Weeks after appearing at a VIP dinner for the Koch brothers-backed political group Americans for Prosperity (AFP), George Will devoted his Washington Post column to promoting one of the Kochs' favored political candidates without disclosing the conflict of interest.
Last month, Politico reported on Will's attendance at a private dinner featuring an "exclusive group of major donors and VIPs" as part of AFP's Defending the American Dream summit. Despite repeated attempts by Media Matters, neither Will nor AFP would answer whether he had been paid for the appearance or compensated for his travel expenses. Will has repeatedly devoted column space in the past to promoting Koch-backed candidates and policy issues.
When the journalism group Society of Professional Journalists released its new Code of Ethics in September, the group's ethics chair cited Will's relationship with AFP -- and his refusal to disclose whether he had been paid by the group -- as the type of conflict journalists should try to avoid.
Apparently undeterred, in his September 26 column, Will sang the praises of Republican Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst -- a candidate who has received massive financial support from the Kochs and their political groups -- without disclosing his conflict of interest.
In his column, Will lamented that the contest between Ernst and Democratic challenger Bruce Braley "should not be this close." He dismissed Democrats' "War on Women" narrative and asserted that Braley "is as awkward as Ernst is ebullient when campaigning."
Pointing to spending by outside groups on Braley's behalf, Will classified the Iowa Democrat's "fretting about money in politics" as being "notably selective," and wrote that although "politics is an inherently transactional business," Braley is "operatically indignant about the Koch brothers."
Though Will runs cover for the Koch brothers' Iowa spending, their influence in the race is not so easily shrugged off.
This year, Americans for Prosperity has launched several ad campaigns targeting Braley in Iowa. The Des Moines Register reported earlier this month that another Koch-supported political group, Freedom Partners Action Fund, had also launched a "million-dollar TV ad campaign" targeting Braley.
According to Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein, in June, Ernst appeared at a "secretive conference" held by the Koch brothers, where she heaped praise on the assembled deep-pocketed attendees and credited "the exposure to this group and to this network" for having "really started my trajectory." Citing "figures provided by a Democratic tracker," Stein wrote that four different Koch-funded political groups had "blanketed the airwaves" in Iowa, to the tune of "roughly $3.4 million."
Stein added, "A few days after Ernst's appearance, Charles Koch, his wife, his son and his daughter-in-law each gave the Iowa candidate the legal maximum contribution of $2,600."
According to Reuters, right-wing media star Dinesh D'Souza "was sentenced on Tuesday to spend eight months in a community confinement center" as part of five years of probation for violating federal campaign finance laws.
In January, D'Souza was indicted for arranging excessive campaign contributions to the Senate campaign of his friend Wendy Long. After spending several months protesting the charges and claiming he was being unfairly targeted for his political beliefs, D'Souza pleaded guilty in May.
Reuters reports that a federal judge today declined to sentence D'Souza to jail time, opting for probation, time in a community confinement center, a fine, and community service:
The defendant, a frequent critic of President Barack Obama, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan. He was also given a $30,000 fine and ordered to do one day of community service a week during his probation.
D'Souza, 53, admitted in May to illegally reimbursing two 'straw donors' who donated $10,000 each to the unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York of Wendy Long, a Republican he had known since attending Dartmouth College in the early 1980s.
"It was a crazy idea, it was a bad idea," D'Souza told Berman before being sentenced. "I regret breaking the law."
Since being indicted 8 months ago, D'Souza has found steady support from his allies in the media and Congress, who decried the charges as everything from "stifling political dissent" to something that might happen in "Nazi Germany."
UPDATE: Dinesh D'Souza used his September 23 appearance on The Kelly File to resuscitate the myth that his indictment was political retribution. D'Souza described his reaction to his sentence to host Megyn Kelly, saying "I've got a big smile on my face now," because "this was really an effort to put me out of business...and a federal judge said 'no.'" D'Souza added, "There seems to be a pattern of this administration using the instruments of the law, the IRS, and so on to go after its critics." Despite D'Souza's recently announced sentence and his guilty plea to a felony, Kelly continued her longstanding support for the right-wing media darling, declaring "Only you, Dinesh, could walk away from this kind of an experience where you admit you committed a felony, you were facing 16 months in jail, and now the whole process has restored your faith in America, the judicial system and it's made you love the country even more":
Fox News contributor Ben Carson now claims that he will likely run for president in 2016, capping off a more than year-long campaign by the network to promote his political ambitions. Carson's potential run continues the seemingly never-ending series of Republicans who have used Fox as a jumping off point for runs for office.
During a September 22 appearance on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Carson told Hewitt that the "likelihood is strong" he will throw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination in 2016, "unless the American people indicate in November that they like big government intervention in every part of their lives."
