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Silent Coup authors Leonard Colodny and Robert Gettlin (see May 6, 1991 and May 6, 1991) appear on CNN’s Larry King Live. Defending themselves from charges by former White House counsel John Dean that they have libeled him and his wife Maureen (see May 7, 1991), the authors deny any allegations against Maureen Dean even though their book claims that she is the key to understanding the entire Watergate conspiracy. Halfway through the show, Dean will write, the authors “disappear… without explanation, as if snatched from their seats by hooks.” They are replaced by Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz and convicted Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy. Liddy falsely claims that John Dean and others named in the book, particularly Post reporter Bob Woodward and former White House chief of staff Alexander Haig, refused to appear on 60 Minutes to refute the charges by Colodny and Gettlin. Liddy also lies about Time magazine’s decision not to excerpt the book, saying that the book is “so densely packed that it did not lend itself to being excerpted, and they felt that they couldn’t do it.” In reality, Dean, Woodward, and Haig had all agreed to appear on 60 Minutes to refute the book; CBS pulled the segment because the authors could not prove any of their sensational claims about prostitution rings and CIA manipulations. Time chose not to print the excerpt after Dean alerted them that he was filing lawsuits against the authors and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press. 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace, who would have anchored the segment, calls King to refute Liddy’s misrepresentations. Wallace says: “We objected to the fact that the authors refused or declined to let the objects of their scrutiny, these three in particular, see the book, read the book ahead of time, so that they could face the charges.… We could not, on our own, source the thing sufficiently to satisfy ourselves that it stood up as a 60 Minutes piece. That’s why we didn’t do the piece.” Watching the interview, Maureen Dean applauds as Wallace destroys the book’s credibility on the air. (Dean 2006, pp. xx-xxi)
Silent Coup, an alternate theory of the Watergate conspiracy by Leonard Colodny and Robert Gettlin (see May 6, 1991), is published. It quickly makes the New York Times bestseller list. (Dean 2006, pp. xxiv) The same day it is published, the Washington Post runs an article by media reporter Howard Kurtz that thoroughly discredits the book. Kurtz notes that both CBS and Time magazine chose not to feature the book because the authors refused to provide any proof of their allegations (see May 7, 1991); two of the authors’ primary sources of information, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Thomas Moorer and former Pentagon spokesman Jerry Friedheim, both disavow statements they are said to have made; and the primary Watergate figures, Post reporter Bob Woodward, former White House aide Alexander Haig, and former White House counsel John Dean, harshly repudiate the book’s contentions. (Weinberg 11/1991)
In 2007, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz will say, “From August 2002 until the war was launched in March of 2003 there were about 140 front page pieces in The Washington Post making the [Bush] administration’s case for war. It was, ‘The President said yesterday.’ ‘The Vice President said yesterday.’ ‘The Pentagon said yesterday.’ Well, that’s part of our job. Those people want to speak. We have to provide them a platform. I don’t have anything wrong with that. But there was only a handful—a handful—of stories that ran on the front page, some more that ran inside the pages of the paper, that made the opposite case. Or, if not making the opposite case, raised questions.” (Moyers 4/25/2007) Kurtz will also write in an August 2004 front page Washington Post story criticizing the newspaper’s pre-war coverage, “An examination of the paper’s coverage, and interviews with more than a dozen of the editors and reporters involved, shows that The Post published a number of pieces challenging the White House, but rarely on the front page. Some reporters who were lobbying for greater prominence for stories that questioned the administration’s evidence complained to senior editors who, in the view of those reporters, were unenthusiastic about such pieces. The result was coverage that, despite flashes of groundbreaking reporting, in hindsight looks strikingly one-sided at times.” At the time, The Post’s editorial page was strongly advocating war with Iraq. For instance, a day after Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN (see February 5, 2003), the Post commented that “it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.” (Kurtz 8/12/2004)
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) responds to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s accusations that Daschle and Congressional Democrats are guilty of treason by not supporting the Bush administration’s push for war with Iraq (see November 15, 2002). Daschle calls Limbaugh “and all of the Rush Limbaugh wannabees” of having “a shrill edge,” and says of his listeners: “They want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to us in public life go up dramatically (see October 5-November 21, 2001), and on our families and on us in a way that’s very disconcerting. You know, we see it in foreign countries. And we think, well my God, how can this religious fundamentalism become so violent? Well, it’s the same shrill rhetoric. It’s that same shrill power that motivates. They—you know, they—that somebody says something, and then it becomes a little more shrill the next time, and then more shrill the next time.” Some media observers, such as the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, later say that such responses from their political targets merely elevate figures such as Limbaugh in their listeners’ eyes. (Jamieson and Cappella 2008, pp. 157)
New York Times columnist William Safire accuses the Kerry-Edwards campaign of trying to use homophobia in its attempts to defeat the Bush-Cheney ticket. Safire notes that in a recent debate, vice-presidential candidate John Edwards “smarmily compliment[ed]” Vice President Dick Cheney and his family for their acceptance of their openly gay daughter, Mary Cheney. Though Safire acknowledges that Cheney has referred to his daughter as gay several times before, until Edwards’s comment, “only political junkies knew that a member of the Cheney family serving on the campaign staff was homosexual… the press—respecting family privacy—had properly not made it a big deal.” Safire says Edwards’s remark was planned and orchestrated by the Kerry campaign debate preparation team, and says that Kerry’s recent reference to the Cheneys’ “lesbian” daughter was a deliberate and “sleazy” attempt to foment anti-gay sentiment against the Republican ticket, particularly among Bush supporters. Safire notes that because of the Bush administration’s support for anti-gay legislation, the Kerry campaign has declared Mary Cheney “fair game” for bringing up the administration’s opposition to gay rights. Safire also says that the term “lesbian” is itself an anti-gay slur. (Safire 10/18/2004) Safire does not note the repeated denials by the Kerry campaign that any such orchestration took place, or that the campaign intends to do anything besides highlight the Bush presidency’s opposition to gay rights; some of those denials were reported by the Times itself. On October 16, Kerry said of Edwards’s comment: “It was meant as a very constructive comment, in a positive way. I respect their love for their daughter and I respect who she is, as they do.