In a Jan. 23 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard railed against Keith Olbermann for taking a statement from a Democrat at face value:
Amazing. So, in Olbermann’s bizarre world, when a Democrat denies wrongdoing, he or she must be believed. However, he certainly doesn’t afford the same courtesy for Republicans.
Meanwhile, a few posts up from Sheppard, Mark Finkelstein was, uh, taking the words of a Republican -- specifically, White House press secretary Tony Snow -- at face value. Finkelstein got a chance to participate in another Snow press conference for bloggers (only conservative bloggers were invited, presumably):
I had a chance to ask a question this time around, and chose to focus on recent events in Iraq. After referring to the headlines that have been made by the recent arrest of some 600 militiamen in Iraq, I noted a lesser-publicized report that the Iraqi army had arrested a senior aide to Moktada al-Sadr, Sheikh Abdul al-Hadi Darraji. He was arrested last Friday in a raid on a Baghdad mosque near Sadr City.
I asked Snow whether those events signal that we have in some way turned the corner in obtaining the willingness of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in going after Shia militias, and if so, how have we been able to achieve this?
Tony's answer was optimistic: "The proof is in the pudding, and the arrest you just mentioned is of enormous significance. What the president has said to the prime minister is that you have to make sure that the law applies equally to everybody. If you're going to go after Sunni insurgent groups, you're going to have to do the same thing to Shia militia - and that's what's happened. And I think it's been pretty clear that the prime minister has said to the militias 'you know what? you're on your own now. You really cannot operate outside the law.'"
Finkelstein went on to list other "highlights" of the press conference, mostly boilerplate such as "Tony emphasized that there is no desire to federalize education, but hold schools accountable." Not a skeptical word to be found on Finkelstein's part, unlike his post earlier in the day in which he ascribed sordid, nefarious motives to Hillary Clinton's comments on TV, purporting to detect "insincere laughter" and "meretricious mirth."
We might take Finkelstein, Sheppard and Co. more seriously as media critics if they didn't engage in the very same behavior they claim to despise when Democrats do it.
NewsBusters bloggers have been on a tear of late in promoting liberal-bashing as being the same thing as "exposing and combatting liberal bias." We noted Warner Todd Huston's anti-Keith Olbermann screed yesterday; here are a few other examples from today.
Certainly, it comes as no great surprise that this happened. However, reading it in print makes it all the more nauseating.
Former Vice President Al Gore’s schlockumentary about imminent doom to our planet if all Americans except for him and his liberal, hypocritical, millionaire friends don’t stop driving cars and flying on airplanes has been nominated for an Academy Award.
Will it be any surprise when this farcical political advertisement wins, and Al Gore is standing in front of all the fawning, cheering, hypocritical liberal elites who use likely ten times as much energy per year as the average American does?
Someone please direct me to the nearest restroom.
-- Mark Finkelstein, Jan. 23 post:
If Hillary isn't quite getting out the long knives, let's just say she's oiling the scabbard. As we noted earlier, on this morning's "Today" Clinton drew an invidious comparison between herself and John Edwards, referring to him as "on the sidelines" while she's in "the arena."
Meredith took note of Clinton's feigned frivolity: "You're laughing at that. Advisors have said that they want to humanize you. Why do people seem to have that perception of you after knowing you for 15 years."
Ouch. Being told that your handlers want to "humanize" you has got to hurt. And it was hard to mistake the implication of Vieira's mention of "15 years"? Hillary, at least in your case, familiarity really does breed contempt.
Hillary began by alluding to her two successful senate campaigns in New York, where she encountered the same kinds of "attitudes and stereotypes." For the record, I think Hillary gets way too much credit for winning there. In New York, registered Dems outnumber Republicans by 2 million, and Hillary ran first against a 'C'-list opponent and then against a virtual non-entity who didn't really bother to campaign.
Hillay didn't quite make the 'L' hand sign, but the message was unmistakable: "Johnny, why don't you go back to New Orleans, pound some more nails, and leave the driving to me?"
What's the difference between this kind of Hillary- and Gore-bashing and the kind of stuff you see on zillions of conservative blogs? Not much. How is this "exposing and combatting liberal bias"? It's not. Is being a repository for such screeds what the MRC wants out of NewsBusters? (Especially considering that the MRC already has a screedmeister in Brent Bozell.)
A Jan. 23 CNS article by Kevin Mooney highlighted what he called the "left-wing positions" of the Union of Concerned Scientists, but he does not detail the conservative links of those attacking the UCS, which Mooney describes only as "critics." Among those groups:
The Capital Research Center, a conservative group best known for its 2004 "study" of Teresa Heinz Kerry's charitable donations, which misleadingly linked Heinz Kerry's donations to the Tides Foundation to allegedly left-wing causes the foundation supports, even though her donations were specifically earmarked for environmental projects that have nothing to do with those political causes.
