Yesterday, ABC News released excerpts from Barbara Walters' interview with President Obama and the First Lady, scheduled to air on tonight's 20/20. Several news outlets have focused on President Obama's comments about the "laziness in me," featuring headlines that lack needed context.
Politico headlined their story "Obama: I have some Hawaii laziness," while the Daily Caller went with "Obama: "There's a laziness in me," and National Journal selected "Obama Blames Hawaii For His 'Deep Down' Laziness."
All of these headlines would likely give readers the impression that Obama was saying that he tends to avoid doing work, which would fit neatly into a common conservative attack on Obama. But the full context of the interview shows that Obama was actually saying just the opposite. Obama told Walters: "It's interesting, there is a -- deep down, underneath all the work I do, I think there's a laziness in me." [Emphasis added.] He later added: "when I'm mad at myself, it's because I'm saying to myself, you know what, you could be doing better; push harder. And when I -- nothing frustrates me more than when people aren't doing their jobs."
While some reports on the Walters interview have included parts of this key context, the headlines generally have not.
From the full transcript of the interview, obtained from the White House [emphasis added]:
Q Okay. What's the trait you most deplore in yourself and the trait you most deplore in others?
THE PRESIDENT: Laziness.
Q You've lazy?
THE PRESIDENT: It's interesting, there is a -- deep down, underneath all the work I do, I think there's a laziness in me. I mean, probably --
MRS. OBAMA: If you had your choice --
THE PRESIDENT: It's probably from growing up in Hawaii, and it's sunny outside, and sitting on the beach --
Q Sounds good to me.
PRESIDENT: Right. But when I'm mad at myself, it's because I'm saying to myself, you know what, you could be doing better; push harder. And when I -- nothing frustrates me more than when people aren't doing their jobs. Although -- sorry, I shouldn't provide two answers. The thing actually that I most dislike is cruelty. I can't stand cruel people. And if I see people doing something mean to somebody else just to make themselves feel important, it really gets me mad. But in myself, since I tend not to be a mean person, if I get lazy, then I get mad at myself.
The portion of the interview released by ABC News does not include this part of Obama's statement: "But when I'm mad at myself, it's because I'm saying to myself, you know what, you could be doing better; push harder. And when I -- nothing frustrates me more than when people aren't doing their jobs."
Politico's Ben Smith is calling this the "next anti-Obama talking point," while Mediaite's Jon Bershad says, "If you're a fan of right wing media ... you're probably going to be seeing that clip about 5,000,000 times in the next week." Which is all the more reason why responsible journalists should be emphasizing what Obama actually said rather than writing sensationalist, misleading headlines.
Charlie Savage's New York Times profile of Attorney General Eric Holder and how he has become a "lightning rod" for partisan criticism must have seemed like an early Christmas present to The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle: It lets him accuse The New York Times of bias and attack Holder in one fell swoop.
It was clearly so exciting that he didn't bother to put together even a minimal arrangement of facts before suggesting the Times should issue a retraction.
Boyle suggests that Savage inaccurately reported that neither testimony nor documents have contradicted Holder's statements that he didn't know about the controversial 'gunwalking' tactic used in Operation Fast and Furious. In fact, just as Savage reported, there has not been any documents or testimony that suggest Holder knew about those tactics.
"Mr. Holder has denounced the tactics used in the operation, known as 'gunwalking,' but said he did not know about them or sanction their use," Savage wrote. "No documents or testimony have shown otherwise, but Republicans have pummeled him at oversight hearings and in news media appearances."
Savage made these statements without attribution.
Despite those assertions, Holder's office was provided with multiple briefings and memos about Operation Fast and Furious by top Justice Department officials. The memos contained intimate details of how Holder's DOJ allowed guns to walk.
The claim is specific: neither documents or testimony have shown that Holder himself knew about gunwalking tactics.
Tucker Carlson's content farm is upset at President Obama for praising the troops at Fort Bragg. I don't even know where to start:
President Barack Obama poured one compliment after another onto an audience of soldiers Dec. 14, and even came close to endorsing the Iraq campaign that he has denigrated since 2002.
