On Independent Thinking, Caldara joined conservative online personalities in dubiously attacking progressive blogs

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

During a discussion of "political blogs" on the August 24 broadcast of Independent Thinking, host Jon Caldara and guests Brad Jones and Ross Kaminsky criticized progressive blogs and other websites through falsehoods and smears. Furthermore, Caldara repeated the debunked falsehood that progressive philanthropist George Soros funds Media Matters for America, even as Jones twice refused to identify the funders of his own "news" website.

Discussing the emergence of political blogs on the August 24 broadcast of KBDI Channel 12's Independent Thinking, host and Independence Institute president Jon Caldara defended conservatives as people who "get out the truth," while he and guests Brad Jones and Ross Kaminsky used falsehoods and smears to criticize progressive blogs and other websites. Caldara, for example, repeated the falsehood that Media Matters for America -- the parent organization of Colorado Media Matters -- is funded by progressive philanthropist George Soros, while Kaminsky complained of "really nasty" rhetoric on liberal blogs such as Daily Kos but omitted references to the extreme commentary documented on some conservative blogs.

Moreover, after criticizing the blog ColoradoPols as "the number-one vicious gossip site" for progressives and claiming its operators have gone to "very extensive lengths [in] hiding [its] corporate structure," Jones twice refused to identify the funders of his own "news" website, Face the State, when Caldara asked him to do so.

In asserting that his website has had an impact on media coverage of political news, Jones also made the unsubstantiated claim that Face the State has "had more media hits" in its six months of operation than the progressive online political daily news website Colorado Confidential has had in its one year of operation. In fact, a search of major Colorado newspapers and journals using the Nexis and Factiva databases shows that Face the State had 14 "media hits" during the preceding six months of operation while Colorado Confidential had 21 in the preceding year.

Jones is the founder of Face the State, which describes itself as "a one-stop-shop for political news affecting Coloradans." As Colorado Media Matters has documented repeatedly (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), Face the State frequently publishes misleading or inaccurate headlines on its aggregated news articles.

Kaminsky, whose blog Rossputin.com provides links to national and local conservative sources such as the Drudge Report and the Independence Institute, is a graduate of the free enterprise Leadership Program of the Rockies, which has identified him as "a regional coordinator for the Colorado Club for Growth" and "a Fellow (and former Director) of the Heartland Institute."

Introducing the topic of "political blogs" on the August 24 show, Caldara asserted that "the left has really won this coming out of the gate. They're the ones who have more blogs; they have more money; they seem to have more presence." After he asked, "Am I wrong on that?" Jones responded, "Well see, conservatives and libertarians generally have jobs which require them to do things during the day and sleep during the night. They can't be up in their pajamas in their mother's basement blogging. But beyond all of that, I do think that you're right."

Later, after Caldara asked, "[W]ho's out there that's on the vicious left?" in Colorado, Jones pointed to ColoradoPols as "the number-one vicious gossip site for ... them." Jones further stated that ColoradoPols is "funded, we think, on the back end; it's completely anonymous." He added that "there's very little advertising; the advertising that they do get is very clearly not enough to sustain them; and they've gone to very extensive lengths -- incorporating in Nevada, hiding their corporate structure. Those are the kinds of things that people do when they want to stay anonymous."

But while Jones criticized what he called ColoradoPols' "completely anonymous" funding, he refused to tell Caldara the source of Face the State's funding later in the broadcast. After Caldara asked, "I'm going to ask you where you get your funding as well," Jones replied, "We ... get our funding from investors who believe in our ... cause. I'm not going to tell you their names, because a lot of times it becomes, you know, ad hominem attacks ... on the funders." After Caldara repeated the question later -- asking, "So where do you get your money?" -- Jones laughed and replied, "I'm not going to tell you, Jon."

Before asking Jones about his source of funding, Caldara again spread misinformation about Media Matters, claiming, "George Soros has ... put in a lot of money into national websites, including it looks like Media Matters out nationally." However, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, Media Matters repeatedly has debunked the falsehood that the progressive philanthropist Soros has ever funded the organization, either directly or indirectly.

