Several news staffers at WJLA TV in Washington, D.C., offered critical views of former anchor Doug McKelway, who recently signed on to work in Fox News' D.C. bureau.
Among the criticisms were those of McKelway's work on a controversial news report earlier this year about a demonstration against oil company contributions to government. In that report, he wrongly claimed that Barack Obama had received the largest campaign contribution ever from BP.
Soon after that report was broadcast, McKelway was suspended following a meeting with WJLA News Director Bill Lord, and later fired. He was hired by Fox News earlier this week.
Lord declined to comment on the issue when reached today. But some other current WJLA staffers offered criticism of McKelway's work, especially on that BP story.
"It sounds to me like he was over the line in the way he reported that demonstration," said one WJLA news staffer who requested anonymity. "He handled himself poorly and that's what it boils down to."
Another WJLA staffer said it did not surprise him that McKelway would present a story in such a manner. "I have always known Doug is pretty opinionated and pretty conservative," the source said, citing the BP report as an example.
The same staffer noted that McKelway also hosted a talk show on the station, Let's Talk Live, and speculated that that sometimes sparked him to offer opinions in his reporting. "When you are doing a news piece, you are not supposed to express your opinion," the staffer said.
The same source also said McKelway's temper would bubble up on occasion: "I understand he does have a temper. Doug would go off when he felt that he was right."
One example of that temper might have been a May 7, 2009, interview McKelway did on Let's Talk Live, with controversial filmmaker and blogger Mike Rogers, who had set about outing gay politicians.
During the segment, McKelway threatened Rogers, saying "I'm about ready to do a lot more than point my finger at you.... I'd take you outside and give you a punch across the face..."
"That certainly raised some attention, the fact that Doug threatened to punch the guy on the air," said a third source, also a WJLA news staffer. "When he did that, that is what got my attention."
A fourth staffer also noted the threat, saying, "that really surprised people and he didn't back off on it the next day, either. He seemed to have a hard time keeping opinions to himself."
That same source said writers who worked with McKelway noticed he often wrote things to serve a certain slant: "He apparently would do his best behind the scenes to put stories in a certain direction or agenda and emphasize certain things," the source said, adding that such an approach makes McKelway "a perfect fit for" Fox News.
Fox News and McKelway did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
You hear it all the time - MSNBC and Fox News. One is the opposite ideological wing of the other. The two bookend the political and ideological debate on cable television.
But is that really fair? Is it right to say that Fox is the right-wing MSNBC and visa versa?
Media experts and public opinion data indicate it is not.
Those who cover media and follow television news contend that Fox News has a clearer political bent than MSNBC, strong ties to the Republican party, and a clear conflict with the paid employment of at least five potential GOP presidential candidates.
There is also the matter of News Corp.'s recent $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association. Add to that the leadership of Roger Ailes -- a veteran, hard-line Republican operative -- and the differences are much stronger than some would like to admit.
"Intellectually, are they more honest than Fox, I think they are," Eric Deggans, media critic for the St. Petersburg Times, said of MSNBC. "I saw that Fox was more consistent in reflecting a right wing tilt than MSNBC was in reflecting a liberal tilt. I think Fox is much more evolved in what it does than MSNBC does, in reflecting a political bent, it being right-wing."
Deggans added: "Fox seems to violate tenets of fairness more often. I have written a thousand columns criticizing Fox News, I have criticized MSNBC when I think they make mistakes or go too far. I have criticized Fox more often. I have a problem with how Fox's ideology seeps into the way they report the news, in a framework that is already tilted toward the right. That makes the product unfair."
Alex S. Jones, executive director of the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, agreed.
"There is no question that the affinity between Fox and the Republican Party goes all the way to Rupert Murdoch, which in my view is not a good thing," Jones said. "One is sort of unrelentingly partisan and the other is more of an equal-opportunity basher. They are not equivalent, they are both advocacy, but not equivalent."
Jones also pointed to the recent suspensions of Keith Olbermann and Joe Scarborough for donating to political candidates, noting that Fox has a far worse record of such conflicts and no punishments.
"I think that MSNBC is right and Fox is wrong about allowing people to make campaign contributions -- that is just a bad idea," Jones said. "In my experience, the people who are the sort of signature voices of MSNBC, Maddow and Olbermann, tend to be more broadly critical and include Democrats in their criticism. They don't seem to be averse to criticize their own. That is not true with the voices of Fox News. Never a discouraging word is heard."
