The "EXCLUSIVE" report from Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller this morning is that Glenn Beck, the one-time host of a popular Fox News program, poached content from right-wing bloggers without attribution. Those bloggers -- Andrew Breitbart, Pamela Geller, and assorted F-listers -- have just realized how angry this makes them now that Glenn Beck has been canceled and will thus no longer be a megaphone for their unhinged ranting "citizen journalism." Pam Geller, who is quite mad, says of Beck: "I like his work, but he's a thief."
As Salon's Alex Pareene notes, stealing content from people on the internet is essentially the cable news business model, so the revelation that Beck did it isn't exactly groundbreaking. Also, the fact that Beck's "researchers" were just trolling the fever swamp wasn't really a secret. And while I certainly don't begrudge Geller et. al. for kicking Beck while he's down, there's more to this than simple opportunism. This is all part of an ongoing sad/hilarious right-wing media feud. Breitbart and the Daily Caller are on one side, doing their best to get as much attention as they can; Beck is on the other, doing everything he can to halt the decline of his audience and influence.
It wasn't always like this. Beck's breakout story on Fox News was courtesy of Andrew Breitbart and his protégé, James O'Keefe. Back in September 2009, Beck worked with Breitbart to promote O'Keefe's now-infamous ACORN videos, teasing the tapes the night before their release as an "exclusive" that will "change a lot for those in power." Beck said Breitbart was one of "the great journalists of our time" and leaned on him for several of his stories.
Then Breitbart and O'Keefe suffered a string of embarrassing failures. Breitbart released the edited Shirley Sherrod tape and demolished what little credibility he still enjoyed. O'Keefe was arrested inside a senator's office and tried to lure a CNN reporter onto a boat full of sex toys. At the same time, Beck was suffering his own implosion. Between 2010 and 2011, hundreds of thousands of viewers fled Beck's Fox News show -- as did hundreds of advertisers who refused to run ads on Beck's show. Meanwhile, his radio program was being dropped from several major markets due to low ratings and "unacceptable" content. So, coming into 2011, Breitbart, Beck, and O'Keefe were all working towards the same end -- getting people to pay attention to them like they once had.
Right-wing media reacted to news that Democrat-backed JoAnne Kloppenburg emerged from Wisconsin's Supreme Court election with a small lead by predictably bringing up baseless allegations of voter fraud. The right-wing media regularly uses voter fraud to respond to elections where a Democrat wins or is winning, especially following a close race.
On March 31, The Daily Caller reported that Donald Trump -- whose birther claims have been recently hyped by Fox -- appeared on Laura Ingraham's radio show and suggested that Bill Ayers wrote President Obama's memoir, Dreams from My Father.
From The Daily Caller article:
Donald Trump appeared on the Laura Ingraham Show Wednesday morning, discussing the controversy he has generated in recent days over his comments regarding President Barack Obama's birth certificate.
The billionaire also suggested that Bill Ayers, not Obama was the real author of the 1995 memoir "Dreams of My Father."
Trump cited a noticeable difference in the writing quality between "Dreams of My Father" and Obama's 2006 policy-centered book,"The Audacity of Hope," which Trump said "was written by a guy that's like a sophomore in high school."
"They say 'Dreams of My Father' was genius and they give him full credit, and now it's coming out that Bill Ayers wrote it...that's what started him on this road where he became president," Trump said.
Trump is likely making a reference to a video of a speech Ayers made on March 24, in which he claims to be the real author. However, the former Weather Underground member appeared to be joking.
Well. That was quick.
Sarah Palin, on March 23:
PALIN: Of course. Women are held to a different standard in all areas. My point is going to be, so what. Let's work harder, produce more and better, and get over it. I'm through whining about a liberal press that holds conservative women to a different standard because it doesn't do any good to whine about it.
Sarah Palin, on March 30:
Goodness, cleaning up the sloppiness of reporters could be a full time job. In response to The Daily Caller's online inquiry, I gave them a statement that the writer buried on his story's second page (which most people won't even notice - I didn't even notice it) after he spent the first page completely spinning a situation to give the impression that Alaska's film production tax credit legislation was somehow solely my idea hatched up to benefit the Palins years before I was ever involved in a documentary series on TLC/Discovery Channel.
One final thought: having to set the record straight on my Facebook page yet again is further proof that the media can't be trusted even to print a statement in a manner that people can read.
Granted, the Daily Caller probably doesn't fit Palin's -- or anyone's -- definition of the "liberal press," but she broadened her complaint to include "reporters" and "the media" in general.
Guess she just couldn't help herself.
