Investigations

Tags ››› Investigations
  • The Right-Wing Media's Failed White House Log Conspiracies

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord misrepresented White House visitor logs to suggest that President Obama knew about the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits because he met with the president of a union that represents IRS employees shortly before the agency began its controversial actions. This is far from the first time a right-wing media conspiracy dependent on those records has fallen apart.

  • CPB Study: Federal Funding Loss Could "Destroy" Public Broadcasting

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    More than half of all public broadcasting stations would be put "at risk" if federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting were eliminated, according to a new report commissioned in response to attacks from conservatives that put the funding in jeopardy.

    The report stated: "Ending federal funding for public broadcasting would severely diminish, if not destroy, public broadcasting service in the United States."

    The study, released June 20 from Booz & Company Inc., reviewed alternative funding options for public broadcasting if federal funding is removed. It found that trying to replace such funding -- which accounts for about 15% of CPB's operating budget -- with advertising and other revenue would be detrimental as well.

    In 2011, a House vote to defund National Public Radio was supported by numerous conservative commentators, many spouting false claims of liberal bias and citing alternative sources that could be used to replace the federal dollars -- many of which the CPB report finds ineffective.

    "There have been a lot of suggestions that public broadcasters could just turn to commercial broadcasting, but this report shows that is not possible," said Tim Isgitt, senior vice-president for communications and government affairs at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. "The most surprising thing that comes out of this report is that advertising would significantly limit our other funding sources; foundations provide funding because it is a public good and mission driven. They wouldn't do that if we were a commercial model, and individual members would be less likely to give money to an entity that is commercial."

    The study was commissioned at the request of the Conference Report accompanying the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012 (H.R. 2055). The report states that "the conferees requested that CPB provide a report to House and Senate Committees on Appropriations within 180 days of enactment of the Act on alternative sources of funding for public broadcasting stations in lieu of federal funding."

    The report states, in part:

    A reduction or elimination of CPB funding will put 63% (251) of radio stations and 67% (114) of television stations in the public broadcasting system at risk:

    19% (76) of radio stations and 32% (54) of TV Stations that currently operate at a minimum practical cost level, and would be at a high risk of closing.

    44% (175) of radio stations and 35% (60) of TV stations have a history of operating deficits and would suffer reduced effectiveness or closure under increased financial pressure.

  • Past And Present White House Correspondents' Association Presidents Criticize "Discourteous" And "Rude" Daily Caller Reporter

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The president of the White House Correspondents Association criticized Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro for repeatedly interrupting President Obama today during an event, calling it "discourteous" and "not the way reporters who cover the White House conduct themselves."

    Caren Bohan, a Reuters White House correspondent and current WHCA president, made the comments in a phone interview with Media Matters this afternoon.

    "It was discourteous and it's not the way reporters who cover the White House conduct themselves," Bohan said in the interview. "I've covered a number of events where the president has spoken and there are times when we need to shout a question to him. But typically reporters wait until he has finished speaking."

    Bohan also said that Munro is an associate member of the WHCA, not a regular member.

    According to the WHCA website, an associate member "must be employed on the editorial staff of a newspaper, magazine, wire service, radio, TV, cable TV or other broadcast organization or newsgathering organization that reports on the White House. Associate members may not vote or hold elective office."

    Asked if Munro's membership would be affected by this incident, Bohan said such decisions are up to the WHCA executive board.

    Three former WHCA presidents, meanwhile, also weighed in on the situation.

    Ed Chen, a former Bloomberg White House correspondent and WHCA president during the 2009-2010 term, said in an email that Munro: "Betrays a shocking disrespect for the office. He owes the president a written apology." Chen also described it as "Rude. Forgot the manners he must have been taught once upon a time."

    Ron Hutcheson, a former McClatchy White House correspondent and WHCA president in 2004-2005, stated: "Aggressive journalism serves our democracy. Rudeness serves no useful purpose. This was rudeness."