James Rainey, media reporter at the Los Angeles Times, said a key difference is the degree to which Fox News overlaps opinion with news.
"One of the big questions on all of these is how much the opinion stuff bleeds over into what is supposed to be news, particularly with Fox it is clear it does bleed over," he said. "Particularly if you watch Megyn Kelly. I have been severely admonished by the Fox spokespeople that there is absolutely no opinion, that they play it extremely straight during the day segment. You can watch these shows and it is clear that there is a sharp point of view on many of them. On Megyn Kelly and on Fox & Friends."
He noted Kelly's prolonged interest in the New Black Panther case of alleged voter intimidation: "There could have been some bad behavior, but it is a matter of proportion. To watch her program you would have thought this was the end of democracy as we know it."
Rainey also pointed to Ailes' impact, adding: "There is no other news operation that I know of that has a Roger Ailes in charge, someone who is steeped in political activism and political rhetoric. His philosophy pervades everything they do at Fox. If there is someone equivalent to Roger Ailes at MSNBC, I would like to see who it is."
Jeff Bercovici, a veteran media writer at Forbes, agreed that Ailes' influence is a key distinction between the networks.
"One big difference between the two of them is that there is no real Roger Ailes at MSNBC, no equivalent of him and he sets the tone at Fox and gives the marching orders. At MSNBC, their approach and ideology is emerging from trial and error."
Some research also indicates Fox News' slanted coverage and political conflicts are apparent to at least some viewers.
A report put out one year ago by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found that Fox News was viewed as the most ideological network:
The Fox News Channel is viewed by Americans in more ideological terms than other television news networks. And while the public is evenly divided in its view of hosts of cable news programs having strong political opinions, more Fox News viewers see this as a good thing than as a bad thing.
Nearly half of Americans (47%) say they think of Fox News as "mostly conservative," 14% say it is "mostly liberal," and 24% say it is "neither in particular." Opinion about the ideological orientation of other TV news outlets is more mixed: while many view CNN and the three broadcast networks as mostly liberal, about the same percentages say they are neither in particular. However, somewhat more say MSNBC is mostly liberal than say it is neither in particular, by 36% to 27%.
The perceptions of those who regularly tune into these news networks are similar to those of the public. Nearly half (48%) of regular Fox viewers say the network is mostly conservative. About four-in-ten (41%) regular viewers of CNN describe the network as mostly liberal and 36% of regular MSNBC viewers say the same about that network.
Media experts contend that such a view is not surprising, given Fox's slanted tilt and GOP conflicts.
"Are Fox News and MSNBC the same? The short answer is no," declared Pam Fine, journalism professor at the University of Kansas and a former managing editor at The Star-Tribune in Minneapolis and The Indianapolis Star. "Fox is run by a former political operative and the company is unabashed in its support for Republican candidates ... Another important question is which organization does a better job of providing consequential reporting on events and issues? MSNBC would have to be given the edge."
Tim McGuire, Frank Russell Chair for the business of journalism at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the comparison is not a surprise given how viewers respond to news outlets they agree with, but made clear it is not fair.
"Certainly, you can make the argument that Fox is more outrageous about its opinion and its approach," McGuire said. "I certainly find a difference; as a news man I see a huge difference. There is no doubt that Ailes has found success."
"It's got no credibility for me at all. I simply don't turn it on," he said of Fox. "I believe it subverts anything connected with journalism. I don't believe it has presenting factual information in a comprehensive manner as its goal. Fox tips on the propaganda side most of the time."
Ed Wasserman, a journalism professor at Washington and Lee University and a veteran columnist for The Miami Herald, said he cannot understand the comparison.
"I bristle when I hear the comparisons because what I see on MSNBC is interesting and fairly honest and there is a fundamental dishonesty at Fox," he said. "Fox's approach is very reflective of contemporary conservative politics, which is changing the subject."
Kent Collins, chair of radio and television journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, agreed.
"Fox is more pervasive in its political leanings, so much of its programming, the majority of it, is very clearly biased and shows favoritism for Republican and conservative ideas and positions and people," he said. "You see this not in just the obvious commentary by its key folks, but also in more subtle ways with the way headlines, teases and supers are written, particularly the crawls across the bottom."
