MRC vs. Real Journalists on Decreased Iraq War Coverage Topic: Media Research Center
One major trope of the Media Research Center is to portray media coverage of the Iraq war as liberally biased. We've previously noted that the MRC's examinations of Iraq war coverage are overly focused on the broadcast networks (a frequent MRC target) and make a point to exclude Fox News (unless it can spin Fox's coverage as "fair and balanced").
One recent example of a flawed MRC examination is a Feb. 28 "Media Reality Check" by Rich Noyes claiming that "[w]hen U.S. casualties began to steadily decline, TV coverage of Iraq dramatically decreased" on the TV networks. That study excluded cable news coverage, uncritically repeated Bush administration talking points claiming that "the President’s surge strategy is well on its way to succeeding," and never proved that correlation equals causation (a common logical fallacy) in this instance -- that the only reason war coverage declined was because U.S. casualties did. Despite that, Brent Baker referenced the study in a June 3 MRC CyberAlert.
Meanwhile, someone without an obvious partisan axe to grind took a look at the same issue of declining news coverage of the war and, unsurprisingly, came to a dramatically different conclusion. In an article in the latest issue of the American Journalism Review, Sherry Ricchiardi actually went out and talked to newspaper and TV news officials (what a concept) and found:
Why the dramatic drop-off? Gatekeepers offer a variety of reasons, from the enormous danger for journalists on the ground in Iraq (see "Obstructed View," April/May 2007) to plunging newsroom budgets and shrinking news space. Competing megastories on the home front like the presidential primaries and the sagging economy figure into the equation. So does the exorbitant cost of keeping correspondents in Baghdad.
No one questioned the importance of a grueling war gone sour or the looming consequences for the United States and the Middle East. Instead, newsroom managers talked about the realities of life in a rapidly changing media market, including smaller newsholes and, for many, a laser-beam focus on local issues and events.
Ricchiardi found that, despite the MRC's suggestion that only Fox News is adequately covering the war, its airtime is getting cut back as well:
John Stack, Fox News Channel's vice president for newsgathering, has no qualms about allotting more airtime to the presidential campaign than to Iraq. "This is a very big story playing out on the screen every night... The time devoted to news is finite," Stack says. "It's a matter of shifting to another story of national interest."
Indeed, Fox News has devoted less airtime on the war in Iraq in recent months than rival cable networks CNN and MSNBC, according to the The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism's State of the News Media 2008 report -- another rpresumed reason the MRC doesn't want to focus too much on cable news.
The Bush administration plays a role as well, according to Ricchiardi:
Americans might care if they could witness more of the human toll. That's the approach the Washington Post's Dana Milbank took in an April 24 piece titled, "What the Family Would Let You See, the Pentagon Obstructs."
When Lt. Col. Billy Hall was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in April, his family gave the media permission to cover the ceremony — he is among the highest-ranking officers to be killed in Iraq. But, according to Milbank, the military did everything it could to keep the journalists away, isolating them some 50 yards away behind a yellow rope.
The "de facto ban on media at Arlington funerals fits neatly" with White House efforts "to sanitize the war in Iraq," and that, in turn, has helped keep the bloodshed out of the public's mind, Milbank wrote in his Washington Sketch feature.
Will the MRC address an examination of Iraq war news coverage based on facts instead of partisan speculation? Don't count on it.
UPDATE: Oops! Forgot to link to the AJR article. It's there now.
Aaron Klein Anti-Obama Agenda Watch Topic: WorldNetDaily
Aaron Klein's 35th anti-Obama article (versus just one attacking John McCain) is a June 3 article claiming that "Barack Obama employed and continues to employ senior staffers who belong to the Nation of Islam, and the presidential candidate has some 'worrying' ties to the controversial group headed by Louis Farrakhan." Klein's only source for this claim is an anonymous "former key Obama insider" -- remember that Klein's boss, Joseph Farah, calls claims made by anonymous sources "usually quotes made up out of whole cloth to help make the story read better."
The former insider said he quit, in part, because of Obama's ties to the Nation of Islam and the senator's positions on Israel.
He previously also talked with columnist Debbie Schlussel, who first wrote about the Nation of Islam employees on Obama's staff.
