Here's the takeaway from Ken Shepherd's in-depth investigation of the whole "Obama Girl" thing, as detailed in a June 14 NewsBusters post:
Doing some digging around the Internet, however, I was unable to find who exactly is behind the viral video phenomenon, but I did find it was registered through GoDaddy.com, the Web site registrar made a household name for its racy TV ads.
Is Shepherd really suggesting that the only reason the "Obama Girl" folks registered their domain through GoDaddy because they both feature sexy chicks?
Kessler, Land Downplay Evangelical Criticism of Mormonism Topic: Newsmax
Ronald Kessler's fluffing of Mitt Romney continues in a June 13 NewsMax article in which he interviews Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. In it, Kessler gives space to Land to engage in liberal-bashing -- claiming that it's a myth that liberals are "sweet, loving, and tolerant" and that liberals are most likely to oppose having a Mormon as president because they look upon them as "people of faith on steroids": "Liberals do not tolerate people who disagree with them. And, of course, the one group they are least tolerant of is people who believe in moral absolutes."
In fact, polling indicates that conservatives object to Romney's Mormonism more than liberals.
Kessler also allows Land to downplay evangelical concerns about Mormonism -- even suggesting that Rudy Giuliani's "one too many" marriages are more objectionable than Romney's Mormonism -- and to join in Kessler's agenda of portraying Romney as a different kind of Mormon. "A significant percentage of Evangelicals have reservations about voting for a Mormon — reservations which I think Mitt Romney could successfully address," Kessler quote Land as saying, adding:
"I would look upon Catholicism as an erroneous understanding of the Christian faith; that's why I'm a Baptist, not a Catholic," Land says. "I would look upon Mormonism as another faith in the same sense that I would look upon Islam as another faith. I think the fairest and most charitable way to define Mormonism would be to call it the fourth Abrahamic religion — Judaism being the first, Christianity being the second, Islam being the third, and Mormonism being the fourth. And Joseph Smith would play the same character in Mormonism that Muhammad plays in Islam."
Evangelicals who are "less charitable" call Mormonism a cult, Land notes.
Kessler and Land both fail to note that some of those "less charitable" people are his fellow Southern Baptist leaders. For instance, according to the Baptist Press (the news service of the SBC), a 2005 issue of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology calls Mormonism a "cult" and generally disparages the religion in contrast with Christianity. For instance, Journal editor Steven J. Wellum writes:
Regardless of the Mormon claims, it is difficult, nigh impossible, to maintain that Mormonism is just another version or subset of historic Christianity. Why? Because at point after point, if we compare and contrast Christian orthodoxy with Mormon theology, we have to conclude that Mormonism represents an entirely different theology, an alien worldview -- another gospel, which is no gospel at all.
In this regard, we need to heed the warning of Paul that even if an angel from heaven preaches a gospel other than the one proclaimed by the apostles, let him be eternally condemned (Gal. 1:8-9). That is why evangelicals historically view Mormons as those who need to hear and respond to the true gospel found in Scripture alone, and as standing outside a saving relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Also, the SBC's North American Mission Board's website contains a resource sheet on Mormonism listing under "Cults, Sects, and New Religious Movements." The resource sheet lists among its tips for converting Mormons:
Remember, Mormons use Christian vocabulary (gospel, atonement, god) but radically redefine their meanings. Define clearly what you mean when you use biblical words.
Warn the Mormon about trusting in feelings (i.e., the burning in the bosom) for a validation of Mormonism s truth claim. Without historical, objective verification, feelings are useless.
And, since this is Kessler, he would be remiss if he didn't get a little Romney-fluffing out of Land:
"If you were doing a movie about a presidential race, and you sent over to Central Casting for a presidential candidate, they'd send back somebody who looks and talks a lot like Mitt Romney," Land says. "He's extremely telegenic, very personable. I mean this is a guy who would be considered a leader of men in any group that you would assemble."
We Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means Topic: Newsmax
A June 14 NewsMax article is headlined, "Public Outrage Over Limbaugh Censorship."
But the article itself shows that Limbaugh is, in fact, not being censored at all. The article describes efforts by Broward County, Florida, officials to end a partnership with a local radio station "to disseminate information during a hurricane emergency" because it airs conservative radio shows like Limbaugh's. There's no evidence of an ultimatum issued by the county demanding the station "censor" Limbaugh or anything of that sort. Nor have county officials demanded that Limbaugh's show not air anywhere in the county -- which would actually be censorship. Indeed, there's no evidence that the radio station has stopped airing Limbaugh or even offered to do so in order to keep the county's business (which would not stop another station from picking up Limbaugh's show).
It's merely free trade, one customer choosing who it wants to do business with, or not, for whatever reason -- something we thought conservatives supported.
AIM Recycles Dubious Claims in Libby/Plame Case Topic: Accuracy in Media
A June 11 Accuracy in Media "special report" by Roger Aronoff recycles the (misleading) conservative line about the Valerie Plame-Scooter Libby case.
Aronoff repeats the claim that "it was Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State under Colin Powell, not anyone from the White House, nor a supporter of going to war in Iraq, who told Robert Novak and Bob Woodward that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, worked for the CIA and had recommended her husband for the trip to Niger." But as we've noted, this ignores the fact that Libby was also discussing Plame's identity with reporters at the same time, and it's irrelevant to focus on Armitage since Novak was merely the first to report it.
Aronoff also claimed that Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, "suggested" in a July 2003 New York Times op-ed that Cheney's office sent him to Niger. In fact, Wilson specifically stated that "I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report" and that "The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office." Wilson never said that Cheney's office sent him.
Aronoff then attacks Fitzgerald for not addressing the issue of whether Plame was a classified or covert agent at Libby's trial. But Libby was not charged with anything related to Plame's outing; he was charged with lying to investigators and obstructing justice in the investigation of Plame's outing. Plame's status is irrelevant to the charges against Libby.
Finally, Aronoff asserted that Plame "has some explaining of her own to do" because of a recently released memo that "appears to contradict a statement she made under oath before a Congressional committee," suggesting that Plame "lied under oath" when she said she "she unequivocally denied having played any role in picking Joseph Wilson for a fact-finding trip to Niger."
But that's not what Plame said. As we noted (as well as National Review's Byron York, who Aronoff cites), Plame denied that she "supported" or "recommended" Wilson. The memo, in fact, supports that contention; it's clear from the context that CIA officials, not Plame, initiated the idea of Wilson going to Niger and that Plame is ambivalent at best about it and willing to defer to the judgment of others -- hardly the stance of someone actively lobbying for her husband, as Aronoff suggests that Plame did.
In a June 14 NewsBusters post highlighting the MRC's criticism of a Project for Excellence in Journalism study finding that Fox News offers less Iraq war coverage than CNN or MSNBC, Tim Graham repeats his post on the NRO Media Blog attacking the PEJ's studies as "Swiss-cheese studies. Their studies are not comprehensive, but a series of little snapshots making random selections of certain hours of TV content and not others." From Graham's NRO post:
Look at their methodology page. For MSNBC, they coded two out of these four programs per night: Tucker, Hardball, Countdown, and Scarborough Country. Obviously, if you only code frenzied Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, you’d get a much different result than if you analyzed Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough. (Or at least we can hope.) Then they only watch the first half-hour of each program, not the whole thing.
We're not sure what the problem is. Graham never explains why the random cross-section method is not a valid way to conduct this kind of research -- which, in the case of the PEJ study, covered "48 different outlets in five media sectors, including newspapers, online, network TV, cable TV, and radio" and focused on trends and trajectories in news coverage, not specific examination of content beyond subject.
