Washington Post's The Fix falsely referred to the Common Core State Standards as "federal" and "national," a scare tactic often used by right-wing media to smear the education standards.
Earlier this week, the Oklahoma House Education Committee voted to ban Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History, "persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students 'what is bad about America.'" According to Think Progress, the bill banning AP U.S. History "would also require schools to instruct students in a long list of 'foundational documents,' including the Ten Commandments, two sermons and three speeches by Ronald Reagan." As Tulsa World pointed out, the committee hearing also included discussion about the "legality" of teaching any AP courses in the state's public schools, largely from opponents of Common Core.
In a February 17 post at The Washington Post's The Fix blog, Hunter Schwarz wrote that Oklahoma lawmakers "are considering dumping the Advanced Placement program because of its similarities to Common Core," and falsely referred to the standards as both "federal" and "national" (emphasis added):
It's more controversial in a red state like Oklahoma that's more distrustful of federal standards being imposed; the poll found Republicans are more likely to view Common Core negatively than Democrats, 58 percent to 23 percent.
But there are some major differences between AP and Common Core. For one, schools aren't required to offer AP courses and students aren't required to take them to graduate. Even without banning the program statewide, AP can be a local community decision.
AP is also well-established. About one-third of public high school students in the class of 2013 took an AP exam, and the class of 2013 also scored a 3 or higher on more than a million tests -- a score typically accepted by colleges for credit, according to the College Board, which oversees the program. The University of Oklahoma accepts scores of 3 or higher in nearly 40 subject areas.
Although fighting against national education standards has become popular among some Republicans, equating Common Core to AP isn't a direct comparison, and it's likely to be a tougher slog because of it.
The myth that the Common Core State Standards are a federal initiative has been long debunked, despite its frequent use by conservative media to stoke fears about the standards. Voluntarily adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia, the Common Core is a set of standards in math and English that was developed by a bipartisan group of governors, state school chiefs, and teachers, among others. As the standards have taken hold in many states, some controversy has surrounded their rollout, with even Common Core supporters calling its implementation "botched."
The right-wing media outrage machine, however, has turned Common Core into something of a "rallying cry" over the past few years, thanks to the loud and often misinformed voices telling audiences to be angry or in some cases, to boycott the tests associated with the standards. The misguided notion that Common Core is a federal program comes as no surprise from conservative media voices, but is an unfortunate find in The Fix's education coverage.
Media outlets are reporting that Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) will attempt to block the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general on the grounds that the president's "illegal executive amnesty for illegal immigrants would be implemented" by the nominee. However, in reports about the January 28 hearing in which Vitter explained his "huge concern" about the "unconstitutional" executive actions on immigration, both mainstream and right-wing media failed to note that the statutory provision the senator relied on was not only the wrong one, it was out-of-date.
Lynch, the federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, has been widely praised across the political spectrum, and multiple conservatives -- including current Republican senators -- support her nomination. Her credentials are so strong, even right-wing media favorites called to her confirmation hearing by GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed she was unobjectionable. Nevertheless, from the moment President Obama nominated Lynch, conservative media have attempted to smear her -- attempts that have been riddled with spectacular mistakes.
Right-wing media are now hitching their opposition to Lynch to the positions of Vitter, who has repeatedly stated he will do his best to block the nominee's confirmation because she does not oppose the president's executive actions on immigration. On her radio show, Laura Ingraham hosted Vitter and agreed with his opposition to Lynch because of her support for "executive amnesty," repeating the debunked myth that Lynch believes there is a legal right for undocumented immigrants to work. Breitbart.com, which has struggled mightily to successfully criticize the nominee, also highlighted Vitter's obstructionist intentions toward Lynch, noting that "Lynch's outspoken support for President Obama's executive amnesty" was in part responsible for the current Republican delay on an up-or-down vote.