As a Senate subcommittee is poised to begin a hearing on Muslim civil rights, several right-wing media outlets are attacking Farhana Khera, a witness at the hearing and the executive director of the Muslim legal advocacy group Muslim Advocates, for urging American Muslims to have an attorney present when speaking to law enforcement. But this is standard advice given by many legal rights advocacy groups, including the American Bar Association and the Naval Legal Service Office.
The right-wing media is grasping for coherence in its attempts to portray military action in Libya as "Obama's Iraq."
I have to hand it to the Daily Caller: They provide great stenography. If you're a right-winger and you want your claims credulously repeated, they're the ones to talk to -- especially if you want your partisan leanings disguised.
In the latest example, Tucker Carlson's vanity project devoted nearly 1,300 words to a hit piece attacking Loretta King, a career lawyer at the Department of Justice. The article is based on quotes from five conservatives who Daily Caller reporter Caroline May says are "wondering whether her guide is the law or racial politics." Incredibly, May carefully hides the right-wing backgrounds of all of those critics.
While May interviewed three right-wing King critics for the piece and quoted from statements by two other right-wing critics, she gives no indication that she attempted to find any King defenders. Instead, she provides comments from DOJ spokespersons that deal with specific issues with which King was involved, and reports that "King declined to comment to the DC" (it's not particularly surprising that a mid-level DOJ staffer refused to comment on the record for a right-wing publication's hit piece).
It's also worth pointing out that the Caller piece opens with a glaring error on a basic fact. The article is titled "Critics contend Assistant Attorney General Loretta King motivated more by racial politics than the law." May reports in the article's first sentence that King is "a little-known assistant attorney general." But King isn't an assistant attorney general; she's one of several deputy assistant attorneys general who report to Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights. She served for a time as acting assistant attorney general back in 2009, but that tenure ended in October of that year when Perez was sworn in.
It's telling that the Caller feels the need to fib about King's position in order to justify their article. I'd say this effort is embarrassing, but we're talking about the Daily Caller here.
When right-wing journalist Tucker Carlson launched The Daily Caller along with a former aide to Dick Cheney and a multimillion dollar bankroll from a big-time GOP donor, Carlson insisted that the Caller would not be a right-wing site. That's always been one of the most hilarious of Carlson's many absurd claims, as today's announcement that the Caller has hired Ginni Thomas reminds us:
Long-time Washington policy leader Ginni Thomas, the founder of the group Liberty Central, has agreed to join The Daily Caller.
As The Daily Caller's special correspondent, Thomas will interview key political and community leaders -- from high-profile politicians to grassroots activists -- with a focus on listening to those outside the Beltway.
Thomas draws on a wide range of experiences. She's worked in the public sector, the private sector, and the non-profit sector. Before founding Liberty Central, Thomas opened Hillsdale College's Washington office and was with The Heritage Foundation for nearly 10 years as a director of government relations and senior fellow. Prior to that, she worked for years as a high-level Congressional aide.
The Caller's announcement didn't make this clear, but Liberty Central is a tea party group, and Thomas' experience as a "high-level Congressional aide" was on the Republican side of the aisle. Oh, and her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was recently caught failing to disclose nearly $700,000 in income Ginni Thomas received from the right-wing Heritage Foundation. I guess those are the kinds of things you leave out if you want to pretend you aren't a right-wing website while hiring a longtime right-wing activist as a "correspondent."
The taunt came from Daily Caller blogger Jim Treacher back on March 8, when the NPR sing story first broke and the Daily Caller staff was feeling good about sponsoring Jame's O'Keefe latest video attack.
Here's the item in full. Try not to laugh out loud knowing what happened when people did examine the two hours of raw O'Keefe videos [emphasis added]:
In the unlikely event that you haven't seen James O'Keefe's latest sting yet, here it is:
P.S. NPR responds: "We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for." Good luck with that one!
P.P.S. In deference to the "edited video!" screechers, they've put up the entire two-hour conversation here. Have fun, Media Matters senior fellows!
The real punch line? Since March 8, Treacher hasn't had the guts, honesty, or whatever to concede that the NPR videos were debunked by none other than a Glenn Beck website.
Well, actually Matthew Boyle is a staffer on the Daily Caller's editorial team. But in dealing with James O'Keefe over the last two weeks and helping the conservative activist roll out his undercover NPR videos, Boyle has acted much more like a publicist than a journalist.
Meaning, Boyle has dutifully, and excitedly, transcribed whatever hand-fed claims O'Keefe has been making about his sting videos and about NPR. More telling though, was the fact that when the NPR story began to crumble, and when troubling questions were raised about O'Keefe's unethical editing (questions raised by a conservative site, no less), Boyle and the Daily Caller temporarily pulled the plug on the O'Keefe story. But that was just the beginning of Boyle's woes.
