The Baltimore Sun cut ties with their conservative blog after learning of the blog's potential unethical behavior, a Sun spokesperson said Monday.
"The Baltimore Sun's editorial independence is among our most fundamental values and we have a strict separation between advertising and the content we produce," Sun Director of Marketing Renee Mutchnik told Media Matters in a statement explaining the paper's separation from the bloggers.
Late last year the Sun inked a deal with the conservative blog Red Maryland to provide content for baltimoresun.com as well as a weekly op-ed page in the paper's print edition. In a November op-ed, Red Maryland's Mark Newgent explained that their blog was "the premiere source for conservative news and opinion in Maryland" and that he and his colleagues would now have "the opportunity to advance conservative, limited government ideas to a larger audience." While the bloggers would continue to operate their private blog, they would also write content for a Red Maryland blog on the Sun's website.
But questions over the bloggers' ethical behavior surfaced last week when a rival conservative blogger posted what he claimed was an email he received from friends outlining a pitch from Red Maryland urging Republican candidates to advertise on the bloggers' radio show to "get the message out to like-minded conservatives in your upcoming primary election." The email claimed that Red Maryland would use all "our platforms at BaltimoreSun.com, RedMaryland.com, and the Red Maryland network" to introduce candidates to the public, suggesting that candidates who paid for the ads could also expect favorable coverage from the bloggers in their roles as paid contributors to the Sun.
Red Maryland did not dispute the authenticity of the email but denied the conservative rival's pay-to-play accusation in a March 7 blog post on their original website, stating that they had provided platforms to candidates since the site's founding to give these candidates media attention and statewide audiences. However, Red Maryland also formally acknowledged that Newgent, who wrote for both Red Maryland's original site and in the Sun, has been paid by Larry Hogan, a Republican gubernatorial candidate Red Maryland has endorsed:
First, we've never claimed to be "objective." We wear our biases openly on our sleeve, always have. You've always known where Red Maryland was coming from. Newgent has repeatedly disclosed his work for Change Maryland and the Hogan for Governor Campaign. He has performed research work for both organizations. Hardly a "political favor."
Fox News host Mike Huckabee denied responsibility for shady email pitches sent to subscribers to his email list, telling Media Matters that he is "simply a conduit to send messages" and "can't always vouch for the veracity" of the promoted products.
Huckabee is part of the conservative movement's attempts to cash in on their followers by renting out their email lists to suspect sources. Fox News contributor Scott Brown was recently forced to disown a quack doctor after he sent a sponsored email touting the doctor's dubious Alzheimer's disease cures. Huckabee also sent emails promoting the doctor.
During a press conference held at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside Washington, Media Matters asked Huckabee about shady sponsored emails he's sent with his name on it, such as the Alzheimer's disease emails.
Huckabee shrugged off responsibility for the emails, saying "You are supposed to read the disclosure and the disclaimer that is a part of the messages. You know, we are simply the conduit to send messages, these are sponsored and I can't always vouch for the veracity."
Huckabee's sketchy sponsored emails extend beyond questionable medical cures. He recently sent a sponsored email touting the stock recommendation of a financial analyst who was fired from Fox News for ethical violations.
Former Republican Senator Scott Brown's latest appearance as a Fox News contributor exemplified the ethically murky middle ground between being a potential political candidate and a news commentator.
Since his initial hiring by Fox News in 2013, there has been widespread speculation that Brown would return to politics and mount a run for Democrat Jeanne Shaheen's Senate seat in New Hampshire. Both Brown and Fox have mutually benefited from the publicity surrounding his potential run, and have discussed his possible candidacy during his appearances on the network (including his first appearance on-air after renewing his contract last month).
If Brown wants to keep his contributor status, he needs to walk the tightrope of repeatedly toying with the idea of running while not actually taking formal steps to declare his candidacy (in the past, Fox has severed the contracts of contributors once they have filed the requisite paperwork).
