A member of The New York Times editorial board argued that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is "not a genuine attempt to get the facts behind a tragic incident in which four Americans, including the United States ambassador, lost their lives," but is "a partisanwitch hunt" targeting Hillary Clinton.
On September 29, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is running to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as the Speaker of the House, told Sean Hannity that one of the biggest accomplishments of the Republican House majority was creating the Benghazi Committee, which he credited with hurting Clinton's poll numbers. Hannity initially praised McCarthy and the committee for its "political" strategy, but has since walked back the complements amid backlash. Fox News had largely ignored McCarthy's damning comments, but Fox's Chris Wallace and Juan Williams acknowledged McCarthy "spoke the truth" and that damaging Clinton was "clearly one of the things that Republicans were hoping" would result from the committee.
On October 2, New York Times editorial board member Carol Giacomo attacked the "duplicity and political chicanery" of the committee, which has "shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack" despite "wasting $4.5 million and conducting one of the longest congressional probes in history." Giacomo concluded by calling on the Republican-led House to disband the committee and suggesting that its Democratic members should resign if they refuse to do so:
It has long appeared that the Republican obsession with investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya was not a genuine attempt to get the facts behind a tragic incident in which four Americans, including the United States ambassador, lost their lives but a partisan witch hunt targeting Hillary Rodham Clinton, the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Now there is proof of the duplicity and political chicanery behind the creation of the Select Committee on Benghazi. It was ham-handedly exposed by Representative Kevin McCarthy, who, in his quest to become the next speaker of the House, couldn't resist boasting about what he considers his party's major political accomplishment.
Now under heavy criticism for telling the truth and with his bid for speaker at risk, Mr. McCarthy is trying to walk back his remarks, but it won't work.
Despite wasting $4.5 million and conducting one of the longest congressional probes in history, the committee has shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack. It would be surprising if it did. Several other congressional committees and a panel of outside experts commissioned by the State Department have investigated the attack and the government's response. They concluded that the tragedy was preventable and condemned "systemic failures" at senior levels of the State Department. But none found evidence that Mrs. Clinton, then secretary of state, was specifically to blame or produced any other bombshell to support some wild Republican conspiracy theories. Those earlier probes didn't keep the Republicans from exploiting the issue for political gain by establishing the special committee, whose focus has segued from Benghazi to the fact that as secretary Mrs. Clinton used a private email account. To hear Democratic lawmakers tell it, the Republicans have thoroughly perverted any semblance of a fair process by calling and interviewing witnesses without bothering to include the committee's minority members.
The committee should be disbanded and if the Republican leadership refuses to do that, then the panel's Democratic members should resign. Manipulating government funds for political purposes in this way may well violate congressional ethics rules, as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has suggested. There is little reason to expect that Republicans, united in defeating Mrs. Clinton at all costs, care enough to do anything about it.
A Media Matters analysis of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal found that The Post dedicated extensive coverage to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's boast that the House Select Committee on Benghazi was part of a partisan strategy that damaged Hillary Clinton's presidential chances. The Post featured 17 online or print articles or blog posts that mentioned or covered McCarthy's comments. The Times mentioned or covered the comments in five online or print articles or blog posts, and The Journal neglected to offer any print coverage, but had five online articles and blog posts that mentioned or offered coverage.
From the September 30 edition of WCPT's The Wayne Besen Show:
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The New York Times' Ross Douthat defended GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's widely-discredited statements regarding footage she claims was in the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress' deceptively-edited videos, citing a Florida Planned Parenthood lobbyist's halting testimony about the unlikely event of a live birth during a failed abortion. Douthat did not mention that Planned Parenthood of Florida issued a statement after the hearing that clarified the fact that illegal "born alive" cases are "extremely unlikely and highly unusual" and eliminated any doubt as to whether its clinics would provide life-saving care in that hypothetical scenario.
Numerous media outlets have covered GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush's new fossil fuel-friendly energy plan without mentioning his extensive ties to the industry. Both Bush's campaign and his super PAC have received significant donations from oil and gas interests, Bush met secretly with coal industry executives in June, and he recently appointed fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt to oversee his campaign policy agenda.
After Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced his plan for encouraging companies to provide paid family leave, several media outlets promptly pointed out that the proposal "wouldn't do much" to increase access to paid family leave and "may only help the well-off," not "low-wage workers who need it most to survive financially."
Scott Walker's early exit from the presidential primary has led some media outlets to conclude that super PACs may not be having as big an effect on the 2016 campaign as it was once thought they would. However, it's far too early to judge super PACs' influence because many of these outside groups have not yet begun to spend the tens of millions of dollars they've already raised in preparation for the fight ahead.
In the case of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the media has largely focused on how his Unintimidated PAC appears to have failed, pointing out that while deep-pocketed outside groups can provide a boost in advertising, they cannot legally help with some of the most basic functions needed to keep a campaign functioning. As the New York Times reported, "Super PACs, Mr. Walker learned, cannot pay rent, phone bills, salaries, airfares or ballot access fees." Political reporters pointed out that even the Walker PAC's success in raising over $20 million couldn't prevent its candidate's eventual withdrawal from the race.
While super PACs certainly have their limitations, it would be naive to take Scott Walker's or Rick Perry's withdrawal from the presidential race as a sign that PACs won't have a significant impact on the 2016 election.
Last spring, the billionaire Koch brothers named Scott Walker to their short list of candidates in line for their support -- an expected endorsement of sorts that confirmed the financial force analysts expected Walker to marshal in the primaries. The Kochs spent roughly $400 million on the 2012 election and plan to spend hundreds of millions more in support of their handpicked candidate in 2016.
Walker's Unitimidated PAC already had several major donors.* But it had yet to begin to flex its financial muscles when apparent campaign mismanagement brought down the governor's bid. A comparison of how much both Walker and Jeb Bush's PACs have raised versus how much they have spent so far, as illustrated by OpenSecrets.org below, indicates the tsunami of spending yet to come:
Predictably, and necessarily, super PAC spending spikes as Election Day approaches. For those candidates who can competently manage their campaigns through the heavy advertising season, their PAC's ability to raise and spend millions on air time will prove invaluable. While super PACs may not seem relevant this fall, if the past spending patterns by outside groups documented by The Washington Post below is any indication, next fall's super PAC spending will be obvious when political campaign advertising goes into overdrive.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly claimed that the Koch brothers had donated to Scott Walker's Unitimidated PAC. Media Matters regrets the error.
Conservative media cheered the news that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will resign from Congress in October, calling him a "failure," claiming he has "no one to blame but himself," and declaring that conservatives are crying "tears-- of joy!"
The New York Times editorial board called out the GOP's latest attempt to "play brinkmanship" with the federal budget, with some "even threatening to shut down the government" to wage their "political campaign against Planned Parenthood." The Times said that the campaign against the reproductive health organization is based on deceptive smear videos, and ultimately comes down to denying women "the healthcare they need" and obstructing the functioning of government.
The Times editorial board explained September 24 that the Republican campaign against Planned Parenthood was renewed after a series of deceptively-edited videos by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) were released. The videos showed "Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal-tissue donation, which is legal and critical for medical research," but Republicans have echoed right-wing media to claim "they are evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally profits by selling aborted fetuses and should therefore be stripped of federal money."
The editorial board also highlighted how the consequences of the "political campaign against Planned Parenthood," come down to "denying women, especially poor women, the health care they need," and "obstructing the budget process and the smooth functioning of government":
The latest phase of this campaign began in July with deceptive videos by anti-abortion activists. The videos showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal-tissue donation, which is legal and critical for medical research. Republicans say the videos are evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally profits by selling aborted fetuses and should therefore be stripped of federal money.
Congress is not the only venue for this campaign. On "Fox News Sunday," Carly Fiorina insisted that the anti-abortion video shows a kicking fetus being kept alive so its brain can be harvested, an image she also invoked in last week's debate. It shows no such thing. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said this week that Planned Parenthood, with President Obama's support, is engaged in the "systematic murder of children in the womb" in order to sell body parts.
Abortions are a small part of Planned Parenthood's services and tissue donation a very small part. No federal money is spent on abortions at Planned Parenthood; most of its services are for contraception, health screenings, pregnancy tests and prenatal care for low-income women.