Graham went on to claim in his NewsBusters post that the MRC's 2006 study of Iraq war coverage was "a more thorough study of Iraq coverage on cable." But Graham is comparing apples and oranges. The PEJ is not trying to find "bias" in content; the MRC is. And it's arguably just as much a "Swiss cheese study" as the PEJ's; its methodology was to examine "the 10am and 2pm EDT hours of live weekday news coverage" over a two-month period.
The MRC's study was largely devoted to shoring up preconceived notions of "liberal bias," with its main finding being that CNN and MSNBC offered "lopsidedly negative coverage" of the Iraq war, while Fox News did not. The study also skews to the MRC's longtimeobsession of demonstrating that Fox News is not biased (though MRC representatives get preferential treatment in their appearances on Fox). At one point, the question is asked: "So how does the Fox News Channel compare to its cable news competitors? Or do liberal journalists’ complaints reveal more about their ideological preferences than the professionalism of FNC’s correspondents?" At no point are the correspondents of CNN and MSNBC described as "professional."
Further, the study does not explain why the "pessimistic" tone of CNN and MSNBC's coverage is inherently biased or non-reflective of reality, or why Fox News' "fair and balanced" coverage is not biased or is an accurate reflection of reality. Nor does the study explain why there most be a "balanced" representation of positive vs. negative news in Iraq war reporting.
Graham was not the only NewsBusters denzien to bash the PEJ study. A June 13 post by Matthew Sheffield called the PEJ "leftish" and repeated Bill O'Reilly's defense of Fox News' lack of coverage -- "We don't highlight every terrorist attack because we learn nothing from that. And that's exactly what the terrorists want us to do" -- concluding, "O'Reilly's overall point is spot-on."
Good news: in his latest WorldNetDaily article about Shimon Peres, Aaron Klein drops the reference to unverified claims of purported quotes by Peres that Klein made no effort to check for accuracy.
Not-so-good news: While Klein divulges a bit more information about outgoing Israeli president Moshe Katsav (whom Peres is succeeding), this time reporting that Katsav resigned amid "allegations he sexually assaulted four female employees," he offered no further information about Katsav -- as has been Klein's style -- including the fact that Katsav is a member of the conservative Likud party. Further, while Klein notes that one of Peres' opponents was a member of Likud, he called it an "opposition" party rather than "conservative," though he called the Labor party "leftist." (Klein has a problem admitting that Likud -- or anyone in Israel, for that matter -- is conservative.)
Bad news: Klein is still bashing Peres, claiming he "is known in Israel as a serial loser of elections" and rehashing past attacks.
Anonymous WND Attack on Clinton Conflicts With Fellow Clinton-Hater Topic: WorldNetDaily
A June 13 WorldNetDaily article quotes an anonymous "long-time aide" to the Clintons as saying that "Bill and Hillary Clinton had a secret pact to first take turns as governor of Arkansas, then as U.S. president, but Bill at the last minute reneged on his end of the deal."
The blinking red light here is that the source is anonymous. That person is further described in the article as a "confidante, who has been with Clinton from the start" and a "well-placed source," but no explanation is offered as to why this person demanded -- and WND granted him/her -- anonymity.
This is a reminder that WND has no reservations about jettisoning what little journalistic integrity it has in order to advance its political agenda, a key component of which is a white-hot hatred of the Clintons. Remember what WND editor Joseph Farah himself has said about quotes from anonymous sources: that they're "usually quotes made up out of whole cloth to help make the story read better."
Nevertheless, WND has no reservation about resorting to anonymous sources when it deems necessary. For example, it used an anonymous source in 2002 to claim that the Clintons were mean to their pets.
The WND story continues:
In 1990, Bill Clinton was supposed to retire as governor of Arkansas and support his wife in that role, the long-time aide told WND in an exclusive interview. But he changed his mind about giving up the post and kept his decision from Hillary.
"Bill screwed Hillary over when he announced his plans to run for re-election in Arkansas," said the aide, who insisted on anonymity.
"He was supposed to step aside and let Hillary run for governor," he said.
