• Back here at home with nothing to do

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell:

    Meanwhile, the president is on vacation. He is on a 25 acre estate in Martha's Vineyard. We understand a $35,000 rental for the week. His personal expense, his family's expense. Communications for the President, as always, and security, provided by the taxpayer. No one begrudges him the vacation.

    Really? Then why do you keep talking about the expense?

  • WashPost pushes Glenn Beck spin

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Writing about the sweeping, and still-growing, advertising boycott of Glenn Beck's show, Howard Kurtz stresses that while companies are fleeing Beck, they're not leaving Fox News. No advertisers have completely yanked their ads from Fox.

    Writes Kurtz [emphasis added]:

    Beck's charge was so incendiary -- and bizarre, considering that Obama's mother was white -- that even some conservatives winced. But boycotts rarely succeed in forcing anyone off the air, and indeed, Fox hasn't forfeited a dime. A Fox spokeswoman pointed to the network's statement: "The advertisers referenced have all moved their spots from Beck to other day parts on the network, so there has been no revenue lost."

    But that does not appear to be the case. From the Associated Press:

    "This is a good illustration of that conundrum," said Rich Hallabran, spokesman for UPS Stores, which he said has temporarily halted buying ads on Fox News Channel as a whole.

    FYI, Kurtz reported that "about 20 companies" had pulled their ads from Beck's program. The AP pegs the number at nearly three dozen.

  • Towey in 2003: "Pagans" neither care for the poor, nor have "loving hearts"

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    From then-White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives director Jim Towey's November 26, 2003, "Ask the White House" online chat:

    Colby, from Centralia MO writes:
    Do you feel that Pagan faith based groups should be given the same considerations as any other group that seeks aid?

    Jim Towey
    I haven't run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.


    Wallace crops VHA doc to falsely suggest Obama administration pressuring vets to end their lives

    NY Times reports on Towey's attack on "Your Life, Your Choices" without noting he is selling competing booklet

    Towey: Medical guide for vets "fundamentally flawed"

  • Robin Givhan misses the point

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Buried in the middle of Robin Givhan's remarkably defensive screed against Michelle Obama's "jarring" and "common" decision to wear shorts on a recent outing at the Grand Canyon is this throwaway line:

    Obama's thigh-skimming shorts speak to body confidence and athleticism rather than fashion, sex appeal or coquettishness.

    It's a shame Givhan chose not to elaborate on that. If we stipulate to Givhan's contention that what the First Lady wears matters, we might well come to the conclusion that Michelle Obama's "body confidence" is something to be applauded, particularly in a society that has long done everything possible to undermine the confidence women have in their bodies. We might well conclude that a First Lady who demonstrates to millions of American women that you don't have to be a size zero to be comfortable and confident is doing something remarkably positive and important.

    But instead of exploring that possibility, Givhan sniffs that Michelle Obama's outfit was insufficiently "polished" and "aesthetically respectful." And that's a shame. Givhan had an opportunity to say something important, if only she had seen it.

  • Howard Kurtz's intermittent disclosure

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Earlier this month, I noted that Washington Post/CNN media critic Howard Kurtz has repeatedly failed to disclose his financial relationship with CNN when writing about the cable channel, even after assuring Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander that one such failure was an "oversight" that "won't be repeated."

    Well, look what appears at the bottom of Kurtz' column today, in which he mentions CNN:

    Howard Kurtz is a CNN contributor and hosts its media program "Reliable Sources" hour, which is part of "State of the Union."

    Good to see Kurtz disclosing the tie again, but it's woefully inadequate. Kurtz has the biggest conflict-of-interest going, and it isn't a theoretical one: it has clearly affected his coverage of CNN and Lou Dobbs this summer. Someone at the Post owes it to readers to address this comment publicly.

    Kurtz is doing an online discussion at this very moment if you'd like to ask him about it.

  • Not the same thing

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In an online discussion today, Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon equates current Republican claims that President Obama wants to cut Medicare with mid-1990s Democratic criticism of Republicans for trying to do so. But the situations are far different: Multiple independent observers have made clear that current health care reform efforts wouldn't cut Medicare benefits or increase out-of-pocket costs, while the GOP's mid-1990s cuts would have done so.

    Here's Bacon:

    Las Cruces, NM: Much of the angst about the Health Care reform is voiced by seniors worried about changes to Medicare (Obama has repeatedly said that savings must come from Medicare). If you recall, in the '80's and '90's Republicans wanted to cut the rise in Medicare costs and were vilified (sometimes with very obvious lies, for instance - calling a reduction in increased funding "funding cuts") Is there any irony that Obama is now being vilified for the same reasons? I remember some pretty irresponsible t.v. ads, especially during the Reagan/Bush years.

    Perry Bacon Jr.: Yes, the way this issue has flipped is interesting. I wrote a piece about the Republicans that ran Sunday and I quoted ex-Bush aide David Frum complaining about how his party is making the kinds of attacks on Medicare that Democrats once did. Michael Steele has an op-ed in our paper attacking Obama on this issue, much as President Clinton did of Dole in the 1996 campaign. I do think the president's team has a major problem with seniors and has to get them behind the reform effort.

    Here's "The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false, though that doesn't keep it from being repeated ad infinitum."

    And AARP: "Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.:

    By contrast, here's a New York Times description of the Republicans' 1995 efforts to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare:

    The Senate and House bills seek to save the same amount of money, cutting projected Medicare spending by $270 billion, or 14 percent, over seven years.


    Senate Republicans would impose more of a burden on Medicare beneficiaries, increasing the annual deductible for doctors' fees as well as the monthly premium that beneficiaries pay for coverage of doctors' and outpatient services. House Republicans have said they will increase only the premium, not the deductible.


