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Sunday, October 5, 2008
Motley Responds to HuffPo, Still Doesn't Make Sense
Topic: Media Research Center

The MRC's Seton Motley used an Oct. 4 NewsBusters post to respond to the Huffington Post article by Seth Colter Walls about Motley's appearance on "Fox & Friends" in which he spewed apaprently false claims about Barack Obama's relationship with ACORN (as we've previously noted). Motley claimed that Walls is "lying" about the MRC:

I was indeed, in the spirit of ingenuous cooperation, "all ears." At the OUTSET of the call, when NO indication as to the content of the questions was yet made known to me. I "abruptly refused to engage in depth" with him the moment I learned of what his queries consisted. Here's why.

As Walls wrote, I said that "(t)he name of our group is Media Research Center," and that we analyze the media. He omitted what I said next, which was that examining the media is our sole mission because we, as a 501(c)3 organization (on the phone, I said something like "by our charter"), are prohibited from doing anything like "respond(ing) to challenges from the Obama campaign."

Leaving out the additional information I provided allowed Walls to paint me as unreasonably unresponsive and uncooperative. I was in fact quite accommodating.

Motley additionally claimed that "most of my information came from Matthew Vadum of the Capital Research Center," which wrote "an investigative opus on Sen. Obama and his left-wing ties" that "is thoroughly researched, comprehensive and very well written." Motley further stated that he told Walls to contact Vadum, which he claims Walls did not do.

And what does that report say about the CAC? That it's "a non-partisan education and research organization, classified by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity." So, by Motley's standard, Vadum would have had to have taken the same comment-avoidance dive that Motley did.

We're still confused, though: We understand that 501(c)(3) groups are not permitted to engage in explicit partisan political activity, but where exactly in the 501(c)(3) code does it say that a 501(c)(3) can't even respond to questions raised by a political organization about said group's accuracy? (Disclosure: Our day job is with a 501(c)(3) group, but ConWebWatch is entirely separate from it.)

And somehow this law, which purportedly forbids Motley from answering questions froma political campaign, also permits one of its employees on one of its websites to cheer on one political candidate's negative attacks on another? We're confused.

Motley is obfuscating about this, taking refuge in tax law in order to keep from answering simple questions. That still makes him a bit of a coward.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:11 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, October 5, 2008 1:22 AM EDT
Saturday, October 4, 2008
WND Again Promote False Obama Birth Certificate Claim -- Which WND Has Debunked
Topic: WorldNetDaily

After WorldNetDaily debunked the idea that Barack Obama has faked his birth certificate, we wondered if WND would continue to point out that there is no basis to the claim or prentend it never debunked it in the first place.

We have our answer, and it's not the former.

An Oct. 4 WND article by Drew Zahn promoted a lawsuit by "prominent Pennsylvania Democrat and attorney Philip J. Berg" demanding that Obama "produce authorized proof of citizenship." Zahn wrote: "Despite assertions by the Washington Post, FactChecker.org and other organizations that Obama has produced a certified Hawaiian birth certificate, Berg told WND he remains '99.99 percent sure' that the certificate is a fake and he wants a court, not a website, to determine its validity."

Zahn failed to note that among those "other organizations" that have debunked the claim is ... WorldNetDaily. Zahn said so himself in a Aug. 23 article about Berg's lawsuit:

A separate WND investigation into Obama's birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic. The investigation also revealed methods used by some of the bloggers to determine the document was fake involved forgeries, in that a few bloggers added text and images to the certificate scan that weren't originally there.

Either Zahn is so stupid he can't remember what he originally wrote about the Berg lawsuit, or he is so dishonest that he will lie to his readers about his own employer demonstrating that Berg's lawsuit has any sort of merit. Either way, he has no business presenting himself as a journalist.


