Americans are nonplussed by years of conservative media attacks on President Obama's golfing habits and largely think such criticisms are unfair, according to a new poll.
Only 31 percent of Americans think that it is fair to criticize presidents for playing golf compared to 54 percent who disagree, according to a YouGov poll conducted August 23-25. Similarly, only 30 percent of respondents say that President Obama "plays too much golf."
Since his inauguration, right-wing media figures have frequently criticized Obama for the rounds of golf he plays in Washington, D.C., and while on vacation, claiming that the activity is indicative of a disinterest in his job as president. Obama has been attacked for playing golf during the crisis in Ukraine, while U.S. Special Forces were en route to their mission against Osama Bin Laden, during or after earthquakes in the United States and Japan, and a variety of other instances.
Bill Burton, who served as deputy White House press secretary in the Obama administration, explained in a Politico Magazine piece that such criticisms are unfounded. Explaining that the president is never off duty, even when he is on vacation, Burton wrote:
Whether you're a partisan or a cynical reporter who has been making the same critique about presidential vacations for decades, I assume you probably agree that human beings function better when they get a little time away. I wouldn't want my surgeon to be some woman who hasn't had a break in 4 years. I wouldn't want to share the road with a truck driver who hasn't had enough sleep. It doesn't matter what your occupation is; you will do your job better if you recharge your batteries. And even though the president is never really on vacation, giving him at least a little downtime is good for all of us.
In the end, it's not about the optics. It's about doing your job. And if the president is doing his - which he is - we should all be able to appreciate the fact that he is taking the opportunity to be a dad, a husband and even a leader of the free world who can clear his head on the golf course.
After coming under heavy criticism for exploiting the death of comedian Robin Williams to attack "political leftists," radio host Rush Limbaugh responded to the uproar by lashing out at Media Matters and the "leftist media" for highlighting his remarks.
During the August 12 broadcast of his show, Limbaugh tied Williams' death to what he described as the "leftist worldview." Discussing media accounts of Williams' suicide, Limbaugh said that the "survivor's guilt" mentioned as a possible contributing factor is "a constant measurement that is made by political leftists in judging the country":
Right here it says that one the contributing factors to Robin Williams deciding to kill himself was "survivor's guilt." It's in the headline.
I read that and I thought, "Survivor's guilt? What? What survivor's guilt? What?" So I read it, and it turns out that three of his closest friends, the story says -- Christopher Reeve, John Belushi, and Andy Kaufman... The source, unnamed in the story, said that Robin Williams felt guilty that he was still alive while his three friends had died young and much earlier than he had.
He could never get over the guilt that they died and he didn't.
Well, that is a constant measurement that is made by political leftists in judging the country. It's outcome-based education: 2 + 2 = 5. "That's fine until the student learns it's 4. We're not gonna humiliate the student by pointing out that he's wrong. If he figures it out, cool. We're gonna take the fast learners and we're gonna slow them down so that they don't humiliate the kids that don't learn as fast as they do. It's just not fair."
Limbaugh's comments were widely reported by numerous media outlets. On his August 13 broadcast, Limbaugh responded to outrage over his comments by denying that he had "accused Robin Williams of committing suicide because he was a liberal," and blaming the negative response to his comments on Media Matters and the "leftist media.
Limbaugh has used similar tactics for years to escape responsibility for his commentary - - at times he even claims his offensive statements were an intentional "media tweak," a comment deliberately intended to draw attention from reporters.
In a rare exception, after coming under heavy criticism in 2012 for describing then-law student Sandra Fluke as a "slut" and a "prostitute," Limbaugh "sincerely apologize[d]" to her, saying he "did not mean a personal attack" by launching 44 personal insults at her over three broadcasts. Those comments led to a massive advertiser boycott of Limbaugh's program that continues to this day.
Fox News host and Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson claimed that the government "wants to know" if people have firearms in their houses "because they'd like to disarm you," echoing a common conspiracy theory from gun lobby extremists.
On the August 10 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Heather Nauert reported on a mother's effort to lobby the New York state legislature to pass a bill requiring the safe storage of guns in homes, after her son was killed in an accidental shooting at a friend's house. Nauert asked viewers, "when your child goes to another family's house, do you ever think to ask if they have a gun?"
