ConWebWatch home
ConWebBlog: the weblog of ConWebWatch
Search and browse through the ConWebWatch archive
About ConWebWatch
Who's behind the news sites that ConWebWatch watches?
Letters to and from ConWebWatch
ConWebWatch Links
Buy books and more through ConWebWatch

Filing for Intellectual Bankruptcy continues to deflect the fallout of the Jeff Gannon scandal by blaming it all on liberals.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/14/2005 continues to not get it on a grand scale regarding the Jeff Gannon/James Guckert fake-journalism case.

A March 10 story by Jeff Johnson tries to generate some outrage by pointing out that FishbowlDC's Garrett M. Graff, the first blogger to attend a White House press briefing, "did not divulge his current position with a politically 'progressive' Internet consulting firm that has liberal politicians and activist groups as clients" in his application for a day pass to the White House briefing room.

Surprisingly, Johnson makes a few stabs at a balanced story by including a mock-congratulatory post on Wonkette and citing a response from journalism trade magazine Editor & Publisher to a post Gannon made to his blog sniping at Graff's liberal background; E&P correctly noted that "Gannon fails to mention that, whatever his political background, Graff is not currently employed by a partisan political organization (as Gannon was during his two-year stint at the White House)." But the focus of the story is Graff's liberal background.

Johnson also betrays his (and CNS') bias by selectively reporting about other bloggers being paid by politicians: "Garrett M. Graff's entry into the White House briefing room came just days after reports were published about two bloggers who were paid by Graff's former employer, the 'Dean for America' presidential campaign, 'to ensure that they said positive things about Dean.'" While Johnson does accurately note that "[b]oth of the bloggers paid by Dean's campaign [Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and MyDD's Jerome Armstrong] appear to have disclosed their role as 'consultants' for the former Vermont governor's presidential bid to their readers," he fails to mention cases of bloggers being paid by conservative politicians and organizations.

All Johnson had to do was go to The American Prospect's web site, where an article published online just a few days before Johnson's piece told all about conservative operatives running blogs. The writers of the Power Line blog, for instance, are all fellows at the conservative Claremont Institute -- a fact not mentioned by CNS in its two previous cites of the blog in September 2004 and in January.

Johnson also fails to point out a more egregious case of bloggers on a politician's dole than the two paid by Dean's campaign. Two bloggers in South Dakota, Jon Lauck and Jason Van Beek, were paid a total of $35,000 by the campaign of John Thune, a Republican who was running for Senate. Both bloggers favored Thune, but unlike thte two bloggers paid by the Dean campaign, neither provided any disclaimer during the election that they were on Thune's payroll.

Accompanying Johnson's article was a commentary by CNS executive editor Scott Hogenson. Following in the footsteps of his managing editor, David Thibault -- who insisted back when the Gannon/Guckert scandal broke that the former Talon News employee was no conservative because he was a "homosexual hooker" and that the only reason Gannon/Guckert was singled out was that he "would have betrayed the liberal cause with conservative-slanted writing" -- Hogenson raises faux issues to depict, as his article is headlined, "Intellectual Bankruptcy on the Left."

Hogenson insists that Graff's political ties are "not too dissimilar" from Gannon/Guckert's, then claims that "amateur investigators and provocateurs" won't "quickly and deeply delve into this blogger's background ... because the blogger in question is a Democrat," never mind that delving deeply into Graff's background is exactly what he presumably ordered his reporter, Johnson, to do.

Hogenson then recounts Graff's journalistic background, which includes "editing the Harvard Crimson and being the progeny of an AP reporter." His reaction: "Whoop-de-do." He then immediately backtracks: "[P]ermit me to state for the record that college newspapering is a fine training ground for young newsfolk, and that neither involvement in politics nor a thin resume automatically disqualifies one from working in journalism." He adds, "My own political background has been published here at since day one." But that online bio -- chock full of Republican bona fides, as befits the head of a conservative-leaning "news" service -- fails to note that he spent most of 2004 working for the Republican National Committee, as ConWebWatch has detailed. (He does get credit, however, for disclosing one fact: "The parent organization of Talon News is GOPUSA, which has since become a Cybercast News Service client.")

