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

All The MRC's Hacks

Bob Woodward's claim that a White House official intimidated him was discredited, but the Media Research Center keeps pretending it remains undisputed fact.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/7/2013

The Washington Post's Bob Woodward made a splash last week by claiming that the Obama White House him threatened him over his reporting on the sequester.

Woodward was discredited after the emails detailing the exchange between him and White House adviser Gene Sperling were released, which revealed that Sperling had apologized to Woodward for raising his voice in an earlier conversation and what Woodward portrayed as a "threat" was merely Sperling telling him that " I think you will regret staking out" the claim that President Obama desire for increased revenues as well as spending cuts as part of a deal to end the sequester was "moving the goalposts." They're not, by the way; the White House proposal to avert sequestration has always included revenue enhancement. Even other conservatives who touted Woodward's claims backed off once the truth came out.

Not the Media Research Center. The fact that Woodward's claim of a threat isn't stopping the MRC from perpetuating the lie.

A Feb. 28 MRC item by Scott Whitlock lamented that 'The Today show on Thursday allowed a scant 16 seconds, out of a possible four hours, to the claim by veteran journalist Bob Woodward that the Obama White House is trying to intimidate him and attack his coverage of the sequester cuts. The NBC program also avoided using the word 'threat.'" Of course, there was no "threat."

NewsBusters' Mark Finkelstein, meanwhile, was annoyed that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough revealed that the Bush White House had threatened him, and guests Mark Halperin and Andrea Mitchell revealed similar stories of being threatened by Republican White Houses. Finkelstein also lamented that co-host Willie Geist "downplayed the seriousness of the White House threat to Woodward."

Finkelstein complained in a separate NewsBusters post that "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski used "her most sarcastic scared-little-child voice" to mock Woodward's complaining about the alleged threat, huffing, "Be warned journalists who might consider taking on President Obama. Mika might mock your manhood!"

(Apparently, Finkelstein missed his NewsBusters colleague Tom Blumer mocking the manhood of Washington Post's Ezra Klein, calling him a "guppy" merely for expressing an opinion he didn't like.)

Even though the idea of a White House "threat" to Woodward had long since been discredited, Whitlock followed up his earlier post by insisting without evidence that an "implied threat" had been made. Whitlock also defends Politico's softball interview with Woodward and Politico's reporting on it, expressing annoyance that a Washington Post blogger dismissed it as "fan fiction."

Whitlock concluded: 'The Washington Post mocking Politico for lauding the greatness of the Washington Post's Woodward? Truly, these are confusing times for the liberal media." As it is for the MRC, which is defending Politico -- which Whitlock had previously bashed for having "spun" for Obama -- for its kid-glove treatment of Woodward, whom MRC chief Brent Bozell has previously bashed as a "sacred cow."

Matt Vespa perpetuated the MRC's fiction in a March 1 NewsBusters post that blissfully ignored actual facts:

Bob Woodward is a legend in modern journalism, especially for fellow liberal reporters. But that all is for naught now that Woodward has committed the cardinal sin of criticizing the White House for an operative's use of what apparently is a fairly common tactic: a harsh bullying of the press in order to demand even more favorable coverage than the Obama-friendly press already lavishes on Team Obama. It centers on Woodward reporting that sequestration was the White House's idea. This morning Matt Lauer, on the Today Show, questioned Woodward's judgement, saying "I'm a little surprised you've gone public with this." Even, the New York Times offered no refuge for Woodward.

First, the conflict centers on Woodward's claim that Obama "moved the goalposts" by demanding revenue increases, not whether the sequester was Obama's idea. Second, nowhere in his post does Vespa mention that Woodward's claim of a threat has been discredited (though he does uncritically quote Woodward claiming that he never said there was a threat).

Rather than discuss the actual facts of the issue, Vespa chose to rant that former White House adviser David Axelrod was allowed to discuss his own previous experiences as a journalist:

Bob Woodward wasn't some outlier in the conversation. Woodward is the story, and to trivialize it by somehow inviting Axelrod to detail his own experiences in press intimidation when he was twenty-five, and working for the Chicago Tribune, is mannerless. It's as if Brzezinski is saying that what Axelrod, the White House mouthpiece on the show, experienced is what real journalists go through.

