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The Daily Californian, the newspaper for the University of California at Berkeley, runs a full-page ad from conservative pundit David Horowitz calling the idea of “reparations” for the African-American descendants of slaves “racist.” Horowitz, a UC-Berkeley graduate, had attempted to persuade a number of college newspapers to run the ad on February 28, the last day of Black History Month. The ad, entitled “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea—and Racist, Too,” says that reparations to African-Americans “have already been paid,” and asks, “What about the debt blacks owe to America?” The ad claims that blacks are themselves responsible for slavery and should accept this “fact.” The day after publishing the ad, the Daily Californian, responding to a harsh public outcry, apologizes for running the advertisement and writes that it allowed itself to “become an inadvertent vehicle for bigotry.” The UC-Davis newspaper also runs the ad, and also issues an apology. Many other California and Ivy League universities also receive the ad, but refuse to run it. (Daily Californian 3/2/2001; Media Matters 12/1/2004) Robert Chrisman, editor in chief of the journal Black Scholar, and Ernest Allen Jr., a professor of African-American studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, respond to Horowitz’s ad in an essay published by the university’s African-American Studies department. They write in part: “While Horowitz’s article pretends to address the issues of reparations, it is not about reparations at all. It is, rather, a well-heeled, coordinated attack on black Americans, which is calculated to elicit division and strife.… As one examines the text of Horowitz’s article, it becomes apparent that it is not a reasoned essay addressed to the topic of reparations: it is, rather, a racist polemic against African-Americans and Africans that is neither responsible nor informed, relying heavily upon sophistry and a Hitlerian ‘Big Lie’ technique.” (Chrisman and Allen 3/1/2001) Horowitz publishes the ad on his Web publication Front Page Magazine, but will later delete it. It will be chronicled in a 2004 article by progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters. (Media Matters 12/1/2004)
The “military analysts” named by the New York Times as participants in the Pentagon’s propaganda operation to manipulate public opinion on the Iraq war (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond) appear over 4,500 times on network and television news broadcasts between January 1, 2002 and May 13, 2008. The news outlets included in the May 13, 2008 count, performed by the media watchdog group Media Matters, includes ABC, ABC News Now, CBS, CBS Radio Network, NBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, and NPR. Media Matters uses the Lexis/Nexis database to compile their report. Media Matters releases a spreadsheet documenting each analyst’s appearance on each particular broadcast outlet. (Media Matters 5/13/2008) Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald notes, “If anything, the Media Matters study actually under-counts the appearances, since it only counted ‘the analysts named in the Times article,’ and several of the analysts who were most active in the Pentagon’s propaganda program weren’t mentioned by name in that article.” (Greenwald 5/15/2008)
Time magazine carries an article suggesting that White House official Karl Rove is no longer under suspicion for leaking the identity of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson. However, at least three reporters involved in the writing and editing of the article know that Rove leaked the name, according to an analysis by the Media Matters website. The article prominently features White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s denial that Rove had any involvement in the leak (see September 29, 2003). Reporter Matthew Cooper, who himself had Plame Wilson’s identity leaked to him by Rove (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), and editors Michael Duffy and John Dickerson all know of Rove’s involvement in the leak. Duffy learned of the Rove leak from an e-mail Cooper sent him. Dickerson will later acknowledge that he, too, is aware of Rove’s leak to Cooper at the same time (see February 7, 2006). Although both Cooper and Dickerson are credited with writing the article, and Duffy edits it, none reveal their knowledge that McClellan’s denial is false and that Rove had, indeed, leaked Plame Wilson’s identity. Indeed, Media Matters will note, the article gives implicit credence to the notion that Rove is no longer under suspicion for the leak. Media Matters will also note that Dickerson will go on to co-write a January 2004 Time article with another reporter, Viveca Novak, which will say in part, “If there are culprits in the White House who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, they may now be dependent on reporters to protect their identities.” Media Matters will note that Dickerson was well aware that there were indeed “culprits” in the White House who outed Plame Wilson: “He knew there was at least one, and he knew who it was. Yet he told readers it was an open question and that no charges were likely.” Media Matters will also note that Novak knew at some point that Rove was Cooper’s source, though it is unclear if she knows it when she co-writes the January 2004 article with Dickerson. (Novak and Dickerson 1/12/2004; Media Matters 2/6/2006) In 2005, the Los Angeles Times will report that Time magazine justified its reporting by saying it was “concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year.” (Hamburger and Efron 8/25/2005)
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh dismisses photos taken of prisoners at Abu Ghraib over the course of several broadcasts. The excerpts are collected by Newsweek, researchers from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and the progressive media watchdog site Media Matters. On May 3, he tells his listeners, “You know, if you look at—if you really look at these pictures, I mean, I don’t know if it’s just me, but it looks just like anything you’d see Madonna or Britney Spears do onstage—maybe I’m, yeah—and get an NEA [National Education Association] grant for something like this” (see October 2003, October 17-22, 2003, October 24, 2003, Evening October 25, 2003, November 4, 2003, November 4-December 2, 2003, and Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003, among others). On May 4, he says: “You know, those [US soldiers in Iraq] are being fired at every day. I’m talking about people having a good time. These people—you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of needing to blow some steam off? … It is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation.” On May 5, he says: “I think a lot of the American culture is being feminized. I think the reaction to the stupid torture is an example of the feminization of this country.” On May 6: he says, “The thing, though, that continually amazes—here we have these pictures of homoeroticism that look like standard good old American pornography, the Britney Spears or Madonna concerts or whatever.… I mean, this is something that you can see onstage at Lincoln Center from an NEA grant, maybe on Sex and the City.” In that same broadcast, he praises the torturers by saying: “And we hear that the most humiliating thing you can do is make one Arab male disrobe in front of another. Sounds to me like it’s pretty thoughtful.… Maybe the people who executed this pulled off a brilliant maneuver. Nobody got hurt. Nobody got physically injured.… Sounds pretty effective to me if you look at us in the right context.” And on May 11, he says, “If you take these pictures and bring them back and have them taken in an American city and put on an American Web site, they might win an award from the pornography industry.” (Media Matters 5/6/2004; Braiker 5/13/2004; Boehlert 2006, pp. 118; Jamieson and Cappella 2008, pp. 160)
CNN announces that conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza is a new political analyst for the network. D’Souza became active in conservative politics and punditry as an editor of the Dartmouth Review in the early 1980s, where he authored and published numerous inflammatory articles reviling, among others, blacks, Jews, and gays (see 1981, March 15, 1982, October 1982, and 1983). From Dartmouth, D’Souza went to the White House, where he served as a senior domestic policy analyst in the Reagan administration. He has served as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution, and published a number of books, including 1995’s inflammatory The End of Racism, which progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters described as advancing the idea that “low-income black people are basically ‘pathological’ and that white racism really isn’t racism at all, just a logical response to this ‘pathology.’” D’Souza’s Web site “argues that the American obsession with race is fueled by a civil rights establishment that has a vested interest in perpetuating black dependency”; in a 1995 Wall Street Journal op-ed, he argued that “[t]he best way for African-Americans to save private sector affirmative action may be to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Two African-American conservatives, Glenn Loury and Robert Woodson, resigned from AEI after the publication of The End of Racism and another racially objectionable book, The Bell Curve, by AEI fellow Charles Murray. (Media Matters 6/8/2004)
The New York Times publishes an analysis of Harvard University’s admission policies towards Africans and African-Americans, and notes that while the admission of black students is rising, the percentages of those admitted are heavily skewed towards West Indian and African immigrants, and less so towards Americans of African descent. Some on the faculty say that African-American students were the intended recipients of affirmative action benefits more than non-Americans of African descent. Harvard professor Mary Waters says: “You need a philosophical discussion about what are the aims of affirmative action. If it’s about getting black faces at Harvard, then you’re doing fine. If it’s about making up for 200 to 500 years of slavery in this country and its aftermath, then you’re not doing well. And if it’s about having diversity that includes African-Americans from the South or from inner-city high schools, then you’re not doing well, either.” Another Harvard professor, Lani Guinier, whose ancestry includes Caucasians and Jamaicans, says: “Colleges and universities are defaulting on their obligation to train and educate a representative group of future leaders. And they are excluding poor and working-class whites, not just descendants of slaves.” (Rimer and Arenson 6/24/2004) Conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, discussing the article on PBS’s Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered, misrepresents the article in his opening discussion, saying: “Here’s something I bet you never thought you’d hear a liberal say: Harvard is letting in too many Africans. Yet that is exactly what a group of earnest liberals told the New York Times this week.” None of the academics and educators in the article say that Harvard or any other university is admitting “too many Africans,” or that Harvard needs to begin screening out African applicants. (Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters later notes that the transcript of Carlson’s monologue alters Carlson’s remarks, adding the word “almost” in front of “exactly.”) Media Matters notes that Carlson is a critic of affirmative action, having recently equated the program with “good old-fashioned segregation” and accusing the program of “fighting racism with racism.” Carlson also states that the article says “between one-half and two-thirds of the black students at Harvard” are either West Indian or African, but the article cites no such statistics. He also misquotes Guinier, and attributes other statements to academics and educators quoted in the article that they did not make. (Media Matters 6/30/2004)
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)
US News and World Report senior writer Michael Barone accuses Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg of “blood libel on the American people” in response to Greenberg’s claim that the 1988 Bush campaign ads featuring convicted murderer Willie Horton were examples of “racial politics” (see September 21 - October 4, 1988). The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will note that the phrase “blood libel” specifically denotes accusations that a particular group, often Jews, practices human sacrifice, and cites one famous (and entirely false) allegation that “Jews kill Christian and Muslim children and use their blood to make Passover matzohs.” Barone and Greenberg are panelists on the evening’s edition of The Kalb Report, a panel discussion on C-SPAN hosted by journalist and author Marvin Kalb. The topic of the current discussion is “A Post-Election Analysis: Values, Religion, Politics, and the Media.” Greenberg calls the Horton ads examples of “racial politics in the 1980s,” to which Barone says in response: “I think this whole Willie Horton thing is a slur on the American people. The argument has been made by Democrats and liberals that the Bush campaign in ‘88 supposedly showed pictures of this man. It did not. There was an independent expenditure ad that did. But they did not. They showed white prisoners in the ad. And the argument against [1988 Democratic presidential candidate] Michael Dukakis, which he never effectively countered because there is no effective counter, is that giving furlough to people who have life without parole is a position that Dukakis defended over 11 years as governor of Massachusetts or governor candidate, is a crazy law, and he supported it over 11 years. You don’t have to be a racist to want a murderer, whatever his race, to stay in jail and not be allowed outside on the weekend. To say that the American people were racist and they just want black people in, is blood libel on the American people.” Barone is incorrect in saying that Horton’s picture was never used in the ads (it was not used in official Bush campaign ads, but it was used in ads by purportedly “independent” organizations supporting the Bush candidacy), and he fails to note that while Dukakis indeed supported the Massachusetts furlough law that allowed Horton the freedom to commit felonies even after being sent to jail for murder, he did not enact the law. Media Matters will note that the Horton ads have long been accepted as strong examples of racial politics, including a 1995 statement from Secretary of State Colin Powell who called the ads “racist.” (Media Matters 11/17/2004)
The Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson attacks the Reverend Jesse Jackson for participating in what he calls a liberal conspiracy to “keep black[s] on the plantation of the Democratic Party.” Jackson has caused a media stir by raising questions about the fairness of the voting process in the November presidential elections in Ohio (see October 29, 2004 and Evening, October 31, 2004). Jackson, Peterson says, is part of an organized liberal effort to “keep black Americans angry in order to keep them on the plantation of the Democratic Party.” Peterson also accuses liberals of being the real racists in America, calls allegations that blacks were disenfranchised in the 2000 elections “a lie” (see November 7, 2000, November 7, 2000, November 7, 2000, 11:30 a.m. November 7, 2000, and Early Afternoon, November 7, 2000), and falsely claims that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA) supported reparations for slavery during his campaign. Peterson makes his remarks during an appearance on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes. Co-host Sean Hannity is a member of BOND’s advisory board, and is quoted on the BOND Web site as calling Peterson “a great American” and “a man of conscience.” The liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Peterson has often attacked Jackson. Peterson’s organization, the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), has held a “National Day of Repudiation of Jesse Jackson” for the last five years. In an August 2000 article in the John Birch Society’s New American magazine, Peterson called Jackson a “problem profiteer… who makes millions by exploiting and exacerbating racial tensions.” He wrote a 2003 book entitled Scam: How the Black Leadership Exploits Black America, in which he attacked Jackson, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and other black civil rights leaders. Peterson and BOND have led a boycott of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), claiming the organization is “a tool of the liberal elite socialist wing of the Democratic Party.” And he is currently suing Jackson for assault and civil rights violations (Seifter 11/30/2004) (the case will be settled out of court in 2006 after a jury dismisses all but one charge against Jackson and deadlocks on the remaining charge). (Judicial Watch 1/27/2006)
Conservative pundit and author David Horowitz labels liberal radio host Al Franken a “racist,” publishing a photograph of Franken on his Web site labeled as such. In 2003, Franken termed Horowitz a “racist” in his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, citing numerous examples of what Franken believed to be racist comments from Horowitz. In his op-ed, Horowitz promises to keep the photograph on the front page of his Web publication Front Page Magazine until Franken “apologize[s] to me publicly for this attack.” Horowitz widens his claim, adding that the Internet is studded with Web sites and organizations used by Franken and other liberals to tar conservatives with charges of “racism,” and compares those organizations—including Public Eye, NameBase, MediaTransparency, People for the American Way, and the Southern Poverty Law Center—of being “leftwing version(s) of ‘Red Channels,’ the infamous newsletter that provided lists of Communists in the McCarthy era.” National Review editor Jay Nordlinger joins with Horowitz in attacking Franken in a column published simultaneously on the National Review’s Web site. Horowitz writes that he was aware of Franken’s disparaging remarks about him in his book, but has only now chosen “to take notice of Franken’s assault.” He writes, “There is not a single sentence, or phrase, or comment of mine that could be cited to justify Franken’s attack.” He refuses to say why Franken is a racist, but promises to reveal his evidence of Franken’s racism after Franken apologizes. Responding to Horowitz’s op-ed, the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes several instances of what appear to be overtly racist remarks and writings by Horowitz, including his attempt to characterize the idea of slavery reparations as “racist” (see March 1-2, 2001), and his attempt to claim that blacks themselves are responsible for the economic and criminal depredations their communities endure (see August 16, 1998). (Media Matters 11/30/2004; Horowitz 11/30/2004) Horowitz has a long history of labeling liberal and progressive figures and institutions “racist” (see August 29, 2001, March 15, 2002, July 15, 2002, August 5, 2003, and October 9-13, 2004).
Political scientist Timothy Groseclose of UCLA and economist Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Missouri-Columbia release a study entitled “A Measure of Media Bias” that purports to document the “liberal bias” of the mainstream media. Unfortunately for Groseclose and Milyo’s conclusions, their measure of “bias” is found severely wanting, and they fail to mention the substantial body of scholarly work that challenges their theories. The study contains observations of 20 mainstream news outlets, including national newspapers, news magazines, and network and cable television news channels. (Groseclose and Milyo 12/2004; MSNBC 12/19/2005; Media Matters 12/21/2005)
Previous Positions at Conservative Institutions - Groseclose and Milyo have previously received significant funding for their research from three prominent conservative think tanks: the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), the Heritage Foundation, and the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. Groseclose has served as a fellow of the Hoover Institution, while Milyo received a $40,500 grant from AEI. Both were named as fellows by the Heritage Foundation. The two authored an article for the conservative American Spectator in 1996.
Flawed Study - Groseclose and Milyo, according to their study, “measure media bias by estimating ideological scores for several major media outlets” based on the frequency with which various think tanks and advocacy organizations were cited approvingly by the media and by members of Congress over a 10-year period. In order to assess media “bias,” the authors assembled the ideological scores given to members of Congress by the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action; examined the floor speeches of selected members to catalog which think tanks and policy organizations were cited by those members; used those citations as the basis for an ideological score assigned to each think tank (organizations cited by liberal members were scored as more liberal, whereas organizations cited by conservative members were scored as more conservative); then performed a content analysis of newspapers and TV programs to catalog which think tanks and policy organizations were quoted. If a news organization quoted a think tank mentioned by conservative members of Congress, then it was said to have a conservative “bias.” The authors write: “As a simplified example, imagine that there were only two think tanks, and suppose that the New York Times cited the first think tank twice as often as the second. Our method asks: What is the estimated ADA score of a member of Congress who exhibits the same frequency (2:1) in his or her speeches? This is the score that our method would assign the New York Times.” The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will call the methodology “bizarre,” and will write: “If a member of Congress cites a think tank approvingly, and if that think tank is also cited by a news organization, then the news organization has a ‘bias’ making it an ideological mirror of the member of Congress who cited the think tank. This, as Groseclose and Milyo define it, is what constitutes ‘media bias.’” (Groseclose and Milyo 12/2004; Media Matters 12/21/2005) In December 2005, the parent company of the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones and Co., will question the study’s validity, noting: “[I]ts measure of media bias consists entirely of counting the number of mentions of, or quotes from, various think tanks that the researchers determine to be ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative.‘… And if a think tank is explicitly labeled ‘liberal” or “conservative’ within a story to provide context to readers, that example doesn’t count at all. The researchers simply threw out such mentions.” (Poynter Online 12/21/2005)
Classifying Organizations - Groseclose and Milyo assign “scores” to a variety of partisan and nonpartisan advocacy groups and think tanks. Some of these scores are problematic:
The National Rifle Association (NRA), widely characterized as a strongly conservative organization, scores a 49.5 on a 100-point scale, classifying it as barely conservative;
The RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization closely affiliated with the Defense Department, scores a 60.4, classifying it as strongly liberal;
The Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan political organization featuring both Republicans and Democrats on its board and headed by a former Bush administration official, scores a 60.2, classifying it as solidly liberal;
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization consistently reviled by conservative pundits, scores a 49.8, classifying it as slightly conservative;
The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks political contributions, scores a 66.9, classifying it as highly liberal;
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a defense policy think tank chaired by former Democratic House member Dave McCurdy, scores a 33.9, classifying it as more conservative than AEI and the hard-right National Taxpayers Union.
Lack of 'Balance' Indicates Bias in Study - According to Media Matters, Groseclose and Milyo classify news stories as exhibiting a partisan bias if they fail to balance a “liberal” group’s quote with a “conservative” group’s quote, regardless of the nature of the reporting. For example, the authors cite the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which they classify as staunchly liberal, as one of the organizations most often quoted without “balancing” quotes from conservative groups. Media Matters will write, “[B]ecause there are no pro-racism groups of any legitimacy (or on Groseclose and Milyo’s list), such stories will be coded as having a ‘liberal bias.’” In contrast, stories featured in the study that quote a spokesperson from the NRA are often “balanced” by quotes from a “liberal” organization, Handgun Control, Inc., though, as Media Matters will note, that organization renamed itself the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2001, and Groseclose and Milyo do not include that name in their statistics, “therefore, it is impossible to determine from reading the study if Groseclose and Milyo’s score reflects post-2001 citations by legislators and the media of the group under its new name.” Moreover, because the study only assigns partisan weight to quotes from advocacy groups or think tanks, if a story cites a member of Congress as taking a position and contrasts that position with a quote from a think tank, that story, according to the authors, is “biased” in favor of the think tank’s position. Media Matters calls this practice “miscategorization.”
Assuming Reporter, News Outlet Bias - One of the most questionable practices in the study is the assumption that if a reporter quotes a source, that reporter—or his or her news outlet—must believe the opinions expressed by that source. Media Matters will write that “most, if not all, reporters across the ideological spectrum would find [that assumption] utterly ridiculous.” (Groseclose and Milyo 12/2004; Media Matters 12/21/2005) The Dow Jones statement will find, “By this logic, a mention of al-Qaeda in a story suggests the newspaper endorses its views, which is obviously not the case.” (Poynter Online 12/21/2005) The authors say that only two mainstream news outlets, Fox News and the Washington Times, slant rightward. The study finds that Fox News’s coverage is quite moderate; in a 2005 interview on MSNBC, Milyo will say that Fox’s news coverage can be equated with the moderate Republicanism of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), considered the most “liberal”-leaning Republican in Congress. (MSNBC 12/19/2005)
Bias Findings at Odds with History - The study makes some odd conclusions about liberal bias: for example, the Wall Street Journal, whose op-ed page has long avowed itself as a champion of conservative thought, is characterized by the study as having more “liberal bias” than any news outlet surveyed. The authors claim that they studied only news reporting and not editorial writings, but as Media Matters will note, “the Journal is respected on both the right and the left, and it would be shocking to hear even the most rabid right-winger assert that the Journal is America’s most liberal news outlet.” (Groseclose and Milyo 12/2004; Media Matters 12/21/2005)
Methodology Flawed - In December 2005, a spokesman for Dow Jones will call the study “logically suspect and simply baffling.” The statement will note that Groseclose and Milyo only studied four months of Journal reporting, from 2002, while they studied 12 years of CBS News reporting, 11 years of National Public Radio reporting, eight years of reporting from US News and World Report, and two years of reporting from Time Magazine. The Washington Post and Washington Times were also only studied for brief periods. “Yet the researchers provide those findings the same weight as all the others, without bothering to explain that in any meaningful way to the study’s readers,” the statement will note. It will conclude, “Suffice it to say that ‘research’ of this variety would be unlikely to warrant a mention at all in any Wall Street Journal story” (see December 21, 2005).
Failure to Mention Other Studies - The authors fail to mention a large number of previous studies of “media bias.” They do, however, cite three studies that, according to Media Matters, are as “questionable” as this particular study. One assumed that since conservatives say in surveys that the media is biased, then that bias unquestionably exists. The second assumed that news magazines that sold more subscriptions in geographic areas weighted towards Democratic voters were biased in favor of Democrats. The third is an AEI study whose statistics and methodologies were found to be deeply flawed. Groseclose and Milyo ignore one of the most rigorous and exhaustive studies in recent years, a 2000 analysis by the International Communication Association, which found that newspapers and news magazines exhibited little measurable bias, and television network news broadcasts exhibited measurable but relatively insubstantial bias. That study included 59 other studies, all of which go unmentioned in the Groseclose-Milyo study.
Conservative Bibliography - Media Matters will write that the authors seem almost unaware that other studies of media bias exist. The study’s bibliography is heavily freighted with citations from conservative media critics such as Brent Bozell (founder of the Media Research Center) and Reed Irvine (the late founder of Accuracy in Media). The bibliography also cites an article from the hard-right Internet publication WorldNetDaily. It does not cite any entries from dozens of well-known scholarly journals of communication and media studies, most of which have examined the topic of media bias in their pages. (Groseclose and Milyo 12/2004; Media Matters 12/21/2005)
A reporter calling himself Jeff Gannon asks a question of President Bush during a White House press conference: “Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the US economy,” Gannon says. “[Minority Leader] Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock solid and there’s no crisis there. How are you going to work—you said you’re going to reach out to these people—how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?” (Reid never mentioned soup lines; that reference comes from a satire of Reid by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.) In earlier conferences, Gannon attempted to link Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry to actress Jane Fonda, a favorite target of the right, and questioned why anyone would dispute Bush’s National Guard service record. (Savage and Wirzbicki 2/2/2005; Unger 2007, pp. 332-333)
Works for Fake News Site - The Internet media watchdog site Media Matters, intrigued by Gannon’s highly partisan questions, soon learns that he works for an obscure news Web site called Talon News, itself a front for the extremist Internet organization GOPUSA (see January 28, 2005). New York Times media critic Frank Rich will call Talon News a fake news site staffed by Republican activists and filled with regurgitated press releases from the White House and the Republican National Committee. Rich will go on to note that Talon News is owned by a Texas delegate to the 2000 Republican presidential convention, and took part in an effort to falsely smear Kerry with allegations of infidelity. The Boston Globe soon reports of Gannon, “The Bush administration has provided White House media credentials to a man who has virtually no journalistic background, asks softball questions to the president and his spokesman in the midst of contentious news conferences, and routinely reprints long passages verbatim from official press releases as original news articles on his Web site.” (Gannon will call his practice of passing off quotes from the White House as objective news reports “the ultimate in journalistic honesty.”) Examination of press conference transcripts shows that White House press secretary Scott McClellan often calls on Gannon when other reporters begin asking difficult questions; Gannon is a reliable source of “softball” questions that allow McClellan to get back on track and resume issuing White House talking points.
