"Corrupt bastards": Timeline of a Fox-Palin-Breitbart manufactured controversy


After Fox News' Sarah Palin made the entirely unsupported claim that a taped voicemail proved that "corrupt bastards" in the media were conspiring to fabricate smears of Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, Fox News heavily promoted the allegation. By the next day, Glenn Beck joined Palin in calling for the reporters to be "purged."

October 28-30

October 28: Voicemail from KTVA reporter to Joe Miller's aide recorded. According to Jerry Bever, the general manager for Anchorage, Alaska, CBS affiliate KTVA, a reporter for the station inadvertently left a voicemail on a cell phone belonging to Randy DeSoto, a spokesman for Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller on Thursday, October 28.

October 30: Breitbart's sites begin posting voicemail, claiming it showed reporters "conspiring to set up some kind of smear of Joe Miller. On October 30, Miller issued a press release including a transcript and audio of the voicemail. At 10:26 p.m. ET that day, Breitbart's websites began posting transcript and audio, claiming that the recording proved that "the reporters were conspiring to set up some type of smear of Joe Miller" and that the recording "calls into serious question what type of campaign coverage CBS' KTVA has been providing Alaskans all along, given their reporters' willingness to conspire against Miller."

October 31

Early morning: Palin Twitter post alleges "CBS/media plot against Joe Miller" and calls reporters "[c]orrupt bastards." In a post to her Twitter account Sunday morning, Sarah Palin, who has endorsed Miller, wrote:

Palin linked to a RedCounty.com blog post timestamped 11:56 p.m. ET on October 30 that suggested the voicemail proved there was "a concerted effort on the part of this local CBS affiliate to brainstorm a way to damage Miller the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate."

9:15 a.m. ET: Palin brings "corrupt bastards" claim to Fox News Sunday and says she "can't wait until it busts out all over the nation. On Fox News Sunday, Palin discussed Senate races in Delaware and Alaska. She claimed that "we have the tape that proves is, that the CBS reporters, the affiliate in Alaska conspired to make up stories about Joe Miller. We have the tape, Chris, and I can't wait until it busts out all over the nation." Asked to repeat her claim by host Chris Wallace, Palin again said that "we have it on tape" and added "Those are corrupt bastards."

12 p.m. ET: Fox News' Cameron reports that Fox News "cannot verify" Palin's claims. Several hours after Palin made her claims on Fox News Sunday, Fox News' Jon Scott introduced a segment to discuss what he called "new developments out of Alaska," which Scott claimed "sounds as though reporters from a local affiliate there are sort of plotting against Joe Miller." Fox aired Palin's claim that "corrupt bastards" were conspiring against Miller and a portion of the audio recording. Correspondent Carl Cameron reported that Fox News "cannot verify" the claims Palin made on Fox that morning and that Fox News had "not been able to confirm it, nor have we been able to listen to the entirety of the message before the conversation that wasn't supposed to be recorded." Cameron further reported that Fox News was "not exactly sure what the authenticity of this is."

1:09 p.m. ET: KTVA calls claims that Palin pushed on Fox News "absurd." In a statement released that afternoon, KTVA authenticated the audio but flatly rejected Palin and Breitbart's allegations about it, saying, "The perception that this garbled, out of context recording may leave is unfortunate, but to allege that our staff was discussing or planning to create or fabricate stories regarding candidate Miller is absurd. The complete conversation was about what others might be able to do to cause disruption within the Miller campaign, not what KTVA could do."

1:09 p.m. ET: Politico's Ben Smith writes, "The transcript does not, in fact, make it terribly clear what they're talking about." In contrast to Palin and Breitbart's claims that the tapes proved a conspiracy on the part of local reporters to fabricate smears about Miller, Politico's Ben Smith reported on KTVA's statement and wrote, "The transcript does not, in fact, make it terribly clear what they're talking about."

1:15 p.m. ET: Fox's Springer says, "We could not see any obvious signs of bias" against Miller in KTVA's reporting. On Fox News' America Live, correspondent Dan Springer reported, "We actually had some of our staffers look at some of the more recent articles and stories that KTVA has done to see if there was any obvious bias or hit pieces against Joe Miller, and we couldn't find that. We could not see any obvious signs of bias or hit pieces done by KTVA against Joe Miller."