The Republican obsession with the group seems to come to this: denying women, especially poor women, the health care they need; pandering for primary votes among Tea Party regulars; and obstructing the budget process and the smooth functioning of government. Quite a record.
Right-wing media have paved the way for a government shutdown by championing Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood despite a growing list of investigations that have found no wrongdoing by the health provider.
Washington Post opinion writer Erik Wemple criticized a New York Times review of Media Matters Chairman David Brock's latest book, Killing the Messenger, for largely omitting "the book's broadside against the New York Times."
Despite writing that the review was "well-reasoned," Wemple took issue with it for "gloss[ing] over Brock's colossal slam against the New York Times" (emphasis added):
[T]he review wrongly omits the book's broadside against the New York Times. Almost omits, we should say. "It doesn't even seem to matter to Brock if the criticism was made on Glenn Beck's show or in The New York Times; it's always 'sloppy' and 'innuendo-laden,' as Brock complained to The Times about an early article on the email scandal," writes Rosin.
Okay, but Brock's book actually draws a distinction between the sources of anti-Hillaryism. "I'm less concerned with the Glenn Becks of the world and more concerned with the Maureen Dowds -- less worried about some idiot with a talk show crossing the line and more worried about some widely-read columnist with a prominent position at a reputable outlet using it maliciously," writes Brock. And this: "It bothers me, of course, when I see Hillary's enemies parroting lies about her," he writes. "But it bothers me even more when I see her supporters falling prey to the doubts that conservatives are hoping to sow by filtering their attacks through dupes like the New York Times."
And that is among the milder of Brock's New York Times criticism. He writes that the newspaper will find a "special place in journalism hell" over its long history with both Hillary and former president Bill Clinton. Brock cycles through the editorials of Howell Raines, the columns of Dowd and, most nastily, the recent New York Times exclusives on Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server during her tenure as secretary of state and the subsequent bogus story -- later amended -- that she was the subject of criminal probe referrals over those e-mails. As Nate Silver pointed out in FiveThirtyEight, that "criminal story" kicked off a whole bunch of negative media attention that helps explain the candidate's late-summer "poll-deflating feedback loop."
A review in the Wall Street Journal or the Guardian or The Post or the Nation could plausibly gloss over Brock's colossal slam against the New York Times. But a review in the New York Times cannot plausibly gloss over Brock's colossal slam against the New York Times.
Wemple later updated his piece to include a statement from the New York Times:
* Update: From New York Times Book Review Editor Pamela Paul: "We generally give our reviewers free rein in terms of what to focus on in a book in their reviews, and, as you noted, Rosin did mention the criticism. Also, as I'm sure you've noticed, reviewers often use the opportunity to criticize the Times within a book review or to write about books that are critical of the Times!"
Media coverage of climate change may have a hand in making the public apathetic towards acting on climate, according to two recent studies. But one study also details how the media can improve.
A new study from the policy think tank Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that the media can breed cynicism about climate change when reporting emphasizes "the failures of climate politics." The study, titled "News Media and Climate Politics: Civic Engagement and Political Efficacy in a Climate of Reluctant Cynicism," concluded that such news stories can "intensif[y] feelings of political alienation, despair and cynicism."
The study's findings go hand in hand with another study by researchers at Rutgers University, which examined how four major U.S. newspapers frame their reporting on climate change. That study, published in Public Understanding of Science, found that The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today often include "negative efficacy" (framing climate change actions as unsuccessful or costly) as opposed to "positive efficacy" (framing climate actions as manageable or effective). The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times in particular framed climate action as ineffective more often than effective:
The Canadian study also found that consuming stories about political activism and individual actions -- "especially news that featured a local focus, a compelling narrative and an accessible 'everyday hero'" -- can have the opposite effect on readers. Study participants who read and discussed such stories reported "much greater enthusiasm and optimism for political engagement."
But according to the Rutgers study, these types of stories are rarely reported, at least at the national level. The study found that for non-opinion climate change articles in four major national newspapers from 2006 to 2011, just 9.7 percent discussed behavior change and just 13.6 percent discussed political advocacy.
