On December 2, Media Matters for America posted a comprehensive analysis of Sinclair Broadcast Group's "The Point," a conservative commentary by Sinclair vice president Mark Hyman that airs every day on the 62 stations Sinclair owns or operates. That analysis, which examined all segments of "The Point" between the November 2 presidential election and December 1, found that the segment contained a steady stream of one-sided, anti-progressive and pro-Bush rhetoric without a progressive counterpoint. Media Matters has since examined all editions of "The Point" between December 1 and December 13; the pattern continues.
Hyman asked for "Whopper of 2004," then offered whoppers of his own
On December 6, Hyman announced that "we'd like your help in answering the following question: what were the biggest lies of 2004? What was the number one whooper, the biggest fib, the most notable untruth?" Hyman then proceeded to offer 10 suggestions for the "number one whopper" from opponents of the Bush administration -- and only three from Bush supporters:
Was it John Kerry's claim that he wouldn't raise taxes on the middle class? Or something George Bush said to the 9/11 Commission? Remember Richard Clarke, the disgruntled terrorism czar? Was it one of his statements? Or was it Howard Dean's denial that he had yelled that scream? How about Bill Clinton saying he wanted Kerry elected this year, which would knock his own wife out for 2008? What about Kitty Kelley and her discredited book? Or the Swift Boat book? How about Michael Moore? Or his film, Fahrenheit 9/11? Was it the New York Times' missing-explosives story? Dan Rather's "Memogate"? Ted Koppel's claim that he really and truly likes the troops? Or, perish the thought, was it something I said?
But many of Hyman's proffered "whoppers" were in fact his own distortions.
- John Kerry: Hyman's suggestion that Kerry was lying when he pledged not to raise taxes on the middle class was echoed by Republicans and other conservatives in the media who attempted to discredit Kerry's pledge by distorting his record. On August 30, Annenberg Political Fact Check debunked inflated claims by the Bush campaign that Kerry would not fulfill his pledge, noting that "in fact many of the votes cited by the Bush campaign are votes to do pretty much what he [Kerry] promises to do if elected: raise taxes on upper-income taxpayers."
- Richard Clarke: While Hyman proposed that the "number one whopper" could have come from Richard Clarke, "the disgruntled terrorism czar," he did not offer an example of any Clarke statement that has been shown to be untrue. Journalist Fred Kaplan discussed the credibility of Clarke's charges in a March 23, 2004, Slate.com article, concluding: "I have no doubt that Richard Clarke, the former National Security Council official who has launched a broadside against President Bush's counterterrorism policies, is telling the truth about every single charge."
- Bill Clinton: Hyman suggested that former president Bill Clinton did not want Kerry to win because that "would knock his own wife out for 2008." As Media Matters noted, this was a favorite talking point among right-wing pundits and others in the media, for which they offered no evidence.
- Howard Dean: Hyman's claim that Howard Dean denied that he had "yelled the scream" referred to Dean's speech following his defeat in the Iowa Democratic presidential primary. But Dean did not deny yelling during the speech; he simply explained that "The speech as it was portrayed in cable television shows 937 times in one week never happened." The speech seen and heard on TV was very different from the speech experienced by those who were there, due to a noise-canceling microphone and "[n]o crowd noise or crowd shot," Dean explained. His explanation was supported by many journalists who were in the room for his speech. On January 26, CBSNews.com reported: "What you might not know, because it doesn't play 30 times a day on the cable news channels, is what was happening in the rest of the room. ... The television crews recording the event plug into an audio source picking up Dean's microphone, not the sound of the room." The article added that "Dean's speech fit the tone of the room." A segment on ABC's Good Morning America featured a video of the speech from the audience's perspective and noted: "In the room, the so-called scream couldn't really be heard at all. Again, he was yelling along with the crowd."
- The New York Times: Contrary to Hyman's claim, "the New York Times' missing-explosives story" was in fact a verified report carried by all mainstream media -- and another story frequently distorted by conservatives in the media.
- Ted Koppel: Hyman's inclusion of "Ted Koppel's claim that he really and truly likes the troops" as a possible "whopper" undoubtedly stems from a decision in April to devote an entire broadcast of ABC's Nightline to Koppel's reading of the names of the more than 700 U.S. soldiers who had died in Iraq up to that point. Sinclair prohibited its ABC affiliate stations from airing the segment, explaining in a statement: "We do not believe political statements should be disguised as news content."
On the other hand, Media Matters has found much to show that "the Swift Boat book" -- Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi (Regnery, August 2004) -- could indeed contain a viable candidate for "the whopper of 2004," as might Hyman's suggestion that it could be "something I said."
