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NBC political commentator Tim Russert recommends that Democratic presidential contender Al Gore either concede the election or wrap up his challege to the reported election results (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000) to avoid being called “a whiner.” Russert says that the election recounts are a “crisis” that must be resolved as quickly as possible. Gore “can’t extend it to too long, nor can he become a whiner about Florida at some point,” he says, and adds: “If they continue then to file lawsuits and begin to contest various areas of the state, then people will begin to suggest: ‘uh-oh, this is not magnanimous. This is being a sore loser.’ I think the vice president understands that as well.… If it starts dragging into petty politics and we get to Thanksgiving and we still don’t know who our president is, I think the public will not have much patience with the candidate they believe is dragging it out.” The progressive media watchdog Web site Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) will note that polls show strong majorities of Americans favor continuing the recount process if it will ensure the accuracy of the voting results, even weeks into the recount process. FAIR will write, “[M]ost public opinion polls suggest that citizens are taking a much more reasonable approach to the situation than some of the elite media, supporting a process that emphasizes fairness rather than speed.” (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 11/16/2000)
ABC News’s Nightline broadcasts an hour-long analysis of the Florida election recount situation (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and November 9, 2000). However, host Ted Koppel interviews three representatives from the Bush presidential campaign (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000) and none from the Gore campaign, leading to what the progressive media watchdog Web site Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) will later call a slanted report. All three Bush aides call the recount situation a “crisis” that must be resolved immediately (see Evening, November 8, 2000), deride reports of voter manipulation and minority voters denied their right to vote (see November 7, 2000), and accuse the Gore campaign of attempting to steal the election through legal maneuvering. “Koppel did not subject his guests to tough questioning,” FAIR will note. (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 11/16/2000)
Conservative columnist George Will lambasts the Gore presidential campaign for trying to “steal” the presidential election through unwarranted legal manipulation (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and November 9, 2000). Will begins his Washington Post column by comparing the Gore request for recounts to “the blue dress,” a reference to President Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and accuses Democrats of “complaining that the Constitution should not be the controlling legal authority” over elections. Will continues: “The mendacity of Al Gore’s pre-election campaign is pertinent to the post-election chaos. He ran with gale-force economic winds at his back, and with a powerful media bias pulling him along.… Even on election night: by calling Florida for Gore before all Floridians had voted, the networks almost certainly hurt Republican turnout in Florida, and out West” (see 7:50 p.m., November 7, 2000). Will does not mention Fox News’s inaccurate call of Florida for Bush (see 2:15 a.m. November 8, 2000 and November 7-8, 2000). Gore is attempting to steal the election because of his “corrupt… hunger for power” and his “serial mendacity,” Will states, accusing Gore of “desperately seeking lawyering strategies and a friendly court to hand him the presidential election.” He is, Will states, the quintessential liberal, attempting to impose his will “through litigation rather than legislation. Liberalism’s fondness for judicial fiat rather than democratic decision-making explains the entwinement of the Democratic Party and trial lawyers.” Will ridicules reports that the Palm Beach County “butterfly ballot” may have denied Gore votes (see November 9, 2000), and calls Democrats’ questioning of that ballot “sinister.” The claims that Palm Beach voters were confused by the ballot are, Will writes, “baseless.” Will says that the November 17 addition of absentee ballots (see November 18, 2000), with their “large military, hence Republican, component,” will almost certainly lock down the Florida vote for Bush. However, Will writes, “Gore operatives probably will still toil to delegitimize the election. Their actions demolish the presidential pretensions of the dangerous man for whom they do their reckless work.” Will concludes: “All that remains to complete the squalor of Gore’s attempted coup d’etat is some improvisation by Janet Reno, whose last Florida intervention involved a lawless SWAT team seizing a 6-year-old [referring to Cuban-American youngster Elian Gonzales, whom Reno ordered to be sent back to Cuba with his father instead of being allowed to remain in the US with a group of more distant relatives]. She says there is no federal role, but watch for a ‘civil rights’ claim on behalf of some protected minority, or some other conjured pretext. Remember, Reno is, strictly speaking, unbelievable, and these things will continue until these people are gone.” (Will 11/12/2000) The progressive media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) will note, “The comment about a ‘protected minority’ seems to be a reference to the complaints of voter fraud and intimidation coming from African-American communities in Florida” (see November 7, 2000). (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 11/16/2000)