… I think it was a way of saying, ‘Look, she’s who she is.’ I have great respect for her, great respect for them. It was meant constructively in terms of their love and affection for a person who is who she is.” Kerry and his aides have repeatedly denied any such orchestration as Safire alleges. “There were dozens and dozens of hours about how to discuss Social Security, Iraq, and other issues,” says campaign strategist Joe Lockhart. “There was no discussion of this.” (Wilgoren 10/16/2004) Knight Ridder has reported that a “senior Kerry adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity because the campaign didn’t want to fan publicity on this topic,” said that Kerry’s mention of Mary Cheney “was not a prepared riff.” Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog organization, notes that contrary to Safire’s assertions, many voters already knew that Mary Cheney was gay long before the debates. A search of a commercial news database shows 432 results for “Cheney” and “gay daughter.” Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz has written that the fact of Mary Cheney’s homosexuality is “hardly a state secret.” (Media Matters 10/18/2004)
Critics of the Bush administration, and of the reporters who helped push its narrative regarding the Iraq invasion, lambast Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward for failing to reveal himself as a recipient of the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see June 13, 2003, November 14, 2005, and November 16-17, 2005) while himself attacking the Plame Wilson investigation (see December 1, 2004, July 7, 2005, July 11, 2005, July 17, 2005, July 31, 2005, and October 27, 2005). Joshua Micah Marshall writes that while the story of Woodward’s involvement remains “sketchy,” it appears “that Woodward—who has long been publicly critical of the Fitzgerald investigation—has been part of it from the beginning. Literally, the beginning.… At a minimum, though, Woodward seems to have some explaining to do, at least for the fact that he became an aggressive commentator on the leak story without ever disclosing his own role in it, not even to his editors.” (Marshall 11/15/2005) The Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum calls Woodward’s behavior “bizarre,” and says, “I can’t begin to make sense of this.” (Drum 11/17/2005) The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz asks, “Who was this Shallow Throat, and why is this the first we’re hearing about it?” (Froomkin 11/16/2005) Liberal author and blogger Jane Hamsher is particularly caustic in her criticism, writing: “Woodward stopped being a ‘journalist’ in the true sense of the word long ago—when he decided celebrity status and book sales meant more than the truth. He has gone from being—well, whatever he was, to something much worse: an official peddler of lies told by powerful people to whitewash their criminal activities.” (Jane Hamsher 11/15/2005) And John Aravosis of the liberal AmericaBlog writes: “It’s also beginning to sound a lot like Bob Woodward is becoming our next Judith Miller (see October 16, 2005). His repeated rants in defense of this administration, and against the special prosecutor, certainly take on a very interesting edge considering Mr. Woodward didn’t bother disclosing that he was quite involved in this story, and was hardly the impartial observer his silence suggested he was. Not to mention, he knew all along that HE TOO had received the leak, suggesting that a clear pattern of multiple leaks was developing, yet he still went on TV and said that all of these repeated leaks were just a slip of the tongue?” (Emphasis in the original.) (John Aravosis 11/15/2005)
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz profiles Bob Woodward, the Post reporter and managing editor who has gone from trailblazing investigative reporter during the Watergate days (see June 15, 1974) to protecting Bush administration sources and lambasting the Plame Wilson investigation while concealing his own involvement as a leak recipient (see November 15-17, 2005 and November 16-17, 2005). “Three decades older and millions of dollars richer, Woodward still has plenty of secret sources, but they work in the highest reaches of the Bush administration,” Kurtz writes. “They are molding history rather than revealing Watergate-style corruption. Some have even used the press to strike back against a critic of their war by revealing the identity of a CIA operative. And the public is no longer as enamored of reporters and their unnamed informants.… In today’s polarized political atmosphere, Woodward’s journalistic methods have been assailed by those who view him as dependent on the Bush inner circle for the narratives that drive his bestsellers.” Kurtz quotes Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr. as saying that Woodward “has gone from being someone who was on the outside to someone who has such access, who’s famous, who’s recognized on the street, who’s treated by celebrities and very high officials as an equal.… [H]is access has produced a lot of information about the inner workings of this White House, the Clinton White House, the first Bush administration, and documents, actual documents, that nobody else has gotten.” Downie says that Woodward has admitted to withholding newsworthy information for his books, and has promised to write in a more timely fashion for the Post when he receives such information. But Kurtz then quotes journalism professor Jay Rosen: “Woodward for so long was a symbol of adversarial journalism because of the Watergate legend. But he really has become an access journalist, someone who’s an insider.” David Gergen, a Harvard professor and editor at US News and World Report, says of Woodward: “I do think that Bob’s politics have changed some over the years. He’s much more sympathetic to the establishment, especially the Republican establishment.” Mary Matalin, a former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, says: “There is a really deep respect for his work, and a deep desire by [President Bush] to have a contemporaneous, historically accurate account. The president rightly believed that Woodward, for good and ill, warts and all, would chronicle what happened. It’s in the White House’s interest to have a neutral source writing the history of the way Bush makes decisions. That’s why the White House gives him access.” (Kurtz 11/28/2005) Author and media critic Frank Rich will note that “some of what Woodward wrote was ‘in the White House’s interest’ had to be the understatement of the year. Dubious cherry-picked intelligence from the Feith-WHIG conveyor belt (see August 2002) ended up in Plan of Attack (see Summer 2003) before that information was declassified.… No wonder Matalin thought Woodward had done ‘an extraordinary job.’ The WHIG gang had spun him silly.” (Rich 2006, pp. 192)
CBS News notes the storm of controversy surrounding the recent report by investigative journalist Jason Leopold that White House political strategist Karl Rove has been indicted (see May 12, 2006 and May 13, 2006). CBS columnist Vaughn Ververs notes: “Had either of these stories appeared on the front page of the New York Times, or in Newsweek magazine, we would be in the throes of a media feeding frenzy. The Sunday show slates would have been hurriedly rearranged to capitalize on this new ‘bombshell’ and America would have woken up this morning to watch Rove make the quick walk-and-duck from his front door to his waiting car. But so far, Leopold’s story stands alone.”