Earlier this week, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren tweeted that she was told it is "certain" that Brown is going to run, prompting Brown to deny the report, telling Politico, "I will make my decisions in due course."
As Brown continues to delay his decision, Fox News is happy to help bolster their employee's potential candidacy. Brown sounded like a candidate today during an appearance on Your World with Neil Cavuto, where he attacked Shaheen and Senate Democrats. He also attempted to prove his New Hampshire bona fides in the wake of carpetbagger criticism.
Cavuto wondered whether Obamacare would be Brown's "issue" if he chose to run, prompting Brown to reply that "it's no secret" he's thinking of getting into the race before launching into speech about "dysfunctional" Washington and how we "need to fix it."
Cavuto raised the attacks on Brown as a possible "carpetbagger" were he to run in New Hampshire, since he was previously senator in Massachusetts. Brown called the attacks "laughable," adding "people know that I have long and strong ties to New Hampshire, you know, going back generations" and explaining he has been a resident for "a couple of months."
Brown then turned to the "real issue," which was attacking his possible opponent Jeanne Shaheen for joining Democrats in having "rammed" health care reform through Congress.
Pressed by Cavuto for when he planned to make his decision -- and whether he would make any announcement on Cavuto's show -- Brown was coy as usual, explaining that "I'll make an announcement sooner rather than later."
In the meantime, Fox is willing to hand him a paycheck while he practices potential stump speeches.
The trial of several News Corp. employees accused of being involved in the widespread phone hacking scandal has now entered its third month. British royalty, actors, politicians and crime victims all had their privacy compromised. In February, the prosecution -- which rested its case during the month -- alleged that former Prime Minister Tony Blair offered to "secretly advise" News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch as the scandal unfolded. Testimony from former News Corp. executive Rebekah Brooks supplied the bulk of information for the month, as the defense began its presentation. Among other revelations, Brooks admitted to authorizing "half a dozen" payments to public officials during her time working as an editor at The Sun.
Numerous local newspapers failed to identify the fossil fuel funding behind Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, while allowing him to publish op-eds across the country misleadingly attacking a potential tax credit for wind power, while ignoring subsidies for the oil and gas industries.
From the February 23 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Fox News host Megyn Kelly hid the fact that her colleagues pushed baseless claims that conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza was politically targeted by the FBI after he was indicted for breaking campaign finance laws.
On February 21, Kelly hosted D'Souza to defend himself from a recent FBI indictment that charged him with campaign finance fraud and to promote his latest anti-Obama film. Kelly reported on a letter sent by four Republican senator to the FBI claiming there is a perception that D'Souza "may have been targeted because of his outspoken criticisms" of President Obama. Kelly then went on to list only Alan Dershowitz as among those who questioned the motivation behind the charges, saying the charges "immediately rais[ed] red flags for some because D'Souza, who has pleaded not guilty, is behind the box office hit 2016: Obama's America, a film that is very critical of the president":
Fox News hosts were among those that claimed the charges were politically motivated, a fact that Kelly failed to mention. While interviewing D'Souza on January 31, Sean Hannity said he was the "latest victim to be targeted" and that he was placed on the president's "enemies list." Hosts of The Five joined in by saying they believed the charges were "politically motivated" and that they are an example of liberals "rediscovering their inner Stalin." Others on Fox have criticized the indictment as an example of "conservatives under attack."
Update: After bizarre series of events, Brown has reportedly renewed his contract with the network. Though a Fox spokeswoman told the Boston Globe Brown was "currently out of contract," Brown responded this morning by telling the Washington Post that report was actually inaccurate. The Post now has a statement from Fox executive Bill Shine saying their previous agreement merely expired last week and the end of Brown's contract was "purely administrative."
Brown is now free to resume using the network to help bolster his political future (Brown has also invited speculation that he'll run for president in 2016). According to the Post, he will appear on Fox & Friends tomorrow.
After using the platform for the past year to help revive his political career, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is "currently out of contract" with Fox News.
