"Media Matters," week ending June 24, 2005; by Jamison Foser

››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

The Truth About Hillary, the long-awaited "hate-eography" of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) written by Ed Klein and published by an imprint of the Penguin Group finally arrived in bookstores.

Though Klein said on the syndicated newsmagazine show Inside Edition this week that "so far, no one attacked me on facts credibly, in my view," even his publisher refuses to stand by the book's accuracy, saying that "it is the long-established and legally recognized practice in book publishing that it is the author's responsibility to assure factual accuracy."

Week ending June 24, 2005
www.mediamatters.org
action@mediamatters.org

This week:

The truth about Ed Klein: He's a liar

CPB picks former Republican Party co-chairwoman as new president; CPB's chairman caught in lies

Rove attacks liberals' approach to terrorism; media ignores Bush administration's failures

Sens. Durbin and Santorum both referred to Nazis; Durbin's comments got much more media coverage

Downing Street memo: Post ombudsman agrees with critics of Post coverage

The truth about Ed Klein: He's a liar

The Truth About Hillary, the long-awaited "hate-eography" of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) written by Ed Klein and published by an imprint of the Penguin Group finally arrived in bookstores.

Though Klein said on the syndicated newsmagazine show Inside Edition this week that "so far, no one attacked me on facts credibly, in my view," even his publisher refuses to stand by the book's accuracy, saying that "it is the long-established and legally recognized practice in book publishing that it is the author's responsibility to assure factual accuracy."

After wading through Klein's error-laden, sloppily researched, poorly written screed, Media Matters posted a lengthy catalogue of the book's many errors, omissions, distortions and outright lies. Among the highlights:

  • Klein repeats long-debunked claims about Los Angeles air traffic being delayed while President Clinton got a haircut.
  • He falsely claims that Hillary Clinton spoke of her Jewish relatives only after controversy arose over her hug of Suha Arafat (Klein reversed the true order of the events).
  • He falsely claims the $25 million Clinton planned in 1999 to raise for her Senate campaign would be an "unprecedented" amount, ignoring the fact that another candidate had raised more than that for a Senate election held the year before in the very same state.
  • Klein falsely claims that Rick Lazio, Clinton's Republican opponent in 2000 for the Senate seat, sent out no direct campaign mail.
  • He falsely claims that Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) couldn't bring himself to say Hillary's name in introducing her at her campaign announcement.
  • He falsely accuses Moynihan of giving a long and rambling description of hay-cutting that, in fact, lasted all of 29 words.
  • Klein falsely accuses Clinton of ignoring Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) during a speech to teachers in support of his presidential campaign.
  • He falsely accuses her of not wanting Kerry to win and of spending her time in states such as South Dakota, in which Kerry had very little chance (she hasn't been to South Dakota in years).
  • ... and on, and on, and on.

Appearing June 24 on Air America Radio, Klein was forced to acknowledge several of the errors Media Matters and others have identified, including his error about the chronology of the Suha Arafat incident and his false claim that Moynihan couldn't bring himself to use Clinton's name.

Now that Klein has acknowledged these errors, we assume that Penguin will issue a press release correcting them and promising to correct future editions of the book.

CPB picks former Republican Party co-chairwoman as new president; CPB's chairman caught in lies

During a week in which newly disclosed email messages prove that Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson has lied about his coordination with the White House, and in which 16 members of the Senate have called for Tomlinson's removal, the CPB chose former Republican Party co-chairwoman Patricia de Stacy Harrison as its new president.

Free Press campaign director Tim Karr described the threat posed by Harrison's selection:

Together with CPB chair Kenneth Tomlinson, Harrison forms a formidable front in the ideological campaign to both gag and starve public broadcasting. They claim that their working to correct the perception of liberal bias at PBS, NPR and other public media. They want to help America by restoring "objectivity and balance" to our noncommercial media system.

Don't believe it. Tomlinson and Harrison use "objectivity and balance" in the same way that their counterparts at Fox News Channel use "fair and balanced." It's meant more as a provocation than statement of fact. It cloaks a real intention, which is to transform our Fourth Estate into the public relations wing of the White House. They have already coopted (or "embedded") many in commercial news media, now it's public broadcasting's turn.

Media Matters this week detailed several of Tomlinson's many lies.