Reporter Actually Male Prostitute - After Gannon becomes a figure of interest to media observers and Internet bloggers, they soon learn that he is really James Guckert, a male prostitute who posts nude pictures of himself on gay escort sites such as “hotmilitarystud.com” and numerous others, and charges $200 an hour (or $1,200 a weekend) for his services. (Savage and Wirzbicki 2/2/2005; Boehlert 2/15/2005; Rich 2006, pp. 172-173; Unger 2007, pp. 332-333) Though McClellan will deny that the White House press staff knew anything of Gannon/Guckert’s false identity until just before the story broke in early February 2005, former Reagan official Bruce Bartlett will say that “if Gannon was using an alias, the White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover.” Further investigation will show that Gannon/Guckert has been posing as a reporter for two years. (Rich 2006, pp. 172-173)
Regular Visits to White House on Days with No Briefings - According to White House logs, Gannon/Guckert has regularly visited the White House on days when no press conferences are being held, and on at least 12 occasions was checked in but not checked out. Gannon/Guckert’s visits raise speculation that he might have visited the White House for licentious purposes, though he will deny ever spending the night there for any reason. The Gannon/Guckert story highlights the existence of the so-called “Lavender Bund,” the cadre of closeted Republican gays who help the religious right and the GOP advance their openly anti-gay agendas. (Byrne 4/24/2005; Leupp 5/21/2005)
Accusations of Plagiarism - Gannon/Guckert will also be accused of plagiarizing other journalists’ work, further calling into question his journalistic credentials. (Byrne 3/31/2005)
Media Matters, the left-leaning media watchdog organization, questions White House reporter Jeff Gannon’s credentials as well as the legitimacy of the Internet news organization he works for, Talon News. Media Matters is as yet unaware that Gannon’s true name is James Guckert, and that he has no journalistic experience and his livelihood is apparently made by moonlighting as a gay prostitute (see January 26, 2005). The organization shows that several Gannon/Guckert pieces for Talon News are little more than what it calls “reprints of Republican and Bush administration releases,” and demonstrates that Gannon is a frequent “lifesaver” for White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who regularly calls on Gannon/Guckert when he needs a safe question to allow him to get back on track. Media Matters has found out more about Talon News itself; it reports that the information unearthed “casts additional doubt on Talon’s claim to be a media outlet and raises questions about whether Gannon/Guckert should be a credentialed member of the White House press corps.” Talon News is owned by Bobby Eberle, a Texas Republican Party operative who also owns the conservative Internet organization “GOPUSA,” which proclaims itself to be a “conservative news, information, and design company dedicated to promoting conservative ideals.” Though Eberle claims that GOPUSA and Talon News are separate organizations, in fact they are not. Eberle is the owner and chief operator of both entities. Both domain names—“TalonNews.com” and “GOPUSA.com”—are registered to the same Pearland, Texas, street address, which appears to be Eberle’s home address. The domain name contact is Eberle’s GOPUSA email address. Most of the articles on Talon News’s Web site consist of short introductory paragraphs with “Read more” links that take the reader to a page that announces, “This story can be found on our #1 client—GOPUSA!” Readers are then redirected to the GOPUSA.com site. GOPUSA and Talon News are both staffed by Eberle, Gannon/Guckert, and several volunteers. Media Matters concludes that the two organizations are “virtually indistinguishable.” Interestingly, both Eberle and Gannon/Guckert post on the right-wing Internet forum Free Republic, and Gannon/Guckert has hosted a radio show on Radio Free Republic. Another poster once suggested that McClellan “appreciated” Gannon/Guckert’s questions “from the smirk he was trying to hold back,” and Gannon/Guckert responded, “It’s hard to say with Scott but he usually knows what he’s going to get from me.” None of the other volunteers on Talon News seem to have any journalistic experience, but all are heavily involved in Republican politics, including a high school student who is president of his school’s Young Republicans’ Club; the owner of the Wisconsin Conservative Digest; a county GOP chairman and campaign manager for a Maine Republican candidate for the House of Representatives; a South Carolina GOP campaign operative; and a Nebraska freelance writer who has worked as a speechwriter for conservative candidates and organizations. Members of GOPUSA’s board of directors have no more journalistic experience than the writers of Talon News, but all are active GOP operatives, consultants, and financial managers. (Foser 1/25/2005)
Conservative faux journalist and gay prostitute Jeff Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, quits as a White House reporter following his exposure by media watchdog organization Media Matters and Internet bloggers. For years, Gannon/Guckert has functioned as a “safe” White House reporter for conservative Internet news site Talon News, providing “softball” questions to President Bush and his press secretaries and representatives that allow the White House to reiterate and emphasize its talking points (see January 26, 2005). He also resigns as a Talon correspondent. Gannon does not apologize for his flatly partisan questioning, and says his questions merely counterbalance those of other reporters, whom he says are largely liberal and hostile towards the Bush administration: “Perhaps the most disturbing thing has been the notion that there isn’t room for one conservative voice in the White House press corps.” Gannon/Guckert refuses to acknowledge his second vocation as a gay prostitute, which he pursues under his given name, and merely says his use of a pseudonym for his journalistic pursuits is a “very innocent… commercial consideration.” Besides, he says, many journalists change their names for broadcast purposes. He does not name any journalists who operate under such pseudonyms. (Block and Norris 2/9/2005)
White House Knew of Pseudonym - Gannon/Guckert’s boss at Talon, Bobby Eberle (see January 28, 2005), says that the White House issued press passes to the “reporter” under his real name, which indicates the White House knew he was writing under a pseudonym. And Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), noting that Gannon/Guckert was denied Congressional press passes because he could not demonstrate that he worked for a legitimate news service, wants to know why Gannon/Guckert was able to pass muster at the White House. “This issue is important from an ethical as well as from a national security standpoint,” Lautenberg says. “It is hard to understand why a man with little real journalism experience was given a White House press corps credential.” (Boehlert 2/15/2005) White House press secretary Scott McClellan denies knowing about Gannon/Guckert’s pseudonym until just recently, and says, “People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors.” (Kurtz 2/16/2005)
Admission and Defense - Days later, in a CNN interview conducted by Wolf Blitzer, Gannon/Guckert admits that he is a “former” gay prostitute, admits his real name, says no one at the White House knew about his sexual past, and says: “I’ve made mistakes in my past. Does my past mean I can’t have a future? Does it disqualify me from being a journalist?” He says he used a pseudonym because his real name is difficult to pronounce. Liberal gay activist John Aravosis, whose AmericaBlog first published pictures of Gannon/Guckert advertising his sexual favors on gay escort Web sites, says the issue is not Gannon/Guckert’s right to be a journalist but his “White House access.… The White House wouldn’t let him in the door right now, knowing of his background.” Aravosis says Gannon/Guckert is guilty of “what I call family values hypocrisy. Basically, he’s asking the gay community to protect him when he attacks us.” Gannon/Guckert wrote numerous articles blasting 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry’s support of gay rights and wrote that Kerry would, if elected, be the country’s “first gay president.” (Kurtz 2/19/2005) On his blog, Aravosis adds: “This is the conservative Republican Bush White House we’re talking about. It’s looking increasingly like they made a decision to allow a hooker to ask the president of the United States questions. They made a decision to give a man with an alias and no journalistic experience access to the West Wing of the White House on a ‘daily basis.’” (Boehlert 2/15/2005)
Softballing Gannon/Guckert - New York Times columnist Frank Rich accuses Blitzer of asking “questions almost as soft as those ‘Jeff’ himself had asked in the White House.” Blitzer accepted without question Gannon/Guckert’s assertion that he used the name Gannon because Guckert was too hard to pronounce, and never questioned Gannon/Guckert’s claim that Talon News “is a separate, independent news division” of GOPUSA. Blitzer, Rich notes, waited until a brief follow-up interview to ask why Gannon/Guckert was questioned by FBI investigators about his knowledge of the Valerie Plame Wilson affair (see October 28, 2003). Blitzer did not ask if his knowledge came from the same officials who took care of his White House press credentials, nor did he ask if Gannon/Guckert has any connection with conservative journalist and CNN commentator Robert Novak, who outed Plame Wilson. “The anchor didn’t go there,” Rich writes. (Rich 2/19/2005)
'Politics of Personal Destruction' - Gannon/Guckert will later say that his resignation from Talon News and from the White House press corps is an example of “the politics of personal destruction.” (Solomon 3/20/2005)
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) calls upon the White House to strip political adviser Karl Rove of his security clearance, referring to Rove’s involvement in leaking the CIA identity of Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 10, 2005). Reid says that the administration should have done so long ago, but instead has refused to discuss Rove’s involvement and attacked its critics. “This is what is known as a cover-up,” Reid says. “This is an abuse of power.” In response, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) accuses Democrats of resorting to “partisan war chants.” (Solomon 7/15/2005) Shortly after Reid’s statement, the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Rove has, apparently, violated the strictures of the federal government’s Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement (Standard Form 312), and that those strictures call for the removal of Rove’s security clearance. The organization goes on to note that with few exceptions, the mainstream media has repeated Democratic calls for Rove to lose his clearance without mentioning Rove’s violation of the Nondisclosure Agreement. According to the Agreement, “dissemination” or “confirmation” of classified information constitutes an “unauthorized disclosure,” even after that information has been published in a “public source.” (Media Matters 7/19/2005) In October, Rove will admit to having leaked Plame Wilson’s name to two reporters (see October 14, 2005).
Washington Post editor and reporter Bob Woodward repeats the baseless claim that a 2002 report by former ambassador Joseph Wilson on attempts by Iraq to secure Nigerien uranium (see March 8, 2002) contradicted his 2003 New York Times op-ed criticizing the Bush administration’s use of the uranium claim to justify its invasion of Iraq (see July 6, 2003). The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will note that according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report (see July 9, 2004), “there appears to be no contradiction between the report and Wilson’s op-ed.… Wilson’s language [in the op-ed] closely echoes the Intelligence Committee’s description of his report.” Woodward says that according to Wilson’s 2002 report, “there were reasonable grounds to discredit” Wilson, and goes on to say that Wilson “had said something in his reports a year before that contradicted what he wrote in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.” Woodward also mocks the idea that anyone in the Bush administration wants to “trash” or “discredit” Wilson (see June 2003, June 3, 2003, June 11, 2003, June 12, 2003, June 19 or 20, 2003, July 6, 2003, July 6-10, 2003, July 7, 2003 or Shortly After, 8:45 a.m. July 7, 2003, 9:22 a.m. July 7, 2003, July 7-8, 2003, July 11, 2003, (July 11, 2003), July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003, July 18, 2003, October 1, 2003, and April 5, 2006), and goes on to say that “there were reasonable grounds to discredit him.” (Media Matters 8/1/2005) Woodward does not reveal that he himself was an early recipient of the White House’s leaked information that Wilson’s wife is a clandestine CIA officer (see June 13, 2003).
In the days after Michael Steele (R-MD), an African-American, announced his candidacy for governor of Maryland, allegations have resurfaced that in 2002 he was “pelted” with Oreo cookies by Democrats at a political debate (see September 26, 2002 and After); if true, such actions would constitute a significant racial slur. However, reporting of the incident has fallen into question, and Steele himself recently denied being hit by cookies during the debate, though he did say he saw Oreos on the stage near him: “I’ve never claimed that I was hit, no. The one or two that I saw at my feet were there. I just happened to look down and see them.” Eyewitness accounts compiled by the Baltimore Sun show that the allegations are questionable at best; moreover, the Sun reports, accounts of the incident by Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Ehrlich, Ehrlich’s communications director Paul Schurick, and Steele himself, dramatically contradict each other. Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters compares the different accounts of the incident, and concludes that the story has grown from an almost-baseless “partisan talking point” into “a ‘fact’ reported by the media” over the last three years. Media Matters notes that several newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times, the Washington Post, and the Washington Times, have recently reported the incident as factual, with the Times writing that Steele was “pelt[ed] with Oreo cookies” among the “racially tinged attacks” directed at him by his Democratic opponent in 2002. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell writes: “Steele has been subjected to the worst racial slurs imaginable. At one debate, a group of black people pelted the stage with Oreos.” Between October 31 and November 16, the Washington Times asserts the incident as fact three times in its editorial pages, and twice in its news reporting. The Weekly Standard reports it three times. Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity twice asserts it as fact on his broadcast, as does one of his guests, National Review editor Rich Lowry. Deroy Murdock, another National Review contributor, asserts it as fact in one of his columns. Washington Post metro editor Marc Fisher cites it in an online chat. Mitchell cites it in the Chicago Sun-Times. The conservative American Spectator cites it as fact once. Syndicated columnist Gregory Kane cites it as fact once. The National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service editor in chief George Curry states it as fact on National Public Radio, as does the host of the NPR program, Ed Gordon. The Investors Business Daily cites it as fact in an editorial. MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson cites it as fact on the air. The Associated Press cites it as fact in an article. Media Matters also notes that the story resurfaced briefly during the August 2004 Republican National Convention, with the Baltimore Sun reporting that Steele and Ehrlich “still talk” about the incident, and the Washington Post reporting it as fact. (Segraves 11/15/2005; Media Matters 11/21/2005)
Retired Army General Paul Vallely, a military analyst employed by Fox News (see Early 2002 and Beyond, Late September 2003, April 14-16, 2006, and April 18, 2006), says that former ambassador Joseph Wilson revealed his wife’s status as a CIA official over a year before she was exposed by conservative columnist Robert Novak (see July 14, 2003). Vallely’s claims are published by WorldNetDaily (WND), an online conservative news site, after Vallely makes the claims on an ABC Radio talk show hosted by conservative commentator and blogger John Batchelor. Fox News has described Vallely as an expert on psychological warfare (see April 21, 2003). Vallely says Wilson openly discussed his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, as a CIA official between three and five times in 2002, while the two waited to appear on various Fox News broadcasts. Both Vallely and Wilson served as analysts for Fox News during the US’s run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Vallely says the first time Wilson discussed his wife’s CIA status was in the spring of 2002. “He was rather open about his wife working at the CIA,” Vallely says. “He was a total self promoter,” Vallely continues. “I don’t know if it was out of insecurity, to make him feel important, but he’s created so much turmoil, he needs to be investigated and put under oath.” Vallely also says that several acquaintances of his at the CIA have said Wilson routinely introduced his wife as a CIA official at Washington cocktail parties and social events. “That was pretty common knowledge,” he says. “She’s been out there on the Washington scene many years.” If she were a covert agent, Valley says (see Fall 1992 - 1996), “he would not have paraded her around as he did.” Vallely concludes, “This whole thing has become the biggest non-story I know, and all created by Joe Wilson.” Conservative lawyer Victoria Toensing agrees that Plame Wilson is most likely not a covert agent for the agency. WND does not report Wilson’s response to Vallely’s charges, and in several critical references to a Vanity Fair interview given by the Wilsons (see January 2004) the blog misidentifies the date of the interview publication as 2005, not 2004. (Moore 11/5/2005)
CIA Confirmed Plame Wilson's Covert Status - The CIA has repeatedly confirmed Plame Wilson as a covert official, and many observers both inside and outside the agency have noted the extensive damage caused by her exposure (see Before September 16, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 11, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, October 23-24, 2003, and February 13, 2006).
Fox News, Conservative Blogs Report Claims - Three days after Vallely’s claims appear on WND, Fox News reports Vallely’s statements. (Hume 11/8/2005) And a day after the WND article, Batchelor announces on prominent conservative blog RedState that another analyst will confirm Vallely’s claims. Batchelor says that on November 7, Vallely and retired Air Force General Thomas McInerney will “repeat and expand upon Vallely’s memory that Joe Wilson more than once in 2002 in the green room at Fox New Channel in Washington, DC, boasted about his wife the ‘CIA desk officer.’ McInerney has the same memory and more, since both he and Vallely were on FNC between 150 and 200 times in 2002 each.” (John Batchelor 11/6/2005)
Wilson Demands Retraction, Counters Claim - Wilson’s attorney, Christopher Wolf, e-mails both Vallely and WND demanding that they retract Vallely’s statements, writing that “the claim that Ambassador Wilson revealed to you or to anyone that his wife worked for the CIA is patently false.” In the e-mail, Wolf includes a message Wilson sent him: “This is slanderous. I never appeared on [TV] before at least July 2002 and only saw him maybe twice in the green room at Fox. Vallely is a retired general and this is a bald faced lie. Can we sue? This is not he said/he said, since I never laid eyes on him till several months after he alleges I spoke to him about my wife.”
Vallely Modifies Original Claim, Others Refuse to Confirm - Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that in subsequent days, Vallely modifies his original claims, backing down to claim that Wilson revealed his wife’s CIA status on “only one occasion,” which “probably was in that summer, early fall” of 2002. And promises that two other military analysts, retired generals McInerney and Barry McCaffrey, will back up his claims go unfulfilled, as neither is willing to publicly state that Wilson ever spoke to them about his wife. Vallely later says he has not spoken to the FBI about his claims, and tells conservative talk show host Sean Hannity that he waited two years to make the claims because “I figured Joe Wilson would self-destruct at some point in time.” He tells Hannity that he has been “upset” by Wilson’s opposition to the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq. (Media Matters 11/9/2005) Batchelor’s promise that fellow conservative commentator Victor Davis Hansen will also confirm the claim also goes unfulfilled. (John Batchelor 11/6/2005) WND notes, “But contrary to a report, Hanson said Wilson did not disclose his wife’s CIA employment” during their conversations. (Moore 11/8/2005)
Fox News Schedule Shows Vallely, Wilson Never Appeared Together - Progressive blogger John Amato and former CIA agent Larry Johnson pore through the Fox News schedule for the time period Vallely cites—the spring of 2002—and find that Vallely and Wilson never appeared together during that time. Johnson writes: “They were never in the studio on the same day, much less the same program. Vallely is lying or maybe having a senior moment.” (John Amato 11/7/2005)
The New York Times learns that a conversation between the lawyer for White House official Karl Rove and Time magazine reporter Viveca Novak led Rove to change his testimony to the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak (see October 14, 2005). Novak told Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, that her colleague at Time, Matthew Cooper, had possibly learned of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status from Rove (see March 1, 2004). Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has summoned Novak to testify before his grand jury about the Luskin conversation. Sources say Fitzgerald is still determining whether Rove has been truthful and forthcoming in his multiple testimonies before the jury, and whether he altered his testimony after learning that Cooper might identify him as a source (see October 15, 2004). Previously, Rove testified that he only spoke to columnist Robert Novak (no relation to Viveca Novak) about Plame Wilson’s secret CIA identity (see July 8, 2003), and failed to disclose his similar leak to Cooper (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Rove testified that he simply forgot about his conversation with Cooper during previous testimony. (VandeHei 11/29/2005; Stevenson and Jehl 12/2/2005) Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Novak never disclosed her conversation with Luskin to Fitzgerald, and failed to inform her readers of her contacts and her knowledge of the case in several articles she wrote about the investigation subsequent to her conversation with Luskin. Media Matters also notes that Novak “provid[ed] Luskin with information that might prove crucial to Rove’s defense in the case.… Novak, an experienced journalist working for a prestigious publication, disclosed to Rove’s lawyer information that she did not give to her readers and that Cooper would zealously try to withhold for more than a year on the basis of the purportedly sacrosanct anonymity agreement between a reporter and a source.… Novak may have affirmatively helped Rove—a source the magazine covers and will continue to cover—beat a perjury rap, not by exonerating him through a story in the course of her job, but by providing his lawyer with information in a private conversation.… Novak apparently felt free to disclose to Rove’s lawyer that Cooper might be compelled to testify before a grand jury about the conversation between Cooper and Rove, but she did not accord Time readers the same privilege.” (Media Matters 12/2/2005) The Washington Post notes that Luskin and Novak are friends. (VandeHei 11/29/2005)
Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters writes that Robert Novak, the conservative columnist who outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA agent (see July 14, 2003), has, in writing about his interactions with the federal agents investigating the leak (see July 12, 2006), “repeated a number of false and contradictory statements regarding the investigation and the manner in which he learned of Plame [Wilson]‘s identity.” Novak did reveal White House political strategist Karl Rove as one of his sources, but did not reveal his “primary source,” then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see July 8, 2003). (Media Matters 7/12/2006) Author Marcy Wheeler, who blogs at The Next Hurrah under the moniker “Emptywheel,” concurs, and cites similar instances of Novak’s contradictory statements. (Marcy Wheeler 7/13/2006)
Contradicts Earlier Statements - Novak does not reveal Armitage’s name, but he does discuss something of the Armitage disclosure, saying that Armitage’s revelation was “inadvertent.” Though this coincides with other Novak discussions, where he has called Armitage’s discussion of Plame Wilson “offhand” (see September 29, 2003 and October 1, 2003), it contradicts information he gave to two Newsday reporters in the days following his column’s publication: at that time, he told the reporters that he “was given” the Plame Wilson information and his sources—Rove and Armitage—considered the information “significant” (see July 21, 2003).
Misrepresents Plame Wilson's Involvement in Husband's Mission - Novak also repeats the falsehood that Plame Wilson “helped initiate” her husband, Joseph Wilson’s, 2002 trip to Niger (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, and October 17, 2003), a falsehood he claims has been “confirmed” by a 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee report (see July 9, 2004). And two years previously, Novak admitted that the committee failed to reach a conclusion on Plame Wilson’s involvement in the Niger mission (see July 15, 2004). (Media Matters 7/12/2006)
Story Substantially Different from Rove's - Wheeler points out that Novak’s version of events is substantially different from the events Rove has laid out. According to Novak, Rove already knew Plame Wilson’s name; Rove says he neither knew the name nor divulged it to Novak. Novak says Rove called him, but Rove says Novak placed the call. According to Rove, when Novak asked about Joseph Wilson’s wife being a CIA official, he replied, “Oh, you’ve heard that too,” but Novak suggests Rove said something more. Novak also contradicts his earlier reporting, where he implied he confirmed (not learned) Plame Wilson’s identity from Who’s Who in America (see October 1, 2003). Moreover, Novak told reporters in 2003 that White House officials gave him the information on Plame Wilson, “I didn’t dig it out” (see July 21, 2003), implying that he was called by Rove and perhaps other White House officials as well. In his October 1, 2003 article, he wrote that he called Rove (whom he identified then as “another official”). (Marcy Wheeler 7/13/2006) On Fox News, Novak says that the original reporting that he “was given” the information on Plame Wilson was “a misstatement.” He goes on: “That was an interview I did on the telephone with Newsday shortly after it appeared. Some of the things that they said that quoted me that are not in quotes are paraphrases, and they’re incorrect, such as the whole idea that they [the White House] planted this story with me. I never told that to the Newsday reporters.” (Christy Hardin Smith 7/13/2006)
Contradicts CIA Official's Account of Interview - Media Matters also notes that Novak’s account of his discussion of Plame Wilson’s identity with then-CIA spokesman Bill Harlow is substantially different from Harlow’s account (see (July 11, 2003). Harlow has said, both in interviews and in grand jury testimony, that he warned Novak not to divulge Plame Wilson’s name or CIA status in the strongest terms he could without himself divulging classified information. (Media Matters 7/12/2006)
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh calls Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and actress Halle Berry “Halfrican Americans.” According to progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, Limbaugh, discussing Obama’s nascent presidential candidacy, says, “Barack Obama has picked up another endorsement: Halfrican American actress Halle Berry.” Limbaugh then says, “‘As a Halfrican American, I am honored to have Ms. Berry’s support, as well as the support of other Halfrican Americans,’ Obama said.” Limbaugh later concedes that Obama “didn’t say it.” Limbaugh tells his audience that Obama “is the son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya.” (Media Matters 1/24/2007)
Martin Peretz, the editor in chief of The New Republic, falsely accuses Jewish billionaire George Soros of being a Nazi collaborator. Soros is now a target of conservative opprobrium for his financial support of Democratic and progressive causes. As a 14-year-old boy, Soros escaped from the Nazis by hiding with a non-Jewish family in Hungary; the father of that family sometimes served deportation notices to Hungarian Jews. Peretz now calls Soros “a young cog in the Hitlerite wheel.” The progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that Peretz is following the lead of right-wing extremists David Horowitz and Richard Poe, whose book The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party claimed that Soros “survived [the Holocaust] by assimilating to Nazism.” The book was found to be riddled with doctored quotes and factual errors (see August 8, 2006). Peretz uses a transcript of a 1998 interview Soros gave to 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft to prove his claim, but edits the transcript to leave out a key section that shows Soros did not collaborate with Nazis. (Media Matters 2/5/2007; Peretz 2/12/2007) (The article is dated February 12, 2007, but was posted on the New Republic Web site a week earlier.)
Author and media observer Eric Boehlert, writing for the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, criticizes the majority of mainstream news reporters and publications for failing to report aggressively and even accurately on the Plame Wilson leak investigation. Boehlert writes that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald “has consistently shown more interest—and determination—in uncovering the facts of the Plame scandal than most Beltway journalists, including the often somnambulant DC newsroom of the New York Times. Indeed, for long stretches, the special counsel easily supplanted the timid DC press corps and become the fact-finder of record for the Plame story. It was Fitzgerald and his team of G-men—not journalists—who were running down leads, asking tough questions, and, in the end, helping inform the American people about possible criminal activity inside the White House.” While Fitzgerald had subpoena power, Boehlert admits, reporters often had inside information that they consistently failed to reveal, instead “dutifully keeping their heads down and doing their best to make sure the details never got out about the White House’s obsession with discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV by outing his undercover CIA wife, Valerie Plame” Wilson. Boehlert writes that if not for Fitzgerald’s dogged investigation, the entire leak story would have “simply faded into oblivion like so many other disturbing suggestions of Bush administration misdeeds. And it would have faded away because lots of high-profile journalists at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and NBC wanted it to.”
