Fox News is deep in an ethics quagmire following a Washington Post report that the network's CEO Roger Ailes used Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland to try to recruit Gen. David Petraeus to run for the president as a Republican. While Ailes and McFarland made their secret overtures, McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves to praise Petraeus as "one of the greatest generals in American history."
According to The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, Ailes had McFarland advise Petraeus that he "should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director" and instead hold out for the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to resign and run for president if he was not offered that post. In audio of the meeting obtained by Woodward, Petraeus also said to McFarland that he had been advised that Ailes might resign as Fox News chief and act as a Petraeus aide should the general run for president. He also said that Ailes might bankroll the campaign, although he added that maybe it was News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch who had made that offer.
Woodward also reported that Ailes has acknowledged that he did ask McFarland to make the pitch: "It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have." Ailes also called McFarland "way out of line" in some of her comments.
This would be an ethical problem by itself: Ailes -- the chief of a supposedly objective news network -- was advising an active general who was commanding U.S. troops in the middle of a war to make demands of the president, and if those demands were not met, to run for president with Ailes acting as his aide.
But the ethics problem is much worse than that. McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves soon after meeting with Petraeus to praise him as "one of the greatest generals in American history" who will save us from defeat in Afghanistan. While McFarland was putting Petraeus on at least the same level as Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Dwight Eisenhower, she provided no disclosure of her and Ailes' advice that Petraeus should consider running for president.
From the April 21, 2011, edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
McFARLAND: When I was there two years ago, Jenna, I looked around and I concluded this is hopeless. Now with General Petraeus, who is one of the greatest generals in American history, he has gone in and he has devised a plan that will work. And the question is not, will it work, but the question is, should we be doing this? Is this an objective, is this a mission that we want? And as you have pointed out, it's expensive. And are we at this point -- you know, where is America's priorities?
JENNA LEE (co-host): Are we in this kind of stalemate [in Afghanistan] like it seems some are describing in Libya -- of course we're not there with combat troops -- but where no side is really gaining any ground and nothing really changes?
McFARLAND: Well the plan that -- the Petraeus plan is to really spend this summer -- they've diminished and decimated the middle ranks of Al Qaeda at the same time they've built up the middle ranks, the mid-level management of the Afghans. So the plan is to continue to make inroads into the Al Qaeda -- not the Al Qaeda so much as the Taliban, and then have slowly but surely the Afghans take over. And it will take a number of years to do that.
McFARLAND: We're doing the military part right, but it's a three-legged stool. And the other parts of the stool, the other legs, are the Afghan government and the Pakistani government, which has safe havens for the Taliban.
During the Happening Now segment, Fox even aired a photo of McFarland's meeting with Petraeus without disclosing what they discussed about Petraeus' future:
Last year, the regulatory agencies charged with overseeing the wireless communications market did something unusual: they actually regulated. After spending the Bush years eagerly facilitating the consolidation of the wireless market, in 2011 the FCC and the Justice Department blocked AT&T from merging with T-Mobile over fears that the deal would be anti-competitive and result in job losses. At the time, conservatives in the media decried this move as gross overregulation of a burgeoning market that would dampen investment and stifle technological development. But here we are almost one year out, and those dire prognostications haven't played out. In fact, quite the opposite has happened.
First, the doomsaying. As the merger neared the bottom of its death spiral in early December 2011, the Wall Street Journal's L. Gordon Crovitz complained of the "risks of overregulation" and declared that this new era of technological wonders "requires more regulatory humility." According to Crovitz: "So long as regulators apply rules for mature industries to new technologies, we will have problems such as spectrum scarcity and industries kept artificially inefficient. Until regulators change their ways, blame a meddling FCC when calls get dropped on your mobile phone."
After the merger officially went kaput a couple of weeks later, the Journal editorial board weighed in, calling the regulatory roadblock "top-down economic tinkering" and coughing up the same dropped-call imagery as Crovitz: "The next time your cellphone is slow or your call is dropped, don't blame AT&T. Point the phone at Washington."