After the report, Carlson said he would be "offended" if a parent asked him about firearms in his home. "If somebody asked me -- the idea that 93 percent of people don't mind if you ask them if they have a firearm at home -- I find that a very private question," said Carlson. "It's something that government wants to know because they'd like to disarm you. But I -- it's something that I'm not comfortable talking about with other people, and I would be offended by that question."
The National Rifle Association frequently -- and falsely -- claims that the government is collecting information about privately-owned firearms in order to confiscate them at a later time. A recent commentary video from the gun group baselessly claimed that "the government is collecting more and more gun registration data which could be used against gun owners in the form of full confiscation," and the NRA's president Jim Porter has claimed that the Obama administration is using Medicare enrollment forms to create a national gun registry even though no questions about guns appear on the form.
Carlson also criticized Nauert's report for suggesting that "guns are scary, gun owners are a threat to you and your children." He said that "far more children died last year drowning in their bathtubs than were killed accidentally by guns" and stated that he "would like to see a package on, do you have a bathtub at home? Because I need to know that before I send my child over to your house."
Carlson also claimed that "the places with the highest levels of gun ownership" are "the safest places," citing Maine, Wyoming, and Vermont as states where "you're not going to get hurt." In fact, as the Huffington Post noted, a Violence Policy Center study that reviewed 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that "States with weak gun-control laws and higher rates of gun ownership tend to have higher rates of gun deaths, while states with stronger policies and fewer gun owners have significantly lower rates of gun-related deaths." Wyoming had the fourth highest rate of gun deaths in the study.
From Fox & Friends Sunday:
(h/t Raw Story)
Fox News host Howard Kurtz criticized CBS News political analyst Frank Luntz for failing to disclose during a CBS appearance about a congressional election that Luntz had previously been a paid consultant for the candidate.
"I think you should have," Kurtz said during an August 10 interview with Luntz on his #MediaBuzz media criticism program, "because it just would have been leveling with the audience, hey, this is not some stranger."
Luntz discussed then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) surprise primary defeat on the June 11 edition of CBS This Morning, calling the loss "a blow for conversation" that is "bad for the country" because Cantor was "a pipeline to Americans who just wanted people to get things done." But neither he nor CBS acknowledged that Cantor's campaign had paid Luntz's company more than $15,000 in fees, as Media Matters documented.
Asked by Kurtz about the lack of disclosure, Luntz said that while "People raised that as an issue," he did not think it was necessary because he was introduced by CBS "as a Republican."
Luntz's excuse is consistent with that of a CBS spokesperson who told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple in June that the network had provided sufficient disclosure because Luntz's "work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
But as Wemple noted, "When it comes to getting people to say favorable things about other people, there's nothing like a consultant-client relationship to facilitate things. When money changes hands, journalism ethics must pay heed." Media ethicists agreed in interviews with Media Matters, ripping CBS News for "outrageous" behavior that could be considered "not only bad, but corrupt."
After the Toledo Blade received months of criticism for reluctantly hosting National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent at their food and music festival, the conservative commentator repaid the Ohio paper by declaring that "So as long as you know the Toledo Blade hates you, you're a good American."
Nugent has been a source of virulently racist, sexist, and homophobic commentary for years, but his January declaration that President Obama is a "subhuman mongrel" has triggered a wave of cancellations and protests of his concerts.
On August 8, Nugent performed at the 31st Annual Northwest Ohio Rib-off, a three-day festival featuring concerts and barbeque sponsored by the Blade. Nugent's appearance had been a source of controversy since it was announced in April, with the event's director telling Media Matters that he had received numerous calls from readers objecting to the performance. And after violence prevention group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence created a petition urging the paper to cancel the concert, the chairman of The Blade's parent company apologized for the invitation and wrote that while the concert would go on, he would "not support inviting him again."
According to an August 9 Blade article, Nugent "and about a dozen people protesting his appearance overshadowed" the festival, with the sign-toting protestors receiving "support from numerous honking motorists who drove by and a few who flashed a thumbs-up sign." During the festival, Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence founder Toby Hoover delivered more than 6,200 petition signatures collected by CSGV to the Blade's sales director, according to the group.
Nugent responded by lashing out at the protestors, President Obama, and the Blade from stage:
From the stage, Nugent blasted the protesters, calling them the "Barack Obama fan club."
"How much crazier can you get than having a President of the United States who hates the United States?" he asked.
Neither Nugent nor the protesters were happy with the newspaper.