Posted by Terry K. at 10:21 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, October 4, 2008 10:21 AM EDT
Seton Motley, Coward
Topic: Media Research Center

In an Oct. 3 appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends -- which followed the template by not appearing solo and not identifying him as a conservative -- MRC director of communications Seton Motley made numerous claims about Barack Obama's relationship to the group ACORN:

MOTLEY: Barack Obama has three stages of connection with [ACORN], and this probably why the media doesn't want to talk about it. He was a lawyer for the organization. He then served his years as a trainer of activists for the organization. And when he was named chairman of the board by terrorist William Ayers to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, they funneled money to, amongst many other places, ACORN. So there's three stages of relationship with them.

As the Huffington Post's Seth Colter Walls details, the Republican National Committee later emailed out the segment to its list of reporters. But as Walls also points out, Motley got his facts wrong. According to the Obama campaign, Obama was never a lawyer for ACORN, though he did represent a coalition of groups that included ACORN in one case, nor did he ever serve  as an ACORN organizer or trainer.

It's not suprising that an MRC employee got the facts wrong (as Motley has). What is surprising, however, is what Motley did when Walls asked him about it:

Seton Motley, reached at his Media Research Center office Friday afternoon, abruptly refused to engage in depth with the Obama camp's response to his Fox & Friends segment (after first saying "I'm all ears").

Asked whether he would similarly condemn the Justice Department for joining ACORN in the suit against Illinois, he said, "well, yes I would, but that's not the issue." Before the Obama spokesman's other charges could be detailed, Motley put the brakes on the conversation. "The name of our group is Media Research Center," he said, noting that the only purpose of his effort on Fox was to draw attention to a lack of stories on the matter. "I'm not going to be able to respond to challenges from the Obama campaign."

Instead, Motley recommended that any interested person check out Stanley Kurtz's long article from May in the National Review -- headlined "Inside Obama's Acorn."

But while Kurtz's piece is stuffed with innuendo and plausible-sounding arguments that ACORN and Obama share some broad political objectives, it notably does not prove that Obama ever worked for the group, helped them organize, knew about any instances of voter fraud, or condoned their controversial demonstration tactics.

In fact, the article sometimes suggests the opposite. "Does that mean Obama himself schooled Acorn volunteers in disruptive 'direct action?' Not necessarily," Kurtz judges. Pretty spicy stuff. Elsewhere, when trying to compare Obama's community organizing work to that of ACORN, Kurtz can only manage a weak equivalence: "Part of Obama's work, it would appear, was to organize demonstrations, much in the mold of radical groups like Acorn."

Huh? Why does Motley refuse to accept responsibility for his own words? How does being the Media Research Center preclude Motley from offering evidence to back up his claims or apologizing for getting them wrong, simply because the Obama campaign is trying to correct him? Is he taking refuge in some arcane regulation purportedly governing what nonprofit entitites like the MRC do? (The MRC is a 501(c)3 "non profit research and education foundation.")

If Motley would like to instruct us on the finer points of nonprofit regulations, be our guest. Until he can plausibly explain himself, we will consider him to be a gutless coward. Doesn't being the MRC's director of communications require that one, you know, communicate?

UPDATE: Motley responds to HuffPo here, and we examine it here.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:09 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, October 5, 2008 1:12 AM EDT
Friday, October 3, 2008
CNS Ignores Armstrong Williams' Conflict of Interest Scandal
Topic: CNSNews.com

An Oct. 2 CNSNews.com article by Matt Hadro criticizing vice presidential debate moderator Gwen Ifill for purporting writing a "pro-Obama book" states: "Armstrong Williams, conservative talk show radio host, told Fox News that the book deal 'brings her credibility in doing this into question.'" But Hadro fails to note Williams' own history of conflict of interest: He received $240,000 in federal money to promote the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind" policy in his columns and on his TV show, which he failed to disclose at the time.

Hadro also failed to note the apparent conflicts of interest upcoming presidential debate moderators Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer have with the McCain campaign and President Bush, respectively.