In a Jan. 22 NewsBusters post, Mark Finkelstein notes that he has "hit Chris Matthews hard here in recent weeks" and decides to "give him credit for flashing some real reporter's instincts in going after Hillary aide Howard Wolfson."
"Hitting him hard" is not the phrase that comes to mind when thinking of Finkelstein's treatment of Matthews; misrepresenting and distorting Matthews' words is more like it.
And it's interesting that tough questioning of a Democrat is portrayed by Finkelstein as "flashing some real reporter's instincts." We suspect that Finkelstein has never used those words to describe tough questioning of a Republican, instead dismissing it as a hostile reporter showing liberal bias.
Warner Todd Huston started out his Jan. 22 NewsBusters post about a Washington Post article on the choice of Rich Little to headline the White House Correspondents Dinner, apparently to apologize for Stephen Colbert's appearance last year, with the usual conservative huffiness. "Being nice (to a Republican) simply isn't an option to the Washington Post, it appears ... Only the anti-Bush media could see a desire to be less mean spirited as something to lament," Huston sniped, adding, "Why does the comedian for this dinner have to be 'edgy' and have 'searing political humor'? Can't he just be funny?"
But when the Post mentioned conservative bete noire Keith Olbermann, Huston went apoplectic:
Obscenely, the Post quotes the unhinged sports guy, Keith Olbermann-- one of the most shrill purveyors of mean in the media today -- as saying that the press corp has gone soft on Washington over the choice of Little. It is as if Olbermann's is a noteworthy, thoughtful point in the story.
That's more or less how MSNBC host Keith Olbermann read it; he nominated the entire correspondents' association as his "Worst Person in the World" on his program last week.
Olbermann is proof that one need not be worthy of what we term "fame" today. In days gone by he would have been scorned as "infamous" and would not be celebrated as a celebrity or be awarded any measure of "fame." No one would want to be like him and no one would admit to watching him, either.
Funny, we thought Paris Hilton was "proof that one need not be worthy of what we term 'fame' today." And Huston's "scorned as 'infamous' " jab and following screed equally applies to Ann Coulter.
NewsMax Not Disclosing Morris' Anti-Hillary Activism Topic: Newsmax
Via Media Matters, we learn from Robert Novak that Dick Morris is "asking for a contribution between $25 and $100 or more to finance a critical film documentary of Sen. Hillary Clinton," citing the Swift Boat Veterans as a precedent.
Such activism would seem to conflict with Morris' punditry and prognostication, particularly as it relates to the 2008 presidential race. Yet Morris' NewsMax columns of Jan. 20 and Jan. 21 -- in which he is critical of Clinton's campaign and talks down her chances of winning the nomination -- do not disclose Morris' anti-Hillary activism.
Shouldn't NewsMax disclose Morris' anti-Hillary stance to readers so they can judge for themselves how seriously to take his anti-Hillary comments?
Sheppard Shocked by Non-Shocking Event Topic: NewsBusters
In a Jan. 21 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard claimed it was "shocking" that Chris Matthews referred to Hillary Clinton as "Dukakis in a dress" on "The Chris Matthews Show," thus calling her "a female incarnation of one of the biggest left-wing failures in decades."
But it's not as shocking as Sheppard professes to think: Matthews has called Clinton "Dukakis in a dress" atleastfourtimes previously.
We haven't written much on CNSNews.com's news coverage lately -- that's because CNS seems to be making a concerted effort to offer at least somewhat balanced coverage. This might have to do with the recent promotion of Patrick Goodenough, a former CNS international bureau chief, to managing editor. We don't recall the last time we singled out a Goodenough article for bias or bad reporting, which suggests that he's applying those standards across CNS.
That's not to say CNS doesn't fall back to its old ways on occasion. For instance, a Jan. 4 article by Susan Jones is essentially a Traditional Values Coalition press release that attacks a congressional proposal to add restrictions on lobbying efforts -- or, according to the TVC as reported by Jones, "an aggressive plan to 'muzzle' conservative groups through lobby reform" -- without offering any opposing view, let alone a neutral description of the legislation.
By contrast, a Jan. 16 article by Monisha Bansal on the same subject gave space to a group supporting the bill, though it presented 12 paragraphs of argument against it before getting to the proponents. It's still somewhat slanted -- what we've come to expect from the ConWeb -- but it did present both sides of the story, something that doesn't happen with Jones' press release-based grind-'em-out items.
Jones' Jan. 19 follow-up on the vote on the bill, however, goes back to old patterns by quoting only Republicans and conservative groups.
Telling the whole story, and not regurgitating press releases, is what truly serves readers, whatever their political affiliation. We hope CNS continues to improve on this front until it genuinely lives up to its mission statement to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story."
