Newsbusters Trashes “Liberal Media” For Conservative Bias

April 1, 2016

How badly does the Newsbusters gang hate Hillary Clinton? The org is built on peddling the myth of a “liberal media” to rightists eager to believe it — confirmation bias as commerce — and the far-right politics of its writers make democratic socialist Bernie Sanders absolutely anathema to them but when it comes to covering the coverage of the ongoing presidential campaign, it seems hatred of Clinton entirely overrides these considerations.

Week after week, Newsbusters has been featuring stories that roast press outlets for exactly the same sort of misbehavior this author regularly denounces over on “News Reviews”; journalistic malpractice in support of the Clinton campaign.

— When Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard resigned from the shamelessly Clinton-backing DNC to endorse Sanders, Tom Blumer raked the Associated Press over the coals for burying the story.

— When CNN’s Alisyn Camerota “badgered” Gabbard over her endorsement of Sanders — “Why endorse Bernie Sanders now when, frankly, it feels as though the momentum, after South Carolina, has shifted away from him and towards Hillary Clinton?” — Matthew Balan was there to call out Camerota.

— When elements of the press went along with some phony “outrage” ginned up by the Clinton camp over some things Sanders said in a debate, Mark Finkelstein offered an huzzah to Mark Helperin and John Heilemann for condemning this.

— When NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America focused their debate coverage on the color of suit Sanders had worn, Kyle Drennen called foul (consistent with his own politics, Drennen wanted more coverage of the questioning of Clinton on the Benghazi non-issue but one can substitute any substantive issue discussed in that particular debate — the news people are arguing over what color suit Sanders wore).

— Incredibly, when Clinton falsely claimed Sanders “stood with the Minutemen vigilantes in their ridiculous, absurd efforts to quote, ‘hunt down immigrants’,” several press “fact-checkers” partially sided with Clinton; Tim Graham objected.

— After Sanders completely destroyed Clinton in a series of contests last week, Tom Blumer noted the Associated Press and USA Today had failed to mention Sanders’ margin of victory and wrote that the New York Times had downplayed the wins.

— This morning, David Muir interviewed Sanders on Good Morning America and, in the words of Scott Whitlock, “spouted Clinton talking points” and “attempted to turn Clinton screaming at someone [a questioner from Greenpeace] into a positive.”

— On CBS This Morning, John Dickerson described that same Clinton outburst as an example of her “authenticity” and questioned Sanders about Clinton’s assertion that he was “lying” about her. Kyle Drennen objected to this one. Drennen notes that Dana Jacobson asks Sanders if he would back Clinton if he lost the nomination. Contrary to Drennen’s suggestion, the questioning about Clinton’s charge of “lying” isn’t at all inappropriate — rather, failing to ask about that one would have been — but the other behavior he spotlights is certainly inappropriate.

And so on — just a few of the recent examples. Most of Newsbusters’ prominent writers have chimed in with articles of this nature.[1] If they’re aware that the press behavior they’re spotlighting works directly against their own central premise and their employers’ reason for existing — because every one of these is an example of a conservative press working on behalf of the more conservative candidate and against the lefty in the race — their long-ingrained hatred of Clinton overwhelms any pause this realization may inspire.


[1] And to be fair, they also run articles–though far fewer lately–in which their dislike of Sanders’ politics is readily evident.


Networks Ignore IRS Non-Story, Dickens Fumes, Bozell Raves

July 18, 2015

“What’s it going to take,” asked a flustered Geoffrey Dickens on Wednesday, 8 July, “for the networks to start seriously reporting on the IRS scandal again?” The item that had him in an uproar: a “stunning revelation” by Judicial Watch. A “bombshell” that “has yet to be reported on any of the Big Three (ABC, NBC, CBS) networks.” For those familiar with Judicial Watch, a crackpot right-wing nuisance-suit mill, this hardly comes as any surprise. The org’s history is a quite-long list of “bombshells” that turn out to be duds. The newest, yet another, was just the latest in a long line.

