The Times today suggests there's been an unusual number of journalists going to work for the Obama administration, which (yawn) raises questions about liberal bias:
But this year the accusation has a new twist: In some notable cases it has become true, with several prominent journalists now on the payrolls of Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership.
Who are the prominent journalists? Well, the first example the Times references is MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who kinda, sorta thought about running for the U.S. senate from Pennsylvania. But is Matthews going to run? Apparently not. And even if he did run, and even if he won, would Matthews be "on the payrolls of Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership"? No.
So the first example the Times points to is pretty much irrelevant to the issue at hand: journalists joining the payrolls of Democrats.
The Times' third example [emphasis added]:
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the leading candidate for surgeon general, is CNN's chief medical correspondent. His résumé as a practicing neurosurgeon — and one of People magazine's "sexiest men alive" in 2003 — is not that of a traditional journalist. But he reported on the health records of the presidential candidates last year, along with their health care proposals.
Has Gupta joined the Obama administration? No. Has he been asked to? No.
In total, the Times points to four journalists to back up its claim that "an unusual number of journalists from prominent, mainstream organizations started new government jobs in January." Of the four referenced, two--Matthews and Gupta--did not start new government jobs in January.
This one's gonna make your head hurt, trust us. It's what happens when trivial pursuits collide with incompetence.
First up, NBC apparently does not know how to transcribe its presidential interviews, even when the president speaks clearly and slowly. NBC managed to botch the transcripts to its Obama interview. Specifically, at the end of the Q&A, Matt Lauer, for whatever reason, decided to ask Obama about his wife and daughters being on the cover of US magazine.
Lauer held up the magazine, which also featured cover photo and headline in the upper-right hand corner about singer Jessica Simpson's' apparent weight gain. ("Inside Jess' weight battle.") In fact, the unflattering photo of Simpson actually cropped out Obama himself on the US cover.
From the NBC transcripts which were released to the press:
LAUER: You got replaced by Jessica Simpson.
OBAMA: Yeah, who's losing a weight battle apparently. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. Oh, well.
Well, that ticked some people off, including Karen Tumulty at Time. "He laid a big one in yesterday's interview with Matt Lauer," she wrote as she reproduced the NBC transcript online. And yes, right-wing blogosphere also denounced Obama, printing up the same transcript.
Thing is, Obama never said Simpson was "losing a weight battle." As Politico notes, NBC mangled the transcripts. Here's what Obama actually said:
LAUER: You got replaced by Jessica Simpson.
OBAMA: Yeah, who's in a weight battle apparently. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. Oh, well.
It's obvious from watching the clip that Obama was not making fun of Simpson's weight. If anything he was very gently mocking the fanzine culture in which Simpson's weight is considered to be newsworthy.
But back to Tumulty and then the blogs. How did they respond to the fact that Obama never said what they criticized him for saying? From Tumulty [emphasis added]:
*Alert Swampland commenter travellingatlanta notes that the transcript that NBC put out was wrong. "Who's losing a weight battle" is actually "who's in a weight battle." I went back and listened to the video, and it sounds that way to me, too. Which makes it slightly better. I guess. But in the future, Mr. President, just don't go there.
I'm chuckling over Tumulty's detective work; about how she went back and listened to the video again and confirmed that, yes, Obama said "Yeah, who's in a weight battle apparently." I'm chuckling because the audio/video is clear as day and there is no dispute, which only highlights how supremely NBC mucked up by concocted parts of the transcripts in the first place.
Second, Obama shouldn't go there? Give us a break. The only reason Obama mentioned any of this was because a network news anchor brought up the frivolous topic of US magazine. The president was simply, and politely, humoring the interviewer by reading back to him the inane mag cover line.
As for the right-wing blog, well it's just priceless. This is what Gateway Pundit wrote:
UPDATE: The Politico is defending the president for joking about Jessica Simpson's weight problem. Figures.
Classic, right? Gateway pundit first mocked Obama for something he never said. When Politico pointed out Obama never said what NBC (and Gateway Pundit) claimed the president said, Gateway Pundit simply informed readers that Politico was "defending" Obama. What did Gateway Pundit fail to do? It failed inform readers that Obama never said what Gateway Pundit claimed Obama said.
