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.
CNS on Limbaugh: Still Wide of the Mark Topic: CNSNews.com
CNSNews.com just can't seem to get the facts right on Rush Limbaugh, though it's nudging slightly closer to the truth.
Following up on an article the day before that mischaracterized the controversy over Limbaugh's recent remarks, an Oct. 3 article by Nathan Burchfiel and Monisha Bansal again said that "Limbaugh used the term 'phony soldiers' in setting up a story about Jesse Macbeth, a former soldier who was recently sentenced to five months in prison for obtaining veterans' benefits by falsifying his military records" [emphasis ours]. That is a slight change from yesterday, which unequivocally stated that Limbaugh used "phony soldiers" "to describe Jesse Macbeth."
The Oct. 3 article added that "Limbaugh clarified on his radio show that he was referring specifically to Macbeth and others like him" -- again, a slight change fom the day before, which claimed that Limbaugh "explained" what he was referring to.
This at least adds the element of doubt about Limbaugh's comments, but CNS again fails to note 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. In fact, Limbaugh never explicitly linked his "phony soldiers" comment to MacBeth at the time he said it, doing so only after the fact.
New Article: The MRC's Smear Factory Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center defended Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh by attacking its liberal counterpart, Media Matters, as a "left-wing smear machine." But the MRC has its own long history of smears. Read more.
An Oct. 2 WorldNetDaily article by Art Moore described a "scandal-plagued Hollywood fundraiser," but Moore is not likely using that term to describe the story's subject, Peter Paul. That's because, as we've detailed, Moore is the hagiographer for multiple convicted felon Paul, to whom Moore applies his usual fawning description of "business mogul."
Moore's article focused on the transcript of a videotape purportedly depicting Hillary Clinton "committing felonies related to" the aforementioned "scandal-plagued Hollywood fundraiser," which Paul threw in 2000 for the benefit of the Clintons, that was "received by hand-delivery" to a "Clinton-appointee" judge that had presided over the 2005 trial of David Rosen, the finance director of Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign, on campaign finance violations. The transcript -- delivered by "Douglas Cogan, a regular contributor to FreeRepublic.com who has followed the case closely and helped produce a documentary"; he's better known to Freepers as Doug from Upland -- demands that the judge "hold a hearing to determine if the Department of Justice was in contempt of court when it failed to release the video it held from 2001 to April 11 of this year."
Pardon our possible ignorance of court procedure, but are third parties permitted to "hand-deliver" case materials directly to a judge? Isn't such direct contact with a judge considered illegal tampering? Is there not an established legal procedure for filing such requests in the court system?
Of course, it goes without saying that Moore once again failed to mention Paul's status as a convicted felon awaiting sentencing for masterminding a $25 million stock-manipulation scheme, or that he fled the country to escape prosecution and fought extradition back to the U.S. for two years.
It doesn't take you a comprehensive Media Research Center study to know that the Huffington Post is a leftist site. Of course, MRC/NewsBusters' Tim Graham did such a study, but it's common knowledge in the media that HuffPo skews leftward.
In fact, Graham's "study" wasn't "comprehensive" at all but, rather, a cherry-picking of a mere 19 blog posts Graham deemed offensive out of the tens of thousands to be found at HuffPo.
The fact that they think cherry-picking is the same thing as doing a "comprehensive" study explains all you need to know about the MRC.
NewsMax Deletes Reason for Horowitz Being Named 'Worst Person' Topic: Newsmax
In an Oct. 1 FrontPageMag commentary, David Horowitz claimed that the reason Keith Olbermann named him "Worst Person in the World" on Sept. 28 was that he "organize[d] a nation-wide campus effort called 'Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,' which will be held on over 100 campuses on October 22-26." Horowitz downplayed the real reason for making Olbermann's list: He had tried to pass off a still from a Dutch film as factual documentation of "a woman being buried up to her neck in preparation for an Islamic stoning in Iran." (Horowitz called it a "misunderstanding.")
In NewsMax's version of Horowitz's commentary, however, the reference to his misrepresentation of the photo was deleted entirely, transforming Horowitz's downplaying of the main reason Olbermann put him on the "Worst Person" list into a false assertion that the only reason Olbermann did so was to attack "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" itself.