"You are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries -- from the colonists who overthrew an empire, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you -- men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar, and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11," Obama declared at Fort Bragg, the North Carolina base of the U.S. 82nd paratroop division.
If that wasn't enough, Obama also told the soldiers that "unlike the old empires, we don't make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it's right."
Media coverage of the event downplayed the extent of Obama's scripted praise for the experienced soldiers. Neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times, for example, included the statements quoted above.
The flattering message was a remarkable 180 degree turn from his earlier description of soldiers as victims dependent on social-welfare and medical services offered by the Democratic coalition.
The article continues in this vein, dinging Obama for his "unfamiliar praise for the soldiers' professional accomplishments." How was it "unfamiliar" for Obama? No explanation is given, though I'm sure it doesn't extend far beyond "he's a Democrat so he hates the troops." They also take issue with Obama's invocation of the G.I. Bill and other government programs designed to assist soldiers and their families, saying that the president cast "the military merely as a welfare case." That's an insane interpretation that could only be arrived at via willful misunderstanding.
They even managed to shoehorn in a teleprompter reference.
And that's what gets me about the Daily Caller. They clearly relish taking potshots at the Democratic president and have no discernible threshold for pettiness or illogic, and they get themselves into trouble through this reflexive urge to attack Obama which frequently and amusingly ends up backfiring. They obviously can't control it, which explains why they conceive, craft, edit, and publish ludicrous articles attacking the president for praising the military while having the temerity to be a Democrat.
The Daily Caller features today an op-ed by former senator Don Nickles in which the Oklahoma Republican throws what weight he has behind two controversial anti-digital piracy bills before Congress, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP.
According to Nickles, the two bills will bring about a new age of glorious online free enterprise, and the critics of the legislation (who object to the potential for abuse and online censorship) are liars who enable criminal behavior:
While there are differences in the two bills, the ultimate goal is the same: to protect the American workers and businesses whose jobs are in jeopardy.
Critics of the legislation have fired a fusillade of inaccurate accusations charging that the bills will undermine Internet freedom. Protecting free expression online and protecting intellectual property rights are not mutually exclusive goals and suggesting they are is a false choice.
Freedom of speech has coexisted with intellectual property protection since our nation's beginnings. Our founders in fact respected the principle of intellectual property protection so much they included it in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. And founders from John Adams to George Washington wrote and commented on the integrally linked concepts of freedom, liberty and property rights. Theft of intellectual property is not protected speech any more than breaking into someone's home.
So Don Nickles supports SOPA and PROTECT-IP. What neither he nor the Daily Caller disclose is that Nickles supports them because he's paid a lot of money to support them.
Nickles' lobbying firm -- the Nickles Group -- lobbied in support of PROTECT-IP (S.968) on behalf of the Copyright Alliance, which has paid the Nickles Group $135,000 this year. It's likely that the Nickles Group is also lobbying for SOPA (the bill was introduced in October and fourth-quarter disclosures won't be made public until the new year).
The Daily Caller should make clear to their readers Nickles' financial incentives for promoting these two bills.
This morning, the right-wing Daily Caller announced the launch of a new website section called Guns and Gear. According to their press release, "The section will include everything from the latest news about armed citizens defending themselves and their property, to coverage of Second Amendment policies and politics, to reviews of the latest guns and gear."
Publisher Neil Patel is quoted in the release saying that "The millions of Americans who own and are interested in guns are currently without the sort of daily news coverage that is allotted to most other American interests." But if the section's current content is any guide, the Caller has decided that the best way to provide this "daily news coverage" is to republish articles and press releases directly from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Take a look:
The top of the web page currently features one op-ed from top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox; links to three previous Cox columns; a reposted November NRA press release highlighting "Twelve Big Wins for Gun Owners"; and a gun review from the NRA publication Shooting Illustrated. Oh, and two ads for the NRA; apparently purported news outlets can make money republishing content from interest groups.
