Sarah Palin defended Fox News' practice of giving airtime to "birthers," telling Media Matters in a recent video exchange: "I love that everybody has the right to voice their opinions in America. Fox embraces it, I love it."
Fox has a history of giving birther believers airtime, even with continued proof that they have no basis in their claims. Following last week's release of Barack Obama's long-form birth certificate, for example, Fox Business host Eric Bolling drew attention April 27 for raising bizarre theories about whether the birth certificate was "Photoshopped."
I caught up with Palin outside a fundraising brunch Saturday morning in Washington, D.C., held as part of the White House Correspondents' Association dinner that night.
When asked what she thought of Fox having birthers on, she answered: "Oh I love that everybody has the right to voice their opinions in America. Fox embraces it, I love it."
When I asked her, "What is your belief on the birther issue? Do you think it should be put away now?" she declined to answer.
It seems not everyone at The Washington Post was happy about the newspaper inviting Donald Trump to Saturday's White House Correspondents Dinner.
Several staffers, including two who spoke with Media Matters, criticized the paper for inviting Trump to the dinner given his recent controversial views and his potential presidential candidacy.
"People were definitely uneasy and anxious about the appearance," said one Post writer who requested anonymity. "Some people are uncomfortable about the whole dinner and participation in it. Others may be uncomfortable about Trump."
Columnist Dana Milbank took the paper to task in a column that criticized the Post for hosting Trump just days after running a stinging editorial about his now-debunked birther claims.
On Thursday, The Washington Post editorializes that Donald Trump has been campaigning on "bogus" issues and that he should "cease and desist." An article in the news pages the same day reports that the great orange charlatan's "simply wild speculation" has "almost no basis in fact."
Then, on Saturday night, Post reporters and editors, in black-tie finest, go to the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner to host their invited guests, including . . . Donald Trump.
Awkward though the Trump invitation is, it is just one of the many problems with the annual dinner and its satellite events.
He later added:
I don't fault any one host for throwing a party or any journalist for attending. Many of them are friends. There's nothing inherently wrong with savoring Johnnie Walker Blue with the politicians we cover.
But the cumulative effect is icky. With the proliferation of A-list parties and the infusion of corporate and lobbyist cash, Washington journalists give Americans the impression we have shed our professional detachment and are aspiring to be like the celebrities and power players we cover.
Contacted by Media Matters on Monday, Milbank expanded on his views, adding that several other Post staffers had agreed with him:
"Based on what people said to me after [the column] ran, several people had similar concerns. As it happened in the end, it sounds like Obama and Seth Meyers made him miserable enough that it was worthwhile. It sounds like some rough justice was had."
He also added, "To me, the whole weekend is a colossal embarrassment and that was one minor embarrassment that, with all of the others, added to a colossal embarrassment."
The Washington Post invited Donald Trump as our guest to the correspondent's dinner?http://bit.ly/fsTH2t That's embarrassing.
He later noted:
Apparently, the New York Times began sitting out the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2007. Smart.http://n.pr/fOPAAU
Klein did not respond to a request for comment.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Lally Weymouth -- Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth's mother and the sister of former publisher and current chairman Donald Graham -- was responsible for the Trump invitation.
One Post source told Media Matters that Weymouth, a former Newsweek senior editor, had usually made her requests for dinner guests through Newsweek, which was sold by The Washington Post Company last year.
The source said this may become a trend, advising Post staffers to "brace for" similar moves in the future.
A Post spokesperson declined to comment on the Trump invitation.
When Thomson Reuters announced a major reshuffling of its news operation last week, the story may have said as much about the state of one of the company's biggest competitors as it did about Reuters itself.
That's because all four of the hires to Reuters' news leadership are former top Dow Jones staffers. It's the latest chapter in the steady loss of talent from Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal since Rupert Murdoch took over. And many of the departed personnel are helping to boost the efforts of Dow Jones' biggest rivals -- Reuters, Bloomberg, and The New York Times.
Even before Murdoch's News Corp. finalized the purchase of Dow Jones in late 2007, concerns arose in and out of the news operation that his conservative bent and business strategy could slant coverage or, at least, hurt quality.
In interviews with Media Matters, many of the dozens to flee the Journal and Dow Jones in the past three and half years say the push for shorter stories, less investigative work, and -- at times -- a subtle nudge for more business-friendly stories has made it a worse place to work and resulted in a diminished editorial product.
