In a statement regarding an Obama administration policy that ensures women have access to insurance coverage for birth control while accommodating employers who object to providing birth control, Father Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest and Fox News contributor, stated:
Any national media outlet that fails to report the obvious raping of our First Amendment rights by this Health and Human Service mandate, is trumpeting either woeful incompetence or shameless bias.
Morris' comment was reported by the Media Research Center, which complained about media coverage of a lawsuit filed by various organizations against the contraception coverage policy.
As a reminder, President Obama's contraception coverage policy has the support of a wide variety of Catholic institutions as well as a majority of American Catholics.
From the November 1 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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Politico's Jonathan Martin writes up the Right's fear-mongering about a potential lame-duck session of Congress this fall, and does a good enough job of noting that it is unlikely that Democrats would "come up with a 60-vote majority in the Senate on the sort of hot-button bills now being used to galvanize conservative constituencies" during such a session.
But Martin didn't so much as hint at the fact that many of the conservatives currently insisting that it is wildly inappropriate to take up controversial measures during a lame-duck session are more than a little hypocritical. For example, Martin prominently quotes a spokesperson for House Minority Leader John Boehner insisting Democrats should rule out a "a 'sour grapes' lame-duck session." But Martin didn't mention that John Boehner voted to impeach a sitting Democratic president during a lame-duck session following an election in which the Republicans lost seats in part because of public disgust over GOP efforts to impeach the president. (Nor did Martin note that Boehner's spokesperson apparently doesn't know what "sour grapes" means.)
That's kind of a big one, don't you think? The Republican leader currently running around denouncing Democrats for (theoretically) using a lame-duck session to pursue controversial goals himself cast a deeply controversial vote to impeach President Clinton during a GOP-controlled lame duck session. You don't get much more hypocritical than that -- but Martin didn't mention it. Nor did he mention that Charles Krauthammer, who Martin noted has "sounded the alarm" about a lame duck session, urged the lame-duck House to impeach Clinton in 1998.
UPDATE: Here's a USA Today article from November 13, 2006, just days after Democrats won control of both houses of Congress:
A lame-duck Congress, including the so-called "living dead" who were defeated for re-election, opened today with an ambitious agenda that includes a showdown over President Bush's nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Although the Democrats take charge of both houses of the new Congress starting in January, the Republicans maintain control of the Senate and the House of Representatives until the lame-duck session expires in December.
This year's session could run well into December as Congress takes up a long list of unfinished business: nine spending bills; extending already-expired tax breaks; approving trade pacts with Vietnam and Peru; bioterrorism legislation; and a measure giving doctors a reprieve from a scheduled cut in Medicare payments.
But a critical test of wills between the Democrats' rising power and the White House will come over the Bolton nomination.
Bush last week also called on the lame-duck Congress to pass a controversial warrantless domestic wiretapping bill known as the Terrorists Surveillance Act. But that appears dead because of strong opposition by Democrats.
And a December 6, 2006 Associated Press article:
House Republicans abruptly pulled from floor action Tuesday a bill to open a large area of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling after it became clear the legislation lacked the two-thirds vote needed for passage.
"The House will revisit the offshore drilling legislation again at some point before the end of this week, though details on the mechanics of how the measure will be considered have yet to be decided," Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner, said in a statement.
The drilling bill is one of a string of measures House GOP leaders have readied for this week's "lame-duck" session under an expedited procedure that bars amendments, but also requires a two-thirds vote for approval.
Why would any journalist report conservatives' anti-lame-duck-session stance without checking to see what they did in 2006?
Politico's Jonathan Martin made an interesting observation yesterday while filling in on Ben Smith's Politico blog. In commenting on an article about Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul, Martin highlighted Paul's reluctance to speak to reporters and detail his, at times controversial, policy positions. He noted that both Paul and Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle have had a shaky relationship with the media because of a heightened focus on their far-right views. From the post:
Each has demonstrated that they're a risk to themselves when it comes to doing media. Yet when they run from the press - in Angle's case, literally -- the storyline that they're incapable of answering questions than dominates the race, causing them to eventually give in and face reporters. Yet when they do, the cycle repeats itself as they can barely suppress their far-right views.
What Martin notes here is true. We've certainly seen examples of both Angle and Paul shunning reporters for fear of the criticism that their views will generate. In fact, we've even learned that Rand Paul cancelled an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press at the suggestion of Fox News contributor Karl Rove. However, there is one outlet that Republican candidates like Angle and Paul readily embrace: Fox News.
