After largely avoiding the topic during the Republican Party's first two nationally televised debate, GOP candidates and the right-wing media erupted in a spasm of outrage last night over supposedly liberal media bias, and how the CNBC moderators Wednesday night were so mean to Republican players on the stage.
Donald Trump even launched a preemptive attack, labeling the debate as "unfair" before it began.
The debate was certainly a raucous one, and at times was marked by disjointed questions and regular interruptions. (Some mainstream observers praised moments from the moderators, but most others belittled them.) But seeing darker forces at work, conservatives not only called out the business news channel moderators for losing control of the event, but went further, critiquing supposed liberal bias and a fanciful collaboration with Democratic forces to spoil the GOP night.
"The CNBC moderators acted less like journalists and more like Clinton campaign operatives," bellowed liberal media bias cop Brent Bozell. "They clearly war-gamed this thinking that a relentless series of personal attacks on the candidates would somehow drive their ratings and help Hillary Clinton."
The layers of irony surrounding the eruption are many. Let's count them.
First, CNBC, which chronicles and celebrates the exploits of Wall Street tycoons, is hardly a bastion of liberalism. Among the six total CNBC questioners last night were Jim Cramer, who once famously announced President Obama was destroying wealth in America, and Rick Santelli, whose anti-Obama screed in 2009 was credited with sparking the Tea Party movement. (Santelli then paraded around talk radio claiming the White House had targeted him.)
That's who Brent Bozell and company are claiming conspired with their fellow questioners and liberals to quash the GOP last night.
Third, the one person who would have a completely legitimate beef with the press this campaign season, and the one person who has been the target of an unprecedented barrage of negatives attacks is, of course, Hillary Clinton. Yet Marco Rubio last night complained that the press is doing her bidding.
Also, too many "snide" and "hostile" questions at the debate last night, according to Fox's Howard Kurtz? Did conservatives not watch Clinton's marathon appearance before the Benghazi Select Committee, where she endured hour after hour of gotcha questions? Afterwards, I didn't hear Fox News bemoan the tone.
Fourth, lots and lots of Republican candidates have been on the receiving end of fawning press coverage for a very, very long time. Over the years, Republicans such as Marco Rubio and, until his bridge troubles, Chris Christie, banked on glowing, free press coverage to build their brands.
Does this sound like a D.C. press corps trying to do damage to GOP hopefuls?
* "Marco Rubio, the charismatic senator-elect from Florida" (Nov. 26, 2010, New York Times]
* "Mr. Rubio, a charismatic Latino senator from a crucial swing state" (March 29, 2012. New York Times)
* "[A] charismatic young Republican senator from Miami, Marco Rubio" (March 22, 2015. New York Times)
* "Marco Rubio, the charismatic young Cuban American who has captured the hearts of conservatives around the country" (April 10, 2010. Washington Post)
* "The charismatic Cuban American lawmaker from Florida," (Oct. 26, 2011. Washington Post)
* "The 43-year-old senator from Florida and charismatic son of immigrants" (April 6, 2015. Washington Post)
Or this, pre-BridgeGate?
In the last month alone, TIME magazine has declared that Christie governed with "kind of bipartisan dealmaking that no one seems to do anymore." MSNBC's Morning Joe called the governor "different," "fresh," and "sort of a change from public people that you see coming out of Washington." In a GQ profile, Christie was deemed "that most unlikely of pols: a happy warrior," while National Journal described him as "the Republican governor with a can-do attitude" who "made it through 2013 largely unscathed. No scandals, no embarrassments or gaffes." ABC's Barbara Walters crowned Christie as one of her 10 Most Fascinating People, casting him as a "passionate and compassionate" politician who cannot lie.
Meanwhile, when was the last time we witnessed a post-debate, all-consuming conservative movement roar like this aimed at a moderator? It came in October 2012, when the conservative press declared war on CNN's Candy Crowley after she had the audacity to publically acknowledge during the debate that yes, President Obama had called the Benghazi attack an act of terror.
Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson immediately compared Crowley to John Wilkes Booth assassinating Abraham Lincoln, while Rush Limbaugh announced, "What she did last night would have been the equivalent of blowing up her career like a suicide bomber."
That spasm seemed to be triggered by flashes of fear; fear that Obama had defeated Mitt Romney during the debate and fear that Obama was poised for re-election.
So what sparked this recent eruption? My hunch is the real reasons for the self-pity party were off-stage. I think it's because of Hillary Clinton's sudden surge in the polls and her widely-applauded appearance before the Republican's misguided Benghazi Select Committee. I think it's because there's growing anxiety and panic over the idea that Donald Trump might be the party's nominee and because of the creeping prospect for four (eight?) more years of a Democratic president that ignited the return to the right-wing roots.
For conservatives, 'liberal media bias' represents the ultimate comfort blanket.
From the September 27 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz:
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From the September 14 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Fox News host and resident media critic Howard Kurtz questioned Jorge Ramos' journalistic integrity in the wake of the Univision anchor's contentious press conference questioning of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, concluding that Ramos was little more than "a heckler."