Forbes' Bercovici said it comes down to basic factual accuracy:
"It is my rough, anecdotal sense that most of the real howlers in terms of taking liberties with the facts you see on Beck and O'Reilly. I don't recall an instance where someone called out Olbermann or Maddow and they were just making it up. I can remember that for Beck and O'Reilly."
"MSNBC has a lot of NBC News DNA and resources. MSNBC sticks closer to the facts."
Relatives of 9-11 victims are criticizing Fox Business Network's Andrew Napolitano for his claim last week that the government is hiding facts surrounding the September 11 attacks.
Those who spoke with Media Matters either dismissed the claims of a conspiracy or criticized Napolitano for raising the issue as they continue to seek closure.
Napolitano made the comments on November 23 during an interview on Alex Jones' radio show.
Napolitano claimed in the interview that it's "hard for me to believe" that World Trade Center 7 "came down by itself," and said that it couldn't have happened "the way the government told us."
Experts have debunked this myth, including Popular Mechanics, which noted, "Conspiracy theorists have long claimed that explosives downed World Trade Center 7, north of the Twin Towers." The publication, which frequently debunks 9-11 conspiracy theories, added that a "report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conclusively rebuts those claims."
Jones, who is the self-proclaimed leader of the movement that wrongly claims that the 9-11 attacks were an inside job, responded to Napolitano's claims by praising his "courage" and calling him a "great American."
Fox spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment.
But some of those whose relatives died in the attacks were glad to speak up.
Among them was Tim Sumner, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America. He dismissed the Truther view after listening to the Napolitano/Jones exchange.
"We know who attacked us and that they are still coming at us," Sumner, whose firefighter brother-in-law died in the South Tower, wrote in an e-mail. "The questions we will continue to ask are those aimed at ensuring our government does not recreate systemic loopholes in our national defense.
"Unfortunately, a few pundits remain willfully ignorant of the facts surrounding the collapse of WTC 7 yet voice their opinions nonetheless. Conversely, Alex Jones is a grave robber who, like all of the self-proclaimed leaders of the 9/11 'truth' movement, provokes solely for personal gain; his 'facts' have been debunked or are ludicrous on their face."
Charles Wolf's wife, Katherine, died in the North Tower on Sept. 11. He calls conspiracies like those Napolitano discussed "ludicrous," and accused him of using the tragedy to seek attention.
"After all the investigations, they are rather ludicrous," he said. "Nine and a half years after, to bring something like this up, what kind of publicity is he looking for for himself? It appears to me to be rather self-serving. He is not worth getting upset about, he is just someone who is looking for publicity."
Rosemary Cain, whose son, firefighter George Cain, died that day, took issue with Napolitano specifically.
"Judge Napolitano? I can't believe that, I really don't believe it," she said when she heard about his comments. "What can they gain by that? I think it is beneath him to come out with a remark like that. He is in a position of respect."
She also stated:
"Anybody who talks about that is obviously not a family member and just trying to stir the pot and cause controversy. The bottom line is that if people were not affected by 9/11, they should just keep their mouths shut because it is hurtful to the families."
"I think the media gives some of these nut jobs too much credibility and too much air space."
Then there is Herbert Ouida, whose son, Todd, died in the North Tower. He criticized Napolitano and any others who raise such conspiracies to gain attention:
"We trust the government and have no reason not to trust the government on this. People make a living on these things, they make a living on the tragedy."
"We live in a media age and people want to fill 24 hours and people make a name for themselves and take advantage of this media need."
A Fox News reporter who has filed a federal claim of retaliation for an age and gender discrimination suit against Fox contends that CEO Roger Ailes sought to silence her in 2008 with a staff-wide e-mail urging employees not to complain.
In a declaration filed Nov. 19 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Catherine Herridge cited an e-mail sent by Ailes on Feb. 8, 2008, to employees that hinted complaining staffers were free to work elsewhere.
The portion of the Ailes' e-mail cited in the court filing:
...The best things about those days [the early days of Fox] were the...lack of complaints...But today I sometimes hear too much selfish complaining, petty whining, and a desire to have what someone else has... As I have always said, negative people make positive people sick...you should note that there are no locks on the outside of the doors keeping us here. I would never want to hold anyone back. I decided many years ago that I did not ever want to work with unhappy people because life is too short and the first 100 years in the ground is just the beginning...If you are happy, your work experience will be fulfilling and your colleagues will like you. If you are not happy, your fellow employees will avoid you... . Some people actually find it easier to achieve success than to handle it well once they have it.
