As part of an Easter edition of This Week that explored religion's influence on government, Christiane Amanpour hosted right-wing evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham, who took used the opportunity to promote the conspiracy theory that President Obama hasn't produced his birth certificate. He also cast doubt on Obama's religion and declared that "secularism is anti-Christ."
It's stunning that ABC would lead its Easter edition of This Week by hosting Graham. He was, after all, uninvited from a National Prayer Day ceremony at the Pentagon last year after calling Islam "evil" and counseling Muslims that "they don't have to die in a car bomb."
Amanpour seemed to make a brief reference to this during the interview, telling Graham: "You've made some very controversial comments about Islam, about Muslims, including on our program, when we had our town hall that you joined us on a few months ago. Do you still feel that there is a real divide between Islam and Christianity in this country?"
But that was it. Amanpour didn't press him any further on his history of anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Amanpour's most egregious error during the interview was failing to make clear the facts about Obama's birth certificate:
Has Donald Trump found a winning issue for the 2012 election cycle?
That's the premise for the report on how Donald Trump has launched a media tour resurrecting the debunked conspiracy theory about how the President of the United States was not born in America. At ABC News, this is seen as a potential "winning issue."
But why is peddling discredited nonsense like birtherism a possible "winning issue"? ABC never actually explains. It points to no polling, for instance, that suggests the conspiracy theory resonates with voters or that it has boosted Trump's fortunes as he (supposedly) weighs a presidential run.
ABC News doesn't point to a single thing that suggests going around on TV and claiming Obama was't born here is a "winning issue."
From the January 23 edition of ABC News' This Week:
Loading the player ...
From the December 12 edition of ABC's This Week:
Loading the player ...
The question for the mainstream press, as always, is how to deal with egregious falsehoods that take hold and quickly drive our political discourse. Sometimes I think the right-wing plan is to just drown everyone in so many lies that it becomes too time consuming for journalists to fact-check all the fabrications. And perhaps that's why so often the lies are not confronted.
Happily, the India trip lie is being forcefully knocked down from some mainstream media outlets such CNN and ABC News. And that's exactly the right way to confront a misinformation campaign -- call it out for what it is. Don't look away, or issue it's-just-Rush-being-Rush type of passes to powerful pundits who can't tell the truth. The correct thing to do is to say without apology, that these people are lying about the President of the United States, they don't seem to care that they're lying, and most likely they know they're lying. ($2 billion in security costs for a presidential visit? On what planet?)
And to his credit, that's essentially what Anderson Cooper did on last night's show:
And it's what ABC's Jake Tapper did on Good Morning America:
Meanwhile on her program last night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow also debunked the India trip idiocy. But Maddow went a bit further and explained the larger, disturbing trend in play, which is how the "alternative, self-contained, right-wing media world" fabricates and deceives on purpose; how it's designed to spread misinformation. Maddow notes the increasing trouble with that is that more and more Republican political leaders are taking that right-wing misinformation ($2 billion) and deploying it into the real world.
Maddow laments that because of its self-contained structure there's no longer an effective debunking process for right-wing lies because nobody inside that world acknowledges the outside world. True to a point. But I still think it's effective and important and necessary for independent journalists to call out this nonsense and let right-wing pundits know they cannot always lie with impunity.
ABC has made conflicting statements about discredited blogger Andrew Breitbart's role in its election night coverage and now says that it is "entirely possible" that it will include comments from Breitbart in its television broadcast. Here is a timeline of comments released by -- or attributed to -- ABC.
In launching his latest smear campaign against the press, this time targeting a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska, Andrew Breitbart has again convincingly advertised the fact that he has no idea what journalism is. Or he does, and simply has no interest in practicing it. Because again, the latest Breitbart/GOP Noise Machine press-hating creation illustrates that when faced with breaking some actual news, Breitbart and his band of irresponsible bloggers refuse to do the ethical thing and instead opt for the partisan cheap shot.
Here's the simple truth: If Breitbart and company were genuinely serious about reporting out the story of the voice mail that was mistakenly recorded on the phone of a Joe Miller's campaign aid and left by reporters at the CBS affiliate, Breitbart would have contacted KTVA prior to publication and asked for a comment. Breitbart would have given KTVA a chance to give its side of the story because that's what journalism means – being truthful and transparent.
But yet again, Breitbart's team couldn't summon the courage to actually practice journalism. Breitbart couldn't summon the courage to do the right thing. Why? Because, as with his summertime Shirley Sherrod debacle, Breitbart likely understood that if the other side was contacted and context was provided, the beloved gotcha would evaporate. i..e There would be no therethere.
In other words, Breitbart's more committed to the smear than he is to the truth.
So as with the Sherrod smear campaign, Breitbart didn't contact the central player of the right-wing attack. In fact, it appears that Breitbart's team specifically did not contact for comment, because they knew if they did, the attack would go poof! So just like Breitbart announced last summer that he wanted to talk to Shirley Sherrod after he posted his out-of-context smear that condemned her a racist, Breitbart's team apparently made no effort to talk to anyone at KTVA prior to posting the audio of the phone call and prior to announcing KTVA guilty of malpractice.
Instead, Breitbart's team posted the raw contents of a garbled phone message, refused to contact KTVA for comments, pretended they knew exactly what the garbled message meant (they didn't), and acted like they were practicing journalism all along.
Except that, of course, they're not.
BTW, Is anyone at ABC News paying attention to Breitbart's latest, press-hating debacle?
Andrew Breitbart has released what he says is an email contradicting ABC News' assertion that the network never planned to include him in its televised Election Night coverage.
On Friday, Breitbart's Big Journalism website reported that Breitbart would be "featured" on ABC's "election night coverage." According to Big Journalism, Breitbart would be "bringing analysis live from Arizona."
