Veteran news ethicists and observers are criticizing CBS News and pollster Frank Luntz for failing to disclose Luntz's financial ties to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor during an appearance on CBS This Morning today to discuss Cantor's surprise primary defeat.
Luntz, a CBS News political analyst, said during the interview that Cantor's defeat was "a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country." But at no point did CBS News or Luntz disclose that Luntz's firm, Luntz Global, had received more than $15,000 in consulting fees since 2012 from Cantor's congressional campaign.
CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair claimed the network had provided adequate disclosure during the broadcast, telling Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple: "His work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
That explanation doesn't satisfy veteran media critics and reporters. They slammed CBS in interviews with Media Matters, saying that the specific Cantor connection should have been revealed.
"I think it is a classic case of a conflict of interest and CBS was remiss in not knowing it," said Alex S. Jones, former media writer for The New York Times and director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. "If CBS did know it and didn't mention it, then they are bad journalists. If they did know and agreed not to mention it as a condition for getting Luntz on the show, then they were not only bad, but corrupt."
Andy Alexander, former Washington Post ombudsman, agreed.
"It's Journalism 101. Anything that could impact the credibility of the person being interviewed should be disclosed," he said in an email about Luntz. "It's a matter of being honest and transparent with your audience."
Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker, said such non-disclosures are becoming too common: "He should have disclosed he got paid and CBS should have disclosed he got paid," Auletta said in a phone interview. "This is very common now in television to have political consultants as talking heads."
David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun television writer, called the lack of disclosure "outrageous."
"I can't imagine how anyone would think it is ok NOT to clearly explain that conflict of interest," he said via email. "And CBS wants to sell this show as somehow being the journalistically solid viewing choice."
For Alicia Shepard, former NPR ombudsman, such action is a form of deception by CBS: "When CBS viewers learn -- and they will -- that Luntz worked for Cantor, they will feel deceived. None of us likes that feeling. CBS loses nothing by acknowledging that Luntz worked for Cantor. Why not be transparent? "
Kevin Smith, chair of the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, offered a similar thumbs down: "This constant parade of pundits and analysts on network TV with insider interests needs to stop. Clearly, CBS and others are not willing to be forthcoming about these conflicts and share them in a transparent manner with the viewers."
This isn't the first time CBS has had disclosure problems with Luntz, who has been an analyst for the network since 2012. The GOP strategist appeared on CBS in October and November of that year to discuss Republican vice presidential candidate and Rep. Paul Ryan without disclosing Luntz Global had received money from Ryan's congressional campaign.
The author of Sons of Wichita, the new biography of the Koch brothers, never got the interviews he wanted with the archconservative billionaires. But he says the family nonetheless kept a close eye on his research, deploying the "very aggressive P.R. operation" they have used for years to silence media criticism.
"I had a senior person at [Koch Industries] basically tell me, 'Yeah, that is our strategy, we hit back and over time because of doing this the mainstream press has sort of learned a lesson to be careful about what they say about us,'" said Daniel Schulman, the book's author and a senior editor at the progressive Mother Jones magazine. "I would describe it as pugilistic, [which] is often their style in general."
Despite the lack of support from its subjects, Schulman's book is a fascinating portrait of the often bitter relationships between the four brothers -- Charles, David, Bill, and Frederick -- whose sprawling political empire has become a dominant force in the right-wing movement.
Schulman said the company's efforts to find out about his research and stop some from cooperating is not unusual, noting the Koch brothers and Koch Industries, the company at the root of their vast wealth, have a history of both intimidating reporters and seeking to counter negative coverage.
"People in the media certainly have what they would call their war stories dealing with Koch Industries," Schulman said in a lengthy interview with Media Matters. "There is a range of experiences. They have a very aggressive P.R. operation." He added, "I should also say that I like a lot of people I was in communication over there, they were nice people. But they were aggressive."
Schulman, whose book was published last week, said he began his research by writing a formal inquiry letter to each of the four brothers. He said only Frederick, the least involved in the company, would meet with him -- and then said he would only discuss his family if he received veto power over any third-party source material. Schulman declined.
At Koch Industries, which is headed by David and Charles, initial reaction was curious and somewhat cooperative, Schulman said. But it never amounted to any access to the two top executives.