Jeff Cohen, the founder of the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and a former producer for MSNBC talk show host Phil Donahue, loses almost all of his airtime on the network as the Iraq invasion approaches. Cohen, once a frequent guest on MSNBC’s various opinion and commentary shows, will reflect in his 2006 book Cable News Confidential that he argued passionately against invading Iraq, using “every possible argument that might sway mainstream viewers—no real threat, cost, instability.” However, as the run-up to war progresses, he is no longer allowed on the air. He will write: “There was no room for me after MSNBC launched ‘Countdown: Iraq’—a daily one-hour show that seemed more keen on glamorizing a potential war than scrutinizing or debating it. ‘Countdown: Iraq’ featured retired colonels and generals, sometimes resembling boys with war toys as they used props, maps and glitzy graphics to spin invasion scenarios. They reminded me of pumped-up ex-football players doing pre-game analysis and diagramming plays. It was excruciating to be sidelined at MSNBC, watching so many non-debates in which myth and misinformation were served up unchallenged.” In 2008, Cohen will write: “It was bad enough to be silenced. Much worse to see that these ex-generals—many working for military corporations—were never in debates, nor asked a tough question by an anchor.” Cohen’s recollections will be bolstered by a 2008 New York Times investigation that documents a systematic, well-organized media manipulation program by the Pentagon that successfully sells the war to the media and the American public by using so-called “independent military analysts” (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). While the Times article focuses primarily on the analysts and their Pentagon handlers, Cohen says that an equal portion of blame belongs to the media outlets themselves. “The biggest villain here is not Rumsfeld nor the Pentagon,” Cohen writes. “It’s the TV networks. In the land of the First Amendment, it was their choice to shut down debate and journalism. No government agency forced MSNBC to repeatedly feature the hawkish generals unopposed. Or fire Phil Donahue. Or smear weapons expert Scott Ritter. Or blacklist former attorney general Ramsey Clark. It was top NBC/MSNBC execs, not the Feds, who imposed a quota system on the Donahue staff requiring two pro-war guests if we booked one anti-war advocate—affirmative action for hawks.… [T]he major TV networks… were not hoodwinked by a Pentagon propaganda scheme. They were willingly complicit, and have been for decades.” (Cohen 4/28/2008)
In May 2003, the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) reports the results of an analysis of media coverage of the start of the Iraq war. The study looked at the main news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and PBS between March 20, 2003, one day after the Iraq war began, through April 9, three weeks later. The study found that 1,617 on-camera sources appeared in stories about Iraq. Sixty-four percent of all sources were pro-war, while ten percent were anti-war. Current and former US or British officials made up 57 percent of all sources. Pro-war sources tended to be interviewed at length in the studio. Whereas, the study’s authors note: “Guests with anti-war viewpoints were almost universally allowed one-sentence soundbites taken from interviews conducted on the street. Not a single show in the study conducted a sit-down interview with a person identified as being against the war.” (Rendall and Broughel 5/2003)
The media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) holds up one of the New York Times’s most prominent foreign affairs columnist, Thomas Friedman, as an example of a highly respected political pundit echoing the Bush administration’s predictions of success in Iraq past the point of all credibility. Friedman’s mantra: Iraq will be settled in a few months, so Americans must be patient and let it happen. At least fourteen times over three years, Friedman has made essentially the same prediction. FAIR notes, “A review of Friedman’s punditry reveals a long series of similar do-or-die dates that never seem to get any closer.” (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 5/16/2006; Unger 2007, pp. 315, 401-402) In January 2007, the Huffington Post will note the popularity of the phrase “Friedman Unit,” or “FU,” originally coined by left-wing blogger Duncan Black, referring to Friedman’s seemingly endless predictions referring to a six-month period being required to determine the outcome of the war. (Huffington Post 1/2/2007) Friedman’s predictions include appearances on NBC, CBS, PBS, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and numerous mentions within his own columns (see November 30, 2003, June 3, 2004, October 3, 2004, November 28, 2004, September 25, 2005, September 28, 2005, December 18, 2005, December 20, 2005, December 21, 2005, January 23, 2006, January 31, 2006, March 2, 2006, April 23, 2006, and May 11, 2006). He will attempt to explain the logic behind his predictions shortly after FAIR publishes its analysis (see June 11, 2006). He will abandon his position shortly thereafter (see August 4, 2006).