If Vespa is so serious about making Woodward the "story" here, why won't he look at indisputable facts that prove Woodward wrong?

MRC TimesWatch blogger Clay Waters joined the misleading parade with a March 1 item highlighting Woodward's claim that he considered his "disagreement" with White House adviser Gene Sperling to be a "veiled threat," lamenting that the Times "followed most of the mainstream media in taking the side of the government." But Waters ignored the fact that Woodward backtracked on the threat in the wake of the release of the emails proving there was no threat -- even though he copies-and-pastes from a Times article pointing that out.

Is Waters really that stupid, or is he so slavishly dedicated to right-wing talking points that the truth doesn't matter?

As late as March 4, NewsBusters blogger Howard Portnoy was still claiming that "Woodward publicly asserted that he was threatened by the administration," even though the claim had been discredited several days before.

The fact that the MRC can't acknowledge a simple truth that's inconvenient to its agenda says volumes about the veracity of its so-called research.

* * *

The MRC wasn't the only ConWeb outlet to parrot Woodward's claim.

In his March 1 WorldNetDaily column, Craige McMillan displayed a very lively imagination regarding the purported fate of Bob Woodward for "coming to terms with the Chicago machine" (while, of course, refusing to admit that Woodward was proven wrong on the existence of a threat):

On a personal level, dinner and cocktail party invitations will dry up. Obama supporters are a cult of personality. This appears to be true regardless of their educational level. Facts don’t matter. Reality can be shaped by rhetoric. (The awful truth for America will emerge much later.)

On a professional level, there will be a critical reassessment of Mr. Woodward’s journalistic career and contributions. Expect to see more critical articles like this one in the New Yorker. His personal virtues and vices, not his work itself, will be the subject of discussion.

Given his age, I would expect that Mr. Woodward is probably “old school” in terms of his journalistic archives. He probably has copious notes squirreled away in paper notebooks. He probably has audio recordings on tape. He probably has interviews that people in power perhaps wish he did not have.

The Woodward biography will be rewritten not by veteran reporters, but by today’s propagandists. This is because reducing Mr. Woodward’s stature is essential to blunting his message.

Regarding Woodward’s archives, I would expect his employer to assert ownership, on the basis of his employment and “work for hire” in the copyright law. Given his age (and its influence on habits), he is unlikely to have copies stored elsewhere. He may well lose access to his own archives.

Larry Klayman took time out from his latest spasm of Obama Derangement Syndrome (in which he declares that Obama's "genuine allegiance is to Allah") to devote part of his March 5 WND column to recounting how Woodward in the 1990s to find out what goods he had on Bill Clinton:

At Woodward’s request, yours truly – a staunch conservative and major adversary to the Clintons – even met secretly with him at the time in a dark area of Billy Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown (near Woodward ‘s townhouse), as he wanted to know what “we had” on the Clintons and their illegal dealings with communist China, which had been lining Bonnie and Clyde’s 1996 re-election campaign coffers with bribes. In short, Woodward, while left of political center, is an honest and fair man, a real professional who investigates and reports the news with minimum bias, particularly in today’s world of extreme partisanship in the media.

This explains why Woodward has been among the first of liberal journalists to call it like it is and “out” Obama and his White House for threatening him over his reporting of the sequester – which Woodward revealed was the brainchild of the president. Other white journalists on the left then followed suit and revealed that they, too, had been threatened over even their infrequent criticism of Obama.

The fact that Woodward hung out with Klayman raises even more questions about Woodward's journalistic ethics.

And a March 1 Newsmax article by Bill Hoffmann states that Dick Morris, appearing on Stave Malzberg's Newsmax-operated web/radio show, says we should trust anything Woodward says:

“If there’s one guy in Washington who people can and should trust, and only one guy, he’s Bob Woodward,’’ Morris, told Steve Malzberg on Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show.’’

“This man has written 10 to 15 books ... all going out on a limb and identifying confidential stuff that went on in the White House in every administration.

“He’s always been proven right, he’s never been contradicted successfully, and he’s always sticking his neck out and he’s always correct.’’

Given Morris' atrocious record of being wrong about, well, pretty much everything, this can only mean that Woodward cannot be trusted.

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 2000-2013 Terry Krepel