We're at the point now where conservatives are going to have to start acknowledging that Barack Obama is the most talented politician in American history. By their own reckoning, the president's five years in office have been marked by so many Watergates, Iran-Contras, and combinations thereof that he should have been driven from office several times over by this point. And yet Obama was easily reelected and enjoys an approval rating in the mid to high-40s. How is this possible?
The explanation, it turns out, is the same explanation the right turns to whenever faced with political adversity: the media. It's all the media's fault. The corruption and various misdeeds of the Obama administration are manifest, but the public never catches on because the press covers it all up and throws out distractions to keep attention focused elsewhere.
When you actually write it out like that it sounds crazy. Because it is. It assumes a) close, unseen coordination between the administration and every major news outlet in America; b) close, unseen coordination between news outlets that are ostensibly competing against one another; and c) widespread moral vacuity among government officials and journalists that enables them to enthusiastically scrub away legal and ethical violations.
But that's what they're going with. Wednesday's House Oversight Committee hearing into the Benghazi attacks didn't quite live up to the pre-hearing promises of political "fireworks" and "bombshells." The morning after the hearing, FoxNews.com published an op-ed by Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center arguing that the Obama administration had "cover[ed] up four murders after the fact" in Benghazi and "with a few notable exceptions, the American media haven't just let them get away it. Heck, they've helped." Now, had the Obama administration actually tried to cover up the fact that four people were killed in Benghazi, that would be a hell of a scandal. But that didn't happen. To my knowledge, no one has even attempted that accusation before now. But that what's Gainor thinks Benghazi is about and he thinks the mainstream press (of which The Daily Show's Jon Stewart is a member, apparently) are the sort of moral monsters who would sign on for such a cover-up.
Right-wing media figures are heaping harsh criticism on Chief Justice John Roberts for his opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. These critics ignore Roberts' record as Chief Justice, which is very conservative. But even this conservative justice recognized that the Constitution gives Congress the power to address the nation's health care crisis with the Affordable Care Act.
Breitbart.com editor-at-large Ben Shapiro blasted the Chief Justice:
I knew that Roberts was a bad pick because he didn't have a proven track record of adherence to the Constitution. He was picked by President Bush because Bush knew he didn't have a track record - and he knew that Roberts would sail through the confirmation process without a hitch.
That should have been an indicator that Roberts was a rotten pick. Nobody doubted Robert Bork's originalist credentials. Nobody doubted Clarence Thomas'. Nobody doubts Judge Janice Rogers Brown's. But nobody had any reason to buy into Roberts as an originalist. Yet they did.
Dan Gainor, Media Research Center's vice president for Business and Culture called the decision to nominate Roberts "awful."
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes applied the "L word" to Roberts.
This attempt to paint Chief Justice Roberts as a closet liberal is absurd. Experts have called the Supreme Court under Roberts the "most conservative in modern history." As the leader of a five justice conservative majority, Roberts has played a leading role in decisions like Citizens United (empowering corporations and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited money in political campaigns); Wal-Mart (preventing women alleging sex discrimination from joining together to seek justice); Concepcion (allowing corporations to manipulate fine print in contracts to keep ripped off consumers from joining together in court); and Ledbetter (preventing a woman who was paid less than men from going to court).
Also, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce enjoyed a perfect year with the Roberts Court this term, winning every case in which the Court ruled on the position the Chamber took, according to a study by the Constitutional Accountability Center. (The Chamber took no position on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, but merely argued that if the mandate were struck down, the entire Act should be invalidated). According to the study, the Chamber has not won every case in a term since at least 1994.
Rather than calling John Roberts names or trying to make the absurd case that he is a closet liberal, the right should simply acknowledge that their crusade to kill the Affordable Care Act failed because they lost the vote of the deeply conservative, Republican-appointed Chief Justice who heads one of the most conservative and pro-corporate courts in history.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, right-wing media figures claimed Chief Justice Roberts' decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act shows that he's liberal. But Roberts' recognizing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act doesn't change his record as presiding over the most conservative and corporate-friendly court in recent history.
Today, the Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as constitutional. Right-wing media figures immediately began venting on Twitter. Here is an hour's worth of the worst right-wing ranting about the Supreme Court decision after it was announced:
The main difference between liberal and conservative media critics is that the latter would prefer that journalism just didn't exist. That's why conservative media criticism is less concerned with making reporting better than it is with making sure reporters don't ask big business pesky questions.
Don't believe me? Take a look at Dan Gainor's piece at FoxNews.com, in which Gainor goes after liberal billionaire George Soros and the "widespread influence the controversial billionaire has on the mainstream media."
One of Gainor's big beefs with Soros is that he supports investigative outlets, such as ProPublica and The Center for Public Integrity, which produce journalism adhering to a "liberal" agenda.
Writes Gainor [emphasis added]:
The ProPublica stories are thoroughly researched by top-notch staffers who used to work at some of the biggest news outlets in the nation. But the topics are almost laughably left-wing.
So the journalism itself is fine, but the subject matters always leans too far to the left. But what are the supposedly left-wing subject matters that Gainor takes issue with from outlets that receive Soros money? Below, are a list of subjects he singled out:
-"the evils of big companies"
-Anything making "the military look bad"
-"prisoners at Guantanamo Bay"
Nor did Gainor approve of alleged "attacks" on the following:
-"health care industry"
This isn't media criticism so much as it is conservatives expressing dismay that journalists are doing their jobs and asking tough questions to people in power.
Media Research Center (MRC) and Fox News appear to be telling journalists that if they investigate the business dealings of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, you will be attacked.
