Credit ABC's Jonathan Karl and Luis Martinez for taking the time to actually look into the details surrounding Judicial Watch's comical claims this week about Nancy Pelosi's air travel; claims the Noise Machine mindlessly repeated.
The ABC duo concludes [emphasis added]:
The treasure trove of documents obtained by Judicial Watch from the Department of Defense regarding Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's use of military aircraft doesn't seem to prove the organization's allegation that Pelosi has made "unprecedented demands" for the flights. In fact, it appears that Pelosi uses military aircraft less often than her predecessor, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
ABC found that virtually none of the Judicial Watch claims stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. Oh, don't act surprised.
UPDATE: Newsbusters plays dumb, ignoring the fact that the Bush White House and Pentagon demanded, after 9/11, that the Speaker of the House fly on military planes. The only way the pointless Judicial Watch story works is if you pretend it was all Pelosi's idea, which Newsbusters eagerly does:
The mainstream media has completely ignored Pelosi's diva-like demand for a $38 million (in 1998 dollars) luxury aircraft in which to fly home.
There's nothing in that sentence that's factual.
Citing a Congressional Quarterly article about the relationship between House members and lobbying firm The PMA Group, Sean Hannity falsely suggested that current or former House members who received PMA funds and inserted earmarks that benefited PMA clients into a 2007 bill are "all Democrats." In fact, according to CQ, 44 of 91 current or former House members who received campaign contributions from the PMA Group's political action committe or its employees from 2001-2008 and "secured earmarks for clients of The PMA Group in the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations law," are Republicans.
Fox News' Bret Baier reported that an AP article "list[ed] a number of Democrats embroiled in ethical issues." But Baier did not point out any Republican public officials currently "embroiled in ethical issues."
The Politico uncritically reported Rep. Darrell Issa's charge that Rep. David Obey "failed to divulge that his son Craig," a senior vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association, "was lobbying him on the economic recovery package." The Politico did not note that Obey's office has denied that his son lobbied his committee or that the funding for parks was reportedly included by Rep. Norm Dicks.
Armstrong Williams' column in today's Washington Times features this passage:
For two consecutive election cycles, Republicans suffered humiliating losses because they couldn't grasp the weight of their corruptive ways and the bitterness it left with voters. Obama's team helped to blur that line last week, and today, the administration has lost the moral high ground.
"Moral high ground"? Armstrong Williams, you might recall, is most famous for taking secret payments from the government in exchange for using his platform as a "journalist" to promote government policies. The only thing Armstrong Williams knows about the "moral high ground" is that it's an awfully long way up.
Jonathan Chait has an interesting read in the upcoming edition of The New Republic that looks at, at least in part, the disparity in media coverage of the scandals involving the now-impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and the FBI-investigated-soon-to-be-former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. For those of you not following the Coleman scandal, Chait's article offers a decent summary:
What, you say--Norm Coleman? Yes, Norm Coleman! Let me explain. The soon-to-be-former senator's scandal is pretty simple. Nasser Kazeminy, a wealthy businessman and close Coleman friend, allegedly paid him $75,000 under the table.
And by "allegedly," I mean "almost certainly." Here's how the almost certainly true alleged scheme worked. The payments to Coleman came in the form of what Tony Soprano would call a "no-show job." One of Kazeminy's companies is called Deep Marine Technology. Kazeminy allegedly ordered Deep Marine's CEO, Paul McKim, to make a series of $25,000 payments that would go to Coleman's wife. According to McKim, Kazeminy was utterly blatant. He said the reason for the payments was that Coleman needed the money and McKim should disguise them as a legitimate business transaction.
I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first many have heard of Coleman's predicament – as Chait notes, it has hardly registered in the national media:
Some differences in the scale of relative guilt do present themselves. In Coleman's defense, he's currently just a subject of an FBI investigation, while Blagojevich has been voted out of office. And, of course, Coleman hasn't been caught boasting about his scheme. On the other hand, Coleman is accused by a Houston businessman of having actually accepted illicit funds, while Blagojevich is merely being accused of harboring an intention to sell his Senate seat.
Now consider how the two stories have fared in the national press. Blagojevich has turned into the biggest crime story since O.J. Simpson. Can you guess how many articles about the Coleman scandal have appeared in the national media? One short wire story. When I bring up Coleman's scandals with my colleagues, many of whom follow politics for a living, invariably they have little or no idea what I'm talking about.
The national media have almost completely ignored the Coleman scandal but they've found plenty of time to misreport key aspects of the Minnesota recount and ensuing ballot disputes. Al Franken may be a former comedian but the real joke has been the national media's coverage of this Senate race.
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.