• Why would the White House possibly care what Rush Limbaugh's ratings are?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Conservatives are crowing that Limbaugh's ratings are up (big shock, we know), and pretending that it's all a huge rebuke for Obama and the new Democratic White House.

    See, according to the Noise Machine, the White House's occasional passing references to the talker this year, references which were part of the larger public debate about who really leads the GOP, were actually signs of a coordinated "attack" on Limbaugh--a "war"--and that the White House's true intent was to drive down Limbaugh's ratings.

    So by calling attention to his show, the White House was actually trying to wreck Limbaugh's ratings. Riiight. But nothing gets conservatives riled up like playing victim, so it's game on.

    "Given this blockbuster [ratings] data, will the White House think twice before targeting Rush again?" demands professional Limbaugh cheerleader Brian Maloney.

    "President Obama declared war on Rush Limbaugh and his ratings went through the roof. If that's not a magnificent backfire, I'm not sure what is," declared the MRC's Brent Bozell, who was so excited he issued an official statement about Limbaugh's ratings.

    And no, BTW, there's no indication that Limbaugh's ratings have doubled nationwide this year. Although, there are indications that a new ratings method employed by Arbitron is a key reason Limbaugh's actual rating numbers (and talk radio ratings in general) are up so much in 2009.

  • Final thoughts on the media's "punch drunk" nonsense

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Comes courtesy of the Washington Times' Suzanne Fields [emphasis added]:

    Even laughter can be suspect. Steve Croft [sic], the president's interviewer on "60 Minutes," suggested Mr. Obama might be "punch drunk" when he chuckled aloud in discussing the crash of the economy.

    This really is just Misinformation 101--plainly misstating the facts in order to make the president look bad. As we noted earlier this week, when Kroft (inappropriately) asked Obama if he was "punch drunk," the president was absolutely not laughing while "discussing the crash of the economy," which so many lazy journalists have claimed.

    Fact: Obama laughed at how the only thing less popular today than the government bailing out the banks, is the government bailing out America's car manufacturers. That was the "gallows humor" Obama referenced. He also chuckled when Kroft presented him an a clearly preposterous scenario about how angry bankers might to go work for hedge funds.

    The circumstances surrounding the brief laughs were specific, but many in the press presented them in the most general, and damning, way imaginable [emphasis added]:

    --Politico claimed Obama laughed "several times while discussing the perilous state of the world's economy."

    --The Los Angles Times announced, "President Barack Obama was laughing when being asked about the nation's failing economy on '60 Minutes' Sunday night."

    --US News & World Report's Bonnie Erbe wrote that Obama was, " joking about the depressed economy."

    --NBC's Today reported that Obama got called out by Kroft "for laughing about the economy."

    --Fox News highlighted the 60 Minutes interview "in which President Obama laughed about the economy."

    It's embarrassing enough that the press spends so much time on trivial topics such as Obama's laugh. That so many journalists can't, or won't, accurately state the facts surrounding the 'story' is even more lame.

  • Gibbs ridicules media's teleprompter obsession

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post reporter Lois Romano interviews White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

    MS. ROMANO: The teleprompter changed last night.

    MR. GIBBS: Mm-hmm.

    MS. ROMANO: What was that about that? It's a big jumbotron now.

    MR. GIBBS: You know can I tell you this?

    MS. ROMANO: Yes.

    MR. GIBBS: I am absolutely amazed that anybody in America cares about who the President picks at a news conference or the mechanism by which he reads his prepared remarks. You know, I guess America is a wonderful country.

    MS. ROMANO: You're saying this is all Washington Beltway stuff?

    MR. GIBBS: I don't even know if it's that. I don't think I should implicate the many people that live in Washington.

    MR. GIBBS: No, I you know, I don't think the President let me just say this: My historical research has demonstrated that the President is not the first to use prepared remarks nor the first to use a teleprompter.

  • Ever more journalists bored while covering Obama

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Or more specifically, bored while listening to Obama discuss the policy issues of the day. Wake them when it's over, already.

    Dan Froomkin at Nieman Watchdog's blog flagged this one. It's from the Los Angeles Times' Frank James while live-blogging Obama's online town forum [emphasis added]:

    This was just plain boring and too predictable. The same colleague says the problem is less the format than the president. He's a policy wonk who doesn't turn to humor very often. He also doesn't present the opportunity for entertaining malaprops that Bush did. So there wasn't that potential for entertainment either.

  • Newsbusters plays the Jeff Gannon card; flops spectacularly

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    You'd think that of all the Bush-era White House misadventures that conservatives would want to never mention again, the strange saga of Jeff Gannon would be at the top of the list. (Real name: James Guckert.) He's the former male escort who, thanks to the good graces of the White House communications staff, was waved into the White House briefing room as a 'correspondent' for a phony, right-wing news organization (Talon News). He was allowed in even though Gannon had failed to go through the proper channels for acquiring a daily White House press pass.