The declaration was part of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's formal response to a Nov. 4 Fox motion to dismiss the case.
The original lawsuit brought by the EEOC on behalf of Herridge was filed Sept. 16.
The initial complaint stemmed from Herridge's claim that Fox officials retaliated against her for filing internal complaints against Fox for alleged age and gender discrimination back in 2006.
In her latest declaration, which appears to tie Ailes' e-mail to the internal investigation, Herridge states that after claiming she was losing assignments and potential anchor slots because of her age (43) and her gender she was the subject of retaliation.
Her declaration states, in part:
Beginning in or around December 2007, Senior VP [Dianne] Brandi began an internal investigation on behalf of Fox, into the allegations of discrimination that I made.
Around January 15, 2008, I restated my age and sex discrimination complaint to Ms. Brandi. Ms. Brandi told me that if I did not like how things were going that I was free to go (sic) the EEOC. Later, around February 7, 2008, I e-mailed Ms. Brandi and questioned her about her investigation and expressed concerns that Ms. Brandi's investigation was neither thorough nor impartial. Ms. Brandi had informed me that she had promised to keep CEO Ailes fully informed about her investigation into my discrimination complaint. The next day, February 8, 2008, CEO Ailes sent a company-wide email (the email was sent to the entire company, not just the D.C. Bureau).
Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.
Herridge adds in her declaration:
I received the email and felt that it was in direct response to my continued complaints of age and sex discrimination. I also believed that it was meant to silence me. However, I did not confront CEO Ailes about the e-mail to confirm my suspicion because I was intimidated by the e-mail and since Ms. Brandi had previously instructed me not to contact CEO Ailes directly regarding my complaint or the investigation.
She stated in the filing that Brandi later notified her on March 17, 2008, that Fox had found no evidence of discrimination.
Being knocked off of WPHT Radio in Philadelphia, the city's top talk radio station, is a significant blow to Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, according to several local and national radio experts.
Those who spoke with Media Matters following the announcement Thursday that Beck and Hannity would no longer be heard on the station after January 17, said losing a top ten radio market will affect the duo's national standing.
"That leaves Hannity and Beck without a good strong affiliate in that market, and not a lot of prospects," said Katy Bachman, who covers radio for MediaWeek, an industry publication. "That is a blow to both of those guys to lose that market. Philadelphia is a top ten market and to lose it is a big deal."
Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers Magazine, called the loss of that market "very significant."
"If you are on the top talk station in Philadelphia, that is a good thing. Philly is an important market."
WPHT did not even mention Beck or Hannity in its formal release announcing the change. The move gives up much of the station's daytime programming to two local personalities, among them Michael Smerconish, who is also syndicated.
Arbitron, the radio ratings group, ranks Philadelphia the eighth-largest market in the United States.
WPHT, meanwhile, is the 10th highest-rated radio station in the market out of 43 stations, and the highest-rated talk station.
"The idea that [Beck] is not being heard in this market hurts him and Hannity," said Michael Klein, who covers radio for the Philadelphia Inquirer. "If you are not on the air in a big city, it is a big blow." He later added, "it is an ego blow, they all want to be in the top ten. They do not want to be locked out."
Jack Klotz, who teaches media and communications at nearby Temple University, said the loss of the Philadelphia station to Beck and Hannity "could be a hit. It seems like it would be fairly big. They are a big talk station."
Ironically, Beck was once based at WPHT earlier in his career, doing his syndicated show from its studios between 2002 and 2006.
Premiere Radio, which syndicates Beck and Hannity, did not indicate if a new station for the two personalities in the same market had been found. Asked to comment on their removal from WPHT and if a new home had been found in Philadelphia for them, Premiere spokesperson Rachel Nelson sent the following statement:
While it's our policy not to comment on the business of our affiliates, we've appreciated our partnership with WPHT and look forward to sharing exciting news about The Sean Hannity Show and The Glenn Beck Program in the future.
Some observers said WPHT's decision may be a move to locally-based personalities more than a response to overall content. That could also hurt Beck and Hannity if it becomes a trend elsewhere.
"It is a concern around the country about local radio having value," Harrison said. "Local is something that many, many stations are flirting with."