"But he didn't tell Hillary about his change of plans, and she heard it when she was sitting behind him when he made the announcement."
This conflicts with the record of that time told by a different Clinton-hater, Dick Morris. From his 2004 attack book "Rewriting History":
As it came to seem less likely that Bill was going to run for governor [in 1990], another lost chapter in Hillary's life transpired: The first lady of Arkansas decide that she would try to become governor. ... With a giddy expectancy she began planning her own run for office.
They asked me to conduct a poll to assess her chances of winning, and I greed.
But the results that came back were devastating, and they would have a crucial impact on Hillary's political development: According to the poll numbers, she couldn't win. It wasn't that people didn't like her. In fact, she was quite popular. But voters just didn't feel she could be her own person as governor. They worried that she would just be a placeholder for Bill, a warm body to keep the governorship in the family -- who would step aside should her husband's presidential race fall short.
There was some precedent for the idea -- but it was the wrong kind of precedent. when Alabama's term limits law had made Governor George Wallace retire in 1966, he persuaded his wife, Lurleen, to run in his place. After she died in office (and her term was completed by the state's lieutenant governor), he came back for eight more years in office. Now, as we discussed hillary's potential candidacy, I made a big mistake: I referred to the Arkansas voters' reaction as "the Lurleen Wallace factor."
They [the Clintons] actually insisted that I take a second poll, reminding the respondents more explicitly of her achievements (which Bill listed for me at tedious length). But it was no use. The voters just refused to see Hillary as anything but Bill's puppet.
In other words, by Morris' account, Hillary didn't run for Arkansas governor in 1990 because polling showed she couldn't win, not because Bill pulled a switcheroo on her in public.
Morris' account is Carl Bernstein's Hillary bio, which the WND article described as stating that "does not allude to any betrayal, though, and suggests Hillary simply changed her mind about running." WND did not note that Morris is the source for Bernstein's account, nor, strangely, did it note that Bernstein wrote the book, identifying it only by title. Similarly, WND identified the Hillary book by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta, "Her Way," only by title and not mentioning the authors, repeating that book's claim that the Clintons had a "secret pact of ambition" without noting that questions have been raised about that claim.
(We would add that Morris is a likely possibility for WND's anonymous source since 1) this account conflicts with what he said publicly and 2) he works for the competition, NewsMax.)
So, which Clinton-hater are we to trust? WND's anonymous source (who can be assumed to be a Clinton-hater simply by virtue of collaborating with WND), or Dick Morris?
As we've seen with Joe Scarborough, the conservatives at NewsBusters deal harshly with fellow conservatives who deviate from the orthodoxy.
It happens again in a June 13 post by Mark Finkelstein, who bashes conservative Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby for daring to voice opinions on immigration that don't conform to conservative opinion. Finkelstein writes that Jacoby's column "could just as easily have been written by his erstwhile Globe colleague Thomas Oliphant, the quintessential effete East Coast liberal" and -- just as Finkelstein colleague Tim Graham suggested Scarborough was suffereing from Stockholm syndrome from hanging around all those liberals at MSNBC -- asks, "Is liberalism contagious?" concluding: "Has Jeff acquired some fuzzy liberal thinking via osmosis? Could it be time for him to take a Beantown break and recharge his conservative batteries elsewhere?"
Nowhere does Finkelstein allow for the possibility that Jacoby -- as a fellow conservative deviating from the conservative norm -- might have a point worth looking into. Finkelstein specifically attacks Jacoby's statement that a Mexico border wall would be "a Berlin-style wall of our own": "As commentators from Rush to Rich Lowry have pointed out, the Berlin Wall was built to keep its people in -- to render them prisoners in their own country. The border fence is there to keep people out. And any country that doesn't control its borders will eventually cease to be a country. It's disappointing that Jacoby doesn't acknowledge this." As Berlin proved, a border wall is fraught with symbolism, and Finkelstein shows no recognition that a U.S.-Mexico border wall can arguably be seen the same way.
