David Patten's Army of Bias
Newsmax's managing editor slavishly follows the conservative line and sycophantically promotes top right-wing figures.
By Terry Krepel
David A. Patten is managing editor of Newsmax, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the website.
It's not stated anywhere on Newsmax's website -- ConWebWatch discovered it on Patten's LinkedIn page. He appears to have started out as a lower-level editor; the January 2009 issue of Newsmax magazine lists him as a senior editor. In an October 2009 appearance on CNN, host Rick Sanchez called him a senior editor but the transcript identified him as managing editor.
With this kind of obfuscation, you'd think Newsmax is ashamed to have Patten working for it. Then again, Patten's lengthy record of misinformation isn't exactly anything to be proud of -- especially for someone who, according to his LinkedIn profile, holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.
ConWebWatch has previously documented the false and misleading claims Patten has made about the stimulus plan championed by President Obama, as well as his biased reporting on the 2008 Minnesota Senate race. But that's only a small part of Patten's shoddy work.
Patten first gained notice at Newsmax before the 2008 presidential election with his misleading attacks on Barack Obama:
Attacks on health care reform
As noted above, ConWebWatch documented numerous false claims Patten made about the stimulus -- but those weren't the only ones.
In a Feb. 14, 2009, article, Patten asserted that the "actual figure" the health care reform bill would cost "is now closer to $3.27 trillion." Patten added: "That stems from the $744 billion it will take to pay for the additional debt the legislation will create, and $2.527 trillion in increased spending from the new and expanded programs the bill will spawn over the next decade." In fact, as Media Matters detailed, more than half of that $3.2 trillion figure is derived from the cost of permanently extending more than 20 provisions in the recovery bill -- which the bill did not do.
Patten stated that "The plan has more than $3 billion in 'neighborhood stabilization' and Community Development Block Grant funding, much of which may go to benefit ACORN, a low-income housing and voter registration 'community' organization that is under federal investigation for its suspicious voter registration practices." In fact, no money was earmarked for ACORN, and ACORN officials have said not only that they were not seeking the money that that they were also not eligible to receive it.
Patten threw in another lie to his repertoire: that the bill included "$30 million for restoration of wetlands to be spent in the San Francisco Bay Area House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district. The money will go in part to protect the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse." In fact, the bill designated no money for either San Francisco wetlands or for mice.
Patten also falsely attacked the Employee Free Choice Act, asserting in a June 8, 2009, article that it "would eliminate the current requirement that a vote to unionize must come via secret ballot." In fact, what the bill eliminates is the employer's right to insist on holding a secret-ballot election to determine whether workers favored unionization. Employees would still have the right to hold a secret-ballot election.
Patten also stated: "Making the ballot public, opponents contend, would open the door to union intimidation." At no point does he note that intimidation and harassment of workers by employers oppose unionization is rife under current law.
Actually, that IBD "article" is an editorial, and its claim that the bill would outlaw private insurance is false. Why should Obama be familiar with a section of the health care reform bill that doesn't exist? Patten even conceded the point later in the article: "No version of the legislation now under consideration 'outlaws' private insurance coverage." But then he stated: "However, it increases its cost relative to publicly subsidized plans in a way that leads some experts to believe private insurance would no longer be a viable option." The only "experts" he cited to back up his point, however, is the decidedly partisan and anti-reform Heritage Foundation. Then again, Patten's false claim that Obama is unfamiliar with the bill was lifted from Heritage as well.
An Aug. 14, 2009, article by Patten recounted claims by "analysts" that President Obama is unleashing a "litany of misstatements and dubious assertions" regarding health care reform without making clear that those "analysts" are all conservatives who oppose health care reform. Suggesting that partisan conservatives are nonpartisan "experts" and "analysts" is a longtime trope at Newsmax. Patten also obfuscated on at least one claim, writing:
The president promised no policyholder will lose his or her current coverage. But a study commissioned by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank concluded that more than 88 million individuals would have to shift to a new plan, if the current proposals on the table are adopted. Other estimates issued by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Urban Institute estimate the number will be lower, but still in the millions.
The CBO estimate was, in fact, dramatically different from the Heritage-commissioned study (done by the insurer-owned, and thus questionable, Lewin Group): 2 million would switch from private coverage to a public plan. By saying only that the CBO's estimate was "lower ... but still in the millions," Patten hid the huge disparity between 88 and 2.