Here’s how Judicial Watch reported it:

“Judicial Watch today released new Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents that include an official ‘DOJ Recap’ report detailing an October 2010 meeting between Lois Lerner [of the IRS], DOJ officials and the FBI to plan for the possible criminal prosecution of targeted nonprofit organizations for alleged illegal political activity.

“The newly obtained records also reveal that the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress. Records also detail how the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups  – or nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States – as part of its prosecution effort. According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, ‘This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.'”

The conservative Rage Machine has long pushed the narrative that the IRS wrongly targeted right-wing groups. Dickens, in recounting the story, includes a quote from Judicial Watch head Tom Fitton:

“The FBI and Justice Department worked with Lois Lerner and the IRS to concoct some reason to put President Obama’s opponents in jail before his reelection. And this abuse resulted in the FBI’s illegally obtaining confidential taxpayer information. How can the Justice Department and FBI investigate the very scandal in which they are implicated?”

Dickens also includes a Fox News graphic using part of that quote, and, indeed, that’s the characterization of this information that has gone all ’round the righty blogosphere since Judicial Watch published it.

The problem?

Not only is there nothing in the new documents that supports that characterization, the documents refute it.

In the first place, the documents don’t show anyone trying to “concoct” ways to send Obama’s opponents to jail, not “before his reelection” or at any other time; they don’t, in fact, even mention “President Obama’s opponents.” Rather, the documents show there was a meeting in Oct. 2010 between IRS and Justice officials “to discuss recent attention to the political activity of exempt organizations.” What activity?

“The section’s attorneys expressed concern that certain section 501(c) organizations are actually political committees ‘posing’ as if they are not subject to FEC law, and therefore may be subject to criminal liability.”

In short, the responsible parties were discussing tax cheats and what is to be done about said cheats. Shorter version: they were doing the jobs for which they’re paid. Really scandalous stuff.

On the other hand, the assertion by Judicial Watch that the IRS provided to the Justice Department 21 disks “containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups” is flat-out false–an outrageous lie. The disks contained the 990 forms for those orgs, which is public information. It is true that some non-public information from a handful of groups was also included on the disks but it appears to have been entirely accidental. The Wall Street Journal reported that

“the IRS said it recently identified 33 tax returns on the disks—out of a total of 12,000 returns—that inadvertently included ‘some nonpublic information.’ The agency said the 33 groups represented a wide spectrum of organizations and most don’t appear to have any connection to political activity.”

That Journal report, it’s worth noting, was published over a year ago, which gives a good indication of how impervious to facts these right-wing faux-“scandals” can be. And the fact that these were the 990s on “nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States” — one thing Judicial Watch did get right — conclusively refutes the assertion that this was part of any effort to target “President Obama’s opponents” or right-wing groups in general.

The other big “revelation” was that “the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress.” An email from a Justice official to a lawyer representing the IRS employees reads

“One last issue. If any of your clients have documents they are providing to Congress that you can (or would like to) provide to us before their testimony, we would be pleased to receive them.”

The Justice Department was, at the time, investigating what happened at the IRS and again Judicial Watch is trying to offer a sinister characterization to someone who, without so much as a hint of impropriety, is merely doing his job.

That’s the substance of the latest Judicial Watch “bombshell, the one Geoffrey Dickens would have you believe the press is negligent in failing to cover.

His boss, MRC chief Brent Bozell, was even more outraged. On his best days, Bozell is as hostile to understatement as he is to facts but the hilarious, nail-spitting hate-rant against the press he unleashed the next day has to be read to be believed:

“The networks’ refusal to cover these devastating revelations borders on being complicit in a cover-up of criminal misconduct by a tyrannical administration using Stalinist tactics against its political opponents.”

And so on. Read the whole thing for a look into the black little heart of the unhinged protofascist half-wit at the head of the Media Research Center.


Deterring Democracy 3

June 10, 2015

Series Intro: The excruciatingly narrow spectrum of opinion allowed in major media is a fundamentally conservative bias, but one the writers of the Media Research Center will certainly never acknowledge. Rather than trying to democratize media, they seek to even further constrict that spectrum. To deter democracy. A lot of the articles churned out by the MRC are merely devoted to scandalizing the fact that anyone who holds views with which the MRC disagrees is even allowed to offer such views in any media outlet.