    C-SPAN host and political editor Steve Scully, a former WHCA board member and former president, told Media Matters that Munro's actions were unusual.

    "Anytime the president is delivering remarks from The White House, there has been a long standing tradition for the POTUS to make his statements, almost always followed by questions by the press corps," Scully said in an email. "It was indeed unusual for the president to be interrupted by a reporter during the middle of his remarks and clearly it caught President Obama off-guard, simply because it doesn't happen that often."

    Steve Thomma, a current McClatchy White House correspondent who has been on the beat since the Clinton administration, called Munro's behavior "counterproductive."

    "I think it's possible to be civil and persistent, they don't have to be mutually exclusive. You don't have to yell. There is nothing wrong with asking a question, but there is nothing wrong with waiting until the president finishes a statement," he said. "It seems counterproductive. If you are really trying to get an answer, you can wait. He might have answered it. I would not interrupt the president's statement to ask a question."

  • Veteran Investigative Reporters Dismiss Scandalmongering Over Alleged Leaks

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Veteran investigative reporters are objecting to claims that a string of stories about internal national security operations are the result of a White House problem with leaks, saying such journalism is just the usual in-depth investigative reporting.

    One Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist described the stories as the result of "classic investigative reporting" and said the reporters involved "don't do their work by sucking up to politicians."

    Among the stories being cited are The New York Times' uncovering of a U.S. cyberattack targeting Iran's nuclear program and the Obama administration's secret "kill list" for its campaign of drone strikes.

    The cyberattack story, by the Times' David Sanger, has drawn much of the attention, with information for that article coming from research Sanger did for his recent book, Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.

    Despite the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder last Friday directed two federal prosecutors to open investigations into the issue, many conservatives continue to agitate for a special prosecutor to look into the potential leaks.

    But longtime investigative journalists tell Media Matters the recent stories under scrutiny were just good investigative reporting and mark no major change in White House security.

    "This is normal," said Walter Pincus, the veteran Washington Post investigative reporter. "The thing that is most normal about it is that look at Sanger's stuff, somebody's writing a book, Bob [Woodward] does it all the time. If you're writing a book and nothing is going to appear the next day and you keep going back and back and take a little bit here and a little bit there, that's how you put these things together."

    Dana Priest, Pincus' colleague at the Post and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for her own investigative journalism, agreed.

    "That is what this looks like, classic investigative reporting," Priest said in an interview. "Talk about the reporters who are on these stories, they are all veteran investigative reporters. They don't do their work by sucking up to politicians in the hopes they will leak them some things. They do the investigative work. I don't know if people outside understand that."

  • Newspaper Guild Rips "Shameless," "Galling" Bonuses For WaPo Publisher

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The Newspaper Guild is criticizing The Washington Post and its publisher Katharine Weymouth following a report this week that she stands to earn millions of dollars in stock-based performance incentives in the coming years while the newspaper continues to accept buyouts from staffers and struggle with continued losses.

    Washington City Paper reported Tuesday that in addition to making nearly $2 million per year in 2010 and 2011, Weymouth could be in line to make millions more in stock bonuses in coming years:

    Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth was criticized last year by Post employees when it was revealed that she made over $2 million in 2010. Weymouth's salary decreased in 2011, as the paper prepared to offer buyouts to employees, but only by a little--she made $1.9 million.

    For all the attention that has been given to Weymouth's salary, she could earn much, much more in the coming years if she makes her performance targets. According to an SEC filing made last week by the Post, Weymouth stands to receive as many as 42,500 shares in restricted stock awards by 2018 if she meets the goals. If the Post stays around its current stock price, at $363.51 when the market closed yesterday, that would be worth around $15.4 million.

    This would represent a huge jump in Weymouth's stock awards. Since 2009, Weymouth has received a comparatively miniscule 7,500 shares.

    Restricted stocks awards, in which stock is given outright to an employee, are different from stock options, which only give the recipient the option to buy shares at a set price.