The fact that the purported "former insider" is running to right-wing sources of dubious credibility like Schlussel and WND to peddle his/her claims (anonymously, of course) suggests that he/she was nothing more than a mole out to dig up dirt on Obama. Such an obvious partisan motive makes his claims suspect, as does his anonymity.
Schlussel, by the way, has a history of making bizarre and hateful claims (including accusing a congressman who was simply trying to respond to her attacks against him of stalking her, as we detailed) and may be an even more virulent Obama-hater than Klein.
The Schlussel post from which Klein cribs his article was written way back in January -- more evidence that Klein is doing some desperate mucking around in the fever swamps of right-wing blogs to scrape up Obama sleaze, as we'venoted.
Klein, meanwhile, has shown himself as eager to embrace anyone dishing dirt on Obama -- even apparently conspiring a political hit job with right-wing radio host John Batchelor through their interview of the Hamas official who "endorsed" Obama.
Consider the source -- WND, Klein, Schlussel, and the cowardly anonymous "insider."
A May 30 WorldNetDaily article touting Craig R. Smith's new gas-price-protest site, OilSolution.org, neglects to tell readers that Smith is a WND columnist and, through his Swiss America Trading Corp., a WND advertiser. The article also describes Smith as "co-author of the book Black Gold Stranglehold" while failing to mention that WND published the book.
This is the latest installment in WND's persistent failure to disclose personal and business interests in the subjects of its news articles.
Farber Ignores McCain Flip-Flop on Iraq Occupation Topic: Newsmax
In a June 3 Newsmax video, Barry Farber rehashes his May 16 Newsmax column in which he claimed that a MoveOn.org ad quoting John McCain John McCain "saying he doesn't care if America is in Iraq for a hundred years or a thousand years or ten thousand years" is "awful" and "dirty politics," adding:
Obviously the perpetrators of that ad do not believe John McCain wants that raging war killing American troops on and on and on. Obviously he's saying he has nothing against a situation like Germany, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, England, Italy, etc. where American troops are peacefully billetted and non-violently engaged.
Farber makes the same point in his video interview with Newsmax's Ashley Martella:
FARBER: Every thinking person -- now, there are too few left in America -- every thinking person knows good and well that what John McCain meant was he has nothing against remaining in Iraq indefinitely as long as there's no fighting and no dying. American troops have been in Germany and Japan since 1945, in Korea since 1950, they're in over 20 other countries around the world. I would have something called political malpractice, and I'd like to get the formulators of that ad in the witness chair and I'd like to say, "Can you show me one moment of your life where you ever opposed in any way American troops in Germany, in Japan, in Italy, even in Kuwait, in Bosnia, in Alb" -- no, there's no fighting, there's no dying, but the clear intent of that ad is to make people think, "Oh, my lord, John McCain doesn't care if this awful war goes on for 10,000 years." That is the dirtiest ad of my lifetime.
But Farber doesn't mention that McCain himself has said that a Korea-like long-term occupation of Iraq by the U.S. is not possible "because of the nature of the society in Iraq and the religious aspects of it."
Former WorldNetDaily writer Paul Sperry has resurfaced at FrontPageMag with a June 3 article claiming that "GOP powerbroker Grover Norquist" is heading a "wicked project to dress Islamists up as patriotic Republicans so they can infiltrate the government."
We haven't heard much from Sperry since he left WND in 2003 or so, beyond his 2005 anti-Islam book "Infiltration" (published under the Nelson Current imprint but likely contracted before WND ended its book partnership with Thomas Nelson, which renamed the WND Books division to Nelson Current while WND took its imprint elsewhere). Indeed, Sperry's personal website has apparently not been updated in a good three years.
Further evidence that Sperry does not have a steady gig these days: His bio at the end of the FrontPageMag piece lists as his first claim to fame "Hoover Institution media fellow." Hoover's media fellows program is a one-week program in which journalists (with an emphasis on right-leaning writers like Sperry) "have the opportunity to exchange information and perspectives with Hoover scholars" and "have access to the full range of research tools that Hoover offers."
Sperry has gone through two of these programs, in 2000 and 2006 -- meaning that he apparently considers those two one-week periods the most important journalistic achievement of his life.
