In a Fox & Friends segment on Hillary Clinton and her founding of the left-wing group Media Matters, substitute co-host Greg Kelly brought the fair-and-balanced mantra to bear by questioning guest Byron York of National Review about the Media Research Center, suggesting (to gasps at MRC employee breakfast nooks) that these groups are "arguably...the same thing."
Graham quickly added: "Luckily, York quickly made one important distinction: MRC mostly monitors 'objective' media, while MMFA mostly badgers [and ahem, calls for the firing/censorship of] conservative talk show hosts and other opinion journalists."
Yes, Tim's pretending again. The MRC's alleged focus on " 'objective' media" is contradicted by its numerous attacks on Rosie O'Donnell and Keith Olbermann, which suggest that the MRC does in fact object to liberal opinions being voiced on air. And claiming that Media Matters (my employer) "mostly badgers ... conservative talk show hosts and other opinion journalists ignores that it has also been critical of coverage by purportedly liberal media bastions such as Chris Matthews and the New York Times. (We already know the MRC smears people and takes them out of context.)
And if the MRC doesn't "call for the firing/censorship of" liberals, why is it floating the idea that Chris Matthews should be barred from moderating an upcoming Republican debate for merely making a factual statement?
The only substantive difference between Media Matters and the MRC is that the MRC had a 17-year head start.
Klein Works His Terrorist Gimmick Topic: WorldNetDaily
We've detailed how WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein has cozied up to (a handful of) terrorists in order to get them to say things -- i.e., their purported endorsement of liberal U.S. politicians and policies -- that just happen to coincide with what conseratives want to believe about liberals. With the publication of Klein's book documenting his terrorist buddies saying these things, "Schmoozing with Terrorists," the gimmick has been raised to a new level.
An Oct. 8 WND article claims that, according to the book, "Muslim terrorist leaders in the Middle East have offered their endorsement for America's highest office, stating in a new book they hope Sen. Hillary Clinton is victorious in 2008."
Left unspoken throughout all of these terrorists serving as vessels for conservative talking points is what Klein had to do to get these interviews. We've surmised that Klein has some sort of undisclosed quid pro quo with his terrorist buddies -- Klein gives them in return for telling him what he wants to hear. It may be that the terrorists are indeed playing along with Klein's little game, but they may not know that Klein is using their words to rally conservatives against them.
That makes a Sept. 25 WND article purporting to describe the terrorists complaining about Klein's book particularly disingenuous. Given that it quotes Klein's terrorist sources, the only person who could have written this story and talked to these folks is Klein himself -- which means he's soliciting quotes about himself.
Noel Sheppard's Media Matters Complex Topic: NewsBusters
Noel Sheppard seems to be exhibiting a case of displaced anger.
For the second time in a week, Sheppard has penned an attack on our employer, Media Matters, and our boss, David Brock. We wonder if the actual target of Sheppard's missives is, in fact, little ol' us. After all, we are the Internet's foremost watchdog of NewsBusters and -- more to the point -- have caught Sheppard making numerous false and misleading claims (so many it took twoarticles to document them all).
Our theory: Since he can't rebut us -- having been caught in so many lies and misstatements, he'd rather pretend we didn't exist at all -- he's taking it out on our employer.
Noel, honey, it's OK. We know the truth hurts, but lashing out at others is ultimately self-destructive. How about you, me, and Al Gore hug it out together -- waddaya say?
Kessler Misleads on FISA, Parrots Administration Line Topic: Newsmax
As he did before the 2006 midterm elections, NewsMax's Ronald Kessler is resorting to scare tactics about terrorism. The previous cause was the re-election of Republicans; this time, Kessler is trying to remove as many restrictions as possible on government wiretapping.
Kessler began his Oct. 5 column by claiming, "In their efforts to demonize the American intelligence community, Democrats and the media are playing with our safety" by "minimizing and distorting warnings from Mike McConnell, director of National Intelligence, about how defenseless America would become if warrants were required to intercept terrorists’ calls and e-mails even when those communications are in foreign countries." He attacked a court ruling that had mandated warrants be obtained for such wiretapping because most of the switches that govern worldwide telecommunications are on U.S. soil. Kessler ramped up the scare factor:
Because of the ruling, tens of thousands of calls and e-mails were not being examined. Any one of them could have contained clues to an al-Qaida plot to detonate nuclear devices in Manhattan and Washington. As FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has told me, these are al-Qaida's twin goals.
