The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus responds to some criticism of her complaints about the Obama administration's "'dumb' war with Fox News":
My observations about the Obama administration's "dumb" war with Fox News seem to have touched a nerve -- 868 nerves, going by the latest tally of comments. They ran the gamut from "another idiotic column" to "Amen, Ruth." I confess, I didn't read them all, but I got the drift. Meanwhile, the 869th nerve belonged to my lefty friend Chuck, who emailed, complete with links to angry liberal bloggers, to bemoan my "false equivalency" between Fox News and MSNBC.
One of my sentences provoked particular derision from the left. "Imagine the outcry if the Bush administration had pulled a similar hissy fit with MSNBC," I wrote. I confess to having forgotten about the Bush administration's public tangle last year with MSNBC.
For the record, Chuck, I don't think that Fox and MSNBC are equivalent. Fox is more over the line, more often.
While Marcus brought up the criticism she received for drawing a "false equivalency" between Fox News and MSNBC, she didn't actually respond to it. She did acknowledge at the end that MSNBC isn't as bad as Fox News, but she still suggests MSNBC is a liberal cable channel. That follows her original post, in which Marcus wrote:
Certainly Fox tends to report its news with a conservative slant -- but has anyone at the White House clicked over to MSNBC recently? Or is the only problem opinion journalism that doesn't match its opinion?
Marcus didn't address that line in her second post, but it's as silly as her false suggestion that the Bush administration never pulled a "hissy fit with MSNBC."
MSNBC is the home of Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews. Their hosts and reporters regularly traffic in conservative misinformation and -- wittingly or not -- adopt conservative frames for their reports. The fact that they also employ a handful of journalists who lean to the left does not mean it is a liberal channel, any more than CNN's embrace of Lou Dobbs means it is a right-wing channel.
The fact-free insistence by journalists like Marcus that MSNBC is a left-wing news organization does as much to skew public discourse to the right as does Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.
As Washington Monthly's Steven Benen noted, Rudin seems to have no idea what Richard Nixon actually did when he declared war on his press enemies several decades ago. Rudin seems to have no idea that Nixon used the full power of the federal government, including the IRS and immigration services, to screw over journalists who Nixon felt had wronged him. Rudin seems to have no idea the country's recent history, because Rudin claims that Obama's doing the exact same thing because some of his aides have publicly criticized the work of Fox News.
Rudin seems to think having an opinion about Fox News is just like ordering federal agents to dig up dirt on private citizens.
Notes Benen, "As manufactured outrages go, this is truly ridiculous, even for a shallow Washington media establishment."
UPDATED: Maybe Rudin should be a guest on Fox News, where he and the hosts can botch history together and warn about the Obama "enemies list."
UPDATED: Credit to Rudin for stepping forward to acknowledge the error of his Obama/Nixon comparison:
I made a boneheaded mistake yesterday, during the Political Junkie segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation, one that I'd like to correct right away.
Yes, it took Andrew Breitbart and company more than a month to respond to claims that his video activists who visited the Philadelphia ACORN office had sparked a call to the police. No, Breitbart's presentation yesterday did nothing to undercut the ACORN claim that a police report was filled out. Yes, Breitbart released an undercover video that had the voices of ACORN workers muted out. And yes, Breitbart's pals refuse to release all the unedited ACORN videos.
But gee, other than that why should reporters covering the latest chapter in conservative "journalism" be skeptical?
From Washington Independent:
Breitbart, ACORN Foes Release Strange Video of Philadelphia Sting
From the Philadelphia Weekly:
Philly ACORN's claim that it detected the scam while it was in progress has been out there for weeks. The police report would seem to back it up. Why wait weeks to respond? And why do it with video that even Fox News observes had "audio portions of the video … missing or edited in some portions"? Something doesn't quite add up here. [Breitbart's] BigGovernment.com might be overplaying its hand.
From Washington Post's Carol Leoning, appearing on Fox News:
"I dont' think he's [O'Keefe] got the goods to say ACORN lied."
Fox News' Greta Van Susteren:
I think tactically, they would have been better not to hold this press conference today.
