We bash gays, you decide


Mike Huckabee -- past and probably future GOP presidential contender, and of course host of a Fox News show -- says gay rights is a "different set of rights" than civil rights, and notes that gays aren't getting their "skulls cracked," so nobody's rights are being violated. Well, that's not really true, as Think Progress notes, but, needless to say, physical violence shouldn't be the bar for discrimination in this country.

Of course, there's all this:

  • In the course of his mocking diatribe, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld inserted an off-color, homophobic joke about Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA): "Look, I don't dispute that aliens exist, but there are more urgent threats than wrinkly creatures with a knack for anal probing. But enough about Barney Frank."
  • After Dennis Miller said that President-elect Barack Obama "ought to flatten these punks at AIG [American International Group]," Bill O'Reilly stated, "OK, and then arrest Barney Frank, correct?" Miller replied, "Barney might want to be arrested." In response, O'Reilly said, "Oh, jeez. Ugh," and shuddered. He continued, "OK, Dennis Miller, everybody. I told you to hide the kids."
  • On The O'Reilly Factor and in a FoxNews.com article, Bill Sammon suggested that Rep. Barney Frank allowed his relationship in the 1990s with Herb Moses, a Fannie Mae official at the time, to improperly influence his conduct as a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
  • Radio host Lars Larson played a spoof "Barney Frank for President" advertisement, in which a person said: "Now remember, this Erection Day -- Election Day, vote for Barney Frank for President. I'm Barney Fag -- uh, Frank and I approve this massage -- message."

That's how the Fox Network, which employs Huckabee and much of the right-wing media, treats one of America's only openly gay politicians. But they don't crack his head, so, who's complaining, right?

George Zornick writes: Last week, we noted Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell's complaint that her paper was too favorable to Obama.

She's back with another column now, carrying her point even further. Howell says the Post should start employing a newsroom "fairness doctrine" of sorts, by hiring more conservatives.

Before we deal with that prescription, let's look again at Howell's diagnosis. We noted last week that Howell's complaint about excessive "laudatory" pieces on Barack Obama was odd because she counted stories about Obama's lead in the polls. I actually assumed Howell didn't realize such stories were part of her count, but she did: This week, she mentions the "drumbeat of polling stories saying Obama and the Democrats were likely to win" as one of the reasons "conservatives decided that The Post was cheerleading" -- complaints she hopes the paper will address by hiring more conservative reporters. (Maybe they won't write about the polls?)

Anyway, Howell also lists "recent news decisions that brought conservative complaints." Let's break down just one:

The Post put on Page 1 two long stories about "Troopergate" -- the allegation that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin fired her state's public safety commissioner because he wouldn't dismiss her ex-brother-in-law from his state trooper's job. One of the Page 1 stories reported a legislative investigator's conclusion that Palin had abused her power. When she was cleared by an Alaska Personnel Board report written by a self-described "loyal Democrat" investigator, the story was eight paragraphs long, under a one-column headline on an inside page.

So the Post fronted the newsworthy story about Troopergate and the legislative panel that condemned Palin, but not the one that cleared her. Aha! But consider: The legislative panel consisted of, well, legislators. That is, people who are free to say what they want about Palin. But the Alaska Personnel Board serves at the pleasure of the governor -- and Palin had the power to stop their investigation any time she pleased. That surely weights the news value of the two reports, but Howell doesn't mention that, nor does she mention the timing. The legislative panel's report was released two weeks before the election, at the peak of campaign-related coverage. The Alaska Personnel Board's report was released after dinnertime on the East Coast, on Monday, November 3. Which means the Post, on short notice, had to put the story into the Tuesday, November 4, edition of the paper. Gee, what else was happening on that day that might have crowded up the newshole...