    The story comes less than two months after the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild revealed that at least 32 Post employees had accepted a recent buyout offer, the fifth since 2004.

    Poynter.org reported in a Feb. 8, 2012, article about the Post buyouts that the newspaper's revenue in the third quarter of 2011 was down 9 percent from the same period in 2010, with advertising revenue down 20 percent. The company's newspaper division had lost $9.9 million in the third quarter alone, Poynter reported.

    Asked to comment on the latest Weymouth bonus potential, Fredrick Kunkle, a co-chair of the Guild's Post unit, issued this statement to Media Matters:

    I can tell you it's galling as hell to think that we have squeezed more bodies out of the newsroom, outsourced more jobs across the company and given most of the remaining employees pay increases that don't even keep up with inflation so that senior executives can pay their country club dues. It's even more shameless when you consider that the various strategies hatched by some of these bonus recipients have failed to boost the stock price or increase ad revenues, and yet arguably have diminished the Post's stature everywhere except among fans of squirrel galleries. But I guess we'll always have Watergate.

    Post officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

  • Young Republican Groups Criticize Goldberg's Higher Voting Age Idea

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Young Republican groups are criticizing National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg after he claimed the voting age is too low and that the supposed fact that "young people think socialism is better than capitalism" is evidence of their "stupidity and their ignorance" which needs to be "beaten out of them."

    Goldberg made the comments in an interview posted May 12 by The Daily Caller. But the critical views drew recent attention last week when they were posted by Salon.com and Huffington Post.

    Salon.com reported:

    In a videoclip from an interview with the conservative website The Daily Caller, Goldberg affirms from the beginning he is "not particularly enamored with the youth," that youth politics is "not something very special or enviable" and he believes the voting age should be much higher. He makes it quite clear young people, in his opinion, are "so frickin' stupid about some things."

    "It is a simple fact of science that nothing correlates more with ignorance and stupidity more than youth," Goldberg says. "We're all born idiots, and we only get over that condition as we get less young."

    Goldberg's views sparked harsh criticism from leaders of young conservatives and young Republicans groups.

    Brian Matos, spokesman for Chicago Young Republicans, said he understood Goldberg's frustration, but did not agree with his idea for change, citing the need for military personnel to be able to vote.

    "About half of the enlisted military personnel are under the age of 25 and so when somebody suggests they don't matter, that people are too young in their judgment, 18-year-olds, 19-year olds; well if they are old enough to serve our country overseas in two wars, they have the right to go to the polls," he said. "They do deserve the right to go to the polls."

    He also noted: "To say they are not important because of their age is short-sighted."

    Christopher Sanders, president of the Atlanta Young Republicans, stated: "Mr. Goldberg has the right to express his opinion. However I disagree with him on an age increase. It is our civic duty to help educate those younger than us about the issues, not strip them of their right to vote."

  • Creator Of Fox's Anti-Obama Attack Ad Will Not Be Hired By CNN

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Any plans that CNN may have had to hire Fox News associate producer Chris White have been scuttled following the firestorm over the controversial four-minute segment attacking President Obama that White reportedly created and which Fox aired twice yesterday.

    Several news outlets had speculated and even reported that White's move to CNN was in the works at the time he produced the video, which many have compared to a political attack ad. But a CNN spokesperson confirmed to Media Matters Thursday that White will not be hired by CNN.

    Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for Fox News, told Mediaite yesterday that the four-minute segment "was created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network. This has been addressed with the show's producers."

    With Fox failing to even acknowledge that airing the video was a mistake White appears to be the only one at the network who has suffered from their repeated airing of the video - with the apparent punishment coming from a different news outlet. This morning the hosts of Fox & Friends - who praised both White and the video at the time they aired it - did not address the controversy.

    Since the piece aired, several news outlets have claimed White was heading to CNN, with some speculation this might have been his way of departing the network.

    The same Mediaite item stated about White: "Mediaite hears that White may be heading to CNN in the near future."