Then, Hogenson launches into an attack on those who busted Gannon/Guckert:

Instead of simply toasting themselves after eradicating a conservative from the White House Press Corps, the Left Wing went into full destruction mode. Rather than extolling the virtues of the alternate lifestyle Gannon allegedly embraced, he was vilified for it by those who traffic in phony pleas for diversity, inclusion and tolerance.

The David Brocks of the world and other liberal Internet gadflies purporting to be "media watchdogs" are also intellectually bankrupt. The double standard to which they subscribe prevents them from applying even a modicum of scrutiny to Graff or his background.

Given the speed at which his second-in-command, Thibault, tried to disassociate from himself and conservatives in general from Gannon/Guckert once all the gay-porn stuff came out, and given CNS' general attitude toward homosexuality -- which includes opposing same-sex marriage and refusing to use the word "gay" to describe homosexuals -- Hogenson is perhaps the last person who should be complaining about "phony pleas for diversity, inclusion and tolerance."

As far as Hogenson's claim that liberal "media watchdogs" are "intellectually bankrupt" because it doesn't apply scrutiny to fellow liberals: What does that make the Media Research Center, since it operates the same way? (Full disclosure: I am employed by David Brock's group, Media Matters for America; meanwhile, Hogenson has yet to disclose to his readers that he spent the 2004 presidential campaign working for the RNC.)

ConWebWatch is full of examples of the MRC doing exactly what Hogenson described -- applying standards to others that it won't apply to itself:

  • It refused to give the attention to Judicial Watch's lawsuits against Republicans that it lavished on the group's lawsuits against the Clinton administration;
  • It won't bash Fox News chief Roger Ailes for his Republican political connections the way it has bashed news exec Rick Kaplan (formerly of CNN and ABC, now of MSNBC) for his ties to Democrats (and is certainly not going to touch the issue of Hogenson's work for the RNC, though it raises the same issue of partisan news judgment of which the MRC has accused Kaplan);
  • It accuses Democrats of making "mean-spirited ad hominem attacks" while not criticizing similar attacks made by Republicans (not to mention Brent Bozell himself);
  • Its absolute refusal to criticize Fox News Channel -- praising Brit Hume for making a Clinton sex joke even as he gets his facts wrong, attacking others who demonstrate Fox News' bias (Bozell called one such study the product of an ultra-left wing ideological organization" and insisted that Fox News is "the most balanced network in television news") and refusing to acknowledge FNC has a political agenda even after it has clearly demonstrated it.

A more recent example demonstrates MRC's lack of uniform standards. A March 11 CyberAlert details CBS' continued "hostility to President Bush's Social Security reform proposal" on the CBS Evening News, but offered no evidence that any of the claims CBS made is factually inaccurate. CyberAlert author Brent Baker wrote that CBS insisted that support for Bush's idea of private accounts is dwindling "[w]ithout citing a single poll number" to back it up, adding that ABC reported that "49 percent nationwide support the President's plan, suggesting a higher level in Alabama." Yet Baker ignores other polling that show much less support for Bush's plan, showing that he appears to be cherry-picking evidence solely to bolster Bush's plan. Heck, even NewsMax is reporting a poll showing only 37 percent of the public in favor of Bush's plan.

MRC did find one bright spot, though: a "largely glowing piece" about "Chile's success with individual stock market investment of retirement funds." Problem is, while Baker notes (and seems a little miffed) that the report also points out that "critics say it's a system with serious flaws;" it doesn't offer much detail of the extent of those flaws. As that "intellectually bankrupt" watchdog group Media Matters (yes, my employer) has noted, The New York Times has reported that "many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts -- burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment -- are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system." Not quite the "Chile Success Story" CBS proclaimed in an on-screen graphic. But slavishly conservative reporting is exactly what Baker and the MRC insists that CBS and others should do, inaccuracy be damned.

There's plenty of "intellectual bankruptcy" to be found at the MRC. Maybe it's time for Hogenson and Bozell to admit it -- and then file Chapter 7.

Send this page to:
Bookmark and Share
The latest from

In Association with
Support This Site

home | letters | archive | about | primer | links | shop
This site © Copyright 2000-05 Terry Krepel