Brent Bozell is getting pretty good at being ignored. Shortly after Barack Obama's reelection, the president of the conservative Media Research Center signed onto a letter warning congressional Republicans not to compromise with Democrats on taxes. The Republicans compromised. Then Bozell and his allies wrote a letter demanding that Karl Rove's American Crossroads fire a spokesman after he referred to Bozell as a "hater." No one lost their job. And all throughout 2012, Bozell's group erected billboards warning America: "DON'T BELIEVE THE LIBERAL MEDIA!" Yet according to Bozell's latest book, America spent most of 2012 believing the liberal media.
Collusion: How the Media Stole the 2012 Election -- and How to Stop Them from Doing It in 2016 is Bozell's (and co-author Tim Graham's) post-mortem of how the "liberal media" exerted its considerable influence to steal the 2012 election for the president. "Stole the 2012 Election" implies that the press behaved illicitly and in a way that contravenes the values this country holds dear, but that turns out not to be the case. "It's a free country -- at least for now, mostly -- and the national news media have the freedom to present Obama as the finest naked emperor that's ever lived," Bozell observes. "We must also salute that freedom, and defend it always." "Stole" would also seem to imply that Mitt Romney was a capable candidate who was wrongly denied the presidency, but Bozell apparently doesn't believe that either. "It was a testimony to the singular ineptness of their effort," Bozell writes of Team Romney, "that for the first time a presidential campaign chose to go into a prevent-defense crouch -- while losing."
So what happened? According to Bozell, it is "reasonable to conclude" that the media "provided four points for Obama -- his margin of victory." How he arrived at this conclusion is anyone's guess (he just sort of throws it out there after conducting a polling analysis "that, admittedly, is not entirely scientific"), but it's helpful to look at Collusion to get a sense of just how rattled and disjointed movement conservatism is in the second half of the Obama era.
"Barack Obama was a disaster," Bozell writes. "And he won reelection, handily." The tension between these two statements animates Bozell's analysis. That Obama's first term was a "disaster" is presented as a given: self-evident to anyone who was paying attention. The only plausible way to resolve that tension, per Bozell, is to point the finger once again at the media, which collectively decided to carry Obama into a second term and tear down any Republican who stood in his way.
Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center, reacted to MSNBC's announcement of Karen Finney as host of a new program by suggesting that Finney's skin is not dark enough for the "average viewer" to guess that she is African-American.
According to MSNBC's press release, "Finney, who served as the first African-American spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, has been an MSNBC political analyst and guest host on the network since 2009."
Graham responded with the following tweet:
UPDATE: Graham adds:
A new Media Matters study documents how TV news outlets -- with the exception of MSNBC -- all but ignored climate change during the 2012 election season, even covering Joe Biden's smile in the vice presidential debate more often. This blackout fit perfectly into the right's climate change playbook.
When we saw events that illustrated the impacts of climate change in the lead-up to the election, the right tried to get the media to look the other way. As wildfires raged this summer, experts said that journalists should be explaining how climate change worsens the risk of wildfires in the West. But once the media finally began to make those connections, the conservative Media Research Center lashed out at them.
When Arctic sea ice loss broke records this summer, conservative media sought to distract their mainstream counterparts by pointing to Antarctic sea ice. Nevermind that the Associated Press had explained that Antarctic sea ice gains did not undermine global warming and were in fact anticipated -- MRC claimed that AP's report was not to be trusted because it "predictably cited scientists." In the end, the record Arctic sea ice loss received little attention from TV media.
And when Hurricane Sandy hit a week before the election, the right attacked the media for even raising global warming. Fox's media criticism show, Fox News Watch, called the media "liberal" for noting the scientific connections between Sandy's destruction and climate change:
JON SCOTT: It didn't take long, though, for liberal media to trot out climate change as the reason behind this storm?
RICHARD GRENELL, FMR. ROMNEY SPOKESMAN: Yes, and that is silly, right.
While TV media's election coverage of climate change ramped up after Sandy, the coverage still totaled less than an hour on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox.
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.
In an interview on NRA News, Media Research Center Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham leveled a very serious allegation at the supposedly liberal media: They haven't spent enough time talking about the "white girlfriends" President Obama had in his early 20s.
From Graham's May 25 interview:
TIM GRAHAM, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Where we have seen [David Marannis, author of Barack Obama: The Story] excerpts are in the magazine Vanity Fair. This apparently the deal he struck. That was where they talked about his white girlfriends in college. Which again you would think that would be a story that a news media that is so conscious about race seemed to not think that was an interesting development, that Obama had these white girlfriends. And how exactly would the black women feel about Obama having white girlfriends? Well they just weren't really... again, suddenly they are race neutral. They're colorblind.
