The Washington Post updated a piece from columnist Marc Thiessen to note his financial ties to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and indicated the need for better disclosure in future Thiessen columns on the 2016 presidential campaign, in response to inquiries from Media Matters.
On September 1, the Post published a column from Thiessen criticizing the idea of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney running for president again in 2016. In the piece, Thiessen identified Scott Walker as one of several "successful governors" that would be a preferable candidate. Thiessen co-authored Walker's 2013 book, a fact the columnist has previously disclosed when writing about the governor for the Post but which went unmentioned in his latest column.
Media Matters published a piece criticizing the Post and reached out to the paper's editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, who indicated that Thiessen's mention of Walker was "so glancing" that it did not warrant disclosure. But the Post subsequently reversed course, adding text to the column explaining, "Full disclosure: I co-authored a book with Walker."
Hiatt told Media Matters that he intends to meet with Thiessen to discuss the need for a "best approach" to disclosure in future columns touching on the 2016 presidential campaign.
"You are right that he has disclosed the relationship with Walker whenever he writes about Walker. In this case the reference to Walker was so glancing that I didn't think the co-authorship needed to be re-disclosed," Hiatt said in an email. "But you ask a reasonable question, and as the campaign proceeds I will talk with Marc about what the best approach will be."
The original lack of disclosure drew criticism from media ethicists who said leaving out the fact that Thiessen had co-authored a book with Walker is misleading to readers.
"I think this kind of entanglement is unacceptable," said Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. "Where you don't know if a particular writer's column is a payback for favors done in the past or auditions for jobs sought in the future. The reader is not in a place to make any intelligent decisions based on the off-screen relationships. The fact that he is getting money off screen is just not compatible with that."
As Wasserman suggested, Thiessen's extensive political career would make him a plausible hire in a Walker administration. The two have "developed a bond," according to the Post's own reporting.
Kevin Smith, ethics committee chair of the Society of Professional Journalists, said such financial connections "widen an already large divide between the journalist and the public's right to be accurately and fairly informed."
Former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, who has a financial relationship with Gov. Scott Walker, is using his Washington Post column to lavish praise on the Wisconsin Republican and help position him for a 2016 presidential run.
In 2013, Thiessen co-authored Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge with Walker. According to the book's publisher, Unintimidated "tells the dramatic story of how one brave leader drove real change in his state, and what the rest of the country can learn from him. ... It's not just a memoir -- it's a call to action."
A few months ago, Post reporters Philip Rucker and Robert Costa documented the trend of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates attempting to "study up on issues and cultivate ties to pundits and luminaries from previous administrations." Among those listed was Walker, whom they reported has "developed a bond with Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen." According to the Post, "when Thiessen helped Walker write the governor's memoir, they talked via Skype about many issues."
The Post reported after the book's announcement that considering Walker's looming re-election campaign and possible 2016 presidential run, "writing a book with a high-profile GOP strategist is a notable step onto the national stage." Thiessen's help in getting Walker on the national stage isn't limited to the book -- he has also devoted significant column space to praising him, often at the expense of potential 2016 rivals.
Given his career of service to Republicans in the White House and on Capitol Hill, Thiessen's support for Walker at the Post may preface a future role with a Walker campaign or administration.
Right-wing columnist Marc Thiessen hypocritically attacked President Obama for taking a weekend trip during the crisis in Ukraine, ignoring the fact that, not only did President Bush deliver remarks on the 2008 invasion of Georgia while on vacation, but those remarks were delivered while Thiessen himself was Bush's head speechwriter.
In a March 10 Washington Post column, Thiessen criticized Obama for his recent trip to Florida during an ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Thiessen claimed "It's winter for democracy in Ukraine but for Obama and Biden it's spring break" and went on to claim that Obama should have delivered remarks from the Oval Office:
While more Russian forces were pouring into Crimea this past weekend, and Russian legislators announced their readiness to annex the Ukrainian province, where was our commander in chief? Monitoring events in the Situation Room? Meeting with the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon? Holding an emergency meeting of NATO leaders? Nope. He was enjoying the Florida sunshine with his family at an oceanfront resort in Key Largo.
