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  • WashPost's Fred Hiatt plays dumb for George Will

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Journalism is not complicated. Honest. But sometimes people practicing it pretend that it is. They pretend that it's very complicated and that every fact has nine different sides and it's impossible--impossible--to figure out what the truth really is. And because it's impossible, who's to say who's right and who's wrong. Who's to say what's correct and what's incorrect. It's all open for debate.

    The Post's Fred Hiatt, busy contorting himself into a pretzel, is playing that (dumb) game with regards to George Will, the increasingly heavy anchor that the columnist has become around the daily's neck. Will and the Post refuse to apologize, or in newspaper terms they refuse to issue a correction, despite the fact that Will's now infamous column last week was built around falsehoods about global warming. But rather than trying to figure out how to fix the problem, Hiatt and Will have apparently been brainstorming on how not to accept responsibility.

    The Post and Will are above corrections because they've pored over the available information and they can spot a ray of daylight where they can claim Will was not categorically wrong in his global warming claim. And if there is a daylight toward deniability, they're going to choose that over transparency, and honesty, with their readers.

    Hiatt insists Will's entitled to his opinion about the global warming facts because those facts are just too complicated--too unknowable--and who the hell are readers to claim otherwise? Hiatt told CJR:

    If you want to start telling me that columnists can't make inferences which you disagree with—and, you know, they want to run a campaign online to pressure newspapers into suppressing minority views on this subject—I think that's really inappropriate. It may well be that he is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject — so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don't make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn't be allowed to make the contrary point. Debate him.

    That sound you hear is Hiatt digging the Post an even deeper and more embarrassing hole.

    I have two favorite parts. The first was Hiatt's insistence that Will has every right to draw inference--to make claims of fact in his column--based on data that most scientists reject. Good Lord, what is Will not allowed to do in a Post column? And does the Op-Ed page maintain any guidelines?

    And second, I chuckled when Hiatt insisted that if people disagree with Will's published falsehoods, they shouldn't try to pressure the paper to publish corrections, they should, y'know, "debate him." Right, because Will and Post editors have been so open and willing to address--to debate--the controversy.

    Hiatt and Post are hunkered down in serious denial mode. And that's when journalism becomes unnecessarily complicated.

    P.S. When is the Post's media critic, Howard Kurtz, going to weigh in on this growing press controversy in the pages of the newspaper, even if it does feature a star Post columnist?

  • WCBS claims Clinton is "hammering" Israel; offers no evidence

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Drudge is promoting a WCBS report that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "hammering Israel" -- but the report provides no evidence that Clinton is actually doing so.

    WCBS:

    In a swift about face from her views as New York's senator, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now hammering Israel over its treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.

    No example of "hammering" is given. No quote, no paraphrase, nothing.

    WCBS:

    On Thursday, as Secretary of State she had yet another about face in the form of angry messages demanding Israel speed up aid to Gaza. Jewish leaders are furious.

    Again: no example, no quote, nothing to support either the accusation that Clinton "had yet another about face" or that she delivered "angry messages."

    WCBS:

    Clinton's decision to hammer Israel comes as the Clintons and President Barack Obama are planning to give the Palestinians $900 million toward the rebuilding of Gaza in the wake of the Israeli offensive that was sparked by Hamas rocket fire.

    But still no evidence that Clinton has decided to "hammer Israel."

    WCBS:

    For some, Clinton's change of position is upsetting.

    That's the third reference to Clinton changing her position -- but absolutely no details are given about what the supposed change is.

    The entire report, ostensibly about Clinton "hammering Israel" in a "swift about face" includes only the following quotes from Clinton:

    "I'm a very strong supporter of Israel." [This is from 2000]

    "We are working across the government to see what our approach will be."

    That's it. That's the entire basis for an inflammatory report claiming Clinton is changing her position and attacking Israel.