Graham's chastising of the media for supposedly ignoring Obama's white girlfriends is the latest instance of a right wing fixation on the idea that Obama has never been properly vetted by the media. The truth is the fact that Obama dated a white woman was revealed by Obama himself in 1995 when he published his memoir Dreams From My Father:
"Well...there was a woman in New York that I loved. She was white. She had dark hair, and specks of green in her eyes. Her voice sounded like a wind chime. We saw each other for almost a year. On the weekends mostly. Sometimes in her apartment, sometimes in mine. You know how you can fall into your own private world? Just two people, hidden and warm. Your own language. Your own customs. That's how it was." [Dreams From My Father, Page 210]
The real question is who exactly -- in the year 2012 -- would consider the fact that Obama dated white women to be "an interesting development"?
Readers are advised that the original article included a doctored picture of Obama and others that turned out to have anti-Semitic imagery that I didn't notice when I incorporated it into the piece. Those familiar with my work know that's not something I would intentionally do. I apologize to anyone with better eyes than I have that noticed the imagery and was in any way offended.
The replacement image is one of the top Google Images results for the phrase "obama laughing," as is the original anti-Semitic illustration.
The Media Research Center's NewsBusters blog is using an anti-Semitic image depicting Jewish control and influence over the U.S. government to illustrate one of its posts. The entry, written by NewsBusters associate editor Noel Sheppard, is accompanied by the following Photoshopped image:
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.
Conservative media are once again hyping the amount of oil in the U.S. by including oil shale, ignoring that oil companies have found no profitable way to develop that resource.
The most recent flood of misinformation came after testimony by the Government Accountability Office's Anu Mittal about "oil shale," a sedimentary rock that when heated at high temperatures can produce liquid fuels (except gasoline) with a larger carbon footprint than conventional liquid fuels. While some conservative outlets claimed it was major news, the testimony -- which was based on an October 2010 GAO report -- contained no positive developments for oil shale, which has long been known to exist in large amounts in the U.S. but is not commercially viable. Earlier this year, energy expert Robert Rapier wrote, "It is not at all clear that even at $100 oil the shale in the Green River formation will be commercialized to produce oil." Even an editor at the right-wing blog The American Thinker acknowledged that "any large scale operations" for oil shale development would be "prohibitively expensive at this time." And just recently, Chevron gave up its oil shale lease in Colorado.
Mittal noted in her testimony that no technology to develop oil shale "has been shown to be economically or environmentally viable at a commercial scale." But Fox News' nightly news show and CNSNews.com, a project of the conservative Media Research Center, failed to mention that oil shale is not currently commercially viable. Breitbart.com and Investor's Business Daily incorrectly suggested that oil shale is not being developed because of Obama administration policies, rather than economic considerations. And Powerline suggested that oil shale is in fact viable because of the "advance of extraction technology," seemingly confusing oil shale with tight oil from shale rock, which can be extracted via horizontal drilling and hydrofracking.
It's interesting to see that the same people who dismiss the enormous potential of solar and wind power and attack investment in renewable energy are hyping the potential of oil shale. A December 2011 Congressional Research Service report, which classified oil shale as a "sub-economic" resource, stated that "despite government programs in the 1970s and early 1980s to stimulate development of the resource, production of oil shale is not yet commercially viable."
Media Research Center director of media analysis Tim Graham wrote on his Twitter feed today: "If black Christian voters still vote for Obama now, they're not really Christians. Just like Robin Roberts for being such a lamb on ABC":
Graham was apparently referring to President Obama's interview with ABC News correspondent Robin Roberts, during which he announced his support for marriage equality, saying, "I think same sex couples should be able to get married."
As Graham's tweet shows, conservatives have been speculating about how African-American voters would take the news. Here's how Limbaugh highlighted the issue recently: "African-Americans on the Democrats' side, I hate to tell you what this came down to is the color of your skin versus the color of their money. Where Obama's concerned, guess what he chose."
This morning on Fox News, contributor Deneen Borelli took up the theme, repeatedly claiming that Obama has "thrown the black community really under the bus in order to get money from the gay community and to get their votes":
Recent polling, however, shows that black voters have not changed their views of Obama as a result of his statement on same-sex marriage.
According to the Media Research Center, the best way to "save America from socialism and economic run" and "expose an expanding plot to silence Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and all conservative media in America" is to send the conservative group at least $25.
That warning is detailed in a fundraising letter obtained by Media Matters detailing MRC's "Soros Project" which is described as "an urgent new special project of the Media Research Center."