"At one point they flew out to even talk to the publisher," Schulman recalled about a Koch executive. "They wanted to make sure this was going to be a fair book, they saw Mother Jones and immediately thought the worst. I was speaking to people there throughout the process, but they would never give me access to David or Charles, which I think was unfortunate because I do think that they had not much to lose and a lot to gain. I think these guy are all very interesting and should have their stories told."
But Koch Industries' interest did not end there, Schulman said
"I certainly got the sense that there were ... certain people [to whom] they were probably saying, 'don't talk to him.' I definitely got that impression," Schulman said. "I definitely talked to people who said, 'yeah, I spoke to Charles and he said he would prefer that I don't speak to you.'"
The Koch concerns about the book went even further, Schulman said.
New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore launched an evidence-free attack on Hillary Clinton, claiming that the former Secretary of State "strikes many voters as disingenuous and perhaps unethical," a completely uncorroborated claim that is nothing more than a warmed over rehash of stock Clinton smears.
"The apotheosis of Hillary Clinton is not inevitable," Lepore wrote on her New Yorker blog.
She is an accomplished diplomat, a seasoned campaigner, and a formidable fund-raiser. But she strikes many voters as disingenuous and perhaps unethical, concerns that will probably be aired again as some thirty thousand pages of documents from the Clinton presidential library are beginning to be made public--more than a year after legal restrictions on the release of Presidential records expired.
Note that Lepore offered no evidence to support her claim. It's a serious accusation. Who are the "many voters" who find Clinton "disingenuous and perhaps unethical"? Lepore, a historian, should have the goods to back up such a charge.
Hillary Clinton's name doesn't appear in the bipartisan portions of the Senate review of the tragic September 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, but you would not know that by looking at the media.
The report, released earlier in the week by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been a Rorschach test for the media, and as is almost always the case with Hillary Clinton, they are stretching to see something nefarious.
According to the Post, the report "is likely to provide fodder" for Clinton's political opponents, even though the Post acknowledged that the only references to the former Secretary of State came from partisan Republicans in an addendum, not from the review itself.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer said the report was "fueling heated debate, partisan debate, about her leadership," while correspondent Elise Labbott insisted that Clinton would "have to address Benghazi during" any 2016 campaign.
Inexplicably, Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin accused media of being too "incurious" when it comes to Clinton and called Benghazi Clinton's "drip, drip, drip problem." Partisan Republicans are certainly happy that the media is carrying their water. Almost on cue, Sen. Marco Rubio said the report should justify further investigations ... into Clinton.
The question of "leadership," however, has been a lopsided one as it played out in the media's campaign to use the Senate report as an indictment of Clinton.
Clinton has "deflected questions" about Benghazi, according to The New Yorker's Amy Davidson, who argued that Clinton "does not come out well" in the Senate report -- again, a report that never mentions Clinton. Davidson's explanation? "The State Department made mistakes when [Clinton] was its leader."
Clinton herself has acknowledged ultimate responsibility for any bureaucratic shortcomings that played a role to the tragedy in Benghazi. "I do feel responsible," she said under questioning by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). "I feel responsible for the nearly 70,000 people who work for the State Department. I take it very seriously."
So everybody agrees that Clinton had ultimate responsibility for leading the State Department.
That makes the question of what that leadership looks like critical, particularly since the media seems determined to parrot the right-wing narrative that Benghazi is a singular reflection on the former Secretary of State.
What is problematic about the way the media has used the Senate's review as a reflection on Clinton's leadership is that the reports ostensibly exploring Clinton's leadership make no mention of the fact that one of her last acts as Secretary of State was to fully accept and begin implementing the findings of the Accountability Review Board, an independent, nonpartisan review panel that looked into what went wrong and how to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
That review, like the Senate report that led to the latest bout of Benghazi mania, also singled out bureaucrats, not the Secretary of State, for scrutiny over diplomatic security failures. Four mid-ranked department officials were suspended for those failures; according to Ambassador Thomas Pickering, one of the chairmen of the ARB, their "future career[s]" are "finished."