Obtaining a FISA court order requires an average of 200 man hours of preparation. Often, people who speak Arabic, Farsi, or Urdu have to be pulled off tracking leads to possible plots to help prepare the applications. Moreover, by the time an order is obtained for a new targeted phone number, the call is finished.
Kessler offers no evidence to support this assertion, though it appears to be an assertion made by McConnell himself. Wired's Threat Level blog crunched the numbers:
In 2006, the government filed 2,181 such applications with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. The court approved 2,176. 2006 FISA Warrant Applications.
That means government employees spent 436,200 hours writing out foreign intelligence wiretaps in 2006. That's 53,275 workdays.
Let's assume dedicated government employees work 40 hours a week with two weeks off a year. That means there were 218 government employees with top secret clearances sitting in rooms, writing only FISA warrants.
Kessler also doesn't mention that authorities can obtain a FISA warrant up to 72 hours after the eavesdropping begins, which would seem to negate the issue of not being able to obtain warrants until after "the call is finished."
Kessler continues by reciting McConnell's assertion that in one case, "the delay in obtaining a warrant was nine and a half hours." But then, Kessler complains, "the press pounced" by pointing out that, as the Washington Post reported, the delay was not caused by the need to comply with FISA, as McConnell claimed, but "primarily by legal wrangling between the Justice Department and intelligence officials over whether authorities had probable cause to begin the surveillance." Kessler sought to play that down:
The problem was not “legal wrangling,” the term the Post chose to apply to legal deliberations. The problem was that FISA had not kept up with technological changes and needed to be revised to make it conform to its original intent.
Kessler is merely parroting the line from McConnell's office, as demonstrated by communications between TPMmuckraker and McConnell's spokesman, Ross Feinstein. Shouldn't someone like Kessler, who seems to aspire to be a reporter of some kind, aim for more than merely repeating Bush administration talking points?
Kessler concludes with a bit more scaremongering:
If al-Qaida succeeds at its goals, it could literally wipe out millions of Americans and institute a nuclear winter. Yet between the Democrats’ efforts to handcuff those who are trying to protect us and the mainstream media’s efforts to malign those officials and distort the truth about the issues we face, we as Americans are at the mercy of people bent on committing suicide.
Osama bin Laden, known to follow the media closely, has to be laughing.
Again: Doesn't Kessler aspire to being more than a Bush administration shill? Unfortunately, we know the answer to that is an emphatic no.
It's not often you see conservatives running to the defense of what is, for all intents and purposes, a group of paid mercenaries, but that's what NewsBusters' Jeff Poor does with a pair of posts defending Blackwater USA.
An Oct. 3 post -- a rewriting of an item he did for MRC's Business & Media Institute -- lamented that only ABC's "World News" was the only network evening newscast to note that "no official under Blackwater’s protection has ever been killed" and quoted Republican Rep. Chris Shays thanking Blackwater "for doing a perfect job in protecting the people you’re required to protect." An Oct. 4 post by Poor bashed CBS for not noting Blackwater's "heroic" rescue of the Polish ambassador to Iraq from an insurgent attack.
Of course, nowhere did Poor mention Blackwater's copious family ties to conservative Republicans.
NewsMax Caught Making False Haditha Claim Topic: Newsmax
NewsMax has been one of the leading defenders of the Marines accused in the Haditha massacre, to the point that it has started a legal defense fund for them. But it has undermined that defense by making a false claim about the case.
A Sept. 5 article by Phil Brennan alleged that a video shot from an unmanned aerial vehicle "was heavily edited by government investigators." Brennan claimed that the video "was a small, carefully edited part of what the Scan Eagle transmitted during its daylong surveillance flight over the battle scene on Nov. 19, 2005. And shockingly, the approximately one hour of edited footage was the only Scan Eagle footage provided to the Marines’ defense teams by the prosecution." Brennan further claimed that prosecutors engaged in "deliberate editing of the video to show the defendants in the worst possible light." Brennan attributed these claims to an anonymous "Marine intelligence expert."
In a September 5th story “Haditha Video Doctored by Investigators” by Phil Brennan, NewsMax.Com reported that a video taped from a Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle that purported to show the action that took place in Haditha when 24 Iraqi civilians and insurgents were killed was heavily edited by government investigators and the entire video withheld from the defense.
