In sharp contrast with its intense scrutiny of Hillary Clinton's private email server, the media has largely remained mum on Senator Marco Rubio's (R-FL) own habit of deleting official emails sent from a private email account. MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out that the hosts of Fox News' The Five gave Rubio a free pass on his email history, while continuing to disparage Clinton's private server.
According to a statement by Clinton's lawyer, the former Secretary of State's email server was wiped clean after she turned over approximately 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that not only did Rubio correspond with reporters on a private email account while he served as a leader in the Florida House, but when the Orlando Sentinal requested those emails, Rubio's spokesperson said they had been deleted.
In a March 31 article for MSNBC.com's MaddowBlog, Benen pointed out that while co-hosting the March 30 edition of The Five, Rubio failed to answer a direct question about whether he would publicly disclose his own private emails, writing, "At this point, Dana Perino, the former press secretary in the Bush/Cheney White House, jumped in to criticize Clinton in more detail, and Rubio never responded to the question. Which is further evidence that the politics of emails is trickier than Republican would like."
Benen went on to describe how similar the two email stories actually are:
But in an unexpected twist, it was a question from a Fox News co-host that demonstrates how easy it is to remove "Clinton" out of that sentence and put in the name of several Republican presidential candidates, including "Rubio." Consider:
In Rubio's case, the senator concedes he did official work on his private account, but he insists the deleted private emails had nothing to do with his official duties. Perhaps the way to be certain is to pursue full disclosure - up to and including careful technology scrutiny of computer servers - just to make sure he didn't do anything wrong.
Why should Rubio be trusted to make decisions on his own about which of his emails should be deleted?
I suppose the obvious answer is that the Florida senator isn't accused of any official wrongdoing, so there's no need to review his communications. But - and this is key - Clinton isn't facing any serious allegations, either, Benghazi conspiracy theorists notwithstanding.
The media also ignored former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's email habits. In the wake of a Clinton feeding frenzy, the major networks paid minimal attention to the seven years it took for Bush to comply with a Florida statute requiring him to turn over private emails.
Three of Rupert Murdoch's largest and most powerful news outlets promoted baseless conspiracy theories that Google is using its alleged "close ties" with the Obama administration to receive favorable treatment and to push its policy agenda. Murdoch has a long history of attacking Google.
On March 24, News Corp's Wall Street Journal reported on the purportedly close ties between the Obama administration and Google after discovering that Google employees have visited the White House multiple times since President Obama took office. The piece went on to allege that Google used its ties with the White House to get favorable action from a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) antitrust probe into the company.
The New York Post (News Corp) went further on March 28 in an article titled "Google controls what we buy, the news we read - and Obama's policies." The article speculated that Google has used its influence and financial contributions to the Obama administration to receive favors including net neutrality regulation, favorable FTC action, and contracts to fix the Affordable Care Act's website. The piece speculated on "what's coming next: politically filtered information."
21st Century Fox's Fox News echoed the New York Post during the March 30 edition of Fox & Friends, with co-host Clayton Morris claiming "the same search engine that controls our news also controls the White House." During the show, Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo claimed that Google was "being investigated, the president dropped it -- net neutrality -- Google wanted the president to go that way." Bartiromo also speculated on whether Google was "editing" the news "to make it more favorable for the president."
But the Wall Street Journal admitted that the "FTC closed its investigation after Google agreed to make voluntary changes to its business practices." And the FTC pushed back critically to the Journal's piece, writing:
The article suggests that a series of disparate and unrelated meetings involving FTC officials and executive branch officials or Google representatives somehow affected the Commission's decision to close the search investigation in early 2013. Not a single fact is offered to substantiate this misleading narrative.
Rupert Murdoch, head of both News Corp and Twenty-First Century Fox, has a history of attacking Google. Murdoch has accused Google of being "piracy leaders," and in 2009 found himself in a war of words against Google and threatened to block his content from the search engine.
More than 150 writers and professors sent a letter to CBS criticizing 60 Minutes' Ebola coverage, which they described as a "frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent."