One of the pillars of the right-wing's Benghazi hoax has been to accuse Clinton of being dismissive of the tragedy during her Congressional testimony when she asked "what difference, at this point, does it make" what led the attackers to target the diplomatic facility on that day.
Often left out of the sound bite is what Clinton said next: "It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again."
The Accountability Review Board laid out dozens of recommendations as to how to prevent future tragedies, recommendations largely in line with those contained in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report. Those recommendations are being implemented.
It's woefully inadequate to leave that fact out of a discussion of leadership.
The latest Washington Post poll released this week surveying the race for governor in Virginia found what virtually every poll has this season: Democrat Terry McAuliffe has amassed surprisingly large lead in a "purple" state and in a race that was supposed to have been a toss-up between the two parties.
McAuliffe's impressive campaign run represents what appears to be a certain Democratic victory and may be a bellwether for the 2014 midterm elections. But as a longtime confidante of Bill and Hillary Clinton, McAuliffe's imminent win can also be seen as yet another political triumph for the former president and first lady.
Yet that's not how the October 24 issue of The New Republic played the unfolding campaign. In a cover story that stressed McAuliffe's ties to the former president (he's "the consummate Washington insider, Clinton vintage"), the Beltway magazine presented an amazingly snide and insulting portrait of the Democratic candidate.
Depicted as shallow, dishonest rube who fit right in with his Clinton pals, the derogatory language used to describe McAuliffe was startling: He represents "so much of what some people find gross about the subspecies" of the Washington insider; the "shamelessness," and the fact he's "so ardent in his lack of earnestness." He's a man who "managed to sell a used car - himself - to the voters of Virginia."
Imagine the tone of the coverage if the Clinton intimate were losing the Virginia race?
The New Republic's nasty piling-on of McAuliffe is just more evidence that the press, once again, may be starting to declare something of an open season on the Clintons, and those who inhabit their political universe. As Hillary Clinton segues from Secretary of State to possible presidential candidate, the Beltway media, after focusing on the rise of Barack Obama and his administration for the last six years, is also transitioning.
Unfortunately, instead of new insights and fresh perspectives, we're seeing a new generation of writers adopt the same tired, cynical tropes that the Clintons, and news consumers, have been subjected to for two decades running: Bill and Hillary are phonies who keep fooling the American public. They're relentlessly selfish people, obsessed with lining their own pockets and the source of non-stop "personal dramas."
Of course, the "drama" surrounding the Clintons often springs from the media's endless obsession with the couple, married with today's click-bait business model for news.
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.
The New York Post has seen three of its supposed scoops about the Boston Marathon bombing fall apart this week. Nonetheless, their editor is unrepentant, lashing out at critics and claiming a "crystal ball" would have been necessary for the paper to publish accurate information.
In a widely criticized move, the April 18 Post front page featured the headline "Bag Men: Feds seek this duo pictured at Boston Marathon" along with a photo of two men holding bags at the event. The article reported that investigators had been "circulating photos of two men spotted chatting near the packed finish line" and also that officials "have identified two potential suspects who were captured on surveillance videos." The Post added that "it was not immediately clear if the men in the law-enforcement photos are the same men in the surveillance videos."
The paper later reported in an online story that the two men they had featured on their front page had been "cleared."
In an email to Media Matters, Post editor Col Allan claimed that when the photo was published this morning, the article stated that the FBI was only emailing the photo to other law enforcement officials and noted "there is no direct evidence linking them to the crime."
"With regard to today's front page emails containing images of the two young men were sent to law enforcement offices, federal and state, at 3pm yesterday seeking information about them," Allan said in an e-mail. "I have a copy of one of those emails sent to a regional office of the FBI. At no point did the Post state they were 'suspects.' Today it is clear they were not involved ... had you loaned us your powerful crystal ball we would have known this before the presses ran."
But, asked specifically if placing the photos on Page One was misleading because it gave the appearance the men were somehow involved, Allan stated via email:
"Common sense would suggest if the FBI emailed pictures of these men standing around the Boston marathon to law enforcement offices asking for information about them it might be newsworthy. We made no judgment about the men. We simply reported the facts. Their photos were emailed by the feds. Information about them was sought. If it is your idea that we or anyone else in the media wait until the complete truth is clear then there is little need for journalists. Only historians. "
Allan also claimed that a previous incorrect Post report on Monday, that 12 people had died in the bombing -- which has yet to be corrected - was also not the paper's fault.