This time around, it’s Newsbusters contributor Tom Johnson. He spotlights an op-ed piece in the Washington Post by Katrina Vanden Huevel, editor and publisher of the Nation, which challenges the “constrained notion of freedom that has dominated our politics since Ronald Reagan” and urges Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to offer “a far more expansive American view of what freedom requires, and what threatens it.”

Johnson doesn’t take issue with anything in the editorial; he merely highlights it, as if the fact that such views were even published is, in itself, a scandal.

An odd footnote: On the Newsbusters homepage, Johnson’s article is promoted with the headline, “Katrina vanden Heuvel: Right’s ‘Freedom’ Brings Oligarchy, Corruption,” yet the actual article’s headline reads, “Katrina vanden Heuvel: Hillary Should Challenge the Right’s ‘Constrained’ Idea of Freedom.”


Previous entries in this series:

Deterring Democracy

Deterring Democracy 2

CNN Offers Fantasy Political Analysis, Connor Williams Approves

June 8, 2015

Appearing on the 8 June edition of CNN’s Wolf, political analysts Gloria Borger and Ron Brownstein held a little colloquy on Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong showing in a Wisconsin straw poll and among the chatter, both floated the notion that Sanders’ success was an indication that the Democratic party had moved to the left. This delighted the MRC’s Connor Williams, who whined that

“The liberal media virtually never recognize the glaringly obvious fact that the Democratic Party has moved far to the left in recent years. Almost without exception, they harp on the idea that the Republicans have shifted to the right, while suggesting that the Democrats are in mainstream.”

Under the headline, “CNN’s Borger States the Obvious: Dems ‘Have Moved So Far to the Left’,” Williams recounts that Borger: “noted that ‘it won’t work to be a centrist’ in the Democratic Party anymore because the party ‘has moved so far to the left.'” He approvingly quotes Borger:

“I think this started before Bernie Sanders officially got into the race. Look, the Democratic Party has shifted since Bill Clinton ran for president.”

Brownstein, wrote Williams, “agreed and noted that the Democrats have ‘unquestionably moved to the left on cultural issues since Bill Clinton’s day.'”

Given his thesis, Williams wisely declined to quote Brownstein’s next sentence, which inform these remarks, but he was kind enough to include a transcript: “And Hillary Clinton has followed that on things like immigration, on gay marriage.” Williams, recall, objects that, as he sees it, the press is forever suggesting “the Democrats are in mainstream.” On the issues Brownstein actually named though, that’s exactly the case. Last month, the CBS News/New York Times poll asked,

“Which comes closest to your view about illegal immigrants who are living in the U.S.? 1. They should be allowed to stay in the U.S and eventually apply for citizenship, 2. They should be allowed to stay in the U.S. legally, but not be allowed to apply for citizenship or 3. They should be required to leave the U.S.”

Overall, 57% of respondents chose the view supported by most Democrats, including both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton: let ’em stay and apply for citizenship. Even 38% of Republicans supported this position. The same poll has asked the same question 9 times since January 2014 and in every case, that option has been the majority view. The same is true with gay marriage; the same poll asked, “Do you think it should be legal or not legal for same-sex couples to marry?” A full 57% of respondents chose the view supported by most Democrats, that it should be legal. This has been a majority position in this same poll going back to Sept. 2012, and support for some form of legal recognition, either “marriage” or “civil unions,” has had overwhelming majority support in this poll going all the way back to 2004 (which support for “marriage” became a majority view, the “civil unions” option was dropped from the polling). Williams asserts Democrats have “moved far to the left in recent years,” but their position on both the issues Brownstein named is the broad mainstream view. And, of course, the premise of this entire line of commentary was the rise in popularity of Bernie Sanders, which is taken as, in and of itself, evidence of a Democratic lurch to the left, but as Josh Harkinson recently noted in Mother Jones, Sanders is, in his views on most of his major issues, also in line with the American mainstream.

