• Public broadcasting's ombudsman whacks Juan Williams re: Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And this was before Williams' most recent, and dreadful, backstop appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, where he defended the host's wild and violent anti-abortion rhetoric and compared today's abortion crusaders with non-violent civil rights protesters from the 1950's.

    Centrist Ken Bode recently wrote that he "cringed" and was "embarrassed" when he saw Williams on the program:

    I admire Mr. Williams for his scholarly writing and his reporting on NPR. Fox News president Roger Ailes knows he is exploiting the credibility that Mr. Williams has built at NPR and carries with him to Fox. I wonder if Williams ever thinks that he is squandering a measure of that credibility by his continued appearances with Bill O'Reilly.

    BTW, in the same column Bode, critiquing a recent PBS "NOW" program, was also quite clear about what he sees as O'Reilly's role in the assassination of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller:

    Overall, the ["NOW"] program was strong and convincing on this point: radical, anti-abortion opponents, including Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, are guilty of promoting domestic terrorism. They always deny that their rhetoric promotes and condones the violence directed at doctors who are performing services protected under the law. However, little question remains from the reporting on "NOW" that they are guilty of inspiring the murderous outcomes they encourage.

  • UPDATED: Press has trouble reading Obama polls

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Looks like CQ's not the only media outlet that wanted to hype the phony notion that new polling data suggest voters are blaming Obama for the economy. They're not. In fact, in the latest NBC News/WSJ poll, a microscopic six percent blame Obama for the state of the economy.

    But that's not the story the Times bloggers, and former Laura Bush flak, Andrew Malcolm wanted to tell. Writing up new poll results, he stressed:

    And as the months roll by, the results, added together, indicate the clock is running out on Obama's ability to blame the last administration for all ills; the sense of his ownership of the nation's problems appears to be growing in the American mind.

    Malcolm spin: Poll shows that voters now blame Obama for the economy.

    Fact: Poll shows that virtually nobody blames Obama for the economy.

  • The Red Scare Index: 32

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialists, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communists, Communistic, Marxism, Marxist, Marxists, Marxistic, Fascism, Fascist, Fascists and Fascistic.

    Here are the numbers for yesterday, Wednesday, June 17, 2009:

    TOTAL: 32
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 7
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 23
    Marxism/Marxist: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 2

    By Network:

    CNN: 11
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 9
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    CNN Headline News: 4
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 4
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox News Channel: 4
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    Fox Business Network: 2
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    MSNBC: 9
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 4
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 4
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    CNBC: 2
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a power search for these terms on these networks.

  • UPDATED: US News & World Report plays dumb about ABC News' health care special

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I told you US News & World Report would not be alone today, and that other media outlets would play dumb about the latest non-twist in the story.

    Enter Politico, which essentially types up an RNC fundraising email from chairman Michael Steele and treats it as news:

    Steele, as part of an effort to solicit funds to run ads opposing the president during the televised event, claimed in his email Thursday that ABC has "flatly rejected" the RNC's request to "add our views along side those of the Obama Democrats."

    "What are the Democrats and their media allies afraid of? The truth?" Steele wrote. "That is outrageous! And we will not take it!"

    How does Politico play dumb? Like US News, Politico neglects to mention that, like all the nets, ABC has a long-running policy of not running advocacy ads like the kind the RNC supposedly wants to buy during the health care special. Meaning, it's a publicity stunt. The RNC and conservative groups know ABC won't ever run advocacy ads, but they attempt to 'buy' them anyway, and then hope the press plays dumb and treats the charade as news.

    Well, congratulations, RNC -- mission accomplished.

  • The press continues to have trouble reading Obama polls

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This morning it was ABC's The Note. Now it's CQ.

    Look at CQ's dispatch about the release of two major new public opinion surveys. Under the headline, "Honeymoon Over: It's on Obama's Watch Now," CQ reports:

    Early in his presidency, Barack Obama had a grace period when the public saw the nation's problems as ones he inherited, but two new polls -- by New York Times/CBS News and Wall Street Journal/NBC News - make clear that there are rising concerns about his policies.

    The biggest public concern is over the size of the deficit being run up by Obama's economic recovery proposals and how much more it will rise if his plan to overhaul health care and increase coverage for uninsured Americans is enacted. But there is also discomfort about his intervention in the auto industry and taking a big government stake in ownership of General Motors.

    CQ's pretty definitive: Early on in his administration, the public gave Obama a pass; voters didn't hold him responsible for troubles he may have inherited. But that's changed now, especially on big issues like the economy and the deficit. i.e. "It's on Obama's Watch Now."

    Except, at least in the case of the NBC News/WSJ poll highlighted by CQ, the findings are pretty much the opposite.

    As Ed Kilgore notes at FiveThirtyEight:

    Five months into the Obama administration, and after weeks of steady Republican hammering of the president as a big spender, only 6% of Americans primarily blame Obama for the budget situation, while 46% primarily blame George W. Bush.

    CQ spin: Polls show voters are now blaming Obama for the economy.

    Fact: Polls show that virtually nobody is blaming Obama for the economy.

  • Can Glenn Beck up his claims about Frank Rich and Keith Olbermann?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Specifically, that they ranted against members of the U.S. military. That Olbermann demonized Army recruiters and that Rich talked down U.S. soldiers during the Iraq War.

    That's the claim Beck has been pushing when confronted with questions about the right-wing hate that's been flooding the airwaves and what connection it has with the rise in fright, domestic attack from the right. According to Beck, his hands are clean and that it's not fair to blame a pundit when somebody does something nutty and violent.

    And to prove his point, he insists it would be unfair to blame Olbermann or Rich for the recent murder of an Army recruiter in Arkansas. It wouldn't be fair, says Beck, even though Olbermann and Rich have attacked members of the U.S. military. Even though they have created a dangerous environment for soldiers.