I think my favorite passage came from the Washington Independent:
The muting of the ACORN worker's voice led to a strange presentation; O'Keefe simply told reporters what Conway Russell was saying whenever the audio cut out. Blogger Mike Stark asked Breitbart if the whole, unedited video would be released.
"James O'Keefe is the producer of it," said Breitbart, "and since he's in a lawsuit, I can't have that discussion with him right now. But I would certainly be open to that possibility."
How's that for a convenient dodge about why the activists refuse to release all the unedited ACORN videos for everyone to see? (Even conservatives have raised a red flag over the fact that Breitbart continues to sit on the tapes.)
Answer: O'Keefe's being sued so Breitbart can't even talk to him about releasing the clips.
Whatever you say Andrew.
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 21 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
Here's Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, on what they describe as a White House "campaign" to undermine ideological adversaries:
It's too early to tell if the campaign is working, but it's clearly exacerbating partisan tensions in Washington.
According to VandeHei & Allen, the campaign is the result of August planning meetings among White House staff. And what had been happening prior to the launch of this fall "campaign"? Conservatives had been accusing President Obama of secretly being Kenyan, of favoring government death panels, and assorted other atrocities.
But according to Politico, we're supposed to believe that the White House is to blame for "clearly exacerbating partisan tensions" because it began responding forcefully to the people behind those smears? Absurd.
Even if there were any evidence at all that there is greater "partisan tension" in Washington today than there was two months ago -- and there isn't -- it would be nothing short of perverse to blame people who have begun responding to overheated attacks for worsening the tensions.
I guess there are two distinct axes on which you can judge press organizations--actually, there are many more than two (see below), but two are important here: 1) Neutrality--Are they attempting to be "objective," trying to serve the "public interest" in some balanced way, or are they ideologically (or otherwise) driven in a way that inevitably colors their coverage--what topics they pick, what 'experts' they rely on, etc. 2) Independence--Whether they are biased or generally neutral, can somebody--a political party, a Mafia family, a government-- tell them what to do?
I think it's pretty clear MSNBC and the NYT and Breiibart.tv are not neutral. They all have an agenda and they pursue it. But they are independent. The Obama White House can't tell Bill Keller what to do. They can't tell Keith Olbermann what to do. (They can suck up to him, and it will probably work, but that's a different issue.) Breitbart is for sure independent--I can't see anyone telling him what to do.
Ok, Mickey. If it's "pretty clear" MSNBC and the New York Times have an "agenda" and "pursue it," it should be pretty easy for you to explain what that agenda is.
And, fair warning: You'll need to reconcile your claims about the Times' "agenda" with the paper's handling of the 2000 election and the Bush administration's Iraq claims, and your claims about MSNBC's "agenda" with ... Well, with lots of things.
So, let's have it, Mickey. What is the New York Times' agenda. What is MSNBC's? How do they "pursue it"?
Working at NewsBusters must be one of the cushier gigs out there. If a NewsBuster spies a bit of news that he or she doesn't like, all they have to do is write the equivalent of "OMG TEH BIAS" stretched out to a couple of hundred words. And they certainly don't need facts to form the basis of an argument, they just start from the premise that the media is liberally biased and let the conjecture flow from there. The entire enterprise is one big logical fallacy -- they start at the conclusion and work backwards.
Take, for instance, the new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing strong support for a health care reform bill that contains a public option. Clearly, a conservative outfit like NewsBusters wouldn't care for such a dataset, so they set out to discredit the poll with -- you guessed it -- accusations of liberal bias. NewsBuster Tim Graham noted that the poll sample was 33 percent Democrat compared to 20 percent Republican, and accused the Washington Post (but not ABC, for some reason) of "stuffing its poll sample with a few extra Democrats" to get the result they wanted. Mind you, he has no actual evidence that the Washington Post did this, he's just using the following logic, if it can be called that:
1) The Washington Post/ABC News poll sampled more liberal Democrats.
2) The Washington Post is part of the liberal media.
