Quotes of the week:
"We Report. You Decide."
-- Fox News Channel motto
"Fox was measurably more one-sided than the other networks, and Fox journalists were more opinionated on the air. ... In the degree to which journalists are allowed to offer their own opinions, Fox stands out. Across the programs studied, nearly seven out of ten stories (68%) included personal opinions from Fox's reporters -- the highest of any outlet studied by far. ... Fox journalists were even more prone to offer their own opinions in the channel's coverage of the war in Iraq. There 73% of the stories included such personal judgments. On CNN the figure was 2%, and on MSNBC, 29%. The same was true in coverage of the Presidential election, where 82% of Fox stories included journalist opinions, compared to 7% on CNN and 27% on MSNBC."
-- Project for Excellence in Journalism
Support for Social Security privatization plummets; conservative misinformation continues
As support for President Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security continues to erode, conservative misinformation about the program remains a common element of media reports. Conservative efforts to twist and distort the facts about Social Security have only increased -- perhaps because nearly 60 percent of the American people say the more they hear about privatization, the less they like it.
On Fox News, for example, it doesn't matter that even President Bush has admitted that privatization won't extend the solvency of the Social Security trust fund. Fox pundits keep saying it might, as Media Matters noted on March 16, March 14, March 10, and February 4.
Also on Fox News, Fred Barnes continued the network's tradition of misleading viewers about when the Social Security system will be unable to pay full benefits. Barnes claimed Social Security "becomes basically -- not bankrupt, but insolvent" in 2017 or 2018. It doesn't, as we noted when Fox's Carl Cameron made the same mistake.
Last week, we noted a CBS News report that downplayed serious problems caused by privatization of Chile's Social Security system.
This week, the Christian Science Monitor went even further, portraying Chile's privatization as a nearly unqualified success. The Monitor quoted three people: a woman who is still working at age 70 because her husband's benefits are so low; Guillermo Arthur, who runs Chile's pension program; and Tomas Flores, an "analyst with Freedom and Development, an independent think tank in Santiago."
The Freedom and Development Institute may well be "independent," but that description doesn't do much to help readers understand what it is. The Institute is a member of the Economic Freedom Network, along with other conservative organizations like the Cato Institute. The conservative Heritage Foundation lists at least one Flores publication among the studies it published in 2001." Both Heritage and Cato are staunch advocates of Social Security privatization, and both point to Chile's "success" to bolster their arguments for privatizing Social Security in the U.S.
Conservatives at Cato and elsewhere have touted Chile's "successful" privatization scheme for years -- in part because they helped design it. In light of recent reports about how badly privatization has gone in Chile, perhaps media outlets like CBS and the Christian Science Monitor should be a bit less credulous when interested parties like Cato and the Freedom and Development Institute paint such rosy picture.
Fox's "fair and balanced" approach to gay rights
Fox News hosts John Gibson, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly have all turned their attention to gay rights in recent days, adding much-needed intellectual heft to the debate:
Gibson: "Gays can't have kids -- other than going to the abandoned kids store and getting one or two, or borrowing sperm from someone with more sperm than brains -- so by definition they're out of the marriage game."
O'Reilly (on his radio show): "You know, the Founding Fathers didn't write anything into the Constitution about gay marriage. Because back then, if you were gay, they hung you. So -- you couldn't get married 'cause they put you in the rack. You know, if you were runnin' around wearing a chartreuse hat, you were in lots of trouble. So, we didn't even have to worry about these people gettin' married because if they come out of their closet in the log cabin -- somebody'll shoot them in the head. So, there really wasn't an issue back in the Founding Fathers."
Hannity: "[T]hey can have the Gay Scouts if they want, if they don't like the values of the Boy Scouts."
Rush Limbaugh, environmentalist
Speaking of "intellectual heft," radio host Rush Limbaugh weighed in on the Bush administration's plans to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR):
If you put together a video of ANWR, you would see nothing but snow and rock. It is no place anybody's ever going to go. The wildlife that lives there wishes it didn't, but it's too stupid to figure out how to move anywhere. They don't have moving vans sent to their places like people in Philadelphia do when they want to get out of someplace. This is absolutely absurd.