Additionally, after saying that "the left is angry right now; they're really riled up," Kaminsky criticized Daily Kos, without noting -- as Media Matters has documented -- numerous examples of conservative bloggers advocating violence against their political opponents. Calling "some of the rhetoric you see" on liberal blogs "really sort of bilious, aggressive, really nasty," Kaminsky claimed:

And if you go to Daily Kos and look at some of the comments from their readers -- I mean, I was reading something about, oh, about Karl Rove just yesterday -- Karl Rove resigned. There were comments up on the Daily Kos along the lines of, "Rove had to resign because Bush wouldn't have fired him even if he had found Rove raping a child." Now, this is the kind of stuff that -- you really don't see this on conservative, libertarian [websites].

Jones also misled regarding the number of "media hits" Face the State has generated in comparison with Colorado Confidential. After stating that Colorado Confidential has "done an OK job of reporting on issues that they think are important," he added, "[B]ut if you look at them, for instance, compared to Face the State, the site that I run, we've been much more effective at driving our content into the mainstream media." Jones further stated that "we've been up six months; they've been up for a year -- and we've had more media hits."

However, contrary to Jones' assertion, a search* of Colorado newspapers and journals using the Nexis and Factiva databases showed that while Face the State had 14 "hits" during the preceding six months, Colorado Confidential received 21 media hits in the preceding year.

From the August 24 broadcast of KBDI Channel 12's Independent Thinking:

JONES: Blogging is a very wide spectrum and some things that are called blogs aren't necessarily blogs. People call my website Face the State a blog, but we call ourselves an online news site. So it's a term that is very versatile and can mean a lot of different things.

[...]

CALDARA: But let's focus in on, on the important one, the political blogs; they have incredible political import. And I think -- you guys tell me if you disagree -- the left has really won this coming out of the gate. They're the ones who have more blogs; they have more money; they seem to have more presence. Am I wrong on that?

JONES: Well see, conservatives and libertarians generally have jobs which require them to do things during the day and sleep during the night. They can't be up in their pajamas in their mother's basement blogging. But beyond all of that, I do think that you're right.

[...]

KAMINSKY: The other thing that I think is a big part of this is, the left is angry right now; they're really riled up.

CALDARA: What the hell do they have to be angry?

KAMINSKY: It doesn't matter --

CALDARA: They control everything right now.

KAMINSKY: It doesn't matter if they have a good reason. It's actually quite incredible. If you look at some of these left-leaning websites on the national level as well as in Colorado, some of the rhetoric you see -- not so much from the people who run the website, but from the people who comment on it, it's really sort of bilious, aggressive, really nasty --

CALDARA: Just give me a few, few examples on the national side; give me a few examples.

KAMINSKY: Well the, the, the two biggest kind of left-leaning blogs on the national side are The Huffington Post and Daily Kos. And if you go to Daily Kos and look at some of the comments from their readers -- I mean, I was reading something about, oh, about Karl Rove just yesterday -- Karl Rove resigned. There were comments up on the Daily Kos along the lines of, "Rove had to resign because Bush wouldn't have fired him even if he had found Rove raping a child." Now, this is the kind of stuff that -- you really don't see this on conservative, libertarian --

CALDARA: All right, now most blogs -- let me see if I understand the interactive part of this. Blogs put up a post, or bloggers put up a post; readers can put up a comment to that; other people can comment to that; but you as the, as the host to these places, you get to say, "I'm sorry, that, that one's out of line; we're not, we're not keeping it up." Right?

[...]

CALDARA: Give me some of the vicious -- let's talk locally first. Now here on the left, there's a lot of organizations in Colorado, and let's talk about them, because they've, they've, they've garnered a lot of position, and they ought to be congratulated for it. Who, who, who stands out in your mind? Who, who's out there that's on the vicious left?

JONES: Well, at least on the left, there's -- I think ColoradoPols is, is the number-one vicious gossip site for, for them. It's got a statewide focus; it's at least funded, we think, on the back end; it's completely anonymous --

CALDARA: When you say funded on the back end -- English.

JONES: The, the -- there's very little advertising; the advertising that they do get is very clearly not enough to sustain them; and they've gone to very extensive lengths -- incorporating in Nevada, hiding their corporate structure. Those are the kinds of things that people do when they want to stay anonymous.

[...]

JONES: (regarding Colorado Confidential): And they have beats; they have reporters with beats; they run as a news organization. And they've --

CALDARA: But Tim Gill funds them.