Mainstream outlets have reported on Vitter's antipathy toward Lynch as well, based on her support for the "reasonable[ness]" of the justification for the immigration actions. These reports have specifically noted that the senator laid out his case for the illegality of deferred action for certain undocumented immigrants at her recent hearing, where he accused the administration of flouting the law by assigning Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to the Department of Homeland Security. As Vitter said during the hearing, "I've read the plan, and the plan as I read it is for all of that to be done in the Department of Homeland Security. So my question would be, what is the statutory basis to allow that, when under the statute -- not some order, not some legal opinion -- the statute, the law, word by word it says the attorney general is in the middle of that decision[.]" The Washington Post, for example, included a photo of the oversized copy of 8 U.S. Code § 1182(d)(5) that Vitter displayed as he repeatedly questioned the nominee for agreeing with the White House's legal defense of the immigration actions. Vitter finally remarked, "Well, again, I'll have to be following up for the fourth time, but that'll be a central question. The plan is not for the attorney general to be in the middle of this at all. The statute says that 'the attorney general is.' Why aren't we following the statute?"
Unfortunately, both right-wing and mainstream media reporting on Vitter, the January 28 hearing, and his opposition to Lynch have failed to note that Vitter's questioning was referring to the wrong part of the law, which has since been superseded.
David Carr, the New York Times media critic, was a giant in our world of people who monitor, report on, and evaluate media.
Carr, 58, died suddenly last night after collapsing in the Times newsroom.
All of us who report on or monitor media have Carr to thank as one of those who broke ground on the beat, offering harsh, direct, and fair coverage.
David Carr was a king of the honest, in-depth report and not afraid to show it (many today are passing around his devastating 2010 report on the Tribune Company). But I also remember him as very calm, professional, and even low-key.
As a lover of the craft, Carr could heap praise on the Times' long-time rivals, writing in October of The Washington Post, "The once-embattled newspaper is in the middle of a great run, turning out the kind of reporting that journalists -- and readers -- live for."
Carr could also challenge his own employer when he thought it justified, stating just last December that the company was among the media giants facing tough times in 2015:
"At the Times, more than half the revenue now comes from consumers, not advertisers, and fully half of the digital consumers arrive via mobile devices. But just 10 percent of digital advertising derives from mobile, a disconnect that will create big problems if it lingers ... declines in print advertising and circulation have created holes in revenue that a recent round of buyouts and layoffs can't begin to fill."
He was one of the few on the media beat who was equally adept at judging the quality of news and programming, as well as the business side of the story - delivering in-depth reporting and crisp writing on them both.
Did he make mistakes? Sure. We all do. He even wrote a great book about his own battles with crack cocaine, The Night of the Gun, not fearing to expose his demons and troubles in a way that likely helped him get past it and offered hope to others.
I wasn't lucky enough to be one of the many who considered themselves Carr's friend. But whenever I was able to speak with him, either on or off record, he was always pleasant and educational. He treated me as much an equal as anyone in our business whether it was during my time at Editor & Publisher or my current work at Media Matters.
Whether we were chatting at an awards event or seeking comment from each other for a story -- more often me seeking his views -- Carr was a pro.
At a time when much of today's media criticism is based on a slanted effort to attack those with whom one disagrees, Carr was focused on the nuts and bolts of a profession that is paramount to our democracy. The real failing of today's media in many ways is the lack of resources as news outlets cut costs and seek to expand audiences through fear, anger, and misleading attacks rather than reporting, in-depth understanding, and honesty.
When too many on the right will assume a left-leaning bias in journalism and use that to allow their own right-leaning bias pass as objective news, the coverage of Carr's passing has included praise from both the right, Breitbart News, and the left, Huffington Post.
Once the shock over this terrible surprise wears off, the Times will have a tough time replacing Carr, if they ever can.
Emily Miller, a reporter for Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG (Fox 5), is facing strong criticism from journalism experts over her outspoken advocacy for gun rights, with one journalism professor suggesting her conflict of interest is a fireable offense.
Miller, Fox 5's chief investigative reporter, has openly advocated on behalf of gun rights groups, most recently speaking at a rally in Annapolis, Maryland on Tuesday that was organized by the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm and local gun rights groups. Washington Post writer Erik Wemple highlighted Miller's appearance and argued that her presence at events that advance a specific legislative agenda "puts WTTG in a bind vis-a-vis Maryland politics."
Gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) has also criticized Miller for speaking at pro-gun rallies and has called for her firing. A CSGV petition drive accused Miller of violating the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics with her appearances and stated, "This is the behavior of an activist and pundit, not a journalist. Given her record, D.C. and Maryland residents can't trust that Miller will provide objective coverage on matters of concern to their city."