Limbaugh also misleadingly downplayed the impact drilling in ANWR may have on Alaska's caribou population. Then again, at least he didn't repeat his false 1994 claim that "we have more acreage of forest land in the United States today than we did at the time the Constitution was written."
How can we miss them when they won't go away?
During last year's presidential campaign, the self-described Swift Boat Veterans for Truth insisted, all evidence to the contrary, that they weren't partisan operatives; that they had specific complaints about John Kerry, and once the election were over, they'd fade back into the obscurity from whence they came.
Sadly, it seems this is not to be. Like a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe, the Swifties just won't go away, and they keep getting dirtier and dirtier.
Media Matters noted this week that John O'Neill, the group's co-founder and chief liar spokesperson, "resurfaced in the April/May 2005 issue of the policy magazine of conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute. O'Neill repeated false allegations about Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and baselessly asserted that the Swift Vets were suppressed by the media establishment."
Meanwhile, Jerome R. Corsi, co-author of the Swifties' Unfit for Command and the group's lead bigot, is planning to run against John Kerry next year for his Senate seat in Massachusetts -- the prospect of which apparently has at least one right-wing reporter unable to focus on anything else.
David Horowitz needs a nap
What to make of David Horowitz's behavior lately? The right-wing agitator seems to have descended into madness, unleashing a contradictory mess of unfounded allegations, retractions, corrections of retractions, retractions of corrections, and corrected retracting allegories. Or something like that; we've kind of lost track.
It all started on March 7, when a Media Matters item noted:
David Horowitz has repeatedly cited an incident in which he claims that a criminology professor at the University of Northern Colorado asked students to explain "why President Bush was a war criminal" for a mid-term exam essay, then failed a student who chose instead to explain why Saddam Hussein is a war criminal. Horowitz claimed that this student testified about her experience at a special hearing before the Colorado state legislature in December 2003. But Horowitz has never provided the names of the professor or the student, and transcripts of the hearing to which Horowitz himself linked do not mention the incident. Nonetheless, accounts of the alleged incident have been repeated in several national media outlets.
At that point, Horowitz began lashing out at Media Matters on a near-daily basis. But it quickly became apparent that he was really arguing with himself:
March 14: Horowitz defends Horowitz; attacks Media Matters: Horowitz responded to our item by writing, "The first question that comes to mind is who could actually doubt this story, particularly in the Wake of the Ward Churchill Affair? ... The story about the Colorado exam is true ... The complete facts are available here. But facts obviously have never meant anything to [Media Matters President and CEO] David Brock."
March 15: Horowitz corrects Horowitz: Under the headline "Correction: Some Of Our Facts Were Wrong; Our Point Was Right," Horowitz wrote -- at 5 a.m., he claims -- that he "choose[s] to do so to clarify matters as best I am able at this point, and to acknowledge where the information we reported appears to have been wrong."
March 17: Horowitz corrects Horowitz's correction; attacks Media Matters: Under the header "Correction: We Were Right," Horowitz wrote: "To sum up this end of the tale: we admitted two minor points. We did not know whether the student got an 'F' as she claimed and we did not know whether the question itself was required (as opposed to the answer). I made a mistake from ignorance here and said we had not 'checked' these points. ... So we were punished for being honest, and MediaMatters is rewarded for lying."
Also March 17: Horowitz retracts Horowitz's correction; issues new correction; attacks Media Matters: In a entry on a separate Horowitz-operated website, Horowitz wrote: "I made a mistake when I conceded error, because as long as the university and professor do not provide the actual test and the grade, no one knows the facts and no one knows the grade. No one knows, for example, whether the grade was adjusted as a result of the student's appeal. Hence, what I should have said is that I am unable to check these facts and am repeating the student's claims because I have no reason to doubt the veracity of those claims." Apparently out of habit, he again attacked Media Matters and said the "back and forth" with Media Matters "has become so tedious that not even I the target am interested anymore." By this point, though, the "back and forth" was mostly between Horowitz and Horowitz.
March 18: Horowitz stands by his story (the first one, that is) ... and attacks Media Matters. Finally, Horowitz declared, "Our original story stands," pausing briefly to take another swipe at Media Matters.
While Horowitz has taken just about every conceivable position on his own claims, we stand by our most recent refutation of his statements.