    Hollywood Reporter wrote: " ... the associate producer responsible for it, Chris White, likely has already decided to leave Fox for CNN."

    CNN would not say if White had been under consideration prior to the latest incident, but The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters reports that White had "his offer revoked."

  • Bret Baier Birther Report Draws Journalism Ethics Fire

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Journalism veterans and ethics experts are criticizing Fox News' Bret Baier for treating as credible the false claim that President Barack Obama might not have been born in the United States, with one experienced news person calling his recent coverage of the issue "a complete abandonment of integrity and responsibility."

    Baier, often viewed as among the more credible news people at Fox News, reported in a news brief Monday night that Arizona Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett threatened to remove Obama's name from the Arizona ballot if Hawaii officials didn't prove to his satisfaction that Obama was born in Hawaii.

    Baier stated: "Bennett says he is not, quote 'a birther' but wants to clear up the issue for concerned Arizonans." But Baier failed to "clear up the issue" for Fox's viewers by stating outright that President Obama was, in fact, born in Hawaii, as indicated by his birth certificate and a contemporaneous newspaper announcement of his birth.

    This marked at least the third time this year that Baier reported on developments in the debunked 'birther' movement without providing this crucial context.

    By contrast, Fox News' own Shepard Smith stated in 2011: "Well, he has produced a birth certificate. It shows his mother gave birth to him in Hawaii. It is stamped and sealed by the state of Hawaii. It is confirmed, and Fox News can confirm the president of the United States is a citizen of the United States, period."

    In a radio interview Tuesday Bennett stated he had withdrawn the threat and told listeners: "If I embarrassed the state, I apologize." The Arizona Republic reported that a "Hawaii official sent Bennett's office verification of birth for President Obama on Tuesday, according to both Bennett and Hawaii officials."

    Baier did not respond to several requests for comment.

    Several veteran journalists and media critics criticized Baier for his reporting on the subject.

    "Whatever the motivation of Arizona's secretary of state it is a complete abandonment of integrity and responsibility for any news gatherer or disseminator not to ask the questions necessary to put a report on the secretary of state's actions in a context that would allow the reader or viewer of the report to make a decision on how he or she can use the information," said Bill Kovach, co-founder of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and former Washington, D.C. bureau chief of The New York Times. "In this case there is a rich history on the subject that raises deep and serious question about the motivation of anyone questioning President Obama's qualification for holding office including his citizenship and matters surround the time and place of his birth. To ignore this rich history of facts is irresponsible."

    Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former executive editor of The Miami Herald, cited Baier's error of omission.

    "An error of omission is the more insidious error because it typically escapes being corrected," Fiedler said in an email. "Nothing in his report is inaccurate. The problem lies in Baier's failure to include one additional fact: that, in due regard for the laws of Hawaii, the president has released an official copy of his birth certificate stating as legal fact that his mother gave birth to him in Honolulu. The state of Hawaii accepts this. The U.S. State Department accepts this."

  • UPDATED: National Review Drops Writer For Speaking At "White Supremacist" Conference

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP
    NRO contributor Robert Weissberg (left)
    at American Renaissance conference
    with "pro-White" radio host James Edwards
    and editor Jared Taylor.

    UPDATE:

    In a post last night at NRO, Rich Lowry announced that Weissberg "will no longer be posting" at National Review due to his appearance at the American Renaissance conference:

    Unbeknowst to us, occasional Phi Beta Cons contributor Robert Weissberg (whose book was published a few years ago by Transaction) participated in an American Renaissance conference where he delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism. He will no longer be posting here. Thanks to those who brought it to our attention.



    National Review, which recently severed its relationship with writer John Derbyshire for a column in which he advised parents to teach their children to be wary of blacks, has another contributor who may draw similar scrutiny.

    In March, National Review Online contributor Robert Weissberg spoke at the annual conference of the magazine American Renaissance, described as a "white supremacist journal" by the Anti-Defamation League. Reportedly proposing "A Politically Viable Alternative to White Nationalism," Weissberg described to the audience of 150 an "enclave" solution in which zoning laws and other methods could be used to create "Whitopias" in America.