All of this also impacts Borger’s asinine assertion that “It won’t work to be a centrist anymore in the Democratic Party because it’s moved so far to the left.” As the good people at Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting have long noted, the mainstream corporate press always defines “the political center” as way, way to the right of the actual political center, and as the Democratic party lurches further and further to the right, it’s always the “analysis” of mainstream pundits that the Democratic party has gone too far left and should, if it wants to be viable, lurch right. While Williams suggests these ideas as some sort of rare innovation in the “liberal” press, they are, in fact, vacuous, fact-free tropes that have been around for decades.


CNN Gives Softball Interview, MRC Objects To Harsh Coverage

June 5, 2015

Last month, Pam Geller and her fascist American Freedom Defense Initiative hosted a contest aimed at producing cartoons of Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Muslims regard any visual depiction of their prophet as a blasphemy and two would-be jihadists turned up with guns intent on shooting up the event. Fortunately, they were stopped by police before they could cause much trouble but in the aftermath, the writers of the Media Research Center authored a series of articles that took the position that the event was “pro-free-speech” rather than anti-Muslim — the fascist org’s own characterization — and, in effect, that anything less than unquestioning love of the AFDI and its event by the press amounted to pro-jihadism and anti-1st-Amendment-ism. For the MRC, it seems, “free speech” means only the right to agree with the AFDI.

Thursday, Connor Williams jumped into it again, approvingly spotlighting the mad ravings of Geller’s sidekick Robert Spencer on CNN’s At This Hour. Off in his usual haze, Spencer had his panties in a twist about the press. “[T]he mainstream press, including CNN, is going along” with Muslims who “are trying to frighten Americans into silence and submission,” Spencer insisted. Though a white male Christian attacking adherents of a religion who make up less than 1% of the U.S. population, Spencer did his best to make himself sound quite heroic:

“We’re never going to surrender and we’re never going to submit. The media is submitting by not showing the cartoons and kowtowing to these violent threats and intimidation. That’s just the wrong thing to do because it’s only going to encourage more violent threats and intimidation.”

If Williams happened to notice this was the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan complaining that the press is only submitting to Jewish domination by refusing to show their org’s anti-Semitic cartoons, he didn’t bother to say. Still, the matter has been allowed to drift well into Bizarro territory when Spencer, who, to no conceivable positive end, sponsors events aimed solely at insulting and angering a group of people who have done him no harm, says those who, in his view, decline to sufficiently spread his poison are more responsible for the reaction his activities draw than the activities themselves. And there’s the Orwellian nature of Spencer’s complaining that the press hasn’t sufficiently helped spread his poison in the midst of an interview in which he’s not only being allowed to spread his poison but is being aided in doing so. The question that prompted Spencer’s initial outburst against the press, for example, was this puffball thrown by co-host Kate Bolduon:

“So, Pamela [Geller] has said some things that have stuck out recently I wanted to ask you about. She has said that ISIS is here, ISIS is in America and this is war. With that in mind, especially in light of this threat, and the threat you guys have been under, from your perspective, how do you wage that war? How do you fight that enemy? What’s your prescription, if you will?”

Can one imagine a Klansman being asked such a question by a CNN host regarding the threat of Jewish domination of the U.S. government? That was nothing more than an open invitation for Spencer to rave (which Spencer, facing no challenge, then took), and it isn’t the last time in the interview the CNN hosts do this.

Williams doesn’t touch any of that. He focuses, instead, in following Spencer’s lead in slamming co-host John Berman, who, in the face of Spencer’s attack’s on the press, helpfully tried to get Spencer back on point:

“Well look, leave the media aside for a second. The media didn’t target Pamela Geller, the media didn’t attack that conference you had in Garland, Texas.”

Despite this being a clear allusion to the two would-be jihadis who did target Geller and the Garland event, Spencer opted to misrepresent “target” and “attack” as press criticism of Geller:

“The media targets Pamela Geller all the time, are you kidding?! She gets hit pieces all the time from CNN and everywhere else.”

