Earlier this week, writing at Foxnews.com, the Media Research Center's Dan Gainor published a very ominous look at the media world of George Soros, and how the progressive billionaire was trying to "influence" the American press by funding various journalism institutions, such as ProPublica and the Columbia School of Journalism.
The piece contained some sizable holes, however. For instance, we noted how Gainor failed to mention the ominous Soros "ties" that could be connected between Soros and Fox News if you wanted to play the guilt-by-association game that Gainor engaged in. While Gainor didn't like some of the topics being covered by the Soros-funded institutions, he failed to point out anything that was wrong or unseemly or biased with the journalism they produced. In fact, Gainor praised their work.
It's almost funny reading Gainor's latest because there's no point to the endeavor, other than' "OMG, George Soros donates lots of money to journalism institutions!" Right, but that's no secret, so what's the conflict?
Because once again Gainor can't point to anything wrong with the journalism in question. Gainor can't find any examples, or even allegations, of Soros trying to influence reports. Nor does Gainor suggest Soros' financial support in any way has an impact on the stories produced. So no, Gainor can't point to anything questionable about the journalism that Soros has helped fund.
I suppose readers are supposed to be shocked and horrified by the amount of money Soros has reportedly spent in recent years helping out journalism institutions: $48 million!
But honestly, I feel like Dr. Evil should read that number out loud to give it its proper due. And I'm sorry but somebody writing for Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, pretending that a billionaire spending $48 million over eight years is a big deal and cause for concern? Gimme a break. Murdoch loses $48 million (let alone spends that amount) on the New York Post every year between January and September.
The daily lost $70 million in 2009, which means in the eight years Soros has spent $45 million buying media "influence," Murdoch has lost perhaps $600 million on the New York Post alone. But yes, readers should be deeply, deeply concerned about all the influence Soros is trying to buy up by spending a fraction of what Murdoch does on American media.
Note to Gainor: If you want to launch a worthwhile investigation, look into why Fox News boss Murdoch has spent billions funding media organizations in America, and then detail all the blatantly slanted and sloppy journalism his media outlets produce in order to advance Murdoch's personal political agenda.
Now that's a story.
In a game previously reserved for fans of Kevin Bacon, Fox News contributed an entire segment of Fox & Friends today to playing six degrees of separation between financier and philanthropist George Soros and various media outlets. Co-host Steve Doocy and Media Research Center (MRC) Vice President for Business and Culture Dan Gainor had a grand time screaming about Soros's so-called bid to "buy" his way into the media because he was tenuously "tie[d]" to 30 different news organizations. Not mentioned in the segment? That if you're claiming that Soros is or was tied in a somewhat convoluted manner to various media outlets, then one of those outlets is - you guessed it - Fox News.
According to Doocy, "transparency is supposed to be the foundation of journalism." So why, then, did Doocy fail to mention that News Corporation--the media conglomerate that owns Fox News--indeed had ties to Soros? The media outlets that were mentioned in the MRC's study include NPR, PBS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, NBC and ABC, all of whom have previously been criticized by right-wing outlets as having politics that are supposedly too far to the left. But these "ties" are little more than extremely convoluted connections between media personnel and Soros. In a nutshell, their logic goes like this: A journalism professional sits on the board of an organization that once received Soros-linked donations. Therefore, the organization said journalism professional works for is "[l]inked to George Soros." So, for example, according to the MRC, ABC News and the Washington Post are "[l]inked" to Soros because "prominent journalists like ABC's Christiane Amanpour and former Washington Post editor and now Vice President Len Downie serve on boards of operations that take Soros cash."
By this logic, one could connect Soros to Fox News.
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?
With gasoline prices nearly $1/gallon higher than they were a year ago, some media outlets -- echoing Republican politicians -- have sought to place the blame on the Obama administration's energy policies, pointing to the temporary ban on deep-water drilling (but not production) imposed for several months following the BP oil spill. It's an easy enough claim to make: Obama restricted oil drilling, and now prices are higher. The only problem is that no credible economists -- including those who favor expanded U.S. drilling -- will say this claim is valid.