And Vice President Biden? He was on vacation in the Virgin Islands.
It's winter for democracy in Ukraine, but for Obama and Biden it's spring break.
Both the president and the vice president go on vacation. At the same time. During an international crisis. You can't make this up.
If the president wants to use body language to send a message to Russia, the way to do it is to lean across the Resolute desk, look into a television camera and tell America and the world what is at stake in Ukraine -- and what he intends to do to help the Ukrainian people.
But Obama is not the first president to deliver remarks about Russian military aggression while on vacation -- a fact that Thiessen, of all people, should know. On August 16, 2008, during the Russian invasion into Georgia, President George W. Bush delayed a planned vacation for one day, then delivered remarks on the situation from his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Those remarks were likely written, at least partially, by Thiessen himself who was Bush's chief speechwriter at the time.
Other media outlets have criticized the timing of Obama's trip to Florida without mentioning Bush's 2008 trip to Crawford, and Thiessen has recently attacked Obama for "emboldening" Putin while advocating for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline as a solution to the ongoing crisis.
Washington Post columnist and former Republican speechwriter Marc Thiessen erroneously claimed that a recent report shows the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will reduce wages and cause a "$70 billion pay cut" when in fact the report shows that the health care law will result in increased compensation.
On February 4, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual 10-year projection of current policy's impact on the budget and economy. The report garnered so much attention following its release that CBO Director Doug Elmendorf was forced to issue a public response refuting misleading allegations that the ACA would erase up to 2.5 million jobs over the next decade.
Having lost the battle to spin the ACA as a job killer, right-wing media have pivoted to a new erroneous claim: Americans will see a "$70 billion pay cut" thanks to the health reform law.
On February 10, Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen published an op-ed claiming that "buried on page 117" of the CBO report was evidence of the ACA depressing American wages. Thiessen spun the report's mention of a "roughly 1 percent reduction in aggregate labor compensation over the 2017-2024 period" to mean that the health care law was taking money out of the pockets of working-class Americans. From The Washington Post:
Obamacare means a 1 percent pay cut for American workers.
How much does that come to? Since wages and salaries were about $6.85 trillion in 2012 and are expected to exceed $7 trillion in 2013 and 2014, a 1 percent reduction in compensation is going to cost American workers at least $70 billion a year in lost wages.
Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research was quick to note that the next decade will see relative compensation increase as a result of health reform. Had Thiessen included the CBO's actual conclusion in his analysis, he would have found that the CBO projects hours worked to decrease more than relative compensation. From CEPR (emphasis added):
"According to CBO's more detailed analysis, the 1 percent reduction in aggregate compensation that will occur as a result of the ACA corresponds to a reduction of about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent in hours worked. (p 127)"
We checked with Mr. Arithmetic and he pointed out that if hours fall by 1.5 to 2.0 percent, but compensation only falls by 1.0 percent, then compensation per hour rises by 0.5-1.0 percent due to the ACA. In other words, CBO is telling us that for each hour worked, people will be seeing higher, not lower wages. That is the opposite of a pay cut.
In a February 6 New York Times op-ed addressing the CBO's findings, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman arrived at a similar conclusion. Among numerous corrections of right-wing media distortion, Krugman noted that "wages will go up, not down" in response to a marginally and voluntarily diminished supply of labor over the next decade.
This sort of factual analysis is missing from a right-wing media landscape unilaterally aligned against every facet of the ACA. Right-wing media have spent years promoting an array of false claims about the calamitous effects of the health care law, and recent Media Matters research exposed conservative media turning to misrepresentations of the CBO's findings to support claims that the ACA is going to destroy the job market.
After initially misreporting and downplaying the damage done to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by a recent Supreme Court decision, Fox News almost completely ignored the law until the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicated it will once again be enforced.
As was expected by election law experts, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the DOJ will once again enforce the VRA against Texas' recent changes to its election practices, which federal courts have already blocked as racially discriminatory. Because these previous injunctions were based on the "preclearance" powers of Sections 4 and 5 of the VRA -- now nullified by the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling June 25 in Shelby County v. Holder that Section 4 was outdated -- the DOJ is bringing its new lawsuit under a different provision, Section 3.