According to Politico, former New York Times foreign correspondent and associate professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Howard D. French, along with 150 academics and journalists sent a letter to 60 Minutes' executive producer Jeffery Fager, condemning what they called "many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa." The letter takes issue with 60 Minutes' failure to air the perspective of Africans during their reports on Ebola from areas like Liberia, noting that "the only people heard from on the air were white foreigners who had come to Liberia to contribute to the fight against the disease." The letter continued:
Africans were reduced to the role of silent victims. They constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest.
Liberians not only died from Ebola, but many of them contributed bravely to the fight against the disease, including doctors, nurses and other caregivers, some of whom gave their lives in this effort. Despite this, the only people heard from on the air were white foreigners who had come to Liberia to contribute to the fight against the disease.
Taken together, this anachronistic style of coverage reproduces, in condensed form, many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa. To be clear, this means that Africa only warrants the public's attention when there is disaster or human tragedy on an immense scale, when Westerners can be elevated to the role of central characters, or when it is a matter of that perennial favorite, wildlife. As a corollary, Africans themselves are typically limited to the role of passive victims, or occasionally brutal or corrupt villains and incompetents; they are not otherwise shown to have any agency or even the normal range of human thoughts and emotions. Such a skewed perspective not only disserves Africa, it also badly disserves the news viewing and news reading public.
In a statement to the Columbia Journalism Review, a 60 Minutes spokesperson responded that they have invited French to discuss the issue and said that "60 Minutes is proud of its coverage of Africa and has received considerable recognition for it." French told CJR that he "would be happy to speak with them, but the only basis for sincere conversation that I can detect would be engaging on the points of my letter, and they have not done that."
Mired in conflicts of interest, Watchdog.org's Wisconsin Reporter has remained silent as new information emerges concerning Governor Scott Walker's (R-WI) role in a potential pay-to-play scandal. The site, which echoed defendants calling the investigation a "witch hunt," has previously defended Walker from the allegations of campaign finance violations in over 150 articles.
The Wisconsin Reporter has been a staunch defender of Walker against allegations of wrongdoing stemming from the "John Doe" investigations, the protected state probes into Walker's campaign practices and possible illegal campaign coordination. Since January 1 of this year, the Reporter has published 19 articles either defending Walker or denouncing the validity of the investigations.The Reporter's website includes a special series on the "John Doe" investigations titled "Wisconsin's Secret War," which currently has 186 total entries.
But the Wisconsin Reporter has been silent as evidence reportedly leaked from the very investigation it has covered so heavily revealed potential instances of pay-to-play between a local business man and the Walker administration.
At issue is over $1.5 million in donations made in 2012 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCG), a group that defended the Governor during his 2012 recall election and is directed by Walker's campaign advisor, Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff reported on March 23. The donations were made by hardware store franchise owner John Menard Jr. According to Isikoff, in the years after Walker survived that recall election, Menard's business has benefited from "up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs."
Before the evidence of Menard's donation to WCG became public, the Reporter defended Eric O'Keefe, director of the WCG, against allegations that he and the WCG improperly coordinated with Walker. In multiple articles the Reporter gave O'Keefe and the WCG a platform to deny wrongdoing and undermine the investigation by calling it a "witch hunt." While prosecutors have not commented on the case to the site, O'Keefe told the Reporter, "From its inception, this was a scam, a political pursuit." In an attempt to undermine the case, the Reporter highlighted the growing cost of the investigation, questioned the independence of the chief justice hearing the case, and promoted counter investigations into the prosecution.
The Reporter has not yet mentioned Menard's donation and subsequent tax breaks, a major development in the story that made national headlines. Their silence on the story highlights the conflicts of interest that surround the outlet's reporting on Walker and the "John Doe" investigations.
The Reporter is part of The Franklin Center, a group of web-based media outlets founded in part by EricO'Keefe. The Franklin Center's Watchdog.org media group -- which includes the Wisconsin Reporter -- claims they are "in no way partisan," however the Franklin Center received 95 percent of their funding in 2011 from Donors Trust, a conservative clearing house used to pump money indirectly into politics, and whose chief executive told The Guardian that no donations to the trust would go "to liberals."
The Franklin Center's ties to conservative Wisconsin groups goes beyond O'Keefe and the WCG. In an op-ed in The Capital Times, Brendan Fischer of the Center for Media and Democracy reported that Franklin Center Director of Special Projects John Connors has also acted as president of Citizens for a Strong America, another conservative group funded by the Club for Growth which was named as a target of the "John Doe" investigation. After apologizing for not disclosing Connors' connection to the case, the Wisconsin Reporter continued to defend Walker and those involved in the investigation.
