Newsbusters -- the Media Research Center blog that thinks news outlets that produce accurate reporting should be fined -- is unhappy that CBS' Harry Smith dared to challenge a Republican Senator's talking points:
Responding to Senator Jeff Sessions describing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as a "typical liberal activist judge" CBS Early Show co-host Harry Smith argued: "You feel like her record indicates that? I mean, she gets a glowing review from the American Bar Association. Her record doesn't seem to necessarily match up with her - what - some of the things she said."
So, Sessions broke out the tired old "activist judge" talking point, and Smith challenged him to explain what he means, pointing out that Sotomayor's record doesn't substantiate that charge. That's what reporters should do when politicians make baseless charges. That's journalism. And Newsbusters just hates it.
But here's what's really funny: Sessions acknowledged that Smith was right. Here's the transcript, as presented by Newsbusters:
SESSIONS: Well, I think there's some truth to that because I believe we are in this country debating about the directions our courts could go and should go. I believe this nominee, from what I've seen so far, is the typical liberal activist judge who will push the law, who believes that – in identity type politics and seeing people as groups more than individuals. Who is-
SMITH: Would her record – you feel like her record indicates that?
SESSIONS: Harry, you know, she-
SMITH: I mean, she gets a glowing review from the American Bar Association.
SESSIONS: I understand-
SMITH: Her record doesn't seem to necessarily match up with her – what – some of the things she said.
SESSIONS: Right. There is a disconnect there, I will agree. Her record is better than her speeches. Her speeches tend to reflect, I think, her philosophy.
NewsBusters' Tim Graham repeats a Gawker post claiming that, in Graham's words, "the White House press elite partied down with President Obama on ahem, Independence Day" in an off-the-record event that featured a performance by the Foo Fighters. Graham went on to tut-tut: "Even if you weren't a fan of Obama (or a fan of picnics, or the Foo Fighters), an ambitious reporter might take the tickets just to get some off-the-record schmoozing in with people they'd like to line up as sources. It would be nice to know which ones who daily pledge to uphold the 'people's right to know' attended and accepted the pledges of secrecy."
What Graham didn't mention is that President Bush did the very same thing. A 2006 New York Times article noted that "Mr. Bush holds an annual off-the-record barbecue with reporters during his summer vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Tex."
We searched the archives of NewsBusters and its parent organization, the Media Research Center, and couldn't find any mention of Bush's reporter barbecues, let alone evidence that Graham was similarly outraged by the "off-the-record schmoozing" going on there.
(Not that there was all that much of it going on at the Obama event: As Politico's Michael Calderone points out, most of the "White House press elite" weren't there because they were on their way to Moscow to cover Obama's trip to Russia, and the president himself left early.)
Or, rather, Brent Bozell agrees with me.
Media Research Center Brent Bozell thinks the media should devote more coverage to "the tragic deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan."
I agree. The media should do a better job of showing the human costs of war. In fact, I've been saying that for years.
Bozell, on the other hand, spent the Bush years attacking journalists who wanted to be able to bring their readers and viewers pictures of coffins containing troops who died in Iraq.
Anyway, it's great that he's come around.
Here's Newsbusters' Brent Baker complaining about media coverage of Sarah Palin's announcement that she is quitting the governorship of Alaska:
Sarah Palin's "bombshell" holiday announcement that she will resign as Governor of Alaska managed to trump Michael Jackson as the lead on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts Friday night ... CBS reporter Nancy Cordes reflected the tone of the stories when she described "a rambling, at times confusing announcement," while on all three newscasts Palin's decision was called "bizarre."
And here's Baker's colleague, Brad Wilmouth:
Also similar to the DNC statement, CBS managed to squeeze in the word "bizarre" twice as a description of Palin's announcement as Cordes first showed a soundbite of the Politico's Mike Allen calling Palin's actions "bizarre," and, moments later, as he appeared with substitute anchor Maggie Rodriguez to discuss the story, CBS News political consultant John Dickerson also used the word. Allen: "This is very unusual, even bizarre." Dickerson: "It's bizarre, and there's no good explanation."
It doesn't seem to have occurred to the Newsbusters crew that Palin's speech is being widely described as "bizarre" because it was bizarre. This is exactly the kind of thing the word "bizarre" was created to describe.