    UPDATE: While we don't know what WCBS is referring to when it claims Clinton is "hammering" Israel -- and we suspect WCBS doesn't, either -- we do know what she said on February 3:

    We are looking to work with all of the parties to try to help them make progress toward a negotiated agreement that would end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, create an independent and viable Palestinian state in both the West Bank and Gaza, and provide Israel with the peace and security that it has sought.

    ...

    [W]e have a very clear policy toward Hamas, and Hamas knows the conditions that have been set forth. They must renounce violence. They must recognize Israel. And they must agree to abide by prior agreements that were entered into by the Palestinian Authority.

  • WaPo goes all in

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Washington Post lost $192 million last year. This is not a newspaper that can afford to alienate its readership.

    And yet, the Post is going all-in on George Will's credibility.

    For the past week, Will and the Post have faced sustained criticism over dubious claims Will made about global warming - and over a pattern of such claims from both Will and the Post.

    Earlier today, Media Matters obtained an advance copy of Will's next column, in which Will doubles-down on his previous global warming misinformation. As Media Matters explained:

    In his new column, Will falsely claims that in his February 15 column, he "accurately reported" on the contents of an Arctic Climate Research Center (ACRC) document when, in fact, the document he cited rebutted the very argument he was making. The ACRC document that Will relied on actually stated that the sea ice data are consistent with the outcomes projected by climate-change models. In the words of TPM Muckraker's Zachary Roth, Will's new column "amounts to a stubborn defense of the amazing global warming denialist column he published earlier this month, that was ripped apart by just about everyone and their mother."

    Then Columbia Journalism Review weighed in with a piece posted this evening, featuring quotes from Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt. Hiatt defends Will's previous column:

    "If you want to start telling me that columnists can't make inferences which you disagree with-and, you know, they want to run a campaign online to pressure newspapers into suppressing minority views on this subject-I think that's really inappropriate. It may well be that he is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject - so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don't make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn't be allowed to make the contrary point. Debate him."

    But this controversy is not about "inferences" by Will with which others "disagree." It is about Will spreading falsehoods. And it is about the Washington Post standing by those falsehoods - a rather large gamble for a newspaper that cannot afford to lose readers or credibility.

    That's a lot riding on someone with Will's track record.

  • Conservative media attack anti-crime program

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Greg Sargent busts right-wing media pushing another lie about government spending:

    Conservatives are hammering the House's new $410 billion spending bill because it contains $200,000 for what they're derisively referring to as "tattoo removal." Fox News' Sean Hannity, Drudge, and at least one GOP official on MSNBC, among others, have been all over this today.

    But a little reporting reveals that that this "tattoo removal" program is an anti-crime program in the San Fernando Valley that re-integrates reformed gang members and makes it easier for them to find jobs. Two Los Angeles law enforcement officials I just spoke to - one who identified himself as a "conservative Republican" - swore by the program for reducing crime and saving lives.

    Check out Sargent's post on his new(ish) blog, The Plum Line, for more details.

  • What is wrong with these people?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    At some point, you have to wonder if there is something in the drinking water over at Newsbusters.

    Here's Warner Todd Huston today:

    Remember how during the run up to the election, all the left pundits and talking heads and their compatriots in the Old Media said that no white person would vote for Barack Obama?

    Ah, no, Warner, I don't. Because it didn't happen.

    the Old Media is still insisting that all southerners are slavery-loving, neo-confederates that are no different than they were in 1860.

    Again: that simply isn't true.

    For the Sunday Outlook section of The Washington Post, liberal Millsaps College professor Robert S. McElvaine announced in "The Red, the Blue and the Gray" that Barack Obama is "just like Lincoln" in the same way that Lincoln didn't get the south's vote in 1860.

    The phrase "just like Lincoln" does not appear in the linked source. Nothing remotely like the phrase "just like Lincoln" appears in the linked source. Huston made it up.

    Professor McElvaine also intimates that this is because the south is little different than it was in 1860.

    Actually, McElvaine wrote "the legacy of slavery and the Civil War continue to cast a heavy shadow over the South." That isn't quite the same thing, but at least this time Huston is exaggerating McElvaine's point rather than making things up entirely. Progress!