Both versions include Olbermann's statement, "Keep plugging away, Mr. Horowitz. Let’s go on spending billions to stoke up religious hatred and send our kids to die on the battlefield." But Horowitz deleted the rest of Olbermann's statement: " ... so we can prevent Dutch actresses from having to do scenes in which their characters are buried alive, in a movie."
Horowitz's column was already a misreprentation of the facts, but NewsMax managed to make it worse.
CNS Joins in Pushing Limbaugh's Spin Topic: CNSNews.com
CNSNews.com hops on the MRC bandwagon of defending Rush Limbaugh. The lead of an Oct. 2 CNS article by Nathan Burchfiel and Fred Lucas states:
Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is under fire from liberal media critics and some Democrats in Congress for using the term "phony soldiers" to describe Jesse Macbeth, who was sentenced to five months in prison for falsifying his military records.
It's presented as if there is no question whatsoever about whom Limbaugh was referring with the term "phony soldiers" -- which there is. While Burchfiel and Lucas note that "Media Matters claims that Limbaugh used the 'phony soldiers' term to describe all soldiers who have spoken out against the war," they never explain the nature of the controversy. Rather, they go on to note: "Limbaugh has explained on his talk-radio show that the "phony soldiers" comment was taken out of context and that he was referring specifically to Macbeth and others like him."
In fact, 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. In fact, Limbaugh never explicitly linked his "phony soldiers" comment to MacBeth at the time he said it, doing so only after the fact, while defending himself against the outcry caused by his statement.
In other words, it's unclear at best who exactly Limbaugh was "phony soldiers" at the time he said it, and any declaration that the only possible interpretation of the remark is that it referred to soldiers who told fake stories -- as Lucas and Burchfiel have done here -- is just after-the-fact spin.
Another Oct. 2 CNS article, by Susan Jones, comes closer to the truth, stating: "Limbaugh has devoted considerable air time to explaining that his 'phony soldiers' comment was not intende[d] to impugn troops who oppose the war, as Democrats say it was. Limbaugh says he was referring to a specific 'phony soldier' who was sentenced to five months in prison for falsifying his military records." By noting what Limbaugh said he "intende[d]" to say, Jones acknowledges there is a question of interpretation, which Burchfiel and Lucas do not.
NewsMax joins the ConWeb crowd running to Rush Limbaugh's defense in an Oct. 1 article.
After noting that "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has urged senators to sign a letter calling on Rush Limbaugh’s syndicator to repudiate Rush for calling troops who speak out against the Iraq war 'phony soldiers,'" the article stated that "Rush counterattacked by pointing out that Reid took that comment drastically out of context," adding:
The fact is, Limbaugh pointed out on the air that the “phony soldiers” he referred to were just that – Americans who falsely claim they have been in the Armed Forces and in some cases say they have been to Iraq.
He was specifically referring to Jesse Macbeth, who appeared in a widely seen YouTube video in which he claimed he had been a corporal serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded a Purple Heart. He also described how he and other U.S. soldiers had killed innocent civilians there.
His comments were translated into Arabic and spread widely across the Internet.
But it was all a lie, Rush said. He had never served in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, he had been discharged from the Army after several weeks of basic training.
“I was talking about one soldier with that phony soldier comment, Jesse Macbeth,” Rush told his listeners.
NewsMax did not note that nearly two minutes elapsed between Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment -- said 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. In fact, Limbaugh never explicitly linked his "phony soldiers" comment to MacBeth at the time, doing so only after the fact, while defending himself against the outcry caused by his statement.
CNS Signs On to Latest Anti-Abortion Tactic Topic: CNSNews.com
It looks like CNSNews.com has signed on to the anti-abortionists' current tactic: playing up isolated cases of problems at abortion clinics to imply that all abortion clinics are unsanitary.
An Oct. 1 article by Kevin Mooney focuses on a New Jersey clinic closed after state health officials found what Mooney described as "numerous, often morbid, violations."