Posted by Terry K. at 6:24 PM EDT
Did Michael Reagan's Daughter Get A Mortgage She Can't Afford?
Topic: Newsmax

In attacking "fear-mongering" regarding the financial bailout in his Oct. 2 Newsmax column, Michael Reagan complained of "attempts to panic us into believing that the banks had no money to lend, and credit was dried up and loans were almost impossible to get," adding:

We knew that was untrue because our daughter, Ashley, had just qualified and easily obtained a mortgage on a $360,000 townhouse from a small local bank. The bank had foreclosed on the house and was stuck with a defaulted mortgage of $560,000. Ashley, who is 25 and a schoolteacher, got the townhouse for $200,000 under what the bank held in bad paper.

How can a 25-year-old teacher -- who typically don't make all that much money and is likely paying off student loans to boot -- afford to by a $360,000 townhouse? What is she getting paid? Did dad co-sign and/or put up a sizable down payment? Because we're pretty sure the typical 25-year-old teacher could not get a mortgage by herself, period, let alone one for a $360,000 house (which, by the way, is well above the national median home price).

Let's say that, for the sake of argument, that Reagan's daughter put up a $60,000 down payment, which would give her a $300,000 mortgage. At the time we checked, a $300,000 30-year fixed loan in California (where we presume Reagan's daughter lives) carried an annual interest rate of 6.22%.Plugging those numbers into a payment calculator, that gives us a monthly payment of $1,841. Lenders typically recommend that a mortgage not exceed approximately 28 percent of total income.

25-year-olds are historically not excellent credit risks, and teaching, especially for those just starting out in the profession like Reagan's daughter is, is not a historically well-paying job. The only logical conclusions for the existence of this mortgage:

  • It's not as big as the typical mortgage because of an unusually large down payment due to a contribution by Michael Reagan, or perhaps an inheritance from her grandfather;
  • the daughter is making an extraordinary amount of money for a teacher just a few years out of college; or
  • Michael Reagan, who is presumably better paid and thus a better credit risk, has co-signed the mortgage.

What we're saying is that there are clearly extenuating circumstances surrounding this mortgage that Reagan hasn't told us about. We seriously doubt that a 25-year-old single teacher who is not Michael Reagan's daughter could get that same mortgage.


Posted by Terry K. at 3:34 PM EDT
Ron Kessler Scaremongering Watch
Topic: Newsmax

Ronald Kessler asserts in an Oct. 1 Newsmax column claims that Republicans failing to to take the lead on the financial bailout could lead to Barack Obama winning, and you know what that means -- more baseless scaremongering by Kessler about how purportedly weak Obama is on terrorism:

This financial mess has favored Barack Obama in the polls. If Republicans continue to oppose the rescue package, they will hand Obama and Democrats in Congress a win in the November election.

If that happens, we will see a push to weaken national security measures, including tools the FBI and CIA need to develop clues to terrorist plots. As outlined in the Newsmax article The Secret to Why We Have Not Been Attacked. Go here now.], McCain understands the need for these tools. Obama does not.

As important as our economy is, our survival is more important. Al-Qaida wants to wipe us out with nuclear weapons. If the FBI’s and CIA’s hands are tied behind their backs, we will lose the fight to protect ourselves and preserve our way of life.

That link goes to a Sept. 10 Kessler column with even more anti-Obama scaremongering, baselessly claiming that Obama "would roll back the clock and take away tools necessary not only to connect the dots but also to find them in the first place" (those tools allegedly being a key reason to "why we have not been attacked," along with President Bush's general studliness).

Kessler also gets a key fact wrong on the bailout, asserting that "Democrats are mainly responsible for this financial mess" because "the Democrats passed the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which required banks to lend in the low-income neighborhoods where they obtain deposits." In fact, experts have said that approximately 80 percent of high-priced subprime loans were offered by financial institutions that are not subject to the CRA.