A Fox spokesperson told the Boston Globe yesterday that Brown is no longer under contract, but declined to say whether the move was due to Brown exiting in order to run for Senate in New Hampshire or if his contract had merely expired.
The Globe reports that in December, the network said that Brown's contract would be terminated if he "authorized an exploratory committee to be formed for a run." Fox News has previously been happy to keep employees that were publicly considering political runs under contract indefinitely, like perennial will-they-or-won't-they quasi-candidates Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. Though Brown has repeatedly stoked speculation that he might challenge Democrat Jeanne Shaheen for her Senate seat -- including relocating to New Hampshire, speaking at GOP events in the state, and teasing a new website with a campaign-ready slogan -- he has yet to take any formal steps towards mounting a run, so his exit from Fox comes as something of a surprise.
During his last Fox appearance, Brown joined Lou Dobbs on his Fox Business show on February 10, spending several minutes railing against the current state of Congress and the government. Near the end of the conversation, Dobbs awkwardly transitioned to ask, "what's new in New Hampshire?" Brown responded that he and his family "love it. It's obviously a wonderful state." He added, "We'll see, I have a lot of decisions to make, and you've just nailed it in terms of what the issues are, and it's very frustrating. And I think you need good people down there, we'll just see who it is." Dobbs closed the segment by telling Brown, "the country is watching, and I know New Hampshire is."
Brown's last two columns for FoxNews.com read a lot like stump speeches. In a column published on February 12, he announced, "we get to replace the members of Congress in 2014 that have been enabling the president's unpopular agenda." His February 14 column -- headlined "GOP can once again lead as the part of fiscal responsibility" -- highlighted that "21 Democratic-held Senate seats are up for grabs" in November and touted how "Republicans of all political stripes share a commitment to fiscal responsibility and less government spending."
Regardless of whether he actually runs for Senate in New Hampshire, Brown's relationship with Fox News is symptomatic of the network's central role in Republican politics.
The trial of several former News Corp. officials for their alleged involvement in hacking the voicemails of several prominent people, including British royalty, politicians, crime victims, and actors is in its second month. Among the developments: Actress Sienna Miller testified about her voicemail being hacked, a former News of the World reporter claimed officials knew about the phone hacking, jurors were told about executive cellphones going missing during the time of the hacking, and shown footage of one executive's spouse hiding a laptop in a parking garage.
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz reneged on his promise to cover a new biography offering a harsh critique of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes on Fox's media show, #MediaBuzz.
On the January 19 edition of #MediaBuzz, Kurtz said he would cover the newly released book, New York writer Gabriel Sherman's The Loudest Voice In The Room, on the following week's show, saying:
First, a programming note. A biography of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes by a New York Magazine reporter has been getting plenty of media attention. We will talk about it, on next week's show.
But Kurtz did not report on the book as promised during his January 26 show, as Variety noted. Segments featured on the show instead included discussions of Glenn Beck's time at Fox News, media coverage of Wendy Davis' campaign for Texas governor, and the Chris Christie bridge scandal.
Fox News has attempted to discredit the Loudest Voice for more than a year, attacking Sherman personally and reportedly firing a top Fox executive for leaking information to the author. Ailes also cooperated with conservative journalist Zev Chafets' 2013 biography Roger Ailes, Off Camera, reportedly "because he was eager to preempt Sherman's version with a more favorable and hopefully sympathetic account of his legacy."
A review of Sherman's book found that Fox was right to be worried; unlike Off Camera, Sherman's biography revealed an unflattering portrait of Ailes as a vindictive, paranoid partisan who uses his cable news network as a clearinghouse for Republican propaganda.
Media Matters has previously found that Kurtz has been giving his employer a pass since taking the position as Fox's media analyst last year. An analysis of Kurtz's television appearances and online columns during his first two months on the job found that he almost entirely avoided criticizing Fox News, including ignoring controversies related to the network that had been widely covered elsewhere.
