The Society of Professional Journalists, the "leading professional association of working journalists," overhauled its Code of Ethics to include new transparency provisions partly in response to 60 Minutes' Benghazi debacle and CNN's failure to disclose Newt Gingrich's political ties, the group's ethics chair said Monday.
He also cited Washington Post columnist George Will's failure to disclose his ties to conservative group Americans for Prosperity as the type of conflict of interest journalists should seek to avoid.
On September 6, SPJ announced the release of its first new Code of Ethics in 18 years, Smith said. The group explained that the "code is voluntarily embraced by thousands of journalists, regardless of place or platform, and is widely used in newsrooms and classrooms as a guide for ethical behavior."
Kevin Smith, outgoing SPJ ethics chair, told Media Matters the revisions were done in part to address the growing problems with transparency, including news outlets failing to disclose clear conflicts of interest.
"I think there is a lot of room to criticize a lot of media today for their lack of transparency," Smith said following the release of the new code on Saturday. "On Fox, I've seen it happen, on CNN, the Wall Street Journal, these conflicts that show up, they do not reveal them in the story."
In the release announcing the changes, SPJ stated:
The idea of transparency makes a debut in this code. Although this code does not abdicate the principle of being independent of conflicts that may compromise integrity or damage credibility, it does note more strongly that when these conflicts can't be avoided, it is imperative that journalists make every effort to be transparent about their actions.
Asked which specific incidents prompted the change, Smith pointed to two major ethical failures that emerged in late 2013.
In October 2013, 60 Minutes aired a since-retracted segment promoting a book written by Dylan Davies, a supposed eyewitness to the 2012 Benghazi attacks whose accounts were later discredited. In its initial segment, CBS failed to disclose that Davies' book was published by Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions, which is owned by CBS Corporation.
"Once they found out [a CBS company] was publishing, wouldn't it make sense there were some internal pressures on Lara Logan to rush that vetting?" Smith said. "I think the book deal is what forced that interview on to TV before it was ready. They could interview him and promote the book."
Smith also cited CNN failing to disclose Crossfire co-host Newt Gingrich's financial contributions -- through his PAC -- to various politicians he had discussed or interviewed on-air. CNN actually changed its ethics policy to make clear that Gingrich's actions were not violations.
"That's problematic, right?" Smith said about CNN. "Don't you believe the audience deserves a full accountability of someone who has benefited financially or contributed their work to a particular candidate?"
Newt Gingrich is accusing President Obama of cowardice for delaying planned executive action on immigration reform, the same proposed executive action Gingrich previously deemed "unconstitutional" and indicative of a "Venezuelan-style-anything-I-want-is-legal-presidency."
On September 6, the White House confirmed that President Obama will delay taking executive action on immigration reform until after the 2014 midterm elections. First discussed this summer, the executive order will reportedly provide temporary relief for millions of law-abiding undocumented immigrants.
Crossfire host Newt Gingrich blasted Obama's decision to delay on CNN's State of the Union the next day. According to Gingrich, the president is "cowardly" for delaying the executive action, compared to his previously "decisive" rhetoric on an immigration order (emphasis added):
GINGRICH: First of all, I think he was pretty honest today in saying, in an interview, that the flood of children coming in this summer changed all the equations and all the emotions. It suddenly became much harder to do something. And in the red states where he has Democrats who are in trouble in the Senate, virtually all of them were saying, 'please, don't do this.' But I think there's a bigger narrative here.
This is one more example of Obama being incapable of figuring out how to do whatever he promises he's going to do. And you go to Ukraine, you go to Iraq, you go to Estonia this week, you go to all sorts of things and you get the Maureen Dowd kind of columns, that are so scathing that it's a little bit hard to believe she'd write it about a Democrat. This is just going to pile on more because his language in the summer was so decisive, and his behavior now is so cowardly, that the gap between those two is just astonishing.
Yet Gingrich previously charged that this same executive action -- which Obama is now "cowardly" for not taking -- amounted to an "unconstitutional executive order."
On the August 3 edition of State of the Union, Gingrich claimed that "the president, I suspect, is preparing an unconstitutional executive order ... that legalizes five million people." When another panelist accused him of "overstating, again, the extent to which the president is operating outside the boundaries of the constitution," Gingrich replied, "You're kidding."
