In their column for the Center for American Progress, Eric Alterman and George Zornick note that the media has paid shockingly little attention to new revelations that the Bush administration spied on journalists:
[A] former analyst at the National Security Agency revealed on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" that Bush's National Security Agency "monitored all communications" of Americans and that U.S. news organizations and individual journalists were specifically targeted.
Former analyst Russell Tice told Olbermann that, "The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications—faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made any foreign communications at all."
So, how did The New York Times cover Tice's revelations that ordinary American citizens, journalists in general, and possibly one of their own reporters in particular, had their communications monitored without a warrant? As far as we can tell, not at all.
Neither Tice nor his charges were discussed in the Times, either in print or online. This was standard across much of the mainstream media—The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Associated Press have all remained completely silent about Tice's allegations.
In January 2006, when the New York Times first broke the story of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, I compared the resources devoted to the emerging story by the Times and the Washington Post to the resources they devoted to the story of Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
For both stories, I looked at the number of articles the two papers ran the day after the stories broke, the number of words devoted to the stories, and the number of reporters credited with working on the stories. And I looked at the same things for the 35th day after the story broke:
All told, on January 22, 1998, the Times and the Post ran 19 articles (five on the front page) dealing with the Clinton investigation, totaling more than 20,000 words and reflecting the words of at least 28 reporters -- plus the editorial boards of both newspapers.
In contrast, on December 17, the Times and the Post combined to run five articles about the NSA spying operation, involving 12 reporters and consisting of 6,303 words.
On February 25, 1998, 35 days after the story first broke, the Post ran four articles and an editorial about the Clinton investigation, totaling 5,046 words, involving 11 reporters, and the paper's editorial board. The Times ran four articles, two opinion columns, and an editorial -- seven pieces in all, totaling 5,852 words and involving at least six reporters and columnists, in addition to its editorial board. The papers combined for 12 articles, columns, and editorials, involving 17 reporters and columnists, as well as both editorial boards.
On January 20, 35 days after the NSA story first broke, the Times ran one 1,324-word article about the NSA operation written by two reporters. The Post ran one 945-word article written by one reporter. Combined: two articles, three reporters, 2,269 words.
Basically, the media didn't care nearly as much about the possiblity that a president was illegally listening in on the telephone conversations of innocent Americans as they did about the possiblity that a president had an affair. As Alterman and Zornick point out, that hasn't changed even now that we know that journalists were among those spied upon.
Fox News' Bret Baier asserted that Rep. David Obey is "under fire" because the economic stimulus bill provides more than $2 billion for the National Park Service, "the industry for which his son lobbies," and cited a Washington Times article reporting that, in Baier's words, "a spokeswoman for Congressman Obey's office says nepotism was not a factor." But Baier did not mention that the Times article also reported the spokeswoman saying the funding for parks "was included at the request of [Rep.] Norm Dicks." Nor did Baier note that Dicks has repeatedly made similar appropriations requests for national parks in previous appropriations bills.
A USA Today editorial discussing former President Bush's departure from office claimed that Bush "eschewed controversial pardons," which it called "a refreshing contrast" to former President Clinton's departure. In fact, Bush's pardon for New York developer Isaac Toussie, announced December 23, was withdrawn after it was revealed that Toussie's family contributed more than $37,000 to Republicans.
To discuss the work of former Laura Bush flack and Los Angeles Times blogger Andrew Malcolm, who wrote glowingly about Laura Bush this week while failing to inform readers that he used to work for her. Oh my.
Meanwhile, Ezra Klein suggests we need yet another blogger ethics panel to address a different LA Times editorial miscue this week.
Lou Dobbs Tonight baselessly included Al Franken in a segment on, in host Lou Dobbs' words, "Democratic Party scandals and downright bad behavior." During both Dobbs' teaser for and introduction of a report by CNN correspondent Casey Wian, CNN ran on-screen text reading "Dems Behaving Badly" over video footage that included Franken. During the portion of Wian's report on the Minnesota recount, on-screen text read, "Dems behaving badly: Democrats rocked by party scandals."
In an ABC World News report, David Wright said that "[q]uestions have ... been raised" about Sen. Hillary Clinton's support for an earmark that benefited a New York developer who gave money to Bill Clinton's foundation in 2004. Wright did not note that Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines has reportedly said that she "did not solicit the donation from Mr. Congel or discuss it with him or anyone on his behalf, and that she was unaware of its timing and size until last month."