Williams endorsed this misrepresentation, characterizing Berman’s effort to refocus Spencer as his having “jumped in to defend the media’s coverage of the Geller story” and, further, accusing Berman of having made an “inaccurate statement” in doing so, despite Berman having failed to offer so much as a word in defense of or even about “the media’s coverage of the Geller story.” After Spencer’s rant about the press attacking Geller, Berman, in another effort to try to get Spencer back on topic, pointed out the obvious with regard to press coverage and extended another open invitation to Spencer’s raving:

BERMAN: The media had Pamela Geller on this morning to talk about this. We are having you on to discuss this. Let’s continue to discuss it rather than pointing fingers. Pamela Geller, one of the thing she did say is you have a couple more initiatives in the works.

SPENCER: That’s right.

BERMAN: I wondering if you will tell us here what you are planning going forward.

At the end of his piece, Williams goes off even further into La La Land:

“Spencer was correct in saying that the media have gone after Pam Geller for her statements on Islam. It’s unfortunate that CNN seems more committed to attacking Geller and Spencer than addressing the real issue, Islamic extremism.”

Even setting aside the standard — and tired — implication that the press is in the wrong if it doesn’t love Geller, this, offered as the conclusion of an article about a CNN interview in which Spencer was treated entirely seriously and not only given nearly unchallenged license to rant and rave but was repeatedly invited to do so, is pure Orwellian spectacle.

Williams includes a transcript of what he calls “the relevant portion” of the interview. It is, in fact, nearly the entire interview — he omits only the closing moments. Not, one suspects, unintentionally. In the complete interview, Spencer is, at the end, asked by Bolduon, “Have you guys reached out to the Muslim community in Boston to work on how to engage, how to gain a better understanding, how to work together to fight extremist views?” Yet another puffball question and it elicited an ugly rant by Spencer indicting the entire Muslim community of Boston in terrorist activities. One of the standard tactics of the AFDI fascists is to tell the general public they’re only opposed to “Islamic extremists,” then turn around and assert that this includes all Muslims. Bolduon had been foolish enough to get caught up in the former claim but Spencer’s last rant finally proved to be too much for Bolduon and Berman, who, in the closing seconds of the interview, challenged Spencer — the only real challenge to anything he said in the entire course of the segment. Including that ugly rant would have shed light on why some in the media “have gone after” Geller and Spencer and on what Spencer meant by what Williams asserted was “the real issue.”


Deterring Democracy 2

May 30, 2015

Series Intro: The excruciatingly narrow spectrum of opinion allowed in major media is a fundamentally conservative bias, but one the writers of the Media Research Center will certainly never acknowledge. Rather than trying to democratize media, they seek to even further constrict that spectrum. To deter democracy. A lot of the articles churned out by the MRC are merely devoted to scandalizing the fact that anyone who holds views with which the MRC disagrees is even allowed to offer such views in any media outlet.

Tim Graham, who is the Executive Editor of Newsbusters, the Director of Media Analysis for the Media Research Center and MRC chief Brent Bozell’s ghostwriter, has just offered up another example of this. He devoted his Saturday article to complaining that when the New York Times’ gang celebrated forthcoming film festivals, “they were especially happy with left-wing films about ‘social justice.'” Actually, it was only one Times writer, Mekado Murphy, the Times senior movies editor — Graham makes it a “they” in an effort to indict the rest.

Graham further falsely claims “they highlighted the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, sponsored by the left-wing lobby of the same name.” In reality, the HRW festival was only one of nine festivals covered by the article; it isn’t listed first, no special attention is given to it and, in fact, fewer words are devoted to it than to any of the others. The article is simply a rundown of upcoming film festivals, and the HRW festival is one of them.

Graham doesn’t have any substantive complaint. His gripe is merely that items that sound to him as if they may have some left point of view are being mentioned as potentially good movies instead of being ignored.


The previous entry in this series: Deterring Democracy.

Lying Eyes 5: Bernie Sanders on Rape An Akin?

May 28, 2015

The MRC gang wants its readers to think it has a real scoop on its hands today. Well, sort of a second-hand scoop. On Tuesday, Mother Jones ran a biographical sketch of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders which included, among other things, a reproduction of a brief piece Sanders had written in 1972 for the Vermont Freeman. This morning at MRCTV, Dan Joseph jumped on that reproduction and tried to turn it into a major scandal; Tim Graham then pimped Joseph’s article on Newsbusters. What’s all the fuss about? In Joseph’s telling:

“In a 1972 essay, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) opined that men fantasized about women being abused.  He also claimed that women fantasized about being gang raped.”