'Watergate in Reverse' - “In a sense, it was Watergate in reverse,” Boehlert writes. “Instead of digging for the truth, lots of journalists tried to bury it. The sad fact remains the press was deeply involved in the cover-up, as journalists reported White House denials regarding the Plame leak despite the fact scores of them received the leak and knew the White House was spreading rampant misinformation about an unfolding criminal case.”
Going Along to Avoid Angering White House - Boehlert believes that in the early days of the investigation, most Washington reporters agreed with President Bush, who said that it was unlikely the leaker’s identity would ever be unearthed (see October 7, 2003). Historically, leak investigations rarely produced the leaker. “So if the leakers weren’t going to be found out, what was the point of reporters going public with their information and angering a then-popular White House that had already established a habit for making life professionally unpleasant for reporters who pressed too hard?” Boehlert asks. Now, of course, the press is pursuing the Libby trial for all it’s worth.
Early Instances of Misleading - Boehlert notes a number of instances where media figures either deliberately concealed information they had about who leaked Plame Wilson’s name, or were transparently disingenuous about speculating on the leaker’s identity. ABC reported in July 2005 that “it’s been unknown who told reporters the identity of Valerie Plame” for two years, an assertion Boehlert calls “silly” (see October 3, 2003). The following Washington journalists all had inside information to one extent or another about the case long before the summer of 2005: Robert Novak (see July 8, 2003), Tim Russert (see August 7, 2004), Andrea Mitchell (see July 20, 2003 and July 21, 2003), David Gregory (see 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), Chris Matthews (see July 21, 2003), Matthew Cooper (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), Michael Duffy (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), John Dickerson (see February 7, 2006), Viveca Novak (see March 1, 2004), Judith Miller (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003), and Bob Woodward (see June 13, 2003). Had they come forward with the information they had, the identity of the various White House leakers would have been revealed much sooner. “[B]ut none of them did,” Boehlert writes. “Instead, at times there was an unspoken race away from the Bush scandal, a collective retreat that’s likely unprecedented in modern-day Beltway journalism.”
Cheerleading for Bush - Many journalists without inside information were openly cheering for the Bush administration and against the investigation, Boehlert contends. They included the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof (see October 1, 2003 and October 25, 2005), Newsweek’s Evan Thomas (see October 1, 2003 and November 7, 2005), Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (see October 13, 2005 and January 30, 2007), fellow Post columnist Michael Kinsley (see October 28, 2005 and January 31, 2007), Slate editor Jacob Weisberg (see October 18, 2005), and Post columnist David Broder (see July 10, 2005 and September 7, 2006). Author and liberal blogger Marcy Wheeler, in her book on the Plame affair entitled Anatomy of Deceit, wrote that in her view, the media was attempting to “mak[e] the case that the press should retain exclusive judgment on the behavior of politicians, with no role for the courts.”
Fighting to Stay Quiet during the Election Campaign - Many journalists tried, and succeeded, to keep the story quiet during the 2004 presidential election campaign. Matthew Cooper refused to testify before Fitzgerald’s grand jury until mid-2005, when he asked for and was granted a waiver from Karl Rove to reveal him as the source of his information that Plame Wilson was a CIA agent (see July 13, 2005). Boehlert notes that Cooper’s bosses at Time decided to fight the subpoena in part because they “were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year” (see July 6, 2005).
Russert, NBC Withheld Information from Public - Russert also withheld information from Fitzgerald, and the American public, until well after the November 2004 election. Boehlert notes that Russert “enjoyed a very close working relationship with Libby’s boss, Cheney,” and “chose to remain silent regarding central facts.” Russert could have revealed that in the summer of 2004, he had told Fitzgerald of his conversation with Libby during the summer of 2003 (see August 7, 2004). Libby had perjured himself by telling Fitzgerald that Russert had told him of Plame Wilson’s CIA status, when in reality, the reverse was true (see March 24, 2004). Instead, Russert testified that he and Libby never discussed Plame Wilson’s identity during that conversation, or at any other time. But neither Russert nor his employer, NBC News, admitted that to the public, instead merely saying that Libby did not reveal Plame Wilson’s identity to Russert (see August 7, 2004). Boehlert writes, “But why, in the name of transparency, didn’t the network issue a statement that made clear Russert and Libby never even discussed Plame?”
Woodward's Involvement - Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, an icon of investigative reporting (see June 15, 1974), told various television audiences that Fitzgerald’s investigation was “disgraceful” and called Fitzgerald a “junkyard prosecutor” (see October 27, 2005), and said the leak had not harmed the CIA (see July 14, 2003, July 21, 2003, September 27, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, and October 23-24, 2003). Woodward predicted that when “all of the facts come out in this case, it’s going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great” (see July 7, 2005). While Woodward was disparaging the investigation (see July 11, 2005, July 17, 2005, and October 28, 2005), he was failing to reveal that he himself had been the recipient of a leak about Plame Wilson’s identity years before (see June 13, 2003, June 23, 2003, and June 27, 2003), which, Boehlert notes, “meant Woodward, the former sleuth, had been sitting been sitting on a sizeable scoop for more than two years.” Boehlert continues: “If at any point prior to the Libby indictments Woodward had come forward with his information, it would have been politically devastating for the White House. Instead, Woodward remained mum about the facts while publicly mocking Fitzgerald’s investigation.”
Conclusion - Boehlert concludes: “Regardless of the outcome from the Libby perjury case, the trial itself will be remembered for pulling back the curtain on the Bush White House as it frantically tried to cover up its intentional effort to mislead the nation to war. Sadly, the trial will also serve as a touchstone for how the Beltway press corps completely lost its way during the Bush years and became afraid of the facts—and the consequences of reporting them.” (Boehlert 2/6/2007)
Newsweek’s Jonathan Darman reports that Citizens United (CU), a conservative lobbying and advocacy group headed by activist David Bossie, is producing an unflattering documentary on Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. The title of the story highlights Clinton’s “likability gap,” but the story itself focuses on the “grudge” borne by Bossie and CU against Clinton and the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton. The documentary is scheduled for release in theaters in the fall of 2007, Darman reports. One of its potential targets is a generation of young voters who know little about the Whitewater and Lewinsky scandals that dogged the Clinton administration. Bossie says, “There’s an enormous market for Hillary Clinton information.” R. Emmett Tyrell Jr., the editor of the American Spectator and the author of numerous books purporting to tell the truth behind the Clinton allegations, says there are “active research teams” working to expose Clinton. “They’re out there,” he says. “I get calls all the time.” Clinton’s campaign says the documentary is “old news” and “cash for rehash.” Darman notes: “For all the charges through the years, none has ever stuck. Arguably the most-investigated woman in contemporary American life moved from tabloid target in the White House to winning a Senate seat in one of the nation’s most contentious states. It’s her resilience and capacity to survive and thrive against all comers that partly fuels the haters’ fury.” However, some voters still harbor distrust and resentment towards Clinton, stemming in part from her reputation as “secretive, controlling, and paranoid,” as Darman characterizes her critics’ feelings towards her, as first lady. Her negative perception polling is remarkably high for a potential presidential candidate. Darman writes: “[T]he real problem many Democratic voters have with Clinton is the sneaking suspicion that with so much of the country against her, she can never win a general election. Clinton’s fate may well come down to her ability to deal with a vexing question: what is it about me that so many people don’t like?” Clinton is, Darman writes, “a comic-book villain for her detractors—a man-eating feminist, they claimed, who allegedly threw lamps at her husband, communed psychically with Eleanor Roosevelt, and lit a White House Christmas tree adorned with sex toys. The narrative of depravity—a tissue of inventions by conservatives—was often hard to follow. Was she, as they imagined her, a secret lesbian who fostered a West Wing culture of rampant homosexuality? Or was she the duplicitous adulteress who slept with former law partner Vincent Foster, ordered his death, and then made it look like a suicide? Disjointed as they may have been, Hillary horror tales soon became big business on talk radio.” But the attacks have not weakened her appreciably, and may have strengthened her as a candidate. (Darman 6/17/2007) The liberal watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Darman fails to alert his readers to what it calls Bossie’s past “slimy tactics” (see May 1998). (Chiachiere and Maloy 6/11/2007) The documentary will not be released until the summer of 2008 (see January 10-16, 2008), and will become the focus of a landmark Supreme Court decision regarding campaign finance (see January 21, 2010).
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh asserts that the only reason Democrats are interested in stopping the genocide in Darfur is to secure the African-American vote. Democrats, Limbaugh says, “want to get us out of Iraq, but they can’t wait to get us into Darfur.… There are two reasons. What color is the skin of the people in Darfur? It’s black. And who do the Democrats really need to keep voting for them? If they lose a significant percentage of this voting bloc, they’re in trouble.” Limbaugh, in a conversation with a caller, continues: “So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela—who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing.… The liberals will use the military as a ‘meals on wheels’ program. They’ll send them out to help with tsunami victims. But you put the military—you put the military in a position of defending US national interest, and that’s when Democrats and the liberals oppose it.” The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will note that Congress has exhibited overwhelming bipartisan support for US intervention in Darfur; Republicans sponsored legislation sanctioning Sudan, which contains the Darfur region. The House passed the bill on a 416-3 vote, the Senate passed it unanimously, and President Bush signed it into law shortly thereafter. (Media Matters 8/23/2007)
Syndicated conservative radio host Michael Savage, asserting the oft-debunked claim that Democratic candidate Barack Obama is a Muslim (see January 22-24, 2008), gives Obama’s name as “Barack Madrassas Obama,” referring to schools that teach radical Islam. As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Savage also repeats the falsehood that Obama was schooled in an Indonesian madrassah. (Media Matters 1/11/2008)
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Michael Savage calls the Democratic presidential primary race, now between African-American Barack Obama and female Hillary Clinton, “the first affirmative-action election in American history.” Savage says: “We have a woman and a multi-ethnic man running for office on the Democrat side. Is this not akin to an affirmative action election? Isn’t that why the libs are hysterical, tripping over themselves to say amen and yes to this affirmative election vote?” Because Americans do not support affirmative action, Savage asserts, voters will reject either Democratic candidate in the November presidential elections. “When they are heard from, the affirmative action ticket goes down in flames… I don’t really care who’s gonna be on the other side, they win. America’s not ready for an affirmative action presidency. I stand by those words.” Savage goes on to characterize Democratic supporters as “radical red-diaper doper babies from Brooklyn who made a fortune in the film business by urinating on the American flag and decimating the American value, the values that you grew up loving. They [are t]he ones who made a fortune hating America.” (Media Matters 2/4/2008)
Republican strategist Roger Stone, the founder of a 527 group called “Citizens United Not Timid,” appears on MSNBC’s Tucker, a talk show hosted by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson. Stone’s organization was founded to oppose the presidential candidacy of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and purports to “educate the American public about what Hillary Clinton really is.” What Clinton “really is,” the organization emphasizes, is the obscenity spelled out by the group’s acronym. The group emphasizes the acronym on its Web site and on T-shirts by showing the first letters of the words in its name in boldface. Stone has appeared on Carlson’s show numerous times in recent weeks. This appearance is notable because NBC, MSNBC’s parent company, recently issued an apology for Jane Fonda’s use of the word “c_nt” on a recent Today Show appearance, when Fonda was discussing the play The Vagina Monologues. Carlson does not inform his audience of Stone’s leadership of the anti-Clinton organization. Stone has said of the organization: “[I]t’s one-word education. That’s our mission. No issues. No policy groups. No position papers. This is a simple committee with an unfortunate acronym.” Stone has said that he and a group of co-founders tried to brainstorm a name for the acronym “b_tch,” but “just couldn’t do it.” In recent days, MSNBC host Chris Matthews apologized for making sexist comments about Clinton, and MSNBC correspondent David Shuster was suspended for making objectionable comments about Clinton and her daughter Chelsea. The liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters writes, “The events of the past few weeks are part of an extensive pattern, documented by Media Matters for America, of sexism, misogyny, and other bigotry heard on MSNBC.” (Pavlus 2/20/2008) In August 2007, Stone was forced to leave the campaign of New York State Senator Joseph Bruno (R-NY) after he left a threatening, abusive, and profane telephone message for the 83-year-old father of Governor Eliot Spitzer (D-NY). (Hakim 8/22/2007)
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, syndicated conservative radio host Michael Savage, continuing the well-debunked assertion that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a Muslim (see January 22-24, 2008), says that American voters “have a right to know if he’s a so-called friendly Muslim or one who aspires to more radical teachings.” The media should not worry about Republican candidate John McCain’s connections to lobbyists, Savage says, and instead should be more concerned with “the Muslim connection to Obama.” Savage says: “Barack Hussein Obama. Father Muslim, grandfather Muslim. Nothing wrong with that. But we, the American people, being at war with radical Islam have a—have a need to know just exactly what kind of Muslim he was exposed to, what kind of Muslim he is, what kind of Muslim teachings he’s—he’s friendly to. We have a right to know if he’s a so-called friendly Muslim or one who aspires to more radical teachings.” (Media Matters 2/22/2008)
Conservative radio hosts such as Dan Caplis and “Gunny” Bob Newman use a photo of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wearing traditional Kenyan robes to imply that Obama has terrorist sympathies. As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Caplis says the photo shows Obama wearing “the same type of turban and clothing that Osama bin Laden wears,” while Newman asks, “[W]hy do you think Obama really had the photo taken, dressed up as a Somali warlord?” The photo was taken during an August 2006 visit by Obama to Kenya, where his father was born. (Media Matters 2/25/2008) It was published a few days ago by the conservative Drudge Report. According to Yusuf Garaad Omar, head of the BBC’s Somali Service, the robes are “the normal clothes that nomadic people wear. The head turban is especially used by elderly people as a suggestion of respect. It is something that has no meaning whatsoever in Somalia culture. If you see someone dressed like that in Somalia, you think it is a nomadic person—that is all. There is no religious significance to it whatsoever. It is mainly the nomadic people who use it. Some of them are religious, some are not. It is simply a tradition of the place where they are from. In this particular place, Wajir in north-east Kenya, the community is majority ethnic Somali.… This debate reminds me of people back home in Somalia, who say that women should not wear trousers, or other cultures who say men should not wear a tie. I just don’t think it makes sense.” (BBC 2/26/2008) Caplis asks his listeners why Obama would “put on similar clothing to the outfit worn by the man who personally ordered thousands of Americans, including women and kids, to be burned to death,” and says that “it would be as if [former President] John Kennedy had gone out and thrown on the fatigues and the funny baseball hat that Castro wore.” Newman, like Caplis a nationally syndicated Clear Channel talk show host, tells his audience, according to Media Matters: “We were five years into the war on terror when Obama knowingly and willingly dressed up in Somali warlord garb to have his photo taken.” He asks if Obama wore the robes “to garner support from Muslim-Americans who ideologically support Muslim terrorists?” and then asks, “Would it have been right for [former President] Harry Truman to dress up like a Nazi in 1948?” Caplis also tells his audience, “[Obama’s] middle name is Hussein, which should not be held against him for a second; his last name rhymes with Osama, which should not be held against him for a second.” (Media Matters 2/25/2008) Months later, Newman will tell his listeners that an Obama presidency will welcome “an invasion of Muslim terrorists” (see July 10, 2008).
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Michael Savage says of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, “I think he was hand-picked by some very powerful forces both within and outside the United State of America to drag this country into a hell that it has not seen since the Civil War of the middle of the 19th century.” Savage is referring to controversial statements made by Obama’s former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whom Savage calls “the soul of Barack Obama’s movement.” Savage goes on to claim that Wright, and by extension Obama, align themselves with historical enemies of the United States: “And if you want a man who says not ‘God bless America,’ but ‘God d_mn America,’ if you want a man who takes the side of the imperial Japanese army, an army that killed not only hundreds of thousands in the Bataan Death March, but hundreds of thousand of Koreans, an army that operated on people while they were alive in Manchuria, a man who takes the side, in essence, of the Japanese Nazis of World War II, if you want a man who takes the side, in essence, of the Hitlers of the world, then you’ve got it in Barack Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, of the Trinity United Church of Christ.” Obama is merely “an ordinary apparatchik of the Democrat machine in Chicago” whose handlers intend to use Obama to bring upheaval and chaos to the nation. (Media Matters 3/19/2008)
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Michael Savage repeats the false assertion that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a Muslim, a trope repeated by many conservative radio hosts (see January 22-24, 2008). In reality, Obama is a practicing Christian and a member of the United Church of Christ. The allegations that Obama is, or ever was, a Muslim have been debunked by, among others, CNN, the Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press. Savage again lies to his listeners by telling them another oft-repeated falsehood, that Obama was educated in a radical Islamist “madrassah” during a childhood stint in Indonesia. Savage tells his listeners: “Look who we inherited in this country, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Hussein Obama, in one generation. A war hero to—a war hero who commanded the Allied operations against Nazi Germany was running for the presidency then. Now we have an unknown stealth candidate who went to a madrassas in Indonesia and, in fact, was a Muslim.… Yes, check it out.” (Media Matters 4/7/2008) Weeks before, Savage told his listeners that Obama and his former pastor supported the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese, and Obama would bring chaos and devastation to the United States on a scale not seen since the Civil War (see March 13, 2008).
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host “Gunny” Bob Newman, the host of a popular Denver talk show, responds to a Tennessee Republican Party ad attacking presidential contender Barack Obama (D-IL)‘s wife Michelle to accuse Obama of behaving like a stereotypical black street hood. Calling Obama a “clown” and asking if he is “some sort of a bad _ss,” Newman then addresses Obama directly, demanding: “What are you gonna do, Obama, come to Denver and try, key word try, to whip my white _ss? Son, you are not some sort of macho tough guy, trust me. You are just another blowhard, make-believe thug who wants to be the most powerful man on Earth. You’re a far-left, terrorist-hugging politician, not the bad-boy gangsta you want people to believe you are.” Obama called Republican attacks on his wife “unacceptable” and “detestable,” apparently provoking Newman’s response. (Media Matters 5/20/2008) In previous broadcasts, Newman accused Obama of dressing like a terrorist sympathizer (see February 25, 2008).
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, nationally syndicated radio host Mark Levin tells his listeners that presidential candidate Barack Obama “lied to” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) when he “told them today that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards should be designated a terrorist group after voting against a bill designating them a terrorist group a year ago.” Fox News anchor Martha McCallum echoes the accusation a day later on her show The Live Desk, saying that Obama “seems to be changing his tune on the significant issue.” Both Levin and McCallum are misrepresenting Obama’s voting record. He has consistently voted to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, and co-sponsored a November 2007 bill to do just that. Levin and McCallum are referencing a 2007 bill that Obama says he would have voted against, a bill that, Obama said, “states that our military presence in Iraq should be used to counter Iran.” Obama disagreed with that portion of the resolution, not another section that advocated for the designation of the Guards as a terrorist organization. The false characterization of Obama’s stance on the Guards may originate with Obama’s opponent John McCain, who says just before Levin’s broadcast that Obama “was categorical in his statement when he opposed that legislation. Then he goes before AIPAC and supports it. I know he’s changing on the surge, he’s trying to change on his pledge to negotiate with dictators without preconditions.” Levin flatly calls Obama “a liar… he’s a radical extremist and he’s a liar.” (Media Matters 6/6/2008)
Conservative radio host Michael Savage says that homeless Americans should be put in “work camps.” As documented by progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, Savage, answering a caller’s question about how he would address the “problem with the homelessness in this country,” says: “Why not put them in work camps? Most of them are able-bodied.” When the caller asks, “How much do you plan on paying them in these work camps, sir?” Savage responds, “Well, since they’re already receiving public assistance, I’d pay them nothing.” He continues: “Why do you have to pay a man who’s right now living off the fat of the land? And he’s sucking the fat of the land for, you know, a fairly small check—it is true—but he is a leech. He is not a productive member of society. Where is the money supposed to come from? No, I’ve studied the homeless problem for many years, Ed, because I live in one of the most infested cities in the United States—San Francisco—and I’ve observed the bums for many years. And the good—the largest portion of them are able-bodied. They’re drug addicts or alcoholics. There’s no reason they could not be put into work camps and do much of the labor that our illegal aliens are doing. Now, who do you think did this labor in previous generations? It was ne’er-do-wells, who today are basically able to live on the fat of the land and then drink or use drugs because they’re getting a check for nothing. In the old days, they’d pick the crops and they would spend their money on alcohol.” (Media Matters 6/9/2008)
Conservative radio host Michael Savage repeatedly refers to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as an “Afro-Leninist.” As reported by the progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Savage asserts: “If the other side [the Republican Party] had one decent candidate, one real conservative, he would win 70-30. But because we have a retread, a Bush III [referring to Republican candidate John McCain], it’s going to be very doubtful as to whether or not we can avoid outright Marxism and Afro-Leninism running this country.” Later in the broadcast, he calls Obama “[a]n Afro-Leninist who’s achieved nothing” and “the most narcissistic candidate in the history of the presidency.” (Media Matters 6/10/2008)
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells his audience that the Islamic terrorist organization Hamas has endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama. A Hamas spokesman had made positive comments about Obama in April, but after Obama stated his support for Israel against Hamas and other Islamist terror organizations, a Hamas spokesman stated that his organization “does not differentiate between the two presidential candidates, Obama and [Republican John] McCain, because their policies regarding the Arab-Israel conflict are the same and are hostile to us, therefore we do have no preference and are not wishing for either of them to win.” As reported by progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, Limbaugh says: “I will guaran-damn-tee you there will not be a terrorist attack before the election. And you know why there won’t be one? Because they want Obama elected.… Hamas has endorsed Obama. Hamas has endorsed Obama. Do you think they’re going to do anything to upset the apple cart of Obama’s election? Why do you think they’ve endorsed Obama? Because they want a very strong ally for Israel in the White House?” Limbaugh expands his rhetoric to equate Democrats with Islamic terrorists: “[E]very time I hear [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad speak, every time I hear a tape from [al-Qaeda leader] Ayman al Zawahiri or a so-called dispatch from [Osama] bin Laden, whenever I hear from any of these Middle East al-Qaeda terrorists, I think I’m hearing Democrat [sic] Party talking points.… Am I politically incorrect for saying this? We all know it to be true.” Limbaugh has previously asserted that “Islamofascists are actively campaigning for the election of Democrats.” (Reuters 6/4/2008; Media Matters 6/24/2008)
Fox News commentator Monica Crowley, guest-hosting conservative radio host Laura Ingraham’s show, tells her audience that Democratic candidate Barack Obama is not African-American, but “Arab African.” Crowley admits that she has done no research to verify her claim, but is quoting conservative blogger Kenneth Lamb, who himself provided no verification to his February 2008 claim. Crowley says: “[A]ccording to this genealogy—and again, because I haven’t done the research, I can’t verify this—but according to this guy Kenneth Lamb, Barack Obama is not black African, he is Arab African.… And yet, this guy is campaigning as black and painting anybody who dares to criticize him as a racist. I mean, that is—it is the biggest con I think I’ve ever seen.” (Lamb has consistently refused to provide the research to back his claim, but has instead challenged critics to do the research themselves—including surreptitiously obtaining samples of Obama’s DNA for testing—and accused the administration of Harvard University of complicity in perpetuating the “sleight of hand.”) (Media Matters 6/26/2008) In September 2008, radio host Rush Limbaugh will repeat the falsehood (see September 22, 2008).
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host “Gunny” Bob Newman posts doctored “satirical” photographs of Democratic candidate Barack Obama supposedly posing with Osama bin Laden and as “Che Obama” (appearing as South American socialist revolutionary Che Guevara) on his radio station’s Web site. Newman also posts real photos of Obama with fake captions featuring profanity-laden threats directed at Newman. The Web site, like Newman’s radio station, KOA Radio of Denver, is owned by Clear Channel Communications. One caption has Obama saying about Newman, “If that sumb_tch even tries to get into my convention [the Democratic National Convention], I’ll have him disappeared like Jimmy Hoffa.” Another reads, “Upon seeing Gunny Bob approaching with a microphone, Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama angrily warns the Gunny, ‘If you come any closer, I’ll have the Secret Service shoot and then waterboard you, you fascist Marine capitalist b_stard!’” The fake Obama-bin Laden photo is captioned, “Endorsed By Terrorists, Tyrants and Racists Everywhere.” (Media Matters 7/9/2008) In May, Newman accused Obama of being a “thug,” and rhetorically asked the candidate if he intended to come to Denver and “whip [his] white _ss” (see May 19, 2008).
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host “Gunny” Bob Newman, the host of a popular Denver talk show, says that if Barack Obama (D-IL) is elected president, the US will be overrun by Muslim terrorists. If Obama is elected, Newman tells his audience, “we better start learning Arabic.… There will be a lot more Arabic speakers here in our country if he [is], because there will be an invasion of Muslim terrorists if he becomes president.” Under an Obama presidency, Newman says, “the first sentence… American kids would have to learn is ‘please don’t cut my head off.’” (Media Matters 7/11/2008) Newman continues the right-wing assertion that Obama is a Muslim, an assertion long since proven false (see January 22-24, 2008).