WorldNetDaily has already reported on this clinic in a Sept. 28 article (and has similarly playedup questionable isolated incidents at other abortion clinics). The WND article also pointed out that this is indeed a specific tactic by anti-abortion activists: "[T]he pursuit of legal action against various abortion businesses also is being encouraged by pro-life concerns, because of the potential for damage to the industry."
Indeed, CNS' Mooney takes the regulatory approach; the lead of his article reads, "New Jersey health officials are not inspecting abortion clinics in that state regularly, apparently because they don't have the resources or the manpower." Mooney devotes much less space to state officials responding to the issue than he does to Marie Tasey, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, whom he quoted as saying, "The current elected officials in power all cater to [the abortionists'] agenda" -- a quote that appeared in the original headline for the article (it was quietly changed mid-morning of Oct. 1).
But Mooney, in focusing only on a single abortion clinic, is -- perhaps deliberately -- overlooking the larger issue. He writes:
The number of "ambulatory care" facilities -- which includes abortion clinics -- in New Jersey has grown from 590 to more than 1,000 in the past few years. Yet the health department's staffing has increased from 125 to 150 in the same period.
But Mooney offers no context for the violations he claims regarding the single abortion clinic vs. the total number of "ambulatory care" facilities. How many facilities that don't perform abortions have had problems? How many total abortion clinics are there in New Jersey? Mooney doesn't say. If there are widesprad violations to be found in other non-abortion "ambulatory care" facilities due to a lack of state regulation and enforcement, then singling out only a single abortion clinic is misleading and disingenuous.
The end of the article reads, "Part II of this story will be published in mid-October." Let's hope Mooney takes a more fair, more comprehensive approach to the issue next time.
Farah's Double Standard on Secret Meetings Topic: WorldNetDaily
In recent days, WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah has been railing against a group he described in a Sept. 20 column as "holding conferences on selling out America's infrastructure to foreign private concerns" after it allegedly barred WND from attending. "If these folks think we'll just leave them alone to conspire in secret about matters of public interest in this country, they have another think coming," Farah thundered. Farah followed up in an Oct. 1 column, again attacking this "secret meeting where plots are hatched to sell off pieces of America's infrastructure to foreigners."
But Farah hasn't told his readers what he's been doing for the past few days: taking part in a secret confab of his own.
Via Salon, we learn that Farah spent his weekend at a Salt Lake City meeting of the Council for National Policy, a secretive right-wing group that barred all media except friendly ones -- like WND -- from covering its activities. As the Salt Lake Tribune noted, "the only media in attendance will be executives from religious-oriented operations Good News Communication/The Christian Film & Television Commission, Salem Communications Corp. and the editor-in-chief of worldnetdaily.com, an online publication that routinely attacks gay rights, evolution and Democrats."
We've previously noted that Farah is a member of the CNP.
This explains why the only bit of news from the conference -- that evangelicals are threatening to bolt the Republican Party if Rudy Giuliani is the presidential nominee -- first surfaced at WND. The Sept. 30 article did not have a byline and did not attribute its claims to anyone, nor did it note Farah's attendance at the CNP meeting -- despite the fact we can deduce that Farah was the source for all of this information (cleared with his CNP overlords, of course) and presumably wrote the article.
That Tribune article, by the way, also reported that Joe Cannon, a former state Republican chairman who recently became editor of the Mormon Church-owned Deseret Morning News, was scheduled to give a speech to the CNP. (What liberal media?) From the Tribune:
Cannon says he will try to interview and write about a few of the people attending, some of whom are friends from his lobbying days.
"I'm not pretending to cover the event," he said. "I believe I can do a service to the readers of our paper by talking to some of these people - and a lot of them are newsmakers."
But the policy council's director Steve Baldwin sees Cannon's invitation differently. "He is a speaker and is part of the program," Baldwin said in an e-mail. "We are closed to the media."
The article goes on to quote Kelly McBride of the journalism think tank the Poynter Institute:
"I have problems with journalists ever attending something and saying that it's not as a journalist or not acting as a journalist," says McBride. "Journalists need to be very clear - either stuff is on the record and it is open for being recorded or it's off the record.
"If it is off the record, there has to be a good journalistic reason," she said, such as protecting a whistle blower.