That arguably trumps Sperry's previous presumed highs: suggesting we fight Muslims in Afghanistan by "that we've enlisted Afghani moles to contaminate their water supplies with pig's blood" and pestering then-President Clinton about supposed scandals at a White House picnic that was not an on-the-record press availability.
Sheppard Praises Buchanan's 'Honest' Views on Race Topic: NewsBusters
One rarely sees the words "Pat Buchanan" and "honest discussion about race" in close proximity, but Noel Sheppard does so in a June 3 NewsBusters post, declaring that Buchanan's assertion that, in Sheppard's words, "it's acceptable for blacks to vote for Barack Obama because he's black, but racist for whites to vote for Hillary Clinton because she's white" (which Sheppard insisted was "a consistent media theme") to be "likely a far more honest discussion about race and racism in this nation then what Obama offered to the American people on March 18 when he tried to explain his connection to Rev. Jeremiah Wright."
Does Sheppard also think Buchanan's recent claim that blacks aren't grateful enough to whites for hauling them out of Africa as slaves is an similarly "honest" assessment of "race and racism"?
WND Article Features Folks Offended That Gays Exist Topic: WorldNetDaily
We've previously noted that one thread of WorldNetDaily's anti-gay agenda is objection to anything in a given school curriculum that dares to suggest the mere existence of homosexuals. That tradition continues in a June 2 article by Sterling Meyers in which he claims "Christian leaders are speaking out against a Clovis, N.M., high school yearbook that included photos of and interviews with same-sex couples."
The exact offense, according to Meyers: "The Clovis yearbook features photos and interviews with two lesbian couples on a two-page presentation along with nine heterosexual couples." That's right: Even though the lesbian couples were outnumbered by the straight ones 9-to-2, that wasn't enough for these "Christian leaders" -- in fact, Meyers names only two, "a community member and leader of a Clovis church group" and an "associate pastor at Central Baptist Church in Clovis" -- they apparently no public acknowledgement that gays exist in Clovis.
Meyers goes on to uncritically write that one of these "leaders" "wrote in a letter to the editor that religious beliefs aside, a majority of Americans still feel that homosexuality is offensive, just as a majority might find pornography and child predators, and other 'social anomalies' offensive." No evidence is given as to support the claim that homosexuality is no different than pornography and pedophilia, nor does Meyers allow anyone to respond to this or any other claim made by the "Christian leaders."
BTW, who is Sterling Meyers? He's apparently a summer intern, a graduate of the World Journalism Institute -- which was founded under the aegis of of conservative Marvin Olasky's World magazine, features a heavily right-skewing slate of teachers and speakers, and claims a mission "to recruit, equip, place and encourage Christians in the mainstream newsrooms of America" -- who most recently interned at the Washington Times. Apparently, making sure conservative Christians get the last word is part of the curriculum there.
Last December, WorldNetDaily tried to have it both ways by running a three-part series that was (mostly) complementary of "Purpose-Driven Life" guy Rick Warren while editor Joseph Farah attacked Warren for various reasons (largely centering around not hewing to Farah's version of Christianity).
Now, Farah has decided to ignite another skirmish with Warren. In a May 30 column, Farah declared he has "another issue with Rick Warren's ministry": Warren's PEACE Coalition, an acronym that refers to the group's purposes: "Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation." Farah writes:
"At a wedding the bride is the main character, the center, the start of the show – everyone else is supporting cast, but the glory goes to the bride," Warren was quoted as saying in the press release. "The PEACE Plan is built on the same principle. The Bride of Christ – of which the church is its local expression around the world – deserves the focus, the credit and the glory for faithfully serving their communities year after year."
I wrote to Rick Warren about my concerns. He has yet to respond. So here is my beef.
While it may be true that at other weddings, the bride is the star and gets the glory, it will not be true in the wedding feast of Jesus. HE is the star. HE gets the glory.
Believers need to be very careful about the language we use about God for fear of misleading people – believers and non-believers alike. It is even more important for pastoral leaders to stick to the Bible as the standard because of their position and the audiences they reach.
Warren responded with a June 2 WND column containing a Bible lesson on giving glory to God prefaced by stating, "I believe Jesus Christ deserves all the glory. It is the purpose of life. The stated theme of the PEACE plan is, 'For the global glory of God.'"
