The Washington Post's David Weigel called out the media for taking Hillary Clinton's comments about her email use on NBC's Meet the Press out of context to portray her as dismissive, criticizing "[t]he media's willingness to believe the worst about Clinton."
Chuck Todd interviewed democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on the September 27 edition of NBC's Meet the Press. Todd later positively characterized her tone during the interview while appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe, saying "I spent about 30 minutes with her. Pretty much half of it was on e-mails, which she could have easily been annoyed about, and it was clear she was not."
In a September 28 post for The Washington Post's The Fix, David Weigel criticized the media's subsequent coverage of the interview, noting that several news outlets had misleadingly framed Clinton's mention of a conspiracy theory during the interview as her "dismiss[ing]" her use of a private email server. Pointing out that her reference to a conspiracy theory was actually "calling back to something Todd said at the start of the interview," Weigel noted that the mischaracterization of her comment was part of a "long political history" of the "media's willingness to believe the worst about Clinton":
If you did something productive with your Sunday -- if you went to church, took a nature hike, composted leaves from the back yard, concocted an alibi for the cops -- you may have seen only the headlines about Hillary Rodham Clinton's "Meet the Press" interview. According to those headlines, she dismissed the unkillable scandal over her use of a private e-mail server as a "conspiracy theory." A sample:
Politico: "Hillary Clinton: 'Another conspiracy theory' "
The Guardian: "Hillary Clinton dismisses 'conspiracy theory' amid email server controversy"
Townhall: "Hillary Laughs Again, Dismisses Email Scandal as a 'Conspiracy Theory' "
These headlines are true, insofar as how Clinton used the phrase "conspiracy theory" as she answered one of Chuck Todd's questions. "She is now blaming a 'conspiracy theory' for her sinking poll numbers," grumbled a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. The "conspiracy theory" quote was even quickly tweeted by the opposition research wizards at America Rising.
What hasn't been mentioned: Clinton was actually calling back to something Todd said at the start of the interview. "I know there's always conspiracy theories out there," he said knowingly, referring to rumors that Clinton had sat down with him only after some subjects were barred from discussion. He then made absolutely clear: "There are no limitations to this interview."
Clinton agreed -- "as far as I know, that's true" -- and plowed through seven e-mail questions. Todd wound up the eighth question by asking whether the Democratic presidential front-runner could "respond to an alternative explanation that has sort of been circulating." Only then did Clinton laugh: "Another conspiracy theory?"
None of this will matter when it comes to the way Clinton is covered, and I already have designated a section of my inbox for the complaints that I am carrying her water here. (Why don't I work for Media Matters? Indeed!) And that's the point. The media's willingness to believe the worst about Clinton, and the long political history it can draw from, has been the single toughest external problem for her campaign.
Media Matters' Jamison Foser has looked at Washington Post's David Broder extensively, concluding in a February column about the "myth" of the Post's "liberal" op-ed pages:
Let's start with David Broder -- he is, after all, the much-lauded "dean" of the Washington press corps, and frequently described as a liberal. In the context of the Post's roster of opinion writers, he may be one. But from his 1969 complaint that nasty anti-war activists were out to "break" an unfairly maligned president Nixon to his 2006 description of anti-war activists as "elitists" and his Cheney-esque 2007 slur that Democrats have little "sympathy for" the military, David Broder has made clear that he is no liberal.
I've previously laid out at some length the case against David Broder's sterling reputation. This is a man who thought that President Clinton should have resigned because he "may have" lied about an affair, but who didn't think President Bush should have done so after he lied his way into a war. Not even when he declared Bush "lawless and reckless" did he think resignation was in order. And, having piously insisted that he and his beltway buddies don't like being lied to when Bill Clinton wasn't telling the truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Broder lavishes praise upon Sarah Palin, a politician who only lies when she speaks. And when she writes.
In his 2006 column declaring Bush "lawless and reckless," Broder seemed more upset with the "vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers on the left" and gratuitously slammed Al Gore and John Kerry for a "know-it-all arrogance rankled Midwesterners such as myself" (no surprise, really: During the 2000 campaign, Broder bashed Gore for the sin of offering too many details about "what he wants to do as president.")
In 2005, Broder blamed congressional Democrats -- who were in the minority -- for a failure to conduct oversight hearings; in 2007, when Democrats were in charge, he bashed them for doing so. He's against investigating torture, and he was against investigating the outing of a CIA agent. But he's in favor of investigating the Clintons' marriage (not the marriages of Republicans, though!).