GOP-Appointed Judges Aren't Hacks -- But Clinton-Appointed Judges Are Topic: NewsBusters
A June 12 NewsBusters post by Robert Knight led readers to a piece by Jan LaRue for the Knight-headed, MRC-operated Culture & Media Institute complaining about a Washington Post article on the Bush administration's politicization of the hiring process for immigrantion judges. In response, both Knight and LaRue cited the qualifications of a single immigration judge; Knight added, "If he’s a hack, we could use more hacks."
Knight and LaRue might want to drop an interoffice e-mail to Brent Baker, who used a June 11 NewsBusters post (and June 12 CyberAlert item) to similarly complain that network didn't note that two judges who ruled against the Bush administration's "policy of holding a sleeper cell suspect at a military brig without redress in civilian courts" were Clinton appointees.
In other words, to apply Knight and LaRue's line of reasoning, Baker is saying that all Clinton judicial appointees are hacks. But if it's OK to assume that Clinton appointees are ipso facto hacks, why isn't OK to assume that Bush appointees are as well? It's the same thought process, right?
Indeed, while Knight and LaRue were eager to detail the qualifications of a single judge in an attempt to show that the exception proves the rule, Baker pussyfoots around the qualifications of the Clinton appointees he clearly detests, linking to their bios only to show that they were indeed appointed by Clinton -- though one, Roger Gregory, was a recess appointment that President Bush renominated in 2001, which suggests by the magic Republican nomination method that he must not be a hack after all (unless a Clinton nomination stains the nominee with some sort of hackery taint that can't be removed even by the purifying power of a Bush nomination). Baker offers no evidence, other than who appointed them and issuing a ruling that contradicts a president he supports, that these judges are hacks.
So Knight and LaRue may want to have a little chat about double standards with Baker -- unless they believe that all Clinton appointees are ipso facto hacks as well.
Klein Repeats Unverified Attack on Peres Topic: WorldNetDaily
In a Jun 12 WorldNetDaily article reporting that "some" have accused Shimon Peres of "invoking the name of God to pander to the crucial religious vote," Aaron Klein repeated unverified accusations of "anti-Jewish quotes made by Peres to the media." As we've detailed, Klein declared them "purported" quotes without offering any evidence that Peres did, in fact, say what he is accused of saying to the context in which the word were allegedly said.
Klein also quoted "Rabbi Joseph Garlitsky, chief rabbi of Center Tel Aviv" attacking Peres: "Peres' relationship with God is something that is personal to him. But until he repents, until he comes out and says he made major mistakes with the Oslo Accords and with upholding PLO Leader Yasser Arafat as a partner for peace, and with urging withdrawals and land giveaways, bringing massive bloodshed to the Jewish state, he is not allowed to be president." But in a November 2005 WND article, Klein identified him (spelled "Gerlitzky") as chairman of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace -- a conservative group that has repeatedlyattacked Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In other words, this is a political attack on Peres that Klein has refused to properly identify as such.
Interesting that Klein is suddenly roused to attack the non-conservative Peres when he couldn't be bothered to report on the rape scandal involving conservative Israeli President Moshe Katsav. Can you say bias?
We've previously noted that xenophobic Ralph Hostetter has a certain, shall we say, animosity toward Asian immigrants, ostensibly because they "bring a different culture to America."
Hostetter ratcheted that up a bit in a June 8 NewsMax column, in which he called for the U.S. to "repeal the infamous 1965 Immigration Act with its provisions that favor Asian immigrants five to one over Anglo-Europeans."
We wonder about Hostetter's hostility toward Asians, given that most other anti-immigration conservatives have chosen Hispanics as the ethnic group to demonize. Perhaps he needs to do an entire column on the Asian menace to explain the issue to his readers -- and while he's at it, explain whether he supports a return to the racist, eugenicist 1924 immigration laws that banned all Asian immigration to the U.S. as "undesirable."