The top of Warren's column adds in an editor's note: "Farah's reply will appear tomorrow." So the theological debate will continue -- even though Farah's a newsman, not a theologian.
One question, though: Will Warren ask about, and will Farah defend, the sale in WND's store of a book bashing Warren's "spiritual agenda" and the purported "New Age implications of the Purpose-Driven church"? (The term "New Age" appears seven times in the promo copy for the book.)
Bozell Belatedly Sorta Addresses Hagee's Statements Topic: Media Research Center
The June 2 edition of "Fox & Friends," the following exchange occurred between the MRC's Brent Bozell and radio host Mike Papantonio:
PAPANTONIO: It's impossible to believe that when McCain went begging to Hagee for his endorsement and for cash, that he didn't know that Hagee had insulted millions of Catholics by saying that the Catholic Church was the great world whore. So there's no difference here. If you're going to treat Obama one way, you're going have to treat Obama exactly the same way.
BOZELL: Mike, there's a huge difference. You're talking to a Catholic here. Hagee did make those statements. Hagee subsequently apologized -- apologized unequivocably for those statements. It's -- the apology is something Jeremiah Wright would never understand, and Catholics accepted that apology.
This is, as far as we know, the very first time that Bozell has directly commented on the Hagee's claims. As we detailed, Bozell could not be bothered to even mention Hagee's comments at the time they were first made public, let alone denounce them, even though he had denounced statements by others he deemed anti-Catholic. Indeed, Bozell makes no effort to denounce Hagee here.
Further, Bozell's claim that Hagee "apologized unequivocably for those statements" ignores the fact that the apology came only after more than twomonths of criticism by the Catholic League and others -- criticism that Bozell and the MRC essentially ignored in order to protect McCain.
NewsBusters posted a truncated version of Bozell's appearance, so it's difficult to discern whether Fox News hewed to the template by not identifying Bozell as a conservative. As we've noted, in at least one previous joint appearance, Fox identified Papantonio as a "Barack Obama supporter" but not Bozell as a (de facto, at least) McCain supporter.
Kessler Completes Flip-Flop from McCain-Basher to McCain Fluffer Topic: Newsmax
We've noted Ronald Kessler's journey from McCain-basher to McCain fluffer. He has made that journey complete by flip-flopping on his previous criticism of John McCain's temper.
In January, Kessler wrote of "McCain’s monumental character flaws," chief among them being "his outbursts of temper." Kessler wrote of the following incident:
Defending his bill to give amnesty to illegal aliens, McCain unleashed a tirade on Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who had voiced concerns about the number of judicial appeals illegal immigrants could file under the proposed legislation.
“F*** you!” McCain said to his fellow senator. “I know more about this than anybody else in the room!” McCain shouted.
Kessler added: "Over and over, voters have ignored warning signs of poor character and have overlooked track records, only to regret it once a president enters the White House and becomes corrupted by the power of the office."
Fast-forward to the May issue of Newsmax magazine and its cover story on McCain by Kessler (not available online). No dire warnings about McCain's temper here -- in fact, Kessler now believes his temper is an asset to the presidency.
Indeed, Kessler repeats the above Cornyn anecdote, then adds things he didn't write in January to give it a completely opposite spin:
McCain's swagger didn't irk Cornyn enough for him to withhold support for his candidacy. When Cornyn endorsed McCain's presidential bid in February, he said "He is clearly the man for the job."
McCain has explained his outbursrts by saying, "I have always had this acute sense of right and wrong. All my life I have been offended by hyprocisy."
That scrappy approach resembles the way he boxed while at the Naval Academy.
That's right -- what was once a "signs of poor character" is now a "scrappy approach."
The rest of the article is largely sycophantic, suggesting there are "two John McCains" -- the war hero and the "unpredictable maverick" with the "volatile temper -- and unsurprisingly concluding that "the two sides of John McCain may turn out to be a winning combination."
Congratulations, Mr. Kessler! You've completely contradicted yourself over a span of just a few months, demonstrating once and for all that you have no journalistic principles worth mentioning -- just a desire to be on the side of whoever's the winning Republican -- and therefore cannot be trusted as a journalist.