So what's happened since then? Well, when the AT&T/T-Mobile merger was first announced, T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, was looking to wash its hands of the U.S. market. But after the merger fell through and AT&T was obligated to fork over $3 billion to T-Mobile along with a sizeable chunk of wireless spectrum, T-Mobile took the money and invested it almost immediately in network modernization. Now Deutsche Telekom -- once eager to be done with the U.S. -- is moving to acquire low-cost carrier Metro PCS to build out T-Mobile's high-speed 4G LTE network.
CNN contributor Dana Loesch's particular brand of vitriol has been absent from the network's airwaves since July 25. While CNN announced her hiring last year by saying it was "gearing up for the election season," the network has not called on the inflammatory right-wing radio host to comment on political events including the Democratic and Republican national conventions or the presidential or vice presidential debates.
In the first seven months of this year Loesch appeared on CNN dozens of times, sometimes making several appearances a day. But she was on CNN only three times in June and twice in July, and has not appeared since, according to a search of the Nexis database that was confirmed through a search of transcripts in our own database.
Loesch's three-month absence from CNN follows what a CNN executive described as her effective but unannounced suspension earlier this year. The suspension came after Loesch responded to news that U.S. Marines had allegedly urinated on the dead bodies of Taliban forces by saying of the incident, "I'd drop trou and do it too."
The Breitbart.com contributor has a long history of inflammatory comments, both preceding and following her February 2011 hiring by CNN. At the time, the network announced her hiring as part of their effort to "gear up for the election season with the addition of political contributors from across the ideological spectrum," and said she would "appear across the network's prime time programs, as well as other dayparts and platforms."
CNN has not responded to repeated requests from Media Matters regarding Loesch's absence from their airwaves and whether or not she remains employed by the network.
Fox News implicated its own parent company, News Corp., in a pro-President Obama conspiracy theory.
Fox host Steve Doocy questioned the National Geographic Channel's decision to air a film about the Osama Bin Laden raid days before the election. Doocy stated: "They say it has nothing to do with politics ... But a controversial movie about the Osama Bin Laden raid will air on the National Geographic Channel two days before our general election. The channel says the air date was picked to promote its fall season. Hmm, coincidence. Right."
The documentary, produced by Obama supporter Harvey Weinstein is to air on the National Geographic Channel on November 4. But News Corp., Fox News' parent company, is the majority owner of the National Geographic Channel.
Nevertheless, during the segment, on-screen text stated: "Political Premiere? UBL Film To Air 2 Days Before Election":
Fox News frequently accuses media of a liberal bias. Now it seems to have found liberal bias within its own parent company.
The Wall Street Journal disclosed that Hoover Institute fellow John Taylor is a Mitt Romney adviser after not doing so when it published two previous op-eds by Taylor.
The Journal has published a total of 23 op-eds from 10 other Romney advisers without disclosing their Romney connection. Editorial page editors from across the country have criticized the Journal for its lack of transparency in its editorial pages, and several media outlets have noted their failure to disclose. Media Matters has also launched a petition urging the Journal to disclose the conflicts.
But recently, the Journal identified Max Boot as a Romney adviser in a book review he wrote for the paper. Following criticism, the Journal has also disclosed that weekly columnist Karl Rove is linked to the pro-Romney American Crossroads Super PAC in Rove's two most recent columns.
The Wall Street Journal identified Taylor in his October 3 column as a "professor of economics at Stanford and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is an economic adviser to the Romney presidential campaign."
The Journal previously published a September 11 op-ed that Taylor co-wrote with former GOP senator Phil Gramm without such disclosure. The Journal instead identified Taylor as "a professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He was undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs in the first George W. Bush administration." The Journal also did not disclose Taylor's affiliation with the Romney campaign in a September 16 op-ed Taylor co-wrote.
An August 15 Fortune article, identified Taylor as part of Romney's "Economic Policy Steering Group," a group that convened on July 4. also co-authored an August 2 paper for the Romney campaign titled "The Romney Program for Economic Recovery, Growth and Jobs."