Flat Denials - No mainstream media Web site has yet confirmed Leopold’s reporting, which he has claimed includes statements from “a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee,” and White House officials, along with Rove’s lawyers and spokesmen, are flatly denying the reports: Rove’s spokesman Mark Corallo tells journalists, “The story is a complete fabrication,” and calls it “both malicious and disgraceful.” Ververs notes Leopold’s unusual step of promising to reveal his sources if the story turns out not to be true (see May 15, 2006). (Ververs 5/15/2006; New York Sun 5/15/2006)
Rove's Lawyer Not at Office, but at Veterinarian - Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin tells a reporter that, instead of spending May 12 at his offices dealing with an indictment, he spent that day at the veterinarian’s office having his cat treated. The cat’s medical tests, Luskin says, found that “the stools were free of harmful parasites, which is more than I can say for this case.” Leopold’s report is “bizarre,” Luskin adds. “There was no meeting, no communication with Fitzgerald’s team of any kind.” Washington Post reporter and media observer Howard Kurtz notes that many in the media are beginning to report on Leopold’s past, which includes drug addiction, a felony conviction, and previous inaccurate reporting. Leopold’s publisher at Truthout.org, Marc Ash, tells Kurtz, “Jason is a character, but he’s been straight with me and I’ve checked him out very carefully.” (Kurtz 5/22/2006)
Defending Leopold - Progressive author and blogger Joshua Frank, who describes himself as a friend of Leopold’s, notes that Leopold has become a target for Bush and Libby supporters. Leopold has written candidly about what Frank calls his “checkered” past—misrepresenting himself to gain a position at the Los Angeles Times, stealing from a New York record company to support a cocaine habit—but Leopold never served jail time, unlike some press reports claimed, and Frank considers him a reliable reporter. “Had Jason broke his latest story for the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, it’s unlikely he’d be subject to the same ridicule,” Frank writes. “But when an indy writer gets a major scoop before anybody in the mainstream major media does, animosity is sure to follow. And that’s why the outcome of this saga will either legitimize independent media, or devastate it.” Frank notes that Truthout.org has said that three “reporters from mainstream media” have “shared with us off-the-record confirmation and moral support.” Leopold himself says: “I am amazed that the blogosphere would lend credence to the statements of people who have consistently lied about Rove’s role in this case. This is a White House that denied Rove’s involvement in the leak. This is a White House that has lied and lied and lied. And yet the first question that people ask is ‘why would Rove’s spokesman lie?’ Because they can, because they do, and because they have. This is an administration that has attacked and discredited their detractors. I am amazed that not a single reporter would actually do any real investigative work and get to the bottom of this story. Surely, there must be another intrepid reporter out there that has sources beyond a spokesman.” (Joshua Frank 5/17/2006)
Orchestrated Response? - Truthout’s Ash will later write that he believes it was Corallo who gave Ash’s phone number to the Post’s Kurtz for Kurtz’s story (see May 21, 2006); Corallo knew Kurtz was writing a story about how, in Corallo’s words, the mainstream media had to “follow up on the lunacy and these frauds who are passing themselves off as legitimate journalists.” Both Ash and criminal lawyer Jeralyn Merritt believe that Corallo is working with Kurtz, to some extent, to orchestrate the Post’s response to the Rove indictment story. (Jeralyn Merritt 5/21/2006)
The New York Times’s foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, recently lambasted for predicting a resolution in Iraq “within six months” at least 14 times for nearly three years (see May 6-11, 2006), explains the rationale behind his predictions to CNN’s Howard Kurtz. Friedman says: “[T]he problem with analyzing the story, Howie, is that it doesn’t—everyone, first of all, this is the most polarized story I’ve certainly written about, so everyone wants, basically, to be proven right, OK? So the left—people who hated the war, they want you to declare the war is over, finish, we give up. The right, just the opposite. But I’ve been trying to just simply track the situation on the ground. And the fact is that the outcome there is unclear, and I reflected that in my column. And I will continue to reflect.… The story’s evolving. And what strikes me as I see it evolve, when it drags on, six months after an election we still don’t have a government. Then, as a columnist who’s offering opinions on what I think the right policy is, it seems to me we have to be telling Iraqis we are not going to be here forever, providing a kind of floor under the chaos, while you dicker over the most minute things when American lives are at stake. So I think it’s a constantly evolving thing.” (CNN 6/11/2006)
Author and former civil litigator Glenn Greenwald writes that he is angered, but not particularly shocked, at the US mainstream media’s failure to provide in-depth, extensive coverage of the recently released 2003 torture memo (see March 14, 2003 and April 1, 2008) and another memo asserting that the Bush administration had declared the Fourth Amendment null and void in reference to “domestic military operations” inside the US (see April 2, 2008). Greenwald also notes the lack of coverage of a recent puzzling comment by Attorney General Michael Mukasey about 9/11 (see March 27, 2008). Instead, Greenwald notes, stories about the Democratic presidential campaign (including criticism over Barack Obama’s relationship with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and Obama’s recent bowling scores) have dominated press coverage. According to a recent NEXIS search, these various topics have been mentioned in the media in the last thirty days:
“Yoo and torture” (referring to John Yoo, the author of the two memos mentioned above)—102.
