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Monday, August 11, 2008
Timmerman Mum on Political Agenda of Vet 'Reporters'
Topic: Newsmax

An Aug. 10 Newsmax column by Ken Timmerman highlights a "group of eight citizen-soldier-reporters" who "returned to Iraq last week as civilians to embed as reporters with their former units, to tell the story of recent successes in the war they believe the media is not accurately reporting to the American people."

That's the closest that Timmerman gets to hinting at the agenda of the "citizen-soldier-reporters" he is featuring. The group is associated with Vets for Freedom -- which, as Salon details, not only supports the Iraq war but "has a remarkable number of ties -- some previously unreported -- to Republicans generally and John McCain's campaign specifically. And it has run attack ads against Barack Obama." Timmerman quotes VFF leader Pete Hegseth as part of the group but fails to note, as Salon did, that Hegseth has campaigned for John McCain. Salon adds:

Under the Pentagon's standards for Iraq embeds, the people that Vets for Freedom is sending to Iraq qualify as journalists. Six of them have impeccable military credentials but no reporting experience, with clippings largely limited to Op-Eds. A would-be embed, however, needs only to provide the military's public affairs officers with three samples of published or broadcast work, and proof that he or she is credentialed by a publication. Three conservative media outlets -- the Weekly Standard, National Review Online and – have provided the eight members of VFF's Iraq team with credentials.


From the mission statement that appears on VFF's Web site, it's also clear that the purpose of what it has dubbed the "Back to Iraq" trip fits within the bounds of journalism, albeit advocacy journalism of the foregone-conclusion variety, strident conservative division. "Its [sic] essential for the American people to know the facts about what is happening in Iraq. Some media outlets, and certain politicians, still fail to assess the situation objectively; so Vets for Freedom is heading Back to Iraq to let them know what has been accomplished, what still needs to be done, and how we should proceed in order to attain sustainable security in Iraq."

But VFF's representatives in Iraq are political activists first, and journalists second. Or third.


VFF's decision to embed reporters does raise concerns for experts in media ethics. Christopher Hanson, an associate professor at the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism who researches media-military relations and who covered the first Gulf War, says that "subsidized journalism" funded by nonprofits "is on the rise across the political spectrum." He doesn't think that's necessarily a bad thing as long as there's full disclosure of the funding. But he also thinks that VFF's case brings with it a different set of issues. "If essentially you have reporters who are the founders and the activists in the organization, then getting credentialed and going with preconceptions ... and then going out and campaigning, that's highly questionable, and that deserves scrutiny. It seems to me that to some extent the question is, Is there any chance that any of them change their views or is it simply a kind of a fraud?" Hanson said, cautioning that he doesn't know the group's intentions and is not accusing them of fraud.

"It's not independent journalism," says Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute. "If I were [VFF], I'd be saying, 'Gosh, the Army should be paying me PR fees.'"

Timmerman reports none of this about the VFF "citizen-soldier-reporters" he features in his article.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:58 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, August 14, 2008 1:34 AM EDT
CNS: Obama Texting VP Announcement = "Trolling for Email Addresses"

An Aug. 11 article by Susan Jones reports on Barack Obama's plan to announce his vice presidential choice via email to supporters.

But what does the headline say? "Obmaa Trolling for Email Addresses." Jones ominously adds: "The Obama campaign is eager to gather as many email addresses as possible for get-out-the-vote and fund-raising purposes."

Aside from not explaining why gathering email addresses from supporters is hardly an unorthodox campaign procedure -- indeed, John McCain's campaign is also trolling for email addresses, though Jones would likely never call it that -- Jones ignores the actual news here: Obama will also utilize text messaging to announce his VP pick, not just email.

Jones' slanted presentation is reflective of CNS' emerging anti-Obama bias.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:50 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, August 11, 2008 4:02 PM EDT
Then and Now
Topic: NewsBusters

The media, as One, spend days or weeks bashing someone or something they do not like. They then conduct a poll to prove to you that they were right all along. In a campaign season, their one-sided coverage is calculated, then executed to produce a result. It’s not about reporting the events, it’s about changing the prevailing view.

And the polls -- such as the ones by the media, which are not independent surveys like those undertaken by the likes of Rasmussen or Gallup -- aren’t intended as much to gauge the public view of a candidate or events as they are to reinforce that which they have “reported”, or provide the media guidance on how effective their spinning of the news has been.

-- Seton Motley, Nov. 27, 2007, NewsBusters post

Based on Rasmussen poll results reported today, it looks like twenty or so years of very hard work by the Media Research Center and affiliates, including just over three years at NewsBusters, has paid some dividends.