3) The liberal Washington Post rigged their liberal poll to get the liberal result they wanted. Liberal.
Accusing a polling outfit of cooking its data to achieve a predetermined outcome is a pretty serious charge. It's also fairly outlandish and can be easily dismissed with just a basic understanding of one of the fundamental aspects of opinion polling -- the random sample. Polling guru Nate Silver gave an excellent rundown of this very topic last fall when liberals complained about a Fox News poll that oversampled Republicans:
As for the FOX poll, I'm a little bit taken aback at the number of people who assume that, just because the poll is from FOX, it must somehow have been cooked. Sixteen times out of 20, an aberrant result (and I'm not sure you can really call this "aberrant", since a couple of other pollsters show the race at about 3 points right now) is the result of statistical noise. Perhaps 3 times out of 20, it might be the result of a poor sampling procedure. And then there might be that one case in 20 where the pollster feels compelled to put his finger on the scale in some way -- but these cases are extremely rare. And there's no particular reason to accuse FOX News of this behavior. Their polls haven't had much of a partisan lean this cycle, and for that matter, they were among the only pollsters to have John Kerry winning the popular vote in 2004. If there's a problem with FOX News polls, it's not that they're biased, but that they're simply not all that good.
It's true that FOX's sample included a materially higher percentage of Republicans this time around. FOX, however, does not choose its sample; its sample chooses itself. In this case, when they drew their ping-pong balls out of the jar, they came up with a slightly higher percentage of red ones. This kind of thing will happen all the time unless a pollster weights by party ID, which FOX News and many other pollsters do not. The Pew poll that came out the other day, for instance, had a big increase in the number of Democrats in its sample.
ABC News polling director Gary Langer responded yesterday to criticism from Newt Gingrich, who said that the poll was "deliberately rigged," and pointed out that not only was their sampling legit, but it was also completely in line with their past polls, contemporaneous polls from other outfits, and the general direction of party identification in the country:
Nor is this out of pattern with the long-term trend in political partisanship in this country. After nearly a generation of gradual advance, the Republican Party in 2003 attained parity with the Democrats; on average that year, for the first time in our polling since 1981, equal numbers of Americans identified themselves as Democrats and as Republicans, 31 percent apiece.
But that trend since has been disrupted. In response to the war in Iraq and the increasingly unpopular presidency of George W. Bush, Republican self-identification has been declining since 2003. (It's no coincidence that Republicans in 2008 made up their smallest share of the electorate since 1980.) The dire news for the GOP in party ID since 2004 is nothing new; we've been reporting it steadily the past five years.
In short, there's absolutely no reason to believe that the Washington Post or ABC News had their fingers on the scales. NewsBusters is just smearing the pollster as evilly liberal because they, quite literally, have absolutely nothing else to say.
Over at Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com, Matthew Vadum takes issue -- and liberties -- with my description of MSNBC's Chris Matthews:
Foser is so far to the left that he thinks "Hardball" host Chris Matthews is a rabid right-winger . He refers to the TV talk show host as the "Clinton-hating, liberal-bashing misogynist Chris Matthews."
Note that Vadum just made up the "rabid right-winger" part. Sure, he included a footnote and link to make it look like it's something I actually wrote, but ... It's made-up. I've never described Chris Matthews as a "rabid right-winger."
I have described Matthews as a "Clinton-hating, liberal bashing misogynist." Here's why.
Put simply, Matthews behaves as though he is obsessed with Hillary Clinton. And not "obsessed" in a charming, mostly harmless, Lloyd-Dobler-with-a-boom-box kind of way. "Obsessed" in a this-person-needs-help kind of way.
More than six years ago, long before Hillary Clinton began running for president, the Philadelphia Inquirer magazine reported that, according to an MSNBC colleague, Matthews had said of Clinton: "I hate her. I hate her. All that she stands for."
Even before that, Matthews told the January 20, 2000, Hardball audience, "Hillary Clinton bugs a lot of guys, I mean, really bugs people like maybe me on occasion. I'm not going to take a firm position here, because the election is not coming up yet. But let me just say this, she drives some of us absolutely nuts."