Update: WND Still Rewriting ADF Press Releases Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily never completely stopped rewriting press releases from the Alliance Defense Fund, even after we detailed WND's symbiotic relationship with the conservative legal group. But WND has upped its efforts of late to serve as ADF's public relations division.
A Jan. 20 WND article closely tracks an ADF press release on a Cleveland purportedly arrested outside an abortion clinic because "someone inside was "annoyed" with the sound of the business owner's voice," and it obtains additional quotes from an ADF attorney. No apparent effort was made to contact the other side in the case.
A Jan. 5 article by Chelsea Schilling featuring several cases the ADF is handling agaisnt school districts made featured comments by ADF officials and stuck with telling the ADF's side of the story. And Schilling even went further in one case; in reciting one press release-derived incident, she writes without citation or challenge that one student "politely" informed a school official "of their First Amendment right to peacefully express their views." Again, no apparent attempt was made to contact those school districts involved for the other side of the story.
Tim Graham isn't the only NewsBusters post that can't get past George Allen's loss of his Virginia Senate seat. Its posters are now taken to spinning an incident during that campaign in order to attack an Allen critic.
Mike Stark is an activist blogger who, a few weeks before the November election, tried to confront Allen over rumors of alleged spousal abuse; in doing so, Allen staffers roughly wrestled Stark to the ground. But NewsBusters posters have taken to telling their own version of the story.
In a Jan. 15 post, Noel Sheppard described Stark as "the blogger that pushed a George Allen supporter at a campaign event in late October ... and ended up getting wrestled to the ground as a result." In support of that, Sheppard linked to a YouTube video of a series of photos purportedly showing Stark "shov[ing] an Allen supporter, then asking at one point, "Is he trying to spit?" Sheppard mentions nothing about the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Slantie winner Dan Riehl takes it even farther in a Jan. 20 post, claiming that Stark "physically assaulted a campaign worker only to ask Allen if he had 'spit on his wife,' " linking again to a series of photos purporting to show the "assault" and not noting the context in which Stark asked his question.
Neither Riehl nor Sheppard offer any evidence beyond those photos -- which prove nothing in and of themselves -- that Stark maliciously did anything physical or was trying to do anything more than get past an Allen campaign worker. Further, the newspaper that shot those photos, the Fredricksburg, Va., Free Lance-Star, reported of particlar segment of the incident that "Stark pushed toward the senator, [and Allen staffer] Dan Allen pushed back." Nobody claimed at the time that Stark "assaulted" anyone.
But then, consider the source(s) -- Riehl regularly makes false claims, and Sheppard regularly misrepresents issues (his comment came in a post spinning Melanie Morgan's extremist remarks).
Another Selectively Edited Finkelstein Transcript Topic: NewsBusters
Noel Sheppard apparently hasn't had that talk we recommended he have with Mark Finkelstein -- you know, about selectively editing the transcripts he posts on NewsBusters. Because Finkelstein has done it again.
In a Jan. 19 post, Finkelstein claims that the Wall Street Journal's John Fund "had something of a nuclear showdown" with MSNBC's Chris Matthews:
Said Fund, speaking of the build-up to the Iraq war: "The administration said there were weapons of mass destruction. They never claimed the United States was in imminent danger."
Matthews: "They did make the claim they [Iraq] had a nuclear weapon."
Fund: "No!! They did not claim they had a nuclear weapon! Give me the statement!
Matthews had none. The most he could muster was an Iraqi claim of a delivery system -- not of a weapon itself.
Not quite. Here's the section of "Hardball" transcript that Finkelstein condensed down to what Matthews could purportedly "muster":
MATTHEWS: They explained – the administration – that they had a delivery system, an airplane that would deliver it to North America. That was a big part of the case they made.
FUND: One, if they -- if they developed a nuclear weapon, they said they had a delivery system. They didn’t claim Iraq had a nuclear weapon.
MATTHEWS: They said don’t wait for the smoking gun because there’ll be a mushroom cloud. They used all the language of fear and imminent danger.
That was a reference to Condoleezza's Rice statement in late 2002 that "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Further (but not noted by either Matthews or Finkelstein) the Bush administration did claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons. Vice President Dick Cheney said the following a few days before the Iraq war started, on the March 16, 2003, edition of NBC's "Meet the Press":
CHENEY: We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.
After truncating that section, Finkelstein then resumed his transcript:
Fund: "Chris, do you believe North Korea has a nuclear weapon?"
Matthews, after some serious dead air: "I don't know."
Fund: "You don't?? We know they do! They've announced it!!"
Matthews: "OK. But what's the point? What's the point here?"
Finkelstein abruptly ends his transcript there, adding "Oh, I don't know: perhaps that Chris should get his facts straight before venturing into his next facedown with John Fund!" But the exchange continued, in which Matthews explained his point:
FUND: The point is –
MATTHEWS: OK, we’re not going to war with North Korea, I’ve noticed.
