In his May 20 CNSNews.com column, Terry Jeffrey asserted that CIA chief Leon Panetta "contradicted" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim that the CIA did not brief her on the use of waterboarding against detainees in a 2002 briefing. Jeffrey then went on to quote Panetta:
“Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress,” Panetta said in a statement to CIA employees. “That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed.’”
But Jeffrey omitted what Panetta said immediately after that: "Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened." That's not an affirmative statement that the CIA told the truth about the Pelosi briefing.
Further, as Politico's Josh Gerstein wrote, Panetta's entire statement "says less than people are claiming":
Look carefully at Panetta's statement from Friday, especially the verb tense used. "Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress." First, "let me be clear" always precedes an ambiguous statement. Without fail. Panetta isn't opining on past acts. He's referring to the current policy. He's also not saying it never happens or happened that someone lied to or misled Congress. He's saying the agency as a whole doesn't intend to.
Panetta was at his Monterey, Calif. think tank when this all happened in 2002 and 2003. He doesn't know if Pelosi was lied to. He also doesn't say he talked to the briefers and is convinced they're telling the truth. He just says the paper records say she was briefed about the techniques. We knew that already from agency statements. So he's adding his voice to the mix and sending a signal that he'll stand by his agency, but to say he sided with the briefers on the specifics is just wrong.
In other words, it's not contradictory at all.
UPDATE: A May 20 CNS article by Fred Lucas similarly claims that "Pelosi’s account has been contradicted by CIA Director Leon Panetta" and doesn't quote Panetta's statement that "Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened."
Corsi's Reign of Error Continues Topic: WorldNetDaily
Jerome Corsi has been on quite the falsehoodrampage lately. Now he's added another one.
As Media Matters details, Corsi asserts in a May 18 WorldNetDaily article that FiveThirtyEight.com's Nate Silver claimed that President Obama "will need to sustain a 65-percent approval rating to avoid losing the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections." In fact, Silver wrote that Obama would need to maintain that rating "to avoid losing any ground in the House," not lose control of the House.
New Article -- People of the Lie: Hate Crimes Edition Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily has found a whole new set of falsehoods to tell about covering "sexual orientation" under a hate-crimes law. Read more >>
John L. Perry's May 18 Newsmax column thunders about how President Obama is a "truth contortionist" who thinks, "Got away with a whopper last time out. How about a bigger one today?" Perry suggests the president is all about "narcissistic self-aggrandizement" and warns him: "Time is not with Barack Obama. Even for him, there’s a limit of available fools."
Missing from Perry's column: Any evidence whatsoever to back up his claims. Not a single statement of Obama's is cited to prove he is a "fool" or a "truth contortionist."
It's just as empty (though less crazy) of a claim as Ellis Washington's evidence-free assertion that "Obama is a pathological liar. Every speech, every domestic and foreign policy, every executive order, every economic policy, every political appointee and every future Supreme Court nominee … all LIES!"
Will WND Disclose Billboard Donors? Topic: WorldNetDaily
A May 19 WorldNetDaily article claims that WND has received "[m]ore than $10,000" in its campaign to erect billboards asking the already-answered question, "Where's the [Obama] Birth Certificate?"
If WND is so obsessive about disclosure, shouldn't it disclose the donors to its billboard fund?
We've asked the question of WND's PR folks via email; we'll let you know if we get a response.
UPDATE: Joseph Farah himself responds:
Our demand on Obama has nothing to do with a "spirit of disclosure," though Obama has pledged to run the most open and transparent administration in American history. The Constitution requires a president to be a natural born citizen. That same Constitution also provides that ordinary American citizens the right to spend their money any way they want without fear of harassment from government officials.
If you need any more civics lesson, please feel free to call on me.
Meanwhile ... Topic: Newsmax Media Matters notes the presence of Newsmax's Christopher Ruddy at the "Monday Meeting," a gathering of "conservative insider[s]," and reminds us of Ruddy's role in spreading conspiracy theories about the death of Vince Foster.
Corsi Botches Another Economic Fact Topic: WorldNetDaily
Here's another reason why Jerome Corsi sucks as a purportedly "trained economist."
A May 18 WorldNetDaily teaser for Corsi's Red Alert newsletter at WorldNetDaily asserts: "Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced that Medicare would run out of money in 2017 and Social Security would do the same in 2037, both sooner than previously projected." At no point, however, does Corsi explain what that means -- or that it's not as scary as he portrays.
As the annual report of the trustees of Medicare and Social Security states, those programs do not "run out of money" on those dates; it's when, under the current slate of obligations for both systems, their trust funds are depleted. Both Medicare and Social Security would still receive tax revenue after those dates -- just not enough to cover all currently anticipated obligations under the current rate of revenue.
How, again, is Corsi's report worth $99 a year when he can't get basic facts straight?
AIM Columnist Misleads on Obama, Ayers Topic: Accuracy in Media
Jerome Corsi isn't the only one who has an old case of Obama Derangement Syndrome flaring up again.
