Carolyn Ryan, political editor for The New York Times made the case for assigning a reporter to cover Hillary Clinton full-time more than three years before the next presidential election by claiming "[w]ith the Clintons ... there is a certain opacity and stagecraft." Ryan's caricature of the Clintons alongside the Times' recent reporting raises significant questions about how they will be covered by the paper.
An August 17 New York Times article from public editor Margaret Sullivan described the "potential benefits and the possible pitfalls" of assigning a reporter to a full-time beat of Hillary Clinton -- someone who "holds no political office and has not said she's running for one" -- more than three years removed from the next presidential election.
From Sullivan's conversation with Times' political editor Carolyn Ryan:
Carolyn Ryan, The Times's political editor, made the case to me for the assignment. Mrs. Clinton, she said, "is the closest thing we have to an incumbent, when we look at 2016." And getting in early allows The Times to develop sources and get behind the well-honed facade.
"With the Clintons," she said, "there is a certain opacity and stagecraft and silly coverage elsewhere. Amy can penetrate a lot of that." She praised Ms. Chozick as a relentless reporter who is "very savvy about power and has a great eye for story."
Ryan's description of "a certain opacity and stagecraft" surrounding the Clintons, as well as the decision to assign a full-time reporter to Hillary Clinton, raises questions about the publication's coverage of the family. Indeed, the same article addresses this concern when Brendan Nyhan, assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College, said, "a dedicated beat creates the incentive to make news."
Evidence of Nyhan's concerns can be seen in a flawed report the Times published on August 13 which speculated that The Clinton Foundation was experiencing financial and management issues, questioned the capabilities of senior Foundation employees, and asserted that the Foundation "ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years." This prompted a letter from former President Bill Clinton where he corrected the record by pointing out several key flaws in the Times' story. Furthermore, Mr. Clinton released an executive summary of a 2011 review of the Foundation by the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett which refutes the Times' assertion of mismanagement. The review states that "[i]nterviewees uniformly praised the effectiveness of the Foundation and its affiliates, noting the enormous amount they have accomplished over a ten-year period."
Times readers are already experiencing the "pitfalls" of the paper's approach to this subject without the "benefits", as the drive to make news outstrips verifiable facts and misinforms the public in the process.
Maureen Dowd launched a snide and hollow attack on the Clinton family that is lacking in substantive criticism but filled with sneering invective and attempts at witty analogies.
Dowd's animus for the Clintons goes back decades and in that time, she's never shied away from peddling conservative lies about Hillary. In 2008, Clark Hoyt, then the public editor of the Times, noted the volume of Dowd's "gender-laden assault on Clinton" which was the focus of "28 of 44 columns" written before June of that year.
The absurd premise of Dowd's latest effort in her anti-Clinton campaign is that "if Americans are worried about money in politics, there is no larger concern than the Clintons." Dowd's claim jumps off a flawed New York Times article earlier this week that unearthed nothing.
Forget the Koch brothers and the hundreds of millions they spend directly influencing in the political process. Never mind the revolving door from K Street to government and back again. Erase the ramifications of the Citizens United decision and the avalanche of corporate money it unleashed on our electoral process from your mind. In Dowd's telling, Bill Clinton and his foundation's work around the world should be the focus of those who care about money in politics.
Like much of Dowd's work, her latest effort is calorically empty, filled with fun analogies, snarky shots, and titillating gossip, but leaving the reader no more enlightened for having read it.
Dowd devotes four full paragraphs to establishing the unremarkable fact that Bill and Hillary Clinton make money giving speeches around the world.
She invokes the "grotesque spectacle" of Anthony Weiner, but offers no explanation of how the travails of the New York Mayoral candidate and his wife connect to Dowd's central thesis of money in politics. But Dowd has never been above taking the cheap shot.
In this week's episode of Maureen hates Hillary and Bill she compares the former first family Wile E. Coyote because "something is always blowing up."
Former administration official and current Clinton Foundation executive Ira Magaziner "continues to be a Gyro Gearloose, the inept inventor of Donald Duck's Duckburg."
Dowd dismisses the work of the Clinton Foundation entirely, writing "we are supposed to believe that every dollar given to a Clinton is a dollar that improves the world. But is it?"