    Weissberg, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois, is a regular contributor to National Review Online, having written 10 posts for its Phi Beta Con blog on education, the most recent coming within the last week.

    During his speech at the conference, Weissberg discussed how to keep "Whitopias" white and the positives of "maintaining whiteness," according to the American Renaissance website:

    Prof. Weissberg argued that an "80 percent solution" would be one that enforced the "First-World" standards of excellence and hard work that attract and reward whites. He pointed out that there are still many "Whitopias" in America and that there are many ways to keep them white, such as zoning that requires large houses, and a cultural ambiance or classical music and refined demeanor that repels undesirables. This approach to maintaining whiteness has the advantage that people can make a living catering to whites in their enclaves.

    Prof. Weissberg went on to argue that liberals are beyond reason when it comes to race, that explaining the facts of IQ or the necessity of racial consciousness for whites "is like trying to explain to an eight-year-old why sex is more fun than chocolate ice cream."

    Other speakers at the conference include James Edwards, known for his "pro-white" radio show, Political Cesspool, and the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the white nationalist American Third Position party, Mervin Miller and Virginia Abernathy.

    Last Thursday, longtime National Review writer Derbyshire published a piece for Taki's Magazine that urged parents to teach their children to, among other things, not "attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks." The piece was swiftly condemned across the ideological spectrum; on Saturday night National Review Editor Rich Lowry announced that Derbyshire could no longer write for National Review. Lowry did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Weissberg's standing with National Review Tuesday morning.

    Weissberg spoke with Media Matters Monday evening about his views and American Renaissance involvement, first noted at LittleGreenFootballs.com.

    Asked why he would appear at an event sponsored by American Renaissance, Weissberg defended the group.

    "It really is, it's not a white supremacist, as far as I'm concerned. There are probably people in the organization who are white supremacists, okay. There are probably people in the Democratic party and the Republican party who are also, okay," he said. "But I would not tar an organization by singling out a few members who have odd extreme political views and then labeling the organization as endorsing those views. The problem, if I may digress here a little bit, I am a member of several organizations, sort of conservative, ranging from AR, which is, to much more respectable things and the thing about AR is that they cannot control who shows up. You walk in the door, or you pay your whatever it is, $75 convention fee, and you are part of the crowd, that's it."

  • Cumulus Launching Huckabee Radio Show Without Its Top Station -- For Now

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    When Cumulus Media launches its new Mike Huckabee radio show on April 9 it will not be broadcasting on the company's largest station in its largest market, WABC in New York City.

    Instead, Huckabee will broadcast on competing WOR Radio in New York, and in a delayed format, according to Joe Bilotta, president and CEO of Buckley Radio, which owns WOR Radio.

    Cumulus Media has billed Huckabee's show as a direct competitor to Rush Limbaugh's broadcast, and their ownership of more than 500 radio stations gives them a strong starting position.

    But Limbaugh cannot be replaced on his flagship station until his contract with WABC expires. That will be sometime in 2013, according to Cumulus, which declined to reveal an exact date. Bilotta said he expects Huckabee to be broadcast on WOR at least until that contract runs its course.

    "Nobody has contacted us about taking Rush Limbaugh [On WOR] at the end of the [WABC] term," Bilotta said.

    Speculation has arisen that Cumulus would remove Limbaugh and replace him with Huckabee as soon as his contract is up.

    "You can bet WABC, New York, owned by Cumulus, will dump Limbaugh the moment they are able to clear their contract restrictions," Jerry Del Colliano, a veteran radio industry expert, wrote in his daily subscription newsletter on March 22.

    WABC and Cumulus declined to comment on the issue Monday.