Fox has become a safe haven for conservative candidates looking for softball questions and opportunities to make nationwide fundraising appeals. Sharron Angle has even explained that her affinity for Fox News appearances results in part from the network's permission of fundraising appeals. From a July 14 interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (emphasis added):
David Brody: Not to harp on the point but when you're on Fox News or talking to more conservative outlets but maybe not going on "Meet the Press" or a "This Week", those type of news shows, then the perception and the narrative starts to be like you are avoiding those mainstream media outlets.
Sharron Angle: Well, in that audience will they let me say I need $25 dollars from a million people go to Sharron Angle.com send money? Will they let me say that? Will I get a bump on my website and you can watch whenever I go on to a show like that we get an immediate bump. You can see the little spinners. People say 'Oh, I heard that. I am going and I'm going to help Sharron out because they realize this is a national effort and that I need people from all around the nation. They may not be able to vote for me but they can certainly help."
Additionally, after a particularly rough interview on an NBC affiliate in Las Vegas, Angle sought out the familiar comfort of an appearance on Fox News where host Stuart Varney lobbed softball questions and excluded any substantive follow-ups.
Likewise, Rand Paul has taken full advantage of Fox's glowing coverage (including on-air endorsements by contributors Dick Morris and Sarah Palin), by making at least 21 appearances on Fox News, Fox Business and FoxNews.com between May of 2009 and May of 2010. During these appearances, Paul faced hard-hitting questions such as "Can that Tea Party rage or populist sentiment last until November?" and "We have been getting into this raging debate as to whether Republicans veer more to the right ... or be pragmatic. Where do you stand?"
Although Angle and Paul struggle with articulating their policy positions while not, as Martin says, "hand[ing] the opposition yet more oppo," they can, have, and will continue to seek refuge in the substance-free interviews provided by Fox News.
Yesterday, an RNC aide sent reporters an email listing a bunch of mundane DNC expenditures -- money spent on hotels and travel, mostly -- in an apparent attempt to draw some sort of equivalence between staying at the Hilton and visiting a sex club. As Time's Jay Newton-Small put it, the DC expenditures are "very milquetoast" and "none of them were particularly controversial."
Naturally, Politico's Jonathan Martin posted the list -- the entire list -- under the over-heated headline "RNC drops oppo on DNC high-falutin' expenditures." Because, as you may know by now, Politico really is just a GOP bulletin board. Martin breathlessly explained:
RNC spokesman Doug Heye just blasted out raw oppo detailing the fact that the other guys also drop some cash for fancy purposes (mostly to stroke donors).
Writes Heye above the research goodies: "I thought you might find the list below of DNC expenditures of interest."
Wow, "Blasted out raw oppo" really makes it sound impressive, doesn't it? But it was just a list of payments to hotels. Not many "research goodies" there. And Heye's I-thought-you-might-be-interested line? Was that really quote-worthy? Basically, Heye sent around a whole big pile of nothing, and Politico's Jonathan Martin tried desperately to hype it into something.
It gets worse.
Politico then followed up with an article about the email, in which reporter Andy Barr listed several of the "research goodies" the RNC provided, just in case anyone missed Martin's blog post. For example: "During the past year and half, the DNC has paid $4,464 to the limousine service Carey International." That should just about lock up a Pulitzer, don't you think?
Interestingly, Barr vouched for the accuracy of the RNC's email, writing "the data the RNC presents is accurate." Why is that interesting? Because Time's Newton-Small wrote that "the RNC couldn't provide the Federal Election Commission links to each of the searches and the DNC disputed at least one item: the catering charge at the Elysian which wasn't at the Bahamian beach resort but, rather, the Elysian Hotel in Chicago." Barr didn't address that discrepancy.
Gee, you don't think Politico's Andy Barr affirmatively vouched for the accuracy of the RNC email without first checking the information himself, do you? Because that would be dishonest and wrong.
Believe it or not, there was a time when reporters didn't simply re-print opposition research without checking into it first -- particularly when the research in question is as mundane as a list of car companies and hotels. And when affirmatively proclaiming the accuracy of partisan political attacks without actually looking into them would get a reporter in some hot water.
Yesterday, Politico published a navel-gazing piece by editor John Harris, explaining the decision to allow reporter Jonathan Allen to return after a brief stint working for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- roughly a month. Harris wrote that one of his concerns in taking Allen back was that "it seemed likely that Allen's brief tenure with a Democrat might open us to shots at our fairness by Republicans."
