Wash. Post Beck beat: Paper follows Fox host's lead in tying SEIU to ACORN

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

On the heels of Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander's September 20 suggestion that the paper "should pay attention" to Fox News, the Post published an October 6 article headlined, "Some Criticize SEIU for Its ACORN Connections." In echoing Glenn Beck's fixation with "connections" between ACORN and SEIU, the Post gave no indication why "connections" between the two organizations would be inappropriate -- or in any way newsworthy.

Post -- echoing Beck -- suggests that ACORN, SEIU "connections" entail newsworthy controversy

From the September 21 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

beckpost

Beck: "ACORN and SEIU ... Same thing. Same people, same street address, same everything." Beck has stated on his radio program: "Forget about ACORN. Think about community organizers. ACORN could change its name and then everybody would be like, 'Oh, problem solved.' No, its not. ACORN has 270 other names. So now the government has ACORN and its 270 other names inside the government with AmeriCorps. They're inside the White House with ACORN and the census and its 270 organizations." He added, "[R]emember, ACORN and SEIU, the union -- same thing. Same thing. Same people, same street address, same everything." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program; 7/23/09]

Post echoes Beck: "Some Criticize SEIU for Its ACORN Connections." From the October 6 Washington Post article:

Some Criticize SEIU for Its ACORN Connections

A rapidly growing union that represents nurses, janitors and other low-wage workers is coming under fire from conservatives because of its long-standing financial and leadership ties to ACORN, a liberal organizing group recently embarrassed by videos filmed covertly.

Some Republicans say federal agencies that recently cut ties with ACORN -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- should also consider severing their relationship with the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU and ACORN have long worked closely together, with the union paying the association more than $3.6 million in the past three years and sharing some office locations and leaders with the group.

[...]

The SEIU's parent organization has paid ACORN for training, voter registration and other organizing work, and SEIU locals have paid ACORN affiliates for their services, according to union reports. ACORN founder Wade Rathke was a top member of the SEIU's board until last year and founded two SEIU locals -- in Chicago and New Orleans. SEIU President Andy Stern serves on an advisory panel that was supposed to help ACORN fix financial problems after an embezzlement was discovered last year. Other leaders have served both ACORN and the SEIU, including Keith Kelleher, who headed SEIU Local 880 and also held an ACORN staff position, and whose wife ran the ACORN office in Illinois.

Beck: "Two of SEIU's locals are ACORN affiliates." Beck stated on his Fox News program that "SEIU is essentially ACORN. It's just unionized. Two of SEIU's locals are ACORN affiliates." [Glenn Beck (accessed via Nexis), 9/23/09]

Beck: ACORN founder Wade Rathke "is also closely tied to" SEIU. While discussing George Stephanopoulos' interview with President Obama, Beck stated of Obama, "By the way, he's also tied closely to SEIU, which ACORN founder Wade Rathke is also closely tied to. Hmm." [Glenn Beck (accessed via Nexis), 9/21/09]

Post echoes Beck: "ACORN founder Wade Rathke was a top member of the SEIU's board until last year and founded two SEIU locals -- in Chicago and New Orleans."

Beck: Andy Stern is on "ACORN advisory council." After asserting that "SEIU is essentially ACORN. It's just unionized," Beck stated that "there's the Obama connection. Remember, just this weekend, President Obama said, 'I haven't really been following ACORN. I don't even really know what's going on.' ACORN advisory council -- on it, Andy Stern, SEIU. Stern just told the LA Times that he visits the White House about once a week. Wow. Is that surprising?" [Glenn Beck (accessed via Nexis), 9/23/09]

Post echoes Beck: "SEIU President Andy Stern serves on an advisory panel that was supposed to help ACORN fix financial problems after an embezzlement was discovered last year."