Anyway: there's much more here, including the fact that David Broder praised President Bush's response to Katrina. What more do you need to know?
Now, Eric Alterman -- a senior fellow at Center for American Progress and a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College -- writes that the Post "ousted" David Weigel for displaying "bias" in his emails to a private, off-the-record listerserve but they continue to let Broder work despite the fact that he "has clearly showed bias and retains his job."
Eric Boehlert points out that Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander has suggested replacing David Weigel with not one but two reporters assigned to cover conservatives:
Did I mention the Post has never hired anyone to cover the "liberal movement." Yet, incredibly, Post ombudsman Alexander announced that the solution to the Weigel resignation, in order to make sure 'wingers are content with the daily, is to hire two staffers to cover the conservative movement.
That's a good point -- but it's even worse than that. See, it seems that the Washington Post already has a reporter assigned to cover conservatives: Amy Gardner. So, Gardner plus two replacements for Weigel would make three Washington Post reporters covering the Right full time. Will that be enough to appease the right? Or will it take four or eight or twelve? Of course, none of it will be enough.
The New York Times, too, has created a conservative beat in recent years -- and, like the Post, the Times lacks a dedicated liberal beat reporter. This despite the fact that for much of the last decade, the most interesting political developments have been happening on the Left.
For much of the past decade, it has been the progressive movement, not the conservative movement, that has innovated in the use of the internet for organizing and for fundraising and for communicating. It has been the progressive movement, not the conservatives, that rapidly built up its infrastructure, with the rise of organizations like the Center for American Progress, CREW, and (ahem) Media Matters. There have been vibrant debates on the Left that have reexamined long-held assumptions among Democrats that winning requires running to the Right. Oh, and the Left has won enormous victories in the past two elections. And yet it seems that every six months or so the Washington Post (or the New York Times) makes a show of assigning a reporter to the "conservative beat." And their ombudsmen come forward to insist that the paper really must pay more attention to conservatives. What, exactly, have conservatives been up to that justifies such attention? When they come up with ideas better than "let's cut spending during a recession" and "Maybe the president was born in Kenya," then, perhaps, they will merit a dedicated beat reporter or two or even three.
In a blog post about David Weigel's departure from the Washington Post, the paper's ombudsman demonstrated once again a stunning bias in favor of its conservative critics. Ombudsman Andrew Alexander, like other key figures at the Post, routinely gives more weight and credence to criticisms of the paper that come from conservatives than to those that come from liberals -- despite the fact that on several of the biggest stories of the past two decades, the Post has (intentionally or not) placed not just a thumb but an entire forearm on the scales in favor of conservatives.
Among the most weighty progressive critiques of the Post:
1) The relentless obsession with Clinton-era non-scandals on the part of both the Post's news and editorial pages, as illustrated by the paper's editorial call for a special counsel to investigate Whitewater even as the paper admitted there was "no credible charge" either Clinton had done anything wrong. The Post's overheated reaction to every trumped-up allegation in Clinton is even more glaring after having witnessed the paper's comparatively minimalist approach to Bush-era misdeeds.
2) The Post's "war against Gore" during the 2000 election, exemplified by Ceci Connolly's snarky -- and 100% false -- lede on December 2, 1999:
"Add Love Canal to the list of verbal missteps by Vice President Gore. The man who mistakenly claimed to have inspired the movie 'Love Story' and to have invented the Internet says he didn't quite mean to say he discovered a toxic waste site when he said at a high school forum Tuesday in New Hampshire: 'I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal.' Gore went on to brag about holding the 'first hearing on that issue' and said 'I was the one that started it all.'"
That -- including some of the words in quotes -- is just completely wrong. And it was typical of the Washington Post's thumb-on-the-scale coverage of the 2000 campaign -- coverage that, given the election's razor-thin margin, can fairly be described as having unfairly put George W. Bush in office.
3) The Post's abject failure to appropriately cover the Bush administration's false case for war in Iraq, a failure to which enough Post reporters and editors have confessed that it need not be detailed here.
And those are just the clearest example of the Post's history-changing mishandling of specific stories. There's also the matter of what may be the nation's worst editorial & opinion pages and the constant drumbeat of articles and features that adopt conservative framing and assumptions.
