to the detailed ad buy information obtained by Media Matters, Castellanos is responsible for placing, beginning October 11, more than $1 million of AHIP advertising in five states. Castellanos last appeared on CNN September 30; during a debate with Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) on The Situation Room, Castellanos defended Republican health care proposals.
If Castellanos returns to CNN's airwaves to discuss health care, it shouldn't be as a Republican strategist and CNN contributor, but as what he is - an industry spokesman. He shouldn't be arguing against Democratic strategists like Donna Brazile or James Carville, he should be paired off with progressive health care reform advocates like the leaders of Health Care for America Now. And -- it should go without saying - he must be identified as someone who is taking money from the insurance industry.
Last August, we noted that Castellanos - best known as the creator of the racially charged "Hands" advertisement - was hired as a CNN contributor three days after the New York Times reported that he was part of John McCain's "panel of outside advertising consultants." CNN subsequently failed to disclose Castellanos' connection to the McCain campaign while he was, for instance, applauding the McCain campaign's ads. If they hope to live up to their "most trusted" brand, CNN must do a better job of handling Castellanos' new conflict of interest.
UPDATE: A quick look at National Media's client list indicates that his work for AHIP isn't Castellanos' only conflict with regard to health care reform. National Media has done work for the Federation of American Hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry group PhRMA, and the HCA Sunrise Hospital. That's three more reasons CNN should label Castellanos as an industry shill, not a political analyst.
From an October 14 ESPN.com article:
Rush Limbaugh is expected to be dropped from a group bidding to buy the St. Louis Rams, according to three NFL sources.
Dave Checketts, chairman of the NHL's St. Louis Blues and the point man in the Limbaugh group attempting to buy the Rams, realizes he must remove the controversial conservative radio host from his potential role as a minority member in the group in order to get approval from other NFL owners, the sources said.
Three-quarters of the league's 32 owners would have to approve any sale to Limbaugh and his group. Earlier this week, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay predicted that Limbaugh's potential bid would be met by significant opposition. Several players have also voiced their displeasure with Limbaugh's potential ownership position, and NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith, who is black, urged players to speak out against Limbaugh's bid.
Ultimately, the sources said, Checketts must reconfigure his group and find another investor to make his bid more viable.
Exactly when Limbaugh will be dropped is uncertain, though some familiar with the situation said it could be within the next week. It is unclear if the two sides even have spoken.
Limbaugh's "color-blind" history of racially charged comments
NFL commissioner Goodell: Limbaugh's "divisive comments are not what the N.F.L. is all about"
Stick a fork in Limbaugh's NFL dream, it's done
Colts owner Irsay "couldn't even think of" supporting Limbaugh's Rams bid due to his divisive rhetoric
NFL players' union opposes Limbaugh's bid for Rams, says football "overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred"
NFL players reportedly say they "wouldn't play for" Limbaugh-owned team due to his "flat-out racist" comments
Sports media gang-tackle Limbaugh's bid to buy St. Louis Rams
As the Dow Jones Industrial Average bounces around 10,000, it's worth looking back at the pathetically cynical way Fox News host Sean Hannity has treated the stock market during the Obama administration.
Back in March, the Dow was at its recent nadir - and Hannity knew just who to blame. "Obama, since he's elected, has tanked the markets," Hannity told former Democratic National Committee financial committee chair Michael Brown. "Oh, that's Obama's fault?" Brown asked. "That's right," Hannity proclaimed. That same month, Hannity declared it "Obama's Bear Market," and claimed that "Markets react to numbers. If they had faith and hope in [Obama's] plan, why wouldn't they react more confidently?"
Either the markets found their "faith in hope" in Obama, or Hannity has no idea what he's talking about, because the day before Hannity claimed that Obama "tanked the markets," the Dow hit its low point and started to climb.
On May 1, Fox Business Network anchor Alexis Glick pointed out to Hannity that the Dow, then at just over 8,200, had made it back to the level it was at before Obama's inauguration. But while Hannity was happy to hand Obama all the blame for the Dow when it was falling, he wasn't about to give Obama any credit now that it was rising. "The market doesn't mean anything to me," Hannity said "Alexis, you're the first person to tell people don't look at the market unless you're in it for five or 10 years, right? All right, so we're not looking at the market." Glick was either unaware or too polite to point out Hannity's hypocrisy.
Almost three months later, with the Dow passing 9,100, Hannity decided that the market did, in fact, "mean something" to him - it could be a convenient excuse to attack Obama. On July 27, Hannity did a segment linking "President Obama's approval rating," which he said "has dropped 7 points in the last month," to "the Dow Jones industrial average," which he noted is "now back over the 9,000 mark." After displaying a graph mapping the Dow and Obama's approval rating, Hannity asserted, "Now you can see that as the president's job approval rating crumbles, well, the Dow has been on the rise. Is it just a coincidence? We'll let you be the judge."
Since then, Hannity has largely been silent on the issue - a search of the Nexis database for (dow or stock market) indicates that Hannity has not mentioned the Dow's 900-point rise since late July. On August 19, he did, however, share some investment advice with his audience:
HANNITY: Stuart, I've taken half of the money that I had in the stock market, which was not a big part of my portfolio out of the market. I want to get out totally. And I say that to people and they say, well, historically, over the years, you're going to do -- you're going to be better off in the long term. You're fairly young. You should keep it there.
I have a feeling that if the market continues to rise and Hannity misses out on it, he'll somehow find a way to blame it on Obama.
Fox News employee Tucker Carlson weighs in on the White House/Fox News flap:
Tucker Carlson: In the long run it doesn't hurt any news organization to find itself on a White House enemies list, but Fox didn't start this. Anita Dunn did. Very foolish I think.
Regardless of what one thinks of the White House strategy for dealing with Fox News, nobody who has watched more than ten minutes of Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity can seriously think Anita Dunn "started it."
Did Dunn and the White House escalate "it"? Sure, maybe. Was it a good idea? I'm actually not sure; there are reasonable arguments both ways. But to say "Fox didn't start this" doesn't just strain credulity -- it takes credulity out back and beats it to death with a shovel, as Beck might say.