    But then he backslides:

    Bet you southerners didn't know that you are all still slavers and racists, eh?

    Nobody, except perhaps the voices in Warner Todd Huston's head, says "all" southerners are "still slavers and racists."

    This is typical of Newsbusters - a lot of gnashing of teeth over things that just don't exist.

  • Kathleen Parker plays dumb about the NYPost monkey cartoon

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In her latest column she suggests debates about cartoons are "tedious," and acknowledges that yes, the Post's monkey cartoon was poorly done. But it wasn't really worth all the fuss. She writes:

    Cartoonists make artistic and editorial judgments every day, though some cartoonists have better judgment than others. Even so, outrage is out of proportion to the offense, and demands for retributive justice are more dangerous than a lousy cartoon...The freedom to offend is the very same freedom that allows them to protest when their feelings are hurt.

    What salient fact did Parker leave out? Oh yeah, the Post's owner, Rupert Murdoch apologized in print for the cartoon and suggested it never should have been published.

  • Getting the band back together at CPAC

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Continuing the Right's ongoing efforts to relive the 1990s, David Bossie will introduce Newt Gingrich at the Conservative Political Action Conference tomorrow.

    Bossie and Gingrich were key players in the right-wing's efforts to undermine the last Democratic president. Gingrich was, of course, Speaker of the House; Bossie was a key staffer for Rep. Dan Burton's unintentionally-hilarious investigations of the White House.

    While many conservatives seem to think that duplicating their conduct during the 1990s is the best way to deal with a new Democratic president, Gingrich and Bossie should serve as a cautionary tale - both men lost their jobs due in large part to their overzealous attacks on President Clinton.

    Gingrich resigned his Speakership (and seat in congress) in disgrace after Republicans lost seats in the 1998 elections in large part because of public disgust at the GOP's obsession with the Lewinsky matter. Earlier that year, Gingrich had vowed to never again give a speech as Speaker without bringing up Lewinksy.

    Bossie's obsession with attacking Clinton cost him his job, too. Bossie and Burton's investigation was a bumbling Keystone Cops routine that involved investigating Socks the White House cat, subpoenaing the wrong people (they kept getting confused by Asian-American surnames) and shooting up Burton's vegetable garden in an effort to prove that Vince Foster was murdered.

    Bossie finally went too far even for House Republicans when he released doctored transcripts of Web Hubbell's prison conversations, falsely making it appear that Hubbell was implicating Hillary Clinton in wrongdoing. That led Gingrich to order Burton to fire Bossie, telling Burton: "I'm embarrassed for you, I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the [House Republican] conference at the circus that went on at your committee."

    UPDATE: In case you're wondering what they're up to now, David Bossie is an author and "documentary" producer, among other things, and Gingrich is a Fox News contributor.

  • US News' new poll: "Daddy Daycare"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    On Saturday, I noted that US News & World Report's "Washington Whispers" page featured a poll asking who would make the best day-car provider: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, or Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

    After receiving blistering criticism from across the blogosphere for running such an offensive poll, US News appears to be trying to make amends - or cover for their earlier mistake. Here's the poll currently featured at Washington Whispers:

    The new poll doesn't really undo the offensiveness of the first one; it just highlights it. A simple apology probably would have been better.

  • The ghost of CPAC past... and soon to be present

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    With right-wing media fractured, conservatives are descending once again upon Washington this week for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

    This year's conference that will include remarks from such GOP luminaries as Joe the Plumber, Roger Simon, Karl Rove, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), Newt Gingrich, Ann Coulter, and Pat Buchanan among others. The conference will come to a close with a speech by Rush "I hope he fails" Limbaugh.

    Never heard of CPAC?

    Here's a flashback to some of Media Matters' items about the 2007 conference in which right-wing scribe Ann Coulter called former North Carolina Senator John Edwards a "faggot" and the controversy that followed:

    I wonder what the gathering's tone will be like this year.