Media Matters notes that in a March 15 NewsBusters post, Warner Todd Huston repeats the discredited claim that Barack Obama attended a madrassa as a child.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Farah Still Thinks WND Is A Watchdog
In his March 16 WorldNetDaily column, Joseph Farah harps on his idea of the press having become lapdogs instead of watchdogs, adding "This is a constant theme for me – and, to be quite honest with you, ONLY ME!" First, Eric Boehlert might beg to differ, though to our knowledge Farah's has never noted this.
Second, and more importantly, Farah is once again implying that WND is the embodiment of his ideal of serving as "a watchdog on government and other powerful institutions – to root out our corruption, fraud, waste and abuse wherever they are found." As we've repeatedly documented, it's not. And Farah has declared the U.S. attorney scandal a nonstory, even though there is evidence that officials including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have lied in their public statements. Indeed, we can't think of a single instance of government corruption WND has uncovered that directly involved the Bush administration.
The one place that currently comes to mind as consistently breaking news about government corruption these days is Talking Points Memo and its sister site TPM Muckraker. Indeed, as the Columbia Journalism Review has noted, TPM did the work to make connections that showed how fishy those attorney firings were after the story was dismissed by the MSM (and Farah), to the point where Time writer Jay Carney apologized for blowing off the story.
Also worth noting: Among the list of things Farah says is not the answer to the question "What is the proper role of a free press in a free society," he writes, "It is incorrect if you answer: 'To be fair and balanced.' " While on the surface, that appears to be a dissing of the Fox News approach to journalism, in practice it is his excuse to tell biased stories and ignore inconvenient facts. In other words, it explains things like Bob Unruh.
CNS Still Spouting Company Line on Attorneys
A March 15 article by Susan Jones keeps up CNSNews.com's slavish devotion to the MRC corporate line on the firing of those U.S. attorneys, to the point that she devotes a notable chunk of the article to the view of her boss, Brent Bozell.
That means lots of misleading comparisons to Bill Clinton's replacement of prosecutors when he took office (about which she adds in parentheses, "which some people believe were politically motivated," but she offers no evidence about who those "some people are or why they think it was politically motivated), and no mention of the circumstances around the current firings that made them controversial in the first place.
CNS calls itself "an alternative news source that would cover stories that are subject to the bias of omission and report on other news subject to bias by commission" and claims that it "endeavors to fairly present all legitimate sides of a story." Isn't it committing bias by omission by not telling the whole story about how the attorneys were fired? Isn't it falling woefully short on its mission to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story"?
(The answers, by the way, are "yes" and "yes.")
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Sure, we'll happily take credit for WorldNetDaily's Bob Unruh taking stabs at acting more like an actual journalist than a biased, screed-generating activist.
A day after we posted our ConWebWatch article on how Unruh has covered the Melissa Buskeros case by cribbing his information only from unverified pro-homeschooling sources, Unruh suddenly notices a two-day-old Spiegel article on the subject.
Now, shortly after we posted an item detailing how Unruh posts "news" articles about " 'gay' indoctrination" without bothering to contact the school district he's attacking, his latest article on the subject, on a school that allegedly held a "seminar for students that explained how to know they are homosexual," did shockingly note that the school principal "didn't return a message WND left seeking a comment on the event." Of course, Unruh still pulled his information from a single, biased source -- this time, the anti-gay Mass Resistance, whose press release Unruh heavily lifted from -- but the fact that he seems to have some dim awareness that there is, in fact, more than one side to a story and that perhaps it's unfair to tell only one side is somewhat encouraging.
But the question we have is: Why does Unruh need us to prod him on something as basic as journalistic fairness? He worked for the Associated Press for nearly 30 years. Shouldn't he have picked that up by now?
Unruh Finally Finds Source Not In Bed With Homeschoolers
Bob Unruh continues his lazy man's approach to covering the Melissa Buskeros case, but at least he finally found a source that wasn't pro-homeschooling.
Unruh still hasn't made any effort to talk to any actual German officials in connection with this story, as his March 15 WorldNetDaily article shows, but he stumbled across a Spiegel Online International article (the English-language version of the German newsmagazine) from which he could pull quotes from actual German officials -- something sorely lacking in his previous coverage.
Unruh also unironically copied a statement from the article noting that "some commentators [are] comparing the [German] authorities to Nazis." As we've copiously documented, that includes Unruh himself. And he does so again here, with a headline that references the Germans' 'Hitler-type rule" and repeating the claim that "homeschooling was banned during Adolf Hitler's reign of power." He again makes no effort to reconcile these claims with the statement of the German official he previously (selectively) quoted that public education in Germany was made mandatory during the Weimar Repubic, which preceded the Nazis.