If there is a single legitimate conservative gripe about the Washington Post that even begins to approach the magnitude of the Post's shoddy coverage of Clinton, the 2000 campaign, and the Iraq war, I've never heard it -- and I've never seen a Post reporter, editor, or Ombudsman cite it.
And yet Alexander and Post editors routinely refer to conservative unease with the Post, and validate that unease by bending over backwards to appease their conservative critics. Meanwhile, they typically pretend that liberal critics don't exist, and that the fiascos outlined above never happened.
So, the Washington Post accepted David Weigel's resignation, apparently because he -- like every other reporter -- has personal views about some of the people he covers. From Post media critic Howard Kurtz's write-up of the resignation:
"Dave did excellent work for us," Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said. But, he said, "we can't have any tolerance for the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work. . . . There's abundant room on our Web site for a wide range of viewpoints, and we should be transparent about everybody's viewpoint."
It probably won't come as much of a surprise that this is not a standard the Post consistently applies. (After all, Brauchli's statement that the Post cannot tolerate a perception of conflict appears in an article written by Howard Kurtz, whose dual roles as Washington Post media critic and highly-paid CNN anchor pose the greatest conflict of interest in all of journalism.)
Jonathan Schwartz reminds us that during a 1999 Democratic presidential primary debate, the media was actively rooting against Al Gore. Time's Eric Pooley has written that during the debate, the reporters in the press room responded to Gore "in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd." Jake Tapper has written that during the debate "there was hissing for Gore in the media room up at Dartmouth College. The reporters were hissing Gore." And Howard Mortman said: "The media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something."
Now, I don't know if Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly, whose snarky, error-filled and at times downright nasty coverage of Gore's presidential campaign has been extensively documented, was in the press room during that debate. I do know that her byline appears on a Washington Post article previewing the debate, with a New Hampshire dateline.
So, given that the Washington Post just got rid of David Weigel because his private criticism of conservatives like Pat Buchanan creates the "perception" that he "bring[s] a bias to [his] work," I can't help wondering: Was Ceci Connolly among those reporters who reportedly jeered and hissed Al Gore in 1999? Were any other Washington Post reporters?
Noting Fox News contributor Sarah Palin's "undergraduate degree in journalism" WashingtonPost.com's David Weigel takes the half-term governor of Alaska to task in a post about her Facebook screed against investigative reporter Joe McGinniss:
Weigel writes (emphasis added):
Sarah Palin took to her Facebook account today to inform her readers that Joe McGinniss, an award-winning reporter and author, had rented the house next door.
Palin informs her readers that McGinniss is "overlooking my children's play area" and "overlooking Piper's bedroom." Alternately sounding angry and mocking, she refers to "the family's swimming hole," which at first reference sounds like she's accusing McGinniss of checking out the Palins in their bathing suits, until you realize the family's "swimming hole" is Lake Lucille. And she posts a photo of the space McGinniss is renting, captioning it, "Can I call you Joe?"
Can somebody explain to me how this isn't a despicable thing for Palin to do? She describes McGinniss as the author of "the bizarre anti-Palin administration oil development pieces that resulted in my Department of Natural Resources announcing that his work is the most twisted energy-related yellow journalism they'd ever encountered."
Another way of putting it would be that McGinniss is an investigative journalist who wrote his first best-seller at age 26 and was shopping a book about Alaska and the oil industry when Palin was named John McCain's running mate. And another way of describing those "bizarre" pieces is that no one has ever challenged the facts in them.
Palin, who has an undergraduate degree in journalism, should understand that articles don't become untrue when the subjects don't agree with them.
Politicians don't have veto power over who gets to write about them, or how they research their stories, as long as they're within the bounds of the law. It's incredibly irresponsible for them to sic their fans on journalists they don't like. And that's what Palin is doing here -- she has already inspired Glenn Beck to accuse McGinniss of "stalking" Palin and issuing a threat to boycott his publisher.
As David Weigel notes on WashingtonPost.com's Right Now blog:
My colleague Perry Bacon is on the ground in Kentucky, where he filed this interview with fading/rallying (depending on whom you ask) Republican candidate Trey Grayson. For the umpteenth time, Grayson responds to questions about why Rand Paul is doing so well by grousing about Paul's national support.
"I've been on Fox News once, on a live feed on one of the shows, and I was told I was to expect a certain line of questioning, and I was given a different line of questioning," Grayson said. Referring to Rand Paul, Grayson said, "he's on all of the time."