Posted by Terry K. at 9:25 AM EDT
Bozell Repeats 'Largest Tax Increase' Canard
Topic: Media Research Center

In a Sept. 30 column that purports to attack the (so-called liberal) media's role as "the guardians of 'fact,'" Brent Bozell doesn't bother sticking to the facts himself, stating that President Clinton "passed the largest tax increase in American history, right down to the middle class."

As we've noted whenever the MRC pushes this canard, the facts show that a 1982 tax increase signed by President Reagan was bigger on an adjusted-for-inflation basis.(And we know how important it is at the MRC to adjust for inflation.)


Posted by Terry K. at 2:00 AM EDT
Will WND Mention Brokaw, Schieffer's GOP Leanings?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

So WorldNetDaily ran two articles by Bob Unruh highlighting that Gwen Ifill, moderator of the vice presidential debate, has a conflict of interest because she's writing a book about racial politics in "the age of Obama" (despite the claim, no evidence is offered that it's a "pro-Obama book") and thus cannot be a fair moderator. Additionally, WND's Les Kinsolving pressed the issue (using a poor baseball analogy) at a White House press briefing.

What do you think the odds are that Unruh and Kinsolving, let alone anyone at WND (even that guy who purports to claim he doesn't want John McCain to win) will raise a similar ruckus over impartiality questions about the moderators for the two remaining presidential debates, Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer? After all, Brokaw serves as a liaison to the McCain campaign, while Shieffer, while Schieffer as a personal relationship with Bush and his brother was a former Bush business partner.

If WND's track record is any indication, they won't mention this at all.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:37 AM EDT
Thursday, October 2, 2008
New Article: Why I Criticize Joseph Farah and WorldNetDaily
Topic: WorldNetDaily
In case you missed it, we reprint our response to Joseph Farah's attack on us over that Huffington Post article. Read more >>

Posted by Terry K. at 1:44 PM EDT
Are 'Christian Missionaries' Paying for Corsi's Trip to Kenya?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

An Oct. 2 WorldNetDaily article states that "WND author and staff writer Jerome Corsi has arrived in the Kenyan capital to investigate Sen. Barack Obama's ties to the prime minister, Raila Odinga," adding:

Corsi came at the invitation of Christian missionaries who contend the rise of Islam in the African nation has been spurred by an agreement Odinga signed with Muslim leaders in an effort to win the presidency last December. Odinga lost but now shares power with the Kenyan president to appease Islamic leaders.

Who, exactly, are these "Christian missionaries"? What organization do they belong to? Are they paying for Corsi's trip? Why are they associating themselves with Corsi, who has only partisan intent in his trip? By facilitating, if not paying for, Corsi's trip, are these "missionaries" implicitly endorsing John McCain and, thus, potentially violating federal election laws that prohibit political endorsements by religious figures?

Lest anyone doubt Corsi's (and WND's) partisan intent in his trip, the article adds:

Corsi also plans to utilize contacts in Kenya and the Kenyan media to set up a private meeting with Obama's "lost brother," George Hussein Onyango Obama, who was featured in a London Telegraph story.

George Obama said he lives on $12 a year in a six-by-nine-foot shack in the shantytown of Huruma on the outskirts of Nairobi, according to the Italian edition of Vanity Fair.

Obama met his brother on two trips to Africa, according to the Telegraph, including during the Illinois Democrat's 2006 fact-finding tour. Corsi said he is carrying a $1,000 check for George Obama from WND founder and CEO Joseph Farah.

WND fails to note that, as we've previously noted, the Times of London has reported that George Obama has disputed that reporting: "It seems there are people who want to destroy me and my family. ... They say I live on a dollar a month, but this is all lies by people who don’t want my brother to win.” George Obama has also said, "I was brought up well. I live well even now. The magazines, they exaggerated everything."

Since Farah purports to want "none of the above" to win (despite mounting evidence showing the opposite), will Farah also be cutting a check to the half-sister that Cindy McCain is trying to keep hidden?


