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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Potentially Offensively Biased Factoid of the Day

A June 19 article by Nathan Burchfiel on the liberal Take Back America conference notes: "The conference is being held at the Washington Hilton, where in 1981 John Hinckley, Jr. failed in his attempt to assassinate conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan."

Is Burchfiel suggesting that liberals chose that hotel for the conference because it was where a Republican president was shot? 

Posted by Terry K. at 10:32 AM EDT
NewsMax Sorta Admits Its Online Poll Is Biased
Topic: Newsmax

For the first time that we know of, NewsMax is admitting that its opt-in online polls don't represent the U.S. population as a whole.

We've noted that NewsMax frequently misrepresents these polls as speaking for all Americans when, as an opt-in poll promoted mostly on NewsMax and other conservative websites, they most decidedly do not (and are ultimately just a tool to harvest e-mail addresses for its mailing list). But in a June 17 "Insider Report," NewsMax described its opt-in poll on Hillary Clinton as showing "how GOP-leaning web users view her politics."

Still, NewsMax is promoting the poll as showing "a shift in sentiment" toward Hillary:

Now, by a margin of 51% to 49%, respondents believe Hillary will be denied the nomination of her party.

When asked if Hillary is the best candidate the Democrats could nominate, a solid 78% said "No."

And 71% said they would vote for Obama over Clinton in a Democratic primary.

Given that NewsMax is admitting that this is the view of "GOP-leaning voters," the results as applied to Democratic primaries are meaningless because registered Republicans have no say in who Democratic voters choose as their presidential candidate.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:27 AM EDT
MRC-Fox News Appearance Watch
Topic: Media Research Center

A June 18 appearance by the MRC Business & Media Institute's Dan Gainor on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto" to discuss gas prices included something MRC representatives on Fox News rarely encounter: an opposing viewpoint.

Gainor was joined in his appearance by former Clinton administration official Laura Schwartz. But since Cavuto sympathizes with Gainor's views, it was a unbalanced panel that turned into both of them attacking Schwartz:

GAINOR: And the rest of the stuff -- more government, more taxes, more regulation. We haven't had any sort of price-gouging ever found in all the infinite numbers of investigations they've done, so why do you think we're going to find it now? It's just posturing on the part of government. The reason why we have high prices now is because of government.

SCHWARTZ: Well, I'd like to draw your attention to the FTC report in spring of 2006 that showed price-gouging going on after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. So just look to that. Spring 2006 [unintelligible] by the FTC commissioner. That's what this is based off of, and --

CAVUTO: I believe -- I believe, Laura, it was localized to six independent dealers, and we should point out that there are better than 2,000. But Dan, I do want --

SCHWARTZ: Well, they actually showed refineries, wholesalers and retailers --


SCHWARTZ: This came out of Bart Stupak's report in the House. 

CAVUTO: No. No, they did not say that, by the way. 

In fact, the FTC report found "15 examples of pricing at the refining, wholesale, or retail level that fit the relevant legislation’s definition of evidence of 'price gouging.'"

Posted by Terry K. at 9:53 AM EDT
Monday, June 18, 2007
Refuted? Not Quite
Topic: NewsBusters

In a June 18 NewsBusters post, Matthew Balan claimed that after CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour "repeated the platitude that mainstream media reports 'without fear nor favor... giving voice to those who don't have a voice, and just simply trying to tell the truth,' " she "revealed her own bias" by stating that "if we don't, we can get really into a big disaster. And I, as you know, feel strongly that that's what happened in the lead-up to the Iraq war." Balan added: "Amanpour is repeating the revisionist claim that the media did not pursue the Bush administration and other proponents of action against Iraq aggressively in the run-up to the war, a claim that the MRC refuted in May."

Well, not exactly. Balan is referring to a May 15 "Media Reality Check" in which Rich Noyes claiming to disprove liberals' "amazing display of myth-building and revisionism concerning the establishment media’s performance before the war." But all Noyes does is offer a handful of anecdotal counterexamples of questions being raised, including one from the barely-watched "McLaughlin Group." Noyes asserted:

That’s complete nonsense, as anyone who has actually looked at the coverage would know. In the months leading up to the start of the war in March 2003, the much of the media — especially ABC — portrayed the Bush administration as aggressive, impulsive, pig-headed and even blood-thirsty, while routinely doubting the credibility of their public statements.