Gingrich has repeatedly urged Republicans to make Obama's pending executive action on immigration a top campaign issue, portraying it as a "fiat" and "Venezuelan-style" overreach of executive power. On Meet The Press on August 10, he advised:
GINGRICH: If [Obama] comes in around Labor Day with some grand scheme by executive order, the right thing for the Republicans to do is pass a bill saying it's wrong in the House, taunt the Senate Democrats who are up for reelection to get the bill through the Senate, and say to American people you want to stick with the Venezuelan-style-anything-I-want-is-legal-presidency, or do you want go back to the constitution, these are your two parties in November, and then in January the Republican Senate and Republican House just cuts off the money.
And appearing on The Laura Ingraham Show in May, Gingrich argued that Republicans' message in the 2014 election should be, "the President of the United states should allow millions and millions of people -- as many as he wants -- to come into the United States and to be legal residents by fiat of his pen, vote Democrat."
While Gingrich turns from attacking Obama as ruling "by fiat" to "cowardly" for delaying action, experts have confirmed the president has broad authority to issue such executive orders on immigration.
From the August 10 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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From the July 6 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
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From the May 12 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
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From the April 4 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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From the March 23 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
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MSNBC host Chris Hayes blasted the myth that expanding unconventional energy sources in the U.S. will weaken Russia, an "absurd" claim that has been perpetuated by conservative media to pin the security crisis in Ukraine on President Barack Obama.
Conservative media are manipulating the Ukraine crisis to push a "drill, baby, drill" agenda, claiming that approving the Keystone XL pipeline and expanding the use of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") will somehow weaken Russian President Vladimir Putin's influence in Ukraine. They are calling for expanding development of natural gas in the U.S. (including by the environmentally-contentious use of fracking) to ease the concern that Putin may cut off the natural gas supply to Ukraine and subsequently affect natural gas prices in Europe and around the globe.
Liquefying, exporting, and re-gassifying natural gas is more carbon intensive than domestically consuming it, and would likely drive up the price of natural gas in the U.S., so some oppose permitting further LNG export terminals -- at least until fugitive methane emissions are reigned in. Despite concerns, the Obama administration has permitted several LNG export terminals and is expected to permit more. Republicans and the oil and gas industry complain that it's still not fast enough. However, as LNG is very expensive, reports have suggested that even if they were approved, many LNG export terminals probably won't even be used, or at least not for years -- far too late to address the Ukraine crisis. MSNBC's Chris Hayes and his guest Dan Dicker, CEO of wealth management group MercBloc, explained on the March 5 edition of All In with Chris Hayes:
DICKER: The Russians do have a major control, major influence, on most of eastern Europe through natural gas. But we have to distinguish between natural gas -- which is a gas -- and crude oil which is a liquid. If you want to move a liquid from one place to another, you put in the a dixie cup and you can move it any way you like. Natural gas has two ways of being transported, one is through pipelines. Now, the United States can do nothing in terms of creating a pipeline to all of these eastern European nations.
The only other way you can get it across, and what they're talking about is permitting, is through what we call LNG, which is liquid natural gas. It needs to be cooled, natural gas, to be transported as LNG needs to be cooled to a minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit then put in very, very carefully into very select containers that you can now transport overseas. This costs a lot of money. This is why permitting -- you could permit all of the natural gas export plants you want, there are very few energy companies who are going to undertake building these things, they cost $2 billion to convert an import plant into an export plant.
CNN co-host and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is calling for Secretary of State John Kerry's resignation for comparing climate change to a "weapon of mass destruction." However, media coverage of Gingrich's call has largely left out that Gingrich once agreed with Kerry on climate change, even standing with him on stage touting Kerry's book, in which he called climate change the "single largest threat" to mankind.
On February 18, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Kerry discussed climate change as a national security threat, saying "in a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction." Gingrich responded in a misspelled tweet, calling for Kerry's resignation:
The Huffington Post claimed in an article on his tweets, that "Gingrich has repeatedly dismissed the dangers of man-made climate change." But that article, like similar ones in The Washington Post, The Hill, and conservative media, failed to mention that less than a decade ago, Gingrich was sitting with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on a couch, agreeing we should act on climate change.
Subscribers to CNN host Newt Gingrich's email list are receiving supposed insider information about cancer "cures," the Illuminati, "Obama's 'Secret Mistress,'" a "weird" Social Security "trick," and Fort Knox being "empty."
Gingrich Productions, the company run by the Crossfire co-host, has been sending sponsored emails from shady sources filled with dubious claims. CNN has been helping Gingrich build his list by not only employing him, but also by promoting Gingrich Productions and its website.
While Gingrich's team has previously claimed that they work hard to "vet" the organizations they rent the email list to, they have repeatedly violated their own apparently low standards.