Miller reportedly told Wemple that WTTG approved of her advocacy for gun-rights groups, but several journalism instructors near the nation's capital and others who monitor news ethics contend Miller's actions are at least a conflict, and at worst a violation of journalistic credibility.
"A journalist who advocates for an organization no longer has credibility as a reporter. Credibility is all we have to sell these days," said Gilbert Klein, a journalism professor at American University in Washington and former National Press Club president. "Even for a columnist, who has more leeway in expressing opinion, being a member of an advocacy group undercuts credibility. I tell my students from day one, if you want to be a journalist, you give up your right to be an advocate, even if your reporting work does not coincide with your advocacy."
Patrick Pexton, a former Washington Post ombudsman, offered a simple answer to whether Miller should be advocating for gun rights while still a reporter: "She shouldn't. Period."
He later said, "To call her a reporter is a stretch. She's more like an activist; there's no pretense of objectivity here. Emily Miller can call herself whatever she wants, it's a free country. Free enough that we can see right through her."
For Dr. Carolyn M. Byerly, a professor at the Howard University School of Communication in Washington, Miller's actions put her in "an untenable situation."
"By taking a clear position on a controversial issue at a high profile political event she has removed the possibility of reporting in a fair and balanced way on the gun control issues," Byerly said. "Reporters must avoid taking such public stances in order to maintain their credibility as journalists."
A Washington Post editorial ignored evidence that high-stakes testing is not by itself an effective measure of student and teacher performance to baselessly allege that teachers unions want to dodge accountability.
Early news coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign has tacitly allowed the GOP to disingenuously rebrand itself as a party of the middle class, despite the fact that the party's new rhetoric doesn't align with its policy positions that continue to exacerbate income inequality. When highlighting Republican rhetoric about the need to reduce income inequality, media should take care to hold the GOP accountable for its actions, not just its words.
Recent Gallup polling shows "two out of three Americans are dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are currently distributed in the U.S.," and Republicans have taken note. Prospective GOP presidential candidates have suddenly started talking about income inequality ahead of the 2016 elections, apparently heeding advice from the Republican National Committee's (RNC) post-mortem of the 2012 election, which warned that the GOP had been "increasingly marginalizing itself" and urged the party to improve its optics by recognizing the fact "that the middle class has struggled mightily and that far too many of our citizens live in poverty."
During the January 25 Koch brothers-sponsored Freedom Partners Forum, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (TX), Rand Paul (KY), and Marco Rubio (FL) each took the opportunity to bemoan income inequality and blame the Obama administration for a growing income gap. Mitt Romney claimed that "income inequality had worsened" during President Obama's time in office in a January 28 speech at Mississippi State University, while Jeb Bush's "Right to Rise" PAC has declared that "the income gap is real."
The Washington Post, Politico, USA Today, and Bloomberg Politics each reported on the 2016 hopefuls' Freedom Partners comments, highlighting the senators' statements lamenting income inequality and focusing on "issues such as the minimum wage ... [and] tax reform." The Wall Street Journal featured Republican policy proposals "aimed at boosting the middle class," and applauded Bush, Romney, Rubio, and Paul for "promoting or seeking ideas for shoring up the middle class." The Post's Post Politics blog and NBCNews.com's "First Read" emphasized Romney's recent focus on income inequality and poverty, pointing to speeches at the RNC and Mississippi State University.
These media outlets acknowledged the fact that Republicans are changing their rhetoric on inequality -- but it's actions and policies that count, not just rhetoric. Media cannot take GOP candidates at their word when their policies continue to exacerbate inequality and burden the middle and lower class.
Cruz, Paul, and Rubio all oppose recent calls to raise the minimum wage. At a January 25 private donor event, each of these senators argued that raising the minimum wage would eliminate jobs. Cruz claimed "the minimum wage consistently hurts the most vulnerable," while Rubio called focus on raising the minimum wage "a waste of time." During the same event, none of the senators "said they could stomach any tax increases," and Rubio called the ACA a "perfect example" of "cronyism," blaming health reform for halting job creation. Just this month, Cruz introduced a bill to repeal the health care law, while Paul echoed calls to repeal and suggested instead to "try freedom for a while." Such positions are consistent with the GOP's historic stances on these issues. As MSNBC's Steve Benen noted, supposed Republican attempts to address income inequality, "in practice, ... apparently mean endorsing an agenda that cuts off unemployment benefits, slashes food stamps, cuts funding for public services, eliminates health care benefits, and rejects minimum wage increases."