“Mukasey and 9/11”—73.
“Yoo and Fourth Amendment”—16.
“Obama and bowling”—1,043.
“Obama and Wright”—More than 3,000 (too many to be counted).
“Obama and patriotism”—1,607.
“Clinton and Lewinsky”—1,079. (Greenwald 4/5/2008)
(For the record, on March 30, Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania during a campaign stop, in the company of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). Newsmax is among the many media outlets that provided play-by-play coverage of Obama’s abysmal performance on the lanes—he scored a 37. The site reported that Obama lost “beautifully” and was “way out of his league.”) (NewsMax 3/31/2008)
Media Attacks Obama's 'Elitism' - The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz gives over much of his column to a discussion of Obama’s eating and bowling habits, making the argument, according to Greenwald, that Obama is “not a regular guy but an arrogant elitist.” Kurtz defends his argument by compiling a raft of “similar chatter about this from Karl Rove” and others. Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson spent a week’s worth of columns calling Obama’s bowling his biggest mistake, a “real doozy.” MSNBC reported that Obama went bowling “with disastrous consequences.” Greenwald notes that the media “as always,” takes “their personality-based fixations from the right, who have been promoting the Obama is an arrogant, exotic, elitist freak narrative for some time.” In this vein, Time’s Joe Klein wrote of what he called Obama’s “patriotism problem,” saying that “this is a chronic disease among Democrats, who tend to talk more about what’s wrong with America than what’s right.” Greenwald notes, “He trotted it all out—the bowling, the lapel pin, Obama’s angry, America-hating wife, ‘his Islamic-sounding name.’” Greenwald calls the media fixation on Obama’s bowling and his apparent failure to be a “regular guy” another instance of their “self-referential narcissism—whatever they sputter about is what ‘the people’ care about, and therefore they must keep harping on it, because their chatter is proof of its importance. They don’t need Drudge to rule their world any longer because they are Matt Drudge now.” (Greenwald 4/5/2008)
CNN media critic Howard Kurtz writes a scathing op-ed expressing his dismay at the extent of the Pentagon’s secret propaganda operation to sell the Iraq war, and its use of retired military officers to promote its agenda and make its case on nightly news broadcasts (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). Kurtz observes: “It’s hardly shocking that career military men would largely reflect the Pentagon’s point of view, just as Democratic and Republican ‘strategists’ stay in touch with aides to the candidates they defend on the air. But the degree of behind-the-scenes manipulation—including regular briefings by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials—is striking, as is the lack of disclosure by the networks of some of these government and business connections. With an aura of independence, many of the analysts used their megaphones, and the prestige of their rank, to help sell a war that was not going well.… [T]he networks rarely if ever explored the outside roles of their military consultants.” While both the Pentagon and the various networks have defended their use of the military analysts, and the networks have tried to explain their failure to examine their analysts’ connections to an array of defense firms—“it’s a little unrealistic to think you’re going to do a big background check on everybody,” says Fox News executive producer Marty Ryan—the reality, as Kurtz notes, is far less aboveboard. Kurtz adds, “The credibility gap, to use an old Vietnam War phrase, was greatest when these retired officers offered upbeat assessments of the Iraq war even while privately expressing doubts,” a circumstance reported on the part of numerous analysts in the recent New York Times expose. (Kurtz 4/21/2008)
CBS News and Washington Post media commentator Howard Kurtz is asked during an online question and answer session about the Pentagon’s recently reported propaganda campaign mounted through the mainstream news media (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). The questioner asks, “Why do you think the networks still are silent on this?” Kurtz replies, “I can only conclude that the networks are staying away from what would otherwise be a legitimate news story because they are embarrassed about what some of their military analysts did or don’t want to give the controversy more prominence.” Another questioner asks if he has missed coverage of the story, and Kurtz replies: “You didn’t miss it. It’s just not there. The networks are ducking this one, big time.” (Kurtz 5/5/2008)
Salon columnist and former civil litigator Glenn Greenwald, after reviewing the more than 8,000 pages of documents and audio tapes released by the Pentagon (see May 9, 2008) concerning its ongoing Iraq propaganda campaign (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond) says bluntly, “Anyone who reads through them, as I’ve now done, can only be left with one conclusion: if this wasn’t an example of an illegal, systematic ‘domestic propaganda campaign’ by the Pentagon, then nothing is.” Greenwald continues: “As corrupt as the Pentagon was here, our nation’s major media outlets were at least just as bad. Their collective Pravda-like suppression now of the entire story—behavior so blatantly corrupt that even the likes of [Howard] Kurtz (see May 9, 2008) and The Politico (see May 8, 2008) are strongly condemning them—has become the most significant and revealing aspect of the entire scandal.” (Greenwald 5/9/2008)
Fox News anchor Jon Scott, co-anchor of the “straight news” program Happening Now, uses research provided in a Senate Republican Communications Center (SRCC) press release to make dubious claims about how the Obama economic recovery plan “grew, and grew, and grew” over time. While Scott reports the claims, Fox displays seven graphics illustrating them. The graphics’ textual content hews so closely to the SRCC’s press release that it even repeats a typographical error found in the original memo. Scott and the on-air graphics cite the SRCC’s original sources for their information, which include Politico, the Congressional Quarterly, the Denver Post, the Washington Times, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, but neither Scott nor the graphics acknowledge the SRCC as the source of the research. The typo is in the seventh and last graphic, incorrectly citing the date of a Wall Street Journal article as “12/19/09.” The next day, Scott apologizes, but only for the typo, prompting Washington Post media critic and CNN host Howard Kurtz to say: “We sometimes jab at the pundits for using talking points, but in the case of Fox News anchor Jon Scott, it was literally true this week.… You should be apologizing for using partisan propaganda from the GOP without telling your viewers where it came from. Talk about missing the point” (see October 13, 2009). (Media Matters 2/10/2009; Media Matters 2/15/2009)