"Everyone who could leave the Journal and get a good job has done so," said one former Journal scribe now at Bloomberg. "If it had been a better time in the industry, I think you would have seen more."
A former Pulitzer Prize winner at the Journal who left for another major news outlet said fears of Murdoch's impact helped drive him out.
"I was open to leaving partly because of him. I wasn't happy about it. I objected to him on principle. Fox News has a bad reputation. What he had done to the London Times, I had seen criticism of that. The New York Post is not a shining beacon of journalism," the writer said. "He commented a lot about that he didn't like newspapers that competed for prizes. There was a lot of worry at the time that his business agenda would influence coverage. Inside it was seen as a terrible shotgun marriage."
The speculation about Dow Jones departures was raised again last week when Thomson Reuters announced a management change that included four top former Dow Jones journalists, all of whom left since Murdoch's takeover was announced.
* Paul Ingrassia, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and former president of Dow Jones Newswires, who started at the company in 1977 and was among the first top executives to leave in 2007 after word of Murdoch's purchase became public. He told Reuters at the time: "There just didn't seem to be an appropriate place for me in the company," later adding that he did not see "any role that really excited me" at Dow Jones. Ingrassia has been named deputy editor-in-chief overseeing news content creation at Reuters.
* Jim Gaines, who most recently served as managing editor of News Corp's online publication The Daily. Gaines, who becomes ethics, standards and innovation editor at Thomson Reuters, left The Daily after only three months.
* Stuart Karle, former general counsel to The Wall Street Journal who was fired in 2008, becomes chief operating officer for Thomson Reuters news division.
* Reginald Chua spent 16 years at the Journal before leaving in 2009. He joins Reuters as data editor.
James O'Keefe has made a name for himself by using hidden video recordings to promote his agenda.
But he apparently doesn't like to be interviewed on camera himself.
After addressing a crowd of some 200 Tea Party members in New Jersey at the group's state convention Saturday in East Windsor -- in which he mentioned his controversial Planned Parenthood stings - O'Keefe declined to be interviewed on camera when approached by Media Matters for America.
Despite several requests for a comment on the Planned Parenthood controversy, O'Keefe refused to go on camera, then walked away.
The incident comes a month after O'Keefe barred the Asbury Park Press from video recording a speech he gave in Keyport, N.J., on March 17 before another Tea Party group.
Fox News drew anger and protest this week after it posted a story juxtaposing a suicide at George Washington University with President Barack Obama's speech there on Wednesday.
The move also sparked criticism from several veteran newsroom leaders, including one who called it "ham-handed." The editor of the student newspaper said it "jarred" many students.
The negative fallout, which included a Facebook page created to protest the report, forced Fox to remove the story Thursday afternoon, according to the student paper, The GW Hatchet:
Fox News removed the story just before 4 p.m., and the link now goes to a "not found" page.
University spokeswoman Candace Smith said the University reached out to Fox News about the story.
"We contacted Fox News to express our concern that the story drew conclusions that were not accurate," Smith said. "It was their decision to take the story down, and we believe it was a wise one."
According to a Fox News employee, who spoke on background because they were not permitted to speak in an official capacity, Fox removed the story due to student and University reaction, even though nothing in the story was factually inaccurate.
HuffingtonPost.com has posted an image of the original Fox story, which stated:
GWU Suicide Tragically Coincides with Obama Speech
George Washington University students in Washington, D.C. learned of a tragic coincidence of timing on their campus Wednesday. As President Obama delivered a speech on deficit reduction in the Jack Morton Auditorium, one of the university's students committed suicide in his dorm room across campus.
Fox News has learned that the male student was likely a junior at the school.
"I am deeply saddened to report that the university has been notified of the death of one of our students," GW President Steven Knapp said in a message to his students, faculty and staff. "The student was found in his room this afternoon at the City Hall residence hall," he said.
GW officials tell Fox that the incident took place around 2pm, which happened to be at the same time that President Obama was speaking. As of this writing, Fox has not been able to obtain reaction from the White House.
"The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the student's death in coordination with the GW Police Department," Knapp wrote. "At this time, we have no indication that the death was the result of a criminal act. We will release more information when it becomes available."