Despite the years of hype over how money is the root of all campaigning evil by the press, the respected polling organization reports voters' belief that there is a bigger problem in political campaigns: media bias.

Tom Blumer, Aug. 11 NewsBusters post

Posted by Terry K. at 1:44 PM EDT
Klein Whitewashes Savage, Lacks Disclosure
Topic: WorldNetDaily

An Aug. 10 WorldNetDaily article by Aaron Klein on Michael Savage's once and future legal actions against the Council of American-Islamic Relations is largely a whitewash piece, treating Savage's accusations against CAIR as fact and making no apparent attempt to contact CAIR for a response (though he pulled a few previous quotes by CAIR from some source that Klein doesn't bother to identify).

While Klein does note that Savage's claim that CAIR violated his copyright by repeating excerpts from his show was tossed out of court because the judge "ruled it is legal to use excerpts of a public broadcast for purposes of comment and criticism," Klein fails to mention that Savage has previously tried (and failed) to sue his critics over purported copyright violations.

Further, Klein fails to disclose WND's business relationship with Savage, which in the past has included publishing his books and currently includes hosting his website. The Society of Professional Journalists' ethics code states that journalists have an obligation to "disclose unavoidable conflicts."

Posted by Terry K. at 9:23 AM EDT
MRC Still Taking Writer's Kennedy Statement Out of Context
Topic: NewsBusters

Noting a Boston Globe magazine article speculating on what might have happened if Michael Dukakis won the presidency in 1988, Brent Baker writes in an Aug. 9 NewsBusters post:

While certainly hagiographic, staff magazine writer Charles P. Pierce avoided the ludicrous level of veneration he espoused in a 2003 profile of Senator Ted Kennedy:

If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.

The MRC has been peddling this attack on Pierce for years ever since it appeared in a January 2003 article, even awarding Pierce the "Ozzy Osbourne Award (for the Wackiest Comment)" at its 2004 Dishonors Awards.

The problem? It's taken out of context. As Pierce wrote in an October 2004 American Prospect article:

In January of 2003, I wrote a piece for The Boston Globe Magazine ruminating on the 40 years that Edward Kennedy has been in the United States Senate. At one point early on, I decided to deal with The Great Unmentionable at the heart of that career, so I wrote:

And what of the dead woman? On July 18, 1969, on the weekend that man first walked on the moon, a 28-year-old named Mary Jo Kopechne drowned in his automobile. Plutocrats' justice and an implausible (but effective) coverup ensued. And, ever since, she's always been there: during Watergate, when Barry Goldwater told Kennedy that even Richard Nixon didn't need lectures from him; in 1980, when his presidential campaign was shot down virtually at its launch; during the hearings into the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, when Kennedy's transgressions gagged him and made him the butt of all the jokes. She's always there. Even if she doesn't fit in the narrative line, she is so much of the dark energy behind it. She denies to him forever the moral credibility that lay behind not merely all those rhetorical thunderclaps that came so easily in the New Frontier but also Robert Kennedy's anguished appeals to the country's better angels.

And then, a few paragraphs later, I concluded the passage with the following:

If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.

Now, I thought that was a tough, but fair, shot. Some people disagreed. The following Saturday, some veteran liberals chided me over the hors d'oeuvres at a dinner party. Some other people agreed. James Taranto of OpinionJournal cited it as evidence that I didn't like the senior senator very much. And my friend Dan Kennedy called it a "paragraph of pure poison." I didn't necessarily agree with them, but they rather obviously got my point -- which is about as good as a writer can hope for these days from the public discourse.

Baker's original 2003 item doesn't mention that Pierce's statement came in the context of a larger statement about how the Chappaquiddick incident effectively keeps him from having the "moral credibility" to be president -- indeed, a search of the MRC archive indicates that it has never placed the Pierce quote in its proper context, nor has it apparently responded to Pierce's criticism.

And, to cap things off, the MRC didn't even invite Pierce to their little shindig to pick up that award personally:

I was crushed. This is a big event in Washington every year. Hundreds of sweaty fat guys in tuxedos lust across the ballroom at Laura Ingraham and my gal, Annie Coulter. A hip evening for people who haven't been hip since the night they quoted Ayn Rand to their dates at the Junior Prom. A night of lechery and drunkenness among people who should confine their involvement with the seven deadly sins to Envy, Gluttony, and Rage. I was owed this spectacle.