Fox News devotes much of its day’s coverage to the conservative, anti-tax “tea parties” taking place around the nation. The network has promoted the tea parties in the previous weeks (see April 6-13, 2009, April 15, 2009, and April 15, 2009). Fox hosts Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren all provide extensive live coverage from the sites of separate events, which the network promotes as “FNC [Fox News Channel] Tax Day Tea Parties” (see October 13, 2009). Many of the network’s shows, such as America’s Newsroom, Beck’s show, and others provide on-air and online information about the times and locations of events, and broadcast interviews with event organizers. Beck tells his viewers they can “[c]elebrate with Fox News” at any of four “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” Beck, who is at San Antonio’s Alamo for an event (see April 15, 2009) tells his audience: “If you can’t make the one in San Antonio, please go to the one with Neil or with Sean in Atlanta, that’s supposed to be great, Greta is in Washington, DC. Just get out and let your face be seen.” Hannity encourages viewers to send in their “Tax Day Tea Party” videos for on-air broadcast. Cavuto’s guest host in the studio, Stuart Varney, says plainly, “It’s now my great duty to promote the tea parties.” Fox News’s Web site, “Fox Nation,” actively promotes the events, with links to blogs, maps, videos, and event calendars. The network even hosts its own “virtual tea party” on its Web site. Fox host Gretchen Carlson suggests that viewers hang teabags from their cars’ rearview mirrors, “like fuzzy dice.” Fox Business anchor Cody Willard tells viewers to “figh[t] the fascism” of the current administration by attending a “tea party.” He asks his viewers, “Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?” He adds that in his opinion, conservatives and liberals are “both fascists who are taking my money and building up corporate America with my welfare.” And Fox Business anchor David Asman advises his viewers to buy “tea party” merchandise. The push is successful: after the April 15 protests, many mainstream news outlets report that Fox News reports helped drive crowds to protests. CNN and Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz will say, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a news network throw its weight behind a protest like we are seeing in the past few weeks with Fox and these tea parties.” (Media Matters 9/11/2009)
Reporter and media critic Howard Kurtz writes of the difficulties in discerning perceptions from reality in the debate over health care reform, and the increasingly contentious town hall meetings across America (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, and August 5, 2009). “Is there a rising tide of anger in America against Barack Obama’s health plan and big-government programs?” he asks. “Or are the media just making it seem that way?” It has long been common practice to use footage of “one person… screaming, or us[ing] incendiary rhetoric” to add interest to an otherwise “dull and routine story,” he notes. In the modern age of YouTube, “instant” viral videos of protests and near-riots at town halls are subsequently played and replayed on cable news shows “in an endless loop.” Kurtz notes the controversial “strategy memo” for disrupting and dominating discussion at town halls, originally released by a small conservative Connecticut organization and picked up and redistributed by larger Washington lobbying firms (see Late July, 2009). He writes, “I have no idea how widely this memo has been distributed, but the language is revealing.” He also notes that some lobbying firms have taken credit for “helping gin up the sometimes-rowdy outbursts targeting House Dems at town hall meetings around the country, raising questions about their spontaneity” (see August 4, 2009). (Kurtz 8/5/2009)
Bill Sammon, the Washington managing editor for Fox News, sends an internal email instructing his journalists and producers not to use the commonly accepted phrase “public option” to describe a proposed government-run health insurance agency. The so-called “public option” is shorthand for a proposed health insurance plan offered by the federal government primarily for uninsured citizens who have trouble affording private health care coverage. Instead, Sammon requires reporters and news anchors to use terms such as “government option”—terms identified by Republican pollster Frank Luntz as being more negative and more likely to turn viewers away from supporting such an effort. (Ironically, a month ago, Sammon sent an email reminding his staff that Fox News “reports” the news as it happens, and that their function is that of “dispassionate observers”—see September 12, 2009). The liberal news watchdog Web site Media Matters will compile a number of instances from “straight news” broadcasts on Fox News that seem to follow Sammon’s instructions, particularly on the network’s evening flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier. Inside sources will tell Media Matters reporter Ben Dimiero that Sammon regularly uses his position as managing editor to “slant” Fox News’s “neutral” news coverage to the right. Dimiero will write, “Sammon’s ‘government option’ email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox’s reporting to the right—in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.” In August 2009, Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News opinion show, and told Hannity to use the term “government option” instead of “public option.” Luntz explained that “if you call it a ‘public option,’ the American people are split,” but “if you call it the ‘government option,’ the public is overwhelmingly against it.” He went on to say that the program would be “sponsored by the government,” and falsely told Hannity that such a program would be “paid for by the government.” Hannity told Luntz that “it’s a great point, and from now on, I’m going to call it the government option.” The night before Sammon’s email, Baier used both “public option” and “government option” in describing a proposed inclusion by Senate Democrats, as did correspondent Shannon Bream. The next morning, Sammon sends his email, which is titled “[F]riendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option,’” and reading in part, “Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible. When it is necessary to use the term ‘public option’ (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier ‘so-called,’ as in ‘the so-called public option.’ Here’s another way to phrase it: ‘The public option, which is the government-run plan.’ When newsmakers and sources use the term ‘public option’ in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.” Fox News’s senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, concurs in a follow-up email and tells news staff that he prefers Sammon’s phrasing “[t]he public option, which is the government-run plan.” After Sammon’s and Clemente’s emails, Baier and others will no longer use the phrase “public option” without using Sammon’s qualifiers. Dimiero will write that Sammon’s title wording of a “friendly reminder” indicates that similar instructions had been issued previously. Indeed, during a September 3, 2009 broadcast, Baier repeatedly interrupted his guest, NPR’s Mara Liasson, to “correct” her phrasing of “public option” as the “government-run option of health insurance.” Liasson, along with conservative guests Charles Krauthammer and Steve Hayes, agreed to use Baier’s phrasing. And during Baier’s broadcast, on-screen chyrons described the idea as “Government Option.” Dimiero will write: “Fox executives regularly defend the network by claiming that the right-wing propaganda on Hannity and its other opinion shows is entirely separate from its news programming, which they insist is objective. But Sammon’s email gives credence to allegations that news from Fox’s Washington bureau is being deliberately distorted to benefit conservatives and the Republican Party.” Sammon will tell media reporter Howard Kurtz that he prefers the phrasing “government option” because it is “a more neutral term,” and the phrase “public option” is “vague, bland,” and “undescriptive.” He will deny any knowledge of “what the Republicans were pushing.” (Dimiero 12/9/2010)
Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker and an apparent candidate for the presidency in 2012, tells the conservative National Review that President Obama only pretends to be a “normal” American, but in reality is driven by his belief in “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.” Gingrich cites a recent article by conservative author Dinesh D’Souza (see September 12, 2010), calling D’Souza’s insight into Obama’s behavior “stunning… [the] most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.… What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.… This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president. I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating—none of which was true.… In the Alinksy [Saul Alinsky, a liberal community organizer] tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve.… He was authentically dishonest.” The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters calls Gingrich’s comments the latest in a long line of “not-so-subtle race baiting” by right-wing media figures. Gingrich is a frequent guest on Fox News. (Media Matters 9/12/2010) White House press secretary Robert Gibbs accuses Gingrich of “trying to appeal to the fringe.” In response, Gingrich tells the Daily Caller that his own remarks “seemed to touch some kind of irrational nerve on the left.” (Kurtz 9/16/2010) Days later, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson asks if Gingrich is “just pretending to have lost his mind, or has he actually gone around the bend?” Robinson answers his own question: “His lunacy certainly seems genuine enough. It’s one thing to be a rhetorical bomb-thrower, as Gingrich has long fancied himself, and another to lob damp squibs of pure nonsense into the fray. The man’s contributions to the public discourse have become increasingly unhinged.” Robinson calls Gingrich’s assertions about Obama’s supposed “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior” “bizarre.” If Gingrich is indeed rational, Robinson continues, then he is probably attempting to promote the “birther” conspiracy theory that Obama is not a US citizen, but instead “foreign, exotic, alien, somehow not American.” Moreover, Gingrich is trying to promote a much larger conspiracy theory: “that American democracy—indeed, the whole Anglo-American-Judeo-Christian enterprise—is under attack in a titanic clash of civilizations. In this view, we are threatened most acutely by the Islamic civilization. But we must also be on guard against the ‘Sinic’ civilization of China, the ‘Hindu’ civilization of India, and assorted others. This analysis was developed by Samuel P. Huntington, a Harvard professor who died in 2008—and who said he never intended his work to be read as a battle plan. Gingrich seems to believe that our culture and values are also threatened from within—by black and brown people who demand that they, too, be given a voice in defining that culture and those values.” (Robinson 9/14/2010) Post media observer Howard Kurtz observes on Twitter that he is “amazed that Newt Gingrich said Obama has a Kenyan view of politics. Not exactly subtle.” (Media Matters 9/13/2010) Many conservatives have long accused Obama of being un-American because of his Kenyan ancestry (see February 25, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, October 8-10, 2008, June 29, 2009, and August 11, 2009).
Forbes Magazine encounters a firestorm of criticism due to its publication of a cover story alleging President Obama is driven by “anti-colonial” sentiments garnered from his Kenyan father (see September 12, 2010). The story was written by Dinesh D’Souza, a prominent conservative author and pundit, and has been praised and reiterated by conservative politician Newt Gingrich (see September 12, 2010 and After).
White House: 'New Low' for Forbes - White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says of the article: “It’s a stunning thing, to see a publication you would see in a dentist’s office, so lacking in truth and fact. I think it represents a new low.” He asks, “Did they not fact-check this at all, or did they fact-check it and just willfully ignore it?” In response, the magazine releases a statement saying: “Dinesh D’Souza’s cover story was presented as an analysis of how the president thinks. No facts are in contention. Forbes stands by the story.” D’Souza says that his article is based on a “psychological theory,” but insists, “the idea that Obama has roots that are foreign is not an allegation, it’s a statement of fact.” Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz notes that Obama’s father abandoned his family when Obama was two years old, and Obama only saw his father once more after that. Gibbs says that D’Souza’s article is another illustration of the fact that there is “no limit to innuendo” against the president. Forbes, he says, “left the facts on the cutting-room floor.” (Kurtz 9/16/2010)
Columbia Journalism Review: 'Singularly Disgusting' and 'Racist' - The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) calls the D’Souza article “a fact-twisting, error-laden piece of paranoia” and “the worst kind of smear journalism—a singularly disgusting work.” Reviewer Ryan Chittum writes: “Forbes for some reason gives Dinesh D’Souza the cover and lots of space to froth about the notion popular in the right-wing fever swamps that Obama is an ‘other’; that he doesn’t think like ‘an American,’ that his actions benefit foreigners rather than Amurricans. It’s too kind to call this innuendo. It’s far too overt for that.… This is loathsome stuff. And, again, it’s the cover story of one of the three big mainstream financial magazines.” Chittum continues: “The veneer of respectability, if you can call it that, that D’Souza and Forbes put on this noxious near-McCarthyite junk is that Obama is an ‘anticolonialist.’ It’s thin gruel. And, hey—I’m an anticolonialist, too. And so were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the rest of the gang.” He concludes, “Forbes has shamed itself with this one.” (Chittum 9/13/2010) D’Souza responds to the CJR review by accusing Chittum of being one of what he calls the “confirmed Obamorons, who are only satisfied with hosannas and genuflections before the Anoin[t]ed One.” Chittum responds with a more detailed dissection of the lies, errors, and misinformation in the article, and concludes: “D’Souza denies in his blog post that the piece is racist, but of course it is. Indeed, it’s racist at its rotten core. That’s the whole point. You can’t write stuff like ‘Incredibly, the US is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s,’ and credibly assert that it’s not racist.… That Forbes gave the cover of its mainstream magazine to this piece will be a black mark on its reputation for a long, long time.” (Chittum 9/16/2010)