The big question now, of course, is whether Kessler will fawn over Cindy McCain as creepily as he did over Mitt Romney's wife.
Aaron Klein Anti-Obama Agenda Watch Topic: WorldNetDaily
Aaron Klein's 34th anti-Obama article for WorldNetDaily (versus just one attacking John McCain) is yet anpother take on controversial comments made by a guest pastor at Obama's former church.
By contrast, Klein has never reported on controversial comments made by McCain spiritual advisers John Hagee and Rod Parsley -- even moreevidence that Klein is acting as an anti-Obama, pro-McCain partisan rather than an objective reporter.
WND Gives Away Anti-Islam Book Rights, Still Won't Discuss Shoebat Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily reported on May 26 that it was offering publishers in the Middle East an opportunity to publish its anti-Islam book, "Why We Left Islam," without charging for publication rights. The stated reason is "to propel this fast-growing religion into the sort of self-examination that it desperately needs," with a purported goal "of sparking an honest discussion about Islam, freedom of speech and human rights in the very lands where Muslims predominate."
That's mostly window-dressing, of course. As we've noted, WND has centered its promotion of the book around the fact that it's "the first U.S. book ever to feature an image of Muhammad on the cover," with an apparent hope, if not an actual goal, to spark riots like the ones that greeted publication of cartoons of Muhammad in Europe and elsewhere a couple years back.
The article continues WND's silence on Walid Shoebat, one of the key anti-Islam activists featured in the book. As we've detailed, numerous questions have been raised about the veracity of Shoebat's claims to have once been a Palestinian terrorist. Shoebat has not appeared in any WND publicity for the book -- which suggests there's an awareness on WND's part that Shoebat is a problem -- but neither WND nor book compiler/editors Susan Crimp and Joel Richardson have publicly addressed the issue of Shoebat's veracity. Indeed, Richardson is currently co-authoring a book with Shoebat, making him especially disinclined to bring up the controversy.
UPDATE: Richard Bartholomew has posted a video from Shoebat's website promoting a book by his teenage son, Theodore, that "expresses Theodore’s virulent hatred of Islam and science, and his belief that militarized Christian fundamentalism is the answer to both." Somehow we suspect that this is another thing Richardson won't be discussing anytime soon.
A May 30 NewsBusters post by Brad Wilmouth uncritically repeats Karl Rove's claim that Richard Armitage "was the actual leaker" of Valerie Plame's identity to reporters.
As we've detailed when NewsBusters has previously made this claim, Rove did discuss Plame's identity with reporters prior to Robert Novak reporting it in July 2003. Armitage was Novak's main source, but Rove confirmed it to Novak.
Kincaid Works Commies Into Anti-McClellan Conspiracy Topic: Accuracy in Media
Like that kid in "The Sixth Sense" who sees dead people, Accuracy in Media sees communists. So it's no surprise that Kincaid works up a commie angle as his contribution to the conservative war against Scott McClellan.
In his May 29 AIM column, Kincaid claims that because the publisher of McClellan's book, Peter Osnos, once worked for liberal journalist I.F. Stone, McClellan is obviously "reading from a script prepared by Osnos & Company and the far left." Kincaid adds:
Osnos is the key to understanding the network that is working behind-the-scenes. A former national news editor of the Post, Osnos was an assistant to I.F. Stone in the 1960s. Stone postured as an independent radical writer but was exposed as a Soviet agent in the transcripts of Soviet messages known as the Venona intercepts and by other sources.
Former Soviet KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin had identified Stone as a Soviet agent, but under pressure from Stone’s friends in the media later backed away from that precise description. However, in his book, The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West, Kalugin still identified Stone as a “fellow traveler” of the Soviet Union who “made no secret of his admiration for the Soviet system” over a period of many years and had regular contacts and lunches with him.
But Kincaid fails to acknowledge that the alleged evidence linking Stone to work as a Soviet agent is dubious at best.