Hyman kept up his attacks on "the Angry Left"
Hyman devoted his entire December 7 segment to mocking "the Angry Left," for whom the "three and a-half million-vote victory margin for George Bush is still not convincing enough." Hyman mentioned three counties in Florida which he contended "the Angry Left claim were sites of likely vote fraud," then observed: "Nonetheless, as a result of complaints by the Angry Left, the Government Accountability Office has launched a study to examine the November 2nd election." Hyman referred to Democratic Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) -- "a proponent of the study" -- as "Capitol Hill's number one malcontent, who's still angry over election results" and concluded: "The facts never have and never will matter to the Angry Left." But according to an Associated Press report, "GAO officials said the investigation was not triggered by a request from several House Democrats, who wrote the agency this month seeking an investigation" and that "the GAO acted on its own because of the many comments it received about ballot counting." And at least one statistical study has found major discrepancies in vote counts between counties that utilized electronic voting machines and those that used traditional voting methods, as Media Matters has noted.
On December 4, in the weekly "Mailbag" segment, in which Hyman reads mail he purportedly receives from viewers, he asserted that "Many of the Angry Left were in denial over why their candidate lost the presidential race and were angry that we pointed out their denial." Noting that "[t]his week they get the entire mailbag," Hyman proceeded to read belligerent emails ostensibly from viewers.
Hyman voiced support for conservative policy ideas
On December 1, Hyman endorsed a form of Medicaid privatization: "New approaches to be considered should include a cash assistance option whereby recipients can opt for cash in which to maintain private healthcare coverage." Hyman then disparaged the progressive notion of universal health coverage, positing that "[i]f government is unable to manage a comprehensive, successful and cost-effective healthcare system for just a segment of our population [Medicaid], then imagine just how screwed up a nationwide government-run healthcare system would be."
On December 3, Hyman supported the weakening of gun laws, responding to a new Illinois law that provides "new legal protection to homeowners who use a banned handgun to shoot burglars" by asking, "Is it now official that we can protect our property in Illinois?" But according to an Associated Press article, "Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed the bill earlier this year, arguing it would encourage people to defy local gun laws." The AP quoted an Illinois lawyer's claim that the point of that legislation, which became law following an override of the governor's veto, "was to do a favor for the gun lobby" and noted that at least one town is considering adopting "a local ordinance exempting the community from the law."
Hyman's December 8 segment focused on a disputed report about the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay man murdered in Wyoming in 1998, which aired on November 26 on ABC's 20/20. The report showed Shepard's killers saying that "they were motivated not by homophobia but by the prospect of robbery to fuel a methamphetamine binge," according to a Washington Post report. Judy and Dennis Shepard, Matthew's parents, impugned the 20/20 report, issuing a statement saying that they were "dismayed and saddened by the tabloid nature of the show, its lack of serious reporting of facts in evidence, and the amateurish nature of asking leading questions to the people who were interviewed." But despite questions about the report's veracity, Hyman concluded his segment by suggesting that the 20/20 report should "shift the attention from the absurdity of hate crimes legislation."
Hyman echoed Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz's unsubstantiated charge on U.N. oil-for-food scandal
On the December 3 segment, Hyman claimed that the United Nations "told the private company it hired to investigate the [oil-for-food] scandal to steer clear of investigating involvement by officials from Dubai, Egypt, Switzerland and France" -- an unsubstantiated charge derived from a November 16 Washington Times article by defense and national security reporter Bill Gertz. For his story, Gertz relied on a single source -- "Derek Baldwin, director of operations for IBIS Risk Management Services Inc." -- in an effort to impugn Paul A. Volker, chairman of "the Independent Inquiry into the United Nations Oil for Food Programme." But Volcker has been praised by both parties for his impartiality and competence, and on December 5 Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said on FOX News Sunday that he is "a great admirer of Mr. Volcker's." Media Matters has noted Gertz's past willingness to base an entire article on a lone source.
Hyman slammed Howard Dean, Dems as out of the mainstream, irrelevant
On the December 9 segment, Hyman discussed the search for a new Democratic National Committee chairperson and asserted: "Picking Howard Dean or someone like him will signify the party has moved further to the left and away from the mainstream." But the notion that Dean is far "away from the mainstream" is not the given that Hyman presented it to be. As CNN host Aaron Brown noted on the January 22 edition of NewsNight with Aaron Brown: "In fact, I think Dr. Dean is more moderate than ultraliberal. And so do a lot of people, but I'll probably get in trouble from conservatives for saying that."
Hyman claimed liberal media bias
Hyman used the retirements of former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw and CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather as an opportunity to bash network news, suggesting during the December 12 segment that "[t]he skewed news coverage and bias injected into the evening newscasts is not lost on most viewers." Media Matters has documented numerous examples of conservative misinformation on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Hyman also criticized ABC Nightline host Ted Koppel once again, asserting that "Nightline's meager ratings and suspect credibility has indicated the end is near."