DC police officials tell Fox that the death has, in fact, been ruled a suicide.
Knapp took note of solemn moment, adding, "On behalf of the entire university community, I would like to express our sorrow and extend my condolences to the student's family and friends."
Conservative writer Jennifer Rubin isn't sad that Glenn Beck's Fox show is ending.
Rubin, who writes The Washington Post's Right Turn column, toldMedia Matters in an email: "It is good news for the conservative movement, especially at a time when serious and innovative individuals like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio are demonstrating leadership and far-sightedness while maintaining a tone of civility."
Other conservative and libertarian journalists contacted by Media Matters reacted similarly.
Jesse Walker, managing editor of Reason magazine, pointed to Beck's repeated falsehoods, as well as his loss of viewers and advertisers:
"Beck was always someone who went off the reservation and he got criticism from other conservatives," Walker noted, saying he liked Beck's independence, but not his inaccuracies: "he got a lot of his facts wrong."
Further speculating on why Beck was dropped by Fox, Walker suggested that in Fox's view, "Controversy is fine when you are bringing in a lot of viewers, but controversy is not fine when you are losing viewers and dropping advertisers."
Daniel McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative, said Beck's departure "is certainly good for the intellectual integrity of conservatism."
"On the other hand," McCarthy added, "Beck was the only fellow on Fox News who did not seem to be scripted by the RNC."
W. James Antle, III, associate editor of The American Spectator, said Beck's act might have lost its impact in recent months.
"When Obama was elected and the Democrats controlled everything, you had conservatives feel disenfranchised," Antle said. "You did not feel like you were involved in a serious level. That creates a market for very outspoken conservative commentators. That created a market for guys like Beck.
"Then the market for that kind of cools a little bit when the Republicans take the house and you feel like you have a little more leverage."
Antle also said Beck's focus steered away from some of the more important conservative issues:
"If you look at what conservatives are focused on now, spending has become all consuming, the size of government. That wasn't the case a few years ago.
"I wonder if [Beck's] interests in personalities and their relationship to one another and broader conspiracies are just not what conservatives are looking for right now."
This post has been edited for clarity.
Several September 11 victims' relatives are speaking out against the conspiracy theories espoused by Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is apparently a contender to replace Glenn Beck.
Napolitano, who Beck suggested as his replacement just last night on Fox Business Network, has a history of promoting conspiracy theories, including the belief that the government is lying about the 9/11 attacks. While Beck has condemned so-called "Truthers," Napolitano has regularly filled in for Beck.
Napolitano currently hosts a show on Fox Business, and the New York Daily News reported yesterday that he is one of several "potential long-term replacements" for Beck.
Speaking in November on a leading conspiracist radio show, Napolitano said that it's "hard for me to believe that" World Trade Center Building 7 "came down by itself" -- a central tenet of 9-11 conspiracy theories -- and claimed that "twenty years from now, people will look at 9-11 the way we look at the assassination of JFK today. It couldn't possibly have been done the way the government told us."
Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, died in the World Trade Center's North Tower, said Fox needs to be careful about promoting someone with such views.
"If he is going to be on there, I think there needs to be some control," he said of Napolitano. "There comes a point where the media can be irresponsible by what they do and don't do. There are sins of commission, and one of those sins of commission is allowing people like this on.
"I personally do not believe in any of these conspiracy theories. I think we are well past that stage. We don't need to be cluttering up people's time with bullshit."
Nancy Aronson, whose sister-in-law died aboard American Airlines Flight 11, is a board member of Families of September 11. She called the possibility of Napolitano taking over for Beck "disappointing."
"It is disappointing when a major network would put on someone who would espouse a view that is so involved in personal aggrandizement. I would be disappointed Fox would do that," she said. "I would hope [removing] Glenn Beck would mean stepping in the direction of having what they say is 'fair and balanced' coverage. That is certainly not a step in that direction. It does nothing to clarify the situation so many have worked to clarify."
Herb Ouida, whose son, Todd, was killed in the North Tower, said Napolitano may well be seeking attention. He said it may not be worth his time to watch.
"I have dismissed [such theories] so early on, I would probably turn it off," he said. "There are people in Dallas still looking for the other [JFK] gunman. There will always be people who promote themselves to be outlandish. I wonder how firm those viewpoints are held or if they are held to attract attention. There is no evidence here, and this guy is a lawyer."