Not that there was much chance his feelings would go unnoticed by even the most casual Hardball viewer.
Matthews has referred to Clinton as "She devil." He has repeatedly likened Clinton to "Nurse Ratched," referring to the "scheming, manipulative" character in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest who "asserts arbitrary control simply because she can." He has called her "Madame Defarge." And he has described male politicians who have endorsed Clinton as "castratos in the eunuch chorus."
Matthews has compared Clinton to a "strip-teaser" and questioned whether she is "a convincing mom." He refers to Clinton's "cold eyes" and the "cold look" she supposedly gives people; he says she speaks in a "scolding manner" and is "going to tell us what to do."
Matthews frequently obsesses over Clinton's "clapping" -- which he describes as "Chinese." He describes Clinton's laugh as a "cackle" -- which led to the Politico's Mike Allen telling him, "Chris, first of all, 'cackle' is a very sexist term." (Worth remembering: When John McCain was asked by a GOP voter referring to Clinton, "How do we beat the bitch?" Allen reacted by wondering, "What voter in general hasn't thought that?" So Allen isn't exactly hypersensitive to people describing Clinton in sexist terms.)
Matthews repeatedly suggests Clinton is a "fraud" for claiming to be a Yankees fan, despite the fact that all available evidence indicates that Clinton has been a Yankees fan since childhood. In April of 2007, former Washington Post reporter John Harris, who has written a book about Bill Clinton, told Matthews to his face that the attacks on Clinton over her history of being a Yankees fan were false. Harris said: "Hillary Clinton got hazed over saying she was a New York Yankees fan. It turned out, actually, that was right. She had been a lifelong Yankees fan. But people were all over [her] for supposedly embroidering her past." But Matthews doesn't let a little thing like the truth get in the way of his efforts to take cheap shots at Clinton: At least twice since Harris set him straight, Matthews has attacked Clinton over the Yankees fan nonsense, once calling her a "fraud."
Matthews has described Clinton as "witchy" and -- in what appears to be a classic case of projection -- claimed that "some men" say Clinton's voice sounds like "fingernails on a blackboard." In what appears to be an even more classic case of projection, Matthews has speculated that there is "out there in the country ... some gigantic monster -- big, green, horny-headed, all kinds of horns coming out, big, aggressive monster of anti-Hillaryism that hasn't shown itself: it's based upon gender."
There's more, but I think you get the point.
In 2005, for example, Matthews said of Bush: "I like him. Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left -- I mean -- like him personally." At the time the "real whack-jobs" who disliked Bush constituted a majority of the American public.
If Bush could do little wrong in Matthews' book, it sometimes seemed Barack Obama could do little right, as Matthews frequently ridiculed the Democratic presidential candidate for a preposterous variety of purported shortcomings. (True, Matthews also effusively praised Obama at times, often contradicting his own previous -- and future -- criticisms. Matthews rarely appears burdened by a need to maintain consistent, coherent viewpoints.)
In April, Matthews ridiculed Obama for ordering orange juice in a diner. Let that sit in a moment: Barack Obama asked for a glass of orange juice in a diner, and Chris Matthews belittled him for it. That came shortly after Matthews announced that Obama's bowling form was insufficiently "macho" and said Obama's lack of bowling prowess "tells you something about the Democratic Party." A few weeks later, he suggested Obama was out of touch for playing pool: "Playing pool, not a bad start, but it's not what most people play. People with money play pool these days." Last year, Matthews seemed to suggest that Obama was a flawed candidate because he isn't "beefy" enough: "I don't see a big, beefy alternative to Hillary Clinton -- a big guy. You know what I mean? An ... every-way big guy. I don't see one out there. I see a lot of slight, skinny, second- and third-rate candidates."
But Matthews' questionable treatment of women extends beyond Hillary Clinton.
Matthews has described House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "scary" and suggested she would "castrate" House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. And he has wondered how she could disagree with President Bush "without screaming? How does she do it without becoming grating?"