Taken in tandem, the two studies paint a bleak picture of how mainstream newspapers' coverage of climate change can breed cynicism among its readership. Indeed, Lauren Feldman -- the lead author of the Rutgers study -- said to Media Matters that while the studies "can't establish a definitive causal relationship between media coverage and public cynicism toward climate," the two combined "are certainly suggestive of the role of mainstream media in breeding pessimism about climate change."
And Shane Gunster -- a co-author of the Canadian study -- agreed with Feldman, telling Media Matters that there is "a strong connection between both studies" and that they show how "decisions which news media make about how to frame climate change have a significant impact upon how or if the public engages with the issue." Gunster, a professor at Simon Fraser University's School of Communication, added:
The efficacy emphasis is especially important given how easily one can otherwise be overwhelmed by the magnitude of climate change as a problem. And if one thinks of journalism as playing a crucial role in facilitating public engagement with the critical issues of the day, a much greater focus upon how efficacy can be cultivated and strengthened is in keeping with that mandate.
But Gunster said that one of his study's goals was "to move beyond simply criticizing media for their failures and shortcomings," and identify "constructive suggestions about how journalists could approach this topic differently." These include, among other things: "[s]uccess stories about climate politics"; "stories of entrepreneurial activism and everyday heroism"; "localized information about the causes and consequences of climate change"; and "[i]nformation about how to engage politically."
Gunster summed up his study's findings to Media Matters as follows: "There is a strong desire for a different kind of news about climate change, which provides people with inspiring and compelling stories about how others just like them are becoming active and engaged in climate politics."
He also pointed to a previous paper he published in 2011, illustrating that such reporting exists, though it may not be not the norm. That paper, which examined media coverage of the United Nations' climate change conference in Copenhagen, found that alternative and independent media often frame climate change in ways that can promote political agency and efficacy, offering "a much more diverse and optimistic vision of climate politics as a place in which broad civic engagement on climate change can challenge and overcome institutional inertia as well as model democratic and participatory approaches to the development of climate policy." Gunster wrote that such stories "can affirm our sense of how effective news media could be in motivating broader civic engagement with climate change." From the report:
[I]t is equally important to explore existing media institutions and practices which are communicating about climate change in a more effective and engaged manner. Just as success stories about (some) governments getting climate politics right can invigorate our sense of political efficacy, success stories about (some) media getting climate politics right can affirm our sense of how effective news media could be in motivating broader civic engagement with climate change. Identifying best media practices can also sharpen the critique of mainstream media insofar as it provides concrete evidence that a more radical approach to environmental journalism is not simply idealistic speculation, but, rather, already being actively practiced.
Somewhere Al Gore is probably experiencing painful campaign flashbacks. Like if he heard NBC's Andrea Mitchell ask Hillary Clinton in a recent interview, "Does it hurt you when people say you are too lawyerly, you parse your words, you are not authentic, you're not connecting?"
Or when the Wall Street Journal published a piece suggesting so much of what Clinton does sounds "scripted and poll-tested." Or when Politico declared she's a White House hopeful "with an authenticity problem." Or when the Washington Post reported, "Her campaign has struggled to present her as authentic and relatable." Or when McClatchy Newspapers asked "Is Hillary Clinton Authentic Enough for Voters," and likened her to Richard Nixon.
"Authenticity" has clearly become the Beltway media's latest buzzword to describe what's supposedly wrong with Clinton's campaign, even as she continues to have a sizeable national lead over her Democratic competitors.
The answer: She's a phony.
Why is this all likely ringing in Gore's ears? Because the last White House campaign that the Beltway press openly waged war against (the way it's now openly waging war on the Clinton campaign) was Gore's 2000 push. The Beltway elites hated Gore and didn't try to hide it, just like so many journalists seem to openly despise Clinton today. ("Reporters liked Bush and didn't like Gore," observed Paul Krugman at the New York Times.)
In 2000, Gore was widely ridiculed in the press as the wooden, over-calculating, poll-driven phony who was running against the epitome of true authenticity: George W. Bush. Sure, Gore knew his stuff cold and Bush seemed wobbly on the facts, and forget that Bush's entire campaign turned out to be built around the staged-crafted prevarication known as "compassionate conservativism." The press loved the Bush image and couldn't stand the Gore persona -- The New York Times mocked him as "Eddie Haskell," the neighborhood brownnoser from Leave It To Beaver.