Another Misleading Conservative Talking Point -- And Reframing of An Old One
Perhaps having realized that routine replacement of 93 U.S. attorneys at the start of a president's term is not equal to firing eight attorneys for clearly partisan reasons, thet MRC folks are trying to incorporate a new talking point: Clinton replaced all the attorneys to thwart an investigation of Democratic congressman Dan Rostenkowski. Justin McCarthy brings it up in a March 15 NewsBusters post.
This would be a valid talking point had Rostenkowski not been indicted. In fact, he was -- in 1994, by a Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney. He was also convicted and imprisoned, another fact that seems to have escaped McCarthy.
Ken Shepherd similarly references it in another March 15 NewsBusters post -- then goes on to try and reframe the 93-versus-8 argument. In attacking CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen for calling that argument "apples and oranges" because "every new administration expects holdovers to submit letters of resignation and generally accepts most if not all of them," Shepherd responds:
Actually, that is exactly the point his MRC bretheren have tried to make. Very few, if any, of the posts by NewsBusters and MRC writers who make the 93-versus-8 comparison admit that, as we've noted, Reagan and Bush also replaced the entire staff of federal prosecutors. Further, none of these posts -- including Shepherd's -- ever mention the specific details of the firing of those eight attorneys that would explain why they have become so controversial.
If MRC employees are going to dredge up 14-year-old Clinton assertions as fact, shouldn't they also try to acknowledge all the facts in the brand-new Bush case as well?
MRC Solo Yet Again on Fox News
Topic: Media Research Center
Things are back to normal between the Media Research Center and Fox News -- Brent Bozell made a solo appearance on "Fox & Friends" this morning, and the hosts helpfully tossed him softball questions. Bozell's "Hannity & Colmes" appearance last night, where he faced questions from someone who might actually challenge him instead of tossing softballs, was just an anomaly.
Farah Hops Onto the Misleading-Meme Bandwagon
WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah buys into the misleading meme about equalizing Clinton's routine replacement of federal prosecutors with the Bush administration's replacement of several prosecugtors for apparently partisan reasons. From Farah's March 15 column:
But if Clinton did indeed have the "right under the law" to replace prosecutors, why did Farah accuse of Clinton of "shenanigans"? And why won't he similarly accuse the Bush administration of "shenanigans," especially when there's mounting evidence of them in the firing of those prosecutors? He doesn't say.
More MRC Mendacity
Topic: Media Research Center
A March 14 NewsBusters post by Brent Baker again latches onto the misleading meme that the Bush's administration's firing of eight federal prosecutors for partisan reasons is smaller deal than President Clinton doing something that Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush have done. Baker also repeats the false claim first advanced by the Wall Street Journal that fired Washington prosecutor John McKay "ignored very real evidence of voter fraud" in the 2004 Washington governor's race. In fact, as we noted when Mark Finkelstein cited that heavily flawed editorial, McKay did investigate but found "no evidence of voter fraud."
Then, in a March 14 appearance of Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes," Brent Bozell spouts this stuff once more, laughably prefacing it by stating, "I'm not here to carry the water for Bush administration."
WND's Idea of Journalism
How many things are wrong with this March 14 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh about alleged " 'gay' indocrination"? Let us count the ways:
-- Unruh claims the school in question held "a "gay" indoctrination seminar and that students were "exposed to the pro-homosexual propaganda," but he offers no examples of what was allegedly taught, let alone why it's "indoctrination."
-- Unruh's use of the term "pro-homosexual" is an apparent use of the depiction-equals-approval fallacy, the baseless assumption that because something is not criticized, it is endorsed.
-- Unruh's only source for the article is Concerned Women for America. He quotes a representative from the school district, but that quote came from CWA and was, in fact, cribbed from a CWA press release. Unruh himself made no effort to contact the school district for a response.
-- Unruh links to a previous article he wrote in which schools are "teaching homosexuality to children." The Feb. 24 article claimed that a Massachusetts judge "order[ed] that it is reasonable, indeed there is an obligation, for public schools to teach young children to accept and endorse homosexuality" -- an another apparent invocation of the depiction-equals-approval fallacy. But that article, as well as Unruh's summation of it in the March 14 article, offers no link to the ruling itself but describes it in the most dire, slanted terms. An example: 'And, he said, since history "includes instances of … official discrimination against gays and lesbians … it is reasonable for public educators to teach elementary school students … different sexual orientations.'" What is Unruh snnipping out that needs three ellipses to shape the ruling to his desired presentation?
To sum up: Unruh wrote a lazy, one-sided article full of loaded language and unbalanced, trumped-up claims. Is that anyone's definition of good journalism outside of Joseph Farah's dictates in WND's offices?