CORRECTION: This post originally stated that John Connors was personally named in the "John Doe" investigation. While it is unknown if Connors is personally named, he has acted as the president of Citizens for a Strong America, which is named in the investigation. This information was uncovered by the Center for Media and Democracy's Brendan Fischer, not The Capital Times as originally reported.
In his first TV interview outside Fox News since it emerged that he lied about his past reporting, Bill O'Reilly claimed his statements had been "accurate" and attempted to use his show's ratings as proof that he is a trusted reporter.
"So we had a controversy there," O'Reilly said on the March 24 edition of The Late Show with David Letterman, "and we put forth what my side was, they put forth what their side was, folks decided, and it worked out okay for me, and I got even more viewers." In the edited clip, released before the show airs, O'Reilly used his show's ratings to claim viewers trust him, saying, "I've been on the air 19 seasons, 15 years at number one, our ratings now are as high as they've ever been, so I think they do trust me and I'm glad they do."
Despite O'Reilly's claim that "what I said was accurate," the Fox News host has been mired in controversy since news emerged of his numerous fabrications about his past reporting. O'Reilly has claimed he was in a "combat situation" in the Falklands, which is disputed by reporters and historians. The Fox host also said that he personally heard the suicide of figure in the JFK assassination, when in fact he himself said in a phone call that he was not in Florida at the time. And after it was revealed that O'Reilly's claim to have witnessed the murder of nuns in El Salvador could not possibly be true because he arrived in the country after the murders occurred -- a claim denounced as "reprehensible" by a lawyer who represented the victim's families -- O'Reilly explained that he only meant he had seen pictures of the murder, not the event itself. O'Reilly used a similar defense when questions arose about his claim to have seen "Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs": a Fox spokesperson said that O'Reilly meant he was shown photos of such bombings by Belfast police.
As Rachel Maddow has pointed out, O'Reilly's defense "that it's okay if they lie on the air as long as it rates" is absurd, even if his show's ratings come close to those of popular TV shows like AMC's Walking Dead-based talk show "Talking Dead" and Discovery Channel's reality show about gold miners "Gold Rush."
From the March 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
Loading the player reg...
Right-wing media outlets -- led by Fox's Megyn Kelly -- helped the GOP execute a whisper campaign falsely accusing Hillary Clinton of committing perjury when she left the State Department and demanding to see a separation document to prove their charge. After the Associated Press accepted the premise that a separation document should be produced, the State Department made clear that neither Clinton nor her predecessors, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, were required to sign that document.
From the March 18 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
Loading the player reg...
Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson reportedly won't allow criticism of his employer Fox News on his website. But prior to being hired as a contributor, he was one the network's biggest critics, calling Fox News "a mean, sick group of people" and The O'Reilly Factor a "shit" show hosted by "a thin-skinned blowhard."
Blogger Mickey Kaus quit his job at the Caller after Carlson removed a column criticizing Fox News for purportedly "not being the opposition on immigration and amnesty." (The conservative network has repeatedly attacked Obama's immigration reform plans, pushed falsehoods about immigration reform, and used anti-immigrant rhetoric.)
Kaus told Politico that Carlson told him he took down the post because "We can't trash Fox on the site. I work there." Kaus added that "he told Carlson he needed to be able to write about Fox" and "Carlson told him it was a hard-and-fast rule, and non-negotiable."
The blogger noted to Politico that Fox News has major influence on conservatives, stating: "It's a larger problem on the right: Everybody is scared of Fox ... Fox is their route to a high-profile public image and in some cases stardom. Just to be on a Fox show is a big deal."
Carlson is an example of how landing on the Fox News payroll stifles conservative criticism of the network. The former CNN, MSNBC, and PBS anchor hosts the weekend edition of Fox & Friends. But prior to joining Fox as a contributor in 2009, he was one of Fox's fiercest critics.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson recently criticized potential Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for pitching products like survival food and shady diabetes treatments, decrying the types of ads Huckabee endorsed as a "plague on conservatives." But Erickson is a hypocrite -- his RedState website also cashed in on Huckabee's shady diabetes infomercial and has previously sold out readers to a wide range of hucksters and conspiracy theorists.