After publishing nearly two dozen cheerleading NPR-related items last week (most of them penned by Boyle), the Daily Caller suddenly dropped O'Keefe's NPR story when gaping holes began to appear. The Daily Caller and Boyle refused to acknowledge what everyone else in the press and politics who followed the story was talking about: O'Keefe's NPR story had been torpedoed by Glenn Beck's site, The Blaze.
Boyle, who seemed to enjoy access to O'Keefe during the roll-out of last week's NPR sting, suddenly appeared to have no interest in interviewing O'Keefe about the video discrepancies. Instead, Boyle and the Daily Caller hunkered down in damage control mode and opted to play massively dumb about the unraveling of the right-wing sting.
And that's why I'd suggest Boyle acted more like a publicist and less like a reporter on this story. He rode the O'Keefe crest early last week and pushed out all kinds of items and updates. Until, that is, the story collapsed. Then Boyle decided to look away and refused to do any independent reporting. The NPR controversy took an unexpected turn late last week at which point Boyle and the Daily Caller simply refused to the follow the story's turn because it wasn't the story the Daily Caller wanted to tell.
That's all bad enough. But then Boyle made things worse.
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle has been spearheading that publication's exclusive coverage of James O'Keefe's series of NPR videos, and he's back again this morning with a stenographic write-up of the latest O'Keefe offering.
Under the headline: "New O'Keefe tape shows George Soros has donated to NPR before last year," Boyle writes:
In conservative James O'Keefe's Project Veritas's third major National Public Radio (NPR) sting tape release, Betsy Liley, the taxpayer-funded radio network's director of institutional giving is heard saying controversial left-wing billionaire George Soros has donated to the organization before last October's $1.8 million gift.
Shocking, right? Well, no -- NPR has publicized their Soros and Open Society funding, including it in press releases going back to 2000. This is easily obtained, publicly available information, and it completely undermines what O'Keefe claims is the big reveal of his video. It's the sort of information that a journalist -- or, at least, someone pretending to be a journalist -- would research before accepting O'Keefe's allegations at face value. It's clear that neither Boyle nor his editors took the time to fact-check O'Keefe's allegations. Or maybe they did and just didn't care.
The Daily Caller should update and correct Boyle's story, and then perhaps take a refresher course on basic due diligence.
Right-wing media figures are demagoguing an Obama Administration initiative to combat bullying and harassment, likening it to "big brother" and "Facebook stalking" of students. In fact, the initiative is an effort to assist schools and parents in preventing and dealing with bullying and harassment, which is estimated to affect as many as 13 million students each year.
Last week, Media Matters documented problems with James O'Keefe's video of NPR fundraising executives and pointed out that the "sting" does nothing to undermine NPR's actual news reporting, which even conservatives acknowledge is fair.
Now, we have uncovered new evidence raising questions about whether quotes O'Keefe attributed to an NPR employee are accurate.
O'Keefe's video (and much of the subsequent news reporting) portrayed former NPR employee Ron Schiller as blasting the Tea Parties as xenophobic. Here's how O'Keefe presents Schiller's statement:
Last week Tucker Carslon's Daily Caller played the role of obsequious media host as it helped roll out James O'Keefe's undercover sting on NPR fundraisers. Reading the Daily Caller's cheerleading coverage, most of it written by Matthew Boyle, you were led to believe the right-wing activist had nailed the NPR execs dead-to-rights.(Biased!)
Now, serious questions about the tactics used in the editing of the tapes, and the overall validity of the sting, have arisen. Yet Carlson's Daily Caller has suddenly gone quiet about the sting it essentially co-sponsored last week. Last week, Carlson's magazine published nearly two dozen breathless articles and blog posts about O'Keefe's undercover gotcha. But to date it hasn't written one piece addressing the mounting complaints about the ethical shortcuts O'Keefe took.
Not only hasn't the Daily Caller acknowledging the troubling questions being asked about the sting, but it has refused to explain to readers whether it knew about the editing discrepancies before it published its rah-rah O'Keefe coverage.
What's worth noting is that in the past, O'Keefe often used Andrew Breitbart's sites to launch his right-wing stings. This time though, he teamed up, again, with Carlson and the Daily Caller. The irony is that Carlson is now learning the lesson Breitbart learned the hard way: Hype O'Keefe's dubious work at your own peril.
And yes, Breitbart's sites last week also could not stop writing about O'Keefe's mighty NPR sting. But when it became clear O'Keefe opted for dubious and dishonest editing tactics yet again, Breitbart's team of bloggers -- like the staff at Daily Caller -- decided to play dumb. None of them have acknowledged the brewing O'Keefe controversy.
Behold "conservative journalism."