For example, Gingrich Productions has sent at least 15 sponsored emails for Stansberry & Associates since June 2013. Stansberry is a disgraced financial firm that was fined $1.5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for engaging in "deliberate fraud" and profiting from "false statements." The firm sells financial products by pushing conspiracies about the Obama administration. Founder Porter Stansberry recently said it's "fucking bullshit" that people get upset at him for using slurs like "nigger" and "fag" when he's "not the least bit bigoted."
Gingrich's team previously claimed to distance the former speaker from Stansberry after questions surfaced about a sponsored email suggesting Obama would win a third term. ABC News reported in November 2012 that "according to Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, Stansberry & Associates should have been on the blacklist. 'We do not rent to the entity in question,' Hammond said, speaking by phone Thursday. 'In fact, we go to lengths to vet where we rent.'"
Gingrich is part of a movement where, as MSNBC's Chris Hayes noted, "much of conservatism is a con and the base are the marks." Fox News contributor Scott Brown was recently forced to distance himself from Newsmax after he sent a sponsored email for the group touting the findings of quack Dr. Russell Blaylock. The New Republic's Ben Adler wrote in a piece about Gingrich and fellow hucksters Herman Cain and Mike Huckabee that they "are pioneering a new, more direct method for post-campaign buckraking. All it requires is some digitally savvy accomplices--and a total immunity to shame."
Gingrich's list is primarily managed by TMA Direct. A data card on TMA's site indicates that the list contains over 400,000 emails and costs $8,000 per order. The company is headed by Mike Murray, who is also the founder and president of Gingrich's American Legacy PAC. Perhaps it's no surprise then that American Legacy has advertised on Gingrich Productions' list, and disbursed thousands of dollars to TMA.
Gingrich offers a testimonial for TMA on its website, stating: "Mike Murray and the TMA Direct team are irreplaceable strategic partners in our online and offline marketing. They bring insight and expertise that enables us to expand our communication reach and meet our business goals."
Fox News contributor Ben Carson has joined CNN host Newt Gingrich's American Legacy PAC to fundraise for efforts opposing the Affordable Care Act. Despite purporting to support conservative campaigns, Gingrich's PAC has given less than 3 percent of total contributions to candidates in 2013, according to records filed today.
Carson announced in a January 27 email through American Legacy that "my friends at American Legacy PAC are launching an important new project called Save our Healthcare - and I will be serving as Chairman. .... It is our goal to recruit every American that believes we can do better than Obamacare, and make sure that our message is received loud and clear by every elected official and candidate in 2014."
Carson's email contains a donation button and also promotes a petition at the PAC's website. Signing the "petition" means giving the PAC your email address for future updates. The site then redirects to a donation page promising to send "a new generation of leaders to Washington" with "your help":
Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that they are charging conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza with violating campaign finance laws. D'Souza has been a mainstay in the conservative media for years, and his outlandish theories have received heavy promotion from outlets like Fox News and prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh.
Reuters reports that D'Souza "has been indicted by a federal grand jury for arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," allegedly reimbursing "people who he had directed to contribute $20,000" to the unnamed candidate.
D'Souza made waves during the 2012 presidential election thanks to 2016: Obama's America, a shoddy "documentary" he made smearing the president as "anti-American." Though the movie was filled with nonsensical theories and inaccuracies, it became a surprise box office success thanks in no small part to hype by conservative media outlets.
Fox News and Fox Business repeatedly went to bat for D'Souza's movie, hosting him at least five times in the run-up to its wide release. (To give a sample of the tone of the segments, Lou Dobbs told his audience, "We've got a much better fate awaiting us if we just will simply awaken to what Dinesh is revealing in the wonderful movie, '2016,' August 10.")
In 2010, D'Souza was at the center of a firestorm for penning an article for Forbes magazine arguing that President Obama is animated by an "anticolonial" worldview imprinted on him by his father. In keeping with his usual scholarship, D'Souza's anticolonial theory was utter nonsense, but was nonetheless widely championed by major conservatives, including then-Fox contributor and soon-to-be presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, then-Fox host Glenn Beck (repeatedly), and Rush Limbaugh.
Though he has seemingly kept a somewhat lower profile recently, D'Souza is -- or at least was -- reportedly working on a sequel to Obama's America to release this year.
While it remains to be seen how D'Souza's conservative media allies will handle his indictment, Matt Drudge is already getting the conspiracy theory ball rolling, claiming the charges are evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder is "unleashing the dogs" on Obama critics.
CNN lived up to its reputation of providing false balance on climate science once again on the latest edition of Crossfire.