Kincaid's claim that the Venona transcripts "exposed" Stone as a Soviet agent apparently comes from his buddy Herbert Romerstein, which whom Kincaid penned an article purporting to link Barack Obama to various commies (which WorldNetDaily's Jerome Corsi ate up without bothering with journalistic niceities like fact-checking). As the New York Times points out:
Charges against Stone, who died in 1989, first surfaced seven years ago, when Oleg Kalugin, a retired K.G.B. general, implicated Stone as having been a Soviet agent. The allegation was received skeptically, and Kalugin subsequently denied it, saying that Stone was merely a friendly "contact" of the K.G.B.'s. But Romerstein -- drawing on the Venona documents -- argues that Stone had a relationship during the Second World War with a K.G.B. agent named Vladimir Pravdin who served as a TASS correspondent in Washington. In 1944, according to Romerstein, Pravdin cabled his superiors in Moscow that Stone, whose code name was "Blin" -- the Russian word for pancake -- would continue to talk to him only if he were paid. Stone and Pravdin continued to meet, which proves to Romerstein's satisfaction that Stone must have been paid.
Stone, who had no access to classified information, can't have been an important agent, if he was indeed a Soviet agent of any kind. But he is a crucial figure to Romerstein precisely because he remains an icon to those Romerstein sees as the legatees of the Popular Front. To show that a hero of left-wing journalists, prized for his incorruptibility and "independence," was in fact a paid Soviet informant is to strike close to the heart of the enemy.
Romerstein is decidedly politially motivated to smear Stone, as well as obviously an obsessive anti-Communist, which arguably taints his claims.
Meanwile, Eric Alterman adds: "Despite continuous FBI surveillance of Stone's daily activities and a dogged desire by J. Edgar Hoover to nail him for something, not a single shred of evidence ever emerged to support any spy allegations against him." Alterman further states:
If ex-post facto anonymous FBI conclusions are correct, Stone, a working journalist, had lunch with the Tass correspondent in 1945, back when the United States was still nominally allied with the Soviet Union, having no way of knowing the man's secret identity as a KGB agent. Later, during the 1960s, he had occasional lunches with the Soviet press attaché, who, also unbeknownst to him, turned out to work for the KGB. Remember, it's a journalist's job to seek information and trade opinions with representatives of foreign governments. Remember, Izzy had no access to classified information whatever. Remember, the FBI hounded him for decades seeking to find something to pin on him and found nothing. They could not even connect him in any way to the Communist Party of either the United States or the Soviet Union, though they tried mightily.
What's more, in order to make it appear as if [Myra] MacPherson [author of a biography of Stone] has “hanged” Stone, [reviewer Paul] Berman ignores the following, which appears in exactly the same paragraph in the book that he finds so damning: "Did he [Kalugin] have actual information that Stone had ever cooperated with Soviet intelligence? 'No.'" Kalugin said Stone “was just useful like dozens of other [journalistic] contacts.” When Paul writes that Stone would "perform tasks" -- that is, "find out what the views of someone in the government were or some senator on such and such an issue" -- he does not note that Kalugin cannot remember a single thing of importance that Stone might have said. Stone, said Kalugin, was merely "on the fringe" and "just useful, like dozens of other [media] contacts I had." In contrast, he averred to MacPherson, "I knew one guy from Time magazine, for instance. That was a big thing." Kalugin also offers up his opinion that Stone "was a true liberal and not a Communist ... He would not hurt or damage the United States."
For Kincaid to continue to insist that Stone was unambiguously a Soviet agent is to repeat a false claim. Perhaps Kincaid needs to adjust his meds so he's not seeing commies where they don't really exist.
WND Joins the Anti-McClellan Conspiracy Topic: WorldNetDaily
A May 29 WorldNetDaily article rehashes claims that "Billionaire George Soros, funder of elite causes and critic of most things conservative, has been linked by a blogger to former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's hate-Bush book" through his alleged involvement with the parent company of the book's publisher. But WND, like the MRC's Brent Baker before it, fails to offer any actual evidence that Soros had any direct involvement with McClellan's book, nor does it mention that the publisher, Perseus Books Group, also runs the Basic Books imprint that has published numerous books by conservative authors.
Speaking of Baker, a May 30 NewsBusters post by him rehashes some of his previous claims about the book's publisher while again failing to mention the conservative books Perseus publishes. Baker also calls McClellan's book an "anti-Bush screed" while not exhibiting any evidence that he has actually read it, let alone proving any claims in it are false.