Economists have often noted that wage stagnation has a profound impact on aggravating income inequality, and as the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has pointed out, raising the federal minimum wage just to $10.10 per hour by 2016 would "raise the wages of 27.8 million workers." The Congressional Budget Office has also reported on the "ripple effect" of raising the minimum wage, saying it would benefit 16.5 million workers and lift nearly one million people out of poverty. And according to a Center For American Progress report, a $10.10 minimum wage would cut food stamp participation and taxpayer expenditures by $4.6 billion annually. Support for anti-poverty government programs -- like SNAP, unemployment benefits, school lunch programs, and the like -- cut the country's poverty rate "nearly in half," according to research from the Institute for Research on Poverty.
Rather than alleviating income inequality, lawmakers have worsened inequality by consistently cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans, according to a 2013 EPI study. Economist Larry Summers has emphasized the importance of "closing [tax] loopholes that only the wealthy can enjoy," noting that would "enable targeted tax measures such as the earned-income tax credit to raise the incomes of the poor and middle class more than dollar for dollar by incentivizing working and saving."
And despite countless Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health care law will reduce income inequality, boost the incomes of lower and middle-class Americans, and extend coverage to 15.1 million uninsured adults with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Media acknowledging the GOP's new talking points and mottos is one thing. But given the 2016 hopefuls' apparent commitment to policies that stand in contrast to their rhetoric on income inequality, media should make sure and hold these Republicans accountable for their actions, not just their words.
A Media Matters review of several major newspapers found that their coverage of congressional efforts to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline has been missing an essential component of the story: the hundreds of millions of dollars that the fossil fuel industry spent in the midterm elections to elect members of Congress who support Keystone XL and other aspects of the oil industry's agenda. Of the newspapers reviewed, only The New York Times tied congressional support for Keystone XL back to the fossil fuel industry's campaign contributions.
Right-wing media are baselessly connecting the Obama administration and the State Department to a local Israeli campaign against current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, American political consultants from both parties have been independently working in Israeli campaigns for decades -- including former Obama aides who have worked for Netanyahu.
Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen wrote on February 2 that a former Obama campaign staffer went to Israel "to oust Netanyahu," suggesting the former staffer would not do this work "if he thought Obama opposed it" and implying the administration was "actively working to defeat Netanyahu":
Obama's 2012 national field director, Jeremy Bird, was headed to Tel Aviv to manage a grass-roots campaign to oust Netanyahu. Bird would not be working to defeat Netanyahu if he thought Obama opposed it. Can you imagine Karl Rove going to London while George W. Bush was in office to help conservatives oust Prime Minister Tony Blair? It further emerged that the group behind Bird's anti-Netanyahu effort has received State Department funding and lists the State Department as a "partner" on its Web site.
But before this false idea hit the Post, it bubbled up from the right-wing media echo chamber.
Two policy groups in Israel, OneVoice and Victory 15, are currently working together to promote platforms that reportedly "are not friendly" to Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming election.
The groups have also partnered with American consulting group 270 Strategies, which is headed by Jeremy Bird, a former Obama campaign staffer. OneVoice began working with 270 Strategies in 2013, long before the Israeli elections were announced.
There is a long history of U.S. political consultants from both parties working for Israeli political campaigns. As the New York Times reported, former Obama campaign strategist Bill Knapp worked as an adviser to Netanyahu in 2009. Josh Isay, whose firm worked on the Obama campaign, has also worked for Netanyahu. Bill Clinton campaign strategists James Carville and Stanley Greenberg worked for an Israeli Labor Party candidate in 1999; up until recently Republican strategist Arthur Finkelstein worked for Netanyahu.
Nevertheless, conservatives have jumped on 270 Strategies' current work to falsely accuse the Obama administration -- and President Obama personally -- of attempting to influence Israeli politics.
In particular, the right-wing criticism revolves around the administration's response to Rep. John Boehner's (R-OH) recent announcement that Netanyahu was invited to speak before the U.S. Congress without President Obama's knowledge shortly before Israel's election, an unusual intervention in foreign policy and almost-unheard of action between heads of state. Conservatives claim that 270 Strategies' work with OneVoice proves Obama is either retaliating against Netanyahu or engaging in a similar effort to meddle in foreign politics; but again, 270's work on the ground in Israel began long before this most recent disagreement, and it is typical for American political consultants to engage in Israeli politics.