The press dutifully spent the entire campaign regurgitating the Republicans' playbook on Gore: he's a phony who can't be trusted. Fast-forward and the Republican playbook reads the same on Clinton: She's a phony who can't be trusted. So yes, the media's current authenticity chatter plays right into the GOP's hands. It perfectly coincides with conservative talking points about how to undermine the Democratic frontrunner.
But the authenticity math doesn't seem to add up.
In 2008, Clinton tallied 18 million votes during the Democratic primary season. Obviously, she lost to Barack Obama but how did she win a whopping 18 million votes if, according to the press, she can't connect with people due to her utter lack of authenticity? (Reminder: Clinton won her 2000 New York Senate race in a landslide.)
The recent "authenticity" wave began with a New York Times article that claimed "there will be new efforts to bring spontaneity to a candidacy that sometimes seems wooden and overly cautious." The piece came complete with the mocking headline, "Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say." (Punch line: Clinton's handlers have to instruct her be warm and funny?)
Commentators immediately mocked the Clinton camp. "You don't project [authenticity] by having your campaign tell the world you're going to project authenticity," Bloomberg News' John Heilemann said on Face the Nation. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank ridiculed Clinton aides as "moron[s]" and fired off this insult: "And now comes the latest of many warm-and-fuzzy makeovers -- perhaps the most transparent phoniness since Al Gore discovered earth tones."
I couldn't have scripted that Gore reference better myself. Convinced Clinton is a phony who isn't comfortable in her own skin, Milbank reminded readers that Gore was such a supposed phony that he started wearing "earth tones," a reference to a manufactured kerfuffle from the 2000 campaign when the press claimed author Naomi Wolf counseled Gore on what color clothes he should wear. (Why? Because Gore doesn't know who he is!)
Turns out though, Wolf denied the claim as did Gore's aides. In fact there was never any proof to substantiate the charge, first floated as speculation in the Washington Post, about Gore and an earth tone wardrobe makeover. But that didn't matter because the press loved it and repeated the claim endlessly as proof of Gore's complete lack of foundation. (It ranked right up there with the made-up story about Gore claiming to have invented the Internet.)
Recap: During the 2000 campaign, the Post, citing speculation by Dick Morris, invented a tale about someone telling Gore to wear "earth tones," which supposedly proved what a phony he is. For the 2016 campaign, a Post columnist revived that false "earth tones" story and used it as a reference for how phony Clinton is.
So yes, the symmetry is perfect.
Now we're onto the Catch-22 phase of the "authenticity" blitz, in which commentators are sure any attempt by Clinton to show humor and heart is part of a calculated plan at authenticity.
In other words, after demanding that Clinton be more authentic, the press is now deducting points from Clinton for being more authentic. So really, there is no way for her to win. If Clinton's not spontaneous enough, the chattering class complains. If she is spontaneous or shows more of her private side, the chattering class dismisses it as orchestrated.
It's true that in 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney was hounded by allegations he wasn't being real enough. But much of that was driven by his clear pattern of flip-flopping on major issues, like the fact that as governor of Massachusetts he championed health care reform that looked a lot like Obamacare. Then he campaigned to abolish Obamacare. That eye rolling was amplified when Romney, the former center-right governor, suddenly declared himself to have been a "severely conservative" overseer in Massachusetts.
The media's authenticity police rarely ticket Clinton over substantive issues or for policy flip-flops. She's written up for personality infractions. Authenticity sometimes seems to be media shorthand for, 'We don't like you.'
Al Gore can relate.
From the September 14 edition of Yahoo News Live:
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From the September 14 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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The New York Times has continued to largely ignore the repeated advice of its public editor to report that the type of in-person voter fraud that strict voter ID laws are supposed to prevent is virtually nonexistent. In the year since Margaret Sullivan last publicly asked the paper's editors to curb "false balance" in their "he said, she said" coverage of the voter ID issue, The Times gave a free pass to claims of voter fraud in 60 percent of its stories. That's an increase of more than 10 percent over the number of stories between 2012-2014 that contained unsupported claims that voter ID is needed to stop voter impersonation, according to a previous Media Matters study.