Despite host Shannon Bream's promise to keep her panel "straight," a segment on the July 25 edition of Fox News' America Live featuring conservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen inaccurately explained the new VRA action and repeated long-debunked GOP talking points on voter ID.
Thiessen's claim that voter ID laws "don't disenfranchise anybody" because there are ID requirements for other government services that are not fundamental constitutional rights is not only a silly comparison, it's sloppy.
Conservative media are attacking President Obama for supposedly criticizing scheduled across-the-board cuts, known as the sequester, while not proposing alternatives to avoid them. In reality, Obama has proposed a plan to replace the sequester that includes over $930 billion in spending cuts and $580 billion in new tax revenue.
Right-wing media figures are urging Republicans to refuse to compromise on budget and taxes, action that would induce automatic government budget cuts and broad tax increases and herald another recession. But economists agree that a budget deal needs to include some tax increases, which would significantly raise revenue, and that more revenue must be part of a balanced solution to lowering the deficit.
Fox News contributor Karl Rove claimed that President Obama skipped intelligence briefings following the September 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, Obama received multiple intelligence briefings after the attack, including on September 12, and the right-wing media claim that Obama regularly skips presidential daily briefings has been refuted.
Washington Post columnist and former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen urged Mitt Romney to build his presidential campaign around a Super PAC ad that has been called misleading by independent fact-checkers.
The ad, from Fox News contributor Karl Rove's pro-Republican super PAC American Crossroads, criticizes President Obama for the nation's high unemployment rate and claims, among other things, that there are now "fewer jobs than when [Obama] started."
Independent fact-checkers have rated that charge false, pointing out that according to recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more jobs now than when Obama took office. Thiessen, who appeared on Fox News' America Live to discuss tonight's presidential debate, ignored that analysis.
After host Megyn Kelly played an excerpt from the ad stating that Obama hasn't kept his promise of a 5.6 percent unemployment rate, Thiessen encouraged Romney to build his campaign around the ad, saying, "I think it's exactly the right message to have going forward."
Thiessen's claim that Obama "said he would lower the unemployment rate 5.6 percent, but we've now had our 43rd month of above 8 percent unemployment" is also bogus. A report produced by Obama's economic advisers did predict unemployment would be 5.6 percent, but the report was produced before the release of data showing the recession was much worse than previously estimated. Indeed, in March 2009, the BEA estimated that the overall U.S. economy had declined by 6.3 percent during the fourth quarter of 2008 -- nearly twice as much as BEA's "advance" estimate of 3.8 percent.
In February, Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's resident fact-checker, criticized Romney for claiming that Obama said the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8 percent, writing:
Given that we first outlined the problems with this claim more than a year ago -- and given that the facts are clearly known to the Romney campaign -- it is distressing that Romney would continue hype it up into such a misleading assertion.
By pushing that same misleading assertion -- an assertion long debunked, including by his own paper's fact-checker -- Thiessen again demonstrated his commitment to post-truth journalism.
Welcome to the age of post-truth journalism.
Glenn Kessler, the resident fact checker at The Washington Post, took Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney to task last month for continuing to accuse President Obama of going on an "apology tour," writing with clear exasperation: "Despite earning Four Pinocchios for months, Romney keeps saying this."
Kessler's lament neatly sums up the problem of post-truth politics, a problem that has plagued the political press throughout the campaign, as pants-on-fire falsehoods accusing Obama of ending welfare work requirements, and four Pinnochio fabrications about Medicare funding were repeated on a loop en route to a Republican National convention built on the "you didn't build that" lie and focusing on Paul Ryan's fact-free convention speech.
Put simply by Boston Phoenix political journalist David Bernstein:
More important for media professionals: What do you do when people employed by your own media outlet practice post-truth journalism? What if the entire news media, including your own in-house fact-checker, has called out your colleague's lie, but he keeps pressing it? Now what?
Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, came under fire this week over a self-evidently false attack in the Post questioning President Obama's commitment to national security.