Fringe blogs Gateway Pundit and PJ Media led the charge, publishing the "report" on January 26 claiming "The Obama administration is backing the campaign to defeat Netanyahu." The Drudge Report hyped an inside look at the "HQ of ex-Obama staffers' anti-Bibi campaign," right below a story labeled "White House ratchets up criticism of Netanyahu." Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) even followed up with a blog on Breitbart.com to ask, "Has President Obama launched a political campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu?"
Fox News also picked up the claim, with host Megyn Kelly suggesting that the administration sent an Obama "field general" to help Israel "elect Netanyahu's opponent":
[The Obama administration says] that they're fine, they are not going to interfere with the Israeli election, they don't want anything to do with that and yet, we have reports yesterday that this guy Jeremy Bird, who was the field general for Obama's re-election campaign is helping in Israel elect Netanyahu's opponent and to replace the current government there. Pure coincidence?
When Kelly's guest Joe Trippi then explained that former campaign staffers frequently work on international campaigns -- on either side of various issues -- National Review's Rich Lowry attempted to argue that "you cannot find anyone significant around President Obama who would ever go to work for Bibi Netanyahu, which, again, goes to the animosity they have to this man personally and for the point of view he represents."
Many of the media outlets took the smear further, by also claiming that tax-payer dollars were funding the campaign. OneVoice briefly received a one-time grant for about $200,000 from the State Department, which ended in November 2014. As State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki noted in a briefing, the grant "ended before there was a declaration of an Israeli election."
Nevertheless, media outlets such as the Daily Caller insisted that OneVoice was currently "backed by the Department of State" and labeled it "Kerry's Diplomatic Protection Racket." Kelly even suggested that OneVoice "should be forced to return the $200,000 to the taxpayers."
Now, this right-wing distortion of the facts has made it all the way to the Post.
The Washington Post blog The Fix is claiming that an upcoming Supreme Court decision that could eliminate health care subsidies for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) "might not matter" because Republicans might restore the subsidies, a proposition that seems not to consider the fact that the GOP has long ignored these tax credits' popularity in their quest to bring the law down, subsidies and all.
In March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in King v. Burwell, a right-wing challenge to the ACA. The challengers argue that, based on their strained reading of the subsidies provision of the law, which was designed to make health insurance affordable, the IRS does not have the authority to provide tax credits to Americans who purchased their insurance through the federal health care exchange website. Instead, they argue, only consumers who bought insurance through state-based exchanges are eligible for the subsidies -- a problem since Republican-controlled states refused to set up their own sites.
In a January 28 post, The Fix argued that it "might not matter" if the Supreme Court strikes down the subsidies, because a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that the majority of Americans would want the Republican-controlled Congress to restore the subsidies.
But it actually matters a lot -- leading Republicans have repeatedly and publicly sided with the right-wing challengers of the subsidies as a way to bring down the ACA. In September, a group of congressional Republicans filed a brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to hear the case and to rule that the IRS doesn't have the authority to provide subsidies to Americans who bought insurance through the federal exchange. Republican members of Congress know full well that if they are successful, the ACA will collapse -- that's their self-admitted goal.
Earlier this month, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who was one of legislators who filed the brief, told Roll Call that he expected the court to "render a body blow to Obamacare from which I don't think it will ever recover." In December, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) similarly argued that blocking the subsidies was "enough to bring down the health care law. ... We're going to continue to try one, repeal; two, strip out the worst parts of the law; and three, look to the courts." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell similarly made it clear that Republicans are not interested in restoring anything about the ACA if the court "take[s] it down," but rather are looking for a "mulligan here, a major do-over of the whole thing." Even The Fix's post acknowledged that "just because restoring subsidies might be popular doesn't mean congressional Republicans would do it. The GOP base would certainly cry foul if they moved to do so."
Continuing a "troubling" pattern, The Washington Post is allowing opinion writer Ed Rogers to defend Wall Street from attacks without disclosing his firm "offers services" to Wall Street interests. The Post also doesn't disclose that Rogers' firm "provides investment banking services" for American and foreign clients.