Following up on the New York Times’s story of the Pentagon “psyops” campaign to manipulate public opinion on the Iraq war in 2002 and beyond (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond), Democracy Now! examines the almost-total lack of antiwar voices “analyzing” the Iraq war and occupation on the mainstream news broadcasts and in the nation’s newspapers.
Disdain for Democracy - Retired Air Force colonel Sam Gardiner, who has taught at the National War College, says the program—which is still in effect—shows a “painful… disdain of the Pentagon for democracy.… They don’t believe in democracy. They don’t believe that the American people, if given the truth, will come to a good decision. That’s very painful.” He is disappointed that so many retired military officers would present themselves as independent analysts without disclosing the fact that they were (and still are) extensively briefed by the Pentagon and coached as to what to say on the air. The networks and newspapers function as little more than cheerleaders for the Pentagon: “[t]hey wanted cheerleaders, and they could have—without knowing the background that the analysts were being given inside information, they wanted cheerleaders, and they knew that cheerleaders gave them access.”
Media Complicity - Peter Hart, a senior official of the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), says that the Pentagon’s propaganda operation isn’t as shocking to him and his organization as is the level of complicity and enthusiasm from the news media. “They didn’t care what military contractors these guys were representing when they were out at the studio,” Hart says. “They didn’t care that the Pentagon was flying them on their own dime to Iraq. Just basic journalistic judgment was completely lacking here. So I think the story is really about a media failure, more than a Pentagon failure. The Pentagon did exactly what you would expect to do, taking advantage of this media bias in favor of having more and more generals on the air when the country is at war.”
Psyops Campaign - Gardiner says that the way he understands it, the Pentagon’s psychological operations (psyops) campaign had three basic elements. One was “to dominate the news 24/7.” They used daily morning briefings from Baghdad or Kuwait, and afternoon press briefings from the Pentagon, to hold sway over televised news programs. They used embedded journalists to help control the print media. A Pentagon communication consultant, public relations specialist John Rendon, said that early in the program, the Pentagon “didn’t have people who provided the context. We lost control of the military analysts, and they were giving context.” The Pentagon quickly began working closely with the networks’ military analysts to control their messages. The Pentagon’s PR officials rarely worked with analysts or commentators who disagreed with the administration’s stance on the war, Gardiner says, and that included Gardiner himself. “People that were generally supportive of the Pentagon were the ones that were invited.” Gardiner notes: “We’re very close to violating the law. They are prohibited from doing propaganda against American people. And when you put together the campaign that [former Pentagon public relations chief] Victoria Clarke did with these three elements, you’re very close to a violation of the law.” (Goodman 4/22/2008)
PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer interviews Dan Balz, a national political correspondent for the Washington Post. Balz attempts to explain why billionaire television host and entrepeneur Donald Trump has become such a media sensation by reviving the “birther” controversy (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Balz says: “I mean, I think that the press probably does bear some responsibility for this but there’s no question that what Donald Trump had done over the last month, in bringing this issue back to the forefront, at a time when I think most people thought it had been pretty well settled politically, not that—not that there wasn’t still some controversy, but that, for the most part, this wasn’t a live issue. But Donald Trump helped to make it a live issue. And all the press coverage attendant to that, some of it aimed at debunking what Donald Trump was saying, nonetheless contributed to this atmosphere.… [H]e is a master at drawing attention to himself and taking credit for things, whether he deserves it or not.” (PBS 4/27/2011) Peter Hart of the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) takes exception to Balz’s explanation. Hart writes: “‘Issues’ are not brought ‘to the forefront’ and made a ‘live issue’ by some series of accidents, or the physical properties of magnets. Media outlets make decisions about what to cover. In Balz’s world, Trump started talking and the press simply had to cover it. Trump didn’t make anything a ‘live issue’—people who have television stations and newspapers decided to treat him as if he is a serious person.” (Hart 4/28/2011)