He added, "That's Fox. I don't agree with them. Overall, I don't watch Fox. They have a right to broadcast, but I don't agree with it."
Elinor Stout, the mother of a Cantor Fitzgerald employee who died in the tower attacks, says such conspiracies take attention away from the important facts surrounding the tragedy.
"I feel that conspiracy theories are always going to be the case, look at what happened with JFK, what is happening now with the insane preacher burning the Koran," she said. "One has to keep a focus on what really happened."
She added when asked about Napolitano: "There will always be nutcases around. I don't know how much press we should give it. I think it is all part of the influence of media. If they just have him, it is like having Glenn Beck spewing all of his crazy stuff with no one to speak out about the other side."
The revelation that Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon intentionally misled viewers in 2008 with speculation linking Barack Obama to socialism has drawn criticism from a handful of veteran Washington bureau chiefs.
Several former D.C. newsroom leaders told Media Matters that Sammon acted unethically when he publicly hinted several times in 2008 that Obama might have socialist tendencies, only to later admit that at the time, he "privately" believed the allegations were "far-fetched."
"At that time, I have to admit, that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism," Sammon said in a 2009 speech that Media Matters publicized this week, "a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched."
Later in the speech, Sammon said his "mischievous speculation" was actually proven correct during the first months of Obama's presidency.
John Walcott, former McClatchy Washington bureau chief who stepped down in 2010 and ran the bureau during the 2008 election, criticized the actions.
"I don't think deception is ever acceptable in journalism," Walcott said. "I think there are times when we don't say everything we've learned for reasons of personal security and national security. But outright deception, saying something that you know to be untrue or have no basis for believing is true is not journalism, it is propaganda."
"This also reflects an increasing tendency to abandon the fourth estate's role of holding those in power -- political, economic, whatever -- accountable, regardless of their ideology, political party or social standing, in favor of taking sides."
Walcott added: "In theological terms, this is a sin of commission. This is more overt. This isn't journalism."
Frank Sesno, CNN Washington bureau chief from 1995 to 2001, said of Sammon: "Of course he's partisan. If Fox wants to define the role of its reporters and its bureau chief in a traditional journalistic capacity, then they have no business offering opinions or political speculation in any fashion.
"But if Fox wants to define itself differently, not as a traditional news organization but a news and opinion organization, then he is free to do that."
Marc Sandalow, San Francisco Chronicle bureau chief from 1996 to 2007, said Sammon's actions were not proper for a news person.
"Journalists should not be involved in mischievous speculation, journalists should not engage in mischievous speculation, they should be provocative and if they identify it, they can be analytic and opinionated," Sandalow said. "But mischief is not part of journalism."
Asked what it means for Sammon's newsroom leadership role, Sandalow added: "That's a problem, he is overseeing the news operation. For news gatherers, credibility is everything. You should never deceive viewers or readers."
Max Frankel, former executive editor of The New York Times and its Washington bureau chief from 1968 to 1972, called Sammon's actions "clear partisanship."
"In our politics, the word socialist is a curse word," Frankel said. "Especially when hurled at the Democrats, it is a clear case of partisanship and I don't believe that anybody who is calling Obama a socialist to this very day, really believes that."
"It is obviously name-calling, and partisanship of that sort has no place in fair journalism," he said. "The only surprising thing about the episode is that he would go so far as to admit it."
Marvin Kalb, a former NBC News chief diplomatic correspondent and one-time Meet The Press host, said Sammon went too far:
"I believe that Bill Sammon crossed a line between reporting and editorializing in his 2008 coverage of candidate Obama," Kalb said, later adding, "Decades ago, his campaign commentary would have been unacceptable. Reporters reported and did not offer personal critiques."
Steve Goldstein, former Washington Bureau chief for The Philadelphia Inquirer, e-mailed this view:
"If I'm not mistaken, Sammon also wrote a column for the Examiner. In any event, that's where his work came to my attention. After reading some pieces by him, it was abundantly clear that he was writing as some sort of party apparatchik and not as a journalist."
Dean Baquet, the current Washington bureau chief for The New York Times, told Media Matters: "Come on, it is Fox. So no surprise, right?"
A radio chain that dropped Glenn Beck from five of its stations since January did so, in part, because the show's content was hurting ratings, the company's president said Monday.