"Our sources were federal authorities who have been reliable in the past," he wrote. "In this event, they and thus we, were wrong. Later Monday our reporting online and in Tuesday's paper accurately reflected the official toll...give your crystal ball a good hard polish and drop it over sometime."
The day of the bombing, the Post also reported that a Saudi national student had been "taken into custody" and was considered a "suspect." That student was also cleared of involvement. In response to questions about that story also falling apart, Allan claimed that "The Post said a Saudi student WAS detained in hospital after the bomb blast. He was not free to go. at 2 am the following morning the federal bureau of investigation raided his flat and took away several bags of material. The next day the authorities stated he was co--operating and not considered a suspect. The post would have required one of your hindsight crystal balls to have known this."
Politico reports that when running for U.S. Senate in 1992, Fox News host Mike Huckabee called homosexuality "aberrant, unnatural and sinful." Huckabee does not appear to have changed his anti-gay rhetoric since becoming a Fox News host, comparing homosexuality to drug use and incest, claiming that same-sex marriage is a threat to a "stable society," and promoting virulently anti-gay guests.
It sure seemed that way when I first read this piece over the weekend, in which right-wing billionaire David Koch, still fuming over Jane Mayer's recent expose in The New Yorker about he and his billionaire brother are helping to fund the Tea Party movement and the larger anti-Obama insurgency, whined to the Daily Beast that Meyer's article was "hateful," ludicrous," and "plain wrong."
The sympathetic Daily Beast dispatch, written by Elaine Lafferty, did very little though, to catalog anything that was actually wrong, or inaccurate, with The New Yorker article, nor did Koch himself produce much evidence.
For instance, Koch seemed peeved that Meyer suggested the Koch brothers had been helping to bankroll the "grassroots" Tea Party movement. But note this passage [emphasis added]:
[H]e says, no one from the Tea Party movement has ever approached him for money, and when I ask him straight up if he's funding the Tea Party, all he says is, "Oh, please."
A classic non-denial denial.
Koch's whining rang a bit hollow considering that while Meyer was writing her lengthy piece, Koch repeatedly declined her interview requests. (Wonder what he was hiding.) Also, while Daily Beast allowed Koch to tee-off on Meyer's work, it provided no space for The New Yorker writer to defend her reporting.
The good news is that Daily Beast finally conceded there were problems with its Koch article, including the fact that the site failed to disclose that author Lafferty once worked as a consultant for the McCain/Palin campaign, and editors there attached a note to the end of the piece.
The bad news though, was that the article was up all weekend without any reference to the obvious flaws.
As Box Turtle Bulletin's Jim Burroway writes:
By all accounts from those who have met the reclusive Doug Coe who heads the group, Coe is a very quiet and charming man. With this New Yorker article, it is evident that [The New Yorker's Peter] Boyle has fallen for Coe's charms. Boyle describes The Family as little more than a "frat house", composed in equal parts of Democrats and Republicans, Christians and Jews. In fact, he appears to have fully bought the line about The Family not being a Christian organization at all, but merely a group of people whose sole mission is to influence powerful political and business leaders "to follow Jesus." One wonders exactly how one is supposed to define Christianity better than that, and to impose its tenets, if not its theology, from the top. Boyle's description of events in Uganda are equally naïve.
When Uganda's Parliament took up a bill last year that would have punished some homosexual acts with death, ["Family" member Bob] Hunter and his friends in the Fellowship felt they had the standing to urge the proposed measure's defeat. [Uganda President Yoweri] Museveni appointed a commission that studied the matter and then recommended that the bill be withdrawn.
One wonders how Boyle managed the dexterity to write those two lonely sentences with his hands over his ears while singing "lalalala" to drown out the noise.