Variety's Brian Lowry noted that Kurtz's failure to report on Sherman's Ailes biography once again calls his credibility into question:
For in-house media critics to have any credibility, they have to be willing to at least occasionally explore the shortcomings of their employers. And given all the coverage regarding Ailes' concern regarding the book and his alleged campaign against the author, Kurtz looked caught between the proverbial rock and hard place -- so much so that ignoring the book would have been preferable to creating the appearance of acting as Ailes' surrogate.
Nevertheless, to promise coverage -- as Kurtz did on air at the close of last week's program -- and then renege creates an impression of Kurtz as Ailes' lap dog. And it's not like there weren't ways to approach Sherman's biography in a skeptical manner, especially after New York Times critic Janet Maslin panned the book, providing some cover from one of the bastions of liberal media Fox News so regularly derides.
Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that they are charging conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza with violating campaign finance laws. D'Souza has been a mainstay in the conservative media for years, and his outlandish theories have received heavy promotion from outlets like Fox News and prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh.
Reuters reports that D'Souza "has been indicted by a federal grand jury for arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," allegedly reimbursing "people who he had directed to contribute $20,000" to the unnamed candidate.
D'Souza made waves during the 2012 presidential election thanks to 2016: Obama's America, a shoddy "documentary" he made smearing the president as "anti-American." Though the movie was filled with nonsensical theories and inaccuracies, it became a surprise box office success thanks in no small part to hype by conservative media outlets.
Fox News and Fox Business repeatedly went to bat for D'Souza's movie, hosting him at least five times in the run-up to its wide release. (To give a sample of the tone of the segments, Lou Dobbs told his audience, "We've got a much better fate awaiting us if we just will simply awaken to what Dinesh is revealing in the wonderful movie, '2016,' August 10.")
In 2010, D'Souza was at the center of a firestorm for penning an article for Forbes magazine arguing that President Obama is animated by an "anticolonial" worldview imprinted on him by his father. In keeping with his usual scholarship, D'Souza's anticolonial theory was utter nonsense, but was nonetheless widely championed by major conservatives, including then-Fox contributor and soon-to-be presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, then-Fox host Glenn Beck (repeatedly), and Rush Limbaugh.
Though he has seemingly kept a somewhat lower profile recently, D'Souza is -- or at least was -- reportedly working on a sequel to Obama's America to release this year.
While it remains to be seen how D'Souza's conservative media allies will handle his indictment, Matt Drudge is already getting the conspiracy theory ball rolling, claiming the charges are evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder is "unleashing the dogs" on Obama critics.
Fox News is now suggesting that minor contradictions in Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' life story constitute a more important political "scandal" than accusations of corruption and political retribution by NJ Gov. Chris Christie's administration.
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott accused "op-eds and pundits [for] tearing into [Christie's] character," while ignoring the "political scandal in Texas." This scandal, according to Scott, was that Davis' life story had "holes" in it, partly because she didn't pull "herself up by her stilettos" and instead relied on some financial help from her second husband in order to attend law school:
Scott: The interesting thing about Wendy Davis is this story that has propelled her to state-wide stardom, maybe even national stardom. She says she was married at 19, teenage mother, divorced, lived in a trailer, made it through Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School, and now she is where she is today, a state senator and maybe the next governor of Texas. The problem is, there are some holes in that story.
The suggestion that she pulled herself up by her stilettos and made it through Harvard Law School doesn't exactly jive with the fact that her husband, her then-husband, paid for it all, then as soon as it's all paid for, she left him, and he got custody of the two girls.
Michael Barone, a Fox News contributor, argued during the segment and in a Washington Examiner piece that Christie's record as governor of New Jersey was being scrutinized by media "because he might be a successful presidential candidate," and that Davis should come under similar media scrutiny for these details of her life because her run for governor could potentially "turn Texas blue," a move which would have national significance.