While Carson has repeatedly discussed the idea of running in recent months -- often in response to questions about the multi-million dollar "Draft Ben Carson" movement -- his comments to Hewitt seem like the strongest indication that he will seek the nomination. (Hewitt concluded based on the interview that it was "Pretty clear he will be running for president.")
Carson's assertion that he will likely run once again raises questions about Fox News' ongoing unethical arrangement with contributors that are planning bids for office. The network has repeatedly given its contributors a megaphone (and a paycheck) while they openly discuss future political plans, only severing their contracts once the employee-candidates file official paperwork.
It's created a situation where it encourages the network's stable of future candidates to delay a formal announcement while continuing to benefit from Fox News' prominent platform, which can amount to millions of dollars of what is essentially free advertising. This ethically shady setup has previously been criticized by current Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz, who wrote for the Daily Beast in 2011, "The longer candidates stay in the Fox camp, the longer they can utilize the platform of the country's top-rated cable news channel--and pad their bank accounts to boot."
And while Carson considers a run, Fox News is happy to help stoke the speculation. Fox News and other conservative media are responsible in large part for helping catapult Carson from a career as a renowned neurosurgeon into his current incarnation as a political bombthrower -- with a penchant for spouting nonsense -- following a 2013 speech he gave attacking President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Shortly after that speech, he quickly became a media star, with Fox News figures quickly latching onto the idea he should run for president. The day after he delivered his speech, Sean Hannity hosted Carson on his Fox News show, asked him if he would ever run for president, then announced, "I would vote for you in a heartbeat." The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled "Ben Carson for President." A week later, one of Fox's news programs dedicated a segment to one of the day's "top stories," which was the "buzz" that Carson should run for office.
Following several more months of network personalities fawning over Carson, Fox News inevitably announced that it had hired him in October 2013. Since then, Fox News and Carson have continued to work together to build his political brand and promote the idea that he is a viable presidential contender.
The Wall Street Journal's problematic relationship with Karl Rove continues as the paper ran a Rove-penned column that's essentially an advertisement for the importance of political groups like American Crossroads -- which he helped organize and still fundraises for -- in swinging control of the Senate to Republicans this November.
In his September 17 column, Rove warns readers that despite a "terrible" midterm environment for Democrats, a "GOP Senate Majority Is Still in Doubt" due to a Democratic cash advantage. According to Rove, "Republican candidates and groups must step up if they are to substantially reduce that gap."
Rove's warning about Republicans' November chances includes a plug for Crossroads' research on ad buys, as well as its conclusions about "swing women voters." Unlike many of his columns leading up to the 2012 election, Rove offers a disclosure that he works with the group:
And on Wednesday American Crossroads' media buyers produced their latest analysis on how much airtime each side has run or reserved in 14 Senate contests. As of this writing, between Sept. 1 and election day, Democratic Senate candidates, party committees and outside groups have run or placed $109 million in television advertising, while Republican candidates, party committees and groups have $85 million in television time. (Disclosure: I help American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS raise funds on a volunteer basis.)
There is also evidence there are limits to the efficacy of the Democrats' "war on women" narrative. Recent American Crossroads focus groups among swing women voters found they resent being treated as single-issue abortion voters, considering it condescending. They want candidates from both parties to talk about broader concerns like jobs, the economy, health care, energy, government spending and national security, and they are more than open to the GOP message.
The language about women resenting being treated as "single-issue abortion voters" directly echoes an advertisement Crossroads GPS has been running in Colorado against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, which features a woman explaining, "We aren't single issue voters...we care about good jobs that support our families."
He concludes the column with a plea for Republicans to "open their wallets to candidates whom they may have never met," or else "they should prepare for two more years of Majority Leader Harry Reid."
Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple is raising questions about the Washington Times' relationship with the National Rifle Association after the paper ran a "Special Report" sponsored by the gun group featuring several articles from the Times' news coverage.
Wemple highlighted an August 27 "special pullout section" in the Times that was clearly "sponsored by the NRA" and featured disclaimers on each page explaining the pullout was "A Special Report Prepared by The Washington Times Advertising Department." Instead of being filled only with advertisements, the section featured past gun-related news stories from Times reporters Kelly Riddell, David Sherfinski, and Jessica Chasmar, which Wemple cites as evidence that the paper's news coverage "pleases the mighty gun lobby."
But when Wemple asked Times editor John Solomon whether the presence of news stories in "a special advertising section cross[es] some sacred journalistic trench," Solomon defended the paper by arguing that the articles had all "already been written."
Solomon also defended the paper from Wemple's suggestion that there might be a "risk" in the Times' behavior, since reporters may "be inclined to tilt their stories" to appease pro-gun advertisers:
Though Solomon says the stories piled up in the Washington Times archive in the course of normal journalistic business, isn't there a risk here? Once reporters see how the paper monetizes their work via pro-gun advertisers, won't they be inclined to tilt their stories in that direction? No again, says Solomon: "Writers never know, and it's no different thantomorrow waking up and seeing a Boeing ad in The Washington Post and having a defense story in the newspaper."
