• Is Hugh Hewitt a journalist?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And if not, why is he treated him like one this week?

    That's the excellent question posed at CJR. It comes in the wake of Sarah Palin's appearance on the conservative talk show host's syndicated program where she dutifully fielded a series of GOP softball questions.

    Lots of journalists cited the Palin interview and even posted extensive transcripts online. But as CJR noted:

    There is zero journalistic value in Hewitt's interview. There isn't even the illusion of critical distance, of healthy skepticism, of intellectually honest inquiry, of some sense that it is crucial to deeply sound out this person who wants to lead our nation at such a perilous time on what she would bring to the table.

    Yet very few reporters pointed that out. Instead, they seemed to treat the Palin Q&A as a newsworthy event. Here's why that's trouble:

    If you're going to call attention to Hewitt's work, why not go the extra step and label it what is? Otherwise, you risk giving Hewitt's hackery the imprimatur of real journalism.

  • Palin, the press and religion

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We've noted before how the campaign press seems reluctant to ask pointed questions about Palin's religious beliefs. Specifically, if she believes that Christ will come again in her lifetime as part of the End Times theology her former church preached, and how that End Times belief might guide her decision-making as vice president.

    The Real News Network just posted an informative video about Palin's fundamentalist faith and asks why the press isn't posing direct questions about it.

  • Fox News sees GOP voters everywhere

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Still convinced Pennsylvania is a swing state (despite recent polling), a FNC reporter visited a local lunch hangout around the corner from Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, and asked for a show of hands for McCain and Obama supporters.

    Click on Gawker for the must-see clip of how the Fox reporter announced the results.

    P.S. Did the Pa. locals actually laugh at the FNC correspondent after he reported the tally?

  • MoDo banned from McCain plane; we're oddly torn

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Of course we don't like the idea of any campaign "banning" a journalist because the candidate doesn't like what was written or said about them. That's petty and wrong and disrespectful toward journalism.

    And that's exactly what the McCain campaign was guilty of when it recently banned NYTimes columnist Maureen Dowd from the candidate's traveling press plane.

    But it was Dowd's comment after the banishment that gave us pause: "It was disappointing because I didn't think John McCain would ever be as dismissive of the First Amendment as Dick Cheney."

    We're torn because we can't think of a single elite columnist who we'd rather not have invoking the solemn rights of the Constitution in a press fight, simply because we don't think Dowd is a serious journalist. So we're not comfortable with her representing any sort of professional journalism community.

    In fact, we're in heated agreement with Firedoglake commenter "JoeBuck":

    McCain and his people are jerks, of course, but Dowd reveals what a total waste of column inches she is by her remark. Bumping her from the campaign plane because the campaign doesn't like something she wrote is juvenile and mean-spirited, but the First Amendment doesn't guarantee MoDo a plane ride. She has a prize position on the NY Times Op-ed page, and she basically puts out a high school gossip column, full of petty name-calling.

  • Debate moderators

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The right wing is in a frenzy about the fact that Gwen Ifill is working on a book about "emerging young African American politicians," which supposedly means she cannot be neutral during the VP debate she is moderating tomorrow night. Since the right wing is in a frenzy, we can be pretty sure the establishment media is about to join in.

    Two things to keep in mind:

    1) The October 7 presidential debate will be moderated by NBC's Tom Brokaw, who currently serves as NBC's liaison to the McCain campaign -- while spreading pro-McCain misinformation on Meet the Press. In fact, the McCain campaign hand-picked Tom Brokaw to moderate the October 7 debate:

    Mr. Brokaw said he had been told by a senior McCain aide, whom he did not name, that the campaign had been reluctant to accept an NBC representative as one of the moderators of the three presidential debates -- until his name was invoked.

    "One of the things I was told by this person was that they were so irritated, they said, 'If it's an NBC moderator, for any of these debates, we won't go,' " Mr. Brokaw said. "My name came up, and they said, 'Oh, hell, we have to do it, because it's going to be Brokaw.' "

    2) CBS' Bob Schieffer moderated one of the 2004 debates, despite the fact that he is a longtime friend of George W. Bush who had previously acknowledged that his personal relationship with Bush made it difficult to cover him. Schieffer's brother was a business partner of Bush's before Bush became president -- and Bush made him an ambassador.

    UPDATE: At the Huffington Post, Judd Legum notes that the Associated Press reported that Ifill was writing the book weeks before the McCain campaign agreed to her moderating the debate.

  • Shouldn't Chris Matthews cast a wider net

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    For the people he interviews? MediaBistro's Fishbowl D.C. notes that recently broadcasting from the campus of Ole Miss, Matthews interviewed a number of student members of the group Concerned Youth of America. One of them was Matthews' own daughter, although Matthews didn't inform viewers.

    Sadly, as Cernig at Crooks and Liars notes:

    It's such a small-beer breach of what passes for journalistic ethics nowadays as to go almost un-noticed, although in the halcyon days of journalism it would probably have gotten him fired or at least earned the censure of his peers.

  • The Jawa Report shoots and misses, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We wrote about this last week; how right-wing bloggers, led by the mighty Jawa Report, set out to uncover the trivial mystery of who was behind a long-forgotten anti-Palin clip on YouTube.

    We filled out our critique (here it is) and put it into context with regards to how far the bloggers have fallen since 2004, when they were toasting their CBS Memogate scandal.

  • Fox News' Bill Sammon catches Joe Biden not saying something he never said

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Sammon, who helped gin up phony stories about Al Gore during the 2000 campaign, raises doubts about a story Biden has told in the past about a fact-finding visit to Afghanistan he made last winter, and how the helicopter he was traveling in was forced down in the mountains there.

    Sammon includes the Biden anecdote in his article at Fox News online because he's trying to support a larger narrative that Biden has been making up, or exaggerating, stories about his military-based travels overseas. And that Biden has "raised eyebrows" with his Afghanistan story.

    Here's Sammon quoting Biden:

    "If you want to know where Al Qaeda lives, you want to know where Bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me," Biden bragged to the National Guard Association. "Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are."

    Having set the trap, Sammon then pounced: "But it turns out that inclement weather, not terrorists, prompted the chopper to land in an open field during Biden's visit to Afghanistan in February. [Emphasis added.]

    Why the "but" at the beginning of the sentence, though? Go back and read Biden's description and see if he ever said he was forced down because of terrorists. Clearly he never made that claim. Even Sammon conceded, "Biden never explicitly claimed his chopper had been forced down by terrorists."

    So what, exactly, was Sammon's point? The point seemed to be that Sammon caught Biden not saying something he never said.

    We think.