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Saturday, March 17, 2007
Fighting Bias With, Er, Bias
Topic: Media Research Center

This is sad. In a March 16 NewsBusters post attacking Los Angeles Times columnist Ron Brownstein for "peddling the old canard that Fox News is exponentially more biased than 'mainstream' news organizations," Tim Graham's evidence to counter it is ... the fact that Fox News isn't covering the U.S. attorney firing scandal, or in Graham's words, "playing the Charles Schumer script of 'Bring Me The Head of Alberto Gonzales.' "

Of course, as we've noted, the MRC is not truthfully covering that scandal either. So Graham countered the claim that Fox News is conservatively slanted with evidence that, um, Fox News is conservatively slanted. 

Posted by Terry K. at 10:09 AM EDT
MRC Using the Wrong Analogy
Topic: Media Research Center

In all of its attempts to equalize President Clinton's replacement of nearly all U.S. attorneys when he took office in 1993 with the Bush administration's firing of eight prosecutors, there is one thing the various tendrils of the Media Research Center have never addressed: the specific circumstances regarding the firing of the Bush prosecutors.

For instance, a March 15 NewsBusters post (and March 16 CyberAlert item) by Brent Baker includes a snippet of transcript from ABC in which it is asked whether there was "political motivation involved" in the firings of the attorneys and that "Democratic senators are saying tonight, the White House hasn't been forthcoming with how this whole plan began." That, of course, is the reason there is a controversy; as summarized here, one attorney was replaced specifically to install a former aide to Karl Rove, and there's evidence that administration officials fabricated evidence of "performance related" issues to remove others.

Yet, Baker obsesses over whether the mostly irrelevant issue of Clinton's actions regarding attorneys is mentioned. 

The problem appears to be the MRC's failure to choose a properly analogous Clinton situation. Rather than the routine start-of-new-administration replacement of attorneys, a better comparison is to Clinton's replacement of employees at the White House travel office -- which Clinton had the power to do since they, like the attorneys, serve at the pleasure of the president, yet a stink was raised about it anyway.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:13 AM EDT
Friday, March 16, 2007
Meanwhile ...
Topic: NewsBusters
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.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:17 PM EDT
Farah Still Thinks WND Is A Watchdog
Topic: WorldNetDaily

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.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:05 AM EDT
CNS Still Spouting Company Line on Attorneys

A March 15 article by Susan Jones keeps up'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.") 

Posted by Terry K. at 12:07 AM EDT
Thursday, March 15, 2007
You're Welcome
Topic: WorldNetDaily

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?

Posted by Terry K. at 5:57 PM EDT
Unruh Finally Finds Source Not In Bed With Homeschoolers
Topic: WorldNetDaily

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.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:11 PM EDT
Another Misleading Conservative Talking Point -- And Reframing of An Old One
Topic: NewsBusters

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:

But, no one is arguing that point. What is at issue, however, is the manner in which the media failed to find controversy in the unprecedented way Reno handled resignation.

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?

Posted by Terry K. at 1:55 PM EDT
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.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:36 AM EDT
Farah Hops Onto the Misleading-Meme Bandwagon
Topic: WorldNetDaily

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:

The day Bill Clinton assumed the presidency in 1993, he fired all 93 U.S. attorneys. No one asked why. No major news stories resulted. No one called it "the January Massacre." No one accused Clinton of shenanigans (except me, because I knew what he was really doing). It was assumed, by nearly everyone – Republicans and Democrats alike and certainly the press – that Clinton merely wanted to name his own political appointees to these positions – his right under the law.

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.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:29 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2007 11:21 AM EDT
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."

On the other hand, this is the first appearance by an MRC representative on Fox News in the past few weeks in which he is in danger of facing questions from someone who is an ideological opposite.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:06 AM EDT
WND's Idea of Journalism
Topic: WorldNetDaily

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?

Posted by Terry K. at 12:44 AM EDT
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.

Posted by Terry K. at 7:38 PM EDT
Finkelstein Joins the Bandwagon
Topic: NewsBusters

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.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:31 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 6:27 PM EDT
CNS Still Silent on MRC Link to Coulter

A March 14 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?

Posted by Terry K. at 4:02 PM EDT

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