    Actually, the Bush team waved Gannon into the White House--without ever submitting him to a standard security background check--even before he teamed up with the amateurish Talon News. Gannon wasn't affiliated with any news org in 2003, but was granted complete access nonetheless. The Bush White House, not known for its close relations with the press corps, just liked the guy and granted him extraordinary clearance for nearly two years.

    Those are the Gannon facts.

    This week, Newsbusters' Matthew Vadum comically tries to compare the Gannon oddity wtih the fact that for a single Obama press conference, a representative from liberal org Think Progress was granted press credentials. According to Newsbusters, that constitutes "hypocrisy" because liberals protested Gannon's White House presence.

    Not surprisingly, Vadum valiantly plays dumb throughout the report, pretending that Gannon's only sins were that he was gay (apparently libs, who uncovered the Gannon scam, don't like gays), and that Gannon asked Bush-friendly questions at White House briefings. The fact that the Bush White House ignored the established media protocol for securing daily White House press passes is politely ignored by Vadum. (His soggy effort was also posted at American Spectator.)

    Worse, Vadum makes no attempt to prove that the press pass handed out to Think Progress for a single White House press event is any way comparable to the way the Bush team set aside established rules for securing a daily White House press pass, and did it for nearly two years for Gannon's benefit. Meaning, giving the okay to attend a single, specific White House media event is not the same as being given the green light to stroll into the White House press room whenever you like for two years, as Gannon did, under an alias.

    But hey Newsbusters, don't stop talking about Jeff Gannon on our account. Please continue...

  • The Red Scare Index: 54

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communistic, Marxism and Marxist.

    Here are the numbers for yesterday, Thursday, March 26, 2009:

    TOTAL: 54
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 30
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 22
    Marxism/Marxist: 2

    By Network:

    CNN: 1
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    CNN Headline News: 6
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 6
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    Fox News Channel: 20
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 13
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 6
    Marxism/Marxist: 1

    Fox Business Network: 7
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 5
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
    Marxism/Marxist: 1

    MSNBC: 17
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 12
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 5
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    CNBC: 3
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 3
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a power search for these terms on these networks.

  • Washington Times, please define "skirts"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In an article about the White House's town hall meeting, where Obama addressed questions submitted online, the Times headline today reads, "Obama skirts pot query on Web forum." [Emphasis added]

    The article's firs paragraph details:

    President Obama used the White House´s first-ever "virtual town-hall" meeting to sell his budget, but dismissed with a joke one of the Internet participants' top topics - the legalization of marijuana as a way to curb escalating drug violence in Mexico.

    Mr. Obama framed the marijuana questions solely through the narrow lens of economic recovery and laughed off the issue.

    "I don't know what this says about the online audience," he said, with the live audience laughing along. "The answer is, no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy."

    It's true Obama did make light of the overwhelming online interest in the marijuana question. But he also stated quite clearly his position: "I don't think that is a good strategy to grow out economy." We're not sure where the "skirts" part comes in.

    In fact, a more accurate Times headline would be:

    "Obama answers pot query on Web forum."

    But that's not as provocative, is it?

    UPDATE: By contrast, look at how Reuters reported on the same event [emphasis added]:

    Legalizing marijuana is not the kind of change President Barack Obama can believe in -- -- at least not as a remedy for the ailing U.S. economy. On Thursday, Obama tackled the issue head-on, only half-jokingly, at an online townhall meeting where he noted that the idea was a favorite among the 3.6 million people who voted on more than 100,000 questions submitted on the White House website.

  • Then again, it might not

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Boy, the press never tires of reporting on what might pop up as a problem for the president, does it? Especially in terms of how the public might react to X,Y, or Z.

    The latest from Reuters [emphasis added]:

    The potential for private investors to reap billions of dollars in profits from the U.S. government's bank bailout plan could trigger another wave of public outrage, like that seen after the payments of bonuses to AIG staff, and it might slow any economic recovery.

    Might be helpful for the press to simply, y'know, see what happens and then report it as news.

  • The press' "punch drunk" foolery, and Clinton deja vu

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    While campaigning for the presidency, candidate Clinton had to deal with a dumbed-down press corps that decided--at the prompting of the GOP Noise Machine--that it had to dissect the tone and frequency of her laugh in search of character defects. That she laughed at wildly inappropriate moments and that her "cackle" was..newsworthy.

    Sound familiar?

    Also, as a candidate Clinton had to sit through a Steve Kroft 60 Minutes interview where, just as he did with Obama over the weekend, the host inserted himself into the story and manufactured news with his oddball questions. In the earlier case, it was Kroft's bizarre obsession with pressing Clinton about whether she thought Obama was a Muslim. (What that had to do with Kroft's 60 Minutes report on how Obama or Clinton were going to help turn around the economy in Ohio, remains a mystery to this day.) And just like with Kroft's left-field "punch drunk" comment this weekend, it was the host's heavy-handed Muslim questioning that became the "gotcha" news.

    The media's "punch drunk" coverage has been a colossal embarrassment, made worse by the fact that Democrats have seen this act before.