"The Toledo Blade hates you," Nugent told the crowd. "They hate your guts ...; They hate me. They hate freedom. So as long as you know the Toledo Blade hates you, you're a good American."
At least four Nugent concerts have been cancelled this year in response to Nugent's commentary, and several more have been subject to demonstrations. American Indian groups in particular have been protesting Nugent over his past racial comments, with tribes cancelling planned casino concerts and the president of the American Indian Movement Grassroots reportedly stating that the group "will always" protest the concerts.
Music industry experts say that Nugent's rhetoric has hurt his image to the point where he could seriously damage his music career.
Mike Mori, director of sales for The Blade and a coordinator of the event, reportedly confronted Nugent over his comments attacking the paper:
Mr. Mori, who is director of sales for The Blade, said he told Nugent, whose right-wing views prompted an outpouring of opposition before the Friday night show, that he was disappointed in his statements to the crowd, and told him The Blade sponsored the event and paid his fee.
"We were served a petition by an anti-gun coalition to not have him play shortly before he went on, and then they put the picture of them giving it to me on the Internet," Mr. Mori said. "His wife saw it, he thought that The Blade instigated the petition.
"I met with him after the show. I had a spirited conversation with him. I was very disappointed in him. I think he was a little bit embarrassed. He said he would like the chance to write a letter to explain his side of it," Mr. Mori said.
Sean Hannity is lashing out at President Bill Clinton for not moving forward with a 1998 missile strike aimed at Osama Bin Laden that the military thought was likely to fail. But that same year, Hannity actually attacked Clinton for approving a different mission to kill bin Laden, claiming he was trying to distract from Monica Lewinsky.
SkyNews Australia recently aired audio of President Clinton stating in a speech shortly before the September 11, 2001 attacks that he "nearly got" bin Laden with a proposed December 1998 cruise missile strike in Kandahar, Afghanistan, but decided not to approve the attack because it would have killed hundreds of innocent Afghans.
Clinton's comments were no revelation -- the 9-11 Commission Report detailed how intelligence and military leaders recommended against the strike, citing significant flaws that included up to 300 civilian casualties, the possible destruction of a nearby mosque, and low likelihood of killing bin Laden.
But on the July 31 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity responded to the audio by lashing out at Clinton, saying that the former president "didn't do it and look what happened to this country as a result just one day later. America changed forever on 9/11/2001. What Bill Clinton didn't seem to understand on September 10, 2001, he had a chance to prevent that day of infamy from ever happening."
Hannity's comments stand in stark contrast to his reaction in August 1998, when the Clinton administration responded to al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by launching cruise missiles at the terrorist group's camps in Afghanistan, "probably" missing Bin Laden himself "by a few hours." Hannity responded at the time by criticizing Clinton, suggesting that the attack may have been an effort to distract the American people from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Hannity repeatedly referenced "Wag The Dog," a 1997 film in which presidential advisers fabricate a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal.
On his August 20, 1998 program -- just hours after the strikes -- Hannity repeatedly asked his guests if they "see a 'Wag the Dog' scenario here." He went on to explain, "I do a radio show here in New York, and this story broke about 2:00, and I was on the air at 3:00, and every line was jammed and every person was saying the same thing, that in their minds, they're thinking the scenario is 'Wag the Dog,' divert attention away from the crisis that is going on in Washington."
Hannity went on to explicitly state that the timing of the attacks was due to "political motivation" (via Nexis):
HANNITY: Congressman, FOX News has learned that the president was presented with the military option going back to August the 12th. The president did not take that option at that time. As a matter of fact, it been done for political motivation.
And I only raise the question because, in part, look at what the president put the nation through for seven and a half months. Look at the president that let his wife and all his supporters lie for him. Look at a president who looked the American people in the eye -- and who could imagine a scenario like this -- wagging their finger at them and said, "I want you to listen to me. I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky."
There is no moral authority any longer, Mr. Congressman.
According to the 9-11 Commission, the eight-day delay between when Clinton was first briefed on the Pentagon plans for strikes on August 12 and their execution was due to "considerable debate" over which targets would be hit and the need to inform congressional and international leaders. Ironically, the report also concluded that "the 'wag the dog' slur" was one of several factors that "likely had a cumulative effect on future decisions about the use of force against" bin Laden.