Attempting to explain the psyche of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to his listeners, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh says that Obama “is not a great thinker” but rather a “believer” who has been “indoctrinated at his schools” to believe “that the United States is at root responsible for the way we are treated and seen by those who hate us.” Limbaugh may be referring to false rumors that Obama was educated in Islamic madrassas (see January 22-24, 2008 and September 10, 2008). As reported by the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, Limbaugh explains: “It’s a form of self-loathing, ladies and gentlemen—not of himself, of course, ‘cause he’s the messiah—but in the aggregate self-loathing of nation, the kind of self-loathing of America that the left here and in Europe embraces. And that’s why they love Obama—because he loathes America. He blames America. America’s responsible for all that’s wrong in the world.” (Media Matters 7/22/2008; Brownstein 7/26/2008)
Dr. Jerome Corsi, a conservative author and blogger who was deeply involved in the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign to besmirch presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA), publishes a book, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality. The title is a play on the word ‘abomination.’ In his book, Corsi, who writes for the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily and blogs at the extremist Free Republic, attacks Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in a fashion similar to that used against Kerry—combining fact, hyperbole, speculation, and outright falsehoods in an attempt to demean and disparage Obama’s character and professional career. The publisher, Threshold (a division of Simon and Schuster devoted to publishing conservative political works), calls the book “[s]crupolously sourced” and “[m]eticulously researched and documented…” Among other allegations, Corsi accuses Obama of growing up under the influence of Communist, socialist, and radical Islamic mentors; of deep and secretive affiliations with ‘60s radicals William Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn; of espousing what he calls “black liberation theology” through his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright; connections to socialists and radical Islamists in Kenya, his father’s home country; deep and criminal ties to Chicago real-estate mogul Tony Rezko; and an intent to, if elected president, implement what Corsi calls “far-left” domestic and foreign policies. (Simon and Schuster 8/1/2008; Corsi 8/12/2008; Holan 8/20/2008) The book debuts as number one on the New York Times bestseller list, propelled by large bulk sales (large buys by particular organizations designed to artificially elevate sales figures) and an intensive marketing campaign carried out on conservative talk radio shows. “The goal is to defeat Obama,” Corsi says. “I don’t want Obama to be in office.” (Rutenberg and Bosman 8/12/2008)
Allegations Roundly Debunked - Unfortunately for Corsi, his allegations do not stand up to scrutiny. FactCheck.org, a non-partisan “‘consumer advocate’ for voters” site run by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, finds that Corsi’s book “is a mishmash of unsupported conjecture, half-truths, logical fallacies and outright falsehoods.” It “is not a reliable source of facts about Obama.” FactCheck notes: “Corsi cites opinion columns and unsourced, anonymous blogs as if they were evidence of factual claims. Where he does cite legitimate news sources, he frequently distorts the facts. In some cases, Corsi simply ignores readily accessible information when it conflicts with his arguments.” The organization notes that Threshold’s chief editor, Republican operative Mary Matalin, said the book was not political, but rather “a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that.” FactCheck responds: “The prominent display of Corsi’s academic title (he holds a Ph.D. in political science) seems clearly calculated to convey academic rigor. But as a scholarly work, The Obama Nation does not measure up. We judge it to be what a hack journalist might call a ‘paste-up job,’ gluing together snippets from here and there without much regard for their truthfulness or accuracy.” (FactCheck (.org) 2008; FactCheck (.org) 9/15/2008) The St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact finds, “Taken as a whole, the book’s primary argument is that Obama is a likely communist sympathizer with ties to Islam who has skillfully hidden his true agenda as he ruthlessly pursues elected office,” an argument that the organization concludes is wholly unsupported by Corsi’s arguments and sources. (St. Petersburg Times 8/1/2008) And an Associated Press article finds the book a “collect[ion of] false rumors and distortions [designed] to portray Obama as a sort of secret radical who can’t be trusted.” (Wills 8/16/2008)
Unreliable Sources - As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Corsi’s sources are often unreliable: for example, his allegation that Obama’s father divorced his mother according to “Islamic sharia law” is based on a single and unverifiable post made by an anonymous blogger. (Media Matters 8/4/2008) FactCheck notes that although Corsi points to his over 600 endnotes as proof of his “rigorous” sourcing, many of those endnotes refer to obscure, unverifiable Internet postings, blog posts, and opinion columns. Four of Corsi’s sources refer to his own work. “Where Corsi does cite news sources,” the site says, “he sometimes presents only those that are consistent with his case while ignoring evidence that doesn’t fit the picture he paints.” (FactCheck (.org) 9/15/2008)
Demonstrably False Claims - Some of Corsi’s claims are completely false: his statement that Obama did not dedicate his 2004 memoir, Dreams from My Father, to his parents or grandparents is easily debunked merely by reading the book’s introduction, in which Obama wrote, “It is to my family, though—my mother, my grandparents, my siblings, stretched across oceans and continents—that I owe the deepest gratitude and to whom I dedicated this book.” (Media Matters 8/4/2008; Holan 8/20/2008) Corsi also claims, falsely, that Obama holds dual citizenship in the US and Kenya, though the Kenyan Constitution specifically prohibits dual citizenship. (FactCheck (.org) 9/15/2008) Corsi goes on to claim that Obama has long rejected his white family members from his mother’s side, including his grandparents in Hawaii who raised him for much of his childhood. This is part of Corsi’s argument about Obama’s secret embrace of the so-called “radical black rage” teachings of American activist Malcolm X. According to Corsi’s reading of Obama’s memoir: “His race, he self-determines, is African-American. In making that determination, he rejects everyone white, including his mother and his grandparents. We do not have to speculate about this. Obama tells this to us outright; his words are direct, defying us to miss his meaning.” But PolitiFact calls this “a significant misreading of Obama’s memoir,” and notes that Corsi ignores a large amount of evidence that points to Obama’s continued close relationship with his white family members throughout his life. PolitiFact concludes, “To conclude that Obama rejects everyone white, including his mother and his grandparents, Corsi has to significantly read against the memoir’s stated meaning. We find factual evidence also contradicts this statement, indicating that Obama maintained lifelong relations with his white relatives.” (St. Petersburg Times 8/1/2008)
Insinuations and Leading Questions - Many of Corsi’s allegations are based on little more than questions and insinuations: for example, Corsi insinuates that Obama may not have stopped using marijuana and cocaine, as he admitted to doing during his high school years. Corsi writes: “Still, Obama has yet to answer questions whether he ever dealt drugs, or if he stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely in college, or whether his drug usage extended into his law school days or beyond. Did Obama ever use drugs in his days as a community organizer in Chicago, or when he was a state senator from Illinois? How about in the US Senate? If Obama quit using drugs, the public inquiry certain to occur in a general election campaign for the presidency will most certainly aim at the when, how and why…?” According to Media Matters, Obama wrote in his book Dreams from My Father that he stopped using drugs shortly after beginning college. (Media Matters 8/4/2008) FactCheck notes: “Corsi… slyly insinuates—without offering any evidence—that Obama might have ‘dealt drugs’ in addition to using them. And he falsely claims that Obama has ‘yet to answer’ whether he continued using drugs during his law school days or afterward.… In fact, Obama has answered that question twice, including once in the autobiography that Corsi reviews in his book.”
Guilt by Association - Corsi alleges that Obama has links to Kenyan presidential candidate Raila Odinga, and claims that Obama is somehow linked to the violence surrounding the 2007 Kenyan presidential election. He bases his claim on a single visit by Obama and his wife, Michelle, to Kenya, where they publicly took AIDS tests to demonstrate the tests’ safety. In the testing process, Obama spoke briefly to the crowd. Odinga was on stage while Obama spoke. Corsi construes the speech as an Obama endorsement of Odinga, and, as FactCheck writes, “[h]e goes on to attribute all the violence in Kenya to an elaborate Odinga plot.” Corsi ignores the fact that during that trip, Obama also met with the other Kenyan presidential candidate, Mwai Kibaki, and with opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta. Human Rights Watch blamed the violence following the election on both Odinga and Kibaki and their followers. FactCheck notes that Corsi uses the logical fallacy of “guilt by association” to fill Chapters 3 through 7. (FactCheck (.org) 9/15/2008)
Misquoting Other Sources - Media Matters finds that Corsi sometimes misquotes and rewrites source material, as when he attributed a claim concerning Obama’s supposedly untoward business relationship with Rezko to articles in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Boston Globe, and Salon (.com) that made none of the claims Corsi attributes to them. Corsi also misquoted the conservative Web site NewsMax when he used one of its articles to falsely claim that Obama had been present at Chicago’s Trinity United Church during Reverend Wright’s denunciation of America’s “white arrogance.” (Obama was actually in Miami during Wright’s sermon.) (Media Matters 8/4/2008) Corsi uses a man he calls one of Obama’s “closest” childhood friends, Indonesian Zulfan Adi, to back his assertion that Obama was once a practicing Muslim. However, Corsi does not report that Adi later retracted his claims about Obama’s religious practices, and admitted to knowing Obama for only a few months. Corsi also ignores a Chicago Tribune story that contains interviews with “dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends [who] show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia,” and other media reports that have conclusively proven Obama was never a Muslim (see January 22-24, 2008).
Ignoring the Obvious - Corsi repeatedly claims that Obama is a master speaker who bedazzles crowds with soaring flights of rhetoric, but never actually gives any specifics of what he intends to do as president. He writes: “At the end of every rhetorically uplifting speech Obama gives about the future of hope, millions of listeners are still left pondering, ‘Now what exactly did he say?’ If the politician is the message, as [campaign manager David] Axelrod and Obama have proclaimed, they can’t forever avoid telling us what precisely that message is.” But FactCheck notes that “Obama’s Web site is packed with details of what he proposes to do if elected. He lays out descriptions of his policy proposals, including tax cuts for most families and increases for those making more than $250,000 per year; a $150 billion, 10-year program to develop alternative energy sources and more efficient vehicles; a proposal to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and another to create a public health insurance plan for those whose employers don’t offer health coverage. Whether or not one agrees with them, Obama has indeed presented detailed plans for dozens of policies. It’s hard to see how anyone writing a book on Obama could fail to acknowledge their existence.”
Conspiracy Theorist, 'Bigot,' and Veteran Liar - FactCheck notes: “Corsi is a renowned conspiracy theorist who says that [President] George Bush is attempting to create a North American Union… and that there is evidence that the World Trade Center may have collapsed [after the 9/11 attacks] because it was seeded with explosives. More recently, Corsi claimed that Obama released a fake birth certificate. We’ve debunked that twice now. [M]any of the themes in The Obama Nation are reworked versions of bogus chain e-mail smears.” (FactCheck (.org) 9/15/2008) In August 2004, Media Matters found that Corsi routinely embraced both extremist opinions and personal invective. Corsi called Islam “a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion.” Of Catholicism, he wrote, “Boy buggering in both Islam and Catholicism is okay with the Pope as long as it isn’t reported by the liberal press.” Of Muslims themselves, he wrote, “RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters—it all goes together.” And of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), he wrote: “Anybody ask why HELLary couldn’t keep BJ Bill [former President Clinton] satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?” (Media Matters 8/6/2004) (Corsi posted these comments on the Free Republic under the moniker “jrlc,” and identified himself as “jrlc” on March 19, 2004.) (Free Republic 3/18/2004; Jerome Corsi 8/7/2004) An Obama campaign spokesman calls Corsi “a discredited, fringe bigot.” (Wills 8/16/2008) FactCheck concludes, “In Corsi’s case, we judge that both his reputation and his latest book fall short when measured by the standards of good scholarship, or even of mediocre journalism.” (FactCheck (.org) 9/15/2008) PolitiFact concludes: “A reader might think that because the book is printed by a mainstream publishing house it is well-researched and credible. On the contrary—we find The Obama Nation to be an unreliable document for factual information about Barack Obama.” (Holan 8/20/2008)
Conservative radio show host Sean Hannity tells his listeners that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama “can’t point to a single instance in which President Bush or [Republican candidate John] McCain or [Bush political adviser] Karl Rove or Sean Hannity or talk radio or any other major Republican has made an issue of Obama’s race.” Hannity’s claim is proven false by data collected by progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters. Hannity himself asked his audience on March 2, 2008, “Do the Obamas have a race problem of their own?” He has also repeatedly distorted the content of Michelle Obama’s 1985 Princeton University senior thesis to suggest that Mrs. Obama believes, in Hannity’s words, “blacks must join in solidarity to combat a white oppressor.” (Mrs. Obama was documenting the attitudes of some black Princeton alumni from the 1970s and not expressing her own views.) (Media Matters 8/7/2008) Media Matters has also documented numerous examples of other radio and TV personalities making “an issue of Obama’s race” (see January 24, 2007, February 1, 2008, May 19, 2008, June 2, 2008, June 26, 2008, and August 1, 2008 and After). The issue of race will continue with conservative pundits and radio hosts (see August 25, 2008, September 22, 2008, October 7, 2008, October 20, 2008, October 22, 2008, October 28, 2008, and November 18, 2008).
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Jerome Corsi, author of a widely discredited book that smears presidential candidate Barack Obama (see August 1, 2008 and After), tells a C-SPAN interviewer that if Obama becomes president and people like Corsi dare to criticize him in print, “Obama might just have to create a department of hate crimes and put them in jail.” (Media Matters 8/16/2008)
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh repeatedly tells his listeners that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama “believes [in] and favors infanticide. Not just abortion, but infanticide.” Limbaugh also claims that Obama “approves of abortion in the fourth trimester.” (Media Matters 9/4/2008; Callard 9/23/2008) (According to an online medical dictionary, there are only three trimesters in a typical pregnancy.) (Medicine (.net) 2008) According to the progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Limbaugh supports his claim by misrepresenting Obama’s opposition for a 2001 anti-abortion bill during his tenure as an Illinois state senator. Obama and other opponents said the “born alive” bill was unnecessary because Illinois state law already prohibited the conduct addressed in the bill (the abortion of fetuses in the last trimester before birth) and gave unconstitutional legal rights to unborn fetuses. (92nd General Assembly 2001; Media Matters 9/4/2008) Limbaugh calls Obama a supporter of “infanticide” from August 19. On August 20, he claims that “Obama lobbied for infanticide” and adds: “You know, abortion’s one thing; infanticide is quite another, and it is now widely known that Obama was all for infanticide. It’s the only way you can put it.” On August 22, Limbaugh says that Obama “really admires” China’s mandatory one-child policy, and adds: “[M]ost people want a son. And if they are pregnant with a daughter, what do they do? They abort, and they keep aborting until they get a son. Now that’s a policy Obama can support. That’s a policy Obama likes. He’s for infanticide. It is not an overstatement to say so.” On August 26, Limbaugh expands his claim to include the entire Democratic Party: “So, here’s a party trying to present itself as a newly-found faith party—that they understand people’s values—and their nominee believes in infanticide.” On August 28, Limbaugh, after calling Obama a “thug,” says: “What has complicated [Obama’s] mental journey are his political ambitions. His desire to hold high public office has required this confused man to lie about his sometimes bizarre judgments such as supporting infanticide.” On September 2, Limbaugh accuses Obama of “support[ing] the killing of babies born alive as the result of botched abortions.” On September 3, Limbaugh again expands his claim, calling “liberals” “child abusers—partial birth abortion, infanticide…” (Media Matters 9/4/2008)
Rush Limbaugh, the nation’s most popular conservative radio talk show host, tells his listeners that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was nominated because “nobody had the guts to stand up and say no to a black guy.” As documented by progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, Limbaugh, while complaining about “how unqualified Obama is,” says, “I think it really goes back to the fact that nobody had the guts to stand up and say no to a black guy.” Limbaugh continues: “I think this is a classic illustration here where affirmative action has reared its ugly head against them. It’s the reverse of it. They’ve, they’ve ended up nominating and placing at the top of their ticket somebody who’s not qualified, who has not earned it.… It’s perfect affirmative action. And because of all this guilt and the historic nature of things, nobody had the guts to say, well, wait a minute, do we really want to do this?” Limbaugh, in a conversation with a caller, prefaces his comment by saying that “liberals” oppose racism except “when it benefits them… [s]o when, when a precious resource like racism becomes scarce… they will go out and drill for new sources.… You’re exactly right. They understand the principle. They want it for themselves, just not anybody else. Liberals can have two sets of rules: One for the elites, the arrogants and the condescending elites, and the other set of rules for everybody else.… They will exempt themselves from the limiting rules they place on everybody else.” He concludes that Obama’s nomination is “perfect affirmative action. And because of all this guilt and the historic nature of things, nobody had the guts to say, well, wait a minute, do we really want to do this? So they do it and then they start behaving in manners and ways that let us know that they know that they’ve goofed up with the choice. Actually, it’s been somewhat fascinating to watch.” (Media Matters 8/20/2008; Harris 8/24/2008; Sporl 8/27/2008) Limbaugh and other radio hosts have repeatedly used Obama’s race as a springboard for numerous false and unsupported allegations (see January 24, 2007, February 1, 2008, May 19, 2008, June 2, 2008, June 26, 2008, and August 1, 2008 and After).
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Neal Boortz, falsely claiming Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a Muslim, suggests asking Obama “how many prayer rugs he has.” Boortz is attacking Obama in response to a recent gaffe by Republican contender John McCain, who seemingly could not remember how many homes he owns. After calling McCain, who is 72, “senile… he keeps going to the wrong home, too, at night,” he then adds, “Let’s ask Obama how many prayer rugs he has.” When Cox Radio correspondent Jamie DuPree says: “See? And, you know, somebody would say that’s not fair,” Boortz responds, “Well, I’m not trying to be fair.” (Media Matters 8/25/2008) Boortz is repeating the debunked assertion that Obama is a Muslim (see January 22-24, 2008).
Progressive media watchdog site Media Matters reports that Walid Shoebat, who claims to be a reformed terrorist and is now a favorite guest of right-wing radio hosts, tells host G. Gordon Liddy that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is “definitely a Muslim,” a patent falsehood that has been repeatedly debunked (see January 22-24, 2008). Shoebat also repeats another widely debunked falsehood, that terrorist groups such as Hamas have proclaimed their support for Obama. Shoebat briefly discusses Obama’s supposed “indoctrination” in Indonesian “madrassas” (as a child, Obama was educated in an Indonesian Catholic school for a brief period), then says: “No one is called Hussein unless he is Muslim. So it is very clear that Barack Hussein Obama is definitely a Muslim.” Anyone who leaves the Muslim faith is to be killed, Shoebat claims, so Obama is by definition a Muslim by dint of still being alive. Shoebat also says: “from al-Qaeda to the Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas, every single Muslim terrorist organization supports Barack Hussein Obama. So why would Americans want to have a president that is connected to Islam and that is proud to be Muslim?” (Media Matters 9/11/2008)
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells his audience that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is “not black.” As reported by the progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Limbaugh asks the rhetorical question: “Do you know he has not one shred of African-American blood?… He’s Arab. You know, he’s from Africa. He’s from Arab parts of Africa.… [H]e’s not African-American. The last thing that he is is African-American.” Media Matters documents this claim being advanced as far back as February 14, when blogger Kenneth Lamb wrote that Obama “is actually Arab-American [and] not legally African-American.” Lamb produced no evidence of his claim, but since then, conservative bloggers and some radio hosts have repeated the claim. In reality, Obama’s father was a African from Kenya, in the black part of Africa, and his mother was a Caucasian American. (Media Matters 9/22/2008)
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, appearing as a guest on Fox News, tells listeners that in a United Nations speech, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated “talking points” from the stump speeches of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. According to progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, Limbaugh says that Ahmadinejad “echo[ed] Barack Obama talking points—talking about how America is responsible for all the problems of the world, talking about how American defense spending is—led to the crisis here.” Limbaugh provides no proof of his assertion. Limbaugh says that Democrats “must be pulling their hair out” because Ahmadinejad is “echoing Obama’s talking points.” In his speech to the UN today, Ahmadinejad discussed what he called “Zionist murderers” and to the purported influence of “Zionists” on the “political decision-making centers of some European countries and the US.” (CNN 9/23/2008; Media Matters 9/24/2008)
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Chris Baker calls Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama a “little b_tch” for reacting to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s accusation that Obama was “palling around” with accused domestic terrorist William Ayers. Baker says: “[T]his little b_tch needs to stand up for himself. Sorry, I can’t stand this. You want to be the president of the United States, and you won’t even stand up to a smoking-hot chick from Alaska? How is he gonna stand up to the world’s terrorists?… I mean, this—this guy—this guy is—he’s a—he’s a wimp is what he is.… This wuss-bag needs to stand up for himself and answer the questions about his relationship with Bill Ayers and other terrorists and terrorist sympathizers.” Baker cites two articles from the Associated Press and New York Times, but fails to note that both articles debunk Palin’s claim that Obama had anything but a peripheral connection to Ayers. And Baker fails to reveal that the Obama campaign had responded two days before to the Palin assertions. (Media Matters 10/7/2008)
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Chris Baker promotes an Internet video that features a Harlem preacher calling Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s mother “trash.” Baker discusses the video, by the Reverend James David Manning of ATLAH World Missionary Church, on his radio show, and posts the video on his Web site. Baker says of the video: “Oh God, you have to—you have to see this. This guy—I mean, this guy just goes off. And he’s not really wrong, either. That’s the best part, at least, you know—at least, in my hate-filled opinion.” Manning contrasts Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, with Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose daughter Bristol is carrying a child out of wedlock. Manning says: “The difference between Obama’s mama and Bristol Palin is that Obama’s mama was trash. I mean, she was dirt. She was a bag of trash sitting on the sidewalk waiting there in Honolulu on one of those streets for the garbage truck to come by and pick her up and take her to the dump.… [M]y mama told me back in the ‘50s and the ‘60s, the only kind of white women that would take up with a black man back in the ‘50s and the ‘60s was a trashy white woman. The only kind of white woman that would take up with a black man in the ‘50s and the ‘60s was a sloozy, was a floozy, was a lowlife, snail-eating, white woman. That’s the kind of woman that Obama’s mama was.… Want to talk about Bristol Palin? Let’s talk about that piece of trash called Obama’s mama. Want to talk about Bristol Palin? Let’s talk about that trash that hatched Obama. Yeah.” Obama’s mother, who died in 1995, was a white American, and his father was a black African. (Media Matters 10/8/2008)
Jerome Corsi, the author of a bestselling book that smears US presidential candidate Barack Obama (see August 1, 2008 and After), is detained in Kenya after engaging in a book tour in Nairobi, the nation’s capital. Authorities say Corsi is attempting to promote his book without a work permit, a breach of Kenyan law. (London Times 10/8/2008) “His papers were not in order,” says Immigration Ministry spokesman Elias Njeru. “He came in with a tourist visa but had to do business. So his papers were on the wrong side of the law.” (Sanders 10/8/2008) Corsi also intended to present a check for $1,000 to George Obama, a half-brother of the candidate who was found living in poverty in a Nairobi slum a few weeks ago. The London Times calls the attempted donation “a stunt to suggest that [Obama] was not taking care of his Kenyan-based relative.” One Kenyan governmental source suggests that Corsi is being held in part for rumors he has spread that Obama is partly responsible for the wave of violence that engulfed the country after the 2007 presidential elections; The Times writes that few in Kenya take Corsi’s allegations seriously. According to promotional literature Corsi and his associates intended to distribute, “Dr. Corsi will also expose details of deep secret ties between US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and a section of Kenya government leaders, their connection to certain sectoral groups in Kenya and subsequent plot to be executed in Kenya should Senator Obama win the American presidency.” Obama, whose father is Kenyan, is “hugely popular across Africa,” The Times reports, and many Africans wonder “why American right-wingers would wish him ill.” (London Times 10/8/2008)
Attempts to Blame Obama for Detention - Progressive media watchdog site Media Matters reports that while in Kenyan detention, Corsi calls in on an American conservative radio talk show, Quinn & Rose, and, after claiming he was in detention because the Kenyans lost his travel papers, suggests that Obama had somethng to do with his detention. “Call Barack’s office and—call Barack’s office and ask him why I’m being detained,” Corsi says. “Tell you what: I think it’s pretty dangerous—it’s pretty dangerous to write a critical book of Barack Obama. I wouldn’t advise anybody do it.” (Corsi has repeatedly suggested that the Obama campaign had tried to censor him—see August 16, 2008 and September 7, 2008.) (Media Matters 10/8/2008)
Leaves Kenya without Incident - Hours later, Corsi later leaves Kenya; it is not clear whether his departure is voluntary. Kenyan police say Corsi leaves of his own volition, but a Corsi spokesman accuses the Kenyan authorities of treating Corsi “like a criminal.” (Sanders 10/8/2008)
As reported by progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters, conservative radio hosts echo the claim that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has never produced a legitimate birth certificate proving his American citizenship, a claim long since debunked (Obama long ago posted a copy on his Web site—see June 13, 2008—and document experts and the Hawaii Department of Health will confirm its validity—see June 27, 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, and July 28, 2009). Rick Roberts tells his audience that Obama’s birth certificate “hasn’t… been produced” and that no one in the Obama campaign has ever provided one for public scrutiny. Chris Baker says there “has never been a real birth certificate presented” by Obama. Michael Savage, taking the story one step further, says that the birth certificate “that was produced is a forgery.” Savage also claims that no one in Hawaii, Obama’s birth state, can find the original certificate: It “does not exist, they can’t find it in the Hawaii government. It’s never been produced. The one that was produced is a forgery.… I will never work for a man who has a birth certificate nobody can find. In other words, if you vote for Obama, you’re insane.” Savage goes on to claim that Obama is actually a Kenyan citizen, like his father, another claim long since disproven (see August 1, 2008 and After), and makes an equally illegitimate claim that Obama was educated in an Indonesian madrassa, or radical Islamist school (see January 22-24, 2008), under the name “Barry Soetoro”; Savage even claims that Obama legally changed his name to “Barry Mohammed Soetoro” in Indonesia. No such name change has ever been documented. (Media Matters 10/14/2008) Weeks later, Savage will assert, without proof, that Obama will visit Hawaii to address the issue of the birth certificate and cloak the trip by ostensibly visiting his gravely ill grandmother (see November 10, 2008).