Rogers is a "Republican mega-lobbyist" who is the chairman and co-founder of the BGR Group with former Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) in 1991. The Post noted the firm is one of the top Washington D.C. lobbying firms, having banked more than $15 million in 2014.
Media Matters previously documented that Rogers' firm received more than $1.6 million in 2014 lobbying fees from energy and transportation clients that benefit from positions he repeatedly espoused in his Post writing. The Post and Rogers never disclosed his firm's clients.
The Post has defended the practice, telling Media Matters via email, "His full-time lobbying job is in his bio on every single piece he writes." But such a standard requires readers to actively search federal lobbying records to ascertain if Rogers has clients that might benefit from his writing. Media ethicists have slammed the Post for this "troubling" and "dishonest" standard.
Rogers' undisclosed and conflict-laden commentary extends into other areas beyond the environment, including financial regulations.
How long will the press remain allergic to Hillary Clinton polling data?
It's weird, right? For decades, pundits and reporters have worshiped at the altar of public polling, using results as tangible proof that certain political trends are underway, as well as to keep track of campaign season fluctuations. And that's even truer in recent years with the rise of data journalism. Crunching the political numbers has been elevated to a new and respected art form.
But that newsroom trend seems to be losing out to another, more powerful force as the 2016 cycle gears up. No longer viewing their job as reporting the lay of the campaign land, more and more journalists seem to have embraced the idea that their role is to help tell a compelling story, even if that means making the narrative more interesting, or competitive, than it really is.
The press "desperately wants to cover some Democratic story other than the Clinton Coronation," Bloomberg's David Weigel reported last year. NBC's Chuck Todd conceded it's the Beltway "press corps" that's suffers from so-called Clinton fatigue. The Atlantic's Molly Ball was among those suggesting that Clinton's candidacy is boring and that the American people are already "tired" of the former Secretary of State.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll this week provided little in terms of narrative excitement, but it was newsworthy nonetheless. It showed Clinton with a commanding 15-point lead over former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and a 13-point lead over former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, two of the best-known Republicans considering White House runs.
Nobody should think that polling results 20-plus months before an election signals certainty. But in terms of context, when the Washington Post and ABC began hypothetical polling in 2011 for Obama's re-election run, its survey showed the president enjoyed a four point lead of Romney at the time. (Obama went on to win by four points.) Today at a similar juncture, Clinton's lead over Romney stands at an astounding 15 points.
And so what kind of media response did the Clinton poll produce this week? Mostly shrugs; the press didn't seem to care. The morning the poll was published, NBC's daily political tip sheet, First Read's Morning Clips, omitted any reference to Clinton's enormous advantage in their laundry list of must-read articles for the day. On cable news, the coverage was minimal. Or put it this way, CNN mentioned the Clinton poll once yesterday, while CNN mentioned "Tom Brady" nearly 100 times, according to TVeyes.com.
"Clinton Enjoys Enormous Lead" is just not a headline the press wants to dwell on. So polling data is often tossed in the dustbin, clearing the way for pundits and reporters to form whatever storyline they want about Clinton and her possible 2016 run. (Hint: She's in trouble! Her book tour was a "disaster"!)
The Washington Post claims that broadly disclosing that one of its opinion writers is a Republican lobbyist is sufficient even when he is advocating for positions that specifically benefit his firm's unmentioned clients, a standard media critics say is "troubling" and "dishonest."
Ed Rogers writes conservative commentary for the Post's PostPartisan blog. Like many conservative columnists, he regularly criticizes environmental and energy regulations and the environmentalists who support them.
But unlike those other columnists, Rogers has a massive conflict of interest: he is chairman of the lobbying firm BGR Group, whose clients benefit from the positions he espouses. While the Post discloses his position with the firm in the bio appended to his posts, it does not reveal BGR's specific clients and conflicts, even when they directly overlap with the subject matter of Rogers' writing.
After Media Matters documented how Rogers' firm received more than $1.6 million last year from energy and transportation clients that benefit from positions he espoused in his columns, a Post spokesperson defended the practice, telling Media Matters via email, "His full-time lobbying job is in his bio on every single piece he writes." (Media Matters noted this in our original post on the matter.)