Without getting too bogged down listing the many ways in which it was bizarre, let me just note that Palin denounced taking "a quitter's way out" in the middle of a speech in which she announced that she is quitting. You can watch or read the speech and decide for yourself; I have no idea what Newsbusters is complaining about, and no idea how you could report on the speech without calling it bizarre.
Fox Nation -- Fox News' purportedly non-"biased" and "fair and balanced" website -- has frequently promoted posts from the falsehood-ridden conservative blog NewsBusters.
Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard complains about last week's CBS/New York Times poll:
Realizing that Barack Obama's healthcare initiative has hit some roadblocks in Congress, the good folks at CBS News and the New York Times figured they'd help it along by creating a new poll on the subject that WAY oversampled people who voted for Obama.
As can be plainly seen on page 7 of the poll's data, only 73 percent of respondents divulged who they voted for last November. 48 percent said Obama, 25 percent McCain.
What this means is this poll surveyed 66 percent Obama supporters versus 34 percent McCain.
Uh ... no. What this means is that 48 percent of respondents say they voted for Obama, and 25 percent say they voted for McCain, and 27 percent either say they didn't vote, say they voted for someone else, or refuse to say for whom they voted. You can't just wish away those 27 percent and pretend that the poll "surveyed 66 percent Obama supporters versus 34 percent McCain."
And while we're on the topic, it's a pretty widely-known fact of polling that questions that ask who respondents voted for in the last election tend to overstate the vote for the winner, so Sheppard's conclusion that the poll "WAY oversampled" Obama voters isn't really supported by the evidence he provides.
And, as Eric Boehlert noted earlier, "the Times sampling in terms of party affiliation was in line with years' worth of previous polls." Not to mention the fact that the poll found that, by an 11-point plurality (50 to 39), Republicans favor a "government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans." So the Times poll could have consisted only of Republicans, and it still would have shown strong support for a public plan.
Sheppard's conclusion would seem to apply better to Sheppard himself than to the New York Times (were it not for the unconstitutionality and general stupidity of applying it to anyone):
Honestly, stuff like this should be illegal and any news organization found doing it should be significantly fined.
In any industry you could name, such deception of the public would meet with very serious consequences.
Why are so-called news outlets allowed to get away with such obvious deceit with total impunity?
Actually, that pretty nicely sums up the conservative media critics' view of journalism: They think it should be illegal for news organizations to do things they don't like (even when their unhappiness is based on a complete lack of understanding of polling and basic math) and the journalists involved should be fined.
In other words, conservative media critics like Sheppard don't believe in independent media. They don't believe in freedom of the press. So why on earth should any journalist ever take anything they say seriously?
Newsbusters complains that the New York Times didn't report the fact that journalist David Rohde was held by the Taliban, even though it did disclose government torture:
In their watchdog role of keeping the public informed, the New York Times has over the years disclosed government secrets regarding anti-terrorism tactics, overseas prisons, interrogation tactics, and military tactics, that critics contend have harmed the effectiveness of the programs and put America and our military at greater risk.
So when Times journalist David Rohde was captured by the Taliban and held for seven months, the Times was going to report that, right? After all, doesn't the public have a right to know about the threats they may face while traveling in Afghanistan?
Yeah, because getting kidnapped is exactly the same as torturing people and conducting warrantless spying on American citizens.
Seriously, that's what Newsbusters is saying: Because the New York Times reported that the Bush administration was probably violating the law, the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and basic human decency, the Times was obligated to report that the Taliban was holding Rohde, even if it may have jeopardized Rohde's life.
That is lunacy, though the blatant disregard it shows for Rohde's life probably shouldn't be surprising coming from people who are, after all, defending torture.
From a June 2 NewsBusters entry:
George Tiller, the Kansas doctor notorious for his commitment to performing late-term abortions, was killed May 31 while attending a Sunday morning church service.
By his count, Tiller performed 60,000 abortions. His clinic, Women's Health Care Services in Wichita, was one of only three clinics in the United States that offered abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy.
Loss of human life is a tragedy and should be reported as such, and premeditated murder is always wrong - something all the mainstream pro-life groups were quick to affirm in the wake of the killing. But in reporting this tragic story, the news media have much to say about a man who helped provide women with the "right" to end their pregnancies, but have little to say about lives he helped to end. In failing to highlight what Tiller's work actually entailed, reporters do nothing to help their audience understand why this man was targeted.
Did you hear the one about the White House press corps standing for President Obama and not for President Bush? This manufactured yarn has been spinning through YouTube and right-wing media circles for the past few days.