Yet nowhere does she mention the product of the Clinton Foundation's efforts, like the fact that "5 million people" and "500,000 children" around the world now "have access to low cost, high quality AIDS treatments." That is insignificant compared to Dowd's disgust for having to "read the words Ira Magaziner again."
She attacks Magaziner for gathering ideas for a proposal to fight climate change that "never got off the ground" but neglects to mention the annual reduction of "248 million tons" Clinton's C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is expected to achieve by 2020.
Dowd's New York Times column is the rhetorical equivalent of a Cinnabon - it has an alluring smell that draws you in, yet leaves a sick feeling in your stomach when you stare down at the greasy cardboard container and recognize the sheer amount of crap you just consumed.
And that's just the type of analogy Maureen Dowd would love to use.
It's clear in Dowd's mind the 2016 race has begun. With the majority of her recent columns mentioning the Clintons, we can expect her to repeat this pace again - yet all of her columns are united in the absence of a single critical ingredient - substance.
A New York Times story on the philanthropic Clinton Foundation contained flawed details about the Foundation's finances, former President Bill Clinton clarified today. As a result of its errors, the story provided predictable fodder for attacks from right-wing media -- rabid for new opportunities to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in anticipation of a yet-unannounced 2016 presidential campaign.
The Clinton Foundation, recently renamed the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, was the subject of an August 13 Times report which speculated the non-profit was experiencing "unease" over financial and management issues. The paper noted that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff will soon move into the Foundation's Manhattan headquarters, and questioned the capabilities of senior Foundation employees. The Times also asserted that the Foundation "ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in." As purported evidence, the paper claimed the charity ran a $40 million deficit in 2007 and 2008 and an $8 million deficit in 2012, citing tax returns.
But the Foundation corrected the record today in a letter from former President Bill Clinton. He explained that the Times failed to provide the context and facts essential to its story and misconstrued the Foundation's basic accounting according to the law, casting a shadow based on a false premise. That is because the IRS requires tax-exempt organizations such as the Foundation to report multi-year financial commitments occurring in the year the commitment was made. So in 2005 and 2006, the Foundation reported a surplus exceeding one hundred million dollars. In subsequent years, that money is reported as spending, but not cash inflow. Clinton also pointed out the difficult reality all non-profits face fundraising during a recession.
The Times was also incorrect in its assessment of 2012 deficits, Clinton stated. The paper relied on unaudited numbers from the 2012 annual report, but audited financials will reveal a surplus.
Predictably, conservative media did not wait to learn these facts surrounding the Clinton Foundation, preferring to cite the initial Times story to decry imaginary scandals and lob both new and old attacks at Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times failed to cover both a major government report and a scientists' statement indicating that global warming marches on, just months after the paper shuttered both its environment desk and an affiliated blog with the promise that coverage would not significantly change.
On Monday, the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a scientific organization comprising thousands of earth scientists, published a quadrennial renewal of its position statement affirming that "humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years." One day later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the annual "State of the Climate" report, showing that 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record worldwide and saw record-low Arctic sea ice extent. NOAA included these charts, illustrating warming of 0.16°C (0.28°F) per decade since 1970 and plummeting Arctic sea ice extent compared to the 1979-2000 average, respectively:
The AGU statement garnered mentions by National Public Radio and NBCNews.com, and NOAA's "sobering portrait of vast swaths of the planet transformed by rising temperatures" was covered by the Associated Press, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and CBS, and featured in wire reports in The Washington Post and on the websites of Fox News, NBC and ABC.
However, you didn't read about either story in The New York Times.
A New York Times profile of Georgia anti-immigration activist D.A. King left out important context about King's white nationalist ties and the similarly racist background of NumbersUSA, a nationally prominent nativist organization cited in the article.
On August 7, The New York Times published an article detailing efforts by King and his organization, the Dustin Inman Society -- a group named after a boy killed in a car accident by a driver who was an undocumented immigrant -- to pressure Congressional Republicans to oppose efforts at immigration policy reform. The Times interviewed King and described some of his anti-immigrant policy stances while also highlighting his influence with NumbersUSA:
D. A. King, who quit his job as an insurance agent a decade ago to wage a full-time campaign against illegal immigration in Georgia, is one reason this state rivals Arizona for the toughest legal crackdown in the country. With his Southern manners and seersucker jackets, he works the halls of the gold-domed statehouse, familiar to all, polite and uncompromising.