  • Former NRA President: We Helped Draft Florida's "Stand Your Ground" Law

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The National Rifle Association's longtime Florida lobbyist acknowledged Monday that the organization helped draft Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which critics have dubbed "Kill at Will" in the wake of its connection to the Trayvon Martin case in that state.

    Deceptively identified by its supporters as the "Castle Doctrine" (the term for the common law principle to defend one's home from intruders), the 2005 law states that civilians in any place they have a legal right to be, public or private, need not retreat in the face of what they perceive as threats but may instead use deadly force and be immune from prosecution, regardless of where the events occur.

    "The NRA participated in drafting the Castle Doctrine and supporting it through the process," Marion Hammer told Media Matters. Hammer was president of the NRA from 1995 to 1998, remains a member of its board, and is a longtime Florida lobbyist for the group.

    On February 26, Martin was returning from a local 7-Eleven to the apartment of his father's fiancée when he was spotted by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Hispanic man carrying a concealed handgun who acted as a neighborhood watch volunteer in the gated community. According to recordings, Zimmerman called 911 to report Martin as a "real suspicious guy" and "a black male" with "his hand in his waistband," then left the car to pursue the youth against the dispatcher's recommendation.

    A struggle followed, ending with Zimmerman shooting and killing Martin. Police have said that because Zimmerman stated that he had acted in self-defense, he could not be arrested under the "Stand Your Ground" law, while experts have stated that the statute may prevent Zimmerman's prosecution. This has resulted in a public outcry and a Department of Justice investigation.

    "Most legislation is written by lobbyists, legislators and bill-drafters," Hammer said. "In most cases, legislation comes about as a result of some action that causes legislators to believe that there is a need for remedial legislation. NRA did help draft the Castle Doctrine Law and [former Florida state]Senator [Durell] Peaden was the one that came to us and said we have a bad situation here and we need to do something about it."

    In 2005, Florida Today reporter Paul Flemming reported on the "Stand Your Ground" legislation before it was passed, writing that the NRA "wrote the bill."

    Asked again last week about the NRA's role, Flemming -- now at the Tallahassee Democrat and still covering the statehouse - reiterated that statement.

    "There is no doubt about it. Marion Hammer, the NRA lobbyist here, former president of the NRA wrote the legislation and she would tell you so," Flemming told Media Matters.

    Asked how he discovered that the NRA had co-written the legislation, Flemming stated: "She told me, I talked to her. I speak to Marion and certainly spoke to Sen. Peaden regularly. The observation is that they have their legislative priorities every year and that was one." He added, "All of the gun laws that come through the Florida legislature, she writes."

    Hammer recalled that the law came about after an incident following Hurricane Ivan in 2004 in which 77-year-old James Workman shot an intruder who broke into his RV after the deadly storm. Months before the statute was passed, prosecutors declined to press charges against Workman, saying he had legally acted in self-defense.

    "Yes, we helped," Hammer said. "Sen. Peaden and I had a conversation, he was outraged at what had happened and ... they had not decided whether to charge this man. He says, 'what are we going to do about it?' I said 'we can work on some legislation to deal with this issue.' It is not an uncommon problem."

    She added, "he came to us, we helped draft it, he took it, he put it in the bill drafting, it came out of bill drafting, it came through the process, it passed."

    Asked if the final version differed much from the original bill she helped draft, Hammer said: "I don't remember. I know that we supported the legislation. If the bill did not do what the people of the state of Florida needed to do, it would not have passed."

    Hammer did note that she does not believe the law applies to the Zimmerman case.

    Contacted by Media Matters, Sen. Peaden confirmed that the NRA "participated," in crafting the law, but said he wrote the law.

    Asked to specify how Hammer was involved, Peaden said, "I don't remember, that was seven years ago. They're lobbyists, they lobby laws and things like that."

    Rep. Dennis Baxley, who co-sponsored the law in the Florida House of Representative, declined to comment on the legislation, his office said Monday.

    Flemming also described Hammer and the NRA as playing a major part in writing other pro-gun laws in Florida.

