Politico has been in the hot seat in recent months for, as MSNBC's Chris Matthews put it earlier this week, serving as a "hot line" for Dick Cheney, saying, "[h]e uses you like you'd use Drudge or somebody."
The pressure has been so intense that Politico editor John Harris was forced to offer up a lame defense of his publication's stenography services for the former Vice President.
All is not lost however. One Politico employee wants us to know that he hasn't been pulling any punches when it comes to Bush's former number two. In fact, so seemingly upset by the spat of negative attention hovering around the beltway rag, this enterprising soul sent an email to Romenesko to straighten things out once and for all. Did I mention he's the cartoonist?
I kid you not.
The email from Matt Wuerker to Romenesko follows:
I couldn't help but have my fragile cartoonist ego hurt by the building beef out there about the Cheney coverage by Politico.
As part of the slowly shrinking tribe of editorial cartoonists, it's hard not to be a little thin skinned these days, so it pains me to have to point out myself that at least in my little corner of Politico (which runs off our home page) I don't think Cheney's getting a free ride. The bloggers that are all howling about how we're so clearly in the tank for Cheney seem to not read down toward the bottom of our homepage.
To bolster my case I'm attaching three examples from just this past year. I have many more going further back. I know that my little cartoon corner doesn't have nearly the reach that Mike Allen does, but still, even ink-stained wretches hate to be completely overlooked.
It was reported this morning by paidContent.org that Politico is estimated to be a $20 million operation. The dollar figure is all the more interesting when you consider this post from Think Progress today:
Reporting on criticisms of right-leaning pollster Scott Rasmussen, Politico presented as fact his official bio as "an independent pollster" who "has never been a campaign pollster or consultant." The article quotes Rasmussen's critics, but fails to question his supposed independence.
According to the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity, Rasmussen has been a paid consultant for the RNC and President Bush's 2004 campaign. The RNC paid Rasmussen $95,500 between 2003 and 2004 for items listed as "survey," "survey cost" and "voter data." Bush's campaign paid Rasmussen $45,500 for "survey research."
You'd think with that kind of dough on hand they could afford to hire a few more fact-checkers.
Earlier today Markos Moulitsas did us all the favor of providing a glimpse into Politico's next effort to win the mid-morning-after-breakfast-but-not-quite-brunch hour, relating an exchange he had with Politico's Daniel Libit as the reporter fished for a "buyer's remorse" storyline highlighting the similarities between President Obama's agenda now and then-candidate Hillary Clinton's platform during the Democratic primaries. Markos' response to Libit's inquiry is worth reprinting in its entirety:
My god, what a stupid premise.
Indeed. Kos rightly pointed out that reporting on "similarities" between the agendas of two mainstream Democrats is hardly big news. What's more, Libit is late to this particular party. This exact story was written seven months ago, appearing in the pages of -- you guessed it -- the Politico. The fact that this story is resurfacing at all is a testament to how much the political press love to flog the Obama-versus-Clinton meme, even though it hasn't shown any signs of life for some time now. The Democratic primaries ended over a year and a half ago, Obama won the election over a year ago, Clinton joined his Cabinet eleven months ago, and there's been nary of whiff of discord between the two since. And yet, here's the Politico taking another swing at it.
Were there any bad blood between Democrats, the "buyer's remorse" that Politico believes is out there, a good place to look for it would be in opinion polls. If Democrats really are souring on Obama, then you'd think the president's approval rating among Democrats would have taken a sizeable hit. That doesn't appear to be the case -- Obama's approval among Dems is holding strong in the 80s.
Of course, that's no reason why Politico still won't run with the article. Just look at the Drudge-baiting dreck they've served up in the past two weeks alone: an article on how Obama says "unprecedented" too much; John Harris' round-up of right-wing smears repackaged as the "seven storylines Obama needs to worry about;" and an article giving space to Senate Republicans complaining that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is too partisan.
That's what they consider news. Their goal is to produce articles like these.
My god, what a stupid premise.
This morning, Politico published a story, the premise of which appears to be that Republican senators are mad at Al Franken for having proposed an amendment - which passed two months ago - banning federal contracts from being awarded to companies who require their employees to use their firms arbitration process - rather than the courts - for workplace discrimination claims. Why was this article published? I have no idea.
A Franken press release sent out after the amendment passed stated that Franken had been "inspired" to offer the amendment by the story of Jamie Leigh Jones, "a 19-yr-old employee of defense contractor KBR (formerly a Halliburton subsidiary) stationed in Iraq who was gang raped by her co-workers and imprisoned in a shipping container when she tried to report the crime" who subsequently "learned a fine-print clause in her KBR contract banned her from taking her case to court, instead forcing her into an "arbitration" process that would be run by KBR itself."