From the September 29 edition of Sirius XM's Media Matters Radio:
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The most recent issue of Newsweek features on the cover stereotypically angry Arab men, presumably from inside a recent anti-American protest, with the headline "MUSLIM RAGE." The pushback against the cover was immediate and strong. Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, described the cover in an interview with Politico as "extremely unhelpful" and "playing to Islamophobic stereotypes."
Want to discuss our latest cover? Let's hear it with the hashtag: #MuslimRage.-- Newsweek (@Newsweek) September 17, 2012
This has led to some genuinely humorous responses that effectively illuminate the problem with Newsweek's cover story on their own, but the situation is deeper than that.
From the September 15 edition of Sirius XM's Media Matters Radio:
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The Wall Street Journal continued its practice of publishing Karl Rove's weekly column boosting Mitt Romney without consistently disclosing that Rove is affiliated with groups working to elect Romney. Current and former editorial page editors from the nation's top newspapers have harshly criticized the Journal's failure to disclose Rove's affiliation.
In his latest Journal column, Rove wrote that even though more people view Romney unfavorably than they view President Obama, Romney's negative ratings are "easier to reverse." Rove claimed that Obama's negative ratings are based on people's perceptions of Obama's handling of the economy. He pointed to several polls to back up his claim.
But Rove never disclosed that Obama's polling on economic issues may be influenced by Rove's own actions. Rove co-founded the super PAC American Crossroads and its related organization Crossroads GPS. And Crossroads GPS produced numerous ads attacking Obama's economic record.
For instance, Crossroads GPS produced an ad that pushes the discredited myth that the stimulus bill failed and another ad that pushes falsehoods about energy loans given out during the Obama administration.
Rove also suggested that Romney can decrease his negatives by changing the Obama campaign's narrative of Romney as an "outsourcer of jobs" and a "vampire capitalist." And lo and behold, Rove's American Crossroads has produced an ad attacking the Obama campaign's criticism of Romney's business record.
Rove further suggests that Romney highlight the positive aspects of his own record and provide voters "a stronger sense of who he is and what he'll do." This mirrors advice that Rove gave Romney in an earlier Wall Street Journal column. And in that earlier column, Rove explicitly said that Romney should leave the negative ads to outside groups without disclosing his involvement with such a group.
Rove continues to use his column to advance the interests of the groups he runs, but the Journal continues to fail to consistently disclose Rove's affiliation with those groups. And that remains a big problem.
The Wall Street Journal's failure to disclose op-ed columnist Karl Rove's ties to political organizations raising hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat President Obama and other Democratic candidates is drawing harsh criticism from editorial page editors at America's top newspapers.
Even as he writes regular columns on the 2012 election for the Journal, Rove serves as what Vanity Fair calls "the defacto leader of the Republican Party." As the co-founder of the super PAC American Crossroads and its related organization Crossroads GPS, Rove is helping to assemble a massive war chest to run attack ads against Democrats this fall -- an obvious conflict of interest.
While Rove occasionally (but not consistently) discloses his connection to the political organizations in his columns, the description of Rove on the WSJ.com website and with each print column states only that "Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush." The ties are also absent from the 171-word bio of Rove that is occasionally appended to his columns on the Wall Street Journal website.
Howell Raines, a former editorial page editor and executive editor at The New York Times, says that description is woefully inadequate during the current election season. "His role at American Crossroads is, if anything, more relevant to this campaign than his Bush ties, given the importance of PAC commercials in this campaign," Raines told Media Matters in an email.
According to Raines, who served as the Times' editorial page editor in the mid-1990s, "full disclosure of a contributor's ties and interests is a threshold requirement," and the Journal's description fails to provide the reader with "information relevant to the issue at hand."
Rove often appears to use his Journal column to further his efforts to defeat Democratic candidates. In one recent column, Rove suggested that the Romney campaign would be better off running positive ads on their own candidate, writing that attacking Obama is "a job better left (mostly) to outside groups." Neither Rove nor the Journal disclosed Rove's own role in working to raise at least $240 million before Election Day to fund such ad buys.