In his bio on FoxNews.com, MRC "Vice President for Business and Culture" Gainor is listed as "the Boone Pickens Fellow" for MRC. Pickens is described by MRC as an "MRC Trustee," has presented at the MRC's annual DisHonor Awards, is listed in their most recent annual report available online (2008) as a "trustee," and was described by MRC founder Brent Bozell in 2006 as "a friend" who "supports" the Media Research Center. Pickens reportedly donated $1 million to the Swift Boat Veterans for The Truth in 2004.
Gainor has written an opinion piece on FoxNews.com attacking progressive philanthropist (and Media Matters donor) George Soros for his donations via the Open Society Foundation into journalistic operations like the non-profit ProPublica:
The ProPublica stories are thoroughly researched by top-notch staffers who used to work at some of the biggest news outlets in the nation. But the topics are almost laughably left-wing. The site's proud list of "Our Investigations" includes attacks on oil companies, gas companies, the health care industry, for-profit schools and more. More than 100 stories on the latest lefty cause: opposition to drilling for natural gas by hydraulic fracking. Another 100 on the evils of the foreclosure industry.
Gainor doesn't seem to have any problem with the factual output of ProPublica, just the fact that it exists and investigates issues. He even says "[t]he ProPublica stories are thoroughly researched by top-notch staffers." So, why the hate?
A couple weeks ago, when the Associated Press issued a memo advising its news organization members to avoid the term "Ground Zero mosque" to describe the proposed Islamic center in New York City because it's not at Ground Zero and isn't primarily a mosque, conservatives looked askance. At Michelle Malkin's website, Doug Powers suggested it was "a retread of a pro-mosque talking points memo" and asserted that the proposed center's site would be considered Ground Zero if the AP's headquarters were there.
The Media Research Center's Dan Gainor was just as harsh, claiming that the AP "had to choose sides" and was acting as "spinmeisters," adding that accurately describing things is "one of the games journalists play." He also repeated Powers' line about how the AP might think differently if its headquarters were closer.
Another day, another AP memo, a completely different reaction from the conservative media.
This time, the memo pointed out that "U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended." This was interpreted by the conservative media as a smackdown of President Obama, of which they approved:
Tom Blumer of NewsBusters -- operated by the Media Research Center, which attacked the AP over the "Ground Zero mosque" memo -- declared that in the new memo "at least one limit has been found to the establishment press's willingness to serve as this government's official apologists" and that "is asserting that Obama is at least not telling the truth in this instance." WorldNetDaily, meanwhile, carried an article on the memo with the headline, "Oops! Did Associated Press call Obama a liar?"
The lesson? The AP has been consistent in endeavoring to tell the truth. The only consistency the conservative media cares about is promoting its right-wing message; the truth is secondary.
As Media Matters has reported, Media Research Center VP Dan Gainor has offered $100 to the first person who "punches smary [sic] idiot Alan Grayson in the nose." When chastised by a fellow conservative for offering to "finance violence," Gainor claimed to be kidding but added "I'd love to see the video" of Congressman Grayson being punched.
Now, you're probably thinking that a person who runs around offering to finance violent assaults on members of Congress probably doesn't get taken particularly seriously as a media critic. But Dan Gainor seems to be the favorite media critic of Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander, who rarely cites ideological media critics by name -- but who has written two pieces in the past four months that prominently feature interviews with Gainor. And as far as I can tell, Gainor is the only professional ideological media critic Alexander has interviewed for a column or blog post this year. (I've found only one other such critic cited by name in an Alexander column or blog post this year: In May, Alexander extensively quoted a blog post by Gainor's colleague Tim Graham. You could add Andrew Breitbart to the conservative-heavy list if you consider him primarily a media critic.)
Last month, I explained that Alexander favors the arguments of right-wing media critics over their liberal counterparts. One way he does so is in his framing of criticism of the Post. If the Post does something that conservatives don't like, Alexander tends to note that conservatives don't like it, and that it contributes to their skepticism of the Post. But when Alexander writes about something the Post does that liberals criticize, Alexander doesn't mention them -- and certainly doesn't indicate that it may contribute to their skepticism of the Post. For example:
Alexander's column about Post reporter Dana Milbank calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" didn't contain so much as a hint that the episode might damage the paper's credibility among liberals, or that liberals might already have some complaints about the paper that would be exacerbated by Milbank's video. No liberals were quoted or paraphrased; there wasn't even any mention that liberals were unhappy about Milbank's stunt. Contrast that to Alexander's write-up of [David] Weigel's departure from the Post, in which the Alexander dedicated four full paragraphs to the complaints of the conservative Media Research Center's Dan Gainor.
But that isn't the only time Alexander has favored Gainor with such prominent placement. In his March 21 column, Alexander devoted two paragraphs to Gainor's criticism of the Post's coverage of DC's move towards marriage equality -- and seemed to agree with Gainor's broad criticism of the Post:
And the conservative Culture and Media Institute said its review showed that in the week after March 3, The Post coverage totaled 543 column inches ("equal to nearly four full pages") and included 14 photos of "gay celebrations." Supporters of same-sex marriage were quoted 10 times more than opponents, the group said.
"As soon as this became law, it was basically The Washington Post standing up and saying 'Yay!' " Dan Gainor, the group's vice president, said in an interview. "It's news," he acknowledged, but the coverage was excessive and "one-sided." Conservatives see it as evidence that The Post is hopelessly liberal, he said.
The Post is not always sufficiently attuned to conservative perspectives. But with gay marriage coverage, the accusations of journalistic overkill are off base.
It seems the Post's Ombudsman is excessively attuned to the perspective of at least one conservative -- a conservative who offers cash for violent assault on a member of congress. (Good luck finding Alexander writing anything like "The Post is not always sufficiently attuned to liberal perspectives," by the way.)
From Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor's Twitter feed, accessed July 20:
From Media Research Council Vice President of Business & Culture Dan Gainor's February 20 CPAC speech:
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