Despite widespread recent criticism of the role conservative media outlets played in the 2012 election and its aftermath, most attendees at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference had a positive view of the current state of right-wing journalism.
The calls for reform of conservative media are unconvincing to journalists who have found that the current model has given them a large audience.
Mike Opelka, editor-at-large for Glenn Beck's The Blaze, said the popularity of conservative media proves that they are doing good work.
"Fox dominates the conservative cable media," he said. "We [The Blaze] are averaging 10 million uniques a month. I think it is on target for what we like. We are a center-right source and we think they like what we give them."
Dana Loesch, the conservative radio talk show host whose past work for the Breitbart family of conservative news websites helped generate appearances on CNN, Fox News and ABC News, also gave high marks to conservative outlets.
"I think they are doing a really good job," she said of her fellow right-wing media outlets. "It's a good market, I always think there is an appetite for conservative media because there are a lot of people, myself included, who think you don't get that perspective when you turn it on, CBS, NBC, the channels like that."
Their optimism comes at a time when numerous media voices, including several prominent conservatives, have raised questions about the state of conservative media following a 2012 election in which right-wing media outlets convinced their readers, viewers, and listeners that Mitt Romney was cruising towards a comfortable win over a villainous President Obama. Last week, American Conservative published an extensive piece critical of "groupthink" among "several conservative publications."
Similarly, in a February post at his influential Red State website, new Fox News contributor Erick Erickson criticized the conservative "echo chamber" for "trying so hard to highlight controversies, no matter how trivial" at the expense of basic reporting.
But these concerns, alongside a recent flurry of embarrassments (like the Breitbart.com "Friends of Hamas" debacle), were not shared by most at CPAC, who were quick to paint a rosy picture of their work in interviews with Media Matters.
Several Fox News personalities smeared President Obama as an appeaser for using the phrase "peace in our time" during his second inaugural address. But President Reagan used the same words in a speech.
During his second inaugural address, Obama committed to "defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law." He added that the United States will support democracy across the globe and be "a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice." Obama explained that we must do this "not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice."
Fox contributors Jonah Goldberg, Charles Krauthammer, and John Bolton seized on Obama's use of the words "peace in our time," claiming that Obama's use of the term recalled former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who used a similar phrase in 1938 when he announced that he had made a deal with Adolf Hitler to allow Nazi Germany to take over part of Czechoslovakia without firing a shot.
But Obama is not the only president to use the words "peace in our time." In a 1983 speech at a presentation ceremony for the Peace Corps Awards, Reagan said:
I am very pleased to honor these six fine Americans who have volunteered their time, skills, and experience to the cause of peace.
Seldom are we able to point to one person's work and pronounce it not only good and worthwhile but also a step toward building peace in our time. And today, we enjoy that good fortune and we can measure it sixfold. We're honoring six Americans who have dedicated themselves to the cause of peace -- Americans who have traveled voluntarily to unfamiliar lands to help citizens of developing nations. [emphasis added]
In 1985, the leading rabbi of the American conservative Jewish movement also used the phrase "peace in our time" while discussing potential arms talks between Reagan and Soviet premiere Mikhail Gorbachev.
This history leaves us with the question: Do Goldberg, Krauthammer, and Bolton think Reagan was an appeaser?
Conservative media figures are taking a partial quote from President Obama out of context in order to attack him as reacting callously to the deaths of U.S. diplomatic personnel.
In an appearance taped today for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, President Obama was asked if communication between government personnel had failed to provide "the optimal response" to the Benghazi attacks. Obama replied in part: "If four Americans get killed, it's not optimal. We're going to fix it. All of it. And what happens, during the course of a presidency, is that the government is a big operation and any given time something screws up. And you make sure that you find out what's broken and you fix it."
Conservative media figures like Matt Drudge, Monica Crowley, Hugh Hewitt, Mary Katherine Ham,John Podhoretz, Jonah Goldberg, Erick Erickson and outlets like Fox Nation all used early reports of Obama's comments to attack him, with several falsely suggesting that Obama had said the deaths of American personnel in Benghazi, and not the communications effort, was "not optimal."
From the October 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Conservative media figures who have been longtime supporters of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are accusing the Obama administration of pursuing a policy of disengagement in the Middle East, pointing to the end of the war in Iraq and the troop drawdown in Afghanistan. But unmentioned in their criticism is when they think it would have been an appropriate time to withdraw from both countries, if at all.