"He bounces around pretty radically, I think he confuses people, they're not sure where he is coming from," said Rick Buckley, president of Buckley Radio of Greenwich, Conn., who spoke with Media Matters. "It can change day to day, hour to hour. Consistency is, I think, the path to success in broadcasting, in radio for sure, whether it be music or talk. Glenn is sort of all over the park from time to time."
Buckley spoke just days after his company announced it would pull Beck's show from four stations in Connecticut. -- WDRC-AM, WWCO-AM, WSNG-AM, and WMMW-AM. Those stations simulcast programming and will no longer air Beck's morning show, replacing it with two local personalities.
"Some of his direction has changed over the last year and a half," Buckley said. "He is preaching a lot more than entertaining."
The move comes just months after WOR Radio, the chain's flagship station in New York, replaced Beck with a local host in January.
"In the last six months or so, he has tended to be more and more taking a religious point of view ... It didn't do well here in the east," Buckley said. "It has not gotten real traction. If you want a religious point of view, we've got plenty of religious stations. You can get it 24/7."
Buckley, whose father started the company in the 1950s, said Beck's show had changed and taken on more of a religious tone since his August 2010 rally in Washington, D.C.
"There is no question I think he had a big change after his Washington conclave. Something hit him down there. His show changed after that," Buckley said. "In its basic elements that he had been doing for a long, long time. He got much more into the doomsday and a lot more talking of the religious aspects of people's lives and stuff like that. For us in New York and in Hartford, we just felt that a local program would be better."
In recent months, Beck's show has frequently veered into apocalyptic religiosity.
Asked about the WOR change, Buckley said he had expected Beck's ratings to improve in that market, but they did not after two years on the air.
"WOR ... we gave it a two-year shot, it just didn't seem to get traction, it didn't get the traction we thought it would, especially with all the publicity and P.R. he's had, you'd have thought it would be a runaway. It was going the other way," Buckley said. "I don't know whether he is a little off the reservation in trying to prove his point for the masses ... the listening audience."
Citing the WOR ratings in New York, Buckley said: "They weren't down, but they weren't up. We'd thought they'd go up. The other talk station in New York, WABC, had gone through a lot of changes and you would have thought consistency would have helped [Beck]. We'd have thought we'd see some movement, but we didn't see anything."
Beck's show will remain on one Buckley station, KNZR-AM in Bakersfield, Calif. The company owns 17 stations in three states.
Several veteran foreign correspondents were critical of Fox News' misleading claims on Monday that reporters from other U.S. outlets, but not from Fox, were lured to Muamar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli and successfully used as human shields.
Fox had to "clarify" the story later that evening when it turned out that someone from Fox News was also at Gadhafi's compound. At least one reporter, Nic Robertson of CNN, lashed out at Fox's reporting, calling it "outrageous and hypocritical."
Other military affairs reporters and war correspondents have since weighed in with criticism of Fox's actions, with some suggesting such misleading reports can hurt news efforts in the combat zone.
"Those war situations are always full of confusion about what dangers lurk, and I think the CNN team and other journalists probably did the right thing by taking a look at Gadhafi's compound," said Tim Johnson, a veteran McClatchy foreign correspondent, now based in Mexico. "Certainly, there were plenty of important aspects of the military campaign the Fox News team could have covered rather than choosing to cover what other reporters were doing. But if the goal was to make a splashy headline using the emotionally laden phrase of 'human shields,' they succeeded, whether accurate or not."
Otto Kreisher, a former U.S. Marine and Copley Newspaper foreign correspondent who covered U.S. forces in Grenada, Panama, and Iraq, said Fox News' actions were "not surprising from the 'fair & balanced' network."
Don North, a veteran photojournalist who has covered wars from Vietnam to Iraq and serves as vice president of Military Reporters and Editors -- an association of those who cover the military -- also criticized Fox:
"When news organizations try to make their journalists part of the story, it's a sorry way to use your people and resources, isn't it?" he asked. "The Gadhafi people can certainly be expected to show air strike damage in Tripoli to the foreign press and if there is a bus and you're our man in Tripoli, you better be on it. But as Nic Robertson of CNN, a very experienced hand in this type of situation observed, 'they didn't force us to hang around and be hostages.' "