Now, like other local activists around the country, he is looking beyond Georgia to stop the House of Representatives from following the Senate and passing legislation that would open a path to legal status for illegal immigrants.
As lawmakers return to their home districts for the August recess, advocates like Mr. King are joining forces with national groups that oppose legalization and favor reduced immigration for an all-out populist push.
"These local people live in the middle of these places, they know how to be effective in their districts," said Roy Beck, executive director of one of the largest national groups, NumbersUSA, who is now holding regular strategy calls with Mr. King and more than 50 other state advocates.
The Times' profile of King made note of some of the activist's inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric -- for example, King's depiction of Latino groups as "tribalists" and his description of immigration from Mexico to the U.S. as "an invasion" -- but omitted ties to white nationalist figures that permeate both King's and NumbersUSA's past.
With more than a dozen Senate Republicans now pushing the truly radical plan to try to defund the federal government in order to stop the implementation of President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the news media are faced with an acute challenge: Convey the unprecedented nature of the GOP's latest obstructionist strategy, or simply report the maneuvers as politics as usual in the nation's permanently gridlocked Capitol.
To the surprise of no one who has followed the press' timidity towards the GOP in recent years and its open admiration of Republican hardball tactics, the answer is the news media have done very little to explain just how extreme and completely unprecedented the latest Republican gamut is. By doing so, the press has once again allowed the GOP to move the goal posts in defining acceptable, mainstream behavior.
The new plot is so off the wall that even some GOP leaders have condemned it as "silly" and a waste of time. But their critique deals mostly with partisan politics and their concern a possible government shutdown sparked by health care protest would hurt the Republican Party in the long run.
In terms of the sheer craziness of the strategy (i.e. who brings the government to a halt in order to kill a single law that's already been passed?), the Beltway press has mostly looked away and failed to put this absurdity in its proper context.
Unfortunately, that follows the media's tradition in recent years of letting the GOP practice an unheard brand of obstructionism and pay no price, and to draw little scorn in the press. (See: Cabinet nominations, sequestration, emergency relief funds and judicial picks.) It appears there's no cockamamie strategy or political plan that Republicans can ponder that the Beltway press won't immediately legitimize and take seriously.
The press for years now has failed to provide a framework with regards to the radical ways that now define the GOP, to the point where shutting down the federal government in order to eradicate a law that Republicans were unable to stop from being passed is casually referred to as "the plan," or the "strategy."
It's much, much more than that. It's unprecedented. And pundits and reporters ought to include that crucial context.
As Congress considers legislation promoting energy efficiency, Media Matters examines the facts behind such efforts. Contrary to persistent myths in the media, increasing energy efficiency of appliances and buildings is a cost-effective way to benefit the environment and economy, and has historically enjoyed bipartisan support.
For the fifth time, Maureen Dowd recycled an inapt literary analogy comparing Bill and Hillary Clinton to the characters Tom and Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in her July 31 New York Times column.
The comparison has its origins in the phony Whitewater scandal in the mid-1990s, a period when much of the Washington press corps, including the Times, fell prey to an anti-Clinton fever that began with the Clintons' political enemies in the right-wing. Numerous independent investigations, several helmed by Republicans, found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons related to the decades-old land deal, yet the faulty characterization, which originated with columnist Joe Klein, author of a fictional anti-Clinton book, lives on at the Times 18 years later.
Klein's August 6, 1995, column for Newsweek focused on the Senate's Whitewater hearings, which he described as a "scavenger hunt through a sewer" that exposed "the perverse ways of this administration." He concluded with a description of "the most disturbing Whitewater 'revelation'":
It is about the character of the Clintons. They are the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of the Baby Boom Political Elite. The Buchanans, you may recall, were E Scott Fitzgerald's brilliant crystallization of flapper fecklessness in "The Great Gatsby." They were "careless" people. They smashed up lives and didn't notice. After two years, it's become difficult to avoid a distinguishing characteristic of this administration: the body count. Too many lives and reputations have been ruined by carelessness, too many decent people have been forced to walk the plank for trivialities, appearances, changes of mind. Whitewater has been the worst of it.