The Washington Times has long had a cozy relationship with the NRA. David Keene, who edits the paper's aggressively pro-NRA opinion page, is a former NRA president. In a move that sparked concern from journalism experts, Keene has continued to operate as a spokesman for the gun group and sit on its board while also serving as the Times opinion editor. Solomon told Media Matters this year that Keene's dual role avoids conflict since he "recuses himself from editing any pieces in his department that are focused on the NRA."
The Times has previously partnered with anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage for a June 2014 event. The paper's "Advocacy Department" put together a "Special Report" supplement for the event with articles from its news and opinion sections. The Times has long been a platform for virulent homophobia.
Former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, who has a financial relationship with Gov. Scott Walker, is using his Washington Post column to lavish praise on the Wisconsin Republican and help position him for a 2016 presidential run.
In 2013, Thiessen co-authored Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge with Walker. According to the book's publisher, Unintimidated "tells the dramatic story of how one brave leader drove real change in his state, and what the rest of the country can learn from him. ... It's not just a memoir -- it's a call to action."
A few months ago, Post reporters Philip Rucker and Robert Costa documented the trend of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates attempting to "study up on issues and cultivate ties to pundits and luminaries from previous administrations." Among those listed was Walker, whom they reported has "developed a bond with Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen." According to the Post, "when Thiessen helped Walker write the governor's memoir, they talked via Skype about many issues."
The Post reported after the book's announcement that considering Walker's looming re-election campaign and possible 2016 presidential run, "writing a book with a high-profile GOP strategist is a notable step onto the national stage." Thiessen's help in getting Walker on the national stage isn't limited to the book -- he has also devoted significant column space to praising him, often at the expense of potential 2016 rivals.
Given his career of service to Republicans in the White House and on Capitol Hill, Thiessen's support for Walker at the Post may preface a future role with a Walker campaign or administration.
Conspiracy website WND is using Robin Williams' recent suicide to try to sell DVDs about celebrities using "demonic" powers to gain stardom.
On August 14, WND reprinted an excerpt of an opinion piece by Joe Schimmel that argues Williams used the help of "demonic powers" that "aided him on stage," but these "insidious forces" eventually "drove him to suicide":
Everybody is currently talking about Robin Williams and his tragic suicide. Many are puzzled as to how a man, who made so many people laugh, could be so depressed that he would violently end his life. What people are not learning is the deeper truth about the insidious forces that tormented Robin Williams and drove him to suicide.
Robin Williams acknowledged that he had opened himself up to transformative demonic powers that aided him on stage. Without the aid of such demonic powers, it is likely that you would have never have heard of Robin Williams and many other famous celebrities. Williams also recognized that these powers had manifested a very evil influence on stage and that there could be a hefty price to pay for their assistance.
At the end of the excerpt -- the full piece is published at "Good Fight Ministries" -- WND links to its website store with the text, "Is Satan using music to corrupt our youth? See Joe Schimmel's shocking three-hour video: 'They Sold Their Souls for Rock 'n' Roll.'"
For the "Discount Price" of $15.95, readers can purchase the "3 Hour Version" -- which has been "condensed from the best of the full 10-hour version" -- of Schimmel's movie, which argues "how Satan has been effectively using popular music to undermine God's plan for the family and ultimately heralding the coming of the Antichrist and his kingdom on earth."
The Schimmel excerpt is currently featured prominently on WND's opinion section with the headline, "Robin Williams: The Sad Truth Media Won't Tell You":
WND's Superstore regularly attempts to profit off of crass paranoia, selling products claiming President Obama's birth certificate is fake, Harry Potter is "witchcraft," and John "Lennon may well have sold his soul to the devil and that the assassination was merely Satan collecting his due."
Following the arrest of two journalists covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, some conservative media figures are attacking the reporters for being insufficiently deferential to police, doing "the opposite of journalism," and trying to make the story about themselves.
Protests in Ferguson are ongoing following an August 9 incident that resulted in a police officer shooting and killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown. On August 13, Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly and Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery were both detained by police in a Ferguson McDonald's.
Initially, both Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and I were asked for identification. I was wearing my lanyard, but Ryan asked why he had to show his ID. They didn't press the point, but one added that if we called 911, no one would answer.
Then they walked away. Moments later, the police reemerged, telling us that we had to leave. I pulled my phone out and began recording video.
An officer with a large weapon came up to me and said, "Stop recording."
I said, "Officer, do I not have the right to record you?"
He backed off but told me to hurry up. So I gathered my notebook and pens with one hand while recording him with the other hand.