    "She is a very powerful lobbyist in the state house in Tallahassee and they pick a number of priorities in the legislature to go after," Flemming explained. "One was a couple of years ago, guns at work, they had the concealed carry previous to that and that year, in 2005, they wanted to take on the Castle Doctrine."

    Flemming later added, "There was a bill last year, more recent memory, sponsored by the guy who now holds Durell's seat in the state senate, Greg Evers, to prohibit doctors from asking patients if they owned guns or not. That again was an NRA-sponsored, Marion Hammer-written piece of legislation."

  • Media Ethicists: Suspend Morris For Auctioning Fox Tour At GOP Fundraiser

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Veteran journalists and media ethicists say Fox News failed to adequately respond to contributor Dick Morris' attempt to auction off a tour of Fox studios at a Republican fundraiser, with several calling for his suspension.

    Earlier this week, Media Matters reported that Morris had been paid to speak at an event for the Republican Party of Lake County, Florida, and had auctioned himself off for the group's benefit as a personal tour guide for a visit to Fox News in New York.

    Bill Shine, the network's executive vice president of programming, subsequently reached out to TVNewser to state that Fox had "reprimanded" Morris and that the tour had been canceled.

    But the network has apparently taken no further action against Morris, a paid Fox contributor who has a long history of conflicts of interest related to his Fox appearances. The day after Shine told TVNewser Morris had been reprimanded, he appeared on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor.

    Fox's response drew criticism from news veterans and media critics, who argued that Morris' offense tarnished Fox's reputation and should have resulted in more severe punishment.

    "What does it take to suspend Morris?" said David Zurawik, television critic for the Baltimore Sun. "To me, it is crazy that they don't either suspend him or kick him off the air for good. Is there anybody in the media you can think of who has less of an ethical compass? You have to ask yourself, why do they let him get away with this? He is really a sleazy operative."

    Zurawik, who teaches media ethics at Goucher College in Baltimore and has previously defended Fox News from criticism, also questioned the impact on the network's credibility to continue having Morris on the air.

    "The larger issue is I really do think this hurts Fox in this regard. They like to present Bret Baier as the face of who they are. Morris, I really think, in many ways is the face of Fox," Zurawik said. "He is a dirty political operative intensely partisan with a history of alliances that on a good day would be called sleazy. And yet they keep putting this guy on the network. I would urge people, don't think of Bret Baier, think of Dick Morris."

    Eric Deggans, media critic for the Tampa Bay Times, also expected stiffer punishment for Morris.

  • Cumulus CEO: Limbaugh Firestorm "Very Helpful" To New Huckabee Show

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Cumulus Media Networks sees the recent controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh as providing a "real opportunity" for its new Mike Huckabee radio program to succeed.

    In a media conference call Monday, Cumulus Media, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Lewis Dickey was asked how the firestorm following Limbaugh's misogynistic attacks on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke would affect the company's earnings. Cumulus currently carries Limbaugh on 35 of its 570 stations.

    In response, Dickey acknowledged that the advertiser exodus from Limbaugh's program has caused the company "logistical difficulties" as companies demanded that their ads be pulled from the show. But Dickey went on to say that the controversy would be "very helpful" to subsidiary Cumulus Media Networks in their effort to launch The Mike Huckabee Show, scheduled to debut April 2 in the same time slot as Limbaugh on 110 radio stations.

    "There's obviously some pluses and minuses associated with all of this," said Dickey. "But on the plus side, it's going to really be very helpful to us with our new show launch."

    Dickey first stated that the scrutiny of Limbaugh for his comments about Fluke - calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute" - had affected Cumulus in a negative way.

    The Cumulus CEO said that the company had "had some logistical issues, primarily in swapping out network spots in the ABC News casts that go in there." He added, "We've been working with our advertising partners on a very constructive basis to accommodate them wherever necessary."

    So far, more than 100 advertisers have distanced themselves from Limbaugh and at least two radio stations have dropped his program since he first made the comments, despite two widely-criticized attempts at apologies.