According to the Politico article, the amendment has - horror of horrors! - "spawned attacks like the satirical website RepublicansforRape.org." And so, the Republican senators in the article are complaining that Franken has been excessively partisan, demanding that he come out and say that opponents of his amendment are not effectively pro-rape, and claiming that until that happens, Franken's ability to work with Republicans in the future will be undermined.
Why has the Politico decided to let Republicans like John Cornyn - the head of the Republican National Senate Committee, i.e., the chief Republican partisan in the Senate - decide what constitutes excessive partisanship? No idea.
Does the Politico think it's somewhat unusual for Senators to be criticized for the votes they cast, and respond by complaining? Sure looks like it.
Why is the article running now, two months after Franken's amendment passed? Dunno.
But I'm sure it has nothing to do with this blog post, in which a different Politico reporter complains that Franken won't talk to him in the halls.
Remember how the media flipped out when Rep. Alan Grayson said the GOP's health care plan was: "Don't get sick, and if you do get you do get sick, die quickly"? NBC Nightly News covered it, with anchor Brian Williams calling the comment "incendiary" and noting that Republicans wanted him to apologize. Politico's Roger Simon said Grayson is "like a guy on crack who is always searching for a bigger high."
CNN's Howard Kurtz claimed Grayson benefitted from a "media double standard" -- that Grayson's comment drew less criticism than GOP Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's address to congress.
Well, if Kurtz is right about media double standards, there should be a huge media firestorm over Republican Sen. Tom Coburn's statement yesterday that under the Democratic health care plan, seniors will "die sooner." Seems pretty unlikely to me, but we'll see.
From Kenneth P. Vogel's 738-word November 20 Politico article:
Glenn Beck, the controversial Fox News television host, is planning on becoming more active in the populist conservative movement he spawned, according to sources familiar with his thinking.
At a rally Saturday at a massive retirement community in Central Florida, Beck is planning to unveil what he has billed as a "big plan" for 2010, which is expected to involve the 9.12 Project, the group he started earlier this year and named for the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when he says the nation was unified.
"Coming this January, my whole approach changes on this program," he hinted cryptically on his Wednesday show. "This next year is going to be critical, and I think it's going to change and I think we are going to set it right, at least set our course right. And if that means the Democrats or the Republicans are destroyed along the way, well, good. Good."
Beck's Saturday rally, which is set for 3 p.m., is timed to coincide with the kickoff of a tour promoting his new book, "Arguing with Idiots."
Washington Post reporter Michael Shear explains his paper's wall-to-wall coverage of Sarah Palin's new book:
Why do we spend so much time on Palin? And is it too much? Perhaps. There's a danger that we are overdoing it -- four stories in today's paper may have reached that point. On the other hand, there seems to be an insatiable demand from our audience -- liberals and conservatives -- and at the end of the day we have to, and should, respond to that.
Really? There's an "insatiable demand" from Washington Post readers for coverage of Sarah Palin's book? How does the Post know this? The book just came out -- has the paper's switchboard been flooded with demands that for all-Going-Rogue, all the time? Are Post editors getting angry emails insisting that three articles in one day's paper just won't do -- a fourth is absolutely necessary, though still not sufficient?
I doubt that very much.
I don't mean to single Shear out here. You see this kind of thing all the time -- reporters justifying something they can't justify on the merits by asserting public demand they can't (or won't) quantify.
Like when Howard Kurtz defended obsessive cable news coverage of a balloon that was not carrying a little boy by writing "The ratings, forgive me, must have soared." Must have? Well ... Did they? Or when Politico's Mike Allen asserted that "Fox executives are relishing" their recent fight with the White House because "ratings at Fox are through the roof" -- without actually providing the ratings to back up that claim. As Eric Boehlert has explained in detail, Fox's ratings spike is a myth.
It's bad enough when journalists suggest that the news media should simply report what the public to see. That isn't journalism -- and if we go too far down that road, it won't be long before NBC Nightly News consists of nothing more than cat videos and B-list celebrity sex tapes. But it's even more frustrating when they make decisions about what to cover based on baseless assumptions about what the public wants.
For years, local news producers have led their stations in a race to the bottom, driven by the prevailing belief that "eyeball grabbers" and "soft news" are the only hope for local news in an era of declining TV audiences.
But a 2004 study* argues that they might want to rethink their approach. In "The Local News Story: Is Quality a Choice?" political science professors Todd L. Belt and Marion Just conclude that sensationalistic news does not lead to sensational ratings.
Belt, assistant professor at the University of Hawai'i, Hilo, and Just, a professor at Wellesley College and the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, argue that the prevailing worldview in the nation's newsrooms has it all backward: Good, solid journalism, not tawdry, tabloid-style content, keeps viewers tuned to their TVs.
What Belt and Just found certainly goes against industry conventional wisdom.