On MSNBC Live, David Shuster said that President-elect Barack Obama and his staff decided "repeatedly" to "release virtually no information about the Blagojevich scandal," while Mark Leibovich said that Obama's responses to questions about the scandal "hearken to a kind of echo of what other White Houses in the past have said when they don't want to answer questions immediately." However, neither noted that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald reportedly requested that Obama "delay the release of a report" about an internal review of the contacts between his aides and Blagojevich's office.
The Politico reported that President-elect Barack Obama "announced he would delay the release of an internal review about contacts between his aides and Blagojevich's office until next week," but did not report that Obama said that while the review was complete, "The U.S. attorney's office asked us to hold off releasing those [findings] for a week." Despite Obama's explanation, Sean Hannity asked: "Why can't we get it out this week?"
In the absence of any allegations of wrongdoing by President-elect Barack Obama or his staff in connection with the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, media figures continue to warn that a "cloud" hangs over Obama or assert that the scandal threatens to cast a "cloud" over Obama's presidency.
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade echoed a false assertion made in a December 11 AP article by claiming that President-elect Barack Obama said, "I'm confident nobody on my staff talked on my behalf when it comes to filling my seat." The AP had reported falsely that "President-elect Barack Obama said Thursday he didn't discuss his vacant Senate seat with disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich and said he's confident nobody on his staff did either." In fact, during a December 11 press conference, Obama did not claim that nobody on his staff "talked on his behalf" to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich; rather, he stated, "I'm confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat."
Anxious to keep the Blago drama percolating, many in the press have decided that among the most pressing question facing the nation is who on Obama's staff may have talked to Blago about filling Obama's senate seat. If you read the coverage and listen to the talking heads, you know this is hugely important.
Why? We're not sure since prosecutors don't even hint that any conservations that took place between the two camps were improper. Indeed, it would bizarre if Obama aides hadn't reached out to the governor about filling the president-elect's seat.
But none of that matters now because Obama and his aides won't talk, or so we're told. We need to know who talked to Blago and told him Obama wouldn't play ball for any kind of deal. Who told the corrupt pol to forget about getting any kind of deal from Obama. Follow? We need to know who talked to Blago and did the right thing. But of course, the press leaves off the did-the-thing part, and simply obsesses over who talked to Blago because that sounds more sinister. (There's a criminal complaint!)
Let's note the Chicago Sun-Times whose Blago/Emanuel article has landed top honors at the Drudge Report. Headline [emphasis added]: "Is Emanuel the adviser on gov tape? MUM: Obama's chief of staff refuses to answer the question."
Oh my. And the lead:
President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refused to take questions from reporters this morning about whether he was the Obama "advisor" named in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Looks shady, no? And where did Emanuel duck reporters questions? Where did he refuse to come clean to the Sun-Times? At his kids' school concert. No joke. Behold:
Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from Obama's news conference this morning. He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago's City Hall. He was there to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school, Anshe Emet. A Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.
On MSNBC Live, Tamron Hall forcefully challenged Republican strategist Doug Heye's characterization of President-elect Barack Obama as a "good friend" of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's. Hall challenged Heye on his "assessment of 'good friend' because," Hall said, "I don't want these things to linger out there without you kinda backing them up."
Dick Morris baselessly suggested that former President Bill Clinton "fire[d] all 93 US Attorneys" upon entering office in 1993 in order to "cover for firing [U.S. Attorney Charles] Banks and replacing him with Paula Casey, a Clinton ally," falsely suggesting that Banks "was hot on [Clinton's] heels as he probed charges that swirled around the [Whitewater] land deal." In fact, Banks had reportedly resisted investigating the Whitewater matter in 1992, just weeks before the presidential election, in defiance of pressure from officials in then-President George H.W. Bush's administration.
On his radio show, Bill Cunningham advanced baseless speculation that President-elect Barack Obama will not be inaugurated because of the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Also, accusing the media of "latch[ing] on" to evidence undermining any suggestion of wrongdoing by Obama, Cunningham falsely claimed that "parts" of the criminal complaint against Blagojevich "clearly indicate that Obama is up to his eyeballs in fraud." But as U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald made clear, the complaint indicates nothing of the sort.
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On The Radio Factor, John Kass falsely claimed that Rita Rezko, wife of Antoin Rezko, "b[ought] the Obama dream house" in what Kass called "that shady real estate deal." In addition, Kass, who was also featured on ABC's World News and the CBS Evening News in reports about the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, suggested to Bill O'Reilly that President-elect Barack Obama must be tainted by corruption because he comes from Chicago.