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Thursday, May 29, 2008
MRC's Anti-McClellan Attack Goes Conspiratorial
Topic: NewsBusters

The MRC's attacks on Scott McClellan's new book have been in line with conservative talking points -- he's bitter, the liberal media is biased, pretending that the uniform talking points weren't coordinated, etc.

But it took a big leap toward the conspiratorial with a May 29 NewsBusters post by Brent Baker, in which he asserts that McClellan's publisher, Public Affairs Books, "has a roster of authors who are nearly all liberals and/or liberal-leaning mainstream media figures, including six books by far-left bank-roller George Soros," and the imprint's publisher, Peter Osnos, "pens a weekly column for the left of center The Century Foundation," where he once "denounced Rush Limbaugh as “bombastic, aggressive, and mean." Further, Baker adds:

PublicAffairs is part of the Perseus Books Group, which also owns Nation Books, “a project of The Nation Institute” which publishes the magazine of the same name, and Vanguard Press, whose home page now features The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, a new book by Vincent Bugliosi that “presents a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting the war in Iraq.”

What Baker doesn't tell you: Perseus Books Group also owns Basic Books, a conservative imprint that has published several books by William F. Buckley Jr., as well as titles by Dinesh D'Souza, Linda Chavez, and David Frum, as well as "a conservative manifesto" that aims to "save the environment from the environmentalists" and a book that paints Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential run as "one of the major political turning points of the twentieth century: The policy positions and electoral strategies of that campaign have become standard tenets of Republican politics."

(Sadly, No! serves up a summation of Baker's post here.)

So the idea that Perseus is exclusively a left-wing publisher is bogus, as if that has any bearing on the accuracy of information presented in McClellan's book. Still that didn't keep Mark Finkelstein from asserting in a May 29 post that  "there's every reason to wonder whether Soros isn't behind McClellan's manifesto."

Meanwhile, on a somewhat less conspiratorial note, Alex Koppelman at Salon shoots down a May 28 NewsBusters post by Rich Noyes complaining that the memoir by Ari Fleischer, another former Bush press secretary, did not get comparable media attention to McClellan's because "Fleischer did not take pot shots at his former employer, but did include some telling examples of the liberal bias of press." Koppelman writes:

Noyes says that "TV coverage the week after Fleischer’s book was released was limited to just eight interviews, none given that much prominence." It's an odd take, because according to Noyes Fleischer appeared on all three major cable news networks -- specifically, he appeared three times on Fox News, the highest-rated news network, and twice on runner-up CNN -- and on two out of the three network morning shows, which are a plum spot. Most authors would commit unspeakable acts for that kind of coverage.

As so often happens when people with little or no experience in the actual news business criticize it, the critics' lack of knowledge has led to a fundamental flaw in their argument. A former White House press secretary coming out and slagging his former boss and former colleagues is news, especially when he offers revelations about the workings of the White House. That's why McClellan's book has gotten so much coverage, and the same thing would have happened in the Clinton administration.


Fleischer's book, too, was devoid of any new information of real substance. In a biting review of it for the New York Times, critic Michiko Kakutani wrote that the book was "essentially a collection of talking points hastily pasted together with large slatherings of the vitriol and exasperation the author seems to have accumulated ... It's an extended exercise in Mr. Fleischer's spinning his own earlier spin." 

In other words, Noyes is complaining that a book making newsworthy revelations is getting more attention than a book that didn't. 

Posted by Terry K. at 10:46 AM EDT

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