Just keep moving along folks, nothing to see here. Corrections? Retractions for flogging phony story? Pleeease.
We told you this was gonna make your head hurt.
Newsbusters' Tim Graham thinks Barack Obama is insufficiently patriotic and pro-Marine. Why? Because the president likes Cole Porter.
Responding to a CBS report that Obama's appearances have featured a pianist performing Porter's "Night and Day" and Sting's "Desert Rose" rather than sticking to "Hail to the Chief," Graham writes:
To many Americans, this excessive informality suggests a real distaste for "official" or "patriotic" music, not to mention the Marine band that plays it.
Graham didn't provide any quotes or citations to support his contention that "many Americans" think this, so we can only assume he was projecting. In any case, it's an ugly smear to say that Obama has "a real distaste" for the Marine band simply because he enjoys piano renditions of Cole Porter tunes.
Some conservatives are upset about the fact that longtime friends and former colleagues George Stephanopoulos, Rahm Emanuel, Paul Begala, and James Carville regularly talk to each other.
Emanuel is the White House chief of staff, which supposedly means that Stephanopoulos, who works at ABC, and Begala and Carville, who are affiliated with CNN, cannot be objective in talking about the Obama administration. Or something. Greg Sargent and Steve Benen explain.
Honestly, this is all a bunch of nonsense. Two quick points:
First - for better or worse - friendships between journalists and the politicos they cover are nothing new. Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer is friends with George W. Bush. Conservatives didn't say he should be fired over that friendship - nor were they bothered when Schieffer moderated a presidential debate between Bush and John Kerry. Basically, for nearly any major political figure you can name - Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal - there will be some journalists with whom they have friendships.
Second, the idea that Stephanopoulos will be in the tank for Obama or other Democrats because he talks to Rahm Emanuel ignores history. The four men talked regularly in 1998, too, when Emanuel and Begala worked in Bill Clinton's White House - but that didn't stop Stephanopoulos from being among the first people to speculate that Clinton might be impeached over the Monica Lewinsky matter. Stephanopoulos brought up the possibility on television early in the morning on the day the story broke.
This was the Vietnam-driven, Time doomsday cover for the issue published just weeks after the new Democratic president was sworn into office in 1993:
Now here's the latest Vietnam-driven, Newsweek doomsday cover for the current issue, published just days after the new Democratic president was sworn into office:
Aside for the bogus way the news weeklies jumped at the chance to hang a foreign policy "Vietnam" around the neck of brand new Democratic presidents, behold the especially surreal logic connected to the Newsweek cover and its attempt to connect Obama, in office for less than 14 days, to the battle for Afghanistan, which the Bush administration oversaw for nearly seven years.
It comes courtesy of the conservative Hoover Instituter's Peter Berkowitz, last seen in these parts publishing the insightful, "The Case for the War in Iraq." Anyway, Berkowitz's latest piece, "Bush Hatred and Obama Euphoria Are Two Sides of the Same Coin," really represents the gold standard in mendacity and intellectual dishonesty. Even for the casually accurate WSJ page, Berkowitz's effort manages to stand out.
His premise is that the same crazy people who hated Bush are the same crazy people who love Obama. Berkowitz claims he's talking about liberals; those mindless liberals who belittled Bush, but who back Obama. (And oh yeah, the media and professors were in on it too.) Of course, as any honest adult could attest, Berkowitz is actually talking about Americans. Because it's Americans who by huge margins disapproved of Bush's performance, and Americans who by huge margins currently approve of Obama's performance.
Nonetheless, Berkowitz thinks he's onto something very deep and revealing and insightful here. (He even gets biblical!) It's all about zealotry and the "dangerous political passions" that haunt politics.