Several hours later, ABC spokesman David Ford confirmed to Media Matters that Breitbart "will be one of many voices on our air."
After receiving heavy criticism, ABC released a statement Saturday purporting to "explain what Mr. Breitbart's role has always been as one of our guests at our digital town hall event" [emphasis added]. According to the ABC statement, "Breitbart will not be a part of the ABC News broadcast coverage" and will instead "engage with a live, studio audience that will be closely following the election results and participating in an online-only discussion and debate."
But on Sunday night, Breitbart insisted that wasn't the original deal. Breitbart wrote, "I can state with absolute certainty that the verbal pitch to me to participate was punctuated by the opportunity to appear as part of ABC News' broadcast television for the night. I was also aware that the majority of my participation -- seven long hours -- would be online."
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reports on his Plum Line blog:
It looks like lefty bloggers aren't the only ones irked by ABC News's decision to tap Andrew Breitbart for election-night analysis: People in ABC's newsroom were also caught completely off guard by the news, a newsroom source tells me.
"This blindsided a good portion of the team here," the source emails. "And not in a good way."
We've previously noted that ABC's George Stephanopoulos has called out Breitbart for pushing claims about Shirley Sherrod that were "clearly not true." And we've noted Bretibart's career of authoring and promoting falsehood-laden journalism.
From the July 18 broadcast of ABC News' This Week:
Loading the player ...
Last Friday, ABC News' Brian Ross reported the story of Brent Furer -- an aide to Sen. David Vitter -- who entered "a guilty plea for a violent attack on an ex-girlfriend with a knife." In the report, Ross added that Sen. Vitter "kept [Furer] on staff after a five day suspension without pay and continued to use him as his point person on women's issues" and that it was only after ABC's initial report on the story that the staffer offered his resignation.
In reporting the story, Ross and ABC investigative reporter Matthew Mosk were unable to interview Sen. Vitter who avoided their various attempts to discuss the issue:
Mosk: We haven't been able to get an answer from Sen. Vitter as to why he kept him on for so long.
Ross: In fact, you and I have been trying to find Sen. Vitter for the last week or so spending long hours in front of the many fundraisers he's had but he's dodged us.
Mosk: He has a good understanding of where to find the back door and back alley.
Ross: You caught up with him just briefly, what did he say to you?
Mosk: He said he did not have time to talk to us. He put his phone to his ear and bolted into his office building.
In an internet video released this week by Vitter's 2010 Democratic challenger, the Louisiana Senator is seen in a brief snippet of amateur video discussing the issue with Mike Hoss, an anchor for WWL, CBS' local New Orleans affiliate.
A search of TVeyes.com reveals that WWL has yet to cover the story or air Hoss' interview of Sen. Vitter -- a finding confirmed by WWL news director Chris Slaughter during a phone conversation with Media Matters.
The fact that WWL has yet to air the interview or cover the story is all the more intriguing given the fact that ABC News was unable to directly question Vitter.
So, why hasn't WWL covered the story or run its Vitter interview?
Slaughter said the issue "is on a list of potential stories we are considering. We are doing additional research."
Asked if there was a timeline for WWL's consideration of the story or the airing of its interview with Vitter, Slaughter replied, "No, not at all."
When presented with the juxtaposition of ABC News being unable to pin Vitter down for an interview while WWL's Hoss had been successful, Slaughter said only, "If CBS is interested in the story, we'd be happy to provide them with the video."
Earlier today we brought you news of the President's sit-down interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos in which the Good Morning America co-host asked Obama to respond to Fox News contributor Sarah Palin's criticism that his policy is "kind of like getting out there on the playground...a bunch of kids ready to fight and one of the kids saying 'go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate,'" to which the President said the Palin is "not much of an expert on nuclear issues."
Prompted by criticism over bringing up Palin's opinion (who cares?), Stephanopoulos has spoken out. Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports:
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos is defending his decision to ask President Barack Obama to respond to Sarah Palin's criticism of his nuclear non-proliferation policy, after several observers questioned the point of bringing the former Alaska Governor into the discussion.
"Whatever [Washington Monthly's] Steve [Benen] thinks of Sarah Palin," he wrote, "she's a former VP candidate -- and potential challenger to President Obama -- with a strong following in the GOP. She made a pointed critique of a new Presidential policy. By asking the President for his response, I was doing my job."
Pointed critique? Riiiiiight. For the sake of repetition, here's the clip of Palin's criticism of Obama's nuclear policy that Stephanopoulos felt compelled to air for the President's response:
PALIN: You know, that's kind of like getting out there on the playground...a bunch of kids ready to fight and one of the kids saying, "go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate."
By that standard, I have several questions Stephanopoulos may want to consider asking Obama in their next interview from my ten year old nephew.
From the November 8 edition of ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
Loading the player ...
ABCNews.com's September 12 article, headlined, "ABC News Was Misquoted on Crowd Size; ABC News Reported D.C. Rally Size in Tens of Thousands, Not 1M to 1.5M as Activist Said":
Conservative activists, who organized a march on the U.S. Capitol today in protest of the Obama administration's health care agenda and government spending, erroneously attributed reports on the size of the crowds to ABC News.
Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the group that organized the event, said on stage at the rally that ABC News was reporting that 1 million to 1.5 million people were in attendance.
At no time did ABC News, or its affiliates, report a number anywhere near as large. ABCNews.com reported an approximate figure of 60,000 to 70,000 protesters, attributed to the Washington, D.C., fire department. In its reports, ABC News Radio described the crowd as "tens of thousands."
Brendan Steinhauser, spokesman for FreedomWorks, said he did not know why Kibbe cited ABC News as a source.
As a result of Kibbe's erroneous attribution, several bloggers and commenters repeated the misinformation.