But the reason to scrutinize Christie's record is not that he might run for president. It's that he has been accused of corruption and petty political retribution in his position as the current governor of New Jersey. At no point during the segment did either Scott or Barone delve into the details of "Chris Christie's problems," but they are far more than minor contradictions in a timeline of life events.
Christie has admitted that his administration caused a massive traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, in what is alleged to have been political payback against a local mayor. Though the governor claimed he was unaware of his staff's actions, and later removed two top aides, his administration was subsequently accused by a different mayor of holding Hurricane Sandy relief funds hostage for political reasons.
There are at least three separate legal investigations examining the accusations launched against the Christie administration.
In contrast, Davis is not currently under investigation for possibly abusing the power of her office as state senator. There are some small, legitimate questions about her presentation of her life story, but those questions have been blown out of proportion by conservative media, who have launched an absurd and often sexist campaign against her. Right-wing radio hosts and Fox contributors have implied she is an unstable and unreliable mother, unfit for public office, and have attacked her for defying gender norms by leaving her spouse to pursue her career (a move many male politicians have made, with little media fanfare).
Scott's sexist joke about Davis' stilettos is just the latest example of these demeaning attacks, and furthers the network's desperate attempt to bury the Christie scandal by deflecting attention to unrelated stories.
Fox has previously attempted to compare Christie's scandal to the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and to the IRS scandal, in which bureaucrats largely based in Cincinnati allegedly devoted inappropriate scrutiny to conservative groups. The network also devoted less than 15 minutes of coverage to Christie on the day the scandal broke, and mentioned the revelations about Hurricane relief only once the day they emerged.
Fox News ignored growing evidence of a culture of political retribution in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office while instead attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for keeping an "enemies list" -- in reality, a list of endorsements Clinton sought in 2008 -- something Fox's own senior political analyst described as "perfectly reasonable," and dismissed as "not a huge deal."
Thousands of e-mails released last week revealed examples of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration exacting political retribution from a list of those people whom the governor or his aides believed had crossed him in some way. According to The Star-Ledger, a circle of Christie staff and allies appears to have taken political retribution to a new level when it conspired to send the borough of Fort Lee into traffic chaos by closing lanes to the world's busiest bridge." And a new Wall Street Journal report detailed how Christie allegedly treated Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D) by cutting him off from state administrators after Fulop declined to endorse Christie in the gubernatorial election.
In a segment on Fox's America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum neglected to report those updates in the Christie scandal, choosing instead to juxtapose Christie's problems with a report that ran in both Politico Magazine and The Hill that detailed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign and its efforts to gain lawmakers' endorsements. Both the original report and Fox News labeled the list of endorsements as "Hillary's Hit List."
Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume compared the Politico report to the Christie Scandal, claiming it "raises to some extent the question [about Clinton] you're now hearing raised about Chris Christie," asking whether or not she "fostered a climate" that encouraged aides to seek political retribution. Despite Hume's direct comparison, the reports regarding Christie detail numerous incidents of alleged abuse while the Politico report mentions no actual allegations of political retribution, only that the Clinton campaign tracked its political endorsements -- an act that Hume himself described as "perfectly sensible" and "not a huge deal."
When news of the Christie scandal originally broke, Fox News largely ignored it - an omission that CNN media critic Brian Stelter said may have been due to political considerations and Fox News chairman Roger Ailes' role as "Republican kingmaker" who "has in the past tried to enlist Chris Christie to run for president" and "has been said to be a big fan of Chris Christie." When it did cover the scandal, Fox pointed to Christie's handling of the scandal as a "lesson in leadership" while attacking Clinton and President Obama for their handling of what Fox perceives as similar scandals.
Hume attributed competing media organizations' coverage of Christie to political bias, explaining that "journalists look at a story and if it's somebody they don't particularly care for or whose politics they don't agree with -- when that person slips up it just seems, as they look at it, like a bigger story." Ironically, that explanation may explain Fox News' focus on Clinton.
Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore
From the January 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday:
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From the January 10 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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