Sharyl Attkisson's crusade against Media Matters continues in her new book, Stonewalled, which contains at least 22 references to the organization. Attkisson's grievances include frustration that Media Matters has a reputation as a "serious" media watchdog and a baseless charge that the organization has attacked her with false information.
Sharyl Attkisson's new book shows the common interest between a discredited journalist trying to cash in on right-wing credibility and the conservative machine that wants its media worldview confirmed.
Attkisson resigned in March after two decades at CBS News, reportedly in part because she believed the network had stymied her reporting due to "liberal bias." Staffers there reportedly characterized her work, which often focused on trumped-up claims of Obama administration misdeeds, as "agenda-driven," leading "network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting."
In her forthcoming book, Stonewalled, Attkisson alleges that the press has been protecting Obama from scrutiny for ideological reasons. "Attkisson doesn't explicitly accuse CBS and the rest of the mainstream media of a pervasive liberal bias," writes Fox News' Howard Kurtz in a review. "But that view is clear from sheer accumulation of detail in her book."
Based on press accounts, Attkisson's allegations of CBS News' bias rely largely on her own recollections of conversations she says she had with her former colleagues. The network declined Media Matters' request for comment, but one apparent subject of Attkisson's criticism has denied her account.
Attkisson's credibility is central to determining whether to believe her claims. Given her history of conspiratorial claims and shoddy reporting -- including her false and baseless claim that Media Matters may have been paid to attack her -- it is difficult to take her story at face value. But one thing is clear: her message is very valuable to both right-wing media and Attkisson herself.
From the October 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney resigned from the paper over what he calls a "breach" in the wall that exists "between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published."
McKinney, a 19-year veteran of the Sun-Times, posted an October 22 resignation letter on his personal blog explaining that he co-reported a story examining litigation involving the former company of Bruce Rauner, now the Republican candidate for Illinois governor. The piece, he wrote, was backed by "our editors and supported by sworn testimony and interviews."
However, according to McKinney, prior to publication in early October, "the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block it," including "sending to my boss an opposition-research hit piece-rife with errors-about my wife, Ann Liston. The campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue. It was a last-ditch act of intimidation." Sun-Times publisher and editor Jim Kirk later defended McKinney, calling the allegation "inaccurate and defamatory."
McKinney states that he resigned, however, because he felt the paper didn't have "the backs of reporters like me." He explained that the Sun Times subsequently penalized him and didn't allow him "to do my job the way I had been doing it for almost two decades. Was all this retaliation for breaking an important news story that had the blessing of the paper's editor and publisher, the company's lawyer and our NBC5 partners?"
His former employer also, in his view, "unequivocally embraced the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared a defamatory attack on me" by endorsing Rauner's gubernatorial candidacy. The endorsement was notable because the Republican "used to be an investor in the Sun-Times' ownership group ... The paper's endorsement of Rauner was its first since it announced in 2012 that it would no longer make endorsements."
The Washington Free Beacon was a landing site for the Rauner campaign's attacks against McKinney and his wife. The conservative site, which has financial ties to partisan operatives, wrote an October 19 article with the headline, "The Chicago Way: Democratic Super PAC in Bed with Local Newspaper--Literally."
The Beacon's attacks were amplified by partisan figures like Fox News contributor and former Rep. Allen West, who wrote on his website: "Yep, that kinda smells, but then again it's Democrat business as usual ... Never forget that Chicago is the home of Saul Alinsky, Barack Hussein Obama, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Tony Rezko, Jesse Jackson Sr and Jr, Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, David Plouffe, Bill Ayres, Bernadette Dorn - need I say more?"
Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone is raising questions about a Washington Post report that named and implicated a White House volunteer in the 2012 Secret Service prostitution scandal based largely on an unnamed "eyewitness," without substantial corroborating evidence. The White House volunteer had been investigated and cleared of wrongdoing, as other media outlets had noted in 2012 reports that protected his anonymity.
The Washington Post reported on October 8 that in addition to several Secret Service agents and members of the military who were punished for hiring prostitutes during a 2012 presidential visit to Columbia, then-White House volunteer Jonathan Dach may have engaged in similar activity. The Post's evidence was a single anonymous Secret Service agent who "said he saw Dach with a woman he believed was a prostitute," and a hotel record that stated Dach had registered a woman into his room. The White House had investigated in 2012 and cleared him after determining that Dach denied any wrongdoing, that Dach's fellow White House travel aides reported no wrongdoing, and that the hotel records were inaccurate and had previously triggered the erroneous allegation that an innocent Secret Service agent had brought a prostitute to his room.
So why then did the Post decide to name him now, two and a half years after it broke the news of the scandal and 9 months since reporters began communicating with his attorney? Letters obtained by The Huffington Post show the attorney, Richard Sauber, rebutted the claims and offered countervailing evidence in letters sent to top Post editors. The decision to publish Dach's identity regardless raises questions about the threshold news organizations must meet when revealing the name of someone accused of lurid activity without independently confirming the claims.
Though The Post did not conclude that Dach hired a prostitute, it nevertheless crafted its story in a way that could give the impression of guilt or impropriety. ... Sauber denied the allegations and expressed concern that the inclusion of Dach's name in a story on the prostitution scandal could significantly damage his professional future. Sauber wrote on Jan. 16 that the publication of the charge "will be devastating to this young man just as he embarks on his career after law school."
From the October 15 edition of Fox News' Shepard Smith Reporting:
From the August 13 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
From the August 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Just as News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch was attempting to put scandal behind him and acquire a major media corporation, two more of his former editors were charged with phone hacking while working at his now-shuttered tabloid News of the World.