Nowhere does he mention that it was MP David Bahati, a key "Family" man in Uganda — a guy who organizes Uganda's version of the National Prayer Breakfast that the Family is best known for in the U.S. — who proposed the bill, stands by it, and still insists that the bill must be passed in it entirety so that they can begin "to kill every last gay person." Boyle would have you believe that the Family was responsible for the bill being dead when in fact the bill, while stalled, is still very much alive. It is currently in committee, and MP Bahati and other Ugandan Family members continue to push for its full enactment. Others however recommend that the bill be dismembered with different provisions attached to other bills with less flag-waving titles, and passed surreptitiously.
As Metro Weekly's Chris Geidner points out, Jim Burroway and Jeff Sharlet are required reading for anyone interested in covering or learning more about the secretive group and, perhaps most notably, its ties to the horrific anti-gay activity happening in Uganda:
If you don't follow Jim Burroway and the work of the folks at Box Turtle Bulletin on Uganda's anti-gay activity -- most notably the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill -- you're missing out on one of the important stories about international inequality faced by LGBT people.
If you don't follow Jeff Sharlet's work on the Family (or the Fellowship, or the folks behind the C Street house), you're missing out on great journalism about the extraordinary influence of one religious organization in American public life.
For a primer on C Street and why this story matters, check out some segments from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show after the jump.
Fox News host Mike Huckabee sure knows how to keep it classy.
The former Arkansas Governor managed to make a crack about marriage equality and the physical appearance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Helen Thomas all in one ill-conceived attempt at humor in a forthcoming New Yorker profile. Ariel Levy writes:
At times, he seems unable to resist the force of his own funniness. I joked with him once that I would write about his (fictitious) affair with Nancy Pelosi. He e-mailed back, "The only thing worse than a torrid affair with sweet, sweet Nancy would be a torrid affair with Helen Thomas. If those were my only options, I'd probably be FOR same-sex marriage!"
From The New Yorker's November 23 profile on Glenn Beck:
If you sensed something of a quiet spell about ten days ago, a lull in the usual media storm, it may have been owing to the fact that Glenn Beck, the energetically hateful, truth-twisting radio and Fox News Channel talk-show host, was absent from the airwaves for a week, to have his appendix removed. A few days after his surgery, he made it clear, via his Twitter feed, that he hated just watching TV, which is, of course, the terrible fate of those of us who don't have talk shows. ("I know how U feel. Watching the news & knowing wht I say 2 my tv makes no difference," he wrote. "I cnt wait 2 giv U wht I think has bn going on.") By the middle of last week, he was back, breathing fire about Obama's response to the Fort Hood shootings.
A headline at the top of Beck's Web site announces what he thinks he's selling: "the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment." If by this Beck means that his product is radioactive, he's got that right. We can only hope that its toxic charge will fade over time. But that seems unlikely. At the end of the Elia Kazan-Budd Schulberg movie "A Face in the Crowd," the Arkansas opportunist and petty criminal who has been repackaged, by a radio broadcaster, as a guitar-playing professional hayseed called Lonesome Rhodes (played brilliantly by Andy Griffith), and who has been consumed and ruined by fame, shows his true colors when he bad-mouths his audience over an open mike. The nation abandons him, and, as the movie ends, he's shouting, unheard, into the night. These days, because of the Internet, it's not so easy to get rid of a demagogue. Long after Beck leaves radio and TV, his sound bites will still be with us.
In a column about Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign, The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza stated that Clinton's "disingenuous remark on '60 Minutes' that [Sen. Barack] Obama was not a Muslim 'as far as I know' was especially galling." However, Lizza did not include Clinton's full comment, which made clear that she believes Obama is not a Muslim.
Supporters of the Iraq war -- rather than waiting for testimony by Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on the effect of President Bush's troop increase in Iraq -- have engaged in a campaign to convince the media and public that progress is being made in Iraq and that the "surge" is "working." Media Matters has compiled some of the most pervasive myths and falsehoods advanced by opponents of withdrawal in service of the "surge is working" message, which many in the media have been complicit in perpetuating.
In a New Yorker profile of Rudy Giuliani, Peter Boyer uncritically reported that "Giuliani speaks often of his own expertise on terrorism" and asserted that he "performed well on September 11th." He added: "The common refrain among New Yorkers" is that "Giuliani showed leadership on the day of the terrorist attacks." However, Boyer did not mention that Giuliani's performance before, during, and after the attacks has been questioned and criticized.