Further down the section, readers find additional republished NRA press releases, more Cox op-eds, more NRA web ads, and reposted articles from NRA publications American Rifleman, Shooting Illustrated, and American Rifleman. There are currently only seven pieces of content on the section's front page labeled as coming from The Daily Caller. Of those, three are articles that were originally published at Human Events and three are sets of links to gun manufacturers, state gun clubs, and gun owner manuals. The last is an article headlined "The War on Christmas."
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the Caller has apparently decided to rely on the gun lobby for its "daily news coverage" of gun issues. The press release lists Mike Piccione as the section's editor, with editor in chief Tucker Carlson stating, "Mike Piccione knows more about firearms and self-defense than anyone in journalism. We're grateful to have him editing this new section." According to his Human Events bio, where he worked as editor of the newsletter Guns & Patriots, Piccione is "a NRA Marketing Manager."
For most publications, this kind of ethical cesspool would lead to apologies, internal debates about standards, and some soul-searching. At the Caller, it's just another Wednesday.
Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff expressed regret for paying columnists on multiple occasions to write articles favorable to his clients.
During a recent interview with Media Matters while promoting his new book, Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist (WND Books 2011), Abramoff said in the past he would find columnists who agreed with his positions and pay them to "place" articles in newspapers.
"Normally what that means in a lobbying context is that you have a friendly writer who is somebody that the major papers are willing to publish and you get them to focus on your issue and write a piece about it," Abramoff said in a phone interview, later adding, "It just happened when it had to happen. When it did, we would find somebody who agreed with us, a writer, and we'd usually pay them to do it, but they would be in charge of getting it placed. And that probably still goes on. I can't imagine it doesn't go on."
Abramoff said he paid for columns on maybe a half-dozen occasions in several major newspapers. He also said the newspapers themselves were likely unaware of the financial arrangement.
He said the media "was a tool in lobbying, and that's the way lobbyists view the media. That you try as best you can to keep them out of your hair, use them where you can to spin your issue, and otherwise keep them at a distance."
Abramoff also stressed that the writers paid to push his agenda were always columnists or op-ed writers, never reporters:
"I'd find a writer who was sympathetic to the issue, I wouldn't approach a writer who disagreed with me or was neutral. I'd find somebody who was passionate about this and we'd try to get them focused on it, get them some money if they needed money or they wanted to be paid for it," Abramoff explained. "A lot of these writers write for pay, they write columns and get paid by their papers. ... So we would pay them, and their job would be to get the article placed. Rather simple. It didn't always work, by the way. They weren't always able to get them placed. But generally they could."
Asked if he ever tried to pay a news reporter to write something sympathetic, he said, "Nah. Most of the time we stayed away from reporters. Lobbyists don't like to hang out with reporters, at least lobbyists who are prudent."
Abramoff confirmed two specific monetary relationships involving writers Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara, who were quoted in a 2005 BusinessWeek story as having been paid by Abramoff.
We've long chronicled the right-wing media's problem with undertaking basic research before trying to smear progressives. Nonetheless, this one was a doozy.
Last week, we debunked the claim from three conservative bloggers that President Obama repeatedly met with a Department of Justice official "keenly aware" of the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious at "the height" of the operation. In fact, no evidence has been presented showing that the official was aware at the time of the controversial details of the program, and in any case, the meetings in question were actually White House visits to attend major events related to a visit by the Mexican President and the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
As we pointed out, hundreds to thousands of people attended these supposed meetings, making it extremely unlikely that the DOJ official was using them to secretly brief the President. And as we noted, this information was easily available through the same White House Visitors Office records that the right-wing bloggers were using to drum up their conspiracy.
Yesterday, the Daily Caller attempted to identify just where those bloggers went wrong:
But on the dates in question, the logs specifically referred to formal arrivals and receptions related to a State Dinner for Mexican president Felipe Calderón. It's unclear whether the three writers noticed this feature of the visitor logs, since the spreadsheets' columns related to the purpose for the visits is hidden from view and only become visible when readers scroll a considerable distance to one side.
That's how pathetic even the Caller acknowledges the right-wing blogosphere must be: they are either too incompetent to "scroll a considerable distance to one side" in order to confirm their conspiracies before they run with them or they're simply uninterested in the truth.