Noyes is so busy building up a straw man to anecdotally knock down a pair of comments made on CNN's "Reliable Sources" that he doesn't address more detailed analyses of the issue. While one of Noyes' anecdotes is a question from ABC's Terry Moran to President Bush during a March 6, 2003, press conference, Eric Boehlert went into much deeper detail on that press conference in his 2006 book "Lapdogs":

Laying out the reasons for war, Bush that night mentioned al-Qaida and the terrorist attacks of September 11 thirteen times in less than an hour, yet not a single journalist challenged the presumed connection Bush was making between al-Qaida and Iraq, despite the fact that intelligence sources had publicly questioned any such association. And during the Q&A session, nobody bothered to ask Bush about the elusive Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind whom Bush had vowed to capture. Follow-up questions were nonexistent, which only encouraged Bush to give answers to questions he was not asked.


Before the cameras went live, White House handlers, in a highly unusual move, marched veteran reporters to their seats in the East Room, two-by-two, like school children being led onto the stage for the annual holiday pageant. The White House was taking no chances with the choreography. Looking back on the night, New York Times White House correspondent Elisabeth Bumiller defended the press corps' timid behavior: "I think we were very deferential because ... it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you' re standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war," she told students at Towson University in Maryland. "There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time."

In fact, a search of the MRC's archives finds no mention whatsoever of Boehlert's book, which is arguably the most detailed case for the contention that the media didn't do its job before the Iraq war. Rather than addressing substantive criticism on an issue it purportedly cares about (from a shield-the-Bush-administration viewpoint), Noyes would apparently rather cherry-pick from Sunday talk shows and hurl out-of-context anecdotes in response -- hardly anyone's definition of refutation.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:53 PM EDT
Your Divine Mileage May Vary
Topic: NewsBusters
In an odd June 18 NewsBusters post, Tim Graham is miffed that NPR didn't put the word "goddess" in scare quotes in an "All Things Considered" piece on a 9-year-old girl who is "venerated as a deity in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal":

News people often hedge on the accuracy of the existence of God, but National Public Radio showed an ease in declaring they were in the presence of a "goddess" (no quote marks for her) on Thursday's All Things Considered newscast.


Even the NPR website is confident in declaring her divinity. Their headline for the segment: "She's Small, Sometimes Shy, and Totally Divine."

Notwithstanding the problem of putting scare quotes around something in an audio broadcast, Graham never really explains what the bee in his bonnet is about. Given that Graham notes at the outset that NPR states that the girl's divinity is pretty much limited to "the Kathmandu valley of Nepal," it can't be that NPR is claiming that she's a goddess to all; indeed, nowhere does the NPR report claim the girl has any divine powers at all, let alone those of the Christian God.

Aha! That may be it -- Graham doesn't want any non-Christian religion portrayed in a positive light. In other words, the problem Graham has with the NPR piece appears to be theological, not journalistic. There's probably a better place to address polytheistic vs. monotheistic belief system debates than NewsBusters.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:49 AM EDT
WND Misleads on Controversial Seminar
Topic: WorldNetDaily
We shouldn’t be surprised that WorldNetDaily would avoid offering the full context surrounding controversial remarks -- after all, it happens so often. And it has happened once again in the case of a controversial seminar at a Boulder, Colorado, high school.
A May 21 WND article by Bob Unruh reported that a speaker "told students as young as 14 to go have sex and use drugs":
The instructions came from Joel Becker, an associate clinical professor of psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles.
"I am going to encourage you to have sex and encourage you to use drugs appropriately," Becker said during his appearance at the school as part of a recent panel sponsored by the University of Colorado's Conference on World Affairs.
"Why I am going to take that position is because you are going to do it anyway," he continued. "I think as a psychologist and health educator, it is more important to educate you in a direction that you might actually stick to. So, I am going to stay mostly on with the sex side because that is the area I know more about. I want to encourage you to all have healthy, sexual behavior." 
But Unruh doesn’t offer the full context of Becker’s remarks. For that, we turn to ... another conservative, Dave Kopel of the Colorado-based Independence Institute. Kopel was so put off by false and misleading claims about the incident by the likes of Bill O’Reilly -- in an appearance on Fox News' "The O’Reilly Factor,” O’Reilly attacked Kopel, at one point saying, "If you’re not a secular progressive, then I’m Donald Duck," an absurdity even Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid criticized -- he wrote a report about it. While Kopel was critical of Becker’s speech, he also noted that Becker essentially reversed himself by the end of his talk, saying, "I'm not telling you whether you should or you shouldn't choose abstinence; I just think if you choose abstinence, it doesn't obviate your need to still be educated about sex.'
Unruh also repeated Becker's statement that "there are psychiatrists who will do sessions under the influence of ecstasy" without noting that, as Kopel told O’Reilly, ecstasy is, in fact, used in some psychiatric treatments in Europe.
Unruh repeated the out-of-context statements by Becker in a May 25 WND article; an unbylined June 16 article also repeats them.
All three of these articles made an attempt to tie the seminar to examples of other schools offering assemblies that "promote homosexuality" or, in one case, "a 'gay' indoctrination seminar." As we’ve noted, WND considers any non-negative reference to homosexuality to be "promotion" or "indoctrination."