This would not be the last time that Hannity would criticize efforts to stop bin Laden. He was one of many conservatives who criticized then-Sen. Barack Obama by mischaracterizing Obama's campaign trail statement that he would act unilaterally if he received "actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets." As president, with the strong support of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama approved just such a mission, which resulted in bin Laden's death.
Ronald Kessler reportedly attacks Bill and Hillary Clinton with anonymously-sourced stories in his forthcoming book The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of Presidents, according to British tabloids and The New York Post. Critics have described Kessler's previous books as "National Enquirer-style gossip," and claims in his previous book on the Secret Service were "strongly disputed" by the agency and other subjects. Kessler was an established journalist for credible newspapers like The Washington Post decades ago but became chief Washington correspondent for the far-right outlet NewsMax in 2006. He subsequently pushed false smears of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and led the charge to promote Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. The First Family Detail is part of a trifecta of anti-Clinton books based on anonymous sources published this summer, along with Daniel Halper's Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine and Edward Klein's Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas.
Fox News is using anonymously-sourced claims from anti-Clinton authors to inject the rumor that Bill Clinton has a mistress into the media, claims which the network has apparently made no effort to confirm.
Weekly Standard online editor Daniel Halper pushed the rumor in his new book, Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine based solely on anonymous sources, who he claimed told him the former president was engaging in "reckless" behavior with a mistress. On July 21, The New York Post gossip section Page Six reported that conservative author Ronald Kessler will make similar claims in his forthcoming The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of The Presidents, apparently also based on anonymous sources.
While the rest of the media has largely ignored the anonymously-sourced gossip, Fox has been using interviews with Halper to promote these claims. Fox apparently has not attempted to confirm the gossip before promoting it on the network's airwaves.
Fox host Megyn Kelly asked Halper about Kessler's report -- which she noted was "unconfirmed" -- during a July 21 interview promoting Halper's book:
KELLY: On the mistress front there was a report from Breitbart -- it's actually from a new Ron Kessler book -- saying that Bill Clinton allegedly had some affair partner who they call the energizer bunny with whom he is still seeing, unconfirmed. You know, these ladies, whatever. Did you interview any of these?
HALPER: I interviewed some. And I can tell you aides told me that they had to advise Bill Clinton in the 2008 election not to bring his mistress on the campaign trail. So he is still engaging in reckless behavior.
As Media Matters has noted, Kelly's reputation allows her to provide a "veneer of legitimacy" that other Fox hosts cannot offer.
Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck also asked Halper during a July 22 interview how the "talk that there is still a mistress in play here" could affect a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run:
HASSELBECK: There has been some talk that there is still a mistress in play here. If that were to be the case, how would that affect Hillary's run in 2016?
HALPER: I'm sure it is and I'm sure there are more stories and more scandals to emerge. I try to cover as many -- you know, you have to make -- when you cover the Clintons, you have to make hard choices about which scandals and which mistresses to cover. So I have made mine in the book.
Three recent or upcoming books highlight the way an anti-Clinton cottage industry is trying to manipulate media vulnerabilities to smear Hillary and Bill Clinton.
This summer will see the publication of Daniel Halper's Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, Edward Klein's Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, and Ronald Kessler's The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of Presidents. Rush Limbaugh discussed all three books one after the other on July 22, commenting, "Do we really want to hand the country over to these people?"
While these books are catnip for Limbaugh and Fox News, all three should give credible media outlets reason to pause before amplifying their anecdotes.
Weekly Standard online editor Daniel Halper is currently making the media rounds to promote Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, which was published July 22 and seeks to "expose" the inner workings of the Clintons' "political machine" and their "unquenchable thirst for wealth and power." He has already appeared for interviews on his publisher's corporate cousin Fox News (on The Kelly File and Fox & Friends) to promote the book, which has been deemed the "'must buy' book of the summer" by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt and recommended by Karl Rove as the "next summer read."
Halper's book characterizes the Clintons as "dueling CEOs" whose primary goal is to make the Clinton "brand" profitable and politically powerful. He largely focuses on the well-trod period starting with Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign up to the present, with flashbacks to earlier periods in the Clintons' lives. Clinton, Inc.'s extended business metaphor barely holds together what is essentially a series of unrelated anecdotes and tired conservative tropes (as one critic points out, a right-wing author describing the Clintons as "calculating" does not make for a "groundbreaking revelation"). Many of his questionable anecdotes are provided anonymously -- "out of fear of retribution or attack from ruthless Clinton aides," according to Halper.