    Or so Beck claimed:

    Keith Olbermann has railed against recruiters. Keith Olbermann has railed against the baby killers that our U.S. soldiers are.

    But has he? And has Times columnist Frank Rich "talked about how bad our soldiers are" as Beck now insists? Note, not the war planners, commanders or politicians who launched the war. Beck clearly claims that Rich has bad-mouthed our soldiers. A lot.

    To date though, neither Beck, nor anybody else on the right pushing this false moral equivalency claim, can point to any quotes from high-profile media liberals who have attacked, demonized and dehumanized military recruiters or soldiers the way Bill O'Reilly, for instance, attacked, demonized and dehumanized abortion provider Dr. George Tiller before an extremist murdered him.

    So if Beck is going to keep making this charge against liberal pundits (he made it again during an online chat this week), it might be nice to actually back it up, the way Media Matters, for instance, has cataloged the vigilante-style rhetoric O'Reilly engaged in.

    Facts are easy things to document. Maybe that's why Beck's having such a tough time of it.

  • Mark Halperin undermines his own "liberal media" claims

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Time's Mark Halperin frequently repeats right-wing myths about the "liberal media." But today he undermined his already-weak case by arguing that one reason "to bet AGAINST major health care reform passing this year" is that "Most journalists still have health insurance."

    The clear implication is that because most journalists have health insurance, they don't see the need for reform -- and that colors their reporting.

    Sounds pretty reasonable.

    Now, when do you think Halperin will consider other, similarly reasonable things? Like the fact that all working journalists have jobs, which -- by Halperin's logic -- colors their coverage of policies meant to help the unemployed. Or the fact that few national political reporters earn the minimum wage -- and, indeed, those like Mark Halperin make considerably more than the average worker, which likely colors their coverage of minimum wage proposals and tax policy. And so on.

    (Another of Halperin's reasons to bet against reform is "1/6 of the economy can't be remade without genuine bipartisan support." But polling shows that roughly 80 percent of Americans support health care reform that includes a public plan. There is "genuine bipartisan support" for real reform -- in America, if not in Washington, DC. Halperin makes the mistake journalists often make: thinking the likes of Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans are even remotely representative of Americans.)

  • US News & World Report plays dumb about ABC News's health care special

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I'm sure it won't be alone among media outlets today, but I noticed US News typed up the latest in the non-story about ABC's White House special next week about health care. You'll recall that Drudge erroneously "reported" that no dissenting views would be aired in the special, thereby manufacturing a mini-scandal.

    Now a conservative group has concocted the latest twist: ABC won't let the group buy an advocacy ad during the primetime program. Drudge thinks this is a big deal, which means apparently Matt Drudge has no idea how network television works, since ABC has a longstanding tradition of not airing any advocacy ads. Ever. Plus, the idea that a potential, first-time advertiser could just dial up the ABC sales team a week before a primetime show and buy a 60-second spot is comically naive.

    But not for US News, which simply types up the conservative press release (i.e. the "growing controversy") and leaves out any mention that ABC never airs advocacy ads. See, that way the press can pretend there's actual news here.

  • When pundits fail as press critics. Or, paging Phil Bronstein

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I traveled to Fox News studios in New York City yesterday for a report on the press' coverage of Obama. (It aired on Special Report last night.) And the producer who interviewed me asked about a column former San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein had written about how the press and Obama should 'get a room,' because the honeymoon affection was becoming gratuitous. And I noticed Fox News on Wednesday aired clips of a Bronstein interview where he made the same points; the press is going too easy on Obama.

    But is that true? And what kind of proof did Bronstein come up with in his column to prove his point? Well, it turns out the very first example cited in his column doesn't withstand much scrutiny, and it seems Bronstein had to improve upon the facts to make it work for his press critique; to make it fit his narrative about a lapdog press corps for Obama.

    Here's what Bronstein wrote:

    When Barack Obama decided that questions from the German press about his trip agenda in that country were too pesky, he told the reporters, "So, stop it all of you!" He just wanted them to ask things he wanted to talk about. Well, what politico wouldn't want that?

    OK, dad. We'll behave.

    Bronstein's point was that when Obama traveled overseas, "pesky" reporters did what their American counterparts don't--ask tough questions--and so Obama barked back ("So, stop it all of you!") because he was only used to talking about what he wanted to talk about.

    Slight problem, that's not how the scene played out in Germany with reporters. As was quite plain from the coverage at the time, rather than scolding the press, Obama was joking with reporters who laughed at his "stop it" comment. But Bronstein improved the story and pretended Obama had lashed out at reporters.

    Here's the back story, as reported by ABC News on June 5: [emphasis added]:

    At a joint press availability in Dresden, Germany, this morning, President Obama jokingly chastised the German press for playing up stories about alleged tensions between him and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    Mr. Obama was responding to a question from a German television reporter, who noted that there has been certain "mild, sometimes even wild speculation" about the president not leaving much time for a visit with Merkel on his way from Cairo, Egypt, yesterday, where he gave his major address to the Muslim world, to Normandy, France, tomorrow where he will join in the commemoration ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Some in the German press have suggested this constitutes a slight and is part of a history of tensions between the two leaders.

    "I think your characterization of wild speculations is accurate -- they are very wild and based on no facts," President Obama said, with a smile...The president then jokingly scolded the German reporters to his left.

    "So stop it, all of you," he said." I know you have to find something to report on, but we have more than enough problems out there without manufacturing problems."

    It's a bit dubious when a pundit turns into a media critic and claims the press is falling down for Obama, yet the very first example the pundit points to as proof doesn't add up.