1:40 p.m. ET: Wash. Post's Sargent writes "it's unclear from the recording precisely what, if anything, was being plotted." In an entry on his Washington Post blog, Greg Sargent posted the statement from Bever and wrote, " [I]t's unclear from the recording precisely what, if anything, was being plotted. And now the station is adamantly denying the charges, claiming the audio was clipped and taken out of the fuller context."

2:15 p.m. ET: Fox News continues to push Palin's allegations. On America Live, host Megyn Kelly hosted Fox News political analyst William Kristol to discuss Palin's allegations. Kristol said that "it looks to me like they are seriously saying, 'Let's find something that will put this event in the worst light.'" Kristol further said that the audio showed that the KTVA reporters were looking to "drive a story, you know, to other news organizations that makes Joe Miller look bad."

3:15 p.m. ET: Fox News reairs Palin's Fox News Sunday allegations. During the 3 p.m. ET hour, Fox News Channel rebroadcast that day's edition of Fox News Sunday, including Palin's allegations.

4:45 p.m. ET: Cavuto hosts Miller to push "explosive allegations." During the October 31 edition of Your World, host Neil Cavuto hosted Joe Miller to respond to the "explosive allegations" pushed by Palin and Fox News throughout the day.

6 p.m. ET: Special Report leads with "big controversy" pushed by Palin. During the October 31 edition of Special Report, Bret Baier led with what he called "a controversy over alleged media bias in the Alaska Senate race, and that state's best known politician is outraged." During the report, Cameron said that Miller "finds himself embroiled in a controversy caused potentially by the media." Cameron's report featured Palin's comments that "corrupt bastards" in the media were conspiring against Miller, Cameron called the allegations a "big controversy, two days before the election."

6:40 p.m. ET: Fox's Hume says that the audio recording is "not utterly conclusive." During the panel discussion on Special Report, Baier aired Palin's comments that "[t]he CBS reporters, the affiliate in Alaska, conspired to make up stories about Joe Miller. Those are corrupt bastards, Chris," and said, "Almost made you spit out your coffee this morning." Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume, the former host of Special Report, seemed to contradict much of Fox News reporting when he said that while the voicemail "doesn't sound very good, it's not utterly conclusive."

8:35 p.m. ET: Palin returns to Fox News to continue pushing allegations that "there was an orchestration there." During the October 31 edition of America's Election Headquarters, Baier hosted Palin to discuss what he called a "controversy" that "caught a few people and your mom, I guess, by surprise." Baier asked Palin to respond to the KTVA statement. Palin said people should "read the transcript" and "listen to the tape," adding that "it is appalling and there was an orchestration there, an attempt anyway, to concoct something, to tarnish a campaign based on finding a child molester in the crowd. I thought it was appalling."

10:08 p.m. ET: On the Record hosts Palin to keep pushing the allegations -- still entirely unsupported -- that she introduced to Fox News more than 12 hours earlier. On the Record host Greta Van Susteren hosted Palin, who repeated her allegations. Palin said Bever "should fire the reporters, he should teach them a lesson."

November 1

6:06 a.m. ET: Fox & Friends' Carlson calls it "incredibly unreal" that KTVA reporters "could still be employed." On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson said that the story "continues to percolate" and that reporters might have tried to "plant negative stories" about Miller. Carlson echoed Palin's call that the reporters be fired, saying, "The idea that those people -- I hate to say it -- could still be employed at that news operation, is incredibly unreal at this moment in time."

10:20 a.m. ET: Beck calls on KTVA to "purge" reporters. During the November 1 edition of his radio show, Glenn Beck adopted Palin's call to fire the KTVA reporters. After executive producer Stu Burguiere said the tape showed that KTVA reporters were "searching for a way to take this guy down," Beck said that the reporters "should be fed to the moose" and that "[t]hese people should be out of a job today." Beck also said, "The only right thing to do with these people is to purge them from your newsroom."

2:55 p.m. ET: Limbaugh claims that "local media in Alaska ... did contrive to make up things about Joe Miller." On the November 1 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh read from Palin's exchange with Wallace and said, "'Those are corrupt bastards.' She's talking about local media in Alaska, which did contrive to make up things about Joe Miller and his supporters." Limbaugh also asked, "[W]hen is the last time you heard anybody on television call the media 'corrupt bastards'? And how many of you who heard it stood up and cheered when you heard it?"

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