Both mainstream and conservative media outlets have responded to the recent spike in gasoline prices by circulating talking points rooted in politics rather than facts. As a whole, these claims reflect the misconception, perpetuated by the news media, that changes in U.S. energy policy are a major driver of oil and gasoline prices.
During a discussion of gasoline prices, frequent Fox News guest Brent Bozell claimed that U.S. oil production has fallen under President Obama. In reality, the opposite is true: after increasing every year since 2009, oil production is at an eight-year high; gas prices continue to rise because they are determined by a world market, not by U.S. production.
From the February 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
Loading the player reg...
Talk about throwing good money after bad.
Last week, cantankerous media watchdog Brent Bozell announced his group, Media Research Center, was launching the largest initiative in its 25 years history -- a $5 million marketing campaign urging the "liberal media" to "tell the truth!" Bozell urged Americans to stand up during this election year and "declare, once and for all, that the leftwing so-called news media are no longer going to pick winners and losers."
Featuring mobile billboards and "Tell The Truth!" placards, the MRC campaign is drawing inspiration from Newt Gingrich's candidacy, and specifically Gingrich's calculated pushback against the press. That crusade reached its peak on the night of the South Carolina debate when he won a standing ovation after castigating moderator John King for opening the debate by asking about allegations Gingrich's former wife had made in the press that week about their marriage.
Bozell soon announced Gingrich's primary win in South Caroline represented a "defeat for the liberal media." He urged GOP candidates to pick up Gingrich's anti-media mantle and to denounce the elites' "mission to destroy" Republican hopefuls.
All of this, as usual with Bozell, is a charade.
In fact, all that the MRC's new "Tell The Truth!" campaign does is highlight the dubious nature of the long-running "liberal media" bias production. The punch line surrounding this multi-million dollar marketing drive? It's being rolled out at the exact moment the conservative press is attacking Gingrich.
It's true. Last week Gingrich likely received better, or at least fairer, treatment in the pages of The New York Times than he did at The Drudge Report, which dedicated several days to posting a litany of harassing headlines and relentlessly targeting the former Republican Speaker of the House, treating him as if he were the political reincarnation of Bill Clinton.
It seems conservative pundits are the ones on a "mission to destroy" Gingrich's candidacy. But Bozell can't say that out loud because he has a phony, "liberal media" campaign to launch.
Fox News' animosity toward President Obama, three years into his presidency, is by now well-known. This is the network that routinely calls Obama a socialist, accuses him of being involved in all sorts of conspiratorial plots, and claims that he hates America. But, as witnessed Thursday on Hannity, Fox's attacks have taken an increasingly racially charged tone: Brent Bozell, who runs the factually challenged outfit of conservative misinformation known as the Media Research Center, likened Obama to "a skinny, ghetto crackhead."
Bozell appeared on Hannity as part of the show's weekly "Media Mash" segment to talk about purported mainstream media failings. After listening to a clip of MSNBC host Chris Matthews saying that Newt Gingrich "looks like a car bomber," Bozell responded:
BOZELL: How long do you think Sean Hannity's show would last if four times in one sentence, he made a comment about, say, the President of the United States, and said that he looked like a skinny, ghetto crackhead? Which, by the way, you might want to say that Barack Obama does. Everybody on the left would come forward and demand he be fired within five minutes for being so insulting towards a leader of the United States.
A few months ago, Fox's Eric Bolling came under fire for his racially charged criticisms of Obama, including his claims that Obama was "chugging 40's in IRE while tornadoes ravage MO" (which he later tried to amend), and that Obama was hosting "hoodlum[s] in the hizzouse" when he welcomed Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba and rapper Common to the White House.
These attacks have become a pattern at Fox News.
From the December 22 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
Loading the player reg...
This week, the right-wing media began its annual fake "War on Christmas" campaign, freaking out about a bogus Obama "Christmas tree tax." Here's what to expect from right-wing media during the next six weeks.
Since sexual harassment allegations against GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain have emerged, right-wing media figures have blamed a wide range of people and entities for the story's emergence, from the "Democratic machine" to the "liberal media" and even "the left-wing nutjobs at Media Matters."
Brent Bozell's Media Research Center, out attacking the press for reporting on the legitimate news story about Herman Cain's former employer settling sexual harassment complaints against him, claims the three major news networks "ignored" the Paula Jones story during the 1990's, but are overplaying the Cain story this week.
That seems like a stretch considering Jones' lawsuit against president Clinton remained in the headlines for nearly seven years as it dragged its way through the courts and eventually became joined with the Monica Lewinsky impeachment scandal. How is it possible that ABC, CBS and NBC "ignored" the Jones story for all those years?
Simple. They didn't ignore it.
A search of Nexis indicates that in the `90's the networks aired more than 600 reports that mentioned the Paula Jones controversy in detail.