You don't say, Peter. You mean the kind of mindless right-wing zealotry that defined the 1990's when Republicans unleashed wave after wave of hysterical anti-Clinton crusades. (It's generally referred to as Clinton Derangement Syndrome, you might want to check it out Peter.) You mean the kind of right-wing zealotry that the WSJ editorial page practically copyrighted during the Clinton years as it hyped every half-assed conspiracy theory born in the fever swamps? And you mean the kind of mindless right-wing attacks that have already been unleashed on Obama less than two weeks after being inaugurated. (America is now less safe!)
Where does all that fit into Berkowitz's deep-thinking Journal Op-ed? Naturally, rather than confronting the uncomfortable facts, he just plays dumb about the naked hate that has defined the Republican Noise Machine for nearly two decades.
The Hoover Institute must be proud. Again.
In his most recent column, Media Research Center's Brent Bozell made an egregious factual error while (cough, cough) chastising the press for not doing its job properly.
Specifically, Bozell was hyping the incorrect story that Obama's inauguration cost much, much more than Bush's bash in 2005:
For the record, the 'lavish' Bush inaugural cost $43 million. Final tallies are not complete, but according to some sources, like the Guardian newspaper, the Obama inaugural will cost more than $150 million.
That's not accurate. The final tally of Bush's inauguration, including all the money the federal government spent on security and logistics, was $157 million. Bush supporters raised $43 million, and then taxpayers spent $115 million more. From the New York Times, January 6, 2008:
In 2005, Mr. Bush raised $42.3 million from about 15,000 donors for festivities; the federal government and the District of Columbia spent a combined $115.5 million, most of it for security, the swearing-in ceremony, cleanup and for a holiday for federal workers.
While highlighting how much (supposedly) less expensive Bush's inauguration was in 2005 as compared to the estimates for Obama's, Bozell wrote that Bush's inauguration cost $43 million. It did not. It cost $157 million.
So the question now becomes, will Bozell correct his error? Will a man who makes a living criticizing the press admit to his own obvious factual error?
We're waiting Brent....
P.S. Does Brent really think that the government spent $0 on security for Bush's 2005 inauguration? Because the $43 million he cited didn't cover security. Does Brent think that the 6,000 law enforcement and 7,000 troops that were deployed throughout Washington, D.C. for the 2005 swearing-in, the armed Coast Guard boats that patrolled the Potomac River, didn't cost taxpayers a single penny? That they were there voluntarily? Either Brent doesn't understand how the government works (i.e. its money goes toward paying military and law enforcement costs), or Brent made a rather enormous factual error in his column.
Which one is it Brent?
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Parroting GOP talking points about how rapturous the media coverage was of Obama inauguration, the WaPo's Kurtz wrote:
Well, the coverage has been so positive in the past week that you almost got the impression Obama would solve all of America's problems while fixing the college football playoff system and discovering a cure for cancer.
Kurtz didn't offer up any specific examples of coverage that was somehow offensively "positive." But more importantly, what was Kurtz comparing the coverage to, all that nasty, negative coverage George Bush got when he was first sworn in? Give us a break.
Inauguration coverage is what it is. The press, and especially television, loves tradition and pomp and circumstance and pretty pictures. And whenever a new president is sworn in the press produces wall-to-wall, feel-good coverage built around those pretty inaugural pictures. This week was no different than what Bush received for his first inaugural in 2001.
So where's Kurtz's actual proof that somehow this year's inauguration coverage was unusually positive?
Ignoring the additional costs of security, transportation, and other expenses incurred by federal, state, and local governments in conjunction with former President Bush's 2005 inauguration, Fox News' Sean Hannity allowed former Gov. Mitt Romney to claim that "[President] Barack Obama spen[t] three times" what Bush spent on his 2005 inauguration. In doing so, Hannity allowed his show to become the latest media outlet to promote the false comparison between the costs of Obama's inauguration and Bush's 2005 inauguration.
That's the question the press ought to be asking. But apparently unwilling, or incapable, to perform actual journalism, lots of reporters and pundits remained fixated on the supposed cost of the Obama bash, which the press excitedly claims will cost $160 million, including security costs.