We further alleged that what we termed “The deliberate editing of the video to show the defendants in the worst possible light,” as a Marine intelligence expert told Newsmax.
These allegations are incorrect and NewsMax regrets having reported them.
In a letter to NewsMax., Marine Lt. Col, Sean Gibson wrote that "all of the footage of Scan Eagle surveillance of the area that day was provided to all defense counsel teams involved.”
We believe the video did indeed show that the Marines had encountered insurgents and had taken appropriate action. We believe the video evidence was important in helping exonerate several of the Marines present from charges they engaged in misconduct during the incident.
We've previously noted that NewsMax is normally reluctant to issue corrections for its errors and has corrected articles without informing readers they have been changed. Hopefully, this is a sign that it will admit responsiblity for its mistakes, as news organizations are supposed to do.
This is especially important since a significant portion of Brennan's reporting on Haditha is anonymously sourced. One has to wonder what other claims Brennan has reported don't hold up to factual scrutiny.
MRC Attacks Matthews' 'Left-Wing Skew' (Update) Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center has decided that -- despite much evidence to the contrary -- Chris Matthews has a "left-wing skew" and perhaps should not be the moderator of an upcoming Republican debate.
In an Oct. 5 post, Ken Shepherd claimed that, as a recent example of purported "left-wing skew," Matthews "seethed" that "The Bush administration has "finally been caught in their criminality." But how is that bias, given that members of theadministration have, in fact, been caught in criminality? That's just a statement of fact.
Shepherd also instructed his readers to check the NewsBusters archives for "a compendium of Matthews bias." But as we've detailed, those archives contain numerous posts by Mark Finkelstein taking Matthews out of context and making him look more biased than the facts support.
The MRC's Rich Noyes then appeared on Fox News' "The Big Story with John Gibson" to further push the meme that Matthews' statement of fact is somehow biased. Gibson got the quote wrong, falsely asserting that Matthews "just called our President a criminal." Noyes made no effort to correct Gibson. (These are the folks, mind you, who have bashed Media Matters for taking Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh out of context. Apparently, accused liberals don't deverve the privilege of being accurately quoted.)
Adhering to the template, Noyes appeared solo, and the MRC was not described as conservative. Noyes claimed without evidence that NBC is "going to just drop any pretense that they're a fair and balanced network. They're going to cater to a left-wing crowd."
UPDATE: An Oct. 6 NewsBusters post by Brent Baker serves up more purportedly damning evidence of Matthews' bias: Liberals attended his party! The horror!
Flashback: WND, NewsMax Took Senator Out of Context Topic: WorldNetDaily
The Media Research Center isn't the only ConWeb component to have falsely smeared those they don't agree with.
As we documented, back in 2002, as attempted revenge for the controversy over Trent Lott's remarks about Strom Thurmond, WorldNetDaily seized on remarks made by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray about Osama bin Laden. Murray said that that bin Laden has been "out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that. ... We've got to ask, why is this man so popular around the world? ...Why are people so supportive of him in many countries that are riddled with poverty?"
But WND, in conjunction with NewsMax twisted Murray's words and claimed that she was"prais[ing]" bin Laden. NewsMax declared Lott's comments "far less offensive" than Murray's. WND's Joseph Farah chortled: "Now there are several ways to attack (Murray's) statement – so many, in fact, it's difficult to know where to begin." Using WND's "news" pages to smear her and take her out of context, of course, is just one of them.
Like the MRC, WND and NewsMax have run to the defense of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh over their recent controversial statements -- indeed, the ConWeb has galloped to Limbaugh's defense everytime he has gotten into trouble. And like the MRC, they're hypocrites in doing so.
Who's Behind Abortion-Breast Cancer Study? (Update) Topic: WorldNetDaily
An Oct. 4 WorldNetDaily article reported that "A new study shows that abortions can be classified as carcinogens, because the number of breast cancer cases can be predicted reasonably accurately based on the number of abortions in a given population." But the group behind the study has a murky background, and the study was published in a conservative journal.