Progressive media watchdog site Media Matters reports that Jerome Corsi, author of a book widely debunked as an attempt to defame presidential candidate Barack Obama (see August 1, 2008 and After) and after leaving Kenya where he had been briefly detained by authorities for peddling his book without a work permit (see October 8, 2008), tells conservative radio host Lee Rodgers that he is a victim of journalistic suppression. “I think the story here is really the suppression of the press,” he says. “I hate to think of what the First Amendment is going to mean. If you write a negative book or criticize Obama, I think you’re now going to have to risk being thrown in jail or killed.” Rodgers agrees, “Yeah, well, that’s the mentality of these people.” Corsi also claims that he has been targeted by the Obama campaign: “I’m telling you, this is scary. I have heard from Obama supporters telling me: one way or another, boy, when we’re in office, we’re going to shut you down.” Corsi has repeatedly claimed that he is the victim of censorship by the Obama campaign (see August 16, 2008 and September 7, 2008). Corsi also tells Rodgers that he has “[d]isproved every point” that the Obama campaign made in a “40-page rebuttal” to his book. In reality, Corsi responded to the Obama campaign’s rebuttal by issuing a list of 11 corrections for the next printing, most of which corrected lies identified by the Obama campaign or outside sources. (Media Matters 10/10/2008)
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Bill Cunningham, host of a popular Cincinnati call-in show, implies that presidential candidate Barack Obama is the “Antichrist” and tells his audience that Obama’s popularity may be a sign of the Apocalypse. Cunningham, noting that reports show Democrats have registered 666,000 new voters in Ohio, says: “And around Ohio, the number [of newly registered voters] is 666,000. Six-six-six. The mark of the beast. The great majority, of course, are registered by ACORN. The mark of the beast. And who is the beast? Who gave ACORN $800,000 as part of this criminal conspiracy? Who was the lawyer for ACORN? Who conducted ACORN seminars to tell ACORN employees and others how to cheat the system? Barack Hussein Obama. I may declare him to be the beast. Six-six-six. It could be the end of all days.” Cunningham also claims that radical Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan, who he erroneously characterizes as Obama’s “buddy,” calls Obama “the messiah… the son of God.” 666 is the Biblical number of “The Beast,” or the Antichrist, whose coming heralds the second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of days. ACORN is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a community activist organization that works to register poor voters. Obama once represented ACORN in a lawsuit. (Media Matters 10/14/2008)
The press reports that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) recently submitted a voter registration form filed under the name “Mickey Mouse” to the Orange County, Florida, board of elections. Fox News co-anchors Megyn Kelly and Bill Hemmer, hosting the “straight news” program America’s Newsroom, mock ACORN for filing the form. Under Florida law, ACORN is required to submit all voter registration forms even if it suspects they are bogus: failure to submit a voter registration form is punishable by a $1,000 fine. Kelly reports the form submission, and Hemmer reports that the form was rejected, saying, “ACORN says they are required to turn in every application that is filled out, even if it says Mickey Mouse.” Kelly then says: “I love that, they’ve got the obligation to submit it no matter what it says. Mickey Mouse, Jive Turkey, which we saw yesterday. How are we to know?” ACORN official Brian Kettenring tells a Tampa Bay Times reporter, “We must turn in every voter registration card by Florida law, even Mickey Mouse.” The liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters cites the pertinent Florida statute: “A third-party voter registration organization that collects voter registration applications serves as a fiduciary to the applicant, ensuring that any voter registration application entrusted to the third-party voter registration organization, irrespective of party affiliation, race, ethnicity, or gender shall be promptly delivered to the division or the supervisor of elections.” If a third-party voter registration organization such as ACORN fails to submit any voter registration form, it is liable for a “fine in the amount of $1,000 for any application not submitted if the third-party registration organization or person, entity, or agency acting on its behalf acted willfully.” Kettenring says he is not sure the “Mickey Mouse” voter registration form came through ACORN, though it bore a stamp indicating that it was collected by someone affiliated with the organization. ACORN has come under fire for problems with some of the forms submitted by its employees, including 35 voter registration forms submitted in Pinellas County, Florida, that the Pinellas Board of Elections considered questionable. Recent forms submitted by the organization in Las Vegas listed the names of the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys. Republicans are claiming that the “Mickey Mouse” submission and others are part of a nationwide conspiracy by ACORN to subvert the electoral process; Republican National Committee (RNC) counsel Sean Cairncross says that ACORN is a “quasicriminal organization” engaged in “a widespread and systemic effort… to undermine the election process.” Kettenring says that a few of ACORN’s paid voter registrars are attempting to get paid by submitting forms that are clearly not legitimate. ACORN says it fires canvassers who forge applications, citing a recent firing in Broward County of one worker who turned in applications with similar handwriting. The organization alerted the county’s election supervisor to the problem. ACORN pays $8/hour for canvassers to register votes, and does not pay bonuses for volume or a specific number of signatures. The organization says officials call each name on the forms to confirm their legitimacy, but under Florida law must submit even problematic forms. (Danielson 10/14/2008; Media Matters 10/14/2008) In March 2008, Fox reporters misquoted a Washington state official regarding allegations of ACORN-driven voter fraud (see May 2, 2008). Seven days before the Fox News report, officials raided the Nevada offices of ACORN in a fruitless attempt to find evidence of voters being fraudulently registered (see October 7, 2008). Four days after the report, independent factcheckers will find allegations of voter registration fraud leveled against ACORN to be entirely baseless (see October 18, 2008). Five days after the report, a Fox News guest will accuse ACORN of causing the subprime mortgage crisis (see October 19, 2008). And in 2009, Fox News host Glenn Beck will accuse ACORN and President Obama of working together to create a “slave state” within the US (see July 23, 2009).
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) defends itself against allegations of voter fraud and attempting to overthrow America’s democratic system, allegations stemming largely from Republicans, conservative news organizations, and right-wing talk show hosts. The Associated Press reports that Republican lawmakers are calling for a federal investigation into ACORN’s practices of registering Americans to vote, and cites examples of ACORN filing questionable voter registration forms (see October 14, 2008). Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), the Democratic presidential contender, says Republicans should not use any issues with ACORN as an excuse to stop people from voting on Election Day. ACORN has registered some 1.3 million voters, many of them young, minority, or poor citizens, and all of whom tend to vote Democratic. Elections officials in at least eight states are looking into voter fraud allegations leveled against the organization. ACORN spokesperson Kevin Whelan tells reporters that the organization is proud of “the vast, vast majority” of its over 13,000 paid canvassers who worked in 21 states to register voters. “They did something remarkable in bringing all these new voters,” he says. The group has acknowledged that some of its employees may have turned in questionable forms in order to meet their registration goals and continue working with the group, but says it has worked to weed out such problematic forms and has alerted county election officials to potential problems. Whelan says ACORN does not hesitate to fire employees who turn in fraudulent registration forms. Most states require third-party registration organizations such as ACORN to turn in even blatantly fraudulent forms under penalty of law. House Republicans have written to Attorney General Michael Mukasey demanding a Justice Department investigation, and requesting Justice Department help in making sure ballots by what they call “ineligible or fraudulent voters” are not counted on Election Day. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Obama’s Republican opponent, says the Obama campaign should take action to rein in ACORN’s registration efforts in order to combat what he calls “voter fraud,” and notes that Obama represented ACORN in a 1995 lawsuit in Illinois. McCain’s running mate, Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), says, “Obama has a responsibility to rein in ACORN and prove that he’s willing to fight voter fraud.” McCain has joined his House Republican colleagues in demanding a federal investigation. Obama says his campaign has no ties to ACORN, and says, “This is another one of those distractions that get stirred up during the campaign.” Recently a conservative Ohio think tank, the Buckeye Institute, filed a lawsuit against ACORN, charging it with criminal corruption under a civil provision of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which is usually employed against alleged members of organized crime. (Sanner 10/14/2008) The liberal media watchdog Media Matters notes that the Associated Press and CNN have both failed to report that Obama was joined by the Justice Department, the League of Women Voters, and the League of United Latin American Citizens in the 1995 lawsuit. The lawsuit was intended to force Illinois to implement the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA—see May 20, 1993), and was found in favor of ACORN and the other plaintiffs. (Auerbach and Hananoki 10/15/2008) Recently, officials raided the Nevada offices of ACORN in a fruitless attempt to find evidence of voters being fraudulently registered (see October 7, 2008). Independent fact-checkers will soon find allegations of voter registration fraud leveled against ACORN to be entirely baseless (see October 18, 2008).
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Rose Tennent, on her nationally syndicated talk show Quinn & Rose, says that former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama “because he doesn’t want to be known as an Uncle Tom anymore. He wants to be black again.” Co-host Jim Quinn says of Powell: “He’s tired of being called an Oreo.… [R]emember, when he was in the Bush administration, he was a white guy.” Tennent responds: “Blacks hated him. They—‘Oh, he doesn’t count. It doesn’t count that you have someone black in the administration. He’s not really black, he’s an Uncle Tom.’” Tennent says that Powell’s endorsement of Obama “is racism.” (Media Matters 10/20/2008)
Progressive media watchdog site Media Matters reports that conservative radio host Jim Quinn, of the syndicated show Quinn & Rose, says that the US should go back to a time where only landowners could vote. Quinn says: “Originally, if you didn’t own land, you didn’t vote, and there was a good reason for it: because those without property will always vote away the property of other people unto themselves, and that’s the beginning of the end.… Now—I mean, I can hear the appeal to the masses: ‘It’s not fair, it’s not the American way that you don’t get to vote,’ but let me ask you a question: If I don’t own anything, what kind of a problem do I have with voting for a measure—a tax, a law—that takes somebody else’s property and gives it to me? I have no stake in personal property ownership ‘cause I don’t have any. Now, back in the day, when this was the law of the land, anybody who wanted to vote needed to step up to the plate, achieve, get a stake in America, and then vote.” Quinn equates non-landowners’ right to vote with what he calls “organized theft from the wealthy by the democratic masses.” (Media Matters 10/21/2008) A day later, radio host Michael Savage says that public assistance recipients should lose the right to vote (see October 22, 2008).
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Michael Savage tells his audience that Americans who receive public assistance should not be able to vote. “Do you think a person on welfare has the right to vote?” he asks. “I don’t. Why should a person who is on public assistance maintain the right to vote? Tell me why. Where is it written that they should have the right to vote?… I support them, and they should have the same vote I do? That would be like saying an infant has the right to vote or an insane person has the right to vote. Why should a welfare recipient have the right to vote? They’re only gonna vote themselves a raise.” Savage then brings up Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama: “So if you get a demagogue like Obama coming along, and he says to the welfare recipient, elect me, and I’ll make sure that we have trickle-up poverty, and the rich—so-called, that is anyone who works for a living—will give you more money, more welfare, of course you’re gonna vote for the demagogue Obama. See, if I was in charge, I’d pass a law which says, OK, you can’t support yourself for whatever reason, you’re on welfare, you lose the right to vote.… You get back on the self-sufficiency, you get the right to vote. Then we’ll have a fair election in America. Otherwise, it’s all over. We have a communist nation either now or in the very near future.” (Media Matters 10/23/2008) A day before, radio host Jim Quinn said that only landowners should be allowed to vote (see October 21, 2008).
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism releases a study that finds that, by and large, the media coverage for Republican presidential candidate John McCain has been more negative than that for his opponent, Democrat Barack Obama. The Center writes: “Press treatment of Obama has been somewhat more positive than negative, but not markedly so. But coverage of McCain has been heavily unfavorable—and has become more so over time.” The study also finds: “Much of the increased attention for McCain derived from actions by the senator himself, actions that, in the end, generated mostly negative assessments. In many ways, the arc of the media narrative during this phase of the 2008 general election might be best described as a drama in which John McCain has acted and Barack Obama has reacted.” The study also notes that coverage for McCain’s running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, “had an up and down trajectory, moving from quite positive, to very negative, to more mixed. What drove that tone toward a more unfavorable light was probing her public record and her encounters with the press. Little of her trouble came from coverage of her personal traits or family issues. In the end, she also received less than half the coverage of either presidential nominee, though about triple that of her vice presidential counterpart, Joe Biden. The findings suggest that, in the end, Palin’s portrayal in the press was not the major factor hurting McCain. Her coverage, while tilting negative, was far more positive than her running mate’s.” (Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism 10/22/2008) The progressive media watchdog site Media Matters will call the study “arguabl[y] flaw[ed]” and will note that it does not include conservative talk radio, whose coverage of the presidential campaign has amounted to what the site calls “an all-out effort to foment hate and suspicion of Obama among their listeners, promoting the most baseless and farfetched of smears and advancing falsehoods—including about Obama’s religion and background—that have taken hold among a substantial percentage of the electorate” (see July 9, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, and November 10, 2008). (Media Matters 11/6/2008)
Progressive media watchdog site Media Matters reports that conservative radio host Bill Cunningham, who hosts a popular Cincinnati call-in show, accuses Democratic candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) of wanting to “gas the Jews.” In what is apparently intended to be a comedic skit, Cunningham tells a co-host: “This Obama guy loves the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization]. Can’t you figure that out?… Obama wants to gas the Jews, like the PLO wants to gas the Jews, like the Nazis gassed the Jews.” Co-host Scott Sloan, playing a fictional Jewish character called “Randy Furman,” tells Cunningham that he is making the accusation because “you just don’t like one-half-percent black people, that’s your problem.” (Media Matters 10/25/2008) Two weeks before, Cunningham told listeners that Obama may be the Antichrist (see October 10, 2008).
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, many different conservative radio hosts repeat a falsehood about presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) that originates on the Drudge Report. According to the original report, Obama told a radio audience in 2001 that he regretted the US Supreme Court did not pursue “wealth redistribution,” a concept some associate with socialism. Obama did not make such a statement; instead he said during that interview that it was a tragedy the civil rights movement “became so court-focused” in trying to bring about political and social equality. Minneapolis radio host Chris Baker misquotes Obama by claiming that he said “we gotta have economic justice and the Supreme Court ought to weigh in on redistributing wealth.” Baker adds: “Yeah, it’s too bad you kind of stuck with the Constitution as it was. It’s a tragedy that redistribution of wealth was not pursued by the Supreme Court. Can you believe that?” Baker also claims that Obama “wants to use the Supreme Court to reinterpret the Constitution in order to force the redistribution of wealth.” Baker is not the only radio host to repeat the falsehood. Sean Hannity tells his radio audience, referring to the 2001 interview, “Obama actually believes the Constitution is defective because it doesn’t allow judges to redistribute wealth.” He adds: “if he becomes president, [Obama] wants the Supreme Court and other federal courts to literally have the power to spread the wealth around and redistribute the wealth. Those are his words, his voice.” He goes on to say flatly, “Obama is a socialist.” Mark Levin tells his listeners, “what the [Supreme] Court should have done from Obama’s point of view was impose socialism from the bench.” Levin levels another false accusation against Obama: that he wants to reinterpret the 14th Amendment “to compel as a matter of constitutional law, the socialist agenda. In other words, constitutionalize redistribution of wealth.” Radio hosts Michael Savage, Jim Quinn, Brian Sussman, and others reiterate the claims, with Quinn telling listeners: “He just got done telling you that the Constitution’s only half-done. He needs to write the other half—you know, the other half where we decide how much we take from you and give to that guy down the street.” Like many of his colleagues, Sussman plays an edited clip of Obama’s 2001 statement to bolster his claims. (Media Matters 10/28/2008; Media Matters 11/6/2008)
As reported by progressive media watchdog Media Matters, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh distorts and misstates comments by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama from 2001, asking listeners how Obama can be sworn in as president if he “flatly rejected” the Constitution. Limbaugh tells his listeners that Obama “calls himself a constitutional professor or a constitutional scholar. In truth, Barack Obama was an anti-constitutional professor. He studied the Constitution, and he flatly rejected it. He doesn’t like the Constitution, he thinks it is flawed, and now I understand why he was so reluctant to wear the American flag lapel pin. Why would he?… I don’t see how he can take the oath of office” because “[h]e has rejected the Constitution.” Obama said during a September 6, 2001 panel discussion on Chicago’s WBEZ radio that the Constitution “reflected the fundamental flaw of this country that continues to this day.” Obama’s criticism was directed at the Founding Fathers’ handling of the issue of slavery in the Constitution. Later in the discussion, Obama said that the Constitution is “a remarkable political document that paved the way for where we are now.” Limbaugh plays carefully edited clips from the WBEZ program but does not play the larger portion of Obama’s remarks that give a fuller picture of his meaning. Instead, he falsely accuses Obama of saying that the Constitution cannot “be fixed,” and asks: “How is he going to… how is he gonna place his hand on the Bible and swear that he, Barack Hussein Obama, will uphold the Constitution that he feels reflects the nation’s fundamental flaw. Fundamental. When he talks about a fundamental flaw, he’s not talking about a flaw that can be fixed. Fundamental means that this document is, from the get-go, wrong.” Media Matters notes that “several influential Republicans,” including President Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Chief Justice John Roberts, “have articulated a similar view” to Obama’s. (Media Matters 10/28/2008)
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Bill Cunningham, discussing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s parentage, says of Obama’s father: “[I]magine at the age of one or two seeing your father for the last time. See, his father was a typical black father who, right after the birth, left the baby. That’s what black fathers do. They simply leave.” Cunningham then calls Obama’s mother “a Communist” who married “a radical Muslim,” who he refers to as “Barry Soetoro,” and then “rejected” her son at age 10, resulting in Obama’s being sent to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. (Media Matters 10/30/2008) However, the name of Obama’s stepfather is Lolo Soetoro, not Barry Soetoro. In addition, he is said not to have been a devout Muslim. For example, according to the New York Times, he was “a nominal Muslim who hung prayer beads over his bed but enjoyed bacon, which Islam forbids.” (Kantor 4/30/2007)
The conservative lobbying group Citizens United (CU) distributes hundreds of thousands of DVDs in newspapers throughout Ohio, Florida, and Nevada, all considered “swing states” in the upcoming presidential election. The DVDs contain a “documentary” entitled Hype: The Obama Effect and are characterized by CU as “truthful attack[s]” on Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). Previous advertisements for the film said the film portrays Obama as an “overhyped media darling,” and quoted conservative pundit Tucker Carlson as saying: “The press loves Obama. I mean not just love, but sort of like an early teenage crush.” The DVD distribution takes place just days before the November 4 election. CU says it is spending over a million dollars to distribute around 1.25 million DVDs, which are included with delivery and store-bought copies of five newspapers: the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Palm Beach (Florida) Post, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The film attacks Obama’s record on abortion rights, foreign policy, and what the Associated Press calls his “past relationships” with, among others, his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright (see January 6-11, 2008). The DVD also attempts to tie Obama to political corruption in Illinois, and lambasts the news media for what CU calls its preferential treatment of Obama. CU president David Bossie says: “We think it’s a truthful attack. People can take it any way they want.” Bossie was fired from his position on a Republican House member’s staff in 1998 for releasing fraudulently edited transcripts of a former Clinton administration official to falsely imply that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton had committed crimes (see May 1998). Among those interviewed about Obama for the film are conservative columnist Robert Novak, conservative pundit Dick Morris, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), and author and pundit Jerome Corsi, whom the AP terms a “discredited critic” of Obama. Obama campaign spokesman Isaac Baker calls the DVD “slash and burn politics,” and says the DVD is another tactic of the presidential campaign of John McCain (R-AZ) to “smear” Obama with “dishonest, debunked attacks from the fringes of the far right.” (Falcone 7/22/2008; Elliott 10/28/2008; Schulman 10/29/2008)
Newspaper Official Defends Decision to Include DVD - Palm Beach Post general manager Charles Gerardi says of his paper’s decision to include the DVD in its Friday distribution: “Citizens United has every right to place this message as a paid advertisement, and our readers have every right to see it, even if they don’t agree with it. That we accepted it as a paid advertisement in no way implies that this newspaper agrees or disagrees with its message.” (Palm Beach Post 10/31/2008)
Falsehoods, Misrepresentations, and Lies - Within days, the liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters finds that the DVD is riddled with errors, misrepresentations, and lies.
Claim that Obama 'Threw' Illinois State Senate Election - On the DVD, author David Freddoso claims that in 1998, Obama managed to “thr[o]w all of his opponents off the ballot” to win an election to the Illinois State Senate, a claim that has been disproved.
Claim that Obama Refuses to Work with Republicans - Freddoso also asserts that there are no instances of Obama’s stints in the Illinois State Senate nor the US Senate where he was willing to work with Republicans on legislation, an assertion that Freddoso himself inadvertently disproves by citing several instances of legislation Obama joined with Republicans to pass.
Claim that Obama Wants to Raise Taxes on Middle Class and Small Business - The DVD’s narrator misrepresents Obama’s campaign statements to falsely claim that Obama has promised to “irrevocabl[y]” raise taxes on citizens making over $100,000 to fund Social Security; the reality is that Obama’s proposed tax increase would affect citizens making $250,000 or more. The DVD narrator makes similarly false claims about Obama’s stance on raising the capital gains tax, and on raising taxes on small business owners. Conservative radio host Armstrong Williams tells viewers that Obama will raise taxes on small businesses that employ only a few workers, when in fact Obama has repeatedly proposed cutting taxes on most small businesses. Huckabee makes similar claims later in the DVD.
Claim that Obama Supports Immigration 'Amnesty' - The narrator misrepresents Obama’s stance on immigration reform as “amnesty for the 12 to 20 million people who violated US immigration law,” a position that Obama’s “Plan for Immigration” rejects.
Claim that Obama Wants 'Centralized Government' Health Care - Blackwell, now a contributing editor for the conservative publication TownHall, falsely claims that Obama wants to implement what he calls “a centralized government program that hasn’t worked in Canada, hasn’t worked in England, that has actually taken the freedom from the consumer and limited the choices.” Organizations such as PolitiFact and the New York Times have called claims that Obama supports government-run “single payer” health care false.
Claim that Obama Refused to Protect Lives of Infants - Conservative columnist and anti-abortion activist Jill Stanek claims that Obama opposed legislation that would have protected the lives of babies “born alive” during botched abortion efforts, when in fact no such legislation was ever proposed—the law already protects babies in such circumstances—and the Illinois Department of Public Health has said no such case exists in its records. (Stanek has claimed that she has witnessed such incidents during her time as an Illinois hospital worker.) Stanek has said that she believes domestic violence against women who have had abortions is acceptable, claimed that Chinese people eat aborted fetuses as “much sought after delicacies,” and claimed that Obama “supports infanticide.”
Claim that Obama Supported Attack on Petraeus - The DVD narrator claims that as a US senator, Obama refused to vote for a bill that condemned an attack by liberal grassroots activist organization MoveOn.org on General David Petraeus. In reality, Obama did vote to support an amendment that condemned the MoveOn advertisement.
Claim that Obama Supported Award for Farrakhan - The DVD narrator claims that Obama has aligned himself with the controversial head of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, and cites the 2007 decision by Obama’s then-church, Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, to award a lifetime achievement award to Farrakhan. In reality, Obama denounced Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism, and stated that he did not agree with the Trinity decision to give Farrakhan the award.
Claim of Suspiciously Preferential Loan Rate - The DVD narrator claims that Obama received a suspiciously “preferential rate on his super-jumbo loan for the purchase” of a “mansion” in Hyde Park, Illinois, from Northern Trust, an Illinois bank. A Washington Post reporter did make such a claim in a report, but subsequent investigation by Politico and the Columbia Journalism Review showed that the rate Obama received on the loan was consistent with other loans Northern Trust made at the time and not significantly below the average loan rate.