As I pointed out yesterday, it's a little odd that Harris would write such a line about someone with twenty years of work as a reporter and one month working for a member of Congress without noting that another Politico reporter, Jonathan Martin, worked on a Republican gubernatorial campaign, two congressional campaigns, and spent more than three years working for a Republican member of Congress. Martin left his job as press secretary to Rep. Rob Simmons in October 2005 and joined Politico upon its January 2007 launch.
Well, today, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz praises Harris' piece. After quoting both Allen's own explanation for his decision to return to journalism and Harris's concerns about bringing him back, Kurtz writes:
While television has practically obliterated the line between party insiders and pundits, I do think Republicans--and Politico readers--might be wary of someone who was so recently in the employ of a Democrat. But I give Allen and Politico major points for transparency.
Kurtz, like Harris, is concerned about a reporter who was "so recently in the employ of a Democrat." And Kurtz, like Harris, doesn't say a word about Martin. Keep in mind: Allen has twenty years of experience as a journalist, and a month of working for a member of Congress. Martin, on the other hand, came to Politico barely a year after spending more than three years with a Republican member of congress and working on at least three GOP political campaigns. And not only does Kurtz fail to mention Martin while expressing wariness about Allen's one-twelfth of a year working for a Democrat, he actually praises Harris for "transparency" after Harris omitted any mention of Martin. Incredible.
(Speaking of transparency: Harris and Kurtz were colleagues at the Washington Post before Harris left to start Politico.)
Politico's John Harris has a weird navel-gazing article about Jonathan Allen's return to journalism -- and Politico -- after a brief stint working for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Actually, it's about Politico struggling to decide whether it should take Allen back -- not because of doubts about his skills as a journalist, but because they feared a month working for a politician would irrevocably taint him:
It was a couple of weeks ago that we heard from Allen again. After a month on the job, he decided he had made a mistake. He concluded that his talents and temperament were those of a journalist, not an operative. He wanted to come back to POLITICO, if we would have him.
Ugh, again. Two thoughts were immediately at war: "Damn right, we want him," and "I'm not sure we can take him." Some critics would say he was too compromised by his brief sojourn in politics - in which he publicly aligned himself with Democrats and made a modest contribution to Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln - to return to straight reporting. I wasn't sure the critics were wrong.
I have no doubt about Jonathan Allen's ability, or my own ability, to separate personal or ideological views from reporting.
But I am enough of a traditionalist to be wary of the revolving door between politics and journalism. And it seemed likely that Allen's brief tenure with a Democrat might open us to shots at our fairness by Republicans. I viewed this as a matter of perception, not of reality.
So, Harris didn't have any doubt about Allen's ability to separate his personal views from his journalism, but worried that hiring a reporter who had a month of experience working for a Democratic politician might "open us to shots at our fairness by Republicans."
Huh. Seems like a good time for Harris to mention that Politico reporter Jonathan Martin previously worked for a Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate, two Republican congressional campaigns, and a Republican congressman, for whom he worked for more than three years.
But Harris never mentioned Martin. Weird.
... and we're going to continue to be part of the problem.
Politico's Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Martin write that the media cover Sarah Palin too much, and take her too seriously as an important political figure:
A new poll out Thursday should make those of us in the media take a look in the mirror and ask: Should we really be giving so much attention to somebody who faces so many hurdles to becoming president or even the GOP nominee in 2012?
According to the Washington Post/ABC survey, she is viewed favorably by 37 percent of Americans while 55 percent view her unfavorably. That's what pollsters call being "upside down" and, if she were an incumbent, would usually spell defeat.
Beyond polls, consider this: if Palin were to announce a bid for the White House, how many party officials would support her? Would a single governor or senator get behind her candidacy? More than 10 House members? And how about donors - how many of the bundlers that seeded President Bush's two campaigns would do the same for her?
VandeHei and Martin contend that the saturation coverage of someone so unpopular is simply a result of the fact that stories about her attract eyeballs. They do concede that they're part of the problem -- but they have no plans to stop:
We know we're part of the problem - and we'll surely continue to run stories about Palin. But, we're looking at your top newspaper editors and network executives, listen to your grumbling political reporters when they try to tell you why going over board on the Hockey Mom beat isn't wise. Palin is no doubt a phenomenon - she's going to draw monster crowds and be an in-demand fundraiser for GOP candidates this fall. And she may overcome her weaknesses to make a run for the White House. But to cover her as the chief alternative to Obama and the presumptive frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2012 borders on dishonest.
Yes, she's good copy and yes she's good for business. But that doesn't mean she should be treated like a president-in-waiting.