So what does MRC base its "ignored" claim on? It looks at the Paula Jones coverage for just three days during the `90's; the three days following her infamous press conference in Washington, D.C., (sponsored by the Conservative Political Action Conference) where she aired her claims against the Democratic president. Three days, of course, represents a tiny window to view the Jones story, which played out over many, many years and was covered almost non-stop.
During the 1990's, the three major networks averaged a combined total of nearly 90 Paula Jones reports every year, for seven straight years. But according to Brent Bozell's crack staff, the networks "ignored" the Jones tale.
The conservative media is divided on anonymous sources: Some right-wing media figures have been hyping a claim by an anonymous source that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is "likely involved with the sexual harassment" allegations against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. At the same time, however, other conservative media figures have tried to cast doubt on the sexual harassment allegations against Cain by pointing out that they are based on anonymous sources.
Now that Herman Cain's chief aide has gone on the record accusing Rick Perry's Republican campaign of leaking the sexual harassment story this week, and now that the story continues to take shape with additional information, where does that leave race-baiting zealots on the right-wing fringe who accused liberals, Democrats and journalists of colluding to launch the "racist" Cain attack?
Yes, the Perry camp denies any involvement in the story. But the fact that not even the Cain campaign thinks the controversy was cooked up by "the left," leaves race-baiting pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Brent Bozell with even less basis to claim Cain's woes were cooked up by black-hating liberals.
Limbaugh, of course, has been unhinged all week, insisting Cain has been targeted by the "left" for being an "uppity" black. Ann Coulter announced that the "false" harassment allegations proved "liberals detest, detest, detest conservative blacks," and Media Research Center's Brent Bozell embarrassed himself by claiming that, "In the eyes of the liberal media, Herman Cain is just another uppity black American who has had the audacity to leave the liberal plantation."
There were others. Andrew Breitbart blogger Jim Hoft denounced the "racist" members of the "liberal media" who reported the Cain story, while a crew of conservative commentators called the Cain story a "high-tech lynching" by liberals.
All the usual, right-wing race baiters rushed forward this week without any facts and attacked liberals, Democrats and journalists for manufacturing the "racist" Cain story. Days later, and with the knowledge that Cain aides think a Republican was behind the sexual harassment story, the pundits' allegations look even flimsier.
Responding to a report that Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain allegedly engaged in "sexually suggestive behavior" in the 1990s, right-wing media figures have turned to race-baiting, arguing that Cain is being targeted because he is a "black conservative" and that he is the victim of a "high-tech lynching."
It's hard to tell which task Fox News and the rest of the far-right media are more obsessed with these days, smearing the Occupy Wall Street protest with endless name-calling, or rewriting the history of the Tea Party to make it appear so much more serious and civil than Occupy Wall Street.
The latest whitewash attempt came last night when Monica Crowley, sitting in for Bill O'Reilly, complained the Tea Party had been smeared "for nonexistent offenses. The racism that didn't exist, the signs that didn't exist."
Guest Bernie Goldberg replied that "if there was one sign at a Tea Party rally that was racist, it would get on the air. I guess I don't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is suggesting that it was typical of the whole movement."
Crowley insisted there were no racists signs at Tea Party rallies.
The far-right freak-out over Occupy Wall Street continues to unfold in plain view, as partisan in the conservative press lash out wildly at the populist movement. Unnerved by its growing size and strength, GOP pundits have tried their best to undermine the Wall Street effort, mostly via schoolyard taunts. When not name-calling, conservatives' have tried to rewrite the Tea Party past.
Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan argued Occupy Wall Street protesters aren't "mature" and reasonable like their conservative Tea Party counterparts. You know, the "mature" activists who protested fictional "death panels" and rallied with swastika posters. (Nice try Peggy.)
Now Media Research Center's Brent Bozell takes his turn rewriting Tea Party history. Specifically, he claims the press considered the Tea Party to be "barely worth covering" during the spring of 2009, and that the same press is giving way too much media attention to Occupy Wall Street. ("Barely worth covering"? In the months of April and May of 2009, cable news channels aired more than 150 Tea Party reports, according to Nexis, while U.S. newspapers published nearly 1,000 articles and columns mentioning the movement.)
There's no question that Occupy Wall Street has garnered heavy, and at time blockbuster, media coverage in recent days and weeks. And the attention is deserved, as the grassroots movement spreads nationwide and now boasts nearly 200 protest locations as part of its political network. (The movement is winning support from Americans too, according to pollsters.)
Bozell and the right-wing media's nervous response to the people-powered phenomena? They whine that reporters and pundits are lavishing too much attention on Occupy Wall Street, and that back in 2009 when the Tea Party movement first emerged, that same press corps ignored conservatives taking to the street.
Note that in his whine, Bozell's mum about the pivotal role Fox News played in the fledgling Tea Party and how the channel's free, unending advertising and marketing muscle helped to instantly elevate the right-wing movement. Bozell keeps quiet about that because it's awkward to argue the media ignored the Tea Party when in fact a major cable channel practically sponsored the Tea Party.