    Under current law, Medicare beneficiaries must pay the first $100 of costs incurred each year for doctors' services. The Senate would increase the annual deductible to $150 in 1996 and would raise it by $10 in each of the following six years. The deductible, set originally at $50, has been increased only three times in the history of Medicare. The last increase, to $100 from $75, occurred in 1991.

    Senate Republican aides said the $270 billion of savings would be achieved in these ways: Beneficiaries would contribute $70 billion, through higher premiums and deductibles. About $150 billion would be extracted from hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and other providers of health care.

    Another key difference? Bob Dole, who helped lead the GOP's effort to cut $270 billion from Medicare, had voted against creating Medicare in 1965, and had bragged about that vote in 1995: "I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare -- one of twelve -- because we knew it wouldn't work in 1965."

  • Howard Kurtz, beginning to see the light?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Howard Kurtz is bewildered that people believe falsehoods about health care reform, despite the fact that news organizations like the Washington Post have debunked them:

    In the 10 days after Palin warned on Facebook of an America "in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel,' " The Washington Post mentioned the phrase 18 times, the New York Times 16 times, and network and cable news at least 154 times (many daytime news shows are not transcribed).

    While there is legitimate debate about the legislation's funding for voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions, the former Alaska governor's claim that government panels would make euthanasia decisions was clearly debunked. Yet an NBC poll last week found that 45 percent of those surveyed believe the measure would allow the government to make decisions about cutting off care to the elderly -- a figure that rose to 75 percent among Fox News viewers.


    On Aug. 9, Post reporter Ceci Connolly said flatly in an A-section story: "There are no such 'death panels' mentioned in any of the House bills."

    Ok, let's take a look at that Connolly article:

    Conservative talk-radio shows have raised the prospect of euthanasia based on a provision to reimburse doctors through Medicare for counseling sessions about end-of-life directives.

    And comments posted on former Alaska Republican governor Sarah Palin's Facebook page Friday said that people would have to "stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care."

    There are no such "death panels" mentioned in any of the House bills.

    That is not a particularly effective debunking, for several reasons, including:

    1) Connolly repeats the false claims for two paragraphs before indicating their falsity.

    2) Connolly doesn't explain their falsity in any way -- doesn't explain that the counseling sessions are optional, or that they would not impose outcomes on patients, doesn't indicate that the falsehood comes from people who have a pattern of lying about health care. Connolly's debunking comes down to "Trust me, not Sarah Palin or talk show hosts." Obviously, many of Connolly's conservative readers are unlikely to do so.

    3) Connolly's debunking sentence appears narrowly crafted: It can be read to apply only to the phrase "death panels," not to the euthanasia in the first paragraph, and it refers specifically to the "House bills," rather than making clear that nobody is proposing anything like Death Panels.

    4) Connolly's article privileges the lie.

    If this is what Kurtz holds up as a shining example of the media debunking the false claims, it isn't at all difficult to see why so many people believe them.

    Meanwhile, Kurtz has finally discovered the fact that television has done a lousy job of covering the substance of health care reform:

    The eruption of anger at town-hall meetings on health care, while real and palpable, became an endless loop on television. The louder the voices, the fiercer the confrontation, the more it became video wallpaper, obscuring the substantive arguments in favor of what producers love most: conflict.

    Good to see Kurtz come around: I've written about that repeatedly over the past few weeks, while Kurtz has been defending the media's handling of the health care debate.

  •, please define "but"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Here's the loopy lede [emphasis added]:

    The Obama administration has declared the wildly popular 'Cash for Clunkers' program a success, saying it has revived the country's ailing auto industry and taken polluting vehicles off the road.

    But the data shows that the program, which ends Monday, has apparently benefited foreign automakers more than their U.S. counterparts.

    This is dumb on so many levels. is clearly trying to suggest that Obama's "Cash for Clunkers" program was supposed to boost American car companies. (Hint: it was not.) But uh-oh! Toyota and Honda and others enjoyed a "Cash for Clunkers" sales boost. "Foreign automakers" are making out like bandits! "Cash for Clunkers" was lining the pockets of foreign automakers.

    Thwack! (Sound of palm hitting forehead.)

    In case isn't aware, "foreign automakers" such as Toyota, and Honda, and Acura, and Nissan, and Hyundai all make cars in America. (Y'know, by employing American workers.) So the whole buy-American angle implied throughout the article is lamely out of date.

  • Did Fox News really "distance" itself from Glenn Beck's "racist" smear?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Associated Press is just the latest news org to make that claim. Detailing how nearly three dozen advertisers have fled Beck's program in response to the "racist" charge Beck made on the air, the AP over the weekend reported [emphasis]:

    [Beck] was actually on another Fox show July 28 when he referred to Obama as a racist with "a deep-seated hatred for white people." The network immediately distanced itself from Beck's statement, but Beck didn't. He used his radio show the next day to explain why he believed that.

    That language has been used over and over again by reporters to describe FNC's reaction. But is is accurate? This was the cabler's official response:

    During Fox & Friends this morning, Glenn Beck expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel. And as with all commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions.

    I think Crooks & Liars nailed it back when the story first broke:

    Make no mistake, the powers that be at Fox News couldn't care less about Beck's statement. If they did, Beck would have been suspended, or at the very least, reprimanded. This kind of outrageous propaganda permeates their network and they use it daily to hold on to their racist viewers.

    The press ought to stop giving Fox News credit for something it never did; "distance" itself from Beck's "racist" smear.