"His dad had these phenomenal contacts, so … he's on Fox News every couple of weeks with softballs," Grayson said. Imitating an anchor's voice, Grayson said the questions are like "Rand, tell us about health care, you're a doctor, Rand, tell us about the tea party."
Weigel goes on to write that there's a great deal more behind Paul's success than "softball" Fox News interviews. Says Weigel:
Lots of conservatives get softballs on Fox News. Few have the hustle to run a serious Senate race. At the 11th hour, it's like Grayson still doesn't take Paul seriously.
Still, it's interesting to see an establishment GOP candidate making such complaints.
This one is sure to send Joseph Farah -- World Net Daily editor and Birther-King -- into hysterics. Writing on WashingtonPost.com's Right Now blog, David Weigel reports on legislation signed into law by the Republican Governor of Hawaii in response to incessant Birther requests for President Obama's birth certificate:
After grappling with the legality of the legislation-- making sure that it did not hurt the public's access to any other government records -- Gov. Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii) has signed into law a bill that protects state employees from having to answer harassing requests about President Barack Obama's citizenship.
The new law, Act 100, allows state agencies a limited exemption from Freedom of Information requirements when duplicative requests for information are made by the same person. Although the law covers all agencies, the measure targets people who repeatedly request a copy of Obama's Hawai'i birth certificate.
From an April 27 post on David Weigel's Washington Post blog Right Now:
For nearly two full days, this anonymously sourced story in the American Spectator -- alleging that the Department of Health and Human Services buried an actuarial report on the costs of health care reform -- has burned up conservative blogs. But HHS tells me that the story isn't true.
"If this issue hadn't consumed my entire day so far," said Richard S. Foster, chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, "I would have found it fairly amusing." The article, he said, was "completely inaccurate."
"We began working on the reconciliation bill for the health reform legislation once it was publicly issued on March 18 - three days before the House vote took place on March 21," said Foster. "Because of the details and complexity of the legislation, it wasn't possible to estimate the package before the Senate vote.
"We began work on the estimates right away, but we didn't finalize them until the afternoon of April 22. We finished our memorandum on the health reform act later that same day and immediately sent it to those individuals and organizations that had requested it, including Congressional staff, HHS staff, and media representatives. Consistent with the Office of the Actuary's longstanding independent role on behalf of Congress, we did not seek approval or clearance from HHS (or anyone else) before issuing our analysis."
HHS is looking for corrections from Big Government and other sites.
From the April 7 edition of MSNBC's Countdown:
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The Washington Independent's David Weigel has obtained a letter soliciting cash for Hannah Giles' legal defense fund and one thing is abundantly clear... James O'Keefe's undercover ACORN video partner loves to annotate her pleas for help with plenty of pink pen -- stars, underlines, double underlines, circles, double parenthesis, arrows... you name it! Other than that, the missive is exactly what you'd expect - chock-a-block full of attacks on ACORN and President Obama.
Here's a fundraising letter sent by the Liberty Legal Institute's Hannah Giles Legal Defense Fund to offset legal costs incurred by Giles - the star of last year's ACORN sting - as a result of a lawsuit filed against her by ACORN and some of its former employees. The mailing was produced by Base Connect, a firm that does work for Republican campaigns.
Here's the first page. Be sure to check out the entire letter.
From a February 19 Washington Independent article by David Weigel, who reports that he spoke to Hannah Giles at CPAC 2010:
I asked Giles about a criticism that's often been leveled against them -- that they hyped up the video by wearing outrageous clothes in promotional materials and the videos' introductions that they didn't wear in the actual stings.
"We never claimed that he went in with a pimp costume," said Giles. "That was b-roll. It was purely b-roll. He was a pimp, I was a prostitute, and we were walking in front of government buildings to show how the government was whoring out the American people."
When filmmaker and provocateur James O'Keefe came to my office to show me the video of him and his friend, Hannah Giles, going to the Baltimore offices of ACORN - the nation's foremost "community organizers" - dressed as a pimp and a prostitute and asking for - and getting - help for various illegal activities, he sought my advice.
"Warn your kids[!] Better yet, home school [them]," because Obama is "Brainwashing America's Youth," again -- if the latest bit of right-wing fear-mongering is to be believed, that is. Several conservative bloggers have run with the "story" that Organizing for America is accepting applications for its semester-long internship program/"civilian youth brigade," in which the "shocking list" of suggested reading includes community organizer Saul Alinsky's 1971 book Rules for Radicals (the purpose of which is: "indoctrinating [your children] into Saul Alinsky's radical tactics and ideology").