On Friday September 14, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer appeared on Hannity to discuss the violent anti-American protests that have erupted in recent days in the Middle East. Krauthammer blamed the violence on America's foreign policy under Obama, accusing the president of disengaging in the Middle East, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. He claimed that Obama has "changed American policy on the theory that the reason that people hated us was because we were tough," adding:
KRAUTHAMMER: And he was now apologizing and promising to change course. We would no longer be tough. We would be loved. We would show compassion. And we would get out of Iraq. He sets a deadline for Afghanistan. He doesn't support the Green Revolution in Iran. He shows the Ayatollahs tremendous respect. He essentially protects them when they are under attack. He gets nowhere on the Iran nuclear issue. He is equivocal uncertain during the Arab Spring. He leads from behind in Libya. The theory was if we go soft, if we are very nice, if we say 'Assalamu alaikum,' enough times, everything will be all right. And what he decided is, the way to do that, the theory and therefore the practice is going to be, retreat and withdraw. Remember the line he uses? The tide of war is receding. That means the tide of American power is receding.
He added that Obama's policies have created a "vacuum" in the Middle East that radical Muslims "are now going to fill."
Krauthammer's misguided sentiments echoed in the Fox chamber today when Fox News contributor and National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg, on America's Newsroom, said, "I agree with [Krauthammer] entirely about the vacuum that we're creating in the Middle East, about withdrawal, about the sense that Obama has created that we're not going to meddle in Middle Eastern affairs when there's freedom on the march, and that kind of thing."
Fox's Gretchen Carlson and Jonah Goldberg attacked people who receive Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and other benefits, claiming that they are receiving "government handouts." In fact, Americans pay for (or, in the case of retirees, have paid for) such benefits directly out of their paychecks.
During the segment, Fox displayed the below graph showing the rise in spending, which echoes numbers recently released by the American Enterprise Institute:
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2010, the federal government paid $718 billion on Social Security and another $489 billion on Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office found that $120 billion was spent on unemployment insurance. This $1.327 trillion accounts for 60.3 percent of the spending identified by Fox.
But Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits are not "handouts." Americans pay for these benefits directly from their paychecks.
From the June 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Young Republican groups are criticizing National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg after he claimed the voting age is too low and that the supposed fact that "young people think socialism is better than capitalism" is evidence of their "stupidity and their ignorance" which needs to be "beaten out of them."
In a videoclip from an interview with the conservative website The Daily Caller, Goldberg affirms from the beginning he is "not particularly enamored with the youth," that youth politics is "not something very special or enviable" and he believes the voting age should be much higher. He makes it quite clear young people, in his opinion, are "so frickin' stupid about some things."
"It is a simple fact of science that nothing correlates more with ignorance and stupidity more than youth," Goldberg says. "We're all born idiots, and we only get over that condition as we get less young."
Goldberg's views sparked harsh criticism from leaders of young conservatives and young Republicans groups.
Brian Matos, spokesman for Chicago Young Republicans, said he understood Goldberg's frustration, but did not agree with his idea for change, citing the need for military personnel to be able to vote.
"About half of the enlisted military personnel are under the age of 25 and so when somebody suggests they don't matter, that people are too young in their judgment, 18-year-olds, 19-year olds; well if they are old enough to serve our country overseas in two wars, they have the right to go to the polls," he said. "They do deserve the right to go to the polls."
He also noted: "To say they are not important because of their age is short-sighted."
Christopher Sanders, president of the Atlanta Young Republicans, stated: "Mr. Goldberg has the right to express his opinion. However I disagree with him on an age increase. It is our civic duty to help educate those younger than us about the issues, not strip them of their right to vote."
Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to attendees at a summit of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of National Black Churches about the importance of voting as well as the significance of new voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect minorities. The summit was designed, in part, to help black leaders learn about the new laws -- yet Rush Limbaugh and a Fox News contributor attacked Holder's appearance as "reprehensible" and "unseemly."
Jonah Goldberg's recent Washington Post op-ed on five "cliches" that he imagines progressives employ misses badly on many scores, but none so wildly as when Goldberg turns his attention to the Constitution. As is his wont, Goldberg picks a fight with a straw man -- that progressives embrace a "living constitution" completely divorced from the document's text and history -- and suffers a technical knockout at the hands of even this feeble opponent.
Goldberg attempts to tar progressives with hypocrisy for basing their opposition to conservatives' post-9/11 overreaching on civil liberties on the text, history and principles of the Constitution. Even if conservatives were, as he breezily puts it, "stretching things," supposedly unprincipled progressives had no grounds for complaining. With this crude caricature, Goldberg gives away the game.
There is in fact a real debate about what the Constitution means and how to interpret it. On the one hand is what a leading scholar has called the "fundamentalist" view, held by many of Goldberg's fellow conservatives, that the Constitution should be "strictly construed" in a narrow manner that if applied in the past would have rejected much of the progress the nation has made toward justice. Under this view, the Constitution has nothing to say about segregated schools, bans on interracial marriage and blatant gender discrimination.