Klein said the change could be less about ratings and more about revenue, noting that using a local personality could be more profitable if it draws certain advertisers.
"Say they spend $50,000 to hire Hannity, a number I am making up, and they bill $60,000 in ads, they make a profit," Klein explained. "But if they can have someone local to fill the spot for less and bill the same or more, that is more profitable."
He did say that Smerconish, a well-known voice on the station already, is less-conservative than Beck or Hannity: "He has always been labeled a conservative, but he is more centrist than Beck or Hannity. Our market is pretty centrist."
WPHT officials could not yet be reached for comment.
Nearly four months after her high-profile firing from the U.S. Agriculture Department, Shirley Sherrod remains unemployed and says she has no real prospects.
In a phone interview from Albany, Ga., where she has remained since the July 19 firing from her job as Georgia Director of Rural Development, Sherrod said she has yet to find steady work since she turned down a job offer from the Agriculture Department just days after her dismissal.
"I need to work. The work I was doing didn't make much money, but that was the commitment I made after my father was murdered," Sherrod said. "I don't have any job prospects and no one is offering."
Sherrod took on national prominence after Andrew Breitbart posted an excerpt on July 19 of a speech that Sherrod gave in front of a NAACP group. He claimed that the clip showed her engaging in racism.
The tape sparked national attention and resulted in Sherrod being fired, but she was later offered a new USDA job after it became clear that Breitbart's video had taken her statements out of context. She turned it down.
Sherrod said she was trying to write a book about her ordeal, but said, "we have to see if it materializes."
As for employment, she said she did not take the USDA job offered last summer because "they offered a position I did not want to take," declining to further explain the potential job.
She added, "I don't see going back to the Agriculture Department." She said she has done some public speaking, but did not elaborate on what if any income it had produced.
"I would love to be back doing what I was doing. It was hard work, I felt it was helping lots of communities and lots of people," she said. "But as a result of what happened, I did not think I could get back to what I was doing."
She cited Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack saying at one point that there would always be a perception "that I would not fairly implement the program and I would remember that. That is very hurtful. That is what my life has been about, fairness."
Sherrod, 62, said her husband is still working and she has not been in touch with Breitbart or sought to meet with him. "I haven't kept up with him at all. I am not in his network of people."
Asked if her sudden fame last summer made life better or worse, she stated: "That is a hard one to answer. You go about your life and work. I can't dwell on what happened. I haven't given that a lot of thought. I am not working, that is for sure. I do not get up and go to a job and I have done that all my life."
Veteran reporter Josh Margolin of The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., the state's largest daily paper, is departing for a reporting spot at the New York Post.
Margolin, considered by many in New Jersey to be among the best daily reporters in the state, was part of the team credited for the paper's 2005 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of former Gov. James McGreevey's resignation.
Margolin, 40, said his leaving has nothing to do with the paper's recent cutbacks and buyout program. He said he just wanted to cover New York City.
"It is an opportunity to cover a bigger area," he said. "It has nothing to do with the conditions at The Ledger. If it were, I might have taken one of the previous buyout offers."
He added, "The most important part is that it is covering New York."
His last day at the Star-Ledger is Nov. 26. He starts at the Post on Dec. 6
The recent on-air battle between Fox News contributors Karl Rove and Sarah Palin has not escaped notice among Republican Party watchers, sparking mixed reactions from at least three longtime Washington political observers.
Morton Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call and a Fox News contributor, called the battle "fascinating" and backed Rove, while Matthew Dowd, an ABC News analyst and former Bush strategist, gave Palin credit for taking on Rove and distancing herself from the GOP's past.
"It is fascinating, a conflict within the Republican Party," Kondracke told me about the Palin/Rove feud. "But where it leads, I don't know."
Kondracke adds: "I think she's got a chance, she is a phenom and she's got a following. But I have said I think she is a joke. I basically think Rove is right -- I admire him for saying what he believes out in public and not behind closed doors."
Dowd took another approach, saying Rove's criticisms only help Palin.
"The best thing for Sarah is to get Karl into some kind of high-profile spat with her. Every time she gets into a fight with Karl, she gains."
He said Rove's criticism of Palin is a positive for her because it distances her from the GOP's past leadership: "If he wants to help her, the thing he is doing will help her.
"Whoever the nominee is, it will not be holding hands with Karl. It will be someone who is not part of the past Republican Party. There has to be a disconnect from Bush. Karl is viewed as part of the Republican establishment."