But the Media Research Center is so certain of Obama's culpability that its Business and Media Institute produced a study criticizing network news outlets for failing to blame Obama's drilling policies while reporting on high gas prices. From the study:
Out of 280 oil price stories since the disastrous pill, just 1 percent (3 out of 280) mentioned any connection between Obama's anti-oil efforts, such as the drilling moratorium, and rapidly rising gas prices.
Instead of asking whether Obama's anti-oil policies could be increasing the cost of gas, the networks blamed other factors such as Mideast turmoil or the "money game" played by speculators. Certainly, the turmoil in Libya, Egypt and surrounding nations has increased worries about oil production and can influence the price. But the networks also should have looked for explanations much closer to home.
MRC president Brent Bozell appeared on Fox News to promote the study, saying that "drilling is down 13 percent in the last year -- down 13 percent in the last year. That is a huge, huge contributor to the problem that we have now of rising gas prices." He said "huge" twice, which is almost like providing support for his claim.
According to its website, the MRC's Business and Media Institute exists to give journalists "a helping hand to have an informed understanding of our nation's free enterprise system."
So how's that going?
From the April 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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In a segment that shows that Fox News may actually inhabit Bizarro World, Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade hosted Media Research Center executive director L. Brent Bozell to claim that President Obama "seems to be getting a free pass from most media outlets" for some of his decisions on Libya, while President Bush got "anything but a free pass" in the lead-up to the Iraq war.
If Kilmeade and Bozell are to be believed, in the lead up to the Iraq war the media reported critically about the Bush administration's claims, providing us with a variety of viewpoints on the issue and legitimately debating the administration's case for going to war. If only we were so lucky. In reality, the media acted as Bush's lapdogs, eagerly parroting every dubious claim the Bush administration made about Iraq and shouting down the few who dared to disagree. So bad was the media's coverage of Iraq, many major media outlets have since issued apologies for their complete and total failure to investigate any of the claims made by the Bush administration.
Terry Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of Media Research Center subsidiary CNSNews, takes the right's war on public school teachers a few steps further:
What Wisconsin ought to be debating is whether these public school teachers should keep their jobs at all.
Then every state ought to follow Wisconsin in the same debate.
It is time to drive public schools out of business by driving them into an open marketplace where they must directly compete with schools not run by the government or staffed by members of parasitic public employees' unions.
In addition to being less expensive and better than public schools at teaching math and reading, Catholic schools -- like any private schools -- can also teach students that there is a God, that the Ten Commandments are true and must be followed, that the Founding Fathers believed in both and that, ultimately, American freedom depends on fidelity to our Judeo-Christian heritage even more than it depends on proficiency in reading and math.
That's what at least some conservatives want to get out of their attacks on unions: The complete elimination of public schools. And Jeffrey is adamant that private schools not be regulated by states in any way: "the state shall not regulate the private schools, period." That means no oversight to make sure private schools are successfully educating children. Or to make sure they're providing safe conditions and sanitary facilities. Nothing. What could possibly go wrong?
All I want to know is what took Brent Bozell so long?
Sure, the right-wing warrior sounded the alarm about a gay-themed art exhibit at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. And yes, Bozell, with the help of top House Republican leaders, Fox News and the rest of the GOP Noise Machine, was able to get one piece of the exhibit pulled; a four-minute video that featured, for symbolic reasons, 11 seconds worth of footage showing ants crawling across a crucifix.
But c'mon, that crucial Smithsonian concession came on December 2, days after rabble rousers at the Media Research Center started airing concerns about the suddenly objectionable, privately funded exhibit, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture."
When did "Hide/Seek" and its more than 100 piece of art actually open to the public? October 30. That's right, the gallery was able to showcase the exhibit unfettered for nearly an entire month. (Doesn't anyone at the MRC read the Washington Post?)
How come Bozell didn't protect unsuspecting art patrons from traveling to a gallery that was hosting an mature-themed exhibit about gay artists and stop them from being exposed to….gay art? (And "displays of Male genitals"!) If Bozell and teammates at Fox News are truly going to defend traditional values and protect us from "blasphemous" art, they can't sit on their hands for nearly 30 days while these types of crimes against the taxpayers play out in broad daylight. Nay, while they're flaunted in broad daylight.