'Citizen of the World' - Corsi claims that Obama does not consider himself an American, but a “citizen of the world.” Media Matters has found numerous instances where Obama proclaims himself a proud American as well as “a fellow citizen of the world.” In 1982, Media Matters notes, then-President Reagan addressed the United Nations General Assembly by saying, “I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world.” Media Matters notes that Corsi’s anti-Obama book Obama Nation was widely and thoroughly debunked (see August 1, 2008 and After), and since its publication, Corsi has made a number of inflammatory and false accusations about Obama and his family (see August 15, 2008, August 16, 2008, September 7, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, July 21, 2009, and September 21, 2010). (Media Matters 10/30/2008)
The US’s two most popular conservative radio hosts, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, are repeatedly labeling the current economic collapse the “Obama recession,” even though the recession has started already, and President-elect Barack Obama was only elected on November 4 and will not assume the presidency until January 20, 2009.
Blaming Obama for Wall Street Plunge - According to reports by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Hannity’s guest Dick Morris, a conservative political operative, tells a Fox News audience on November 6 that the stock market plunge is directly attributable to Obama’s election and his intention to “raise the capital gains tax.” Hannity calls the stock market plunge “the Obama tanking.” On the same day, Limbaugh says on his show: “We have the largest market plunge after an election in history. Thank you, man-child Barack Obama.” (Media Matters 11/7/2008) Hannity says on November 11 that Obama’s election is directly responsible for plunging stock market performances, telling his listeners: “Wall Street keeps sinking. Could it be the Obama recession: The fear that taxes are gonna go up, forcing people to pull out of the market?” On November 12, Limbaugh echoes Hannity’s characterization, telling his listeners that, as reported by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, “the recession isn’t President Bush’s fault. It’s the fault, catch this, of the president who hasn’t yet taken office. It’s an ‘Obama recession’; that’s what he’s calling it.” Matthews, clearly impatient with Limbaugh’s characterization, calls the host’s statement an example of “the bitter sore loser’s rhetoric we are hearing from the right these days.” (Media Matters 11/12/2008)
Experts Credit Obama with Wall Street Stabilization - Experts refute Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s attribution of the nation’s economic calamity to Obama, with the Wall Street Journal giving Obama credit for a post-election upturn in the stock market and blaming “lame economic data” and the continuing “drumbeat of bailouts, potential bailouts, and worries about other bailouts” for the stock market’s poor performance. (Gaffen 11/12/2008) Fox News business commentator Eric Bolling credits Obama’s election with stabilizing the stock market until a dismal national employment report caused the market to drop again. And Fox Business Channel’s vice president, Alexis Glick, tells her audience on November 7: “I so did not believe that the market reaction over the past two days was about Obama. Wednesday morning we walked in, we saw the Challenger and Gray [planned layoff] numbers, we saw the ADP numbers, the weekly jobless claim numbers—yeah, well, they were basically in line, but we knew two days ago that this was going to be a bloody number. Frankly, we probably knew several months ago that it was going to be a bloody number.” The Wall Street Journal and New York Times both agree with Glick’s assessment. (Media Matters 11/7/2008; Grynbaum 11/7/2008)
As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, conservative radio host Michael Savage tells his audience that President-elect Barack Obama’s grandmother “suspiciously died virtually the night before the election,” in an apparent attempt to question Obama’s pre-election trip to Hawaii. Obama visited his grandmother in late October, shortly before her death on November 3. Savage ties in his questions about Obama’s grandmother and her “suspicious death” to discredited claims that Obama has been unable to verify his US citizenship. Savage tells his listeners: “Well, we don’t even know where Obama was born. His grandmother died the night before the election. There’s a lot of questions around this character that the media won’t answer. Let’s start with what country he’s from. Why was the birth certificate never produced? Why in the world did he take time off from the campaign to visit the grandmother who then suddenly and suspiciously died virtually the night before the election? Tell me about that.” Savage and other conservative commentators have suggested that Obama went to Hawaii, not to visit his gravely ill grandmother, but to address charges that his birth certificate is not valid. (Media Matters 11/14/2008) Savage is one of a number of conservative radio hosts to spread false rumors about Obama’s birth certificate (see October 8-10, 2008). Obama produced a copy of his birth certificate months before (see June 13, 2008). A number of organizations have verified that Obama’s birth certificate is valid and authentic (see June 27, 2008 and August 21, 2008), as have Hawaii Health Department officials (see October 30, 2008). (Hollyfield 6/27/2008; Zahn 8/23/2008; FactCheck (.org) 11/1/2008) According to Talkers Magazine, Savage is third in talk-radio listenership across the US, behind fellow conservatives Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. (Media Matters 11/14/2008)
Conservative radio host Michael Savage, who has previously accused President-elect Barack Obama of being part of “the first affirmative-action [campaign] in American history” (see February 1, 2008), of being a radical Islamist (see January 10, 2008, February 21, 2008, and April 3, 2008), and of being sympathetic to the Nazis (see March 13, 2008), says Obama will oversee the “wholesale replacement of competent white men” from government jobs through the federal, state, and even local levels. As reported by the progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Savage tells his listeners: “You haven’t seen any of what’s coming in this country. You are going to see the wholesale replacement of competent white men, and I’m targeting exactly the group that’s gonna be thrown out of jobs in the government. And I’ll say it, and I’ll be the first to say it, and I may be not the only—the last to say it. I am telling you that there’s gonna be a wholesale firing of competent white men in the United States government up and down the line, in police departments, in fire departments. Everywhere in America, you’re going to see an exchange that you’ve never seen in history, and it’s not gonna be necessarily for the betterment of this country.”
Accusation of 'Social Promotion' - Savage says that Obama was “socially promoted” to the presidency, a disparaging reference to the practice of promoting children to higher grades even if they have not done the work necessary to be promoted, and says: “If you’re socially promoted your whole life and nobody challenges you because you’re of the proper constitution and composition and you look exactly right and no one’s—everyone’s afraid to say a word to you, why, you then go to Harvard, you then go to the law review, you then get elected, you then get elected to the next level. This is what happens in a country that’s intimidated by its own policies and its own fears.” (Media Matters 11/19/2008)
Obama Avoided Mention of Race on College Application? - Some of Obama’s classmates recall that when he applied for Harvard Law School, he refused to indicate his race so as to avoid benefiting from affirmative action, an action the Obama campaign has declined to affirm or deny. In 1990, as a law student defending the program, Obama wrote that he had “undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action” during his educational career. (Swarns 8/3/2008)
Many media figures repeat a disputed claim by the Pentagon that 61 former Guantanamo detainees are again engaged in terrorist activities (see January 13-14, 2009), without noting that the figure is being challenged. The argument is being used to criticize President Obama’s announced plans to close the Guantanamo detention facility within a year (see January 22, 2009). Liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters documents a number of media outlets promulgating the claim. On Fox News, host Sean Hannity tells a guest, “But we know… 61 Gitmo detainees that have already been released, according to the Pentagon, went right back to the battlefield with their fanaticism.” On CNN, neoconservative guest Clifford May tells host Campbell Brown: “Many hundreds have been released. About 60 of them—a little more than that—have returned to the battlefield.” Brown fails to challenge the claim. Nor does MSNBC’s Chris Matthews challenge a similar assertion from Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO), who says, “we know already that more than 60 of the people who have been released have been killing our troops, our Americans and civilians on the battlefield.” (Media Matters 1/23/2009) The Boston Globe reports, “Pentagon statistics show that of the hundreds of detainees that have been released from Guantanamo since it opened in early 2002, at least 61 have returned to terrorist activities.” (Williams and Bender 1/22/2009) The Los Angeles Times reports, “The Pentagon has said that 61 former detainees have taken up arms against the US or its allies after being released from the military prison in Cuba.” (Los Angeles Times 1/23/2009) The San Francisco Chronicle reports, “Republicans also claimed that 61 detainees already released have been ‘found back on the battlefield.’” (Lochhead 1/23/2009) And an ABC News article repeats House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-OH) statement, “Do we release them back into the battlefield, like some 61 detainees that have been released we know are back on the battlefield?” ABC does not report that the claim is disputed. (Tapper, Crawford-Greenburg, and Khan 1/22/2009)
The Wall Street Journal, Fox News anchors, conservative Web news purveyor Matt Drudge, and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh promulgate a discredited claim by health care lobbyist Betsy McCaughey that the economic recovery bill pending in Congress includes a provision that would have the government “essentially dictate treatments” for sick Americans. McCaughey wrote a commentary for Bloomberg News on February 9 that makes the claim (see February 9, 2009); Drudge and Limbaugh echo and add to the claim the same day. The next day, the Wall Street Journal’s senior economic writer, Stephen Moore, appearing on Fox News’s flagship morning news broadcast America’s Newsroom, joins news anchors Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly in promoting the same claim (see October 13, 2009), with Moore saying that the provision would “hav[e] the government essentially dictate treatments.” Moore credits Limbaugh with informing him of the claim, saying: “I just learned of this myself yesterday. In fact, Rush Limbaugh made a big deal out of it on his radio show and it just—it caused all sorts of calls into congressional offices.” On February 10, Limbaugh takes credit for spreading the claim, telling listeners: “Betsy McCaughey writing at Bloomberg, I found it. I detailed it for you, and now it’s all over mainstream media. Well, it’s—it headlined Drudge for a while last night and today. Fox News is talking about it.” McCaughey is wrong in the claim: according to an analysis of the legislative language by progressive media watchdog Media Matters, “the language in the House bill that McCaughey referenced does not establish authority to ‘monitor treatments’ or restrict what ‘your doctor is doing’ with regard to patient care but, rather, addresses establishing an electronic records system such that doctors would have complete, accurate information about their patients ‘to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care.’” Moore says: “[T]his news story really has exploded on the public scene in just the last 24 hours, Bill. We’ve been just inundated with complaints from people about the implications of having the government essentially dictate treatments.” Moore later goes on to add that the bill “especially will affect elderly people, because one of the ways, if we move more towards a nationalized health care system, as this bill would move us one step towards that, what you have to do to restrain costs—what many other countries do, like Canada and Britain, is they essentially, Bill, ration care. And they tell patients you are eligible for this kind of care, but this is too expensive. And so what this bill would essentially do is set up a kind of pricing mechanism to tell people, yes, we can afford to treat you for this, but not that.” Moore encourages viewers to “express their outrage over this” before Congress takes the issue up. Kelly adds another false claim: that the bill discourages doctors to act on their own judgment and promotes medical decisions “in the spirit of uniform health care.” Kelly notes, “That sounds dangerously like socialized medicine.” Hemmer also makes the false claim that the legislation contains “rules [that] appear to set the stage for health care rationing for seniors, new limits on medical research, and new rules guiding decisions your doctor can make about your health care.” Hemmer calls the provision a “midnight health care insertion” into the Senate spending bill. (Media Matters 2/10/2009)
The New York Times profiles Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, describing him as a “rising star” and “one of the most powerful media voices for the nation’s conservative anger.” Beck’s show typically draws about 2.3 million viewers, putting him third among all cable news hosts behind fellow Fox conservatives Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Beck describes himself as identifying with Howard Beale, the mad “television prophet” of the 1976 film Network, and particularly Beale’s most famous line, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” (Stetler and Carter 3/29/2009) (Media pundit Eric Boehlert calls Beck’s attempt to associate himself with Beale “nonsense,” and observes: “Beale’s unvarnished on-air rants… targeted conformity, corporate conglomerates, and the propaganda power of television.… Beale’s attacks were not political or partisan. Beck, by contrast, unleashes his anger against, and whips up dark scenarios about, the new president of the United States. Big difference.”) (Boehlert 4/7/2009)
Apocalyptic Rhetoric - Though he insists he believes every word he says on his TV show as well as on his daily radio broadcast, Beck also calls himself a “rodeo clown” and an “entertainer” who reminds his listeners, “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.” (Beck is a former morning show disc jockey who regularly performs stand-up comedy in shows around the country.) The Times writes that Beck “is capturing the feelings of an alienated class of Americans.” He regularly preaches against liberal politicians, hosts segments entitled “Constitution Under Attack” and “Economic Apocalypse,” and sometimes bursts into tears. (Stetler and Carter 3/29/2009) Progressive media watchdog site Media Matters will note in a later article that Beck regularly terms President Obama a Marxist, a socialist, and/or a fascist. (Boehlert 4/7/2009) In a recent week-long segment titled “War Games,” Beck advocated for armed citizen militias to overthrow the government (see February 20, 2009), though he later denied such advocacy. America is “on the road to socialism,” he tells his viewers, and claims, “God and religion are under attack in the US.” He recently accused the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of setting up “concentration camps” for citizen dissenters, presumably conservatives. He has accused the Obama administration of trying to “indoctrinate… your child into community service through the federal government” (Media Matters 3/27/2009) , says America is about to go through “depression and revolution” (Media Matters 2/13/2009) , and, three days after the Times article is published, compares the administration’s actions to those in “the early days of Adolf Hitler.” (Media Matters 4/1/2009) He will accuse the government of being what he calls “a heroin pusher using smiley-faced fascism to grow the nanny state.” (Media Matters 3/31/2009)
Voice of the 'Disenfranchised' - Phil Griffin, the president of Fox News cable rival MSNBC, says of Beck: “That’s good dramatic television. That’s who Glenn Beck is.” Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, says: “There are absolutely historical precedents for what is happening with Beck. There was a lot of radio evangelism during the Depression. People were frustrated and frightened. There are a lot of scary parallels now.” Conservative writer David Frum calls Beck’s success “a product of the collapse of conservatism as an organized political force, and the rise of conservatism as an alienated cultural sensibility.” Beck’s shows are “for people who feel they belong to an embattled minority that is disenfranchised and cut off,” Frum adds. Fox News senior vice president Joel Cheatwood says Beck’s audience is “somewhat disenfranchised,” and adds, “[I]t’s a huge audience.” Author and media professor Jeffrey Jones says that Beck engages in “inciting rhetoric. People hear their values are under attack and they get worried. It becomes an opportunity for them to stand up and do something.” Beck denies inciting attacks on the government or any other citizens, saying that those “who are spreading the garbage that I’m stirring up a revolution haven’t watched the show.” Fellow talk show host Bill Maher recently accused Beck of producing “the same kind of talking” that led Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995); Beck responded by saying in part: “Let me be clear. If someone tries to harm another person in the name of the Constitution or the ‘truth’ behind 9/11 or anything else, they are just as dangerous and crazy as those we don’t seem to recognize anymore, who kill in the name of Allah.” (Stetler and Carter 3/29/2009) (The Times does not publish Beck’s next line: “There are enemies both foreign and domestic in America tonight. Call it fearmongering or call it the truth.”) (Boehlert 4/7/2009) He describes himself as having to “be… the guy I don’t want to be—the guy saying things that are sometimes pretty scary, but nobody else is willing to say them.” Currently Beck is the voice of the “We Surround Them” movement (see March 3, 2009) and is part of the “Tea Party” or “teabaggers” civil protest project (see April 8, 2009). (Stetler and Carter 3/29/2009)
Fox News’s flagship morning news broadcast, America’s Newsroom, displays an on-screen “chyron” that falsely claims the 2010 budget proposed by President Obama—$3.6 trillion—is four times the largest budget ever submitted by former President Bush. As progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes, Bush submitted a $3.1 trillion budget for 2009 and a $2.9 trillion budget for 2008 (see October 13, 2009). (Media Matters 4/3/2009)
According to an analysis by progressive media watchdog Media Matters, Fox News airs at least 20 segments on the so-called “tea party” protests (see April 6-7, 2009, April 8, 2009, and April 13-15, 2009) scheduled for April 15 (see April 15, 2009, April 15, 2009 and April 15, 2009). The network also airs at least 73 in-show and commercial promotions for its April 15 coverage. Media Matters claims that Fox is “aggressively promot[ing] the events… encouraging viewers to get involved with tea party protests across the country.” Fox describes the events as “FNC [Fox News Channel] Tax Day Tea Parties.” The network has assigned four of its hosts, including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Greta Van Susteren, and Neil Cavuto, to broadcast live from various “tea parties” around the nation. The analysis does not include a number of “teasers” that Fox shows air to preview upcoming segments on “tea parties.” (Media Matters 4/15/2009) On April 15, Fox will devote much of its day’s coverage to the tea parties. (Media Matters 9/11/2009)
House Representative Paul Broun (R-GA—see November 11, 2008) says that the Obama health care reform proposals will kill Americans. On the floor of the House, Broun attacks the idea of a “public option,” described by Congressional Democrats as a government-funded alternative to private health care. Broun says, “[T]his program of ‘government option’ is being touted as being the panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price is gonna kill people.” Broun says that Canada and the United Kingdom, both countries that rely on public health care, “don’t have the appreciation of life as we do in our society.” Progressive news and advocacy site Think Progress notes that both Canada and the UK have both a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy than the US. (Think Progress 7/10/2009) Liberal media watchdog site Media Matters notes that neither the Canadian nor British health care systems serve as models for President Obama’s health care reform proposals. (Media Matters 7/10/2009) Broun’s claims are based in part on health insurance advocate Betsy McCaughey’s warnings that the health care reform proposal will encourage senior citizens to die sooner (see February 9, 2009 and July 23-24, 2009), warnings that are debunked by the St. Petersburg Times (see July 23, 2009).
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) issue a statement that warns the Obama administration’s health care reform proposal would provide for “government-encouraged euthanasia” of senior citizens. Boehner and McCotter’s statement reads: “Section 1233 of the House-drafted legislation [HR 3200, the most recent version of the reform proposal] encourages health care providers to provide their Medicare patients with counseling on ‘the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration’ and other end of life treatments, and may place seniors in situations where they feel pressured to sign end of life directives they would not otherwise sign. This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law. At a minimum this legislative language deserves a full and open public debate—the sort of debate that is impossible to have under the politically-driven deadlines Democratic leaders have arbitrarily set for enactment of a health care bill.” Boehner and McCotter also state that the reform bill would encourage state-assisted suicide: “With three states having legalized physician-assisted suicide, this provision could create a slippery slope for a more permissive environment for euthanasia, mercy-killing, and physician-assisted suicide because it does not clearly exclude counseling about the supposed benefits of killing oneself. Health care reform that fails to protect the sanctity and dignity of all human life is not reform at all.” (House Republican Leader 7/23/2009) The next day, McCotter will add: “This is very dangerous. We, in Michigan, have already fought back in attempted assisted suicide several years ago. And yet you see that the people who support this are trying to use this bill to advance this agenda.” (MSNBC 7/29/2009) The statement is quickly challenged by Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who with Representative Charles Boustany (R-LA) introduced a separate bill that would provide for end-of-life consultations for senior citizens. Both bills propose nothing more than having Medicare pay for such consultations, if the patients or the patients’ families desire them. “I cannot tell you how disappointed I was to see this type of reaction to a carefully crafted piece of legislation we have been working on for more than six months that is bipartisan and that speaks to the needs of American families,” Blumenauer says. “The American public, especially our senior citizens, deserve our best efforts to meet their needs—not treat them like political footballs.” A Boustany spokesman says the congressman stands behind the measure he co-authored, but says it should include language stating that taxpayer money would not be used to counsel patients on physician-assisted suicide. Two states—Oregon and Washington—allow physician-assisted suicide in certain situations, and the Montana Supreme Court is considering a lower-court ruling that found physician-assisted suicide to be a right under Montana’s Constitution. (Brown 7/28/2009) Liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters calls the statement’s analysis “repulsive.” (Warner 7/24/2009) The characterization of the bill by Boehner and McCotter will be disproven by a St. Petersburg Times analysis (see July 23, 2009).
Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) says that the Obama administration’s health care proposals will put millions of elderly Americans at risk of being killed by the government. “Republicans have a better solution that won’t put the government in charge of people’s health care, that will make sure we bring down the cost of health care for all Americans, and that insures affordable access for all Americans, and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.” Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins notes that the Republican leadership in Congress has not actually proposed any alternatives to the Obama health care proposals. Liberal media watchdog site Media Matters writes, “Democratic legislation actually provides professional guidance for seniors’ difficult decisions—NOT to encourage euthanasia.” (Linkins 7/28/2009; MSNBC 7/29/2009)
Anti-health care reform proponents claim that the Democrats’ reform package will allow the government direct access to US citizens’ bank accounts. In some variants of the claim, the government will steal money from those accounts to fund the reform package. The claim is quickly disproven.
From an E-mailed 'Clearinghouse of Bad Information' - Apparently the claim originates in a “chain e-mail” sent out by an anonymous anti-reformer. The e-mail, which references its claims by page numbers from HR 3200, the pending House version of the reform legislation, is characterized by the St. Petersburg Times’s “PolitiFact” team as a hugely long e-mail that they call “a clearinghouse of bad information circulating around the Web about proposed health care changes.” The e-mail is apparently based in part on the work of Peter Fleckenstein, who sends frequent and regular commentaries on Twitter under the name “Fleckman,” and posts his analyses on his blog. Fleckenstein identifies his Twitter comments with the tag #tcot, which stands for “top conservatives on Twitter.” A health care analyst with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, Jennifer Tolbert, calls the e-mail “awful.… It’s flat-out, blatant lies. It’s unbelievable to me how they can claim to reference the legislation and then make claims that are blatantly false.” Tolbert is particularly offended by the e-mail’s claim that ordinary citizens will suffer a lack of health care in order to provide free care for illegal immigrants. Many of the e-mail’s other claims are equally wrong.
Based on Provision for Electronic Health Records - The claim that “[t]he federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer” is based on a portion of the legislation that provides for electronic health records, including the enabling of “electronic funds transfers in order to allow automated reconciliation” between payment and billing. However, the government will not have access to citizens’ bank accounts and will not be able to make unauthorized withdrawals. (Holan 7/30/2009; Roth 8/11/2009)
Quick Promulgation - However, the lie quickly makes the rounds of conservative anti-reformers. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh cites the false claim numerous times on his radio broadcast; on August 6, he calls the program “[d]irect deposit access to every individual’s bank account,” and says: “That is in the House bill. You think that’s the worst thing in it. I’m not arguing with you, but there are things that are a greater abomination than that. I mean, this bill determines, the government’s going to determine who lives and dies. They are going to fund abortions and they are going to be for euthanasia on the back end” (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 10, 2009). On a local conservative radio show in early August, Representatative John Shadegg (R-AZ) calls the supposed provision “pretty Orwellian.” On August 11, a participant in a “town hall” forum hosted by Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) asks about the claim. (KFYI 8/2009; Rush Limbaugh 8/6/2009; Roth 8/11/2009)
Similar to Automatic Bill Payment - Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes: “[I]f you’re paying back a student loan from the government (like we are) and you’ve set up automatic bill pay online, this is the same thing. Completely uncontroversial, and totally not scary—unless if you’re trying to fearmonger.” (Maloy 8/6/2009)
Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters documents a number of instances where conservative commentators twist the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) into accusations of “calling Americans Nazis” or accusing citizens of being “un-American.” Hoyer and Pelosi wrote an op-ed in USA Today saying that for groups of corporate-sponsored protesters to disrupt and prevent open debate on the topic of health care reform was un-American (see August 10, 2009). Apparently the “Nazi” accusation comes in part from recent allegations by Rush Limbaugh that Pelosi and other Democrats have used Nazi accusations of their own (see August 6, 2009) and have, themselves, adopted Nazi symbology and precepts (see August 6, 2009).
MSNBC's Scarborough - MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, says on his show, “[O]n the left, you’ve got a speaker calling Americans un-American for going to town hall meetings and accusing them of carrying swastikas in there.” Scarborough goes on to say that it is not right to counter right-wing accusations and disruptions “by calling your opponents Nazis.”
Fox News Anchor - Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett says, “First of all, in the beginning, Pelosi sort of suggested that any American citizen who dared voice an objection in a protest is a Nazi, apparently based on one isolated incident.” Former George H. W. Bush speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote that Pelosi called protesters “Nazi-like.”
Wall Street Journal Columnist - Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto echoed Noonan, writing that Pelosi “insinuated that they [protesters] are Nazis,” and added that Nazi analogies are “far more common on the left than the right.” Limbaugh said flatly that Pelosi “is saying the people who oppose this are Nazis.”
Washington Times Op-Eds - The Washington Times says that Pelosi is “misleading” in asserting that protesters were “carrying swastikas.” Instead, the Times writes, “Closer examination [of the protest signs being carried at the town hall forums and rallies] revealed that in every case, the symbol was being used as a warning against the arrogance of power of which Mrs. Pelosi has become emblematic.” Citizen journalist Andrew Breitbart, in a Washington Times editorial, says that Pelosi “blatantly lied and said that the protesters were wielding ‘swastikas and symbols like that.’” The Wall Street Journal called Pelosi “completely clueless” for saying that anyone carried Nazi symbols to protests. Taranto wrote that Pelosi was suffering from “a fevered imagination” in seeing swastikas at protests and rallies. (Media Matters 8/11/2009)
Fox Hosts - Fox News hosts Gretchen Carlson and Steve Doocy tell their viewers that Hoyer and Pelosi called protesters “un-American.” Carlson says, “Some lawmakers are outright canceling the town halls now, and Nancy Pelosi says anyone who speaks out is un-American.” Doocy says moments later: “Of course, going back to Nancy Pelosi saying that apparently the opposing view to her view is un-American, that’s our text question this hour. Is it un-American to debate health care?” (Media Matters 8/10/2009)
Protests of Nazi Rhetoric - The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization, has protested the use of Nazi symbols and rhetoric both by anti-health care reform protesters and by conservative commentators (see August 7, 2009).