As I exited, I saw Ryan to my left, having a similar argument with two officers. I recorded him, too, and that angered the officer. As I made my way toward the door, the officers gave me conflicting information.
One instructed me to exit to my left. As I turned left, another officer emerged, blocking my path.
"Go another way," he said.
As I turned, my backpack, which was slung over one shoulder, began to slip. I said, "Officers, let me just gather my bag." As I did, one of them said, "Okay, let's take him."
Multiple officers grabbed me. I tried to turn my back to them to assist them in arresting me. I dropped the things from my hands.
"My hands are behind my back," I said. "I'm not resisting. I'm not resisting." At which point one officer said: "You're resisting. Stop resisting."
While some conservative media figures have been critical of the arrests, others are responding to the incident by lashing out at the reporters and media coverage of the incident.
UPDATE: In an August 13 blog post, New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal praised Maureen Dowd for the "masterful" analysis in her latest column of a recent Hillary Clinton interview. He did not address the criticism of that column.
Maureen Dowd's long descent into anti-Clinton self-parody hit a new low last night when she managed to transition from discussing the death of Robin Williams to an attack on Hillary Clinton.
In her August 12 column following the news that Williams died in an apparent suicide, Dowd opened by recounting an interview she once conducted with the comedian, before abruptly transitioning into an attack on Hillary Clinton (emphasis added):
As our interview ended, I was telling him about my friend Michael Kelly's idea for a 1-900 number, not one to call Asian beauties or Swedish babes, but where you'd have an amorous chat with a repressed Irish woman. Williams delightedly riffed on the caricature, playing the role of an older Irish woman answering the sex line in a brusque brogue, ordering a horny caller to go to the devil with his impure thoughts and disgusting desire.
I couldn't wait to play the tape for Kelly, who doubled over in laughter.
So when I think of Williams, I think of Kelly. And when I think of Kelly, I think of Hillary, because Michael was the first American reporter to die in the Iraq invasion, and Hillary Clinton was one of the 29 Democratic senators who voted to authorize that baloney war.
Dowd's bizarre segue was immediately greeted with widespread ridicule from both conservatives and liberals.
Conservative website Twitchy -- which Media Matters agrees with very seldomly -- asked, "How does that make any sense whatsoever?" The site also highlighted criticism from numerous pundits, including NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who wondered whether "the New York Times is too embarrassed to edit Maureen Dowd anymore"; Bay Area News Group editor Daniel Jimenez, who called the column "stupefyingly embarrassing" and posited that Dowd was "destroying" the Times' brand; and Forbes contributor Tom Watson, who said the Times should "be ashamed."
Fox News contributor Mary Katharine Ham, writing for conservative site Hot Air, called Dowd's transition from Williams to Clinton "the most graceless, tacky, incoherent segue in recent memory." Referencing Dowd's ill-fated experiment with edible marijuana, Washington Examiner senior writer Philip Klein wrote, "From now on, I'm just gonna assume that Maureen Dowd writes all her columns from a Denver hotel room." (Examiner colleague Tim Carney replied, "I literally assumed there was an editing error.")
Several critics noted Dowd's tendency to turn any news event into an attack on the Clintons. Wonkette's Rebecca Schoenkopf called the piece "as glowing an example of Maureen Dowd's Hillary vendetta as any we've seen yet," while Mother Jones' Kevin Drum asked, "I wonder if there's anything left in the world that doesn't remind Dowd of Hillary Clinton?"
The answer is no. Dowd's bizarre obsession with Hillary Clinton dates back more than two decades, during which she has attacked the former secretary of state and first lady in at least 141 columns. A Media Matters analysis of Dowd's work since 1993 found that the columnist has repeatedly used popular culture references to attack Clinton, managing to link her to everything from the movie The Stepford Wives to a Picasso painting.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's resignation announcement in the wake of the Watergate scandal. As MSNBC's Steve Benen has pointed out, for more than five years, conservatives have invoked Watergate in an attempt to amplify the importance of numerous scandals of the day involving President Obama.
No Obama "scandals" have matched the vast criminality involved with Watergate. The New York Times noted of Watergate's reach: "Entangled in that skein were dozens of men implicated in the scandal, many of whom were top aides to the President. As it steadily unwound, the American people watched a parade of witnesses expose the details of a political crime whose proportions were nearly unfathomable: wiretapping, money laundering, destruction of documents, payment of hush money, character assassination, disinformation and deception -- all perpetrated by people at the highest levels of Government. More than 30 people pleaded guilty or were convicted of crimes like perjury, burglary, wiretapping and obstruction of justice."
Below is a list of the various supposed scandals conservative media figures have compared to Watergate. The list, originally published in 2012, has been updated with several more recent Watergates.