On March 15, The New York Times reported that former Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee had recently appeared in an "infomercial for a dubious diabetes treatment, in which Mr. Huckabee, who is contemplating a run for the Republican nomination in 2016, tells viewers to ignore 'Big Pharma' and instead points them to a 'weird spice, kitchen-cabinet cure,' consisting of dietary supplements."
Times reporter Trip Gabriel explained that the diabetes treatment -- a "Diabetes Solution Kit" from Barton Publishing -- is part of a wide series of shady ads Huckabee has placed in his email commentaries while he explores a presidential bid. (Huckabee also spent years using his celebrity as a Fox News personality to sell out his fans to scam artists.)
After laying out the types of pitches Huckabee has recently sent to his supporters -- including survival food ads and a "miracle cure for cancer hidden in the Bible" -- Gabriel writes that they are all "designed to pry open the wallets of small-donor conservatives, some of whom distrust mainstream sources of information."
The article then quotes influential conservative activist Erick Erickson lamenting the proliferation of these types of scams as a "plague on conservatives":
"This is a plague on conservatives," said Erick Erickson, the founder of the influential blog Red State, who has criticized ads for products and outside political groups that he calls "hucksters," which prey on conservatives.
While a radio or TV host might not be able to choose his sponsors, Mr. Huckabee can presumably pick who he sells space to on email commentaries. "I don't know that a potential presidential candidate should be running survival food ads," Mr. Erickson said.
While the Times gave Erickson a platform to contrast himself favorably with "hucksters," Erickson's own RedState site has repeatedly sold out its readers to the very same groups.
For example, RedState sent out a paid advertisement last month featuring the Huckabee diabetes infomercial that was the focus of the Times article:
Prior to Huckabee's involvement, Erickson's RedState had previously sent out at least three email pitches -- all featuring the subject line "1 Weird Spice That Destroys Diabetes" -- promoting Barton Publishing's "Diabetes Solution Kit."
RedState has also sent numerous pitches to its readers from "Food4Patriots," the survival food kit company the Times notes Huckabee has promoted.
When Politico noted in January that Erickson's email list had been rented to the "scam PACs" that he has repeatedly criticized, it quoted Erickson saying that he does not control who rents his list and that "and it horrifies me that the list sometimes get rented to some of these guys." (Salem Media company Townhall Media owns RedState and manages its email list.)
As Media Matters has documented, Erickson's RedState fans have also been sent sponsored messages about "Reagan's Secret Victory Over Cancer," "Obama's Deadly FDA Secret," "1 Weird Trick to KILL old age," and the "Obama scandal" that "WILL KILL MILIONS [sic]."
Rush Limbaugh claimed that "nobody ever denies" Ed Klein's credibility, despite having previously called the discredited journalist's sources into question himself.
Ed Klein dubiously suggested that White House adviser Valerie Jarrett deliberately leaked the Hillary Clinton email story to the media to "sabotage" the possible presidential ambitions of Obama's former secretary of state -- citing anonymous "members of Bill Clinton's camp" and a nameless "source close to the White House" in a March 16 column for the New York Post.
The same day, Rush Limbaugh highlighted Klein's accusation that Jarrett had leaked the story on Clinton's emails, and asserted Klein's credibility claiming that the author has penned many works on Clinton but that "nobody ever denies his stuff":
The New York Times has begun to quietly reverse course on reports about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email use, after Times public editor Margaret Sullivan admitted that the publication's initial misleading insinuation that Clinton violated the law was "not without fault." The new, more accurate reporting underscores the publication's initial sloppiness and rush to judgment.
From the March 13 edition of HuffPost Live:
Media outlets are demanding that Hillary Clinton be subject to an independent review of her personal email account to disprove their own baseless suggestions that she engaged in illicit activity or failed to properly disclose all work-related correspondence. The demand ignores that every State Department employee, regardless of whether they use government or personal accounts, decides for themselves whether or not to preserve their emails.
Media figures are acknowledging that Hillary Clinton did not violate federal regulations with her use of personal email, a contrast to The New York Times' initial rush to judgment of possible wrongdoing on Clinton's part that kicked off a media feeding frenzy.