MATTHEWS: OK. Why are we going to war, even thinking about it with Iran, then?
FUND: We’re not thinking about going to war. We are trying to put --
FUND: -- diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran so they don’t even think about it.
MATTHEWS: Well, that would be good. But I’m afraid that’s a threat that if it doesn’t work, we could go to war, that’s what I’m afraid of.
So, to sum up: Matthews' question of "What's the point?" applied not to whether North Korea's nuclear weapons actually existed, as Finkelstein implied by his selective editing of the transcript, but to why we're engaging in more aggressive postures toward Iran, which to our knowledge does not have nuclear weapons, than with North Korea, which apparently does. And more selective editing obscured the fact that Matthews did offer evidence (and that other evidence exists) for his claim that the Bush administration did link nuclear weapons to Saddam's Iraq.
Further, Finkelstein lets Fund off the hook for his claim that the Bush administration "never claimed the United States was in imminent danger." That is only true in a very narrow technical sense; in fact, President Bush did call Iraq an "urgent threat"; Vice President Dick Cheney called Iraq a "mortal threat"; and other senior White House officials assented when reporters applied the "imminent threat" characterization.
(And as to Fund's claim that "We’re not thinking about going to war" with Iran, Jerome Corsi at WorldNetDaily begs to differ.)
Finkelstein seems to be under the impression that he is free to distort with impunity the words of people with whom he doesn't agree (as he has done on previousoccasions). But he also forgets that other people watch the same shows he does and can describe in detail his distortions.
CNS Still Slanting Abortion Articles Topic: CNSNews.com
Susan Jones and Payton Hoegh were doing so well. In their Jan. 19 CNSNews.com article on the upcoming anniversary of Roe v. Wade, they start out by countering the "pro-life" moniker with "pro-choice," a term CNS has generally steered clear of in the past.
But then, about halfway through the article, Jones and Hoegh abandon "pro-choice" for the inaccurate and loaded "abortion advocates." In fact, pro-choicers advocate the right to abortion, which is not the same thing as advocating abortions themselves.
It's not quite as slanted as CNS' previousefforts in covering the abortion issue, but it's still a slant.
Speaking of Pertinent Information ... Topic: NewsBusters
NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard keeps up his war on Keith Olbermann -- he has previously called Olbermann "a disgrace, and the idea that any major media outlet would give him a daily platform to spew his vitriol from is similarly so" -- in a January 18 post taking Olbermann to task for his criticism of "24." Sheppard suggests that Olbermann is "formulating these opinions without all of the pertinent information available."
Besides accusing Olbermann of suffering from "obvious paranoia" (a slightly less harsh assessement than the "disturbing," "offensive" and "despicable" epithets Sheppard has previously hung on him), Sheppard takes particular offense to Olbermann's singling out of a NewsBusters post recommending that a "24" scene in which terrorists set off a nuclear device in Los Angeles "should be required viewing for all media members who question what's at risk and whether there really is a war on terror":
Yet, when a conservative writer “wonder[ed] how many people in the media understand how possible what was depicted [in Tuesday’s ‘24' episode] is,” and if “they really pondered the unthinkable,” KO suggested such person is addle-minded enough to believe that “somewhere in this country there really is a cheerleader who will never die, there's at least one real-life talking dog, and a mother and a daughter who patter back and forth like the Gilmore Girls.”
But Sheppard leaves out some of that "pertinent information" he speaks so highly of: The "conservative writer" who penned that post is none other than Sheppard himself. Strangely, he doesn't link to it.
The fact that you're defending your own writing is something readers ought to know, doncha think, Noel?
Sadly, No! points out that Thomas D. Kuiper, in a Jan. 18 WorldNetDaily column, claimed that "when President Bush had been in office less than four months, Hillary Clinton was already blaming him for environmental changes" when, in fact, the Clinton statement Kuiper cites doesn't mention Bush.
Kuiper is the author of "I've Always Been A Yankees Fan: Hillary Clinton in Her Own Words," which, as we've noted, is notnecessarily so.
'Terrorist Surveillance Program' Topic: Media Research Center
A Jan. 18 CyberAlert item (and Jan. 17 NewsBusters post) by Brent Baker claimed that referring to what Baker called the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" as "domestic spying" and "domestic eavesdropping" was a "network habit," as well as "loaded and inaccurate."
But "Terrorist Surveillance Program" is at least as loaded and inaccurate. As we've noted, that term is the Bush administration's preferred terminology, something Baker fails to acknowledge. And "domestic eavesdropping" is indeed a component of the program, given that one end of the phone call being tapped is in the United States. Further, the name itself is misleading because the NSA does not know for sure that the subject of surveillance is, in fact, a terrorist when surveillance begins.