If so, you'd better keep your kids away from those Tea Parties.
Tea Party leader and "the co-founder of Top Conservatives on Twitter" Michael Patrick Leahy has written an entire book based off of Alinsky's "shocking" work, deftly entitled: Rules for Conservative Radicals: Lessons from Saul Alinsky[!] the Tea Party Movement and the Apostle Paul in the Age of Collaborative Technologies. In his book, "Leahy argues that today's conservative radical should follow the tactics of Saul Alinsky, but apply the morals and ethics of Martin Luther King."
And Leahy is not the only conservative poisoned by what right-wing blogger Pamela Geller calls "the mother's milk of the left."
Conservative "hero" and Fox News' favorite investigative journalist James O'Keefe is also a fan. The Los Angeles Times reported that O'Keefe found an "unlikely source of inspiration" in Alinsky and O'Keefe "took to heart" Alinsky's principle to: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules."
Also, on Fox News' Glenn Beck, David Horowitz advocated for conservatives to follow "what Saul Alinsky argues"
Alinsky's "evil" has even reached all the way out to the Heartland, with The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reporting: "in Kansas City, Missouri, a group of conservative organizers will conduct a most unusual training session. They will teach the "Rules for Radicals' laid down by the god of community organizing, Saul Alinsky. The idea: learn to recognize the footprints of the enemy." Similarly, The Washington Independent's David Weigel has reported that "Alinsky has found a thriving and surprising fan club in the modern conservative movement," with "many 'Tea Party' activists say[ing] they're cribbing from Alinsky."
Yes, if Geller and the other bloggers on the right are to be believed, Obama is coming for your children through the vessel of Saul Alinsky. And in Geller's own words: "Can you imagine if the Republicans attempted such a stunt?" The mind boggles.
Last week, The Hill ran an article claiming "The healthcare battle appears to be helping Republicans running for the Senate," based on "the first major Senate polls since the House passed its healthcare bill on Saturday."
But the polls -- one in Ohio and one in Connecticut -- were largely conducted before the vote had even occurred, and none of the candidates polled actually voted on the House health care bill, as none of them are members of the House of Representatives.
It was, in other words, rather dubious for The Hill to suggest those polls reflected public reaction to the House health care vote that had not yet occurred.
Today, the Washington Independent's David Weigel reports that a new Delaware poll -- conducted entirely after the House health care vote -- shows Democrat Beau Biden surging ahead of Republican Congressman Mike Castle. And Castle voted against the House health care bill (and for the Stupak amendment.)
According to the pollster, the shift "may be a result of negative publicity [Castle] received in the state after casting a 'no' vote for President Obama's health care reform bill in the U.S. Congress."
Remember: The Hill used two polls conducted largely before the House health care vote happened, and not involving anyone who serves in the House, to suggest that House passage of a health care bill is helping Republicans.
Now that there's a poll conducted after the vote that shows declining support for a Republican who voted against health care reform in the House, I wonder if we'll see an article in The Hill suggesting that opposition to the House bill is hurting Republican candidates?
The Washington Independent's David Weigel catches Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen calling Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray "a centrist Republican." Weigel explains:
Bilbray was a member of the class of 1994 who lost his old House seat in 2000, then stayed in Washington as a lobbyist for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates "a temporary moratorium on all immigration except spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and a limited number of refugees." Bilbray returned to Congress in a 2006 special election, which he won in part by accusing his Democratic opponent of soliciting votes from illegal aliens. Since then, Bilbray has maintained a 92% rating from the American Conservative Union, which makes him an "ACU Conservative" in their ranking system. He voted against increasing the minimum wage, voted to repeal the Washington, D.C. gun ban, voted against a ban on anti-gay job discrimination, and voted against expanding SCHIP.
Voting against a minimum wage increase, expanding health insurance for kids, and against banning workplace discrimination puts Bilbray far out of the mainstream of the American people. And in the last Congress, Bilbray's voting record put him far to the right of most of his colleagues, too -- he was the 79th most conservative member of the House of Representatives, out of a total of 435. That means Bilbray's voting record was more conservative than more than 80 percent of all members of Congress.
To Politico, that makes him a "centrist." Just like MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell thinks Diane Feinstein is one of the "most liberal" Senators. And Time's Jay Newton-Small thinks Lindsey Graham is a "moderate."
It's almost as though the media has no idea where the "center" really is.