During an August 25 press conference in Dubuque, Iowa, Ramos pressed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on his promise to forcibly remove millions of undocumented immigrants, and presumably in some cases their American-born children, from the United States as part of a sweeping and expensive redesign of the American immigration system. Trump's initial reaction was to have his security team escort Ramos from the room, before eventually engaging in a minutes-long argument with the journalist over the feasibility and legality of his plan.
Ramos' actions during the press conference have been widely criticized at Fox News. On August 26, Fox contributor and Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson claimed that Ramos is "not a reporter," but rather "an editorialist" and "an activist" whose questioning of Trump was not protected by the First Amendment. Fox host Bill O'Reilly complained that media were not "report[ing] this story honestly" before proceeding to lecture Ramos on journalistic etiquette and concluding that the Univision anchor was not "an objective purveyor" of the news. During an interview with Ramos, Fox host Megyn Kelly asked if he could "understand Trump's side" of the dispute, citing a seemingly unrelated legal battle between Univision and Trump's Miss USA beauty pageant.
On the August 30 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz, host Howard Kurtz used his program as a platform to continue Fox's campaign against Ramos as well as its defense of the Republican frontrunner. Kurtz allowed conservative columnist Mercedes Schlapp to forward the unsubstantiated claim that conservative and mainstream media "both agree that Jorge Ramos was out of line." Washington Examiner correspondent Susan Ferrechio accused Ramos of interrupting other reporters to get his point across, before Kurtz concluded that Ramos was acting like more like "a heckler" than a journalist:
KURTZ: Jorge Ramos is the chief anchor of Univision, chief news anchor, which is the largest Spanish-language network in the country. And so, he clearly has opinions on this issue, but he's not paid to go and disrupt events. I mean, I thought at times he seemed like a heckler -- like a heckler.
The ejection of Ramos from Trump's August 25 press conference garnered national headlines and was roundly condemned by Spanish-language media, but the reaction among right-wing media personalities has been to instead attack Ramos for speaking out of turn. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh denigrated Ramos as a "shill" and "activist" who was merely attempting to elevate the profile of his network, and Erick Erickson called Ramos a "thug" and dismissed him as "a self-absorbed, self-righteous leftwing activist."
From the August 28 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the August 3 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
In a report on the Murdoch restructure of Fox News' parent company, Fox's Howard Kurtz glazed over the 2011 phone hacking controversy that implicated the Murdoch family in England -- a stark contrast to Kurtz's critical reporting of how Fox News avoided coverage of the scandal while he worked for CNN.
Rupert Murdoch is reportedly planning to step down as CEO of Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox. According to CNBC, Murdoch's son James will take over as CEO and son Lachlan will assume the role of "executive co-chairman" of the company in coordination with their father. James Murdoch previously resigned his role as the head of News International -- which published several tabloids and newspapers abroad -- amid the widespread scandal over phone hacking at News of the World, a since-shuttered UK tabloid he oversaw. As part of the fallout from that scandal, Murdoch also resigned his position as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
On the June 14 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz, host Howard Kurtz used news of the company restructuring as an opportunity to highlight Rupert Murdoch's career, praising him for bringing "huge changes to the media landscape," including "conquering the world of British newspapers, revolutionizing TV sports here in the states, launching the fourth American broadcast network, and of course building a hugely successful and profitable cable news network." To highlight Murdoch's influence, Kurtz added that "when something goes wrong like the phone hacking scandal at the now defunct News of the World, he gets the blame."
Kurtz's report glazing over Murdoch's involvement in the phone hacking scandal and mentioning it only as a way to highlight the former CEO's influence stands in stark contrast to the way Fox's media critic covered the scandal while working for CNN.
In July 2011, as the host of CNN's Reliable Sources, Kurtz criticized Fox News for underplaying coverage of Murdoch's phone hacking scandal which involved Fox's then-parent company News Corp., and said that news networks that avoid covering their own controversies create "a double standard" and "undermine your credibility":
KURTZ: I feel very strongly about this. I mean, we do it on this program all the time when CNN has controversy, I always cover it. And otherwise, what you're signaling to viewers is there's a double standard. We're only aggressive when some other organization is in trouble. And I think that can undermine your credibility.
Kurtz has made a habit of ignoring controversies related to Fox News during his employment at the network, despite promising to bring an "independent brand of media criticism" to Fox.
From the May 27 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the May 17 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz:
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Clinton Cash author and Republican activist Peter Schweizer acknowledged that, contrary to earlier reporting, there is no similar book in the works on the personal finances and policy decisions of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a claim journalists have previously cited to legitimize Schweizer's forthcoming book on the Clintons.
There are at least 20 documented errors, fabrications, and distortions in Schweizer's forthcoming book Clinton Cash, where the conservative author speculates about allegedly unethical ties between the Clinton Foundation and actions Hillary Clinton purportedly made as secretary of state. His allegations of impropriety by the Clintons and their family foundation have been picked apart by ABC News, BuzzFeed, MSNBC, NBC News, and ThinkProgress, among several other news agencies, and Schweizer has even been accused by one of his sources of taking comments "badly out of context" in hopes of slighting the Clinton family.