Bozell does however, acknowledge that CNBC reporter Rick Santelli gets credit for creating the Tea Party on the air with his infamous rant about the White House's mortgage bailout plan. (CNBC didn't promote subsequent Tea Party rallies, the way Fox News so aggressively did.)
Bozell complains that that key Tea Party moment was ignored [emphasis added]:
The first rhetorical shot that started the Tea Party is credited to CNBC analyst Rick Santelli on February 19, 2009, when he accused the government of "promoting bad behavior" for "losers" who wouldn't pay their mortgages and raised the possibility of a "Chicago Tea Party." CNBC calls it "The Shout Heard 'Round the World," but at the time NBC and the other Big Three network shows completely ignored it.
Bozell's certain: the Big Three networks all ignored Santelli's call to Tea Party arms.
Except that, of course, they did not.
Not only did NBC not ignore Santelli's rant the day it was uncorked on CNBC, but NBC made it the lead story on its Nightly News that evening. NBC News then returned to the topic again and again in the week that directly followed with nearly one dozen on-air reports from NBC, which couldn't stop talking about Rick Santelli's Tea Party rant.
(For the record, ABC and CBS also covered Santelli's harangue that week.)
But today, spooked by Occupy Wall Street, conservative press cop Brent Bozell fabricates the claim that NBC "completely ignored" the Rick Santelli Tea Party story.
Hey Brent, stop trying to rewrite the Tea Party past.
In the ominously title report, "From Democratic Promoters to Republican Destroyers," Brent Bozell's Media Research Center set out once again to 'prove' just how liberally corrupt and biased the mainstream media are. Specifically, the report claimed that on the network morning shows, such as Today, hosts asked Republican candidates tougher, "adversarial" questions than they did Democratic candidates running four years ago.
Given Media Research Center's dubious history of truth telling, it's not surprising that upon closer scrutiny the report does not hold up. For instance, note the specific allegation that the networks gave "little airtime" to Republican candidates this year (between Jan. 1 and Sept. 15) as opposed to Democrats four years ago. (Bias!)
From MRC [emphasis added]
The leader of the pack was Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, who was featured in 14 morning show interviews totaling more than 71 minutes (see chart). The runner-up was former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who — despite the visibility gained from nine interviews totaling 42 minutes — never rose beyond single digits in the national polls and dropped out after a disappointing third-place finish in the August 13 Iowa straw poll.
Getting nearly as much attention as Pawlenty was billionaire businessman Donald Trump, who flirted with a candidacy back in March and April. Trump was featured in five interviews totaling 39 minutes. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman also appeared five times for a total of nearly 26 minutes, with Romney rounding out the top five with 21 minutes.
A potpourri of other candidates were also given a chance to reach the relatively large audience watching the networks' morning news shows: Texas Congressman Ron Paul (3 interviews, 17 minutes); former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (3 interviews, 14 minutes); former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (2 interviews, 10 minutes); and businessman Herman Cain (2 interviews, 7 minutes).
What was the Republican tally for morning news shows? A total of 247 minutes. To me, that seems like a healthy amount of time set aside for Republicans.
Please note that MRC makes a big deal out of the fact that the morning shows did not have Rick Perry on during the late summer as he became a major player in the GOP campaign. But does MRC have proof that the morning shows never invited Perry? Because the Texas governor declined to do almost all national media interviews during the late summer.
Meanwhile, how does that 247 minute total compare to Democratic candidates four years ago? We're supposed to believe it's much smaller than the times allotted to Democrats:
In 2007, Networks Flocked to Democratic Frontrunners: Four years ago, those same morning shows highlighted the frontrunners in the Democratic race. Hillary Clinton snagged the most airtime, with 10 appearances totaling 71 minutes (coincidentally, the same amount of time the GOP's only female candidate, Michele Bachmann, received this year). Then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama was featured in 11 interviews (52 minutes), followed by John Edwards (5 appearances, 47 minutes); former Vice President Al Gore, touted as a possible candidate in early 2007 (8 appearances, 43 minutes) and then-Delaware Senator Joe Biden (6 appearances, 28 minutes).
The Democratic tally? Um, 241 minutes, which is nearly identical to the Republican total of 247. So much for there being a Democratic bias. And oops, MRC included Al Gore on the list because he was a "possible candidate in early 2007."
From Feb. 9, 2007:
Former US vice-president Al Gore reiterated here that he does not intend to run for president in 2008 -- though he did not entirely rule out doing so further in the future.
So by the second month of 2007, Gore had made it clear he wasn't running. Yet MRC included all of Gore's morning show TV appearances between January and mid-September, most of them having to do with environmental issues, as part of its tally of Democratic candidates.
Truth is, if you subtract Gore from the list, the network morning shows devoted 198 minutes to Democratic candidates in 2007, compared to 247 minutes to Republicans this year. But yes, according to MRC that only proves the media's liberal bias.