The idea of the daily White House press briefing is that the media, serving some sort of public interest function, asks White House representatives for the administration's official view on the pressing issues of the day. Right about now people are concerned about war, the economy, health care, the environment, and thousands of other pressing issues. Yesterday they talked about rugs.
Q Robert, can I ask you about the Oval Office rug and the quotation that you folks attributed to Martin Luther King?
MR. GIBBS: I don't think -- well, just to be fair, I don't -- I think --
Q He said it.
MR. GIBBS: I was going to say. Let's -- well, I think we should stipulate for history that it was not us that thought he said it. It was many people that believed, I think rightly so, that he said that.
Q He did say it on more than one occasion.
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q It's been pointed out that Dr. King himself often pointed to the fact that these were the words of Dr. Theodore Parker, an abolitionist. Is Parker -- was the President aware of these antecedents?
MR. GIBBS: I have not -- Mark, I have -- we have not covered the rug today in our discussions. I would say this. I read some of the back-and-forth on this. I read the column in the Post, which we certainly all learn a lot of important history on.
Again, I'd point out that I think what King said and what Parker said are not the same thing. What's on the rug is what Dr. King had said.
Q Does the President or does the White House not believe that Parker should get some credit for --
MR. GIBBS: Well, nobody gets credit on the rug. I mean, there's -- I mean, it's just the quotes. I don't -- and Mark, I have to say, if I see you in there writing on the rug, you're going to be in a lot of trouble. (Laughter.) I'm just -- I want to get that sort of out before --
Q The names aren't -- I haven't seen the rug, but the names aren't on --
MR. GIBBS: No, I think it's just around the edges.
Is this the White House press briefing or Better Homes & Gardens?
The story, such as it is, was pushed by conservative blogs who promoted the idea that this was some sort of gaffe by the White House because the quote "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice" was attributed to Martin Luther King when the phrase is apparently originally traced to 19th-century Unitarian minister Theodore Parker. The faux controversy then made its way into the pages of the Washington Post and into the mainstream press.
But, King did say it, several times. For instance on March 25, 1965 in Montgomery, Alabama when he said, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
By comparison, Parker said:
I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
Parker's comments are similar to those of King's -- and indeed, King sometimes cited Parker in offering his refrain about the "arc of the moral universe." But it is the words of King, and not those of Parker, that appear on the Oval Office rug.
Even worse, the rug in question, as White House press secretary Gibbs indicated, does not even attribute the quote to King. This entire nonsense story seems to have germinated with an erroneous White House statement that indicated an attribution that doesn't exist on the rug itself.
This non-story fails in every way possible to be the sort of issue that's worthy of being in the White House press briefing.
As he attempts to rebrand himself as a spiritual leader, Glenn Beck has surrounded himself with religious and secular figures who share a fervent opposition to the "homosexual agenda."
Talk about blaming the victim. On his radio show this morning, Glenn Beck claimed that President Obama is "the biggest birther" because Obama is the one who keeps bringing up the issue. Beck specifically cited Obama's statement during the interview with NBC News Brian Williams broadcast yesterday, "I can't spend all my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead." Beck commented, "nobody was asking you the question about that."
Glenn Beck has repeatedly promoted the idea that God is directly involved in his August 28 rally. He has predicted "a miracle" will occur at the event, said that attendees will "see the spirit of God unleashed," and claimed the rally will produce an "awakening."
What would Mark Williams have to do to get CNN to stop covering his nonsensical, inflammatory diatribes? Because here they go again:
Former Tea Party Express spokesperson Mark Williams on Monday night defended his latest blog posting in which he called New York City Michael Bloomberg a "Judenrat" and said that one of the journalists who wrote about it "has never read a book" and has "an appalling ignorance" of the Holocaust.
In the blog entry, Williams wrote: "Politically correct Judenrats like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and (Manhattan Borough President) Scott Stringer and domestic enemies who are supporting the mosque - with open ties to Islamic Terrorist organizations and supporting states are doing nothing more than erecting a giant middle finger to be thrust at the victims of 911."
In response to TPMMuckraker's Evan McMorris-Santoro story about the post, Williams appended his posting to say that Judenrat "is a derogatory term for the Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. Judenrats were Jews who turned in people like Anne Frank."
This kind of bigoted commentary is exactly what forced the National Tea Party Federation to suspend Williams and the Tea Party Express he was associated with after he wrote a fictional letter about "We Coloreds" in opposition to the NAACP. That was just the latest bigoted eruption from Williams, who previously called the NAACP "race-baiters," described Allah as a "monkey god," called President Obama the "racist in chief" and on and on. As of mid-July, this didn't stop CNN from hosting Williams on-air 10 times over the past year.
Clearly, this also hasn't prevented CNN's Political Ticker blog from tapping the Williams well, even after his comments went over the line for even Tea Party activists. At this point, CNN is just giving a platform to a crank with a blog. What journalistic purpose does that serve?