Hey, I was an award-winner here. I know where to get a tux in D.C. I even had a speech prepared. This is how it started:

"Thank you all. It's nice to be here and to see everyone in such a fine mood. I've never seen Bill Bennett this happy with anything that didn't have a handle on its side.

"Oh, come on, Rush. Twenty more milligrams and that would've been damn funny."

I would have killed, I tell you.

Instead, accepting in my place was ... Mohair Sam Donaldson.

Sam Freaking Donaldson?

Apparently, Sam was gracious. He said one day he hoped to write as well as I do, which apparently got a big laugh. But Sam's no Sacheen Littlefeather, I'll tell you that.

Not only do Baker and the MRC continue to distort Pierce's words years after they have been proven to be something other than what the MRC claims them to be, the MRC won't even pony up for dinner.

UPDATE: Baker's post also apepars in the Aug. 11 MRC CyberAlert.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:05 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, August 11, 2008 12:50 PM EDT
Sunday, August 10, 2008
WND Still Whitewashing Abuse in Calif. Homeschooling Case
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetdaily just can't stop whitewashing child abuse allegations in homeschooling families.

An Aug. 8 WND article by Bob Unruh on a new California court ruling regarding homeschooling does a lot of writing around the fact that -- as we've detailed -- the parents in the family at the center of the case were implicated in abusive behavior toward two of their children. Unruh writes that the new ruling permits homeschooling but that permission to do so could be "overridden in order to protect the safety of a child who has been declared dependent." He further notes that regarding the particular case at hand (he has stopped naming the family involved in the case, though he did so in earlier stories), "the restriction on homeschooling would arise in a proceeding in which the children have already been found dependent due to abuse and neglect of a sibling." But then, he states only that the earlier opinion "had ruled in the case the family failed to demonstrate 'that mother has a teaching credential such that the children can be said to be receiving an education from a credentialed tutor," and that their involvement and supervision by Sunland Christian School's independent study programs was of no value'" -- suggesting that this was the only "abuse and neglect" the court was referring to.

In fact, here is what the state dependency court had to say about the family in question:

Before we begin with our analysis of this issue, it is helpful to note the following. First, in two prior dependency matters, father was found to have inappropriately physically disciplined two of his children, Cam and Elizabeth. Indeed, in at least Cam's case, father's treatment of her was brutal. Both Cam and Elizabeth were children who challenged father's rules at home. Thus, there was proof of his willingness to physically abuse his children when they did not tow the mark.


Father has a long history of physically abusing the children and mother has a long history of not protecting them from father, with Rachel being the most recent victim.


Likewise, we find substantial evidence to support the subdivision b-3 allegation that Rachel and her older siblings are former dependent children of the juvenile court, prior dependency involvement failed to resolve the family's problems in that Rachel has been physically and emotionally abused by father and mother did not take steps to protect her, Rachel was sexually abused by [a friend of the family] and the parents did not protect her from him, and such conduct by the parents places the three minor children at risk of future serious harm. 


[T]he record contains substantial evidence, both from statements made by the children and from mother's own actions, that  father dominates mother and dominates the children who live at home, two of whom have repeatedly run away from home because, in  part, of the home rules father imposes. There is also substantial evidence that he has been difficult to work with in dependency  matters--evasive, uncooperative, and belligerent. There is evidence that these character traits of father's have been consistent over the  years that this family has been in dependency court. He will not permit the children to attend school. He will not permit them to  receive childhood vaccinations. He will not permit the girls to wear pants at home. He will not permit birth certificates. There is  evidence that mother does not interfere with his discipline of the children and his rules. There is evidence she does not make even  tentative decisions in dependency matters but rather defers issues until father can make decisions on them. Several of the children gave answers  [*75] to the social worker, forensic evaluator, and the court that have all the appearance of reflecting what the children were told to say or believed father would want them to say or not say.

Why is Unruh so afraid to tell the full truth to his readers? Perhaps because the family makes a much better homeschooling martyr if nobody knows what the real story is.

Posted by Terry K. at 8:30 PM EDT
NewsBusters Turns Three
Topic: NewsBusters

Matthew Sheffield pats himself on the back in an Aug. 9 post marking NewsBusters' third anniversary, bragging that "we've been featured in every major American newspaper, launched a number of stories into the national news cycle, and had a lot of fun doing it." Seems like a good time to remind folks that NewsBusters, like the rest of the MRC, has so bought into the notion of the "liberal media" that it ignores more plausible explanations of media foibles and just gets stuff wrong.