    Dickey, however, also seemed optimistic that Limbaugh's problems could be an opportunity for Cumulus's new Huckabee program, which he said was intended to compete directly with the radio giant.

    "[W]e've also seen a real opportunity with this in the marketplace to talk about our new show that will compete head to head with Rush, which is the Mike Huckabee show," Dickey said. "And we're launching that next month and it will be positioned again with our affiliates as 'more conversation and less confrontation.'"

  • Radio Experts: Limbaugh May Have Triggered Long-Term Ad Exodus

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Rush Limbaugh's misogynistic comments about a Georgetown law student are affecting advertisers more than the usual controversial broadcast statements and may spark a long-term problem for the conservative host, according to journalists who cover radio and advertising.

    Veteran radio observers credit the quick exodus of advertisers in recent days to the severity of Limbaugh's sexist rant and the ability of social media to force companies to comment on the controversy. These experts also tell Media Matters many major advertisers generally avoid commentators like Limbaugh, shrinking the pool of possible replacements.

    Jim Cooper, executive editor of Adweek, said that Limbaugh's comments were "so offensive" that he could have impaired his ability to attract advertisers in the long term. "He could have a problem with brands being associated with his show. They don't want to have any sort of rub off, to be associated with anyone seen as so bold or obnoxious or cruel to that woman, it is pretty off the charts."

    Cooper also acknowledged that it was surprising for ads to continue being pulled even after Limbaugh's two attempts to address the controversy since Saturday.

    "It seems a little bit more extreme because what he said was so extreme," Cooper said of the advertiser reaction. "I don't think most brands, unless they have a political bias, are going to want to be part of this. It is so offensive to a massive part of his audience. No brand is going to want to be saying, 'sure we are behind his comments.'"

    Limbaugh has drawn attention in the past week for his vicious and repeated attacks on Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who recently testified before congressional Democrats about the problems caused when young women lack access to contraception.

    The popular conservative radio host unleashed a barrage of critical comments at Fluke last week, calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute," and demanding: "If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

    As of Tuesday afternoon, at least 29 advertisers had said they would exclude, suspend, or pull their business from Limbaugh's radio show, which is syndicated by Premiere Radio, a division of Clear Channel Communications.

  • Media Ethicists Criticize Morris, The Hill For Disclosure Failures

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Dick Morris's failure to disclose his financial ties to political entities he writes about for The Hill brought sharp criticism from journalism veterans and news ethicists, one of whom accused the Fox News analyst of breaking an "ethical commandment."

    The top editor of The Hill, meanwhile, declined to admit that the newspaper or the columnist had done anything wrong, even as media critics called out the paper's failure to police Morris's column.

    In a statement to Media Matters, Hugo Gurdon, the editor-in-chief of The Hill, said:

    Our comment pages publish opinion pieces from people on the left and the right who are active in partisan politics. We're confident that our readers know this, but we will continue to make additional disclosures where we think this is necessary.

    Asked to elaborate further on Morris's specific actions and whether the paper would subject his work to greater scrutiny in the future, editors at The Hill did not respond.

    At issue are several instances identified by Media Matters in which Morris, a well-known conservative political consultant, wrote columns for The Hill, but failed to disclose his financial ties to some subjects of the columns.

    In one column earlier this month, Morris attacked "RINO Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.)" for supporting the Law of the Sea Treaty.

    The column did not disclose that Morris had headlined a September 2011 fundraiser for Lugar's Republican primary opponent, Richard Mourdock. The Mourdock campaign had also rented Morris's email list in July 2011 for a donation solicitation, which featured an appeal from Morris.

    Morris's practice brought criticism from Howard Kurtz on his CNN Reliable Sources program Sunday.

    After reading a comment from Gurdon in which the Hill editor said that the paper's readers "are being kept well-informed" about their columnists' potential conflicts of interest, Kurtz commented that those readers "should be kept a little more well-informed."