The opposing view, first and perhaps best expressed by Chief Justice John Marshall, himself a signer of the Constitution, is that the document's open-ended provisions (such as "due process" or "freedom of speech") should be read to give meaning to the principles they embody. In one of his most important opinions, he wrote that "we must never forget that it is a Constitution we are expounding."(emphasis in orginal) By this he meant that the Framers did not intend the Constitution to be so detailed as to spell out definitive answers in every possible situation, but rather to establish principles to be applied to address specific questions.
In this view, the Constitution's words, its history and the principles it embodies are all important in determining its meaning in particular cases. As Pamela Karlan, a leading progressive constitutional scholar has written:
[T]he Constitution has endured because judges, elected officials and citizens throughout our history have engaged in an ongoing process of interpretation. That interpretation reflects fidelity to our written Constitution. To be faithful to the Constitution is to interpret its words and to apply its principles in ways that sustain their vitality over time. Fidelity to the Constitution requires us to ask not how its text and principles would have been applied in 1789 or 1868, but rather how they should be applied today in light of the conditions and concerns of our society.
There is a real debate to be had about these competing constitutional visions. Unfortunately, Goldberg's game of "I know you are; now what am I?" contributes nothing of value to it.
Both mainstream and conservative media outlets have responded to the recent spike in gasoline prices by circulating talking points rooted in politics rather than facts. As a whole, these claims reflect the misconception, perpetuated by the news media, that changes in U.S. energy policy are a major driver of oil and gasoline prices.
Yesterday, Mark Hemingway of the Weekly Standard snapped a photo of the absurdly inflated price board at a gas station "within walking distance of the White House" and put it under the cheeky headline: "The Shocking Photo the Obama Administration Doesn't Want You to See!"
The gas station in question is the Watergate Exxon, one of DC's charming rip-offs that is infamous for its price gouging. It's a trap for unobservant tourists who don't realize that they can buy gas across the street for significantly less money.
Judging from the wry headline his Twitter feed, Hemingway was making an insidery joke for Beltway media types. Some on the right didn't get it.
Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, picked up Hemingway's post and republished the photo under the headline: "Inconvenient Photo Taken At Exxon Gas Station Just Outside White House." (The station actually is over a mile from the executive mansion.) As The Blaze put it: "The station is within walking distance of the White House and the listed price for its Supreme grade is frighteningly pushing $6."
Coincidentally, National Review's Jonah Goldberg has a column today on how gasoline prices are a "debacle" for the president, and accompanying the piece is a photo of an Exxon price board with the Watergate looming in the background.
Scary! But as The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins documented yesterday, the price of regular gas at the Sunoco just across the street from the Watergate Exxon was $4.10 -- the same as today's average price for the DC area. Which means the Watergate Exxon's prices are inflated about 32 percent over the average.
The lesson here: If you're buying gas or trying to get a sense of where gas prices stand, avoid both the Watergate Exxon and conservative blogs.
As automakers are starting to bring electric vehicle (EV) technology into the mainstream, conservative media outlets have repeatedly misled consumers about electric cars by trying to paint them as environmentally harmful and unsafe, among other false claims.
Right-wing media have attacked President Obama by seizing on his comment that America "had gotten a little soft." But Obama said that the United States is a "great country" and that he "wouldn't trade our position with any other country on Earth" because "[w]e still have the best universities, the best scientists, and best workers in the world. We still have the most dynamic economic system in the world."
A distinct mantra from far-right press critics in recent years has centered around the fantastic claim that not only do the media have a liberal bias, but that the corrupted press corps works in unison with the Obama White House at all times; that the press no longer functions independently but that its role is to protect Obama at all costs.
The result of the grand media conspiracy? The press has refused to ask Obama tough questions.
Not only has Fox News — the supposed mouthpiece of the GOP — put on a far, far, far better debate than CNN did (or MSNBC could), it has subjected the GOP contenders to tougher, rougher, questions than any debate I can remember. In fact, I don't think Obama ever received this kind of grilling as a candidate or as president.
Goldberg and Hannity don't think Obama has ever received a press grilling, even as a candidate in 2008. What do they think was missing from the questioning of Obama back then? Inquiries about Jeremiah Wright? William Ayers? Controversial comments that Obama had made on the campaign trail?
Well, a simple Google search produces this instant result, from a Howard Kurtz column in the Washington Post, April 18, 2008:
The ABC moderators found themselves under fire for focusing on campaign gaffes and training most of their ammunition on Obama.
In the first 40 minutes of Wednesday's two-hour Democratic debate, the moderators asked Obama about his remarks that small-town residents bitterly cling to guns and religion; the inflammatory sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright ([George] Stephanopoulos follow-up: "Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?"); why Obama doesn't wear an American flag pin; and his relationship with William Ayers, a former Weather Underground radical who has acknowledged involvement in several bombings in the 1970s.
But right, Obama hasn't been grilled by the press.