Bozell is calling for Congressional hearings to find out who okayed "Hide/Seek" and who led the "direct assault on Christianity." (Heads must roll!) But I think that misses the real stumble here, which is why I'm calling for Congressional hearings to find out why Bozell and his arts patrol team missed the Smithsonian blockbuster for nearly an entire month.
Because honestly, if Bozell and his buddies aren't going to be vigilant about this kind of "hate speech," who is? Did you know that on November 21, the Smithsonian sponsored Family and Friends Day? Who knows how many innocent friends and family were subjected to objectionable art while Bozell's team was asleep at the cultural war switch?
And during the Christmas season!!
Hint: MRC has very little to do with media or media criticism. It's just a right-wing hate organization that happens to hate the press almost as much as it hates Democrats and liberals and gays and scores of other favorite targets. It's just that now with the Smithsonian crusade, Brent Bozell's MRC operation isn't even pretending its mission is to police the press.
Oh, I realize that's what it still says on its website:
The mission of the Media Research Center, "America's Media Watchdog," is to bring balance to the news media.
But that's not what the group really does. In terms of the media, all it does is whine incessantly about some far-flung conspiracy among working journalists who have taken a supposed oath of loyalty to the Democratic Party. Meaning, its media analysis has always been a joke.
But hating the media only takes up part of MRC's time. It also launches smear campaigns against great American institutions, such as the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. (See here, here and here.)
What does today's manufactured controversy have to do with the media? Nothing. Zero. As in, zilch. There is no connection. Instead, the story is about how Bozell and others in the angry, far-right spectrum hate government-funded art.
Bozell's ringmaster role in the Smithsonian witch hunt would be like if the head of Media Matters started writing letters to senators and went on TV demanding the START nuclear treaty be ratified, while all the time lying about the facts in play.
The MRC's attack on the Smithsonian is a misguided one, but at least it helps reveal what the right-wing group is really all about: Hating all things liberal, real or imagined.
Media Research Center president Brent Bozell took to CNN last night to make the outrageous accusation that the Smithsonian Institution has put on an art exhibit that would be appealing if "you are into religious bigotry." In doing so, Bozell ignored reporting from his own organization and used a series of contentious descriptions of the works in the exhibit to incite anti-gay sentiment.
Bozell also has sent letters to Congress that purport to speak "on behalf" of "the overwhelming majority of Americans who call themselves Christian." In the letters, Bozell demanded "Congressional hearings to investigate the Smithsonian Institution for its attack on Christian values and common decency." The letters repeatedly reference the federal tax dollars that the Smithsonian receives.
This isn't just about Bozell's attempt to control what the public can and cannot see at museums. It's also about attempting to choke off public funding for the arts.
The third time's a charm for CNSNews.com reporter and nascent museum critic Penny Starr.
In March, Starr complained that a Smithsonian exhibit asking "What Does It Mean to Be Human?" lacked "references to God, creationism, or pre-natal existence." In June, Starr was annoyed that a Library of Congress exhibit on Bob Hope "focuses more on politics than it does on the legacy of a movie star who used his talents to support the U.S. military around the world," seemingly ignoring that the exhibit focused on "performers, politics and pop culture."
Those didn't get much attention. But now, one of her gems of museum criticism has finally hit the jackpot. In a November 29 article, she writes:
The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently showing an exhibition that features images of an ant-covered Jesus, male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show's catalog as "homoerotic."
The exhibit, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," opened on Oct. 30 and will run throughout the Christmas Season, closing on Feb. 13.
Bingo! Something about "homoerotic" and "ant-covered Jesus," combined with a mention of the Christmas season, seems to have struck the right nerve among right-wingers. Drudge linked to it, and the Breitbart empire has weighed in. And it seems more than a little convenient that top congressional Republicans have told Starr they want the exhibit shut down, quickly followed by Starr's boss, the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell, demanding not just that the exhibit be killed but also that Congress investigate this "direct assault on Christianity."