Howell's complaints are about news coverage -- the good Lord and Fred Hiatt know the Post's opinion page ain't liberal -- and Howell explicitly calls for "[m]ore conservatives in newsrooms." I guess you'd have to just ask reporters for their voter registration cards -- Politico's Michael Calderone says he doesn't know any editor who would be comfortable doing this -- but Howell assures us that "newspapers have hired more minorities and women, so it can be done." This assumes not only that the news coverage is being hopelessly slanted by evil liberal reporters, a case Howell has not proven, but as Eric Boehlert notes, it also assumes that Republicans are actively being blocked from newsrooms, which Howell also can't prove. The obvious prescription here is a re-examination of how the Post chooses their ombudsmen.

From Think Progress:

CNN aired a story this afternoon reporting that human rights groups are urging President-elect Obama to "investigate whether the Bush administration is guilty of war crimes," specifically, torture techniques that were approved for use against terror suspects. CNN reporter Kelli Arena noted that human rights groups argue that torture should never be used, but that "[i]ntelligence experts say that would be a mistake." Which "expert" did Arena turn to, to make that case? Former White House Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend. At no point did CNN identify Townsend as a former Bush official. Instead, she was labeled an "intelligence expert" and "CNN national security contributor."

This is the kind of thing we need to watch out for in the coming months, especially after Bush and most of his employees are out of office. There will be much deserved discussion about the Bush legacy, and if Karl Rove can get on television as a credible commentator -- often without any identification -- surely many others will as well.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Jim Kruidenier
Amherst, MA

Hey, Eric -- I can't speak to the Antichrist stuff, but things like the following don't seem uncommon. The recurring theme seems to be that America has made a terrible mistake and that there will be consequences (one letter I saw talked of God's judgment, etc.). I'm not in the business of disparaging other folks' articles of faith, and maybe the same kind of things appeared when Clinton was elected (or if Hillary or Edwards had been elected, the same kind of thing would be showing up), but, well, it makes me kind of nervous.

Name: John Moore
San Francisco

Dear Dr. A,

Lest you remain under the mistaken impression that the Catholic Church's antipathy to our president-elect is limited to a single church in South Carolina, I attach the following article for your review.

Speaking at Catholic University, Cardinal James Francis Stafford delivered an incendiary attack on Obama and those who voted for him, warning of virtually apocalyptic consequences that will supposedly follow Obama's ascension to the presidency.

Note that Cardinal Stafford is not "merely" a cardinal. He heads the Vatican's Apostolic Penitentiary, and as such, is a high-ranking member of the Vatican hierarchy. As a former Roman Catholic, I can tell you that men that high up in the Vatican do not freelance. It is inconceivable to me that his speech was not vetted by the Vatican. So I'd have to disagree with your unwillingness to attribute such anti-Obama views to the Pope himself. I doubt Benedict XVI would have allowed anyone so close to his inner circle to deliver such a rant if it did not, in fact, reflect the Pontiff's own views.

Name: Wes
Geneva, IL

Whatever differences there have been on foreign policy issues if Hillary becomes SOS I think we assume those have been resolved. If she takes the job, she does the work as determined by the boss. If he's a good boss, she'll be empowered to make plenty of decisions but within agreed upon parameters. What's so hard about that concept? That's the way it's always worked in Washington. Oh, and the rest of world, too. Jeez.

Name: Bill Dauphin
Vernon, CT

This business of listing cool covers is addictive! Ron Curtiss' mention of Yes' Paul Simon cover ("America") reminded me that the Starland Vocal Band (yes, that Starland Vocal Band) does a truly gorgeous cover of Simon's "American Tune" on its eponymous debut album. If "Afternoon Delight" is the ridiculous, SVB's version of "American Tune" is the sublime.

They also do a brilliant take on the Emmylou Harris tune "Boulder to Birmingham," but that's not really a cover, as SVB founding member Bill Danoff co-wrote the song with Harris, and I believe the SVB recording predates Harris'.

Eric replies: SVB? Dare we go there? Paul did a nice version of "American Tune" on Colbert last night. I remember seeing him sing it for the Carter inauguration. Better luck this time...

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