That sounds like a scandal all right!

The problem: It isn’t true.

Joseph and, later, Graham are offering up a laughably false characterization of the article, even as, in Joseph’s case, he reproduces it, thus debunking himself. Yes, folks, it’s yet another case of Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes, a favorite pasttime at the MRC, wherein the org’s writers regularly tell their readers to ignore plain words in plain English in favor of their own politically motivated falsifications of same.

The Sanders piece at the center of this faux-controversy is a bit of social commentary about various toxic elements in gender relations, issues that, in 1972, were being brought to the fore by the feminist movement (to which the piece alludes). It’s offered, stream of consciousness-style, through a tale of an unnamed man and woman, including dialogue between the characters and a tragic ending.

Joseph focuses only on Sanders’ opening lines:

“A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused.

“A woman enjoys intercourse with her man — as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously.”

This theoretical man and woman are what the MRC writers attempt to convert to all men and women, asserting, as Joseph puts it, that Sanders “opined that men fantasized about women being abused” and “claimed that women fantasized about being gang raped.” To bolster this misrepresentation, Joseph goes a step further, saying the article is entitled “Men-And-Women.” Its actual title, visible in Joseph’s own reproduction of it, is “Man – and Woman.” Graham gets the title right but keeps the misrepresentation and adds some of his own, referring to the article as “an essay that Sanders wrote in February 1972 about the ‘typical’ rape fantasies of men and women.” In reality, the word “typical” is only used in connection to the specific fantasy of that particular theoretical man (just as quoted above) and the article isn’t “about” this at all — the article briefly questions from whence such urges may have arisen then moves on. Joseph says his misrepresentation of those opening lines represent “[Sanders’] thoughts on male and female sexuality” and “[Sanders] early views on sexuality,” while Graham calls them “Bernie’s unique sexual theories.”

Joseph’s article is particularly slimy. He writes, “Sanders didn’t specify as to how he had gained such a deep understanding of the male psyche,” adding that “in terms of his understanding of female sexual fantasies, Sanders provided similar insight… It is unclear where Sanders acquired his early expertise on male and female sexual desires.” And:

“Perhaps Sanders gets a pass due to his early work at a psychiatric hospital (No, he wasn’t a patient.)…”

And so on.

In standard Conservative Persecution Mode, Joseph asserts that “what is clear is that had Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum wrote something along these lines–even 40 years ago–the media wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks.” Graham approvingly quotes this, then writes, “The proof of that assumption is the Todd Akin hullaballoo of 2012” (Joseph alludes to Akin as well). Back then, Missouri GOP Senate candidate Akin, when asked if abortions should be denied to even rape victims, stated that, in cases of “legitimate rape,” the female body has ways of preventing impregnation. As could be expected, a firestorm of coverage and condemnation ensued. And, contrary to Graham’s assertion, if Sanders ever says anything that moronic and outrageous, the same will happen to him. That hasn’t happened here and, unfortunately for Joseph and Graham, most people who have no reason to suspect their own eyes do believe what they see, which means this non-story is probably going nowhere.


[1] Graham also asserts that “Mother Jones dropped a little bomb on the Bernie Sanders campaign,” as if MoJo had offered up some bombshell report. In reality, the MoJo piece draws no special attention to the Sanders article; it’s merely reproduced as an example of something Sanders had written when, at that point in his life, he was doing some freelance journalism. Notably, Graham doesn’t link to the MoJo article.

Previous entries in this series:

Tim Graham: Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes on Steve Schmidt

Jeffrey Meyer: Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes Redux

Lying Eyes 3: Shepherd Tries To Mislead the Sheep

Lying Eyes 4: Whitlock Says Don’t Trust ‘Em On Obama Remarks

In Attack on Climate Change Activist, Larsen Snorts Koch

May 27, 2015

Tuesday, billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer appeared on the PBS Newshour. Steyer, a big political financier, talked about, among other things, the influence of money in politics.