Posted by Terry K. at 12:20 PM EDT
MRC: Asking Palin What She Reads = Calling Her An 'Ill-Informed Dolt'
Topic: Media Research Center

In trying to portray Katie Couric as having "patronizingly challenge[d] & lecture[d]" Sarah Palin during their series of interviews, Brent Baker asserted in an Oct. 1 MRC CyberAlert that Couric was calling Palin "an ill-informed dolt" by asking, "What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?" Baker added: "Couric wouldn't let go: 'Like what ones specifically?' and 'Can you name a few?'"

Baker doesn't explain how asking someone what publications they read equals accusing someone of being an "ill-informed dolt." Nor does he mention that, as the transcript he attaches makes clear, the reason Couric "wouldn't let go" of the question is because Palin wouldn't give a straight answer to it:

COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?

PALIN: I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

COURIC: Like what ones specifically, I'm curious that you-?

PALIN: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.

COURIC: Can you name a few?

PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested it seems like, "Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking and doing when you live up there in Alaska?" Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.

Does Baker think this was too tough a question for Palin or that she was somehow justified in refusing to offer a list of what she reads?


Posted by Terry K. at 10:55 AM EDT
Kincaid Still Obsessed With Maddow
Topic: Accuracy in Media

Cliff Kincaid apparently can't get over his obsession with Rachel Maddow's sexual orientation. From a Sept. 30 AIM Report:

Meanwhile, the culture war is back, and it is clear that most of the controversy over [Sarah] Palin is being driven largely by feminists in the media. On MSNBC, a lesbian feminist, Rachel Maddow, is leading the assault. She is the latest addition to the far-left lineup at this poor excuse for a cable “news” channel.

[...]

THIS REPORT NOTES THE ROLE OF LESBIAN FEMINIST RACHEL MADDOW OF MSNBC IN spearheading the media attack on Palin. According to her website, Maddow is 35 years old and lives in New York City and rural Western Massachusetts with her “partner,” artist Susan Mikula.  She also hosts a show on the Air America network, where she has examined other Palin “scandals” such as Palin’s fondness for hunting. Meanwhile, MSNBC demoted liberals Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann. They were told they couldn’t be “news” anchors anywhere, just hosts of their own shows and commentators. I told Bill Triplett of Variety magazine that the move was evidence that MSNBC is acknowledging a liberal bias that has gone way over the line. He quoted me as saying, “MSNBC is finally waking up to the fact that their credibility has been suffering with those two characters as anchors. Their coverage has become a laughingstock, and they’re going to have to do more (than pulling Olbermann and Matthews) to restore their credibility.” I said that MSNBC had a right to move in a hard-left direction, but that “their actions with Olbermann and Matthews suggest they realize they went too far.” I think they will also eventually realize that giving Maddow a show was a mistake as well.

MADDOW REALLY BELONGS ON LOGO, THE HOMOSEXUAL CHANNEL ASSOCIATED WITH CBS News and owned by Viacom.

The AIM Report also rehashes Kincaid's admiration for noted misogynist Marc Rudov.


Posted by Terry K. at 10:12 AM EDT
Palin-Philia Watch
Topic: Newsmax

Doug Wead uses his Oct. 1 Newsmax column to devise a novel excuse for Sarah Palin's dismal performance in her interviews with Katie Couric: Ted Kennedy couldn't handle unscripted questions either.

No, really:

It is stunning to see the emotionally charged hatred of the media toward Sarah Palin. Of course, Wolf [Blitzer] had seen such moments of ditziness. Ted Kennedy cannot do interviews well. His handling of handpicked, family friend, Roger Mudd’s softball question in November 1979 cost him the presidency. It was a moment far more deadly than [CNN's Jack] Cafferty’s desperately hyped vignette of Palin and Couric.

When I interviewed Ted Kennedy several years ago, all my questions had to be submitted in advance. When after the scripted interview he showed me around his office, I asked him something about his children’s drawings on the wall and the whole room froze in horror.

An unscripted question.