You would think that in a discussion about racial insensitivity and the use of the n-word by a prominent conservative media figure, you might want to avoid a loaded word like "shackled" or "shackles." And yet, Sarah Palin goes there in her latest Facebook missive:
I can understand how she could feel "shackled" by those who would parse a single word out of decades of on-air commentary. I understand what she meant when she declared that she was "taking back my First Amendment rights" by turning to a new venue that will not allow others the ability to silence her by going after her stations, sponsors, and supporters.
Lets begin with the idea that anybody has shackled Palin or Schlessinger. They are both well-off media figures in the 21st century. Unlike slaves who were actually shackled and in shackles, neither Palin or Schlessinger are anyone's property, and they both have the freedom to speak, marry, vote, and engage in all the other privileges of being a citizen of the United States. In other words, they aren't shackled at all. Here is Palin in her home, free to go as she pleases, and here is the very un-shackled Dr. Laura in what looks like a nice home. By comparison, here is a drawing of a person that was in shackles. Just so we're clear.
As to the substance, such as it is, of Palin's complaint -- nobody is parsing "a single word" out of Schlessinger's rant. What is at issue here is her repetition of the n-word eleven times in the middle of an argument that because African-American comics on HBO use the word, she should be able to use it with abandon. In addition, Schlessinger argued that her African-American caller "had a chip on [her] shoulder" because she supposedly had "hypersensitivity" about racial language which has been "bred by black activists." Schlessinger also argued that "We've got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever," and that if you are "that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race."
In the eyes of Palin, this is all apparently "one word."
Despite her and Schlessinger's complaint about purported denial of First Amendment rights, there is no constitutional right to a radio program. The first amendment clearly discusses the freedom of speech and religion and assembly, but it does not prohibit criticism and commentary of a radio broadcast which is what Media Matters and others have done here. Palin and Schlessinger are free to say what they wish, without fear of government-sanctioned censorship, but at the same time their commentary isn't immune from speech and actions which may run in a contrary direction.
The Associated Press has published a fact check about some of the misleading claims promoted by conservative media about the proposed Islamic community center in Manhattan. The AP identifies all three of the claims they debunk as being promoted by Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich.
On the claim that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has links to radical Islam:
No one has established a link between the cleric and radicals. New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said: "We've identified no law enforcement issues related to the proposed mosque."
Ros-Lehtinen and King were referring to the State Department's plan, predating the mosque debate, to send Rauf on another religious outreach trip to the Middle East as part of his "long-term relationship" with U.S. officials in the Bush and Obama administrations. The State Department said Wednesday it will pay him $3,000 for a trip costing the government $16,000.
Rauf counts former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright from the Clinton administration as a friend and appeared at events overseas or meetings in Washington with former President George W. Bush's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and Bush adviser Karen Hughes.
On the notion that the center is at ground zero:
No mosque is going up at ground zero. The center would be established at 45-51 Park Place, just over two blocks from the northern edge of the sprawling, 16-acre World Trade Center site. Its location is roughly half a dozen normal Lower Manhattan blocks from the site of the North Tower, the nearest of the two destroyed in the attacks.
The center's location, in a former Burlington Coat Factory store, is already used by the cleric for worship, drawing a spillover from the imam's former main place for prayers, the al-Farah mosque. That mosque, at 245 West Broadway, is about a dozen blocks north of the World Trade Center grounds.
Another, the Manhattan Mosque, stands five blocks from the northeast corner of the World Trade Center site.
The article also discusses the idea that Islam seeks to undermine America:
Bush himself, while criticized at the time for stirring suspicions about American Muslims, traveled to a Washington mosque less than a week after the attacks to declare that terrorism is "not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace."
In any event, the U.S. armed forces field Muslim troops and make accommodations for them. The Pentagon opened an interfaith chapel in November 2002 close to the area where hijacked American Airlines flight 77 slammed into the building, killing 184 people.
Read the whole thing.
Bill O'Reilly isn't often the one making sense during a back and forth on his show, but that was the case tonight in this exchange he had with Bernard Goldberg:
In the segment, Goldberg rehashes the conservative argument that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's comments about 9/11 are somehow extreme and symptomatic of something sinister. As O'Reilly explained, Rauf's comments that "I wouldn't say the United States deserved what happened. But the United States' policies were an accessory to the crime that happened," are similar to the views of many (including the chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 commission) on the role U.S. foreign policy had with regard to the attacks.
As Media Matters has pointed out, Fox News' own Glenn Beck has said "When people said they hate us, well, did we deserve 9-11? No. But were we minding our business? No. Were we in bed with dictators and abandoned our values and principles? Yes. That causes problems."
To O'Reilly's credit, he explained to Goldberg that the imam's comments weren't the extremist statement Goldberg made them out to be. But Goldberg wanted no part of it. He told O'Reilly he was "tired" of hearing such arguments about U.S. foreign policy, and that if a Christian minister made similar comments "the media wouldn't call him a moderate."
On Fox News today, Glenn Beck decided that the entire religion of Islam would be a good target of mockery.
Conservative media figures have repeatedly claimed or suggested that it would be unprecedented and "corrupt" for Democrats to address "controversial" issues during Congress' lame duck session following the 2010 elections. But in 1998, Republicans impeached President Clinton during such a post-election congressional session.