We've covered NewsBusters since the beginning, when it refused to offer "RIP" condolences to deceased non-conservative journalists. From the misquotings by Mark Finkelstein to the lies about S.R. Sidarth told by Dan Riehl to the Gore-hating of Noel Sheppard to the ranting of Warner Todd Huston, NewsBusters has been a font of distortion and occasional looniness. (Here's the ConWebBlog archive on NewsBusters.)

Sheffield concludes: "Together we are making a difference. I look forward to continuing to do that for many years to come." We'll be here to watch and report.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:59 AM EDT
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Pelosi Derangement Syndrome Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

There she stands like a queen looking down on her subjects from the steps of her summer palace in San Francisco wearing designer suits and her $300 haircut. Her aging skin is pulled tight from the latest nip and tuck from the royal cosmetic surgeon. If you look closely, that plastic smile has a hint of a sneer.

I couldn't applaud when Nancy Pelosi became the first woman Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Just knowing that she is now third in line to the presidency makes my blood run cold.

-- Jane Chastain, Aug. 7 WorldNetDaily column

Posted by Terry K. at 9:25 AM EDT
Pierre Misleads on Cheney's Atta-in-Prague Claim
Topic: NewsBusters

Dave Pierre writes in an Aug. 6 NewsBusters post:

Los Angeles Times's Tim Rutten is at it again. In an op-ed in today's paper (Wed. 8/6/08), Rutten buttresses a new book by author Ron Suskind and asserts that "Vice President Dick Cheney and his inner circle long have insisted" that Iraq was directly connected to the September 11 attacks.

Rutten's claim is an easy one to debunk. Here's Vice President Cheney in a Meet the Press interview with Tim Russert a mere five days after the September 11 attacks:

RUSSERT: Do we have any evidence linking Saddam Hussein or Iraqis to this operation? [Sept. 11 attacks]


Does it get any simpler than "No"?

Only if it were accurate. Here's Cheney just two months later on the November 14, 2001, edition of CBS's "60 Minutes II":

GLORIA BORGER (CBS News contributor): Well, you know that Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the hijackers, actually met with Iraqi intelligence.

CHENEY: I know this. In Prague, in April of this year, as well as earlier. And that information has been made public. The Czechs made that public. Obviously, that's an interesting piece of information.

And here's Cheney just a month after that, on the Dec. 9, 2001, edition of "Meet the Press":

RUSSERT: Do you still believe there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11?

CHENEY: Well, what we now have that's developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that's been pretty well confirmed, that he [Mohammed Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.

While Pierre noted in a September 2006 post that Cheney later backed away somewhat from asserting the Atta-Prague claim was unquestionably true, that doesn't, as Pierre suggests, prove that Cheney stopped trying to link Iraq to al-Qaeda -- in fact, he kept trying, which would seem to prove Rutten right.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:35 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, August 9, 2008 1:36 AM EDT
Friday, August 8, 2008
WND Doubles Down on Obama Birth Certificate Obsession
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily loves any good, dubiously sourced smear about Barack Obama (see Sinclair, Larry), so it's no surprise that WND has latched onto the Obama brith certificate conspiracy.

An Aug. 7 article tries to punt that thing a little further down the road, asserting that "analysts working separately have determined the birth certificate posted on the Daily Kos website and later on Sen. Barack Obama's "Fight the Smears" campaign website is fraudulent, and now two different actions have been launched to try and obtain the truth about the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's birth." WND cites as its source the website Israel Insider, without noting its status, with its right-wing, anti-Obama agenda, as the Israeli WorldNetDaily -- which makes Israel Insider's claims as suspect as those made by the website it appears to be modeling itself after.

Not that the target WND readership appears able to make the distinction between truth and lies, mind you. The WND opt-in poll of the day asks, "What do you make of the controversy over Barack Obama's birth certificate?" The top response as of this writing: "Obama's refusal to produce his birth certificate, perhaps triggering a future constitutional crisis, is just another example of his arrogance." Sounds like the situation is ripe for WND readers to issue a few more death threats.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:51 AM EDT
WND Anti-Gay Agenda Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

An Aug. 8 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh keeps up WND's anti-gay agenda by permitting only criticism of a California proposal to create a Harvey Milk Day and lying about its provisions.

Unruh asserts that "the California Legislature now is ordering school children to celebrate 'gay' lifestyle choices" and quotes right-wing activists with the Campaign for Children and Families and Capitol Resource Institute as claiming that thebill "will positively portray to children homosexual experimentation, homosexual 'marriages,' sex-change operations, and anything else that's 'in the closet' " and that "Young children will be forced to celebrate the life of a man whose claim to fame is his sexual orientation."