In a May 17 Accuracy in Media column, Jim Kouri ("currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance") fights an old battle by repeatedly mischaracterizing the relationship between Barack Obama and "former terrorist and Marxist university professor William Ayers." Kouri asserts that Obama and Ayers have a "friendship and business relationship," and that "When given the opportunity to serve on boards and appear at press conferences with Ayers, an up-and-coming politician named Barack Obama jumped at the chance."
Kouri is making statements and attributing motives he can't prove. He has no evidence to back up his claim that Obama joined the Chicago Annenberg Challenge or the Woods Fund specifically to have the "chance" to work with Ayers. Indeed, contrary to Kouri's claim that Obama and Ayers have a "friendship and business relationship," FactCheck.org points out that "so far as is known, their relationship was never very close. An Obama spokesman says they last saw each other in a chance encounter on the street more than a year ago."
Kouri also cites Ayers' "reputation as a cop-killer" despite offering no evidence that Ayers killed any cops. Kouri also can't get basic facts right: He writes that "In his 2001 memoir, Ayers wrote, 'I don't regret setting the bombs. I feel we didn't do enough'" ; in fact, he was quoted saying that in a 2001 New York Times article.
Further, Kouri baselessly claims a "suspected quid pro quo arrangement similar to those with Ayers and [Tony] Rezko" between Obama and Rashid Khalidi involving a Woods Fund grant to a Khalidi-operated group and Khalidi holding "a fundraising event in his home for Barack Obama." Kouri fails to mention that, as we've noted, a Khalidi-headed group also received funding from a group headed by Obama's 2008 presidential election opponent, John McCain.
Kouri's article is a muddled mess -- what were the supposed quid pro quos between Obama and Ayers and Rezko? Kouri never says. Further, it carries the headline "Demand President Obama honor fallen cops killed by his friends" without explaining the demand, let alone proving that the people he writes about are either cop-killers or Obama's friends. Kouri's Examiner.com blog sheds a little more light on the headline; its version of the column begins with an introduction noting National Police Memorial Day on May 15.
Another reason it's a muddled mess is that it's a rehash of a column Kouri wrote last October. At no point in the Examiner or AIM versions of his column is it noted that the column is several months old.
We've previously noted Kouri repeating dubious claims about the efficacy of torture and a bizarre defense of the Branch Davidians.
Jeffrey's Attacks on Obama Presented As CNS 'News' Topic: CNSNews.com
CNSNews.com normally does the best job in the ConWeb of at least keeping up the appearance of fairness and balance (even though it reallyisn't). Editor Terry Jeffrey, though, has tossed all pretense out the window with his "news" articles on President Obama's speech at Notre Dame's graduation.
Jeffrey's bias starts with the headline of his main article: "Obama Legitimizes Killing of Unborn Babies in Speech at Notre Dame's Graduation." Jeffrey continues:
After receiving an honorary doctorate in law at the University of Notre Dame’s graduation ceremony yesterday, President Barack Obama delivered a speech to the school's graduating seniors that sought to legitimize his position in favor of the legal killing of unborn children.
Obama told the graduates of the nation’s most well-known Catholic university that abortion “has both moral and spiritual dimensions”--although he did not explain why he had made this conclusion—and made it quite clear that, even so, he has no intention of moving from his position that it ought to be legal for a pregnant mother to have a doctor kill her unborn child for literally any reason at any stage of pregnancy.
The president also did not take back his declaration made in 2007 to Planned Parenthood that he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act, a bill that would eliminate all the state and federal limitations on abortion that have been achieved by the pro-life movement in the 26 years since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Nor did Obama rescind his vow to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act that currently protects states that do not recognize same-sex marriages from being compelled by the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states.
Nor did he reverse his executive order allowing federal tax dollars to be used for research that kills human embryos in order to extract their stem cells.
Nor did he reverse his order to allow U.S. foreign aid dollars to be used to perform and promote abortion in foreign countries.
It's not until the ninth paragraph that Jeffrey gets around to highlighting something Obama did say, as opposed to what he didn't.
Jeffrey's subjective language on abortion-related terminology -- a longtime CNS bias -- permeates the article, rerfusing to use the accepted term "pro-choice" in favor of the misleading term "pro-abortion" as well as the needlessly inflammatory term "people who favor the legal killing of unborn children." Needless to say, he uses the euphemestic term "pro-life" instead of the more accurate "anti-abortion."
What less biased news organizations led with in their reports on Obama's speech -- Obama's call to both sides of the debate to make their case with "Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words" and "without reducing those with differing views to caricature" -- Jeffrey buries in the final paragraph of his article. Jeffrey clearly isn't interested in approaching this issue with "fair-minded words," even though he purports to be a journalist.
A secondary article by Jeffrey also announces its bias in the headline: "At Notre Dame, Pro-Abortion Obama Wears Prayer Symbolizing Dedication of all Notre Dame's Activities to Virgin Mary." Jeffrey doesn't explain his obsession with this -- CNS published an article in April stating the Notre Dame expected Obama to wear the prayer. Given that it's inscribed in the school's traditional doctrinal robe, that fact that Obama not only was expected to wear it but did is not newsworthy.