Just this week, Matthews claimed there isn't a plausible female presidential candidate "on the horizon" because there aren't any "big-state women governors" -- but Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius all run states with populations comparable to male governors who have recently run for president, including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Bill Richardson. How large a state does a woman have to run before she qualifies as a plausible presidential candidate to Chris Matthews? One that is twice as large as Mitt Romney's Massachusetts? Three times as large?
Last October, Matthews mused aloud about a hypothetical couple trying to decide who to support for president. In Matthews' mind, the wife just wants to see "the first woman president." According to Matthews, the husband has to explain the math to his wife: "[T]he husband says, 'You know, dear, you know, this is going to kill our tax bracket. You know that tuition thing we pay every couple of years for the kids, every year, we can't do that if we get a higher tax bracket. We have to pay more money.' "
After the Des Moines Register endorsed Hillary Clinton earlier this year, Matthews suggested that the paper's "female editors and publisher" succumbed to "lobbying" by Bill Clinton.
In 2000, Matthews responded to linguist Deborah Tannen's explanation of then-presidential candidate George W. Bush's efforts to appeal to women voters by saying, "So is this like the political equivalent of Spanish fly? That these seductive number of words you just drop out there and women just swoon." That led another Hardball guest, Lynn Martin -- a Republican -- to point out, "You wouldn't suggest he's seducing men."
Chris Matthews has been treating female guests as sexual objects for years. He has been judging women -- senators, presidential candidates, the speaker of the House -- on their clothes and their voices and their appearance for years. He has been referring to women as "castrating" for years. He has been applying double standards to male and female candidates for years.
This is who Chris Matthews is. He is a man who thinks that men who support women politicians are "eunuchs."
So, that's why I described Chris Matthews as a "Clinton-hating, liberal bashing misogynist." Because he hates the Clintons, bashes liberals, and may have a longer track record of on-air misogyny than any other media figure in America.
Your turn, Vadum.
PS: Matthews is also the guy who said President Bush "glimmers" with "sunny nobility," compared Bush to Atticus Finch, said everybody likes Bush except "the real whack jobs" and repeatedly said John McCain "deserves" to be president.
Whining on behalf of Fox News, Allah Pundit makes this peculiar claim:
The irony of this story, though, is that the press was already happy to quarantine "wingnut" stories emanating from Fox, be it Van Jones or ACORN or the White House trying to politicize the NEA.
The liberally biased mainstream media were happy to "quarantine" the ACORN story? They were happy to ignore it and keep it at a safe distance? Um, not quite. And don't take my word for it, take Nexis'.
Number of news reports that contained at least four "ACORN" mentions since the story broke last month: 3,526.
Number of newspapers that covered the story during the month of Sept.: 270.
Number of newspapers that have covered the story since Oct. 1: 133
More painful reporting on the White House/Fox News dispute. This time from the AP:
Dunn's stance cheered many of the president's supporters who seethe over anti-Obama stories on Fox opinion shows, but has caused a backlash among some who say it exposed the administration as thin-skinned.
Who exactly are the "some" referenced in the AP article? As far as I can tell from the AP's reporting, the only "some" caught up in a backlash--the only "some" deeply troubled by the White House's actions--are Beltway media insiders.
But here's the question for the AP: Does that really qualify as news? Does the fact that the chattering class is in heated agreement really constitute a "backlash"? Seems like an obvious stretch to me.
UPDATED: Commentary's Peter Wehner, becoming the umpteenth writer to insist that Fox News should positively not be criticized by the White House, concocts the same phony premise as the AP:
This whole anti-Fox gambit will come across to a lot of people as misguided and petty, the product of a White House that is unusually thin-skinned and somewhat paranoid – and, perhaps, as one that can't be trusted with power.
If by "a lot of people" Wehner means, like, American citizens, I don't think he's right, simply because I don't think they much care about the inside baseball dispute being played out. But if by "a lot of people" Wehner means people who write political commentary for a living, than yes he's absolutely correct. They do see any attempt to fact check Fox News as being "misguided and petty."
But the same question still stands: Does that really qualify as news or insight?