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
MRC Unreality Check
Topic: Media Research Center
A March 14 Media Research Center "Media Reality Check" asks the following question: "How can firing eight be a 'crisis' and firing 93 be not worth a solitary mention?"
It doesn't tell readers the answer -- par for the course for the MRC, which is still mindlessly repeating the Bush administration line on this story. Indeed, spouting Bush talking points is what the MRC does.
Finkelstein Joins the Bandwagon
Mark Finkelstein joins the MRC's faulty-conservative-meme bandwagon with a March 14 NewsBusters post that asserted that ABC, in an interview with Hillary Clinton over the Bush attorney firings, had "an obligation to let viewers know that her husband's administration had itself peremptorily fired more than ten times that many US attorneys."
To counter Clinton's description of the difference between the Bush firings and "her husband's administration" replacing U.S. attorneys at the start of the administration -- "When a new president comes in, a new president gets to clean house" -- Finkelstein responded, "But as the Wall Street Journal had documented in an editorial this morning, The Hubbell Standard, it is simply untrue that 'everybody did it' as Hillary suggests." But that editorial contains numerous documented and apparent factual errors, one of which Finkelstein repeated.
The Journal editorial claimed that the Clinton administration's action was "unprecedented" because "Previous Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, had both retained holdovers from the previous Administration and only replaced them gradually as their tenures expired." But in a Washington Post online chat, Stuart Gerson, assistant attorney general under George H.W. Bush and acting attorney general for the first weeks of the Clinton administration, said: "It is customary for a President to replace U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of a term. Ronald Reagan replaced every sitting U.S. Attorney when he appointed his first Attorney General." (h/t: Talking Points Memo.)
Other apparent errors and omissions in the Journal editorial, as noted by Media Matters:
-- It described one fired attorney, John McKay, as a Democrat when he appears to be a Republican and falsely claimed that McKay didn't investigate Republican allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 Washington gubernatorial race (the Democrat was declared the winner by 129 votes) when, in fact, he did and found "no evidence of voter fraud."
-- It claimed that, after the Clinton purge, " 'Friend of Bill' Paula Casey as the U.S. Attorney for Little Rock" in order to avoid an investigation into "the Clintons' Whitewater dealings," adding, "Ms. Casey never did bring any big Whitewater indictments." But the editorial failed to note that Charles A. Banks, the U.S. attorney whom Casey replaced, had himself resisted investigating the Whitewater matter, reportedly in defiance of pressure from George H.W. Bush administration officials in search of a pre-election issue with which to tar challenger Clinton. Further, none of the special/independent counsels that were later appointed saw fit to indict the Clintons on Whitewater-related charges.
That's a lot of errors, omissions and contradictory information for a single editorial. Perhaps Finkelstein might want to find a more accurate source of information.
CNS Still Silent on MRC Link to Coulter
A March 14 CNSNews.com article by Nathan Burchfiel on "the aftermath of Ann Coulter's controversial remarks about presidential candidate John Edwards focuses mainly on "liberals in the blogosphere" who are rallying to encourage newspapers to drop Coulter's column and for companies to pull their ads from Coulter's website.
This makes yet another instance in which CNS' parent, the Media Research Center, has yet to make an official statement about Coulter's remarks, let alone criticize her -- despite the fact that Coulter is scheduled to appear at the MRC's 20th Anniversary Gala on March 29, a mere two weeks away. Wouldn't such an appearance, coupled with its silence on her "faggot" slur, leave the unmistakable impression that Brent Bozell and the MRC crew condones Coulter's remarks?
Kessler Serves Up Fluff, Counter-Fluff
A March 13 NewsMax article by Ronald Kessler that seeks to downplay alleged FBI misuse of post-9/11 laws on gathering intelligence as "wildly overblown" includes another item at the end -- countering the fluff of his FBI defense -- about the case of two Border Patrol agents imprisoned for shooting at a fleeing illegal immigrant then covering up the incident. He claims that "in orchestrating a campaign to pardon former Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and others carefully omit" the fact that "a law enforcement officer may lawfully shoot only if he believes that an individual is about to kill or seriously harm the officer or another human being":
Quick, somebody call Jerome Corsi!
Speaking of Nauseating ...
Topic: Media Research Center
Brent Bozell dutifully repeats those conservative talking points on the U.S. attorney scandal:
No, what's nauseating (if not exactly surprising) is seeing Bozell ignore basic facts and distort others for the sole reason of protecting a Republican administration. What Bozell won't tell you:
Is it any wonder few people outside the conservative community take the MRC seriously when Bozell so aggressively departs from the truth?
P.S.: A March 14 CNSNews.com article by Susan Jones similarly toes the corporate line by repeating the faulty talking point and ignoring the facts.
P.P.S. McClatchy further explains why the Clinton situation is not analogous to the current situation.
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