Still don't know what I'm talking about? Allow Huffington Post's Jason Linkins to bring you up to speed:
A YouTube clip purporting to demonstrate -- through press room etiquette -- that the White House Press Corps has a greater level of fundamental respect for President Barack Obama than his predecessor has been making its way around the internet. In the video, the viewer is offered a side-by-side comparison between Obama's interruption of last week's press briefing to announce David Souter's retirement and another instance in which President George W. Bush entered the briefing room. In the former, the press corps stand up. In the later they remain seated. Here, you can watch for yourself:
I was inclined to be skeptical of this claim, since a single moment between Bush and the press corps in an eight year Presidency does not paint an accurate picture of their relationship. As it turns out, the comparison is pretty unfair, and you can take the word of someone who should know -- CBS News' Mark Knoller:
It's a long-standing practice for reporters to rise when the president enters the East Room for a news conference, but that hasn't been the case in the briefing room.
I checked with two colleagues who served as senior wire service reporters during the Bush Presidency and who, in matters of press protocol, the rest of us followed.
"The briefing room is always a more informal place," says Steve Holland of Reuters.
But the principal reason reporters remained in their seats, he said, was not to block the shot of TV cameramen and still photographers in the back of the room who were trying to make a picture of the president's walk-in.
For those keeping track of the debunked Obama/media love-fest conspiracies, this is number 8,253. Not bad for a little over 100 days into the President's first term.
Several media figures and outlets have falsely claimed that President Obama's approval rating is lower than that of most or all recent presidents, according to Gallup. In fact, Gallup itself recently reported that, by two different measures, Obama's approval rating is the second highest of any president since 1969.
Mark Hemingway claimed that Paul Begala's statement that "[o]ur country executed Japanese soldiers who waterboarded American POWs" is false. However, the United States participated in a tribunal that sentenced numerous Japanese soldiers to death for war crimes including "torture" after a trial in which forms of waterboarding were presented as evidence of torture.
Terry Krepel over at ConWebWatch (he's also a Media Matters senior editor) destroys a Fox News Forum post by Noel Sheppard, NewsBusters associate editor, in which Shepard attacks Sen. John Kerry for calling Media Matters and ThinkProgress "good folks" while writing about the George Will global warming controversy on Huffington Post.
What Kerry chose to hide from readers was his wife's connection to these so-called "good folks."
ThinkProgress is the blog of the far-left leaning Center for American Progress. Contribution records show CAP having taken funds from the Tides Foundation, an organization that's received a great deal of money from the Howard Heinz Endowment chaired by -- wait for it! -- the junior senator from Massachusetts' wife Teresa Heinz Kerry.
2008 grantees of Tides' included the Center for American Progress Action Fund — a partner of CAP's — AND the Media Matters Action Network — a partner of MMA's.
Well, as Krepel points out:
There's just little one problem with Sheppard's conspiracy theory: it's not true.
As we and others have detailed, Heinz Kerry's donations to the Tides Foundation have been explicitly earmarked toward specific projects in Pennsylvania, making it impossible for that money to have gone toward CAP or Media Matters. Thus, the entire premise of Sheppard's article is false.
Curiously, at no point does Sheppard address the actual claims CAP and Media Matters have made about Will's false statements on global warming, nor does he mention that Washington Post ombudsman Andy Alexander has raised questions about the claims and the editing process that allowed them into Will's column.
Asked on Fox & Friends about the "damage done" by having Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews anchor MSNBC's election coverage, the Media Research Center's Tim Graham responded, "Not only is the damage already done, the damage continues. I mean, not only are they keeping these people on for an hour a night, they're adding this lesbian Air America radio host, Rachel Maddow, on every night."
Tim Graham, the Media Research Center's director of media analysis, wrote in a NewsBusters blog post that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "show[ed] she's more of a shallow politician than a devout Christian" for calling the Dalai Lama "His Holiness." However, Graham did not mention another prominent politician who has referred to the Dalai Lama as "His Holiness": President George W. Bush.
Media Research Center director of communications Seton Motley questioned Barack Obama's allegiance to the United States, asserting that Obama's membership in Trinity United Church of Christ, which is predominantly African-American, "seems to stand in diametric opposition to ... the oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States." Motley also claimed that: "Our prohibition on the Presidency...could reasonably be extended to Obama ... who chooses to pledge allegiance elsewhere as an article of faith."