Newsmax takes another step in its attmpts to rehabilitate Bernard Kerik with a May 16 article claiming that Kerik "won another round" in court when a judge ruled that "charges that Kerik lied to the White House during his brief bid to be secretary of homeland security must be tried in Washington, D.C." Newsmax does not explain how this could be considered a "win" for Kerik since he not only still faces those charges, he will be tried for them hundreds of miles from New York.
As we've detailed, Newsmax was an enthusiastic supporter of Kerik during his brief nomination as Homeland Security secretary. Over the past few months, Newsmax has endeavored to rehabilitate Kerik's reputation and even published an op-ed he authored, all the while downplaying the felonies Kerik remains accused of.
A Tale of Two Media Studies Topic: Media Research Center
Last week, the Media Research Center released a report claiming that network news programs have "failed as watchdogs, raising few doubts about Obama’s agenda and showering every major policy initiative with positive press," asserting that "The networks lavished good press on every major initiative of the early Obama administration, including the massive stimulus package, all of the various bailouts, health care, stem cells, the environment and foreign policy."
That conflicts with the findings of a Center for Media and Public Affairs study stating that while Obama has received "better press than his immediate predecessors," it "hasn’t precluded heavy criticism of his policies" -- "On the broadcast networks fewer than two out of five evaluative soundbites (39%) praised his policies and proposals."
While CMPA's study evaluated only the first 50 days of Obama's presidency while the MRC evaluated the first 100 days, it's unlikely that CMPA's 61 percent negative critiques by networks of Obama's policies somehow morphed into the MRC's "lavished good press."
We'vedetailed how MRC studies tend to be tainted by its right-wing bias, a pattern that appears to be continuing here. Indeed, much of the report appears to be complaining that the networks didn't unquestioning repeat right-wing talking points. From the exexutive summary:
Obama's first 100 days were defined by massive spending, aggressive intervention in the private sector and proposals for a huge expansion of the federal government. Yet none of the networks aired a single story on whether Obama’s policies were pushing the U.S. toward socialism, and no reporter used the term “socialist” to describe Obama.
Not only that, network reporters never used the word “liberal” to describe either Barack Obama or his agenda during the first 100 days.
MRC also claims that "The networks applauded Obama’s decision to use taxpayer money to fund embryo-destroying stem cell research (82% positive coverage)." By contrast, CMPA notes that "praise for his health care proposals and new stem cell research policy brought balanced coverage overall (50% positive)."
Somebody's not correct here -- odds are it's the MRC.
The MRC goes on to criticize the networks for merely reporting facts that it would rather not see reported. For instance, the report notes: "On the February 14 CBS Evening News, correspondent Barry Petersen asserted that the Japanese economy failed to rebound in the 1990s because the Japanese stopped their massive spending program too soon — and that the U.S. should brace for even greater government spending than the $787 billion stimulus bill." The MRC doesn't dispute the claim, which numerous economists agree with; it attacks CBS for reporting it in the first place.
Reporting inconvenient facts and refusing to regurgitate right-wing talking points are not evidence of "bias," something the MRC doesn't seem to understand.
ConWeb Touts Dubious Abortion Poll Topic: The ConWeb
The ConWeb is unsurprisingly rushing to embrace a new Gallup poll portraying a major shift on abortion -- those who identified themselves as "pro-life" jumped from 44 percent in 2008 to 51 percent this year, while those who identified themselves as "pro-choice" declined from 50 percent in 2008 to 42 percent this year.
NewsBusters' Tom Blumer declared in a May 15 post, "What a difference a radical, in your face, abortion-promoting president makes," citing examples of "Obama's appalling abortion-supporting record" and asserting that "the ascendance of Dear Leader Barack Obama has unmasked what being 'pro-choice' on abortion is all about."
WorldNetDaily, meanwhile, cited an "analyst" -- in fact, someone from Concerned Women for America, which opposes abortion and thus cannot be counted on to offer anything resembling objective "analysis" -- similarly assertd that the numbers are "a reaction to the realization what a true "pro-choice" position means to President Barack Obama." Newsmax gave lead-story play to an Associated Press article on the poll.
But the sharp year-to-year swing -- particularly on an issue that has seen few sharp swings in Gallup polling -- may indicate a problem with the poll. As Media Matters' Jamison Foser noted:
Gallup says the large swing from a year ago is attributable entirely to a 10-percentage-point increase in Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who call themselves pro-life. But that 10-point increase can only result in the overall swing Gallup claims has occurred if more people are Republican or lean Republican today than a year ago. That's possible, but is inconsistent with other polling that shows fewer Americans than ever consider themselves Republicans. Until Gallup releases the full data, its press release shouldn't be taken particularly seriously.
Meanwhile, Ed Kilgore at FiveThirtyEight.com adds:
After eight years of constant excitement among right-to-lifers about getting that fifth vote on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, that prospect is now pretty distant. And instead, Americans have been exposed to a constant wailing of alarms about Obama being "the most pro-abortion president in history," determined, somehow, to expand abortion rights. That Republicans and Republican-leaning independents might polarize on the subject isn't terribly surprising or necessarily significant.
Of course, since the poll has numbers they can get behind, the ConWeb will continue to take it quite seriously.