Dowd added, "She is not the only one, but she has the ability to excite enthusiasm among a huge piece of the Republican base."
"I have questioned her qualifications, but her ability to speak to the crowd, welcoming outsiders, matches up as well as anybody."
The on-air battle, which has played out on several Fox News programs, is part of the fallout from Fox's controversial use of five paid on-air contributors who have expressed interest in seeking the Republican nomination for president.
In addition to Palin, they include Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, John Bolton and Rick Santorum.
A key force in the on-air friction was an October 31 Politico article reporting that Rove seems to be among GOP leaders who are on a "mission" to "halt" Palin's "momentum and credibility," viewing her potential 2012 presidential nomination as a "disaster in waiting."
The Palin/Rove rift has also shown itself in several other ways. Among them:
* In an October 27 article, the U.K. Telegraph reported: "Expressing the strongest public reservations about the conservative star made by any senior Republican figure, Mr Rove said it was unlikely that voters would regard someone starring in a reality show as presidential material." The Telegraph quoted Rove suggesting that Palin lacks "a certain level of gravitas" required to be elected president.
* On the October 31 edition of Fox News' On the Record, Palin discussed both the Politico article claiming that GOP leaders are concerned about Palin and Rove's comments in The Telegraph. Palin stated that Rove "has planted a few other political seeds out there that are quite negative and unnecessary" and added: "You know what? I kind of feel like, why do they feel so threatened and so paranoid?" Palin also said that Rove falsely called her upcoming television series a "reality show."
* On the October 31 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Palin about Rove's comments in The Telegraph that "there are high standards that the American people have for it [the presidency] and they require a certain level of gravitas." Palin responded: "You know, I agree with that, that those standards have to be high for someone who would ever want to run for president, like, umm, wasn't Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn't he in Bedtime for Bonzo, Bozo?"
The two have also sparred over Tea Party senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell, who recently lost her general election bid for the Delaware senate seat. Palin supported and endorsed O'Donnell, while Rove questioned her background and credentials.
Another veteran Republican political consultant, Mark McKinnon, declined to choose sides in the Rove/Palin feud, but said it is tantamount to an attention-getting fire.
"Friction creates sparks. Sparks create fires. Fires create attention. Attention creates interest. Interest is good," McKinnon wrote in an e-mail.
He also noted, "Karl Rove is the brains of the Republican party. Sarah Palin is the heart of the Tea Party movement. There are bound to be conflicts and dynamic tension, but combined it's a pretty powerful combination."
Carlson, a former CNN and MSNBC commentator who currently appears on Fox News, thought it would be fun to pretend to be Olbermann in response to a Philadelphia Daily News writer's request for comment.
As has been reported heavily, Daily News scribe Stu Bykofsky incorrectly thought he was reaching out to Olbermann when he e-mailed firstname.lastname@example.org to seek comment on Olbermann's recent suspension.
In reality, his request for comment went to Carlson, who had set up the phony e-mail last summer as some sort of joke.
After talking to some news ethics experts and journalism veterans about the stunt -- collecting their criticisms -- I sought comment from Carlson via e-mail. Sending him the following:
From: Joe Strupp
Date: Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 9:49 AM
Subject: seeking comment for news story
To: Tucker Carlson
Sir, hope you are well.
I appreciate all of your past communication and response when I previously contacted you while at E&P.
As you might expect, Media Matter is interested in the e-mails you sent to a Philadelphia Daily News reporter under Keith Olbermann's name
Wanted to ask if you think this is a serious journalistic breach?
Are you surprised at the criticism?
Did you do anything wrong?
Why or why not?
What did you seek to gain from this stunt?
And any other comments.
I can also be reached at XXX-XXX-XXXX.
Thanks, Joe Strupp
Instead of responding to my questions, Carlson sent me a copy of an e-mail I had sent him back in January when I was job-hunting before coming to Media Matters. After being laid off from Editor & Publisher, I sought employment from many news outlets, including some that Media Matters now criticizes such as Fox News.
Carlson's response today with the January e-mail I sent him is below:
From: Tucker Carlson
Date: Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 9:52 AM
Subject: Re: seeking comment for news story
To: Joe Strupp
Hello, I want to work for you.