The study was conducted by Patrick S. Carroll, which WND described as being with "London-based research institute PAPRI." What is that? PAPRI stands for Pension and Population Research Institute, which is so low-profile it doesn't even have a website. What does it do? We're not really sure. A Nexis search uncovered little information about the group; a December 2001 article in the journal GP describes the PAPRI as "a charitable trust with educational aims" and Carroll as an "actuarial researcher." Indeed, Carroll seems to be PAPRI's only employee: He's the only one quoted as representing it, mostly in either press releases by anti-abortion groups touting his abortion-breast cancer research or letters to the editor to British newspapers regarding population issues In a February 2006 letter to the UK Observer, Carroll blamed government policies for the low British birth rate -- "The National Health has offered hormonal contraceptives free of charge since 1973. The slump in the birth rate has followed closely this government measure. Eighty per cent of British abortions are paid for by the NHS" -- adding, "When men have the higher salary, there is less of a financial hurdle to clear to parenthood. Pressure for more women in top jobs will further depress the birth rate." A 1993 article in the Independent of London cites an Alan Smallbone as "chairman of the trustees of the Pension and Population Research Institute."
Carroll published a previous study trying to establish an abortion-breast cancer link in 2001. A CNSNews.com article stated that it was "commissioned by a British pro-life group." the British group Life. That appears to be this group; it argues against abortion even in cases of rape and fetal deformity. That's a red flag; a "pro-life group" would only be interested in funding research that attacks abortion, which makes the results suspect. Indeed, in his new study, Carroll states: "Particular thanks are due to the charities LIFE and The Medical Education Trust, which funded the research." The Medical Education Trust appears to be another British anti-abortion group; it lists among its publications "Induced Abortion: Hazards to Health and Future Motherhood." WND does not mention that "pro-life" groups funded Carroll's research.
And what better place to get a bought-and-paid-for study published than the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, where Carroll's study appeared? As we've detailed, the JAPS is published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a conservative-leaning group that likes to put its politics ahead of sound research. Most notoriously, the JAPS published a 2003 anti-immigrant screed by Madeleine Cosman that falsely claimed "in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy," which she blamed on illegal immigration; in fact, 7,000 is the cumulative number of cases over the past 30 years (as we've detailed).
If Cosman's rant made it through the JAPS' purported peer review, one has to look at Carroll's work with similar skepticism.
UPDATE: An Oct. 5 CNSNews.com article by Randy Hall reports on Carroll's study, but like WND, he doesn't note that it was funded by two anti-abortion groups. And like WND, Hall quotes Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer -- which is touting the study -- making unsupportable, overblown claims. Hall writes that according to Malec, the study "re-confirms what many scientists acknowledge in private but won't mention in public ... because they fear the potential medical liability involved." WND, meanwhile, quotes Malec saying that "abortions are highly, highly, carcinogenic" and that "It's time for scientists to admit publicly what they already acknowledge privately among themselves – that abortion raises breast cancer risk – and to stop conducting flawed research to protect the medical establishment from massive … lawsuits."
From an Oct. 4 WorldNetDaily article regarding Rush Limbaugh's controversial "phony soldiers" remark:
None of the calls for repudiation or apology, however, contain a transcript of Limbaugh's remarks. That's because other than the two words "phony soldiers," it wouldn't be possible to make the case that Limbaugh was maligning anti-war soldiers generally. He was, in the context of Wednesday's commentaries, specifically addressing the case of Jesse MacBeth, an anti-war activist who claimed to have witnessed atrocities as a Purple Heart recipient in the Army Rangers.
But WND doesn't serve up a transcript either. Perhaps that's because, far from not making "the case that Limbaugh was maligning anti-war soldiers generally," a transcript would show that nearly two minutes elapsed between Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment -- made in response to a caller talking about those opposing the Iraq war who "like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media" -- and his first mention of MacBeth.
If a transcript would have made it impossible to claim that Limbaugh "was maligning anti-war soldiers generally," why didn't WND supply or link to one with its article?
Dick Cheney may be the most powerful vice president in American history. He also is one of the most secretive, and he has dedicated much of his career to concentrating power in the hands of the president.
This triple combination explains why last week's closed meeting of conservative activists in Salt Lake City gave people the creeps. And why many journalists in Utah and around the country are amazed or aghast that Deseret Morning News Editor Joe Cannon, until last year a lobbyist and chairman of the Republican Party in Utah, would agree not only to address this shadowy group, but to abide by its gag order not to talk or write publicly about what was said.
When fraternity boys meet for shrouded rituals, nobody cares. But when professional spinners and policy wonks with an obvious political agenda meet in private with the vice president of the United States, people naturally wonder what's going on and what might come of it.