I can still see the daggers in the eyes of the staffers. I almost blurted out, “I withdraw the question; I withdraw the question. I didn’t know.” But we all lingered while he painfully groped for an answer. And I felt very, shamefully guilty.

So now we're supposed to believe Palin is like Ted Kennedy, whom Wead goes on to describe as having "of the most stellar careers in the U.S. Senate"?


Posted by Terry K. at 2:15 AM EDT
Aaron Klein Palin-Philia Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In an Oct. 1 WorldNetDaily article uncritically repeating attacks by the McCain campaign on a blogger who mockingly pointed out that Sarah Palin essentially endorsed Hamas by praising its victory in Palestinian elections, Aaron Klein used the kerfuffle to once again reference his own interview (along with fellow right-winger John Batchelor) with Hamas official Ahmed Yousuf (whose spelling he can't get straight -- he also spells it "Yousef"), who said he "hopes" Barack Obama is elected. He added: "Yousef's statements were construed by many U.S. commentators as a Hamas endorsement of Obama."

(Klein, by the way, has yet to answer questions we've raised about that interview -- specifically, the knowledge of and extent of willing participation by Yousef in Klein’s and Batchelor’s right-wing, anti-Obama agenda.)

Klein fails to mention that another Hamas official essentially retracted the "endorsement," according to a June 4 Reuters article:

“Obama’s comments have confirmed that there will be no change in the U.S. administration’s foreign policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters in Gaza.

“The Democratic and Republican parties support totally the Israeli occupation at the expense of the interests and rights of Arabs and Palestinians,” he said.

“Hamas does not differentiate between the two presidential candidates, Obama and McCain, because their policies regarding the Arab-Israel conflict are the same and are hostile to us, therefore we do have no preference and are not wishing for either of them to win,” Zuhri said.

Klein has previously tried to play down Zuhri's remarks, asserting that Zuhri "clarified" in a later interview with him that "he was specifically referring to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's pro-Israel speech" at AIPAC on June 4. Klein baselessly portrayed the statement as not contradicting Yousef’s "endorsement."


Posted by Terry K. at 12:34 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, October 2, 2008 2:13 AM EDT
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Fighting Media Bias, Or Reciting McCain Talking Points?
Topic: Accuracy in Media

In a Sept. 30 Accuracy in Media blog post claiming that the New York Times fired a "partisan shot aimed at hurting the McCain campaign," Rep. Lamar Smith wrote:

In an article from September 24, the Times alleged that embattled mortgage company Freddie Mac paid McCain campaign manager Rick Davis for consulting services through last month.  Citing unnamed sources, the article clearly suggested wrongdoing on the part of Davis and, by extension, Sen. McCain. 

First, the Times’ insinuations are false. Davis separated from his consulting firm in 2006 and has not received a salary there since that time. 

Second, the Times omitted key facts from their reporting. Davis was never a lobbyist for Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae and, in fact, has not served as a registered lobbyist in several years. 

In fact, the Times never claimed Davis himself was paid by Freddie Mac; rather, the article stated that Davis' firm was contracted to receive the money, adding that "took a leave from Davis & Manafort for the presidential campaign, but as a partner and equity-holder continues to benefit from its income." In claiming that "Davis was never a lobbyist for Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae," Smith ignores the fact that Davis was, as the Times article noted, the head of an advocacy group funded by Fannie and Freddie with the purpose of opposing regulation of the entities, which Smith seems to think is not "lobbying."

Smith is merely regurgitating the McCain campaign's denials of the Times article, not to mention uncritically mouthing the campaign's claims that the Times is a "partisan" publication. Further, by focusing only on this single article, Smith ignores the evidence revealed since then that suggest Davis continues to have ties to his firm -- namely that Davis is still listed as an officer of the company and has maintained other financial connections to it.

Smith claims to be battling "the problem of media bias," but all he's really doing is reciting McCain talking points.


Posted by Terry K. at 2:49 PM EDT

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