Washington Post Columnist: 'Big Gob of Gibberish' - Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson calls D’Souza’s article “a big gob of gibberish,” reading like something written by “one of those conspiracy theorists who believe the CIA is controlling our brain waves.” The article “makes assertion after assertion that is plainly, demonstrably unsupported,” he continues. (Robinson 9/14/2010)
Post Columnist: 'There's Nothing Here of Any Benefit' - Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker says that D’Souza has “jump[ed] the shark” with his article, and asks sarcastically: “What’s next? Obama is an extraterrestrial pod deposited on Planet Earth to occupy a human shell and get elected leader of the free world so that he can lull the population into complacent dependency in advance of a full invasion of body snatchers?” She labels the article a “Republican revenge fantasy” and concludes: “It’s time to move on, gentlemen. There’s nothing here of any benefit, whatsoever.” (Parker 9/15/2010)
Media Matters: 'Completely Ridiculous' - The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters calls D’Souza’s arguments “completely ridiculous… an impressive combination of factual distortions and twisted logic.” (Media Matters 9/12/2010) Author Eric Boehlert, a Media Matters contributor, asks if Forbes believes so strongly in the story as to give it the cover, why won’t the magazine defend it? He writes: “I think the Obama cover story has done extraordinary damage to the Forbes brand. But I’d actually respect the magazine if someone—anyone—on staff in a position of power had the courage to come forward and be held accountable for, or even try to argue on behalf of, the D’Souza train wreck.” (Boehlert 9/16/2010)
The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters disproves a number of “factual” claims in a recent article by conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, who claims that President Obama is driven by “anticolonial” rage sparked by his alleged identification with his Kenyan father (see September 12, 2010). Media Matters notes the following:
D’Souza claims that Obama “supported the conditional release” of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the “Lockerbie Bomber,” because he sees al-Megrahi as a “fellow anticolonialist,” when in reality the Obama administration informed Scotland that it opposed al-Megrahi’s release.
D’Souza claims that Obama supports “oil drilling off the coast of Brazil but not in America,” in the form of a $2 billion Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank loan to Brazil for exploratory drilling. In reality, the Obama administration had no say in the Ex-Im’s decision, and all five members of the bank’s board of directors were Bush administration appointees. (Forbes will conduct a fact-check after publication that garners harsh criticism from the bank over D’Souza’s misrepresentation of facts—see September 23-24, 2010.)
D’Souza claims that Obama spent the first 17 years of his life “in Hawaii, Indonesia, and Pakistan.” D’Souza admits that he erred in this claim, as Obama never visited Pakistan until he was 20, and then only for three weeks.
D’Souza claims that Obama’s June 2010 speech in response to the Gulf oil spill did not focus on cleanup strategies, but instead lambasted the US for its outsized oil consumption. While Obama did mention America’s disproportionate oil consumption, the central focus of his speech was the federal government’s response to the spill. (Forbes will correct this error and acknowledge that Obama’s speech indeed focused on cleaning up the oil spill—see September 23-24, 2010.)
D’Souza claims that the 2009 economic stimulus (see November 18, 2008, February 10, 2009, February 13, 2009, February 17, 2009, February 23, 2009, February 28, 2009, March 9, 2009, April 9, 2009, April 16, 2009, June 9, 2009, and August 9, 2009) failed to reduce unemployment; the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has stated that unemployment would be as much as 1.8 percent higher without the stimulus, numbering up to 3.3 million people who would not have jobs. Private analysts such as the Council of Economic Advisers agree with the CBO’s assessment.
D’Souza claims that a controversial New York City Islamic center, which he calls a “mosque,” is to be built “near the site where terrorists in the name of Islam brought down the World Trade Center… at Ground Zero.” In reality, the proposed Islamic community center, Cordoba House (later renamed Park51), is two city blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center.
D’Souza claims Obama does not believe in “American exceptionalism,” and says that Obama’s dreams are not “the American dreams,” but “something else… certainly not the American dream as conceived by the founders.” In reality, Obama has said time and again that he unequivocally believes in American exceptionalism, and has repeatedly stated his pride in being an American.
D’Souza claims that Obama sees his father as a “hero” who “represented a great and noble cause.” In reality, Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, offered a largely critical portrait of Obama’s father. As Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz notes, “[T]hat book describes a young man’s struggle to understand his African roots and the father he never really knew, and offers a largely critical portrait of the Harvard-educated man who left his family.” Media Matters cites numerous other historians and reviewers who read Obama’s memoir as being highly critical of his father. As Reason Magazine’s Tim Cavanaugh wrote on the day D’Souza’s article was published, the memoir is “a narrative of Obama’s non-relationship with his father,” and continued, “[T]here is no evidence for the claim that the elder Obama bequeathed his son a coherent or even a partial political philosophy.”
D’Souza claims that Obama opposes US military action in Afghanistan, because of his “anticolonial” bent. In reality, Obama campaigned on the idea that the US invasion of Afghanistan was an “absolutely vital” response to 9/11, and has made statements to that effect as far back as October 2001. As president, Obama has increased troop levels in Afghanistan and has said that US “security is at stake in Afghanistan.”