Asked again why specific disclosures are not provided for pieces that support issues favorable to a certain client, the spokesperson did not respond. Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt did not respond to requests for comment.
The Post's standard requires readers to search federal lobbying records to research if Rogers has clients that might be impacted by his commentary rather than proactively divulging the information.
Media ethicists panned this policy and urged the paper to do more.
"The burden is on The Washington Post," said Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker. He singled out Media Matters' report that Rogers had advocated building the Keystone XL pipeline without the Post disclosing that his firm represents Caterpillar, Inc., which would financially benefit from its construction. "If he is going to write about utilities or Keystone and he has clients with a stake in that, the Post should say that."
"It fits a pattern that I find troubling," he added. "Which is that in the television world and in this world, it is cheap to have partisans on the air or write blog posts but when you have on someone talking about say Mitt Romney, does the viewer know that that person has a relationship with Romney? And the same thing here. Does the reader know that Rogers has clients that would benefit from Keystone, so therefore the issue becomes transparency."
Kevin Smith, former ethics committee chair for the Society of Professional Journalists, agreed.
"It's the same scenario repeated time and time again," he said. "When the Washington Post can't present a complete accounting of their writers' associations it goes beyond head scratching and speaks to dishonesty with their readers."
The Washington Post has allowed opinion writer Ed Rogers to advocate for the positions and interests of his lobbying firm's clients in numerous anti-environmental pieces. The Post and Rogers have not disclosed his major conflicts of interest even though his firm received over $1.6 million in fees in 2014 alone from energy and transportation clients like Chevron, Caterpillar, and the National Mining Association.
Rogers is a Republican strategist who chairs and co-founded the BGR Group with former Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) in 1991. As the Post itself has reported, the firm is one of the top Washington D.C. lobbying firms, having banked more than $15 million in 2014. The newspaper's reporters have described Rogers as a "Republican mega-lobbyist," "lobbyist extraordinaire," and "a go-to guy for Republicans."
One of BGR's practice areas is energy and transportation, where it professes to having "the industry expertise, Capitol Hill experience and knowledge of government to successfully advocate our clients' public policy goals." Rogers is listed as a group leader for the issue area.
On his Post "Insiders" blog, Rogers frequently advocates for positions favored by his energy and transportation clients. While the Post notes that Rogers is "a political consultant" and "chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group," the publication fails to disclose Rogers' firm's clients and conflicts of interest in his anti-environmental posts. For instance:
Many news outlets are uncritically touting the State Department's conclusion that building the Keystone XL pipeline would not significantly worsen climate change without noting that this determination was based on an expectation of high oil prices. Some media outlets, however, have reported the significance of the recent plunge in oil prices, such as the Associated Press, which noted that "[l]ow oil prices could make the pipeline more important to the development of new oil sands projects in Canada than anticipated by the State Department ... and therefore is more likely to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming."
After a long period of dishonestly flacking for Mitt Romney, Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin appears to have given up on him and is urging him not to run for president a third time.
In two recent blog posts, Rubin reacts negatively to the news that Romney is considering running for president in 2016. She writes that "another Romney run is preposterous" and that Romney donors and advisers pushing for a run "might want to rethink what they are doing."
As New York's Jonathan Chait points out, "Jennifer Rubin, the political commentator most consistently loyal to Romney in the last cycle, has turned against him."
During the 2012 campaign, nobody stuck by Romney like Rubin.
She hailed Romney's convention speech as proof "he can rise to an occasion," said he was "more forthcoming on immigration" than President Obama and described Romney's campaign team as "skilled." She said the presidential debates "recast the race and vaulted Mitt Romney into a position to win the race."
Of course, when the campaign was over and Romney had lost, Rubin wrote a post that revealed she knew how dishonest she had been all along, admitting that the "convention speech was a huge missed opportunity," describing the communications team as "the worst of any presidential campaign I have ever seen" and that Romney needed "more than a good month" on the campaign trail "to be successful."
Rubin appears to be positioning herself to be a booster for former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who announced that he is exploring a presidential run. Rubin said "Bush's experience and inside knowledge of his father's and brother's campaigns may be an unappreciated asset" and described a Spanish-language video on his PAC's website as "quintessential Bush -- upbeat, policy-oriented and, yes, conservative."
Considering her track record with Romney, how can we believe what she's saying now?