"The data show quality journalism produces commercial success," they write. Newscasts that posted high scores on the quality index nabbed higher ratings than their mediocre counterparts. The finding held true for both the early and late evening news time slots. It also held for lead stories, suggesting that the old TV news mantra - "If it bleeds, it leads" - might be in need of revision.
Although local news viewership as a whole fell during the period covered by the study - 1998 to 2002 - the data nonetheless show that those stations that produced high-quality newscasts did better in hanging on to their audience.
BUCHANAN: When I went into New Hampshire, I went down to a basement store, and they said "Get rid of the Florsheim shoes and the blue suits and the red ties. We're gonna go get you what we call North Country Clothes: brand-new sweaters that look very old and all that stuff." You saw me up there, Andrea.
MITCHELL: I know, you were authentic, Pat.
Old sweaters are not more "authentic" than Florsheim shoes and blue suits. Nor are they less "authentic." They're both just clothes. Yet Andrea Mitchell thinks that Pat Buchanan wandering into a New Hampshire store and, on the advise of some unspecified "they," discarding his typical outfit in favor of new sweaters that are designed to look old was a mark of authenticity.
(It goes without saying that if Al Gore told precisely the same story Buchanan told, he would not be praised as having been "authentic.")
And just a few minutes ago, Politico's Andy Barr was on MSNBC, talking about the AP fact-checking Sarah Palin's new book:
This fight with the AP she's got going on is kind of funny ... It seems like they really took that slam from her personally, and in that fact-check they're really maliciously going after her, kind of point by point.
"Maliciously"? This is the state of modern political journalism: When a news organization fact-checks false claims by prominent Republicans, a reporter calls it "malicious."
Me? I'd call it "journalism."
Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports (emphasis added):
The New York Post editor fired after speaking out against a cartoon depicting the author of the president's stimulus package as a dead chimpanzee has sued the paper. And as part of her complaint, Sandra Guzman levels some remarkable, embarrassing, and potentially damaging allegations.
Guzman has filed a complaint against News Corporation, the New York Post and the paper's editor in chief Col Allan in the Southern District Court of New York, alleging harassment as well as "unlawful employment practices and retaliation."
As part of the 38-page complaint, Guzman paints the Post newsroom as a male-dominated frat house and Allan in particular as sexist, offensive and domineering. Guzman alleges that she and others were routinely subjugated to misogynistic behavior. She says that hiring practices at the paper -- as well as her firing -- were driven by racial prejudices rather than merit.
And she recounts the paper's D.C. bureau chief stating that the publication's goal was to "destroy [President] Barack Obama."
The most outrageous charges, however, involve Allan. According to the complaint:
"On one occasion when Ms. Guzman and three female employees of the Post were sharing drinks at an after-work function. Defendant Allan approached the group of women, pulled out his blackberry and asked them 'What do you think of this?' On his blackberry was a picture of a naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis. When Ms. Guzman and the other female employees expressed their shock and disgust at being made to view the picture, Defendant Allan just smirked... [N]o investigation was ever conducted and the Company failed to take any steps to address her complaints."
Guzman's complaint goes on:
"On another occasion, upon information and belief, Defendant Allan approached a female employee during a party at the Post, rubbed his penis up against her and made sexually suggestive comments about her body, including her breasts, causing that female employee to feel extremely uncomfortable and fearing to be alone with him."
And finally: "... [W]hile serving as the top editor at the Post, Defendant Allan took two Australian political leaders to the strip club Scores in Manhattan..."
Guzman alleges that while at the paper, misogynistic and racist behavior was directed at her specifically. According to the complaint, she was called "sexy" and "beautiful" and referred to as "Cha Cha #1" by Les Goodstein, the senior vice president of NewsCorp. After doing an interview with Major League Baseball star Pedro Martinez, she says Allan asked her whether the pitcher "had been carrying a gun or a machete during the interview" -- a line Guzman said was racist and offensive.
When she would walk by certain offices at the paper, Guzman alleges, editors would routinely sing songs from West Side Story -- a nod to her Hispanic heritage -- including the tune: "I want to live in America."
Guzman also makes the following allegations to supplement her case that the Post harbored an environment that was offensive to women and minority employees.
"A White male senior editor sexually propositioned a young female Copy Assistant, telling her that 'If you give me a blowjob, I will give you a permanent reporter job.'"
"The last five employees who were recently terminated by Paul Carlucci, the Publisher of the Post.... Have all been black and/or women of color."
Read Stein's entire piece and the compliant in full here.
Politico's Ben Smith picks up an interesting angle to the story:
The New York Post and New York Daily News, for a time, complemented their fierce competition for circulation with bitter attacks on each other's staff and on their owners, Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman.