As Media Matters has been noting for close to a week now, the tab for Bush's second inauguration, after figuring in security costs, totaled $157 million. Yet it's virtually impossible to find a single press report in the last week that has documented that fact. That number does not exist. It has been suppressed and flushed down the memory hole. Because if it's mentioned alongside the Obama tab, than the Obama's-inauguration-is-historically-expensive storyline evaporates. (Because it's not historically expensive.)
But let's move on. The official crowd estimate for Tuesday's swearing now stands as a eye-popping 1.8 million. How many attended Bush's 2005 inauguration? The official estimate was 400,000. So let's do some math. 157 million divided by 400,000 equals 392. It cost nearly $392 per-person to cover the expenses for Bush's modest sized bash.
For Obama? Based on the current projection of $160 million (the final official tab, once security costs are factored in won't be known for months), and divided by 1.8 million people in attendance, the per-person cost for the Obama bash came out to $88.
So we ask again, why was the Bush inauguration so wildy expensive?
On his radio show, Lou Dobbs claimed that Obama's "inaugural celebration from start to finish will cost an estimated $170 million, and that dwarfs the $42 million spent on George Bush's inauguration just four years ago." Similarly, Brent Bozell wrote in a column: "For the record, the 'lavish' Bush inaugural cost $43 million. Final tallies are not complete, but according to some sources, like the Guardian newspaper, the Obama inaugural will cost more than $150 million." But the comparison is a false one, as the Bush figure excludes security, transportation, and other incidental costs.
On Beck, Jonah Goldberg said of President Obama's inauguration speech: "I salute Barack Obama for invoking the Founding Fathers. At the minimum, it is good that the Democratic Party wants to start revering the Founders." Contrary to Goldberg's suggestion that Obama's invocation of the Founders was a first for a Democratic president, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter both "invok[ed]" the Founders during their inaugural addresses.
During Fox News' inauguration coverage, Chris Wallace stated, "I'm not sure that Barack Obama really is the president of the United States, because the oath of office is set in the Constitution." Wallace later claimed, "I wasn't at all convinced that ... John Roberts ever got it out straight and that Barack Obama ever said the prescribed words." On Fox & Friends the following day, Fox News repeatedly aired video of the oath flub, and Gretchen Carlson asked of Obama, "Is he really president," and went on to claim, "Because there was a flub in the oath of office." However, numerous experts, including one quoted later on Fox & Friends, have reportedly said that an incorrect recitation of the oath is insignificant.
Yahoo! News has taken the bait failing to check on this pathetically easy to rebut piece of conservative misinformation.
In a story headlined, "That's a lot of balloons" Yahoo! News spews hot-air going to great lengths to convince readers that President-elect Obama's inauguration will cost more than triple that of outgoing President Bush's 2004 event even using the nation's economic woes as a backdrop. The article opens:
As the recession continues to wreak havoc on the U.S. economy and inauguration celebrations ramp up, a lot of people are asking: "How much will this shindig cost?" [emphasis added]
The short answer? More than $150 million — and yep, that's the most expensive ever. (By comparison, George W. Bush's 2005 inauguration cost $42.3 million. Bill Clinton managed with $33 million in 1993.)
Perhaps a few more reporters should be asking, "Why haven't I thoroughly fact-checked these numbers?" Because as Media Matters detailed this evening, the whole notion that Obama's inauguration is costing more than Bush's is a load of B.S.
MSNBC's Tamron Hall stated that "the inauguration festivities" for President-elect Barack Obama are "estimated to reach as high as $150 million," while "[i]n 2004, to note, the inauguration of George W. Bush cost roughly $40 million." But the $40 million figure that Hall cited for Bush's second inauguration reportedly does not include security and transportation costs incurred by the federal government and the District of Columbia; these costs are included in the $150 million estimate that the media are reporting for the Obama inauguration.
When the costs incurred by the federal government and the District of Columbia are factored in, the total cost of Bush's 2005 inauguration was reportedly around $157 million, as Media Matters for America senior fellow Eric Boehlert noted.
Come on Yahoo! News, this kind of sloppy "reporting" will only make me want to refer to you as Yahoo? News in future posts. Get it together.