Bloomberg Politics reported on April 23 that in contrast to the "left-wing clamor that Schweizer is simply out to get Hillary Clinton," "Schweizer is working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush's finances that he expects to publish this summer." Politico and CNN subsequently reported this would be a "book" on Bush.
But days later, Schweizer admitted that no similar book on Jeb Bush will be published. On the May 3 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz asked about accusations that the book is "pursuing an agenda" based on his conservative political affiliations and activism. Schweizer acknowledged that while he's been researching Bush's finances, there are no plans to publish a book similar to Clinton Cash:
KURTZ: To be fair, you have been digging into Jeb Bush's finances --
KURTZ: -- So the Clintons aren't the only ones you're going to be looking at. But that's not going to result in a book, as I understand.
A spokesperson for Schweizer's current publisher, HarperCollins, previously told Media Matters that it has no plans to publish a book on Bush's complex finances. Instead, it expects Schweizer to issue a follow-up report at his far-right think tank, the Government Accountability Institute.
See the full segment here:
Right-wing media are rushing to champion Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) after he officially announced his bid for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz downplayed the bloody arrest and subsequent national media coverage of a black University of Virginia (UVA) student, arrested during an alleged dispute over his ID, claiming "such arrests are common in this college town."
The Washington Post reported that Virginia's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is under scrutiny after the violent arrest of UVA student Martese Johnson, who "sustained head injuries that left him with bloody streaks down his face" following St. Patrick's Day celebrations near the UVA campus in Charlottesville. Photos of Johnson's bloody face sparked widespread outrage and protests over the use of excessive police force.
During a segment on March 20 edition of Special Report, Kurtz criticized the national media attention claiming that this was a local story with "no evidence that race was a factor" in the arrest. Kurtz later downplayed the arrest as typical, asserting that "bartenders tell us such arrests are common in this college town."
Fox News host Howard Kurtz offered an erroneous defense of the flawed 1992 New York Times story that is widely credited for sparking the Whitewater investigations.
During the 1990s, Hillary and Bill Clinton were extensively investigated for their role in Whitewater -- a land deal gone awry in the 1970s and 1980s -- but all of the probes determined that no wrongdoing occurred on the part of the Clintons.
The impetus for national interest in Whitewater was a March 8, 1992, front page story in the Times authored by investigative reporter Jeff Gerth that scrutinized the Clinton's real estate dealings. Political opponents then seized on Whitewater to kick off years of investigations in a fruitless effort to pin wrongdoing on the Clintons.
On the March 15 edition of MediaBuzz, Kurtz reported that Gerth had contacted him to defend his "100 percent accurate" 1992 article, which had been criticized on the show the previous week by Daily Beast writer Michael Tomasky. According to Kurtz, "Gerth is right" to defend the article, which reported that "the Clintons bought land in Arkansas with the owner of a state-regulated [savings and loans company]":
KURTZ: On last week's program, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky criticized the New York Times story back in 1992 that broke the Watergate scandal, excuse me, the Whitewater scandal, saying it had been documented to most people's satisfaction that many of the details in the story didn't hold up. Well the author, investigative reporter Jeff Gerth, got in touch to say the article, which said the Clintons bought land in Arkansas with the owner of a state-regulated S&L that failed, and Hillary Clinton and her firm represented the S&L, was 100 percent accurate and the Clintons never asked for a correction. Gerth is right. It's hardly his fault that Whitewater came to stand for so many spin-off allegations.
But Gerth and Kurtz are wrong. Jim McDougal, the Clinton's business partner, did not own a state-regulated savings and loans company when he bought land with the Clintons. (McDougal would later be convicted of fraud relating to business dealings he undertook as the operator of savings and loan association Madison Guaranty.)
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz failed to substantively discuss new allegations that Fox's Bill O'Reilly fabricated several details of his reporting career while offering no criticism of the embattled host.
Since the last edition of Fox's weekly media criticism program, MediaBuzz on February 22, O'Reilly has faced cascading allegations that he lied about hearing the suicide of a figure connected to John F. Kennedy's assassination, that he had falsely claimed to have witnessed the execution of nuns in El Salvador, and that he greatly exaggerated a story about being "attacked by protesters" during the L.A. riots.
But during the March 1 edition of MediaBuzz, host Kurtz failed to specifically mention any of these new allegations against O'Reilly and instead vaguely referenced "questions raised by Mother Jones and others about whether he has embellished some of his reporting," describing the allegations as a "flap." The only analysis offered by Kurtz was to read from a portion of an official Fox News statement, saying, "Fox News said in a statement that Bill O'Reilly has already addressed several claims leveled against him" before adding that "a couple media sites have noted his ratings have actually gone up in this past week, even when not talking about this controversy." He later agreed that not everybody has as large of a platform to defend themselves as O'Reilly does, but offered no criticism of his Fox News colleague:
From the February 13 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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