Rove attacks liberals' approach to terrorism; media ignores Bush administration's failures

On June 22, White House adviser Karl Rove attacked liberals in a speech at a fund-raiser for the Conservative Party of New York. Among other attacks, Rove said: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9-11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9-11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

Though Rove's defenders claim he was criticizing liberals, not Democrats (as though that makes it any better) that isn't true, as Media Matters has shown. It probably is, however, the first time Rove's allies have suggested that Democrats are not liberals.

While many news organizations have covered Rove's remarks and calls by liberals for an apology (though most did not cover the similar condemnation by a nonpartisan group of 9-11 families), no news report that we have seen has challenged the most basic premise of Rove's statements -- that conservatives, led by the Bush administration, have aggressively and successfully responded to the threat of terrorism. The June 24 edition of the Progress Report impressively details some of the many problems with that premise:

1,382 DAYS AFTER 9/11 -- TERRORIST ATTACKS AT AN ALL TIME HIGH: By objective measures, the Bush administration's approach to combating terrorism is an abject failure. Last year "[t]he number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled." According to State Department data, "attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the record of around 175 in 2003." How did the administration respond? By halting the publication of the State Department report. The year before, "the State Department retracted its annual terrorism report and admitted that its initial version vastly understated the number of incidents."

1,382 DAYS AFTER 9/11 -- OSAMA BIN LADEN STILL AT LARGE: More than three and a half years ago Bush vowed to capture terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." He's failed. The administration wants you to think we are hot on his tracks. CIA Director Porter Goss said he had "an excellent idea" where bin Laden is hiding. Vice President Cheney said he had "a pretty good idea of a general area that he's in." Note to the Bush administration: close doesn't count in terrorist manhunts.

1,382 DAYS AFTER 9/11 -- IRAQ WAR MAKING THINGS WORSE: According to the CIA, "[t]he war in Iraq is creating a training and recruitment ground for a new generation of "professionalized" Islamic terrorists." An in-house CIA think tank concluded that, since the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq has served as "a training ground, a recruitment ground." In the poorly planned aftermath of the invasion "hundreds of foreign terrorists flooded into Iraq across its unguarded borders." There is a serious risk Iraq is now "creating newly radicalized and experienced jihadis who return home to cause trouble in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere."

1382 DAYS AFTER 9/11 -- LOOSE NUKES: The Bush administration has repeatedly asserted that nuclear weapons in the hands of our enemies is the greatest threat to America. Yet administration efforts to stop nuclear proliferation have been lackluster. In May, "a monthlong conference to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty ended in complete failure." U.S. diplomacy was so anemic the parties "never engaged in a detailed discussion of how to fix the gaping loopholes that many experts say have allowed a resurgence in the spread of the most dangerous nuclear technologies." And the pace at which we secured fissile materials -- the "gunpowder" used to spark nuclear explosions -- in the former Soviet Union did not accelerate after 9/11, according to a May 2005 study by scholars at Harvard University.

AN INDEFENSIBLE PHILOSOPHY: Rove said that after 9/11 conservatives "prepared for war." He's right. Immediately after the attacks Paul Wolfowitz and others in the Bush administration prepared for war in Iraq -- a country that, by the president's own admission, had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. After years of deception, more Americans understand what happened. That's why now most people think the war in Iraq wasn't worth it and hasn't made us safer. Now, Rove is desperate to create distractions.

Will Rove apologize for insulting liberals? Will the White House stand by him? These and other questions are interesting, and worth asking. But reporters covering Rove's remarks should ask more basic, and more important, questions as well, foremost among them: How does tough talk like Karl Rove's mesh with an administration that claims to know where Osama bin Laden is hiding -- but won't go get him for fear of offending foreign governments? This is, remember, the same administration that scoffed at suggestions that it should enlist the support of more allies before going to war against Saddam Hussein -- a man who didn't attack the United States. Now the Bush administration is afraid to move against the man who did attack the U.S., because it doesn't want to offend Afghanistan?

News organizations that report Rove's claims that liberals are weak on terror should give readers and viewers some context, particularly about the Bush administration's record, rather than just focusing on the political back-and-forth of the matter or parroting White House spin.

Sens. Durbin and Santorum both referred to Nazis; Durbin's comments got much more media coverage

CJR Daily compared coverage of comments by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Rick Santorum (R-PA), both of whom referenced Nazis in recent comments. Durbin has apologized, while Santorum has not. CJR Daily concluded:

Today's Washington Times featured an article suggesting that Democratic Senator Richard Durbin's recent comparison of guards at Guantamano prison to Nazis did not get nearly as much coverage as Trent Lott's little slip-up three years ago at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, when he said that if Thurmond had won the 1948 presidential campaign (run on a segregationist platform), we "wouldn't have had all these problems over the years."