Four days later, Dowd would pick up the analogy in her Times column:
As with Presidents Nixon and Reagan, the landscape is littered with aides taking the fall. As Joe Klein wrote of the Clintons in Newsweek: "They are the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of the Baby Boom Political Elite. . . . They smashed up lives and didn't notice. . . . How could the First Lady allow her chief of staff to spend $140,000 on legal fees? Why hasn't she come forward and said . . . 'I'll testify.' "
Print media coverage of Social Security finances overwhelmingly favors reporting figures in raw numbers that lack relevant context, a trend that reflects cable and broadcast news coverage's push for reducing the cost of the program over strengthening benefits for recipients.
A Media Matters analysis finds that three major print sources -The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post - are more likely to report figures on Social Security revenue, spending, and funding gaps in terms of raw numbers that lack relevant context, such as previous years' figures. Fifty-nine percent of total mentions of Social Security's finances throughout the first half of 2013 relied strictly on raw numbers:
According to economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Dean Baker, the overreliance on reporting economic figures in raw numbers only serves to confuse and mislead readers:
It is understandable that people who want to promote confusion about the budget -- for example convincing people that all their tax dollars went to food stamps -- would support the current method of budget reporting. It is impossible to understand why people who want a well-informed public would not push for changing this archaic and absurd practice.
Throughout the first half of 2013, coverage on the finances of Social Security in the three major print outlets relied on reporting figures in raw numbers devoid of relevant context, such as previous years' figures, that could provide a more accurate picture of the program.
Major print publications relied heavily on the use of raw numbers when reporting economic issues, but these discussions of spending, deficit and revenue levels that rely solely on abstract and sensational numerical figures obscure otherwise important information.
A Media Matters analysis found since the beginning of 2013 three major publications -- The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post -- provided a majority of their coverage of the national budget (including figures on debt, deficits, spending, and revenue) without adequate context.
Reports highlighting gross spending, deficit, and revenue levels consistently failed to include relevant data such as the size of items relative to total federal spending or to GDP. Reports also consistently failed to put data into context with year-to-year comparisons.
For example, the newspapers' coverage of the national debt regularly failed to include the size of the debt relative to GDP, when doing so would have revealed that the United States does not carry extraordinary debt levels when compared to other developed nations. Discussions of the annual budget deficit regularly overlooked the fact that deficits have declined by more than half since peaking in FY 2009.
Many economists have noted that the media's reliance on enormous and abstract figures in economic reporting is little more than a scare tactic intended to drum up fears about the deficit. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research noted that the reliance on raw numbers also increases the likelihood that outlets will misreport information.
Opting to report national budget news in this way contributes to a general public misconception of debt, deficits, and the size and expense of spending programs. A Bloomberg News poll from February 2013 found that just 4 percent of Americans knew that the budget deficit was in decline. The same poll also revealed 34 percent of Americans believe the government spends between 2 and 20 percent of its budget on foreign aid, while another 31 percent believe foreign aid accounts for more than 20 percent of the budget. In fact, foreign aid and relief accounts for just 1 percent of the federal budget and has been in decline relative to overall spending for more than four decades.
This is not the first instance of media overreliance on inflated figures. Media Matters uncovered similar tactics employed by Fox News as it attempted to undermine Social Security and Medicare with the fear of "unfunded liabilities".
Throughout the first half of 2013, three major national print outlets mostly reported figures on debt, deficits, spending, and revenue in terms of raw numbers devoid of relevant context, such as previous years' numbers or monthly figures, that would give readers a more accurate depiction of the economy.
For Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has been a "dream come true," according to The New York Times' Timothy Egan. In a July 11 post on the Opinionator blog titled "The Charade of Darrell Issa," Egan detailed how Issa's numerous congressional investigations, despite being predicated on "half-truths and conspiracies," have given the conservative media much fodder for content.
For Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, it's a dream come true, all the things they've been ranting about, finally getting the imprimatur of official business. For Darrell Issa, the congressman given free rein to free range in half-truths and conspiracies, it's what he's always wanted. He's a player! He exists to give Fox and friends programming.