But nowhere does Unruh quote the actual language of the bill. As we've noted, the bill actually states that designates Harvey Milk Day "as having special significance in public school and educational institutions and encourages those entities to conduct suitable commemorative exercises on that date." The bill orders nothing and the word "order" doesn't even appear in the bill -- thus making Unruh a liar for claiming that it's "ordering school children to celebrate 'gay' lifestyle choices."

And while Unruh uncritically repeats a claim that Milk was "a man whose claim to fame is his sexual orientation," he offers no other information about Milk other than that he was a "San Francisco supervisor who was a homosexual activist" and repeating some CCF-supplied statements by Milk that Unruh quotes the CCF's Randy Thomasson as forwarding a "anti-religious, homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda." Nowhere is it mentioned that Milk was murdered, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, by a former fellow city supervisor, Dan White, or that Milk was the first openly gay man elected to a major political office. In other words, his sexual orientation was not his only "claim to fame."

Posted by Terry K. at 10:33 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, August 8, 2008 10:34 AM EDT
BMI's Poor Misleads on NBC Reporting
Topic: NewsBusters

An Aug. 7 NewsBusters post (a version of a MRC Business & Media institute item) by Jeff Poor notes an NBC report on the popularity of  "big gas-guzzling, greenhouse gas-emitting automobiles made by General Motors" in China, adding:

Less than two months ago, on the June 26 broadcast of "Nightly News," anchor Brian Williams raised the possibility of the auto manufacturer going out of business. The report suggested GM and other American carmakers were unwilling to switch to smaller, more fuel efficient cars, which are in higher demand due to high gas prices.

But the link Poor supplied to back up this claim -- a June 27 BMI article -- does not claim that Williams "suggested GM and other American carmakers were unwilling to switch to smaller, more fuel efficient cars." Indeed, we can't think of anyone has made that claim. The automakers were arguably unwilling to switch when gas was cheap and they were making lots of money selling big SUVs, but Poor can't plausibly claim that anyone is asserting that automakers are unwilling to make the switch now.

The June 27 BMI article, rather, was critical of Williams "rais[ing]the possibility of General Motors (NYSE:GM) going out of business." It mentions nothing about any GM production issues that may have been raised in the NBC report. The video clips from NBC reports supplied with the article don't mention it, either.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:58 AM EDT
WND Misleads on California Commie Ban
Topic: WorldNetDaily

An Aug. 5 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh is a highly misleading attack on a proposed California bill to remove a ban on communists serving as school employees or renting school facilities. While Unruh claimed that "Democrats in the California Assembly have rejected two amendments that would have allowed schools to fire any employee discovered to be part of an extremist terror network and require users of school facilities to affirm they are not terrorists," he failed to note that the bill still permits the dismissal of any employee who "advocates or is knowingly a member of an organization which during the time of his or her  membership he  or she  knows advocates overthrow of the government of the United States or of any state by force or violence," let alone why that ban is insuffient for the bill opponents it quotes, from the right-wing Capital Resource Institute.

By contrast, a May 16 Sacramento Bee article offered important information regarding the bill that Unruh doesn't, such as that California is the only state that allows public employees to be dismissed for membership in a political party and that there's little evidence that communists have much interest, let alone capability, to overthrow the U.S. government.

Similarly, an Aug. 6 WND article on the bill asserts that it means "Activist communists ... soon will have unfettered rights to California's public schools and facilities" without noting that the bill permits the firing of employees who support the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:32 AM EDT
MRC-Fox News Appearance Watch
Topic: Media Research Center
An Aug. 7 appearance by the MRC's Rich Noyes on "Fox & Friends" follows the template: Noyes appeared solo, and neither he nor the MRC are identified as conservative.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:25 AM EDT
Thursday, August 7, 2008
CNS Balance Watch

An Aug. 7 article by Pete Winn about Barack Obama purportedly "coming out in full support of same-sex marriage" features criticism from "Conservative and pro-traditional marriage groups," including the professional gay-basher Matt Barber.  By contrast, an Aug. 6 article by Allison Aldrich featuring "well-known black conservative author and activist Star Parker" asserting that "Americans should question Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) commitment to Christianity based on his 'disregard' for unborn life" includes no response from Obama's campaign or an Obama supporter.

This continues CNS' recent trend of lack of balance in articles that begin with an attack on Obama.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:31 PM EDT

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