Who Says Republicans Don't Act Out of Political Motives? Topic: NewsBusters
Does Mark Finkelstein really think there's no political motive in conservative and Bush administration attacks on the New York Times over its story on a secret financial surveillance program? Apparently so, based on his June 28 NewsBusters post.
Citing NBC's Tim Russert calling the attacks "an orchestrated campaign to try to frame this issue of national security versus the media," Finkelstein adds: "Alright, fair enough if Russert wants to suggest that politics might have played some part in the White House reaction." Finkelstein then took offense at Russert's suggestion that the administration was "going after the messenger":
But what was 'the message' here? That the Bush administration had implemented an important program to fight terrorism and protect American lives and property. A program that even the Times itself didn't claim to be illegal. There was no embarrassment factor here. To the contrary, but for the harm to the national security, the Bush administration would no doubt be pleased for Americans to know that it's working aggressively to protect them.
This is an example of the MSM being unable or unwilling to recognize that Republicans can act other than out of nefarious motives.
But, as we've noted, the MRC regularly assumes that Democrats act only out of political or personal motives. Why is it suddenly unfair to make that assumption about Republicans, especially when their attacks play into their longtime MSM-is-liberal talking point?
Those Darn Inconvenient Facts! Topic: Media Research Center
-- Brent Bozell claims in his June 27 column that the alleged "weapons of mass destruction" found in Iraq "should be a crucial, corrective turning point to the stuck-in-2003, pre-war obsessives." But he, like the rest of his MRC bretheren, fails to note that the munitions are degraded and mostly useless as WMD.
Since this deliberate ignorance of inconvenient facts is coming from the top, we should assume that this deception is official MRC policy.
Where Are They Now? Topic: CNSNews.com
A June 27 press release by the Republican members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which attacks an Associated Press article on scientists who support claims made by Al Gore in his movie "An Inconvenient Truth," carries a familiar contact name: Marc Morano.
Yes, it appears that the longtime CNSNews.com reporter has moved on. He's no longer listed on the current CNS staff sheet.
Morano seems to have brought the same journalistic standards to his Senate gig that he used at CNS to great effect in promoting the allegations of a disgraced ex-NASA spokesman (George Deutsch, the guy who lied about graduating from college) in an attempt to discredit global warming scientist James Hansen. Morano also co-wrote the smear job on Rep. John Murtha in January -- you know, the one that featured the dead, the disgrunted and the incapacitated casting aspersions on Murtha's military record.
The Senate article's headline reads, "AP Incorrectly Claims Scientists Praise Gore's Movie." But the word "praise" appears nowhere in the AP article. Morano also makes sure not to touch an AP quote of one scientist who said that the movie's errors are "far, far fewer and less significant than the shortcoming in speeches by the typical politician explaining an issue." And those politicians' press releases as well, presumably.
NewsBusters promoted the press release without noting Morano's connection to the MRC empire.
He's not the only ex-CNS'er to flee for a federal paycheck. Former CNS editor in chief Scott Hogenson, last seen working for the Republican National Committee, is deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, as this Chicago Sun-Times article indicates.
One More Sheppard Goof Topic: NewsBusters
In that same NewsBusters item in which he scoffed at death threats against the New York Times, Noel Sheppard wrote of the secret financial surveillance program that the Times exposed:
There have been no allegations, even by The Times, that any laws either domestic or international were violated by this program. Moreover, subpoenas were issued for all of the banking examinations performed during this operation.
Wrong on both counts. As Media Matters notes, the subpoenas used to gain access to the financial records were not issued by any court but administrative subpoenas issued by the Treasury Department that, according to the Los Angeles Times, "are secret and not reviewed by judges or grand juries, as are most criminal subpoenas." Also, according to Media Matters, the New York Times article in question did in fact note that some have questioned the legality of the program.
Will MRC Denounce Those Who Want Journalists Dead? Topic: NewsBusters
In a June 27 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard takes offense at the idea that right-wing bloggers be held responsible for their eliminationist rhetoric against journalists. Reacting to a Raw Story article recounting death threats made against New York Times reporters over its reporting on secret government surveillance programs, Sheppard wrote: "It is definitely going to bear watching to see whether this kind of reporting about the conservative reaction to the Times article becomes more of the focus on the part of the media than the actual story itself as well as its sweeping ramifications."
Sheppard's post came on the heels of a Tim Graham post earlier in the day taking similar offense to a letter writer to the Romenesko media-news site asserting that "a significant portion" of conservatives "couldn't care less if every journalist in the country was simply jailed or gunned down," insisting: "It is in no way fair or accurate to inflate and caricature conservative criticisms of the liberal media into a grand wish of wanting them dead." Of course, that's what Graham does in reverse, citing as counter-evidence that "Al Franken went around the 'mainstream media' circuit making jokes about Bush officials being executed for treason in the Plame case. (And journalists like Matt Lauer laughed.)"