MRC: Immigration Coverage Not Slanted Enough Topic: Media Research Center
In a June 11 MRC "Media Reality Check," Rich Noyes complained that network coverage of the immigration reform bill refused to parrot conservative talking points (not in so many words, of course). The offenses:
CBS "profiled an illegal immigrant working as a housekeeper." Gasp! Immigrants can't be treated as human!
Reporters "matter-of-factly used the positive adjective 'reform' to describe the Senate bill, but only twice did reporters refer to it as 'amnesty.' " Horrors! Of course, Noyes doesn't mention that "amnesty" is a preferred right-wing term for the bill, or even explain why "amnesty" should be used "matter-of-factly."
Noyes complained that 'Most reports (75%) uncritically described the bill as one that 'would toughen border security' " without explaining why it purportedly doesn't.
Noyes also complained that "The costs of illegal immigration were mentioned just twice," but in citing one accounting of those costs, a Heritage Foundation report estimating that the costs "could be more than $2.5 trillion over the next two decades," Noyes neglected to note that the Heritage Foundation is a conservative group that opposes the current immigration bill.
Noyes concluded: "The networks’ paltry coverage makes one wonder if they are still equipped to adequately cover big debates like immigration, or if that job has already been yielded to energetic talk radio." So, "energetic" is now some euphemism for "conservative bias"?
CNS Suddenly Decides Mice Are Good Research Subjects Topic: CNSNews.com
An April 11 CNSNews.com article by Patrick Goodenough bashed Sen. John Kerry for citing research which he said had used embryonic stem cells to "cure" a mouse -- but, Goodenough wrote, "the mouse wasn't cured, and the research he referred to fell far short of the scores of treatments already being carried out using non-controversial 'adult' stem cells." (As we've noted, that claim about adult stem cell treatments is highly misleading.)
In contrast, a June 7 CNS article by Katherine Poythress enthusiastically reported on "three different group studies" that "document the successful creation of stem cells without destroying human embryos." But you have to read farther down to learn that human cells were not involved; the research involved mice.
Interesting change in tone there -- mice were unreliable as a research subject potentially extrapolated to humans when they support the idea of embryonic stem cell research, but are directly applicable when supporting non-embryonic research (indeed, there's no evidence at this point that the procedure in question would work on humans).
More Agenda-Hiding and Unverified Claims from Aaron Klein Topic: WorldNetDaily
A June 11 WorldNetDaily article by Aaron Klein reported a statement by the Rabbinical Congress for Peace that Shimon Peres is an "existential threat" to Israel. As per usual, Klein does not mention that the Rabbinical Congress for Peace is a right-wing group that, among other things, urged an uprising to bring down the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Also per usual, Klein does not permit the target of the congress' proclamation to respond to it.
Klein also uses his article to further attack Peres, which he has done in the past:
Peres has multiple times been accused of making anti-religious statements.
A list of purported anti-Jewish quotes made by Peres to the media were recently plastered around religious communities by a group calling itself the Committee for Jewish Holiness.
Among the documented Peres statements listed were:
"What King David did was not Jewish."
"The rabbis are deceivers."
"There is nothing to be proud of in Jewish history."
But though he called the statements "purported," Klein makes no effort to verify the accuracy of the statements attributed to Peres, let alone detail the full context of those statements if indeed they are accurate. Klein also fails to offer any further information on the Committee for Jewish Holiness, suggesting that it too, like the Rabbinical Congress for Peace, is a right-wing group. (We know that Klein prefers to whitewash the backgrounds of the right-wing groups he reports on.)
Finally, Klein buries the controversy surrounding former Israeli president Moshe Katsav, noting only that he "lost his position amid a rape scandal." Nowhere does Klein note that Katsav is a member of the conservative Likud party. As we've noted, Klein has all but ignored the Katsav scandal, something Klein likely would have not done had Katsav belonged to, say, Olmert's Kadima party.