But Murdoch and Zuckerman, as has been reported, reached a truce of sorts, and they've been reported to be in sporadic talks about some sort of merger of -- at least -- the paper's back ends. And the clearest signal I've seen in a while of that rapprochement came this week, when a fired Post employee, Sandra Guzman, filed suit against the paper and its brawling Australian editor, Col Allan.
The Daily News offered a sanitized version of the story: "A New York Post editor sacked after complaining that a cartoon likened President Obama to a monkey sued the paper on Monday, claiming rampant racism and sexism in the newsroom," but detailed none of the actual allegations.
Conservative media outlets including The Washington Times and Fox News have pushed the claim that health care reform proposals under consideration by Congress are unconstitutional. However, legal scholars -- including one who recently served as a special counsel to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) during Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation proceedings -- have pointed out the flaws in conservatives' arguments, including the facts that regulation of the health care sector falls under Congress' broad power to regulate interstate commerce and that Congress has repeatedly passed laws regulating health care and health insurance.
Following the release of the House Democrats' health care reform bill, the leaders of the House Republican caucus repeatedly stressed the length and size of the bill during an October 29 press conference. Numerous media figures and outlets have followed in lockstep, with the Politico's Jonathan Allen asserting that the bill "comes out to about $2.24 million per word," and Sean Hannity claiming that "if you can't put this down in 30 pages or less, it proves that this is a complicated, you know, bunch of bureaucratic garbage."
Right-wing media have run with the Politico's Jonathan Allen misleading calculation that the House's recently announced health care reform legislation costs "about $2.24 million per word." In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 "would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $104 billion"; therefore, using Allen's formula, the bill would actually save $260,000 per word.
Politico is trying to make a scandal out of a "defaced flag" video submitted to an Organizing for America health care video contest. Why? Because someone who entered the contest is bitter about not being named a finalist. No, really: that's the whole story.
One of the 20 finalists in health care video contest run by Barack Obama's campaign arm features a mural of an America flag splattered with health care graffiti until it's covered completely by black paint.
In the video - which is accompanied by the sound of a heart monitor pumping and then flat-lining - words such as "pre-existing conditions," "homeless" and "death panel" ultimately obliterate the flag, which reappears on screen seconds later with the words "Health Will Bring Our Country Back to Life" on the blue field where the 50 stars usually are.
According to the Organizing for American Web site, the 20 finalists in the "Health Reform Video Challenge" were chosen by a panel of "qualified" Democratic National Committee "employee judges."
A contestant whose video didn't make the final-20 cut complains that a video "defacing the flag" won't do much to help President Barack Obama or the Democrats sell health care reform.
"They should never pick that," said the contestant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It makes the Democrats look really, really bad."
That's literally all it takes to get a Politico hit piece these days: an anonymous complaint from a contest loser. And a fairly tepid complaint, at that.
I'm not sure what's more pathetic -- that Politico published this obvious (and so far unsuccessful) bit of Drudge-bait, or that it took two people (Jonathan Allen and Daniel Libit) to write it.
But you have to wonder why Politico thought this nonsense was newsworthy after having ignored the blatantly racist photo hosted on the RNC's Facebook page.
UPDATE: Looks like -- in this case, at least -- Politico isn't too dumb for Drudge, after all; he finally gave this "story" a link.
Politico's Manu Raju and Glenn Thrush join the lengthy list of reporters who have quoted Joe Lieberman's stated reasons for opposing health care reform that includes a public option without noting that those reasons appear to be, as TNR's Jonathan Chait put it, "babbling nonsense."
Raju and Thrush quoted Lieberman arguing: "To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. ... I don't think we need it now."
But they didn't mention that, as Media Matters noted yesterday, "while Reid has yet to release details of the compromise Senate legislation, every other proposed bill with a public option so far has required the costs of the public plan to be covered by the premiums of those who enroll in it."
Later, the Politico reporters wrote that among Democrats "there is much lingering ill will over Lieberman's perceived lack of loyalty."
In the past three years, Lieberman has run against the Democratic nominee for his seat, endorsed the Republican presidential candidate, attacked Barack Obama during a speech at the Republican National Convention, and campaigned for Republican Senate candidates. When President Obama and the Senate Democratic caucus let him keep his committee chairmanship anyway, he repaid their kindness by announcing his intention to join Republicans in filibustering health care reform.
What does he have to do to get Politico to drop the "perceived"?
This Politico headline tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the article that follows: "Palin offers calm critique of Baucus bill." Politico's Andy Barr goes on to cut-and-paste from Palin's Facebook post about the Baucus health care bill, pausing occasionally to describe the post as "tough but wonky," tout her citation of an actual economist to "make her argument" and marvel that Palin's approach was "more tempered" than her "Death Panel" claims earlier this year.
Not mentioned: Whether Palin's "calm critique" is accurate and fair, or whether anyone disagrees with anything she wrote.
"He said/She said" journalism is bad enough. But this is worse: This is just "She said."