As the final vote on the reform bill drew closer, Patten shifted into activism overdrive, penning no fewer than four article on March 19 promoting opposition to health care reform.
First, he wrote that the outcome over reform "remains very much in doubt," with a focus on who which members of Congress were or were not voting for it. Then, Patten promoted the tea party movement's anti-reform rally, calling it "one last push to stop the Obamacare freight train."
This was followed by an article in which Patten allowed Rep. Bart Stupak -- at that point still opposing the bill -- to uncritically claim that the Senate bill contains "pro-abortion language" and violates "the longstanding agreement that taxpayer dollars should not defray the cost of abortions." While Patten portrayed Stupak as responding to an Associated Press fact-check pointing out that the Senate bill does not fund abortion, Patten made no apparent attempt to contact anyone to rebut Stupak's claims (which have been repeatedly debunked).
Finally, Patten uncritically repeated Dick Morris' attacks on reform, failing to disclose that Morris was among the Newsmax writer triumverate working for the anti-Obama League of American Voters stop the bill. That, of course, meant Morris' unsupported claims get uncritically repeated as well. For instance, in complaining about "backroom deals" to get the bill passed -- a procedure that, for better or worse, happens with pretty much every piece of major legislation in which the vote is close -- Morris asserted that "There were two congressmen from California who got a multi-, multi-million dollar water project for their district." What Morris appears to be referring to is a report that California's Central Valley, which happens to be represented by two Democratic congressmen who were allegedly wavering on health care reform. In fact, allegations of a quid pro quo are baseless -- the water allocation was increased because more winter precipitation broke a drought and filled area reservoirs.
Vadum checks in again (and again)
The Capital Research Center's Matthew Vadum served as a resource for Patten in peddling false and misleading claims about the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, reliably (and falsely) claiming that Al Franken was stealing the election. Patten went to the Vadum well once again to suggest in an Aug. 13, 2009, article that an advertiser boycott campaign of Glenn Beck's Fox News show spearheaded by the group Color for Change, co-founded by then-Obama administration official Van Jones, was "being orchestrated with some high level help from the Obama White House." Patten quoted Vadum as saying, "I don’t have proof that the White House asked Color of Change to help it fight back against Glenn Beck ... But I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it had. Van Jones has the president’s ear. It’s a few hundred feet from his office at the Council on Environmental Quality to the Oval Office."
Patten was presumably more than pleased to have Vadum provide him with such unsubstantiated speculation with which to smear Obama. That, and the relative proximity of Jones' and Obama's office -- a mere football field length away from each other! -- is all the evidence Patten and Vadum offered of this purported scheme.
Even more Obama-bashing
As evidence of "President Obama's decision to employ bare-knuckled Chicago tactics in his street fight with Fox News," Patten claimed in an Oct. 23, 2009, article:
The Obama administration suffered an embarrassing setback in its ongoing effort to cast Fox News Channel as a media pariah, when five TV networks threatened to boycott a news event because administration officials planned to bar Fox.
But that storyline has been discredited. Talking Points Memo uncovered what actually happened, and there's no evidence that anyone in the administration "directed that Fox News would not be included":
Feinberg did a pen and pad with reporters to brief them on cutting executive compensation. TV correspondents, as they do with everything, asked to get the comments on camera. Treasury officials agreed and made a list of the networks who asked (Fox was not among them).
A Dec. 9, 2009, article by Patten asserted that "the EPA's primary source of information for the finding" that "carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant subject to EPA regulation" is "the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," adding: "An important source of data for the IPCC was the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England, the source of the highly controversial 'climategate' e-mails." But Patten mostly ignores other data that the EPA used to reach its conclusions. As Media Matters detailed, the EPA cited assessments by the U.S. Global Climate Research Program and the National Research Council, as well as the IPCC, in the Technical Support Document accompanying its ruling.
Further, despite Patten's assertion that the stolen "climategate" emails "suggest that climate scientists may have presented data selectively to strengthen the case for global warming," FactCheck.org found that "many of the e-mails that are being held up as 'smoking guns' have been misrepresented by global-warming skeptics eager to find evidence of a conspiracy. And even if they showed what the critics claim, there remains ample evidence that the earth in getting warmer."