For their part, the Caller was also apparently unable to pull off the scrolling trick on their own. Instead, after reading the claims of right-wing bloggers, they contacted the White House directly, who pointed them to our post. It remains to be seen whether the Caller has learned not to take such sources seriously in the future.
Tucker Carlson's news website The Daily Caller is clinging to a dubious study to push the discredited claim that women who have had abortions are at greater risk for developing breast cancer. Public health experts have long maintained that no such link exists.
The Daily Caller's headline: "Holder blames Americans for gun-running"
The Daily Caller's lede:
Attorney General Eric Holder scolded The Daily Caller's reporting on the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal shortly after government officials and reporters heard him admonish Americans for funding gun-runners.
What Holder actually said, as reported by the Daily Caller:
Holder appeared Tuesday at a White House event to showcase a new media campaign that is intended to stigmatize the selling and buying of knock-off videos and counterfeit fashion products.
Holder recorded one critical radio ad, which is titled "You can help." The clip was played to the audience in the White House auditorium.
"This is Attorney General Eric Holder. We are working hard to protect our communities by reducing gang violence and organized crime and there is an important and simple way that you can help. Some street gangs and organized crime groups are selling counterfeit products, such as fake watches, DVDs and purses, as an easy way to make money. And they use that money to fund other crimes, like trafficking in drugs and guns."
"When you buy knock-offs on the street or online, although it may not be obvious, you could be supporting gangs, putting money in their pockets and helping them to engage in other illegal activities that put our communities at risk," said Holder in the radio ad.
So an alternate, accurate headline would have been: "Holder asks Americans to help prevent gun-running." But that doesn't make the attorney general look bad. And it doesn't conform to the Daily Caller's editorial policy of manufacturing controversies over Eric Holder and Fast and Furious.
Attorney General Eric Holder apparently struck a nerve yesterday when he accurately called out the Daily Caller for effectively creating a movement of congressional Republicans seeking his resignation. Both editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson and reporter Matthew Boyle have since done damage control with extremely friendly media outlets, claiming that they are acting legitimately and attacking Holder for his criticism.
Boyle has led the website's reporters in a month-long effort to find Republicans willing to take a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation, with the stated rationale being the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious. The campaign has led to nearly two dozen articles featuring calls for Holder's resignation from 51 low-level members of Congress, Republican presidential candidates, Sarah Palin, and congressional challengers, among others.
Carlson stopped by Fox & Friends' curvy couch this morning, accusing Holder of being "Nixonian" and saying that "we are not in control of the legislative branch." When co-host Gretchen Carlson asked the Daily Caller editor whether he thought Holder "had that reaction to your reporter because it hasn't been covered as much by the mainstream media," he noted that "our reporter Matt Boyle has written a number of stories on this," but never acknowledged the character of that reporting.
Boyle sounded similar notes in an appearance on NRA Radio (the NRA has called for Holder's resignation). He told host Cam Edwards: "To assume that we're 'behind' the calls for his resignation, I don't know how he can think that. All I'm doing is calling up congressmen and senators and asking them, and then whatever their answer is I print it."
He went on to say that "if he thinks that I have the ability to control what they say and what they don't say, that's unbelievable," adding, "I'd love to know what other conspiracy theories the attorney general can come up with about the media."
Boyle, demonstrating his trademark inability to stick to facts, went on to falsely accuse Holder of previously attacking a Daily Caller article:
Anonymous hackers recently released another batch of emails taken from a climate research group at the University of East Anglia in 2009, along with a document containing numbered excerpts of purportedly incriminating material. Many of these selections have been cropped in a way that completely distorts their meaning, but they were nonetheless repeated by conservative media outlets who believe climate change is a "hoax" and a "conspiracy."
The Daily Caller's attempt to pass out pitchforks to GOP members of Congress and send them after Attorney General Eric Holder has now been called out by the target himself.
TPM's Ryan J. Reilly reports:
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday told a reporter with the conservative news website The Daily Caller that the news organization was ginning up calls for him to resign over ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious.
The reporter approached Holder after an event at the White House on the federal government's efforts to combat counterfeit goods.