For the past 21 years, I have been a reporter, with the most recent 11 years at Editor & Publisher magazine. During my time there, I have covered all aspects of journalism-related news, issues and industry concerns, as well as political impact from Washington to Iraq.
With the recent announcement of Editor & Publisher refocusing, I am looking for other opportunities. Daily Caller seems perfect. I have been a big fan of your approach and work and have been used as a media commentator on several Web sites and news outlets, including Fox News Channel and The O'Reilly Factor.
I believe my experience in news and media coverage, including investigative efforts, makes me a prime candidate for your site.
In addition, I have been blogging for several years at E&P's blog, www.eandppub.com, as well as Twitter and Facebook.
During my time at E&P, I built up relationships with many sources in the industry, from the White House Correspondents Association to the American Society of News Editors to a list of Washington bureau chiefs From XXX to XXX.
I would love to work with your site and help it dig up needed news as well as draw readers with interesting comment, daily scoops and researched insight.
I have attached a resume and a list of references. Please review these items and let me know if you need anything else.
Thanks, Joe Strupp
Pretty good pitch letter, if I do say so myself. And I believe it shows I am unbiased, willing to report news for any news outlet despite its political leanings.
Still, the fact that he would bring up my past job search in this way raises questions of whether he saw that as some kind of leverage to stop me from doing a story, hinting he might reveal that I once looked to him for work.
When I e-mailed back to Carlson today asking if his resending of my old e-mail to him was his response to my questions, he wrote me:
From: Tucker Carlson
Date: Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 10:20 AM
Subject: Re: seeking comment for news story
To: Joe Strupp
Lighten up, Joe.
That's my answer. Please quote me. Thanks.
As you wish.
The recent fake e-mail to a reporter from Tucker Carlson claiming to be Keith Olbermann drew complaints and criticism from journalism veterans and news ethicists, with one calling it "silly and probably stupid."
Carlson, a former CNN and MSNBC commentator who currently appears on Fox News, earlier this week pretended to be Olbermann in response to a Philadelphia Daily News writer's request for comment.
Daily News scribe Stu Bykofsky incorrectly thought he was reaching out to Olbermann when he e-mailed email@example.com to seek comment on Olbermann's recent suspension.
In reality, his request for comment went to Carlson, who had set up the phony e-mail last summer as some sort of joke.
Asked by Media Matters via e-mail today to comment on the situation, Carlson sent me a note that said, "Lighten up, Joe."
Others were not so dismissive, declaring the move an ethical problem.
"What he did seems silly and probably stupid," said Bob Steele, a top ethics expert from The Poynter Institute. "It is a silly thing to do, but a serious issue. It raises the whole question of journalistic independence and standards no matter who the journalist is or the news agency."
He added, "If he was intentionally being deceptive and deceived someone else it raises an ethical issue."
Kevin Smith, chair of the ethics committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, offered a similar view.
"I have no idea what Carlson was thinking, apparently he wasn't," Smith told me. "This is more bizarre than it needs to be. It shows you when you play fast and loose with ethics it just gets impossible. A lot of blunders and stupidity are on display here."
Smith added: "I used to watch Tucker Carlson and he was a respectable individual - I don't know what his thought was ... he is fabricating news. That is unprofessional, unethical and completely unnecessary."
Christine Montgomery, president of the Online News Association, called Carlson's actions "stupid and wrong."
"I can't imagine what he was thinking," she added. "It is not a nice thing to do. There is a journalistic lesson here: check and check again."
For George Harmon, former chairman of the newspaper program at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Carlson's actions mean he gives up journalistic protection in the future.
"I don't think you do that and claim to have all of the protections legitimate journalists deserve. That violates all of the rules," he said. "I don't think that fits into our profession as we know it."
At least two attorneys said there could be a basis for legal action by Olbermann.
"Olbermann could [take action] because it would be putting him in a false light," said Paul Kleven, a defamation attorney based in Berkeley, Calif. "It would be a tough one, but it did fool a reporter. He would still have a claim that it was out there and caused damage to his reputation before it got corrected."
Sandy Baron, executive director of the Media Law Resource Center, also saw a possible case, but with less likelihood of success: "Theoretically, one could imagine the possibility of a libel claim. That is the issue to be looking at, if a defamation was created. That would be the issue. I guess a possibility of misappropriation or right of publicity, they both go to the use of someone's name. But I think it is a real big stretch."