It's worth noting that neither Graham nor Sheppard explicitly condemned eliminationist rhetoric by conservatives against the media. (We have previously noted that such rhetoric by NewsBusters posters and commenters has not been countered or punished.) Graham played the "but liberals do it too" card; Sheppard worried about the issue distrating attention from the main issue of conservatives' goal of discrediting the New York Times and considered the whole idea of noting conservative death threats "toooooo funny."
Of course, any such condemnation would have to cover the conservatives' current source of ardor, Ann Coulter, who famously wished that Tim McVeigh had blown up the New York Times building.
If Graham and Sheppard (or anyone at the MRC) are actually offended by fellow conservatives calling for the death of journalists, they need to actually denounce it instead of playing semantic games or condoning it because examples of liberals making threats can be found.
Then and Now Topic: WorldNetDaily
"Now, you can get Ann Coulter's 'Godless: The Church of Liberalism' at an incredible 32 percent discount through WND's Book Service. Don't be fooled by those "giveaway" offers claiming you can get the book for nothing, forcing you to buy other products or subscribe to magazines."
-- WorldNetDaily, June 11, in a presumed tweak at NewsMax, which is offering "Godless" for $4.95 plus "a FREE 4-month trial subscription to NewsMax Magazine."
"That's right. Your eyes are not deceiving you. You can save $20 off the cover price of what is sure to be the most important book of the year – Tom Tancredo's 'In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America's Border and Security.' ... When you order Tancredo's book for $4.95, we will also send you, FREE, three sizzling issues of WND's critically acclaimed monthly magazine, Whistleblower."
The strategy behind offering such loss leaders with a few free magazine issues is that the recipient must explicitly discontinue the magazine when the free issues run out; otherwise, they will automatically be charged for a full subscription (which in Whistleblower's case, is $49.95 a year).
MRC Press Releases Toe Party Line Topic: Media Research Center
Two recent Media Research Center press releases might as well be GOP press releases.
A June 23 release bashing "top media" for not reporting Sen. Rick Santorum's claim that "[i]t is now a definitive fact that there were WMDs in Iraq," as did MRC's initial reporting on it earlier, fails to note one important fact: the found munitions were degraded from being leftovers from the 1980s and likely unusable as weapons of mass destruction as most people understand it.
A June 26 release quotes MRC chief Brent Bozell heartily endorsing the idea of charging the New York Times with treason for reporting on a secret financial monitoring program used to trace terrorists. Bozell said the Times "will stop at nothing to propel its liberal agenda, not even jeopardizing our national security" and is "deliberately pushing a left-wing agenda," but he offers no evidence that reporting on something a Republican administration wanted to keep secret is evidence of a "left-wing" agenda, or that revealing the existence of the program is "jeopardizing our national security."
Why are people donating good money to the RNC when the MRC is doing the same thing? Media criticism it ain't.
On Burying Negative News Topic: Newsmax
In a June 26 article, NewsMax complained that the New York Times "buried a report" that Rep. Peter King was urging the Bush administration to seek criminal charges against the Times for reporting on a secret financial-monitoring program used to trace terrorists.
How is this any different than NewsMax's own longtime refusal to disclose its ownership to its readers? We were the first to report in 2002 (four years after NewsMax's founding) that Richard Mellon Scaife is an investor in NewsMax -- something that would be relevant to readers given Scaife's longtime antipathy toward the Clintons and NewsMax's anti-Clintonism -- and that came to light only because NewsMax filed for an IPO (later abandoned). Still, it was not until June 2005 that NewsMax put this information on its website for readers to see -- and that was only because the New York Times reported it.
Burying something far down in a story and burying something for seven years are two different things. NewsMax, having done the latter, should know the difference.
WND Fails to Disclose Bias Behind Poll Topic: WorldNetDaily
A June 24 WorldNetDaily article by Aaron Klein reports on a poll that claims "Seventy percent of Israelis oppose Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's planned withdrawal from Judea and Samaria." Klein describes the poll only as being "commissioned by a local company and supervised by American strategist Arthur Finkelstein."
What Klein doesn't tell you is that during the March 2006 parliamentary elections, Finkelstein worked for the Yisrael Beitenu party, which the UK paper the Telegraph describes as an "ultra-nationalist" party that originally wanted to expel all Palestinians to Jordan. During the 2006 election, the party somewhat moderated its positions, conceding the inevitability of a Palestinian state, but only through "a population and territorial swap that gerrymanders Israeli Arabs into the Palestinian state," according to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The party is not a member of the Kadima-led ruling coalition. Klein himself wrote in June 2004 that Yisrael Beitenu's leader, Avigdor Lieberman, "led the opposition to Sharon's plan to withdraw troops and all settlements from the Gaza Strip, and several settlements from the West Bank."
Therefore, with such partisan opposition to Olmert, coupled with Klein's reluctance to divulge any more information about the poll, its results are suspect.