According to Reuters, former deputy editor Neil Wallis and former features editor Jules Stenson have been charged with "conspiracy to intercept voicemails on mobile phones of well-known figures or people close to them." The tabloid's widespread hacking of the voicemails and phones of crime victims, celebrities, politicians, and British royalty in order to find fodder for stories became major international news after it was reported that News of the World had accessed the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a murdered teenager.
Murdoch was forced to shutter News of the World in 2011 when the scandal broke, and his company News Corp. has admitted that they have paid out millions in legal fees relating to the scandal. In June, former editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of conspiring to intercept communications at the end of a lengthy trial, though his fellow News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Stuart Kuttner were acquitted at the time.
Meanwhile, Murdoch's other company, 21st Century Fox (which owns Fox TV and Fox News), is trying to take over Time Warner, which would make it one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. However, his initial offer of $80 billion was rejected, and voices in media have suggested that putting the phone-hacking scandal behind him is key to his ability to expand and maintain his empire.
Now that more charges have emerged reminding the media of his past ethical blunders, whether such a risky merger could go forward remains to be seen.
From the July 25 edition of CNBC's Squawk on the Street:
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CNBC panelist Jeffrey Sonnenfeld suggested that 21st Century Fox's effort to acquire Time Warner is driven by a nepotistic desire to provide Rupert Murdoch's "poor performing" sons with pieces of the family business and highlighted News Corp.'s phone hacking scandal as an example of the Murdoch family's questionable management record.
Time Warner's board of directors took measures to prevent a hostile takeover by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox by "eliminating a provision in its bylaws that let shareholders call special meetings" -- a move that would prevent shareholders from forcing a vote on the takeover until June 2015.
Panelists on the July 22 edition of Squawk Box suggested Fox's offer undervalues Time Warner. Sonnenfeld, also a dean at the Yale School of Management, went on to say the takeover effort was part of the Murdoch family's plan to "deal with potential succession" by acquiring large businesses to hand over to Murdoch's sons, James Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch. But Sonnenfeld described the sons as "poor performing" managers, saying in particular that James Murdoch had been tainted by the phone hacking scandal at News Corp.
SONNENFELD: This is basically a deal for Rupert to eventually -- an 83-year-old guy who's run the company for 62 years -- to try to deal with these perpetual succession questions by giving, you know, Lachlan, one son one piece of the business -- one, you know, poor-performing son -- the other poor-performing son, James, another piece of the business in the News Corp.-21st Century Fox split here. But all this [unintelligible] --
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN (host): So you are not a fan of the Murdoch family, it sounds like.
SONNENFELD: Well, they've not distinguished themselves as leaders. You know, Lachlan had a temper tantrum and left a couple years ago and just came back in this spring with this deal for News Corp. liberation of sorts. And then the 21st Century Fox, we have James, who certainly has soiled himself in the whole scandal -- the phone hacking and all the rest in the U.K. And at minimum, a failure of management oversight is awful. Even Fox's shareholders were pretty upset with him.
From the July 17 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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CNBC's Closing Bell hid its own conflict of interest and the industry ties of the telecommunications industry front group Broadband for America while providing co-chairs of the group a platform to attack government regulations of the Internet and broadband access.
On the July 14 edition of CNBC's Closing Bell, host Kelly Evans interviewed Harold Ford, Jr. and John Sununu about the FCC's latest proposed regulations, introducing them as "Broadband for America honorary co-chairs," without explaining what Broadband for America was. Both Ford and Sununu insisted that the Internet should not be treated as a public utility and claimed that new regulations would slow Internet speeds and innovation.
Though Evans, to her credit, did pose challenging questions to Ford and Sununu about the possibility of companies paying internet providers to speed up customers' access to their content and the lack of competing broadband providers faced by many Americans, she failed to disclose the interest that Broadband for America and her own network's corporate parent has in limiting government regulation of broadband access.
Broadband for America has, among its members, major national broadband providers such as Comcast, Cox Communications, and Verizon. Its members list includes the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which donated $2 million to Broadband for America in 2012.
And CNBC's parent company NBC is owned by the Comcast Corporation, which prides itself on its Comcast Cable division being "the nation's largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers."
From the July 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox contributor Lauren Ashburn complained that "it's just not fair" for critics to hold Fox News accountable for any misinformation and biased commentary made on-air by the network's paid hosts and contributors, suggesting the network shouldn't be held responsible for a recent conspiracy theory about the timing of Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala's capture, which originated on Fox.
Khattala was taken into U.S. custody on June 17 for his role in helping lead the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox News hosts and correspondents began immediately questioning the curious timing of Khattala's capture, speculating that it was intended to help Hillary Clinton's book tour and Fox News interview, ignoring the months of planning and preparation spent prior to Khattala's capture. The network even attempted to legitimize its hosts' conspiracy theories by pretending the speculation originated outside of the network.
On the June 22 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz, Ashburn defended her network, complaining "it's just not fair" for critics to hold Fox News accountable for the conspiracy theories pushed by its hosts and contributors on-air if their commentary isn't an official statement from the network. Discussing criticisms the network received for questioning the timing of the Benghazi suspect's capture, Ashburn said, "the more outlandish the comments, the more the websites are going to say 'oh my gosh, Fox News said this, and they made this point,' and it's funny because Fox News didn't say that, those individual contributors said that." Ashburn concluded "it's just not fair to do that":