"You guys need to... you guys need to stop this," TPM heard Holder tell the reporter. "There's not an organic* thing happening, you guys are behind this."
Holder was referencing Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's month-long quest to find relatively low-ranking Republican members of Congress interested in taking a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation. The putative rationale for these calls is the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious; new evidence has been revealed indicating that Holder know about the controversial tactics used in that operation.
You may remember Boyle from his public humiliation over a ludicrously false September report that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to hire "230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new climate change regulations." Boyle's colleagues were reportedly embarrassed by the decision by DC executive editor David Martosko -- who has a long record in conservative political advocacy but none in journalism -- to stand behind Boyle's reporting.
At most publications, a misstep of this magnitude would have consequences. But at the Caller, it's more of a feature than a bug. And so Boyle has apparently spent much of the last month calling around to Republican politicians and asking them whether they think Holder should resign. That's creating a story, not reporting one.
Despite the best efforts of the right-wing media, Barack Obama's connections -- real and imagined -- to Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers weren't quite enough to poison the electorate against Obama in 2008. In fact, even with brief mainstream media flare-ups and Sean Hannity's twice-daily Ayers-Wright harangues, not many people seemed to care at all when it came time to vote.
Now that we're on the precipice of 2012, Ayers and Wright are being dragged out onto the stage again, presumably in the hope that the guilt-by-association campaign that failed in 2008 will, three years later, finally catch on and bring Obama down.
And this might even be understandable were there new information to report on Obama, Ayers, and Wright. But there isn't. So the old storylines are getting a hasty spit-shine for the new election season.
"Exclusive," announces The Daily Caller this morning, as they report on "video obtained exclusively by The Daily Caller" that "shows Illinois Senator Barack Obama, then campaigning for Democrats before the 2006 midterm elections, praising Reverend Jeremiah Wright and telling an audience that he 'stole' the title of his book 'The Audacity of Hope' from Wright's sermon of the same name, which he 'loved.' Obama also referred to Wright as 'my pastor.' "
The video does indeed show Obama saying all those things, but the Daily Caller actually got scooped on this one. By Obama himself.
The Daily Caller is attempting to rehabilitate Alabama following the considerable backlash the state has received from passing the country's toughest and most controversial immigration law. In trying to manufacture positive press for Alabama, however, the Caller resorted to manufacturing truth.
In an article pointing to just-released government numbers that show a drop in Alabama's unemployment rate, the Daily Caller suggested the lower rate is attributable to the immigration law. It argued -- with support from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies -- that the data showed that previously unemployed Americans in Alabama are scooping up the jobs left behind by undocumented immigrants who have since deserted the state:
September was the first full month that the reform was in force, and the unemployment rate fell from 9.8 percent in September to 9.3 percent in October, according to a Nov. 18 report from the state government.
The rates fell from 9.9 percent to 9 percent in Etowah County, from 8.8 percent to 8.1 percent in Marshall county, and from 11.6 percent to 10.6 percent in DeKalb county.
"The latest fall in unemployment numbers is proof that American citizens will work, and continues to solidify [the evidence] that self-deportation [by illegal immigrants] due to the Alabama Taxpayer & Citizen's Protection Act is occurring," said Chuck Ellis, a city council member in Albertville -- the main town in Marshall County, northern Alabama.
The article went on to quote Steven Camerota from CIS, a purported "research" firm that is part of the nativist and anti-immigrant network created by controversial activist John Tanton. But all CIS is known for is distorting the realities of immigration. From the article:
"The fact is that those who want illegal immigrants to leave have sound reasons for doing that, and one is to free up some jobs at the bottom end of the labor market," said Steven Camarota, direct of research at the Center for Immigration Studies. The center's motto is "low immigration, pro immigrant."
"It is only one month of data, so we have to be careful, but it is a reminder of what the state legislature is trying to do," he said.
In a Daily Caller post, climate change skeptic Anthony Watts used familiar tactics to downplay human-induced climate change: He focused on national rather than global temperature data; he looked at a short time period rather than the long-term trend; and he portrayed routine data adjustments as deceptive doctoring by government agencies.