The progressive media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, along with other media outlets, documents 30 years of racist issues surrounding billionaire celebrity Donald Trump (see April 14-15, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, and April 28, 2011), who is using “birther” allegations to vault himself into a preliminary front-runner position for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Trump has touted his racial sensitivity, often discussing the importance of the civil rights movement and writing about his dream of an America unencumbered by “racism, discrimination against women, or discrimination against people based on sexual orientation.” Trump once donated office space to Jesse Jackson’s civil rights group, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, once hosted an NAACP convention party, and likes to be seen in public with African-American celebrities such as P. Diddy and Lenny Kravitz. (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 5/6/2011)
Justice Department Charges of Discrimination against Housing Applicants - In October 1973, Trump was still working with his father Fred Trump’s Trump Organization, which made millions from building thousands of units of middle-class housing in Brooklyn and Queens. Donald Trump had just been made president of the company. The Justice Department accused the Trump firm of serious violations of the Fair Housing Act, including refusing to rent or negotiate rentals “because of race and color,” misrepresenting to blacks that apartments were not available, and charging minorities higher rents. Donald Trump sued the federal government for making baseless charges, and accused the government of “trying to force [the firm] to rent to welfare recipients.” Trump added that if welfare recipients were allowed into his apartments in certain middle-class outer-borough neighborhoods, there would be a “massive fleeing from the city of not only our tenants, but communities as a whole.” A federal judge dismissed Trump’s lawsuit, calling it a waste of “time and paper,” and Trump settled with the Justice Department, not admitting guilt but agreeing to a number of conditions that would open Trump housing to more nonwhites. In 1978, the government charged Trump with failing to adhere to the agreement, saying that the Trump company “discriminated against blacks in the terms and conditions of rental, made statements indicating discrimination based on race, and told blacks that apartments were not available for inspection and rental when, in fact, they are.” In 1983, many Trump developments still had 95 percent white occupancies. (Elliott 4/28/2011; Baram 4/29/2011)
Called for Death Penalty for Blacks Accused of Rape - In 1989, Trump took out full-page ads calling for the death penalty for three African-American teenagers accused of raping a white jogger in Central Park. The three teenagers were later exonerated. One of the defendant’s lawyers, Colin Moore, compared Trump’s stance to the racist attitudes expressed in the 1930s during the infamous “Scottsboro Boys” case. Trump tried to mend relations by visiting a black woman who had been raped and thrown off the roof of a building in the hospital, promising to pay her medical expenses.
Trump: Blacks 'Have the Actual Advantage Today' - Later in 1989, Trump told NBC interviewer Bryant Gumbel, “If I was starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black because I really do believe they have the actual advantage today.” Orlando Sentinel columnist David R. Porter responded: “Too bad Trump can’t get his wish. Then he’d see that being educated, black and over 21 isn’t the key to the Trump Tower. You see there’s still that little ugly problem of racism.” (Baram 4/29/2011)
Trump: 'Laziness Is a Trait in Blacks' - John R. O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino who in 1991 published a biography of Trump, wrote that Trump said “laziness is a trait in blacks,” and once exclaimed: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” In 1997, Trump admitted to a Playboy interviewer that “[t]he stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true,” and went on to call O’Donnell “a f_cking loser” whom Trump barely knew. (Baram 4/29/2011; Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 5/6/2011)
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