JONES: Exactly, and there's no advertising --

CALDARA: And that's not a surprise.

JONES: -- so it's a hundred-percent loss, but it's organized you know, as, as a, as a business, at least on the front end. They, they've done an OK job of reporting on issues that they think are important, but if you look at them, for instance, compared to Face the State, the site that I run, we've been much more effective at driving our content into the mainstream media, which is still a major goal, over our shorter lifespan -- we've been up six months; they've been up for a year -- and we've had more media hits. We were on here talking about [Democratic state Rep.] Mike Merrifield and his comments that he made that we did with an open-record request. We've been driving the agenda very effectively, and for a lot less money.

CALDARA: You mentioned, you mentioned a couple of the national sites, and you said that Huffington Post and Daily Cause --

KAMINSKY: Daily Kos.

CALDARA: Kos. Those are, those are, those are the big ones.

JONES: Those are the big ones.

CALDARA: Where, where -- where do some of the conservative ones come in?

KAMINSKY: Those -- OK, so those two are sort of in the top couple thousand. Well below that you get something like Michelle Malkin. Below that you get Rush Limbaugh, National Review. The only even slightly conservative-leaning site -- and I say that, you know, guardedly -- in the, sort of near the top, is Drudge Report. And that is more news. People think he's --

CALDARA: More news than gossip.

KAMINSKY: -- sort of conservative-leaning --

[...]

CALDARA: Now, we conservatives, we, like, get out the truth, and we, what we hope is the truth and we try to convince people. But what the left has done, and what Tim Gill and others here in Colorado have done -- including, there's a group called, ProgressNow, I think does the same sort of thing -- it's like: "All right, these people are awful, now here's what we want you to do about it. Sign up for this campaign; call up this person; donate to this." They really have a way of getting busybodies out in, in Colorado activated.

[...]

CALDARA: Now, there's funding here. Now, we know that George Soros has, has put in a lot of money into national websites, including it looks like Media Matters out nationally -- and here in Colorado, you look at ProgressNow, and I know that a lot of Jared Polis' money is rumored to be in that. Tim Gill, who has poured tons of money into Colorado politics, is behind a lot of these sites. Why does it cost so much money? Now, I know you get paid a ton, Ross, because you, you -- you, you, you do this on, on -- well, you do it in your free time. You don't get paid a dime. Why are they -- why is the left underwriting these -- so many of these Web pages? I mean, there's a lot of these Web pages. I know you're -- I'm going to ask you where you get your funding as well.

JONES: Sure. We, we get our funding from investors who believe in our, in our cause. I'm not going to tell you their names, because a lot of times it becomes, you know, ad hominem attacks on, on the funders. The issue really is that good reporting, good work does cost money, but it's over the long term. Liberals understand that the election cycle is no more. We don't think in two-year chunks anymore. A lot of political strategists will say this is the '08 election cycle, and then next time, we're gonna worry about the 2010. They don't think that way; they think about the long-term; they think about, if they beat the drum long enough on issues that they care about -- online, in the papers, by discrediting other media outlets that are contrary to their beliefs -- eventually people will hear it enough times that they'll start believing it as truth. They're in it for the long haul, and we've been in it for the short term, on an election-cycle basis, for far too long.

CALDARA: So where do you get your money?

JONES [laughs]: I'm not going to tell you, Jon.

[...]

JONES: I think what you're getting at, Jon, is that content is still king. Like Ross said, you don't need to have thousands of viewers. You need to have something to offer them, and it will ripple out into the audiences that need to hear it. And that's what we try to do, and that's why we don't churn out three stories a day, because we want our facts to be right. I always say, conservatives are far too concerned with the truth. We wait far too long to pull the trigger, because we want to have all of our ducks in a line. The folks on the other side don't worry about that; they put it out there and see if it sticks.

* Colorado Media Matters search of The Denver Post; Rocky Mountain News; Fort Collins Coloradoan; The Gazette of Colorado Springs; The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction; The Pueblo Chieftain; Greeley Tribune; Boulder County Business Report; Colorado Springs Business Journal; Pueblo Business Journal, using the terms "Face the State" and "FacetheState" for references from February 27, 2007, through August 27, 2007, and the terms "Colorado Confidential" and "ColoradoConfidential" for references from August 27, 2006, through August 27, 2007.

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