Eric Boehlert, an author and editor of the progressive news watchdog organization Media Matters, writes that, in his eyes, the media is ignoring the biggest “political story of the year”: “the unhinged radical-right response to [President] Obama’s inauguration and the naked attempt to dehumanize and delegitimize him through a nonstop smear campaign,” which he says is sponsored by the Republican Party and its conservative supporters. “The misguided movement breaks all kinds of taboos in American politics,” Boehlert writes, “as well as in the press, and is redefining our political culture—for the worse. Yet the press continues to play dumb.”
Playing the Nazi Card - Boehlert takes as his springboard the relative disinterest the mainstream media shows to the repeated accusations that Obama and/or Congressional Democrats are Nazis, or Nazi sympathizers, or have Nazi-like goals and ideals (see July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, and August 10-11, 2009), as well as the virtually unreported use of Nazi symbols and rhetoric at anti-health care protests (see July 25, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 4, 2009, and August 8, 2009). Boehlert notes that in January 2004, the liberal advocacy organization MoveOn received weeks of negative publicity and media attention when it briefly posted two amateur video clips on its Web site submitted as part of a contest for 30-second Internet advertisements against the policies of the Bush administration. The organization removed the clips within hours and apologized for posting them, but was berated for weeks over the ads. Now, Boehlert notes, Rush Limbaugh and other prominent conservative spokespersons routinely use accusations of Nazism in their rhetorical attacks on Obama and Democrats, with virtually no acknowledgement from the press. Boehlert writes: “Despite the fact that Limbaugh has not apologized for his comments—unlike MoveOn in 2004—and is continuing to compare the Obama White House and the Democratic Party with Nazis, many in the media don’t consider it newsworthy and haven’t condemned it. And more important, journalists don’t show any signs of believing that the episode tells us anything about the radically unhinged nature of the right-wing media in this country today.” Apparently, he writes, most media analysts just consider Limbaugh’s extreme rhetoric a case of “Rush being Rush.” But, he asks, if Limbaugh is going to be considered the de facto leader of conservative thought in America, why isn’t he being challenged on his use of what Boehlert calls “his radical and outrageous rhetoric.… He went to a place that previously was considered unconscionable and unpardonable by the press.… Why isn’t Limbaugh uniformly condemned for his words?”
Accusations of Racism, Racist Pronouncements - And Limbaugh is merely one of many. Fox News commentator Glenn Beck recently accused Obama of being a “racist” and having a “deep-seated hatred of white people” (see July 28-29, 2009), and outside of the small number of progressive/liberal hosts on MSNBC and a few scattered notations in the press, the accusation was virtually ignored. “At the [Washington] Post, which obsesses over the intersection of the media and politics,” Boehlert writes, “the jaw-dropping attack by Fox News’s superstar host wasn’t considered newsworthy. That’s correct: Two of the most popular and powerful conservative voices in America have recently called out Obama as a Nazi and a racist.”
Legitimizing Extremism - Boehlert assigns part of the blame to journalists being “spooked by decades’ worth of ‘liberal media bias’ attacks” that drive them to “refuse to connect the glaringly obvious dots on display.” The extreme rhetorical attacks dovetail with what he calls “the town hall mini-mobs that are wreaking havoc across the country” and “the bizarre birther conspiracy theory” that insists Obama is not a US citizen, but some sort of “plant” from Kenya brought to America to bring down American democracy. “The three right-wing phenomena are all related,” he writes, “and they all revolve around a runaway hatred of Obama (as well as the federal government), and they’re all being fueled by the [conservative media operation], especially Fox News and Limbaugh, both of which no longer recognize common decency, let alone journalistic standards. Yet instead of putting Limbaugh on the receiving end of well-deserved scrutiny and scorn, rather than turning his comments into a political firestorm, the press plays dumb and actually goes out of its way to legitimize the worst offenders of the GOP’s hate brigade.” Boehlert condemns ABC News for inviting conservative blogger and columnist Michelle Malkin to take part in a discussion of health care reform “with Pulitzer Prize-winning writers.” Malkin, he writes, is a prime member of the “hate brigade,” helping push the increasingly angry and violent mob confrontations as well as exhorting readers to believe that the Democrats want to exterminate the elderly (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 7, 2009, and August 10, 2009). The New Yorker recently praised Michael Savage, who routinely attacks women, gays, liberals, and minorities with the worst rhetorical excess (see January 10, 2008, February 1, 2008, February 21, 2008, March 13, 2008, April 3, 2008, June 6, 2008, June 6, 2008, August 25, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 21, 2008, October 22, 2008, November 10, 2008, and November 18, 2008), calling him “fun” and “addictive.”
Comparing the Statistics - Boehlert notes that in January 2004, the Indianapolis Star published five letters to the editor about the MoveOn controversy. To date, it has not published a single letter about Limbaugh’s Nazi accusations towards Obama or Democrats. In January 2004, 28 of the nation’s largest newspapers published a total of 54 stories, articles, or letters about the MoveOn controversy. To date, that group has published a combined total of six stories about Limbaugh’s Nazi allegations. No paper has printed more than one story on the topic. In January 2004, the MoveOn-Nazi story garnered 300 percent more airtime on CNN than the Limbaugh-Nazi story has received. (Boehlert 8/11/2009)
The lobbying firm Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which is heavily involved in so-called “Astroturf” protests against health care reform (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, Before August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 12, 2009), announces it will hold three town-hall style meetings in Wisconsin on August 26 and 27. The meetings will take place in the districts of three House members, David Obey (D-WI), Ron Kind (D-WI), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), all of whom AFP feels might be open to pressure. ABC reporter John Stossel will moderate the sessions for AFP. (Umhoefer 8/14/2009) Progressive news watchdog Web site Media Matters questions the propriety of Stossel, a supposedly nonpartisan member of the media, moderating the sessions for AFP, an avowedly partisan organization. (Media Matters 8/17/2009)
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace tells his viewers that the Veterans Administration (VA) has a secret “death book” that urges veterans to “pull the plug” and commit suicide. The 51-page booklet is called “Your Life, Your Choices,” and, Wallace says, was pulled for rewriting and reissuance in 2007, yet the VA under President Obama is still using it. In his Fox News blog, Wallace writes: “What makes the book controversial is that—according to critics—it seems to push veterans in the direction of ‘pulling the plug.’ For instance—page 21 is a worksheet in which the veteran is asked to consider various situations and then check—whether in each case, life would be ‘difficult, but acceptable’—‘worth living, but just barely’—or ‘not worth living.’ You might think that the scenarios would involve irreversible comas and the like. But no—they include: ‘I can no longer walk but get around in a wheelchair’—‘I live in a nursing home’—‘I am a severe financial burden on my family’—and ‘I cannot seem to “shake the blues”’.” Wallace’s guest, Wall Street Journal columnist James Towey, whom Wallace describes as helping to “end use of the book under President Bush, and was shocked to see it has now been reinstated,” tells viewers that the message of the book is simple: “hurry up and die.” (Wallace notes that he learned of the VA’s “death book” from Towey’s August 18 Journal column.) And, Wallace writes, quoting Towey, “he says—when government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude that life is not worth living—‘who needs death panels?’” Wallace briefly notes that he also interviewed VA’s Assistant Secretary, Tammy Duckworth, who noted that the book is “just one of many reference tools the VA makes available—and that it is currently being revised.” (Veterans Administration 1997 ; Towey 8/18/2009; Wallace 8/23/2009)
Debunking the Claim - The story of the “death book” is quickly debunked. Richard Allen Smith of the veterans’ organization VetVoice notes that the VA booklet is actually aimed at helping veterans choose not to commit suicide, and provides them with methods and resources to battle depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other conditions which lead veterans to consider prematurely ending their lives. (Richard Allen Smith 8/23/2009) Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that the claim that the Bush administration “rescinded” the booklet in 2007 is false. While it was reviewed in 2007, the Bush administration actively promoted the use of the booklet throughout its tenure; an online document on the VA’s Web site labeled “Reviewed/Updated Date: December 29, 2008,” states, “To learn about a living will, read ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’” Wallace’s claim that the VA mandates all veterans receive the booklet is also false; it is considered an optional reference, not mandatory. (Media Matters 8/24/2009)
Hidden Agenda? - Smith notes that Towey may have another reason for opposing the VA booklet. In 1996, Towey founded an organization called “Aging with Dignity.” In 1997, the organization released a 12-page pamphlet, “Five Wishes,” that it says does the same job as the VA’s booklet. It gives the ailing veteran a list of five questions that, it claims, when answered will guide your life decisions. For years, Towey has been trying to get the VA to stop distributing its own booklet and instead buy “Five Choices” to use with its veterans. In 2007, Towey did help force the VA to reassess and revise its booklet after complaining that it was biased against the anti-abortion viewpoint. Smith writes bluntly: “Astonishing. Jim Towey is one sick mother f_cker to argue that veterans should be presented with LESS information, not MORE, when it comes to making a living will, all so he can make a profit from peddling his end-of-life pamphlet that is shorter than the books my two-and-a-half-year-old reads.” (Baram 8/22/2009; Richard Allen Smith 8/23/2009)
Claim Spread by Conservative Media - Even before Wallace’s August 23 broadcast, some conservative media outlets, having read Towey’s August 18 Wall Street Journal editorial, began spreading the story of the VA’s “death book.” The National Review printed editorials denouncing the booklet, and Fox News host Sean Hannity called it “the equivalent of a death panel.” Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) used her Facebook blog to accuse the VA of “encourag[ing] veterans to forego care as they make end-of-life decisions.” And radio host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners: “This thing is obsessed with death. It’s obsessed with you deciding—or with some—maybe some influence—that your life isn’t worth living. It’s—there’s nothing positive in this.” (Media Matters 8/24/2009)
The progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters releases the results of an analysis it has performed on Fox News’s claims to be an objective news provider. According to Media Matters, Fox News’s news reporting (as opposed to its commentary) is permeated with conservative slant, spin, and outright falsehoods. The Media Matters analysis, which restricts itself to material broadcast in 2009, is prompted by White House claims that Fox News is not an objective source of news, but a purveyor of Republican- and conservative-sourced propaganda (see October 11, 2009). (Media Matters 10/13/2009)
Anchors Echoed False Health Care Claims - In February, Fox News anchors Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly echoed a false claim made by health care lobbyist Betsy McCaughey that a legislative provision in a Senate spending bill would empower the government to “dictate treatments” doctors can provide for patients (see February 9-10, 2009).
Anchor Echoed Republican Press Release So Closely that Typo Is Repeated - Also in February, Fox News anchor Jon Scott repeated the claims of a Senate Republican Communications Center press release so closely that the on-air graphics repeated a typographical error from the original document (see February 10, 2009). Scott did not acknowledge the source of the research, even after apologizing for the typo.
News Show Passed Off Seven-Month-Old Video Clip as New to Claim White House Hypocrisy - On March 15, Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum used video clips of Vice President Joseph Biden to falsely assert that the administration’s economic message had drastically changed since the election, from negative characterizations to positive assertions. MacCallum did not tell the audience that the clip of Biden was a seven-month-old clip from the presidential campaign, and that the words Biden was speaking were his characterization of Republican candidate John McCain’s perceptions (see March 16-17, 2009).
Anchor Promoted, Praised 'Tea Parties' - Several times in March and April, Hemmer, the host of Fox News’s flagship morning news broadcast America’s Newsroom, hosted segments promoting and praising the upcoming April 15 “tea party” protests (see March 23-24, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, and April 13-15, 2009).
Labeled GOP Op-Ed Claims as 'Facts' - On April 1, Scott repeated claims made by a Republican congressman in an editorial about the GOP’s “alternative budget” almost verbatim, but labelled them “facts” (see April 1, 2009).
Fox Repeated Discredited GOP Claims about Price of 'Cap-and-Trade' Proposal - On April 1 and 2, anchors Eric Shawn and Alisyn Camerota repeated a disproven claim that the Obama administration’s “cap-and-trade” emissions control proposal would cost American households over $3,000 per year. They did not report that the claim had been disproven (see April 1-6, 2009).
Obama Budget '4X Bigger' Than Bush Budgets - On April 3, Hemmer’s America’s Newsroom displayed an on-air “chyron” that falsely claimed President Obama’s 2010 budget proposal was four times larger than the largest budget submitted by former President Bush (see April 3, 2009).
News Anchors Promoted 'Tea Parties' - On April 15, Fox anchors joined opinion commentators in touting the day’s “tea party” protests (see April 15, 2009). The next day, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly admitted that the network gave the protests “PR” coverage (see April 16, 2009).
Correspondent Used GOP Research to Criticize Democratic Spending - On April 23, Hemmer used research by Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) to “expose” several “wasteful” projects funded by the Democrats’ economic stimulus act, without revealing the source of the research to his audience (see April 23, 2009).
Correspondent Claimed Legislation Would Curb Religious Expression - On April 29, Fox News correspondent Molly Henneberg repeated disproven claims that a pending hate crimes bill would interfere with Americans’ right to religious expression (see April 29, 2009).
News Anchor Accused Democrats of Defending Pedophiles - On May 6, Hemmer falsely accused Congressional Democrats of voting to extend “hate crimes” protection to pedophiles (see May 5-6, 2009).
News Anchor Accused Supreme Court Nominee of 'Reverse Racism' - On May 26, Kelly misrepresented a remark by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor to accuse her of “reverse racism” (see May 26, 2009).
Misleading Editing to Bolster Obama 'Apology Tour' Claim - On June 2, Fox anchors Scott and Jane Skinner aired selectively edited clips of a speech by Obama in France to falsely claim that the president had nothing but criticism for the US while in Europe. They then asked if Obama intended to embark on a second “apology tour” (see June 2, 2009). On July 30, The Live Desk guest host Gregg Jarrett told viewers that a recent decision by the Obama Justice Department may have meant that it was permissible for blacks to intimidate whites at the voting booth, but not the other way around (see July 30, 2009).
News Anchor Reported False Allegation of Criminal Activity by Obama Official - On October 1, Hemmer reported that Education Department official Kevin Jennings covered up the crime of statutory rape. The allegation had been disproven five years before (see September 28 - October 1, 2009). (Media Matters 10/13/2009)
According to an analysis by the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, Fox News has become the place for eight former Bush administration officials and other Republican lawmakers, strategists, and future presidential candidates to espouse their views (see October 13, 2009). Media Matters says “[a] revolving door exists between the Republican Party and Fox News Channel… further demonstrating that Fox is effectively a conservative political organization and not a legitimate news outlet.” Media Matters analyzed Fox News broadcasts aired between September 1 and mid-October.
Karl Rove - The former deputy chief of staff of the Bush White House, Karl Rove, the Bush administration’s chief political adviser, is now labeled as a political adviser and commentator for Fox. He appears, on average, twice a week, usually on prime-time programs hosted by Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.
Dana Perino - Formerly the White House press secretary, Dana Perino is now a frequent contributor and analyst for Fox, and writes a column for Fox Forum. Perino appears most often on Hannity’s show, though she has made several appearances on Fox Business Channel.
John Bolton - The former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton is now a regular Fox contributor and analyst.
Mike Huckabee - Mike Huckabee, the ex-governor of Arkansas and dark-horse presidential candidate in 2008 has his own show, Huckabee, on Fox. Frequently, Huckabee directs viewers to “go to balancecutsave.com,” which redirects visitors to a Web page soliciting donations for his political action committee, which financially supports Republican candidates and also pays his daughter’s salary.
Newt Gingrich - Newt Gingrich is the former speaker of the House and a possible presidential candidate in 2012. He has been a regular on Fox since singing a contract with the network in 1999 after resigning from the House in disgrace.
John Kasich - Formerly a Republican House member from Ohio and now a candidate for governor of Ohio, John Kasich used to host a show on Fox, Heartland with John Kasich. He is a regular contributor and commentator on several Fox prime-time broadcasts.
Dick Morris - A Republican who once crossed party lines to advise then-President Clinton, Dick Morris is a frequent guest on Fox, appearing at least 20 times since September 1, usually on shows hosted by Hannity, O’Reilly, or Greta Van Susteren. During the 2008 election cycle, Morris repeatedly urged viewers to donate to an anti-Obama political action committee, without divulging that the PAC had paid a firm connected to him. Morris also uses his Fox appearances to raise funds for a conservative group of which he is chief strategist.
Frank Luntz - Frank Luntz, a GOP strategist and pollster, regularly appears on Fox shows hosted by Hannity, O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck, who asked Luntz to instruct his audience on the signs “the tea party people should be carrying.” (Media Matters 10/26/2009)
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)
Las Vegas Review-Journal publisher Sherman Frederick falsely claims that “the two cases of domestic terrorism since 9/11” have taken place “on Obama’s watch.” In recent months, two former Bush administration officials have denied that 9/11 took place during the Bush presidency (see November 24, 2009 and December 27, 2009). The progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters will write, “Frederick joins [the] list of conservatives denying existence of terrorist attacks under Bush.” Frederick writes: “If this is what it takes to wake up Obama to the evils of this world, then he learned an easy lesson. But tell that to the personnel who lost their lives to terrorism at Fort Hood [referring to the November 9, 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, perpetrated by a Muslim US Army psychiatrist with suspected ties to extremist groups]. Then, as now, the Obama administration fails to swiftly acknowledge the threat. They demur in describing our enemy as radical Muslims. They plan to close the offshore prison for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and transfer the prisoners to the United States. They give the enemy combatants who killed more than 3,000 people on 9/11 the privilege of a civilian federal trial in New York City when a military tribunal is more appropriate. And for three days our president failed to address his people directly on Abdulmutallab’s failed effort to blow up a commercial flight over Detroit on Christmas Day [referring to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to detonate an explosive device carried in his underwear on a Northwest Airlines flight—see December 25, 2009]. All of this on top of President Obama’s noticeable refusal to characterize our struggle as a ‘war’ on ‘terror.’ In the wake of fierce criticism, Obama now talks tough about keeping America safe. But in the two cases of domestic terrorism since 9/11—both on Obama’s watch—red flags flew aplenty.” Frederick either forgets or ignores a string of domestic terrorist attacks on US targets during the Bush presidency, including the 2001 anthrax attacks (see September 17-18, 2001, October 5-November 21, 2001, October 6-9, 2001, and October 15, 2001); the attempt to blow up a transatlantic plane by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, who has ties to al-Qaeda (see December 22, 2001); the 2002 attack on the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport, designated by the Justice Department as an official “act of international terrorism”; the 2002 sniper shootings in the Washington, DC, area, carried out by John Allen Muhammed, who was convicted of terrorism charges; and the 2006 attack on the University of North Carolina campus, where a Muslim student struck nine pedestrians in his SUV because, he said, he wanted to “avenge the deaths or murders of Muslims around the world.” (Media Matters 1/6/2010)
A number of conservative media outlets accuse President Obama of engaging in “demagoguery” in his recent comments that warned the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) could open the door for foreign corporations to contribute money for use in American elections (see January 27-29, 2010). (Parker 1/28/2010) National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru writes, “The most demagogic moment (so far!) came when the president claimed, falsely, that the Supreme Court had given a green light to foreign corporations to run political ads.” (Ponnuru 1/27/2010) Law professor and former Federal Elections Commission member Bradley A. Smith echoes Ponnuru’s accusation, writing that Obama “engaged in demagoguery of the worst kind.… The president’s statement is false.… This is either blithering ignorance of the law or demagoguery of the worst kind.” (Smith 1/27/2010) Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), the vice-presidential candidate on the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008, says on Fox News that Obama’s criticism “may not be true,” and accuses Obama of “embarrassing our Supreme Court.” She says: “This is why people are disenchanted and are becoming more and more disengaged really from what their government is doing, because when we see an issue like this—words spoken that may not be true coming from our president and embarrassing our Supreme Court and not respecting the separation of powers—we have a problem. And that’s illustrated there by that justice mouthing those words, ‘not true.’ Now, one or the other is being disingenuous here—either our president in what he just claimed, or the Supreme Court justice.” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough calls Obama’s warning “just not the truth,” saying that Obama’s statements were “not based in fact [or] the law.… So the president was not served well last night; he went out and said something that just wasn’t the truth. And I’m sure that that was very difficult for the Supreme Court to sit there and have the president tell America and the world these jokers on the front row just opened up American campaigns to foreign entities when that in fact is just not the truth.” (Parker 1/28/2010) Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners, “It’s clear the president didn’t know what he was talking about or he was just out-and-out lying because he knows he’s not going to be fact-checked on matters like that by most in the state-controlled media.” (Gregory 1/28/2010) Prominent conservative blogger “Allahpundit” accuses Obama of “demagoguing the First Amendment” (HotAir (.com) 1/27/2010) , an accusation echoed by conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds, who responds to Allahpundit’s post by writing that Obama’s “demagoguery [will turn] into a negative for him.” (Glenn Reynolds 1/27/2010) The next day, the Wall Street Journal will demand that Obama “get his facts straight” about the issue (see January 29, 2010). The liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Obama’s concerns were echoed by the four dissenting Supreme Court Justices in the Citizens United decision, as noted in the dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. The majority decision, Stevens wrote, “would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans.” Cornell law professor Michael Dorf agreed with Stevens, telling a reporter that “[i]t is a plausible inference from the court’s opinion that [foreign] money can’t be restricted.” Dorf’s position is echoed by campaign finance reform advocate Fred Wertheimer and the leaders of the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, Media Matters notes. (Parker 1/28/2010) And the day after the decision was rendered, Smith, who accused Obama of either “blithering ignorance… or demagoguery,” told a reporter that though the law prohibits foreign nationals from contributing money to groups involved in election politics, “To the extent that there may be some foreign corporations that don’t fall under the category of foreign nationals [and could contribute to election organizations], that might be something Congress can deal with.” (Weigel 1/22/2010)
In an unsigned editorial, the Wall Street Journal lambasts President Obama for his recent comments that warned the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) could open the door for foreign corporations to contribute money for use in American elections (see January 27-29, 2010). “[C]ould a graduate of Harvard Law School at least get his facts right?” the editorial asks. The Journal accuses Obama of reciting a number of falsehoods in his comments on the decision, and accuses him of using the term “foreign” in “a conscious attempt to inflame public and Congressional opinion against the Court. Coming from a president who fancies himself a citizen of the world, and who has gone so far as [to] foreswear American exceptionalism, this leap into talk-show nativism is certainly illuminating. What will they think of that one in the cafes of Berlin?” (Wall Street Journal 1/29/2010) The day before the editorial, the liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters noted that Obama’s concerns were echoed by the four dissenting Supreme Court Justices in the decision, as well as by a number of legal experts (see January 27-28, 2010).