James O'Keefe III has a funny definition of the word "explosive." Earlier today, he promised over Twitter a "new explosive tape" from his "sting" on National Public Radio. But if you actually watch the video he was referring to, you get the sense that this was less of an explosion than a fizzle. Sure, O'Keefe and the rest of the right-wing attack machine are trying to play it up by claiming it proves NPR was up to something deeply sinister -- the only problem for them is that the video doesn't show that at all.
Here's what it does show: a 40-minute phone conversation between Betsy Liley, NPR's senior director of institutional giving, and O'Keefe croney Simon Templar, here pretending to be "Ibraham Kasaam" of the phony Muslim Education Action Center. The video identifies the MEAC as a "Muslim Brotherhood front group," but there's nothing in the video to give that indication.
Over the course of the call, Liley requests a written letter from the MEAC with more details about the donation and suggests that NPR's legal team and the MEAC hammer out a gift agreement. She also gently prods "Kasaam" to reveal more information about the MEAC's history and legal structure, requests a 990 form, and notes, unprompted, that "At Perdue, we've turned down some significant gifts."
The takeaway was that the discussion over a donation was in the preliminary stages at best, and NPR had not committed to accepting MEAC's offer. There is no evidence in the tape to suggest that NPR ever planned on accepting the gift -- much less that they were going to "hide it from the government" as the Daily Caller blithely suggests. When "Kasaam" asks if "NPR would be able to shield us from a government audit," Liley's response is: "I think that is the case, especially if you are anonymous, and I will inquire about that."
By the way, NPR has released a statement. Politico reported:
NPR released a statement condemning Liley's statements in the video.
"The statement made by Betsy Liley in the audio tapes released today regarding the possibility of making an anonymous gift that would remain invisible to tax authorities is factually inaccurate and not reflective of NPR's gift practices. All donations - anonymous and named - are fully reported to the IRS. NPR complies with all financial, tax and disclosure regulations."
Liley, who was caught on the initial videotape laughing at the suggestion that NPR was sometimes called National Palestinian Radio, was placed on administrative leave with Ron Schiller on Tuesday afternoon.
"Through unequivocal words and actions, NPR has renounced and condemned the secretly recorded statements of Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley. Mr. Schiller is no longer with NPR and Ms. Liley has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation of the matter," the NPR statement continued.
"No stronger statement of disavowal and disapproval is possible. NPR will not be deterred from its news mission and will ultimately be judged by the millions and millions of listeners and readers who have come to rely on us every day."
Expect this to get a lot of play in the hysterical, cyclonic right-wing scandal factory. Big Government's Larry O'Connor, displaying either deep incredulity or a stunning ignorance of American history, has already gone so far as to label this "NPR's Watergate Moment." Others have followed and will follow. Even if there is no money to follow.
UPDATE: NPR has released a series of emails making clear that they were unwilling to accept any MEAC donations without more information about the organization, and that NPR would be required to disclose any such donations to the IRS. Here is one such email:
From: Joyce Slocum
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2011 11:00 AM
Cc: Vivian Schiller; Betsy Liley; 'email@example.com'
Subject: Contributing to NPR
Dear Mr. Kasaam,
We are very grateful for the kind consideration being given by the Muslim Education Action Center to a generous gift to NPR. I'm sure you will understand that we need to verify certain information with respect to any organization that proposes to make a significant gift to NPR. In the case of an organization that holds itself out as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, contributions to which are tax deductible, we need in particular to satisfy ourselves that the organization is in compliance with the applicable requirements of the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), so as to ensure against any risk of being caught up in later compliance activity. In most instances, we're able to verify this information without troubling the donor organization, by using publicly accessible information. Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate the necessary information about the Muslim Education Action Center, and so we need to ask that you provide it.
The Muslim Education Action Center does not appear in IRS Publication 78, which lists all organizations which have received a 501(c)(3) determination letter from the IRS, and whose status as a tax exempt organization has not been suspended or revoked. (Only churches are exempt from the requirement of obtaining an IRS determination letter, though even many churches voluntarily do so.) Since the Muslim Education Action Center does not appear in Publication 78, we need to ask for a copy of the IRS determination letter as to its 501(c)(3) status.
Also, most tax exempt organizations are required to file an annual form 990 in order to maintain their tax exempt status. Failure to file for three consecutive years results in an automatic revocation of tax exempt status. Again, because such organizations are required to make their three most recently filed annual 990 returns and all related supporting documents available for public inspection, we are usually able to obtain copies of these from the organization's own website, or if not there, from GuideStar or the Foundation Center. We have been unable to locate the 990's for the Muslim Education Action Center through any of these sources, so need to ask that you also provide those for our review.
I would very much appreciate receiving the requested items at your earliest convenience, so that I might review them and provide appropriate guidance to my client.Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions or I may otherwise be of assistance.
Joyce D. Slocum