Defending, promoting Beck
Patten threw himself into defending Glenn Beck from Arianna Huffington -- and got numerous facts wrong in the process. In a Feb. 1 article, Patten uncritically repeated Fox News president Roger Ailes' response to Huffington's criticism of Beck's inflammatory rhetoric -- specifically referencing Beck's statement that "They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered" -- that "Beck was referring to massacres by Hitler and Stalin." In fact, the context of Beck's statement shows that he is clearly referring to the Obama administration.
Patten also asserted that Ailes "rattled off several examples of aspersions that Huffington had published about Ailes on her blog." In fact, Huffington did not make those statements herself, as Patten suggests; they were made by other bloggers at Huffington Post, and there's no evidence that Huffington played any role in approving them -- highly unlikely given the hundreds of posts that are made every day by HuffPo's numerous unpaid bloggers.
Patten followed up with a Feb. 2 article asserting that Beck and Huffington were "accusing the other of distorting the truth." But Patten added his own share of distortion by uncritically repeating Beck's assertion that Huffington is claiming that Beck was speaking literally when he said "They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered" and that he was merely referring to the economy -- which would seem to contradict Patten's defense of Ailes' portrayal of the remark as referring to "massacres by Hitler and Stalin."
Patten also ignored that Beck has offered ever-shifting explanations for his "slaughtering" remark -- at one point even denying he said it . Further, Huffington has said that the point of her criticism was that Beck's language is inflammatory whether or not it's a metaphor.
Patten served up even more sycophantic fluff on Beck in a July 2 article -- half fawning review of Beck's new "faction" book "The Overton Window," and half softball interview of Beck.
Patten's "review" might as well be a press release; it begins by pointing out that it "debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list marking six consecutive occasions that a Beck book has grabbed the top position." Patten then baselessly claims a book-reviewing double standard:
Left-leaning authors who resort to the simplistic stereotypes of conservatives common to Hollywood movies are free to conjure the most grotesque global-Armageddon scenarios imaginable. That's just fine.
Patten offers no evidence to back up this claim. Then again, he's too busy slobbering over Beck's book:
A fanciful tale? You might think so, until you page through its 28-page afterword, with authoritative sources and notes that suggest Beck is dead serious when he calls the book "faction." He defines that as "completely fictional books with plots rooted in fact."
Patten's "exclusive Newsmax interview" with Beck is no less fluffy, with Patten serving up softball after softball. Like:
Needless to say, Beck provided the answers you'd expect. There's no way he would have agreed to be interviewed Newsmax if Patten was going to ask anything remotely challenging or uncomfortable.
Slobbering over conservatives
Beck is not the only right-winger Patten has sycophantically promoted. In a March 13 article, Patten offered what is little more than a love letter to Sarah Palin, in the ostensible guise of reporting on a speech she gave to Florida Republicans.
Patten fawned over the speech, gushing that it "reflected the conservative populism and homespun American fervor that are her hallmarks" and that she "she displayed a Reagan-esque wit that offset the well-honed rhetorical jabs she perfected as Arizona Sen. John McCain’s running mate on the campaign trail during the 2008 election." Patten also noted that her scripted jokes "drew a big laugh from the crowd," as if they wouldn't in a group of Republicans. He did concede, though, that Palin sounded "like a candidate honing her stump speech," though that could very well be more gushing in trying to get Palin to run for president in 2012.
After copiously quoting from Palin's speech, Patten wrote that "She concluded with a rousing defense of American exceptionalism, the view that the United States is a proud example of freedom and prosperity for the rest of the world to follow."
In a May 17 article, David Patten fawned over Fred Thompson's autobiography: "Thompson's willingness to accept happenstance and pursue the unexpected is one of the key themes of the charming, funny, and delightful book birthed by his wise decision to follow his muse where it led him." The review was tied to a Newsmax interview of Thompson in which he, predictably, attacks Obama:
The good news, Thompson says, is that America's future depends on its people, not its President Obama.
Patten added, "Thompson's book makes the odds of preserving America's timeless values just a little bit better."
Patten even joined in the ill-fated reputation rehabilitation program Newsmax operated for disgraced former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik. An April 6 article touted Joe Scarborough's dubious assertion that Kerik would be "walking be walking the streets today" if Rudy Giuliani had not run for president. That's highly unlikely, given that the investigation into Kerik began in 2004. Patten went on to assert that Kerik "pleaded guilty rather than paying millions of dollars in legal fees against a prosecution that many contend was politically motivated." Patten offered no evidence that "many" people feel this way.