The central claim in Thiessen's September 10 column was that Obama has not prioritized national security. Thiessen's evidence was a report (a report, it later turned out, that he commissioned) claiming that Obama has not attended half of his daily intelligence briefings.
The column itself was self-defeating: Thiessen acknowledged in the column that Obama reads his intelligence briefing every day, quoting a spokesman for the National Security Council who said that Obama "reads his [security briefing] every day." All Thiessen is quibbling over is whether Obama has his briefing dictated to him, or whether he reads it.
Perhaps book on tape would satisfy the Post scribe?
Thiessen's self-evident falsehood, published in the Post, became fodder for a Karl Rove ad, at which point Kessler weighed in, giving the "bogus" and "misguided attack" three Pinnochios.
Thiessen quickly thumbed his nose at the Post's fact checker
And Thiessen is not alone in the Post's stable of post-truth columnists. In a September 28 column, Charles Krauthammer claimed that Obama's entire Middle East foreign policy has been built on apologies - the very basis of Kessler's exasperated Aug. 30 critique of Romney.
Despite earning four Pinnochios for months, the Post keeps printing this?
Right-wing media have responded to the attacks in Libya and Egypt by pointing fingers at President Obama, saying his policies are to blame. Conservative media figures are also amplifying blame by harping on the accusation that Obama does not attend daily intelligence briefings in person; in fact, Obama receives national security briefings in other ways throughout his day.
Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen falsely claimed that 90 percent of small businesses would face a tax hike under President Obama's tax plan. Official estimates and independent analysts agree that Thiessen is wrong, and thatonly about 3 percent of businesses make enough profit to face the proposed higher rates.
After Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion upholding health care reform, the right-wing media have attacked his conservative credentials. Despite experts' statements that the opinion might have cleared the way for more rulings restricting federal power and progressive legislation, media conservatives are using this as a pretext to demand even more conservative judicial nominees. There is evidence their pressure is having an effect.
Marc Thiessen's recent attack on Chief Justice John Roberts for his opinion upholding the health care reform law attempts to move the right's ideological goal posts for the Court from the strongly conservative part of the field into what Reagan Administration Solicitor General Charles Fried has called "radically reactionary" territory. Thiessen, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, expressed his discontent in a July 2 Washington Post op-ed that criticized Roberts - a Bush appointee - for agreeing with the court's liberal members in an opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act. He framed his attack as a lament over the supposed difficulties Republican presidents have had in confirming dependably conservative justices.
But in doing so, Thiessen downplayed Roberts' extensive record of voting similarly to his fellow conservatives, especially Samuel Alito, whom Thiessen identified as a reliable conservative. Thieseen also ignored the well documented shift in the court's ideological center in recent years: the four "liberal" justices are much closer to the center than William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall and other justices on the court's left only a few decades previously. In this way, Thiessen paints a picture of liberal triumph and conservative frustration which bears scant relationship to reality, which is the most conservative Supreme Court in modern times.
Thiessen grouped Roberts with justices who disappointed conservatives (Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter, both of whom are no longer on the court) as opposed to acknowledged right-wing successes Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. He attempted to make this case by focusing solely on the health care decision, and downplaying the rest of Roberts' record as a justice.
That record is clear. Roberts is, to use Thiessen's expression, a "rock-ribbed conservative." In the just-completed 2011 Supreme Court term, he voted with the Thiessen-approved Justice Alito in 90.5 percent of cases, after voting with him 96.2 percent of the time in the 2010 term. Roberts also voted with Justice Thomas in 87.8 percent of cases and Justice Scalia in 86.5 percent of cases in the most recent term. In other words, in the overwhelming majority of cases, Roberts votes with the justices whom Thiessen acknowledges to be acceptably conservative.
Conservative media are downplaying the severity of public sector job cuts by trumpeting data showing that the unemployment rate among government workers in May was 4.2 percent. But that statistic doesn't change the fact that public sector job cuts in this recovery have been more severe compared with previous recoveries and experts contend these cuts not only threaten the recovering economy but also impact private sector job growth.