Nor was Cheney the only public official to meet with the Council for National Policy. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Richard Greco, Jr., assistant secretary of the Navy, also spoke to the group.
The public has more than a passing interest in what these folks had to say, which is why it would have served that interest to have the meetings open to the public. News organizations also have a vested interest in maintaining public access to public officials and the people who want to influence and be influenced by them.
As we detailed, WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah also attended this same CNP meeting, and his only report from it was an unbylined, unsourced article -- printed as Farah was, ironically, railing against another group for not allowing a WND reporter in.
Farah needs to explain to his readers how his acquiesence to CNP officials in keeping the proceedings of the Salt Lake meeting secret meshes with his proclaimed opposition to leaving officials "alone to conspire in secret about matters of public interest in this country."
UPDATE: An Oct. 4 WND article by Jerome Corsi attacks Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sibelius for "participating in the secretive Bilderberg annual meeting in Turkey." Corsi does not mention the secretive CNP meeting his boss attended.
Noel Sheppard's Disgraceful Gore Smear Topic: NewsBusters
One person we didn't include on the list of victims of Media Research Center smears, but easily could have, is Al Gore.
We've previously noted how NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard has baselessly accused Gore of being a global warming activist only for the money -- indeed, he admitted in a Sept. 25 post, "NewsBusters readers are aware that one of my contentions concerning global warming alarmism is that those involved are doing it for the money," a claim for which he offers no evidence of (that some, including perhaps Gore, have made money on global warming is not evidence that are "doing it for the money"; otherwise, it could just as easily be asserted that Sheppard, since the MRC pays him to write his attacks on global warming, is similarly only "doing it for the money"). Sheppard keeps up the smear in an Oct. 3 post.
Under the headline, "Al Gore Getting Rich Spreading Global Warming Hysteria With Media’s Help," Sheppard writes:
Americans willing to look at the manmade global warming debate with any degree of impartiality and honesty are well aware that those spreading the hysteria have made a lot of money doing so, and stand to gain much more if governments mandate carbon dioxide emissions reductions.
In fact, just two months ago, ABC News.com estimated soon-to-be-Nobel Laureate Al Gore's net worth at $100 million, which isn't bad considering that he was supposedly worth about $1 million when he watched George W. Bush get sworn in as president in January 2001.
Talk about your get-rich-quick schemes, how'd you like to increase your net worth 10,000 percent in less than seven years?
But the ABC report to which Sheppard refers did not cite Gore's global warming activism as the source of his fortune -- in fact, the report didn't mention global warming at all:
After his failed presidential run, a bearded and embattled Gore signed on as an adviser with a then-obscure Internet company called Google.
He went on to join the board of Apple, then he started his own profitable cable company and an asset management firm.
Now, according to a new article in Fast Company magazine, the former U.S. vice president is worth at least $100 million.
"I think he feels that he's doing things that are innovative and transformational and in sectors, which he thinks are in badly need of change, and I think he's enjoying being right," said Ellen McGirt, a Fast Company writer.
Sheppard has often attacked those who write things he doesn't agree as "disgraceful." That's a fitting description of Sheppard's false smear of Gore.
MRC Misleads on SCHIP Funding Topic: Media Research Center
An Oct. 3 NewsBusters post by Ken Shepherd attacked an Associated Press reporter for "her biased coverage of President Bush's veto of the Democratic proposal to boost SCHIP by a whopping $35 billion over five years." Shepherd countered:
And what about the fact that President Bush would be fine with a $5 billion increase over five years -- simple math tells us that's a healthy $1 billion-a-year on average. Indeed, given current spending levels, a $5 billion increase would amount to a 20 percent hike in spending, hardly a draconian cut in taxpayer spending.
In fact, as Media Matters reported, a Congressional Budget Office study found that "maintaining the states' current programs under SCHIP would require funding of $39 billion for the 2007-2012 period." SCHIP's current budget is $25 billion over those five years; Bush's additional $5 billion would bring that total up to $30 billion -- $9 billion short of what is needed to maintain the program at current levels.
Similarly, an Oct. 3 Business & Media Institute report by Amy Menefee claimed that "Bush wanted to expand SCHIP by about $5 billion over the next five years (a 20-percent funding increase) as opposed to the bill passed by the Senate and House, which would have added $35 billion over the same period (a 140-percent increase)" without noting the CBO figures showing that Bush's funding "increase" would underfund the program as it's currently set up.