You might have more credibility as a media critic if you didn't reflexively take the partisan positions of the Bush administration in your June 23 NewsBusters post (and Times Watch item) bashing the New York Times for writing about a Bush administration program to examine thousands of banking transactions without a warrant in order to monitor alleged transactions by alleged terrorists.
First, you use the term "terrorist surveillance program" -- the Bush administration's preferred term for this and the warrantless surveillance program previously exposed. Given that terrorists aren't the only ones being surveilled through these programs -- thousands of innocent people are, too -- it's also an inaccurate term.
Second, you appear to assume without evidence that a Bush administration is telling the truth when she says the program" is working to protect our citizens" but that Times editor Bill Keller is being disingenuous or lying when he says that "the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."
If your media criticism sounded less like Republican talking points, you might have a little more credibility as a media critic.
ConWeb Downplays A Certain Inconvenient Fact on Alleged WMD Find Topic: The ConWeb
The ConWeb is playing up Sen. Rick Santorum's assertion that weapons of mass destruction in the form of munitions containing sarin or mustard gas were found in Iraq -- and glossing over the fact that the munitons were degraded and apparently not a threat as a WMD.
At NewsBusters, Brent Baker claimed when Keith Olbermann pointed out that particular fact, he did so "condescendingly" (Baker repeated the claim in a June 23 CyberAlert). Dave Pierre didn't mention the degraded state of the munitions at all. Both Baker and Tim Graham take the technicality approach that the find proves liberals wrong, however worthless those weapons are; in Baker's words: "Though these are not the weapons the Bush administration used to justify going to war, since they date from before the 1991 Gulf War, they do undermine the claims of those on the left -- too often repeated by members of the media -- that 'no' WMD existed in Iraq."
At WorldNetDaily, a June 21 news article played up the claim while burying the functional uselessness of those weapons. The article quoted "former U.N. weapons inspector" Tim Trevan, appearing on Fox News, claiming that "the weapons could still have posed a danger, even in a deteriorated state" -- not as a weapon but, rather, from just sitting here: "It goes from a liquid to a gooey mass."
CNSNews.com, meanwhile, also takes the technicality road -- with a self-promotion twist -- as its corporate bretheren at NewsBusters by claiming that the find "confirm[s] reporting in 2004 by Cybercast News Service that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, including mustard gas, when his country was invaded by coalition forces." It too downplays the degraded state of the munitions, insisting that the declassified report that contains the finding "appears to contradict" the claim that weapons were degraded, stating that "While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal." That appears to refer to what Trevan said on Fox News -- that the danger is not from being used as a weapon but from just sitting there. In other words, you have walk up and touch that gooey mass leaking out of the munition for it to be a danger to you.
WND Deceives on Darwinism Topic: WorldNetDaily
A June 22 WorldNetDaily article touts that "More than 600 scientists holding doctoral degrees have gone on the record expressing skepticism about Darwin's theory of evolution and calling for critical examination of the evidence cited in its support."
If this sounds familiar, it should. WND did this same basic story back in February, when the list had 500 signatures. WND fails to make clear that this is the exact same petition it wrote about in February. Nothing newsworthy has happened on this front since then, other than getting a few more signatures and the pro-creationist Discovery Institute, which maintains the petition, issuing a press release -- which WND rewrote into this article.
As it did then, WND also fails to note that many of the signatories hold doctorates in fields other than biology that have little or no contact with evolutionary theory.
Another Reminder Topic: NewsBusters
Most of the people who write for the Media Research Center look at the media only through a conservative political prism and, thus, every issue the media faces has at least something to do with alleged media bias. This results in things like Mithridate Ombud's June 21 NewsBusters post, in which he/she/it suggests the following remedy for declining newspaper circulation:
Here's a suggestion for all you newspaper VP's. Why don't you get rid of the bias, the America-hating columnists, the socialist editorials, and the reporters pushing a gay/lesbian/transgendered/illegal alien/pro-abortion/anti-God/anti-gun agenda?
The pseudonymously named Ombud, if you'll recall, is the same person who thinks that journalists lack souls. No wonder Ombud doesn't use his/her real name -- he/she would have to stand behind such a statement.
Snip, Snip Topic: NewsBusters
A June 22 NewsBusters post by Matthew Sheffield made an interesting edit in repeating a Seattle Post-Intelligencer column on the less-than-dignified departures of both Dan Rather and Connie Chung from their respective TV gigs. Here's one paragraph that Sheffield didn't include, even though it contains a presumably sufficient amount of Rather-bashing for him (emphasis ours):
When one's steadily sinking career sails off a cliff after a reporting misstep, and said misstep involves a story, however true, that questions the president's National Guard service without having authenticated paperwork to back it up, it's time to retire.
One has to wonder: Is it MRC policy never to admit that parts of Rather's Bush National Guard story are true?