For example, Halper promotes a confusing, poorly-sourced, anonymous account to accuse former President Clinton of attempted rape. Halper claims he received exclusive access to never-before-seen documents about the Clintons collected by unnamed "investigators, attorneys, and other Lewinsky advisors" in the 1990s. Halper says that one of "the more promising and detailed nuggets" collected by the Lewinsky team is an allegation that Bill Clinton attempted to assault an unnamed woman near San Francisco in the 1970s. But the allegation does not come from the woman herself, who Halper says never pressed charges. It's based on claims from a "friend" of the woman, who is also unnamed. Halper's third-hand account doesn't explain when or how the unnamed friend became aware of the allegation, whether they had ever relayed the story to anyone other than a Lewinsky representative decades after the alleged crime, or why the Lewinsky team didn't follow up on the story. Nor does he indicate that he made any effort whatsoever to follow up on the claim himself -- even to determine whether the woman exists.
In another instance, Halper seeks to make the case that something happened to Hillary Clinton other than what her doctors told the public in December 2012 -- that she took a fall as the result of severe dehydration from a stomach bug, suffered a concussion, and was hospitalized for a blood clot in the brain, causing her to delay testifying to Congress about the Benghazi terrorist attacks. First, Halper baselessly posits that Clinton may have hit her head after falling down drunk. Invoking a "rumor" from "bloggers and websites" that Clinton drinks heavily, Halper points to "one well-known Clinton hater" for the claim the injury was the result of drinking -- citing no names. He then offers a contrary interpretation, writing that Clinton may have had a stroke but covered it up. He attributes this, variously, to "a number of reporters," "some on the right," "others," "reporters," and "one veteran reporter" -- not one of them named. Amid this discussion he concedes that "the revelation" may be untrue after all.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has attempted to scandalize the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation in two consecutive columns, even as colleague Nicholas Kristof prepares to participate in the Clintons' charitable events for the sixth straight year.
Dowd's attacks on the Clinton Foundation are the latest salvo in her decades-long anti-Clinton campaign.
In her July 19 column, Dowd baselessly criticized the "foundation dishabille" as part of the "percussive drama" that supposedly surrounds the Clintons. Dowd devoted her July 12 column to lashing out at Chelsea Clinton for giving paid speeches and donating the fees to the Clinton Foundation, an activity which Dowd described as somehow "unseemly."
The Clinton Foundation's website says its mission is "to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment." But Dowd baselessly smeared the Foundation as a phony organization intended solely to benefit the Clinton family, claiming that Chelsea Clinton was "joining her parents in cashing in to help feed the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc." by giving her speaking fees to the Clinton Foundation rather than donating the proceeds to "some independent charity not designed to burnish the Clinton name as her mother ramps up to return to the White House and as she herself drops a handkerchief about getting into politics."
Dowd's criticism raises questions about The New York Times' position on the Foundation given Dowd colleague Nicholas Kristof's involvement in Clinton charitable events through the Clinton Global Initiative. Founded by President Clinton in 2005 and merged into the broader Clinton Foundation last year, CGI brings together global leaders from the public, nonprofit, and private sectors to help solve pressing international issues.
Kristof has participated in CGI's annual meeting in each of the last five years, either by delivering remarks or moderating panels. In a 2010 "CGI Stories" video, Kristof praised the group, saying, "There has been a bit of a change in how global poverty and global health is perceived and I think what's happening at CGI both reflects that and also helps shape it."
In an interview with Media Matters, Kristof said CGI events give him "a chance to meet people who converge from around the world" that are focused on issues that interest him, such as global women's rights, development, and education. He said that he plans to attend the group's annual meeting in September if he is invited. He declined to comment on Dowd's work.
The Times also declined to comment on the tension between Dowd's campaign to scandalize the foundation and Kristof's continued relationship with it.
The paper's Ethical Journalism handbook suggests that the paper has not institutionally adopted Dowd's critique. It states that Times journalists "must consult with the standards editor or the deputy editorial page editor" before addressing "groups that might figure in coverage they provide, edit, package or supervise, especially if the setting might suggest a close relationship to the sponsoring group." It also bars them from accepting "invitations to speak where their function is to attract customers to an event primarily intended as profit-making."