D’Souza claims that Obama views “free market” as “code words for economic plunder,” saying that Obama views “the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America.” In reality, Obama has repeatedly praised the free market, and has consistently supported America’s large and small businesses in his economic policies. (Media Matters 9/16/2010)
Roger Ailes, the former Republican campaign guru who now heads Fox News, calls National Public Radio (NPR) officials “Nazis” for firing NPR and Fox News commentator Juan Williams; Williams recently made comments about Muslims that some, including NPR officials, took as racist. Of the NPR executives who fired Williams, Ailes says: “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.” (Air America is the now-defunct radio network that featured liberals and progressive talk show hosts and commentators.) Ailes also says that Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who has castigated Fox News host Glenn Beck for his routine invocation of Nazis in discussing the Obama administration (see October 3, 2010), should be “beheaded” for his writings. (He then claims he is merely joking.) Interviewer Howard Kurtz calls Ailes’s evocation of Nazis “disproportionate to the situation.” NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher says, “[W]e will let Mr. Ailes’s words speak for themselves.” (Kurtz 11/17/2010) Ailes issues something of an apology, not to NPR or its executives, but to Abraham Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League. Ailes explains, “I was of course ad-libbing and should not have chosen that word, but I was angry at the time because of NPR’s willingness to censor Juan Williams for not being liberal enough.” Ailes writes that he should have used the term “nasty, inflexible bigot” instead of “Nazi” to describe the NPR officials who fired Williams. Foxman says in a statement: “I welcome Roger Ailes’s apology, which is as sincere as it is heartfelt. Nazi comparisons of this nature are clearly inappropriate and offensive. While I wish Roger had never invoked that terminology, I appreciate his efforts to immediately reach out and to retract his words before they did any further harm.” (Stelter 11/18/2010)
Fox News chief Roger Ailes acknowledges that Fox News has undergone what he calls a “course correction” over the last year, dialing back some of the most inflammatory and partisan rhetoric that is its brand. The release of talk show host Glenn Beck (see March 28 - April 6, 2011) is one of the actions Ailes has taken to “moderate” Fox News’s stance, as is the lower profile given former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a prominent Fox personality—once aggressively promoted by the network as the savior of the Republican Party, Palin is much less visible on the network now. Fox executives admit that after Barack Obama’s election in 2008 (see January 2009), “the entire network took a hard right turn (see February 2, 2009, February 9-10, 2009, February 10, 2009, February 20, 2009, March 16-17, 2009, March 17, 2009, March 17-24, 2009, March 18, 2009, March 23-24, 2009, March 24, 2009, March 24, 2009, March 31, 2009, April 1, 2009, April 1, 2009, April 1-2, 2009, April 3, 2009, April 3-7, 2009, April 6, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, April 22, 2009, April 23, 2009, April 28, 2009, April 29, 2009, May 5-6, 2009, May 6, 2009, May 8-15, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 27, 2009, June 2, 2009, July 8, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, July 30, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 14, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 18, 2009, September 29, 2009, October 11, 2009, October 16, 2009, November 3, 2009, November 5-8, 2009, November 18-19, 2009, November 24, 2009, January 27, 2010, May 20-22, 2010, June 11, 2010, June 24, 2010 and After, July 2, 2010, July 24, 2010, September 1, 2010, September 4, 2010, September 4, 2010, September 15-16, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 27, 2010, September 28, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 30, 2010, October 1, 2010, October 3, 2010, October 26, 2010, November 9-11, 2010 and After, and November 9-11, 2010 and After)… but, as the tea party’s popularity fades (see August 25, 2011), is edging back toward the mainstream” (see November 16, 2010, November 17-18, 2010, February 23, 2011, February 28, 2011, March 19-24, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, May 22, 2011, May 23-24, 2011, June 10, 2011, July 13-14, 2011, January 14, 2012, January 17-18, 2012, February 11-16, 2012, and February 12-13, 2012). Ailes has ordered the opinion show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly to tone down the rhetoric, in part in response to the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and the resultant debate about the aggressive, violent rhetoric being promulgated on the right (see March 24, 2010). Moreover, as media pundit Howard Kurtz writes, “[i]t was, in his view, a chance to boost profits by grabbing a more moderate audience.” Ailes’s contract is up in 2013, and some expect the 71-year-old media magnate not to renew his contract thereafter. Ailes continues to insist that his news network is the only “fair and balanced” (see 1995) news outlet on television, with the other broadcast and cable news providers being relentlessly liberal in their presentations, but on the other hand implicitly admits that he routinely pushes right-wing memes and talking points on his network. Today, for example, he is touting Fox News’s new “Regulation Nation” series, pushing the idea that government regulations have a stranglehold on American business. “[N]o other network will cover that subject,” he says. “I think regulations are totally out of control.” Government bureaucrats hire Ph.D.s to “sit in the basement and draw up regulations to try to ruin your life,” he says. Under Ailes’s direction, Fox News will feature stories on “over-regulation” in many of its straight-news and opinion shows. Some non-Fox News conservative pundits, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh, wonder if Ailes hasn’t given up on his commitment to conservative principles in return for ratings, saying, “Fox wants these people [Republican primary candidates] to tear each other up, ‘cause they want approval from the mainstream media.” Kurtz says that Ailes has turned the Republican primary into his own “reality show” for ratings and profits, essentially agreeing with Limbaugh. Overall, others are registering that Ailes is attempting to dial back the hyperpartisan posturing, even former Obama administration aide Anita Dunn, who says, “You have the sense that they’re trying to at least appear less of the hyperpartisan political network they had been.” (Kurtz 9/25/2011)
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