The letter is signed by MRC founder and President L. Brent Bozell. It rambles on for eight pages and attempts to scare up donations for MRC by concocting a vast conspiracy involving philanthropist George Soros, members of the media, and Media Matters.
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.
During a discussion of gasoline prices, frequent Fox News guest Brent Bozell claimed that U.S. oil production has fallen under President Obama. In reality, the opposite is true: after increasing every year since 2009, oil production is at an eight-year high; gas prices continue to rise because they are determined by a world market, not by U.S. production.
Talk about throwing good money after bad.
Last week, cantankerous media watchdog Brent Bozell announced his group, Media Research Center, was launching the largest initiative in its 25 years history -- a $5 million marketing campaign urging the "liberal media" to "tell the truth!" Bozell urged Americans to stand up during this election year and "declare, once and for all, that the leftwing so-called news media are no longer going to pick winners and losers."
Featuring mobile billboards and "Tell The Truth!" placards, the MRC campaign is drawing inspiration from Newt Gingrich's candidacy, and specifically Gingrich's calculated pushback against the press. That crusade reached its peak on the night of the South Carolina debate when he won a standing ovation after castigating moderator John King for opening the debate by asking about allegations Gingrich's former wife had made in the press that week about their marriage.
Bozell soon announced Gingrich's primary win in South Caroline represented a "defeat for the liberal media." He urged GOP candidates to pick up Gingrich's anti-media mantle and to denounce the elites' "mission to destroy" Republican hopefuls.
All of this, as usual with Bozell, is a charade.
In fact, all that the MRC's new "Tell The Truth!" campaign does is highlight the dubious nature of the long-running "liberal media" bias production. The punch line surrounding this multi-million dollar marketing drive? It's being rolled out at the exact moment the conservative press is attacking Gingrich.
It's true. Last week Gingrich likely received better, or at least fairer, treatment in the pages of The New York Times than he did at The Drudge Report, which dedicated several days to posting a litany of harassing headlines and relentlessly targeting the former Republican Speaker of the House, treating him as if he were the political reincarnation of Bill Clinton.
It seems conservative pundits are the ones on a "mission to destroy" Gingrich's candidacy. But Bozell can't say that out loud because he has a phony, "liberal media" campaign to launch.
From the December 22 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Last year, the right-wing Media Research Center launched an attack on an art exhibit on gay self-portraiture at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, with particular focus on one item: a video by artist David Wojnarowicz that includes a few seconds of an image of ants crawling over a crucifix. The Catholic League, for which MRC chief Brent Bozell serves as an adviser, soon joined the pile-on. The Smithsonian ultimately succumbed to the right-wing pressure and removed the video from the exhibit.
Now, the "Hide/Seek" exhibit has moved to a new venue, the Brooklyn Museum. And the manufactured outrage has begun anew.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue initially said he wouldn't he wouldn't fight the exhibit and the Wojnarowicz video, telling the New York Daily News, "We can't be like in a dog and pony show every time they show the stupid video." Donohue apparently changed his mind, issuing a press release on the exhibit the same day the Daily News published his remarks. In the release, Donohue attacked the museum for hosting the exhibit and declared that Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992, "died of self-inflicted wounds":
The fact is that the artist who made the vile video died of self-inflicted wounds: he died of AIDS. The homosexual, David Wojnarowicz, hated the Catholic Church (had he lived by its teachings, he would not have self-destructed). He once referred to Cardinal John O'Connor as a "fat cannibal," and labeled the Catholic Church a "house of walking swastikas." Sounds like the words of a bigot.
Meanwhile, the MRC's Penny Starr, reporter for its "news" division, CNSNews.com, was back on the case as well. In a November 15 CNS article, Starr highlighted Catholic criticism of the Wojnarowicz video "depicting Jesus Christ on a cross with ants crawling over him," described the "Hide/Seek" exhibition as "gay erotic" without attribution, and put "art" in scare quotes when describing previous Brooklyn Museum exhibitions.
Missing from Starr's report was any mention of the artist's intent regarding the 11-second shot of the ants on the crucifix. As The Washington Post reported in December:
Ants, for Wojnarowicz, were a mysterious stand-in for humanity and part of a lifelong fascination with the natural world that his friend, artist Kiki Smith, recalls was part of a charmingly boyish rapture with creepy, crawling things. When asked what he thought of God, he responded by wondering rhetorically "why ants aren't the things that destroy the world instead of people." There is a host of theological possibility in that thought: Is God as indifferent to humans as humans are to ants? Should we love the small things of the planet as we hope to be loved by God?
But who needs nuance or comprehensive reporting when there's anti-gay outrage to manufacture?