Raines is not alone in his critique. More than a dozen current and former editorial page editors at major newspapers told Media Matters that they were uneasy with the Journal's practice. Many stated outright that the Journal should be disclosing Rove's ties and some said they would not publish such columns with or without such disclosure.
The Wall Street Journal and Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot did not respond to requests for comment.
Fox News is doing its best to help Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican Party's nominee for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, recover from the growing firestorm over his statement that it is "really rare" for women subjected to "legitimate rape" to become pregnant. As analysts predict that Akin's remark could put a winnable seat for the GOP at risk, the network is trying to downplay the comments.
In their first and as of yet only report on the comments, America's Newsroom anchor Martha MacCallum neither played Akin's comment nor read it, describing it only as "what he said about 'legitimate rape'" and adding that he "had to do some serious correction on that comment over the weekend." Viewers unfamiliar with the story would have absolutely no idea what Akin had said.
MacCallum did not give Akin's remark its own segment, but rather highlighted it along with a Politico article about a GOP congressman skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee. She also framed the discussion as a media analysis story, noting that the two topics are "getting a lot of attention around some of the other media outlets" and asking "how significant" the stories are and whether "they deserve the attention they are getting."
Indeed, both CNN and MSNBC have devoted multiple segments to the controversy this morning, in most instances airing Akin's comments in full.
As MacCallum referenced Akin, Fox suggested that the discussion over the comments is illegitimate, airing the caption, "Will the media seize on Rep Akin's (R-MO) comments & GOP 2011 behavior in Israel?"
Notably, Fox political analyst Karl Rove, to whom MacCallum turned for analysis on Akin's remarks, has founded organizations that have spent more than $5 million to win the Missouri Senate seat for Republicans.*
From this morning's America's Newsroom:
According to Politico, Crossroads has pulled its ads from the Missouri Senate race following the controversy over Akin's comments:
The group had originally booked a new round of ads to start Wednesday but began canceling them earlier today. The decision comes in the wake of comments by Missouri Rep. and GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin questioning how often women can get pregnant from "legitimate rape."
Contacted about the decision to withdraw its resources from Missouri, Crossroads spokesman Nate Hodson responded: "The act speaks for itself."
* As originally written, this post undercounted the amount of money Rove's groups had invested in Missouri. It has since been updated.
Have we ever seen two aligned camps within the conservative movement view the same event so differently? The far-right press is convinced the selection of Paul Ryan as VP is the boost Mitt Romney desperately needs, while GOP operatives, who try to win campaigns for a living, fret Ryan just doomed any chance Romney had of capturing the White House and will hurt Republican candidates nationwide.
Fox News got the vice presidential pick it wanted; the one Rupert Murdoch all but demanded Romney make. But the cheers of exultation that were heard within the right-wing media in the wake of the Ryan pick, as pundits toasted him as a true movement believer, have been met with equally emotional groans from Republican operatives who see Ryan as an unnecessary electoral anchor around the neck of GOP candidates who must now talk about Ryan's unpopular budget blue print, including his plans to radically alter Medicare.
The internal strife over Ryan is telling not only because it highlights a conservative movement that, three months before Election Day, still hasn't coalesced. But it also spotlights the fact that Romney's presidential campaign is the first one on record being run by the media, instead of political pros. No longer content to cheer on Republicans, the right-wing media complex now sees itself first and foremost as the power behind the party and has decided it's running the GOP's crusade to oust Obama, complete with opposition research and on-air fundraising.
And now VP picks.
In other words, Republican strategists are watching Fox News steer its first-ever national campaign, complete with its Paul Ryan cheering section, and the strategists aren't sure it's working.
Rushing to claim Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick of Rep. Paul Ryan had immediately "altered" the White House race by making it seem "more consequential," as the New York Times framed it, reporters and pundits quickly coalesced around the claim that Ryan's presence would usher in a more "substantive" phase of the campaign.
Pointing to Ryan's work as the chairman of the House Budget Committee and his authorship of the Republicans' budget blueprint, which has become a rallying point for movement conservatives, the press generously insisted that not only is Ryan a serious player and important public policy wonk, but that his inclusion in the campaign would quickly elevate the level of the debate, as well as how the press covers the campaign.