[...]

But are all offensive remarks created equal?

[...]

[T]here's a more apt comparison right under our noses. Remember when Republican Senator Rick Santorum dropped his own little Hitler comparison last month? Responding to Democrats in the Senate who were protesting against a potential rule change that would have killed filibusters against judicial nominations, Santorum said, "The audacity of some members to stand up and say 'How dare you break this rule' -- it's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.'"

Santorum's remarks are much closer to Durbin's than anything Trent Lott said. So let's compare coverage of Durbin's remarks to coverage of Santorum's:

Durbin's remarks generated 43 hits. Compare that to a search for "Santorum" and "Hitler" in major papers for the nine days following that comment.

And the verdict is: 20 hits for Santorum!

Not satisfied? Let's check out TV coverage. Using TVeyes, which allows us to search through transcripts of television coverage, and the same search words and time periods, the Santorum search gets 22 results and the Durbin search gets 121 (including 40 mentions on Fox News, 16 on MSNBC, and 3 on CNN).

Hmm. Looks like the Liberal Media Machine might not be going so easy on Durbin after all.

Downing Street memo: Post ombudsman agrees with critics of Post coverage

Last week, we lamented The Washington Post's curious decision to cover a forum convened by congressional Democrats to discuss the Bush administration's use of pre-war intelligence with only a snide, mocking column by Dana Milbank. Milbank's coverage of the Downing Street memo and related news has drawn criticism from Think Progress, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), and others.

On June 19, the Post's ombudsman agreed, criticizing Milbank's use of the term "wing nuts" in an earlier column -- and disagreeing with a Post editorial that dismissed the Downing Street memo as old news in the process:

Milbank is one of the paper's most talented and observant reporters. On the other hand, for the past several months he has also been serving as a columnist, frequently writing observations that go beyond straight reporting in a column labeled "Washington Sketch" that appears in the news pages of the A-section. On Friday, for example, The Post covered an unofficial antiwar hearing on Capitol Hill only in a Milbank column. Several readers found this inappropriate.

Unfortunately, it has never been announced or explained to Post readers that reporter Milbank is also now columnist Milbank. The reference to "wing nuts," as in left-wing nuts and right-wing nuts, appeared in the June 8 column, not a "news story," as many e-mailers wrongly stated. This is also understandable because FAIR neglected to tell its subscribers that this was clearly marked as a "Washington Sketch" and not a news story.

Milbank's column was about the June 7 Bush-Blair news conference in Washington and it reported that "Democrats.com, a group of left-wing activists" had sent e-mails offering a "reward" for anyone who could get an answer from Bush about the report that intelligence had been "fixed" around Iraq policy. Later in the column, Milbank wrote that a reporter who did ask such a question, and who had no idea of the activists' e-mails, "wasn't trying to satisfy the wing nuts."

Post Assistant Managing Editor Liz Spayd said "the term referred to one specific group" and not everyone who was questioning coverage of the memo. As for the term "wing nuts," she said "that word is probably sharper than it should have been." I agree. It was a needless red flag that undoubtedly would be read as disparaging beyond the group that Milbank was referring to. But columnists do get more leeway and the term has infiltrated political discussion in these heated times.

Here's Milbank's view: "While you have been within your rights as ombudsman over the past five years to attempt to excise any trace of colorful or provocative writing from the Post, you are out of bounds in asserting that a columnist cannot identify as 'wingnuts' a group whose followers have long been harassing this and other reporters and their families with hateful, obscene and sometimes anti-Semitic speech."

Much of the mail criticizing Milbank was also directed at op-ed columnist Michael Kinsley, who, in a June 12 column, said leftist activists' continued focus on the memo showed an ability to develop "a paranoid theory." Later in the week, The Post's editorial page also weighed in on the Downing Street memos (another has been leaked), saying: "They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002." That also brought mail.

I have a different view. The July 23 memo is important because it is an official document produced at the highest level of government of the most important U.S. ally. Its authenticity has not been disputed. Whatever some people said or wrote three years ago, there has never been -- except for this memo -- any official, authoritative claim or confirmation that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Blair denied that at the news conference. But could the secret minutes of such a meeting be wrong? Maybe there's a different interpretation, or maybe "fixed" means something different in British-speak.

But Milbank remains unapologetic -- and has refused to correct errors in his reports. FAIR has additional details.

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