“…the way that money is used in campaigns isn’t good for democracy. It’s just in a situation where we felt there’s an immense amount of money on the other side and as long as this is the system that the Supreme Court has put in place, there’s gotta’ be somebody on our side. And when you look at the relative dollars, it really is a David and Goliath situation, and we’re very definitely the small shepherd boy with five rocks and a sling.”

This analogy was far too much for the MRC’s Alatheia Larsen. “Apparently Tom Steyer knows his Bible better than he knows math,” she snipes. “Or perhaps he just hasn’t had a heart to heart with his accountant in several years.” Larsen, it seems, knows sniping better than she knows journalism. Of Steyer’s shepherd boy comment, she writes,

“The analogy might be cute, but it’s also factually incorrect… Contrary to that image, Steyer was the number one political contributor in the 2014 election cycle. He gave $74 million through his NextGen Climate PAC to push the climate change issue during the election. The Koch brothers, who Steyer attacked in the interview, gave a combined $7.7 million towards the 2014 election – only slightly more than one-tenth of Steyer’s contributions.”

But the data she cites from the Center for Responsive Politics only covers individual federal contributions; the Kochs have an entire network of orgs engaged in this activity. In November, as the 2014 campaigns wrapped, the National Journal reported

“The two groups at the heart of the Koch brothers’ political network spent a combined $100 million on competitive races in 2014, spokesmen for the organizations tell National Journal.”

For those who know the Bible better than math, that’s over 14 times the amount Larsen attributes to the Kochs, and that’s only accounting for two of the many Koch groups. Overall, the Koch network organizers reported in June that their goal was to spend $300 million in 2014. And when all is tallied, they’ll probably have hit that mark (as the Washington Post documented, the network spent over $400 million in the 2012 cycle). Steyer’s $74 million can’t help but look rather puny by comparison.

While any analogy of a billionaire to a “small shepherd boy” may, in itself, be strained, the David/Goliath comparison isn’t, relatively speaking, inappropriate here. The Koch network intends to spend nearly a billion dollars on the 2016 cycle. To put that in context, Tom Steyer’s total net worth is reported to be $1.6 billion. David? Probably not. But against the Goliath of the Kochs — net worth: over $80 billion — it probably feels that way.

As always, while doing the dirty work of Big Oil by peddling an outrageous lie to to attack a climate-change activist, Larsen fails to disclose the fact that her own employer, the Media Research Center, has been partially financed by oil and gas interests, including ExxonMobil, Marlin Oil, T. Boone Pickens and — wait for it — the Koch brothers.


Left-Wing Press Only Treats Left-Wing Candidate As Radical, Doesn’t So Label Him, Frets Williams

May 27, 2015

Connor Williams is upset that “the extremist label has hardly been applied to self-avowed democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders,” who held his first campaign event on Tuesday in Vermont. He contrasts this unfavorably with the press reaction to hard-right Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

“When the mainstream press frequently labeled Cruz radical, dangerous, and slimy, no such words were used to describe the Vermont Senator on the May 26 edition of The Rundown with Jose Diaz Balart.”

If one follows Williams’ link, the one supposed to show where the press “frequently” so labeled Cruz, you come across an edition of Newsbusters’ “Notable Quotables” wherein all of one pundit — that is, someone specifically present to offer opinion — is quoted as having once called Cruz both “dangerous” and “slimy” while another is quoted as having once described Cruz as “radical.” Others quotes refer to Cruz as a rigidly hardline conservative, characterizations Cruz himself would not only probably not contest but would see as free advertising for his campaign (and it’s hardly surprising that the leftist Sanders wouldn’t be called a rigidly hardline conservative).

Williams writes that the guests on the Rundown — Mark Murray and Steve Kornacki — “both gave rather glowing reviews of Sanders.” Those “glowing reviews” include the assertion that Sanders wants to be a “happy warrior” for his issues and that “he’s sort of the antithesis of the packaged political candidate.” Williams gives kudos to Balart, saying the host “did note, fairly, that Sanders’ brand of politics is a ‘non-starter in national elections’,” but he complains that

“Other than Balart’s brief mention of Sanders’ politics being unpopular nationally, not one of the three analysts bothered to point out the Vermont senator’s radicalism. For the left-wing media, extremism can only come from one side of the aisle.”