The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters finds a number of dubious or outright false claims in a recent book by Aaron Klein entitled The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists, and Other Anti-American Extremists. Klein is a reporter for the conservative news blog WorldNetDaily, which has taken a lead role in accusing President Obama of not being an American citizen (see December 5, 2008, May 28, 2009, and August 1-4, 2009). Among other disproven claims, Klein writes that “terrorist” William Ayers (see October 4-5, 2008) was the “ghostwriter” of Obama’s 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father; Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga is Obama’s cousin (using the false relationship to try to link Obama with Odinga, whom Klein calls a “traitor” to Kenya); Obama supports “involuntary birth-control measures,” which Klein describes as “compulsory, government-mandated ‘green abortions’ [to] control population growth and prevent ecological disasters”; and Obama sought and received support from the socialist New Party in the early stages of his political career. Klein also attempts to portray the church that Obama attended as a child, the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, as a “staging ground” for his supposed “antiwar activism” and “socialism”; claims a number of ties between Obama and Communist “black activists”; and makes other claims. Klein also attempts to argue that “Obama may not be eligible to serve as president.” After admitting that there is “no convincing evidence that Obama was born in Kenya, nor that his birthplace was any place other than Hawaii, his declared state of birth,” Klein claims that because Obama’s father was not a US citizen, there should have been “Congressional debate about whether Obama is eligible under the United States Constitution to serve as president,” focusing on the legal definition of the constitutional requirement that the president be a “natural born citizen.” Klein ignores most accepted legal opinions on the subject, instead focusing on a 1758 treatise called The Law of Nations and an obscure Supreme Court decision, Minor v. Happersett. Both the treatise and the Court decision have been routinely cited by “birther” lawyers attempting to challenge Obama’s citizenship, Media Matters notes. (Media Matters 5/7/2010) Reviews of the book are mixed. David Horowitz’s far-right publication Front Page Magazine calls the book a “meticulously documented piece of outstanding investigative research” that “blow[s] the lid off the dome of silence surrounding the Obama administration.” Klein and co-author Brenda J. Elliot “reveal surreptitious ties to radical leftists of all stripes,” the review states. (Front Page Magazine 6/16/2010) Terry Krepel, the progressive founder of ConWebWatch, calls Klein’s entire book an exercise in “guilt by association,” using as one of several examples Obama’s attendance at the Honolulu church: Obama was a young boy at the time; the group that Ayers was a part of, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), had splintered two years before Obama began attending church services; and Klein never shows any proof that what he calls “Ayers’s ideology” made it into the Sunday school curriculum. The book is entirely “dishonest,” Krepel concludes. (Krepel 5/9/2010)
Responding to a recent tirade by talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger in which Schlessinger repeatedly used the racial slur “n_igger” in conversation with an African-American woman (see August 10-18, 2010), the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters asks advertisers to stop purchasing advertising on Schlessinger’s show. Media Matters president Eric Burns says in a press release: “Dr. Laura’s offensive outburst provided listeners with a window into her true beliefs about race in America. By deliberately choosing to sponsor her program, Dr. Laura’s advertisers are not only funding her offensive radio show, but are implicitly endorsing its content. Companies must demonstrate that they won’t tolerate bigotry and immediately stop advertising on her show.” Media Matters identifies some of the companies purchasing advertising on Schlessinger’s show as Pfizer, Chase Bank, Netflix, Motel 6, and Home Depot. (Media Matters 8/13/2010) General Motors and other advertisers will drop their advertising on Schlessinger’s show. (Burns 8/18/2010)
Talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who recently promised to leave the airwaves after repeatedly using the racial slur “n_igger” in conversation with an African-American woman (see August 10-18, 2010), claims that she is being persecuted by critics who refuse to accept her apology for her use of such slurs. On her show, she says she has been “sitting shiva” (a reference to Jewish funeral rites) for a month while “the hounds of fury misinterpret [and] misrepresent her apology as well as [her] decision” to leave the airwaves at the end of 2010. She cites black activist Reverend Al Sharpton, radio host Howard Stern, black comic Wanda Sykes, the liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters (see August 13, 2010), the NAACP, the National Urban League, and others for “pelting me with insults[,] calling me a racist,” and celebrating her imminent departure. She denies that she is leaving radio so she can make racial slurs with impunity, as she says her critics have implied she is doing. (Media Matters 9/7/2010)
Talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who recently promised to leave the airwaves after repeatedly using the racial slur “n_igger” in conversation with an African-American woman (see August 10-18, 2010), says that an organization calling for advertisers to boycott her show is perpetuating Nazi tactics to “persecute” her. Schlessinger is referring to progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, which issued a statement calling for the boycott in the days after she made her now-infamous broadcast (see August 13, 2010). She calls Media Matters and other critics “ultra-liberals,” and says “small interest groups” (presumably African-Americans) “supported and aided by political parties” (presumably Democrats) are working to supplant government-sanctioned freedom of speech with “the right not to be offended.” “That’s how it started in Germany,” she says. “That’s how it started in Communist China. That’s how it is right now in Iran.” She adds that “the thought police” are in full hue and cry after her. (Media Matters 9/8/2010) The day before, Schlessinger claimed she was being “persecuted” by liberal and African-American critics (see September 7, 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)
Journalist John Hamilton publishes the results of a series of interviews with Byron Williams, who is charged with multiple counts of attempting to murder police officers from a shootout with Oakland, California, Highway Patrol officers (see July 18, 2010 and After). Williams has said that he targeted a progressive charitable foundation in San Francisco, the Tides Foundation, because of its liberal policies, and has said he intended to “start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU.” Since his arrest, Williams has retained Hamilton to be his “media advocate.”
Williams and Fox's Beck - Williams told Hamilton that his primary political influence and informational source is Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck. Williams had Hamilton watch specific broadcasts of Beck’s shows to glean information about what Williams describes as an intricate conspiracy between President Obama, liberal philanthropist George Soros (see August 8, 2006 and February 2007), Brazilian oil company Petrobras, and BP, the corporation responsible for triggering the Gulf oil disaster. Williams also cites right-wing pundit David Horowitz (see August 5, 2003 and November 30, 2004) and right-wing conspiracist Alex Jones (see July 24, 2009) as other influences. The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Beck spoke 29 times about the Tides Foundation in the 18 months leading up to Williams’s shooting spree, sometimes at length; other pundits rarely mentioned the organization, if at all, during that same time period. Williams defends Beck, saying that the talk show host advocates non-violence and merely “confirm[ed]” his belief in the conspiracy. “Beck would never say anything about a conspiracy, would never advocate violence,” Williams told Hamilton. “He’ll never do anything… of this nature. But he’ll give you every ounce of evidence that you could possibly need.” Beck, he says, is “like a schoolteacher on TV. You need to go back to June—June of this year, 2010—and look at all his programs from June, and you’ll see he’s been breaking open some of the most hideous corruption.” In that month, Beck advised his viewers to stop a Democratic-orchestrated “march towards Communism” by “shoot[ing]” Democrats such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “in the head (see June 9, 2010).
Genesis of a Shootout - Williams moved to his childhood home in Groveland, California, in 2007 after serving a prison sentence for a 2001 bank robbery. Williams has an extensive criminal record, and has been convicted of assault, property destruction, hit-and-run, and drunken driving. He lived with his mother during that time, unable to find steady work, and growing increasingly depressed and fascinated with right-wing radio and television. His neighbor, Tom Funk, told Hamilton of Williams’s profanity-laden tirade on the night of November 4, 2008, after Obama won the presidency. He remembered Williams shouting what he calls racist, drunken threats after the news of Obama’s victory was announced, saying: “He was up there cussing and saying that America is not going right by having a black president. He was using words he shouldn’t be saying after 9/11, because it would have put him in jail. Threatening words towards the president.” In the days before and after the election, Funk said, Williams liked to listen to radio talk show host Michael Savage (see January 10, 2008, March 13, 2008, and November 10, 2008). Hamilton found transcripts of Savage’s radio broadcasts during that time; Savage held forth about the “bloodbath coming to America” should Obama be elected, and predicted that the nation was on “the verge of a Marxist revolution in the United States of America. You have a naked Marxist, America-hating, white-hating [Democratic] party—wing of the party—about to seize power. And you don’t even know it.” Hamilton then interviewed Williams’s mother Janice, who drives an SUV with “Palin 2012” bumperstickers on it. Williams’s mother told Hamilton that in phone calls and a letter to her, her son “basically said: ‘I’m sorry, I never intended to hurt anyone. I got really angry and lost my head.’” She said she did not believe her son would actually have attacked either the ACLU or the Tides Foundation. She also denied that her son shouted racial imprecations after Obama’s election, saying: “I read one account that he used the n-word. I don’t believe that. The neighbors told that to the media, but they just wove that out of whole cloth. I don’t care how loud anyone here gets, there’s no way anyone over there could have heard anything that far away. It’s just someone seeking publicity.” She said her son does not tolerate alcohol well, because he is partly “American Indian… [t]hat’s why he can’t drink.” The day of the shooting, she “found 18 or 20 beer bottles by the sink.” Her son is angry, she told Hamilton, because of “the federal government. And the shadow government that operates behind the scenes, manipulating things.” She said she agreed with many of her son’s concerns about government intrusion: “I believe in limited government. The government should be there solely for the purpose of protecting our borders. All the other stuff is add-ons. This whole Obamacare thing has everything to do with consolidating government. There’s no concern about the little people. Having said that, my hope was to retake the country peacefully, through the ballot box.” She denied that her son was influenced by Beck, Savage, or any other right-wing commentator, saying: “All the reporters who came out here last month were blaming what he did on Rush [Limbaugh], Glenn Beck, and the tea party. Why would you blame the messenger? If Glenn Beck tells us something, and everyone gets upset about it, why blame him?” She called the Tides Foundation “a money laundering scheme for the radical left that didn’t want their names attributed to what they were doing,” a charge first leveled by Beck. She did confirm that her son was a Beck fan: “Yes, he liked Glenn Beck, but he didn’t feel he went far enough. He’d take it only so far, but stopped short.” She added that almost everyone she had heard from after the shooting supported her son’s position: “I had only one hate call out of all the thousands of people who heard about this case. Most people have expressed support—not for the act, but for the frustration behind it.”
Jailhouse Meetings - Hamilton talked to Williams in the visiting area of the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California, twice over a period of two weeks. Williams told Hamilton that he worried about being portrayed as an “extremist,” and said he should probably not discuss “that incident”—the shooting—because of his pending criminal trial. Williams was loquacious about his political views; he said, “My big thing was the oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon,” referring to the immense BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “I’ve uncovered enough evidence to—I think in a court of law it could bring [BP CEO] Tony Hayward, Barack Obama, George Soros, and members of Halliburton indicted for treason.” Williams believes that the oil spill was deliberate, plotted by Soros. “It was a sabotage,” Williams explained. “Hayward and [Wall Street financial firm] Goldman Sachs sold their stock, which was depreciating, two weeks before the spill. Soros invested $1 billion of his own money into Petrobras. Soros has the Tides Foundation and the Tides fund. He funnels billions of donated dollars into the fund, which he uses for all kinds of nefarious activities.… Obama sent 2 billion of taxpayer dollars to Petrobras for deep water oil exploration, while holding a moratorium on deepwater exploration in the US. Once you see this pattern—it’s fishy stuff.… Halliburton, whose job was to seal the well—two days before the explosion, they bought an oil spill clean-up company.… When I saw the news was dropping the issue like a hot potato, I became infuriated.” He concluded: “The bottom line is that George Soros is the financier of Obama. And Obama has a clear agenda: First he did the health care reform. After that, it was all about energy. He wants to impose the worst tax ever conceived: a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions. Think of it. Even your breathing could be taxed, because you give off greenhouse gases. That’s why I did what I did. There are not a lot of people fighting back. I don’t see a response.” Williams evoked the Civil War by asking why Gulf Coast residents did not rise up in arms about what he says was a conspiracy to destroy their shoreline for Soros’s profit. “What ever happened to the spirit of the South, of the Confederacy in the Civil War?” Williams summed up the plot as he sees it: “What I see here is a plan to bring the country down.”
Sources of Information - Asked where he gets his information, Williams responded: “Alex Jones. PrisonPlanet.com is his Web site. Also, DiscoverTheNetworks.” Hamilton identifies Williams’s sources: “Jones is a conspiracist and repeat Fox News guest who mingles dire warnings of the ‘New World Order’ (see September 11, 1990) with stories of government complicity in the 9/11 attacks. DiscoverTheNetworks is a Web site claiming to track ‘the individuals and organizations that make up the left.’ It’s run by David Horowitz, a former leftist who has reinvented himself as a right-wing propagandist.” Williams then named Beck as another major source of his information and said Beck is “like a schoolteacher” who uses his chalkboard to great effect. “I collect information on corruption,” Williams said. “I’ve been at it for some time.… Our media accepts the false reports and downplays the conspiracy theories.… A public that is aware of corruption can oppose the corruption. A public kept in the dark simply passes it by.” Fox News, Williams said, is the only television news outlet that is not “censored,” he said. “So perhaps Fox has broken away from the mold.” Aside from its presumably independent status, Williams added: “There’s only one conservative channel. That’s Fox. All the other ones are all liberal channels.” Williams stated that he watched Fox because of Beck, and not vice versa: “I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn’t for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind. I said, well, nobody does this.” Williams told Hamilton to “go back to June—June of this year, 2010—and look at all his programs from June. And you’ll see he’s been breaking open some of the most hideous corruption. A year ago, I was watching him, and it was OK, he was all right, you know?… But now he’s getting it.” Williams said that he believes Beck knows more than he is willing to tell. Referring to the Gulf Oil spill, Williams said: “This is what he won’t do, Beck will not say it was a contracted hit. But he’ll give you every ounce of evidence you can possibly need to make that assumption yourself.… You see what I mean?… That’s why he downplays the 9/11 truthers. He talks bad about them.” Williams then retold some conspiracy theories that he apparently believes that Beck seems to dismiss, including the Alex Jones-propagated idea that the US government was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Of his various conspiratorial beliefs, he advised Hamilton: “Think like a conspiracy theorist. Except don’t use the word ‘theory.’ Because the conspiracies are not theories. The official report is the lie; the conspiracy is the truth.” Beck’s mission, Williams said, is to “expose” progressives and “leftists” who are endangering American democracy.
Ties to Tides - Beck is the source from which Williams first learned about the Tides Foundation, which he believes is at the heart of the Soros/Obama plan to destroy America. Beck himself has said of the Tides: “The chalkboard was brought up… for the Tides Foundation. I think that might have been the first time we used it.” His efforts to “expose” Tides “was the first time that I really realized its success—Tides Foundation and ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). Because you can map it all out. And I know that they make fun of me for it, but that’s—that’s the difference.… Tides was one of the hardest things that we ever tried to explain. And everyone told us that we couldn’t. It is the reason why the blackboard really became what the blackboard is. It is because I was trying to explain Tides and how all of this worked.” Beck has repeatedly, and falsely, labeled the organization as “George Soros’ Tides Foundation,” which he has suggested is part of a liberal plot to “create mass organizations to seize power.” Tides, he said, is a “shady organization” that funnels money to “some of the most extreme groups on the left.” Beck has asserted that Tides is “involved in some of the nastiest of the nasty.” In the 18 months preceding Williams’s shooting spree, Beck attacked Tides 29 times on his Fox show. (Hamilton 10/11/2010)
Talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who recently promised to leave the airwaves after repeatedly using the racial slur “n_igger” in conversation with an African-American woman (see August 10-18, 2010), announces that she will not leave the airwaves. Instead, Schlessinger is moving her syndicated radio show from the broadcast milieu to satellite radio. Schlessinger has signed a “multiyear deal” with Sirius XM Radio, according to a spokesperson. Schlessinger has repeatedly said she would be leaving the airwaves after her tirade, accusing her critics of “persecuting” her and denying her right to freedom of speech (see September 7, 2010 and September 8, 2010). Her broadcast program will end on Friday, December 31, 2010. Her Sirius XM show will begin the following Tuesday, January 3, 2011. Schlessinger explains why she chose to go with Sirius XM instead of leaving the airwaves: “The first and most important thing that appealed to me was the freedom to speak my mind without advertisers and affiliates being attacked by activist groups that just love to censor anything they don’t agree with,” she says. “That just about made my heart and head explode.” She cites pressure from the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters as driving her initial decision to leave radio (see August 13, 2010). She says she is sure her new show will offend some people. Michael Harrison of the trade publication Talkers says, “She will have far less listeners now, but she will be able to superserve her core [audience] with less compromise.” He says Schlessinger may do better on satellite radio since “since she appears to be more thin-skinned than most personalities in talk radio, although professionally she’d be better off with a combination of satellite and terrestrial radio.” Media Matters official Ari Rabin-Havt says her show will remain fundamentally the same. “Her influence and her ability to impact a wide audience has clearly decreased,” he says. (Bauder 11/26/2010; Frisch 11/27/2010)
A person described as a “former Fox News insider” tells author and Media Matters columnist Eric Boehlert that Fox News is indeed “a propaganda outfit” calling itself a news provider. In an interview, the source tells Boehlert that Fox routinely reports false information to “prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats,” and calls the news channel a “purely partisan operation” that actively spins almost every news story to reflect a Republican/conservative slant (see November 3, 2003, April 1, 2009, April 1-6, 2009, and April 23, 2009). “I don’t think people would believe it’s as concocted as it is,” the source says; “that stuff is just made up (see February 14, 2003).… It is their MO to undermine the [Obama] administration and to undermine Democrats (see December 2002, January 2009, February 24, 2009, April 3, 2009, and August 11, 2009). They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news” (see 1995, January 20, 2003, and July 2004). Boehlert says that “[e]veryone knows” Fox News has always reported news with a conservative slant: “Everyone who’s been paying attention has known that since the channel’s inception more than a decade ago” (see October 7, 1996). But over time, Boehlert writes, Fox News has become “an open and active political player, sort of one-part character assassin and one-part propagandist, depending on which party was in power.” The source confirms Boehlert’s observation, saying: “They say one thing and do another. They insist on maintaining this charade, this facade, that they’re balanced or that they’re not right-wing extreme propagandist[s].” The facade is one that, Boehlert writes, “permeates the entire Fox News culture and one that staffers and producers have to learn quickly in order to survive professionally.” The source says: “You have to work there for a while to understand the nods and the winks. And God help you if you don’t because sooner or later you’re going to get burned.” Virtually every hard-news story is presented in a way that either bolsters conservative ideology, criticizes liberal/progressive ideology, or both. “[A]nything—anything—that was a news story you had to understand what the spin should be on it,” the source says. “If it was a big enough story it was explained to you in the morning [editorial] meeting. If it wasn’t explained, it was up to you to know the conservative take on it. There’s a conservative take on every story no matter what it is. So you either get told what it is or you better intuitively know what it is” (see June 8, 2004). The source says with some apparent sarcasm: “My internal compass [on ‘spinning’ a story] was to think like an intolerant meathead. You could never error on the side of not being intolerant enough.”
Spin Training - The source reflects on how Fox News executives trained its employees to “spin” news stories, saying: “When I first got there back in the day, and I don’t know how they indoctrinate people now, but back in the day when they were ‘training’ you, as it were, they would say, ‘Here’s how we’re different.’ They’d say if there is an execution of a condemned man at midnight and there are all the live truck outside the prison and all the lives shots. CNN would go, ‘Yes, tonight John Jackson, 25 of Mississippi, is going to die by lethal injection for the murder of two girls.’ MSNBC would say the same thing. We would come out and say, ‘Tonight, John Jackson who kidnapped an innocent two-year-old, raped her, sawed her head off, and threw it in the school yard, is going to get the punishment that a jury of his peers thought he should get.’ And they say that’s the way we do it here. And you’re going, alright, it’s a bit of an extreme example but it’s something to think about. It’s not unreasonable.”
Changed over Time - Fox News officials always insisted that they were serving as “a bit of a counterpart to the screaming left wing lib media,” the source says. “So automatically you have to buy into the idea that the other media is howling left-wing. Don’t even start arguing that or you won’t even last your first day.” However, things have changed since the source first joined Fox: “For the first few years it was let’s take the conservative take on things. And then after a few years it evolved into, well it’s not just the conservative take on things, we’re going to take the Republican take on things which is not necessarily in lock step with the conservative point of view. And then two, three, five years into that it was, ‘We’re taking the Bush line on things,’ which was different than the GOP. We were a Stalin-esque mouthpiece. It was just what Bush says goes on our channel. And by that point it was just totally dangerous. Hopefully most people understand how dangerous it is for a media outfit to be a straight, unfiltered mouthpiece for an unchecked president.” As time went on, the source says, the news reporting became ever more strident and more partisan.
Siege Mentality - Using the source’s descriptions, Boehlert describes it as an “us-vs.-them mentality… a siege mentality that network boss Roger Ailes encourages, and one that colors the coverage his team produces.” The source confirms Boehlert’s observation, saying: “It was a kick-_ss mentality too. It was relentless and it never went away. If one controversy faded, godd_mn it they would find another one. They were in search of these points of friction real or imagined. And most of them were imagined or fabricated. You always have to seem to be under siege. You always have to seem like your values are under attack. The brain trust just knew instinctively which stories to do, like the War on Christmas” (a seasonal series of stories by Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly and others that regularly claim liberals, progressives, and the like “hate Christmas” and want to see it “destroyed”). It is rare for former Fox employees such as the source to share “insider” information after leaving, in part because of a strict non-disclosure agreement each exiting employee is asked to sign, and in part because of Ailes’s “siege mentality.” The source says that Ailes is bent on presenting a “unified Fox News front to the outside world,” to the point where he refuses to publicly criticize or critique other Fox employees regardless of how unprofessionally or even outlandishly they may behave on the air (see April 1, 2003, February 3-4, 2005, September 28-October 1, 2005, March 6, 2007, June 4-5, 2008, June 26, 2008, February 9-10, 2009, February 10, 2009, February 20, 2009, March 3, 2009, March 16-17, 2009, March 17-24, 2009, March 25, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 5-6, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 28, 2009, July 8, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, September 29, 2009, November 3, 2009, March 24, 2010, and October 3, 2010). The source says: “There may be internal squabbles. But what [Ailes] continually preaches is never piss outside the tent. When he gets really crazy is when stuff leaks out the door. He goes mental on that. He can’t stand that. He says in a dynamic enterprise like a network newsroom there’s going to be in fighting and ego, but he says keep it in the house.”
Evidence Bolsters Source's Claims - Boehlert notes that along with the source’s contentions, a great deal of evidence surfaced in 2010 that showed Fox News to be deliberately propagandistic in its reporting (see March 13, 2009 and After, March 23-24, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, June 2, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 30, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 18, 2009, and November 5-8, 2009). He cites the recently leaked emails from inside Fox News in which a senior editor instructed his newsroom staffers to slant the news when reporting on issues such as climate change and health care reform (see October 27, 2009 and After and December 8, 2009 and After); the over 600 instances of Fox News personalities raising money, endorsing, and actively campaigning for Republican candidates and/or organizations; and the over $1 million donated by Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch to organizations dedicated to electing Republicans (see June 24, 2010 and After and September 30, 2010). Boehlert says that according to Media Matters estimates, Fox News has in essence donated $55 million worth of free airtime to Republican presidential hopefuls who also work for Fox News (see October 26, 2009). The source says Fox News is anything but a legitimate news outlet, and says both the Washington press corps and the general public has been duped by Murdoch’s relentless “fair and balanced” marketing campaign over the years. “People assume you need a license to call yourself a news channel,” the source says. “You don’t. So because they call themselves Fox News, people probably give them a pass on a lot of things.… I don’t think people understand that it’s an organization that’s built and functions by intimidation and bullying, and its goal is to prop up and support Republicans and the GOP and to knock down Democrats. People tend [to] think that stuff that’s on TV is real, especially under the guise of news. You’d think that people would wise up, but they don’t.”
Source Critical of Other News Outlets for Not Criticizing Fox News - The source is harshly critical of other news outlets, including their reporters and pundits, for failing to criticize Fox News for its propaganda. The source explains: “They don’t have enough staff or enough balls or don’t have enough money or don’t have enough interest to spend the time it takes to expose Fox News. Or it’s not worth the trouble. If you take on Fox, they’ll kick you in the _ss. I’m sure most [journalists] know that.” Boehlert notes that journalists who have criticized Fox News have come under heavy fire from Fox News (see November 17-18, 2010). The source says he/she was perplexed in 2009, when Obama administration officials questioned Fox News’s legitimacy as a news source (see September 18-19, 2009 and October 11, 2009), only to have Washington press corps figures rush to Fox’s defense. “That blew me away,” the source says. The White House’s critique of Fox News “happens to be true” (see October 17, 2009). (Boehlert 2/10/2011)
A Panama City Beach citizen uses his or her cell phone to record an incident that breaks out at a local Burger King restaurant. The conflict starts when one resident, who identifies herself as Kimesia Smith of Montgomery, Alabama, (police later learn that her real name is Nekiva Vonte Hardy) becomes angry after having to wait an apparently too-lengthy period of time for her order. Hardy leaps up on the counter and throws a charity coin jug at employees. Three of Hardy’s friends join in, throwing napkins, utensils, and trays throughout the restaurant. All four scream imprecations and abusive comments. Hardy is arrested and taken to jail on charges of simple battery, in part because an employee says Hardy pulled her hair. Explaining her actions, Hardy later says, “I don’t play no games.” Panama City Beach Police Chief Robert Harding notes that Hardy’s actions are not related to spring-break parties, saying, “She’s a 30-year-old unemployed mother of three from Montgomery, so I would surmise that she’s not a spring breaker.” Hardy is later charged with a felony count of criminal mischief and two counts of misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct. The cell phone video of the incident becomes something of a hit on YouTube, garnering tens of thousands of views. State attorney Glenn Hess says: “While many view this video as amusing, we see it as hard evidence of serious crimes being committed. I’m quite certain the employees who were battered and terrorized by [Hardy] do not find this the least bit amusing.” Hardy has a lengthy criminal record. (WJHG-TV 3/23/2011; Cruz 3/24/2011; Mandall 3/28/2011) On March 24, Fox News reporter Todd Starnes posts a somewhat different interpretation of the incident: he links to a local news report and writes a Twitter post that reads, “Blacks riot at Burger King.” Fox Nation, the online blog for Fox News viewers, then posts the video and a brief synopsis of the story, focusing on Hardy’s “bikini-clad” state but omitting references to her race. Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters calls Starnes’s take on the incident “racist.” After Media Matters publishes its article, Starnes deletes the post. Starnes’s profile identifies him as “a contributor on FOX & Friends, Hannity, and FOX Nation.” (Hananoki 3/24/2011; Fox News 3/24/2011)
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