The new narrative, which must have pleased Romney aides, was born nearly the moment word of the VP announcement was leaked Saturday morning. CNN's Wolf Blitzer quickly reported the race was about to get "much more substantive," while colleague Gloria Borger agreed, suggesting, "the debate is going to shift onto a very substantive ground."
Over at Fox News, Carl Cameron assured viewers the arrival of Ryan meant the debate "will be a more substantive one than a lot of back-biting and name calling that we've seen in the last few weeks."
And Fox's Ed Henry echoed the same point, stressing that the press would soon be able to shift gears in terms of its coverage:
HENRY: We've spent a lot over the last few days talking about some of these attack ads and who's been going after who on personal, negative attacks. This Ryan addition to the ticket might focus it in a bit more on some of those substantive policy issues that Mitt Romney's been saying he wants to focus on.
See, thanks to Ryan the press will finally be able to cover substance! This, from the same process-obsessed press corps that spent weeks treating as news the trumped-up claim that Obama had dissed business owners on the campaign trail?
Excuse me, but was anyone stopping the press from covering substantive issues prior to the Ryan pick? The whole premise that up until Saturday the 2012 presidential campaign had been void of substance and it's only the arrival of Ryan n that will rescue the race from triviality is absurd.
The temptation to try to create campaign news during the slow summer months is one that journalists ought to resist. If not, they could end up looking like CNBC did on Tuesday when the business news channel lost its bearings (again) and invited disgraced birther Donald Trump on to weave his tired conspiracies about the president's supposedly hidden past. Worse, CNBC.com then wrote up Trump's appearance while touting as news a comically awful right-wing fantasy published this week about Obama's years at Columbia University.
Appearing on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Trump was pushing what he claimed to be a brilliant campaign maneuver for the Romney campaign, which finds itself under pressure to release the candidate's tax records, as all presidential candidates have done in recent years. According to Trump, Romney should finally release years of his tax returns, but only if Obama released his college transcripts.
What Trump apparently doesn't understand, and what nobody on CNBC bothered to point out, is that as a rule presidential nominees do release extensive tax returns, and as a rule they do not release their college transcripts. (Romney hasn't.) Trumps brilliant dare to the Obama campaign doesn't make any sense because tax returns and college records have never been treated similarly by campaigns from either party.
CNBC's Trump troubles were compounded online with a report that soft-peddled Trump's birther past, while claiming serious new questions have been raised about Obama's time at Columbia.
In his most recent column, the New York Times' Ross Douthat repeated a common media charge about what a harsh campaign President Obama is running this year. Dubbing the president "Mr. Negative," Douthat bemoaned what he saw as Obama's nasty Nixonian streak and a campaign that Douthat claims "started out negative and has escalated to frank character assassination."
This kind of dire rhetoric has become quite common among Beltway pundits and reporters, along with right-wing commentators. Collectively, they have formed a tight-knit narrative about what an almost shockingly negative campaign Obama is running, and how the harsh tone represents the polar opposite of Obama's feel-good run in 2008.
The media chatter really has become deafening. A New York Times news report last month emphasized how both campaigns have gone "relentlessly negative," while a Miami Herald column trumpeted Obama's "seek and destroy" campaign style, built around a "negative onslaught" targeting Romney. (The Herald piece suggested Obama was "doing the same" thing to Romney that the Swift Boat Veterans had done to John Kerry in 2004.) Meanwhile, The Atlantic dubbed Obama's run a "nasty" and "bare knuckle" campaign fueled by "brutal" tactics.
In fact, when the Romney campaign made an ad complaining about how negative Obama's re-election run has been, it cobbled together on-air quotes from CBS's Bob Schieffer, Time's Mark Halperin and the New York Times' David Brooks, all of whom have gone on TV lamenting the tone of Obama's campaign.
But is the claim accurate? Is the Democrat really running some sort of guttural, ruthlessly negative campaign? Is it far and way more negative than his opponent's effort? And is the tone of Obama's 2012 campaign completely different from his 2008 run for election, as the press insists?
No, no, no, and no.