But then, after millions of dollars in investigative forays, the wheels come off the ride. Fast and Furious -- that gunrunning scheme into Mexico by federal agents, known to conservatives as a vast conspiracy by Obama to bring on gun control -- is traced to the White House, just as Issa predicted. Except, it was George W. Bush's White House, where the practice of letting guns cross borders originated in a similar program called Operation Wide Receiver. Move along.
Solyndra, the subsidizing of a money-losing solar energy company, and the tragedy of Benghazi -- Watergate-level cover-ups, yes? They both sank with truth that was much more banal and sad. Next.
In May, Issa hit it big with a story about Internal Revenue Service field agents questioning the nonprofit claims of Tea Party groups. This was "a targeting of the president's political enemies," said Issa. Again, don't worry about facts, he could trace it to Washington somehow -- "we're getting to proving it," he said.
He never proved "it," of course. Just the opposite. Upon closer examination, it was found that the I.R.S. was aggressively targeting liberal groups, as well, flagging those with "progressive" or "medical marijuana" in their names. D'oh!
By now, it should be obvious that Representative Issa, a Republican from California who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, is not the least bit interested in governing, a sentiment shared by a majority of his fellow nihilists in the House. Immigration reform -- the most significant thing lawmakers could do in this decade -- is a critically ill patient in the emergency room of the Republican House.
Issa made his governing intentions clear three years ago, when he told Rush Limbaugh that President Obama "has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." He later took back the comment, but his motive was exposed for the method that would follow: he would exercise all of his official power to prove a sinister narrative. He would do exactly what he accused Obama of doing, using government muscle to harass his political enemies. Anything that disproves his narrative -- e.g. I.R.S. targeting of liberals -- is swept aside. He starts with a conclusion and works his way back.
Climate change deniers should not be given a place in business coverage at a time when industries from agriculture to insurance are making real financial decisions dealing with its impact, according to some of the nation's top business journalists.
Last month Media Matters reported that more than half of the climate change segments on CNBC this year cast doubt on man-made climate change. That network's coverage drew criticism from top business journalists who said such coverage does not serve their viewers.
"It doesn't seem to me at this point to be a point of serious controversy within the corporate establishment," said Paul Barrett a Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporter (Bloomberg BusinessWeek's sister company Bloomberg News is a CNBC competitor). "The insurance industry, which is a key barometer of these things, has reached the conclusion that whatever your politics are on this, the costs of extreme weather are so great and the patterns over the last couple of decades are so distinct that the corporate establishment absolutely must recognize these risks."
Barrett added, "It's past the point of letting ideology shape the dollars-and-cents calculations that businesses are already making, it is not a question of whether business should do this, business is doing this."
Michael Hiltzik, a veteran Los Angeles Times business columnist, agreed.
"I accept the evidence of climate change," he said. "I don't think I've ever run into a legitimate business leader or business owner in the course of my reporting who doesn't. I think, for the most part, it is settled science and the debate is really over what to do about it."
Hiltzik and others stressed that in business reporting, information is so vital to those running large and small companies that facts have to be on point and disregard political calculations.
"There is no percentage in denying it, there's no point. You can't hold back the tide," Hiltzik said. "It seems to me that denial is basically a political position, it's not a practical position, especially for a business that is in an industry that is going to be impacted by climate change."
With climate scientists in agreement that climate change is occurring and being triggered by human activity, major companies are acknowledging and evaluating the impact of that change on their businesses. Top consulting groups have pointed out that climate change is a major risk to insurance companies, and a 2011 survey found that most investors now consider climate change consequences across their organization's entire investment portfolio.
In spite of this emerging consensus among business leaders that climate change is a real concern for their companies, Media Matters found that 24 of the 47 substantial mentions or segments on climate change in 2013 on CNBC, or about 51 percent, cast doubt on whether man-made climate change even existed. Prominent CNBC figures have claimed that climate change is simple "a scam analysis" by "high priests." More than 14,000 people have signed Forecast The Facts' petition calling urging CNBC's executives to stop their network from promoting climate change denial.
A study of wildfire coverage from April through July 1 finds that print and TV media only mentioned climate change in 6 percent of coverage, although this was double the amount of coverage from a year ago. While many factors must come together for wildfires to occur, climate change has led to hotter and drier conditions in parts of the West that have increased the risk of wildfires.