As Starr acknowledged in her article, the exhibit -- like every Smithsonian exhibit -- is not paid for by taxpayer funds. But Bozell doesn't care because, as he wrote in one of his letters to congressional leaders, "[i]t is housed in a federal institution funded by the American people."
It must be tough working on Media Research Center's blog. Think about it -- day in and day out, the fine folks at Newsbusters do their level best to shout down progressive media figures, manufacture scandals out of thin air and prove that no one does hypocrisy and ridiculousness quite like them. Some examples:
Much, much more here.
And what do they get for their hard work? Not much. Sure, Newsbusters' talking heads pop up on Fox News from time to time but you wouldn't know it if you listened to some of their natural allies on the right. It's sort of like one of those "out of sight, out of mind" situations.
Take this from Sean Hannity on his radio program yesterday for example (emphasis added):
First of all, these self appointed, well-funded media groups that spend their days literally taping, monitoring everything that every conservative in the country is saying in the hopes that they can catch a conservative saying that they find politically incorrect or distasteful. And then they can silence them. They can either target their advertisers or they could, you know, start an outright campaign, as in [Andrew Breitbart's] case, to get you off of coverage and get your voice silenced because they don't like what you say. Now this is troubling to me from a lot of aspects. Number one, they don't do the same thing to liberal groups. There's no conservative equivalent, if you will. And conservatives don't do the same things. They're not calling for these boycotts. *
Or this nugget from a discussion with discredited hack Andrew Breitbart on Fox News' Red Eye last week:
BILL SCHULZ: No one ever wants to talk about David Koch. It's always Soros.
BREITBART: What is the corollary that the Kochs are paying for that Media Matters -- which is the craziest, its reams and reams and reams of transcripts and disagreeing with every word that comes out. What have the Koch brothers ever funded ** that is the equivalent of [Media Matters]?
Or this from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) last year:
"We need a communications organizations [sic] that can, again, match Media Matters."
Maybe Media Research Center needs to do some more legwork to establish Newsbusters on the right -- it's only been around for five years. Then again, Media Research Center has been around since 1987 so is there really any excuse for their allies to keep forgetting about their very existence?
** Yes, the Kochs have funded MRC.
"Liberal media bias" has been part of the conservative mantra ever since the Goldwater era, and in that time the supposed leftward tilt of the mainstream press has served admirably as a scapegoat for Republican political misfortune. A Democrat wins an election? The biased media carried water for that liberal. A Republican caught in a scandal? He was the victim of a liberal media witch hunt. And so on.
The plausibility of the claim is dubious at best, as it requires one to believe not just that the entire media stacks the decks for liberals, but that Republicans and conservatives are somehow able to thrive despite the fact that the American media -- without question the most potent political entity on earth -- is arrayed against them.
Nonetheless, the supposed liberal slants of journalists remain a concern for the right, and individual reporters are often singled out and attacked for their allegedly biased ways. That serves their immediate purposes well enough, but what happens when those same journalists act in decidedly un-liberal ways and report information that conservatives want to exploit? Predictably, those past accusations of bias quickly cease to matter. Consider the curious case of Bob Woodward.
Brent Baker uses a September 8 NewsBusters post to attack ABC's Christiane Amanpour for allegedly serving as a "public relations agent" to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf by spending "several hours" with him for an interview. Baker claimed that during the interview, Rauf "warned, as he did on Wednesday's Larry King Live, that if he doesn't get his way Muslims will murder Americans." Baker added: "Amanpour, however, didn't describe that as a protection racket or suggest he's employing blackmail."
That might be a valid concern if that's what Rauf is doing -- but it isn't. Baker is merely parroting the right-wing line that Rauf is threatening America with terrorist attacks if he's not able to build the Park51 Islamic center, and ignoring the fact that officials such as Gen. David Petraeus have said pretty much the same thing as Rauf regarding the national security implications of anti-Muslim protests.
In effect, what Baker is demanding is that Amanpour tell a lie by twisting Rauf's words to conform to Baker's political agenda.
Baker, by the way, is no low-level NewsBusters blogger
That a top MRC official wants the media to spread lies says all too much about the standard of "media research" at the MRC.
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.