So let’s break that down, shall we?

No one would argue Sanders is anything other than a candidate of the left. The sort of candidate a “liberal media” would adore and promote to no end. But how does the corporate press actually treat Sanders? On Tuesday morning, long before Williams had written his article, this author had written a piece over at News Reviews that spent a great deal of time dealing with how Sanders is, in fact, ubiquitously dismissed by the corporate press as some sort of fringe crank who can’t win. Author Steve Hendricks, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, had just covered this as well (his article being one of the spurs for my own). Both articles offer copious examples of this press mistreatment of Sanders but, as it turns out, Williams’ own offers up even more. While both Murray and Kornacki at least concede Sanders could give Hillary Clinton a good run for the money — far more than most of the corporate press commentariat will allow — both adopt the common theme of talking down Sanders’ candidacy. Murray’s ultimate conclusion, offered in a comment Williams even quotes:

“Bernie Sanders is probably going into this realizing that he won’t be sitting in the White House come 2017…”

Williams includes a full transcript of the exchange after his article and in it, Kornacki, likewise, says “the bottom line odds of Bernie Sanders becoming president in 2017 are not very good.” And host Balart, in the part Williams particularly liked, said, “You look at Sanders’ brand of politics, it’s essentially a non-starter in national elections.”

Yeah, there’s a real “liberal media” for you.

While Williams approved of Balart’s sentiment, it is, in fact, entirely false. In that News Reviews article, I wrote about a piece Josh Harkinson had written for Mother Jones:

“Calling Sanders ‘an extremely long shot,’ Harkinson asks, ‘Does that mean his views on key political issues are too radical for America’s voters? Not necessarily.’ And then presents a significant cross-section of polling data showing that Sanders’ views on major issues are, for the most part, perfectly in line with the American mainstream. Harkinson doesn’t offer any sort of detailed analysis, making his piece vulnerable to charges of superficiality but it does a fairly good job of making a general case, and it isn’t a surprising one to those who pay attention. On most issues, Sanders is by no means distant from the American political center. His distance is merely from the ‘center’ as defined by the corporate press, which is way to the right of the actual center.”

While one may feel some sympathy for Williams, born to a country that doesn’t hold his own right-wing views, his complaint is essentially that these fellows on the Rundown merely treated mainstream views he dislikes as “radical” and “extremist” and disqualifying for a candidate rather than overtly labeling them as such. And from this, he extrapolates a general assertion about “the left-wing media.” The “left-wing media,” in this case, that dismisses the left-wing pol as an unelectable candidate with unpopular views.


Deterring Democracy

May 25, 2015

A wide diversity of opinion is both emblematic of and critical to a healthy democracy. The often excruciatingly narrow spectrum of views allowed in the mainstream corporate press is a fundamentally conservative bias, but it’s one the writers of the Media Research Center–always making such a show of being so centrally concerned with combating “bias”–will never acknowledge. Indeed, in the face of it, the MRC’s writers seek to restrict the spectrum even further. A lot of the articles they craft for the org’s Newsbusters blog are merely devoted to scandalizing the fact that anyone with whom they disagree is ever allowed to offer their views in a major media outlet.

Today, for example, Tom Johnson throws a spotlight on an article in Salon entitled “The U.S. military is a national security threat.” The article’s basic argument is summed up in its subheading: “America’s armed forces are a massive drain on resources that could otherwise strengthen the country.” Johnson doesn’t challenge any of the significant evidence the article marshals in favor of this premise. He doesn’t offer any counter-argument or point to anyone who has. He certainly can’t object that the contrary view, in favor of ever-increasing military spending, is given inadequate attention in the corporate press. He simply spotlights the article as if the fact that any such view was even published is, in and of itself, scandalous.

This is standard operating procedure at the Media Research Center, where deterring a vibrant media democracy is part of the mission.