Posted by Terry K. at 12:38 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, June 18, 2007 12:39 AM EDT
Sunday, June 17, 2007
WND Conflict of Interest Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

a June 9 WorldNetDaily article by Jennifer Carden lovingly described a national debate tournament for homeschooled youths:

Well versed in de Tocqueville, Hegel and NATO reform, dressed to impress in their best business suits, they're over-prepared, under-rested and, in many cases, looking forward to getting their driver's permit.

The cream of an incredibly driven crop, these 12-to-18-year-old homeschooled students represent the elite of the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association debate league. Monday, over 530 of their ranks will overrun Belton, Texas, for their own personal Super Bowl: the 8th annual National NCFCA Debate Tournament.

A June 16 WND article (describing the participants as "well-dressed, well-coifed, homeschooled teenagers") listed the results of that tournament. And it turns out there's a familiar name among the winners -- Alyssa Farah, daughter of WND editor Joseph Farah and occasional WND writer.

We're not criticizing that WND recognized these students -- as a hotbed of public school hatred and homeschool promotion, that's to be expected. But WND has never covered this particular tournament before, and to lavish two articles on it reeks a bit of favoritism -- that WND would not have covered it otherwise if Farah's daughter wasn't taking part.

Disclosure of conflicts of interest is a basic tenet of good journalism. Farah didn't disclose his, which sadly puts a taint on WND's coverage, one the tournament's participants don't deserve. But as we've repeatedly documented, WND fails to disclose its conflicts on interest on a regular basis.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:55 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, June 17, 2007 5:59 PM EDT
We Cross The Pond
Topic: The ConWeb
ConWebWatch's Terry Krepel is featured in a June 17 article in the UK's Observer on right-wing attacks on the Clintons.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:17 AM EDT
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Another Endorsement of Racist, Eugenicist Immigration Law
Topic: Newsmax

Goodness. The ConWeb endorsements, explicit or implicit, of the racist, eugenicist 1924 U.S. immigration law continue to roll in. The latest is Barry Farber in a June 15 NewsMax column:

What makes me pitchfolk-toting and musket-loading mad is the accusation that those of us who most bitterly oppose this legislation are somehow bigoted, nativist, or otherwise not quite there as Americans. Up to the 1960s, immigration worked.


When I say "It worked," I mean we had a sense that there was a legal way to immigrate to America and obviously not everybody who wanted to come could be allowed but abuse and inundation were not an issue. Every January every alien had to go to a U.S. post office and register. Every single alien, legal; mind you, had to have a sponsor; someone with finances sufficient to guarantee the alien would never be a burden to American taxpayers. 

Then we bigoted, mean-minded haters noticed something. Our immigration quotas favored white European Christians. Most Americans at that time were white Christians of European origin and seeking to maintain your nation's demographic make-up isn't exactly a war crime. Nonetheless we didn't want to be oerceived as a country that favored white Christian Europeans. So we junked those quotas and made new ones favoring those who'd previously been slighted.

Then the dam broke and the riptide of illegal immigration surged. Too much is enough!

We'll call this an implicit endorsement. 

UPDATE: Also falling in the implicit category is a June 16 WorldNetDaily column by William J. Federer:

An interesting observation is that prior to LBJ's 1965 immigration policy, most immigrants to the United States were from Europe, with 70 percent coming from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany.

European immigrants assimilated, as they were culturally and economically similar to America's population. Immigrants were educated and, interestingly, many tended to become Republicans.

After the implementation of LBJ's policy, immigrants came from poorer countries, were less educated, more dependent on government, and, interestingly, tended to become Democrats.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:03 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2007 1:20 AM EDT
Friday, June 15, 2007
MRC-Fox News Appearance Watch
Topic: Media Research Center

A June 14 appearance by NewsBusters executive editor Matthew Sheffield on "Fox & Friends" to discuss accusations that CNN staged a story follows the MRC-Fox template: Sheffield appears alone, the host concurs with Sheffield, and Sheffield, NewsBusters and the MRC are never identified as conservatives or professional critics of CNN.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:26 PM EDT
Breaking: Slutty 'Obama Girl' Uses Slutty Domain Registrar
Topic: NewsBusters

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, 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?

Posted by Terry K. at 1:34 PM EDT
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." 

Posted by Terry K. at 1:42 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2007 1:47 AM EDT
Thursday, June 14, 2007
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.

Posted by Terry K. at 7:47 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, June 14, 2007 7:51 PM EDT
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.

Posted by Terry K. at 6:45 PM EDT
Methodology Wars
Topic: NewsBusters

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 longtime obsession 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."

Posted by Terry K. at 4:19 PM EDT

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