Now, when Jim VandeHei begs "top newspaper editors" to "listen to our grumbling political reporters" when they say Palin doesn't merit such attention, it's important to keep in mind that Jim VandeHei is no mere beat reporter: He is Politico's executive editor. Who is forcing Politico reporters to cover Palin, if not Jim VandeHei himself?
And VandeHei and Martin downplay a screamingly obvious point: The problem isn't just that media outlets like Politico give Palin too much attention, it's that the coverage they give her too rarely notes her massive shortcomings, including the poor poll numbers VandeHei and Martin lay out. It's one thing to constantly cover someone who doesn't merit the attention; it's something else altogether to dishonestly constantly cover someone who doesn't merit the attention, portraying her as a popular phenomenon when she is wildly unpopular, and glossing over her stunning lack of honesty.
VandeHei and Martin seem to have some glimmer of recognition of this; they do note that it "borders on dishonest" to cover Palin as "the chief alternative to Obama." But they suggest that's about the quantity of Palin coverage. it is, in part. But it is about the quality of that coverage, too.
UPDATE: In case you were wondering how I can be so sure that Politico won't change, here's a November 18, 2009 article by Politico's Michael Calderone:
The Palin-media co-dependency
By: Michael Calderone
November 18, 2009 04:51 PM EST
Sarah Palin talked on the campaign trail about trying to get around the elite media filter, but this week she's pushed her way straight through it.
And the media - liberal and conservative, bloggers and network anchors - have responded by dedicating magazine covers, air time and online real estate to everything related to the book-promoting, media-bashing former governor of Alaska. No matter where Palin goes, the media follow - Andrea Mitchell even hosted her MSNBC show Wednesday from the Barnes & Noble in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Palin's scheduled to sign books.
For Palin's book sales, all press is good press. And for the press, Palin is all good for the bottom line.
Since then, Politico has continued to obsess over Palin. And now Politico's executive editor writes, as though it's news, that the media and Palin have "a tangled, symbiotic affair - built on mutual dependency and mutual enabling." That isn't news -- that's basically the headline of a piece Politico itself ran three months ago!
The media was not only obsessing over the sideshow, forgoing yet another opportunity to actually inform the public about health care and the efforts to reform the insurance system. Even worse, they were all but ignoring the substance behind Wilson's claim, taking a pass on the question of whether Wilson was correct or not. (He wasn't.)
The media was not only allowing Wilson's outburst to divert the entire health care debate to a discussion of the relatively small matter of how, if at all, health care reform would treat people who are in the country illegally, they were repeating his false claim over and over without indicating its falsity.
That behavior has continued. And, incredibly, reporters actually praise news reports that fail to examine the question of whether Wilson was telling the truth. Take this Washington Post news report today: 1,300 words, not one of them indicating whether Wilson was right or wrong. 1,300 words, and it omits a central -- perhaps the central -- fact of the controversy: Wilson was wrong. And Politco's Jonathan Martin praises it as a "good story."
This will not end well.
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Following President Obama's April 29 press conference, media figures on all three major cable news channels and elsewhere asserted that the press conference was "boring." Several commentators had similarly concluded that Obama's March 24 press conference was insufficiently entertaining, echoing Matt Drudge.
Referring to a question he asked at President Obama's press conference, on Morning Joe, Chuck Todd suggested Obama was being inconsistent in not asking the American people for sacrifice -- during a recession, with millions recently unemployed -- after having criticized President Bush for failing to ask for sacrifice following 9-11.
Echoing a March 22 Politico article that was hyped by the Drudge Report, the March 23 editions of Today, Morning Joe, MSNBC Live, and Fox & Friends all featured segments on President Obama's laughter during a 60 Minutes interview. The segments are reminiscent of the media's echoing Drudge by seizing on Hillary Clinton's laugh as a new subject of attention following Clinton's talk show appearances in September 2007.
On Hardball, Chris Matthews cited a Politico article as purported evidence that "zero -- count 'em, zero Southerners have been named to the Obama Cabinet so far," and a Bloomberg article similarly asserted that Obama's Cabinet is lacking in Southerners. These claims either ignore or discount Obama's selection of Lisa Jackson, Hillary Clinton, and Robert Gates.
Disregarding U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's warning to "not cast aspersions on people for being named or being discussed" in the criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, several in the media have used the scandal as an opportunity to engage in suggestions of guilt-by-association against President-elect Barack Obama, by rehashing Obama's purportedly "questionable associations," or suggesting that Obama is a product of corrupt "Chicago politics."