Beck: "[T]hey are in the same building. ACORN and SEIU." Beck stated on his Fox News program: "Here are the power centers of corruption. First, we start down at New Orleans. This is -- they are in the same building. ACORN and SEIU. Who's around the president all the time? ACORN and SEIU." [Glenn Beck (accessed via Nexis), 9/14/09]

Beck: SEIU has "powerful connection" to ACORN because they "share goals and office space." On his Fox News program, Beck similarly said of ACORN and SEIU: "[T]here is one more powerful connection for SEIU. Members of its local chapters share goals and office space with none other than ACORN. SEIU, ACORN, and Obama: branches of the same tree. And that's SEIU in a nutshell." [Glenn Beck; 7/6/09]

Post echoes Beck: "The SEIU and ACORN have long worked closely together, with the union paying the association more than $3.6 million in the past three years and sharing some office locations and leaders with the group."

Post ombudsman previously said Post may not be "pay[ing] sufficient attention to conservative media"

Andrew Alexander: Post "should pay attention" to Fox News. Alexander recently criticized the Post for "tardiness" in covering the Beck-led ACORN videotape controversy, arguing that newspapers should pay more attention to right-wing media outlets and that the Post's purportedly slow reaction to the ACORN story is related to institutional liberal bias. In doing so, Alexander adopted the right-wing argument that the ACORN videos are a major story.

From Alexander's September 20 column:

With ACORN, The Post wrote about it two days after the first of several explosive hidden-camera videos were aired showing the group's employees giving tax advice to young conservative activists posing as a prostitute and her pimp. Three days passed before The Post ran a short Associated Press story about the Senate halting Housing and Urban Development grants to ACORN, which operates in 110 cities. But by that time, the Census Bureau had severed ties with ACORN. State and city investigations had been launched. It wasn't until late in the week that The Post weighed in with two solid pieces.

Why the tardiness?

One explanation may be that traditional news outlets like The Post simply don't pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints.

It "can't be discounted," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Complaints by conservatives are slower to be picked up by non-ideological media because there are not enough conservatives and too many liberals in most newsrooms."

[...]

The most authoritative recent research into the political leanings of newsrooms (including television, radio, magazines and wire services) shows they are considerably more liberal than the general public. At daily newspapers, those who "lean to the left still far outnumber those who lean to the right," said Indiana University journalism professor David H. Weaver, whose researchers surveyed 1,149 journalists in 2002 and recently conducted a follow-up study of 400.

A recent Pew Research nationwide survey said only 26 percent of those questioned believe news organizations try to protect against political bias, while 60 percent said news organizations are biased.

Beck is more provocateur than newsman. And Fox caters to conservatives. Working in concert, they and other right-leaning media have a large audience. Beck averages 2.25 million viewers.

The Post should follow its own news standards, not theirs. But it should pay attention to what they report. [The Washington Post, 9/20/09]

Parker introduced Beck's ACORN-SEIU attacks to pages of Wash. Post

Parker: ACORN and SEIU "are as tight as Heidi Klum and a new pair of jeans." In a nationally syndicated Washington Post column, Kathleen Parker eariler echoed Beck's witch-hunt efforts to "link" the SEIU and ACORN. Parker further attempted to link SEIU to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and suggested that this "dot-connecting" might "stall" health care reform.

From Parker's September 27 Washington Post column:

While everyone in Washington is suddenly pretending they've hardly ever heard of ACORN, they might want to pretend they've never heard of the SEIU, one of the nation's largest unions.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and the Service Employees International Union are as tight as Heidi Klum and a new pair of jeans.

You don't think about one without the other. [The Washington Post, 9/27/09]

Post follows Wash. Times in echoing Beck's attacks

Wash. Times presents Beck's opinions and attacks as news. In recent weeks, The Washington Times has allowed Beck to dictate its coverage by presenting his attacks on progressives as news: printing an article premised entirely on Beck's opinion that ACORN's internal ethics investigation is "bogus" because its advisory board members are "the worst of the worst"; promoting the Beck-led right-wing attacks on Mark Lloyd, the chief diversity officer at the Federal Communications Commission; and chronicling the Beck-led "hunt for next Van Jones."

Posted In
Economy, Labor Unions
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Carol Leonnig
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