The bar is even higher when the attendees are public officials and former public officials, McBride said. "Whenever you have high-powered people who are paid by taxpayers, there is an even higher threshold to allowing those people control of what you cover."
Indeed, among those public officials in attendance is Vice President Dick Cheney. and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The Tribune also detailed the secrecy surround the gathering:
Members are told not to discuss the group, reveal the topics discussed in the closed-door meetings, or even say whether or not they are members of the organization.
"You're not supposed to be here," said a grinning Foster Friess, who was pleasant but steadfast in his unwillingness to talk about the group.
An attempted interview with Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum, was interrupted when a volunteer stepped in front of Schlafly and advised her she didn't have to talk to reporters and guided the conservative matriarch by the arm to her next event.
It appears that Farah's demand for openness about covering meetings of public importance doesn't apply to the ones he attends, where he reports only what they want him to report. Farah should explain his double standard to his readers.
Cal Thomas' Egomania About His Column Is Nothing New Topic: The ConWeb
Last week, Cal Thomas wrote a column challenging Media Matters' (my employer) new study depicting how the political balance of syndicated op-ed columnists in America's daily newspapers skews conservative. Specifically, he complained that the number of daily newspapers Media Matters counted regularly running Thomas' column doesn't comport with his own numbers:
Media Matters claims just 306 carry mine (it says 328 carry Will's), ignoring the real numbers by imposing the weekly or monthly frequency standard. Media Matters also apparently didn't count overseas newspapers or USA Today, America's largest circulation newspaper, in which I co-author a column twice monthly with my liberal friend, Bob Beckel. Media Matters asked for my client list to prove my claim. Nice try. Liberals would love to have such a list so they can conduct letter-writing campaigns to remove conservatives, in the name of tolerance, of course. While some columnists have been "rumored" to inflate their numbers (imagine that!), mine are accurate and have been since I started writing this column.
As Media Matters' Paul Waldman responded: "Thomas makes a claim, then refuses to provide evidence. We at Media Matters prefer to stick to the facts."
Thomas' egomania about the number of papers in which his column is printed is nothing new. Back in 2002, we detailed how Thomas teamed up with CNSNews.com and then-reporter Marc Morano to depict one newspaper's cancellation of his column as part of a a nefarious "house cleaning of conservatives at the paper" (even though the paper canceled a liberal columnist at the same time). Morano went on to quote anonymous sources as claiming that "all new hires by the paper have been 'non-conservatives' " and made no apparent effort to permit the newspaper respond to all the claims forwarded against it.
A Sept. 30 NewsBusters post promotes a rant by Mark Levin bashing Media Matters (my employer). Levin "tears in and questions their status as a non-partisan group," Stephenson wrote. "It sounds alot like the same arguement on the ACLU being non-partisan and getting tax payer dollars. Completely biased."
Media Matters, which they set up as a nonprofit, nonpartisan -- that's right -- tax-exempt organization. It's not allowed to get involved in politics. Not bipartisan -- none. It's not allowed to simply be an organization that advances an ideological war because you and I are subsidizing it. It's tax-exempt. And yet, they have never criticized a leftist talk show host on Air America, never. They have never criticized Keith Olbermann, never. And they only criticize the media when the media does a story that is unfavorable to the crime family leaders, which would be Hillary Rotten and BJ Bill Clinton. I believe they are in clear violation of the Internal Revenue Code, the 501(c)(3) status that's been conferred on them. I believe every time they file a tax return telling the government that "we're non-political, non-partisan" and that sign that tax return under penalty of perjury, I believe that they're committing perjury. If there was ever a lawsuit against this group, and there was full discovery of emails and phone logs and testimony under oath or in depositions, the whole game would be up and they they'd be exposed for what they are, which is a criminal enterprise in the sense that they are, in my view, violating the tax code.
Well, let's see ... the MRC is a 501(c)(3) group. It has never criticized a conservative radio host. It has never criticized Fox News for any reason other than being not conservative enough.
Swap the ideological labels in Levin's rant, and he's talking about the MRC. In other words, if Media Matters is a "criminal enterprise," so is the MRC.
Is this a line of reasoning you really want to pursue, John?