On January 6, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and presidential candidate and current co-host of Crossfire, opened the segment by introducing guests "on opposite sides of the global warming debate." He claimed to present some "inconvenient facts" to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on manmade global warming, stating that "temperatures have flat lined for the past 16 years," (which is not true) and asking "Is it cold enough for you?" By contrast, Van Jones began by saying, "we should not be debating whether global warming is real, whether it's caused by humans," because scientific certainty on the matter is at the "same level of agreement that you got that HIV causes AIDS."
Recent cold weather nationwide apparently spurred the debate; earlier in the day, Crossfire's Twitter account tweeted, "TONIGHT's #Crossfire:historic lows bring out the climate change skeptics." They are right about the skeptics -- cold winter weather has prompted the right wing media to resume their tradition of "snow-trolling" in force, with some even suggesting that the planet has entered a period of global cooling.
But cold winter weather is not expected to go away with climate change and does not negate the long-term trend of global warming. And it is misleading to look at the United States' weather alone when talking about global warming -- for example, this past December tied for being the second-hottest December on record since 1979 globally, even while it was unusually cold in the United States. Additionally, the polar vortex responsible for dangerous Arctic-style weather across the Midwest could be connected to global warming.
As for Crossfire's "debate," the segment only demonstrated CNN's tendency to provide false balance on climate change. The show featured League of Conservation Voter's Navin Nayak and the Heritage Foundation's David Kreutzer. Kreutzer, an economist who has no scientific degree and who previously believed that global cooling defined this century's first decade, claimed that "what you call deniers agree" that "the world is getting warmer" and "some of that warming is due to man, maybe a significant amount." But that didn't stop him from debasing the scientific consensus throughout the "debate" -- calling the 97 percent consensus a "bogus term."
Right-wing media figures have rushed to defend President Ronald Reagan's record on apartheid and South Africa in the wake of Nelson Mandela's death.
Reagan's record came under increased attention following the death of the former South African president and anti-apartheid activist. In an interview with Salon, Whitman College historian David Schmitz discussed Reagan's policy toward South Africa, which included opposition to Mandela's party, the African National Congress, labelling Mandela and the ANC as "terrorists," and vetoing sanctions against the pro-apartheid government that ruled South Africa at the time:
What about U.S. policy toward the opposition groups like the ANC and Nelson Mandela?
They called the ANC terrorists. It was just continuing this notion that the ANC members are the extremists and the South African government has these moderates, and you're going to end up with one extreme against the other if you don't work with the government. Clearly, it never worked. This was a flawed policy.
Would you argue that Reagan's foreign policy extended the life of the regime in South Africa?
Yes. It gave it life. It gave it hope that the United States would continue to stick with it. It gave it continued flow of aid as well as ideological support. It delayed the changes that were going to come. Then you had the big crackdowns in '86 and '87. So there was harm in the lengthening. There was harm in the violence that continued.
Despite his history, right-wing media figures defended Reagan's history after Mandela's death. CNN host Newt Gingrich claimed that Mandela's death was "being used inappropriately" by critics of Reagan:
CNN's Jake Tapper issued a correction for a segment that misleadingly took comments by Vice President Joe Biden out of context. Tapper's decision to correct the record is commendable, but has yet to be imitated by Newt Gingrich, who first brought the bogus story to the network.
On December 3, Biden visited the Toyko headquarters of the Japanese company DeNA. According to the Wall Street Journal, that firm "is known for encouraging its female employees to continue working through motherhood," and Biden was there to "meet with its female employees to chat about achieving a work-life balance in a country where 60% of women don't return to work after giving birth." As part of that dialogue, Biden asked a group of five young female employees, "Do your husbands like you working full time?" Illustrating the vulnerability of journalists working in the current media environment, numerous media outlets ripped Biden's comments from their context and presented them as a sexist gaffe.
That dishonest framing reached CNN the same day, when Crossfire's Gingrich tried to use them to diffuse criticism of the GOP's toxic rhetoric on women. He commented: "Democrats like to complain about a Republican war on women. That was before Vice President Joe Biden started his current tour of Japan. Today, while touring a Japanese game company, he walked up to a group of women and asked them, 'Do your husbands like you working full-time?'" Gingrich used Biden's comments to ask, "How do you explain Biden's inability to stay in touch with reality?"
The next day on his CNN program, Tapper played the same clip to illustrate the media's propensity to highlight the Vice President's gaffes and asked if Republicans are right to say there is a double standard about sexist comments.
Tapper issued a full correction on the December 6 edition of his show, apologizing for doing the vice president and the viewer "the exact same ill service" of focusing on Biden's gaffes without "providing the proper context":