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.
Yep, the right-wing DC rag that never turned a profit was sold back to Rev. Sun Myung Moon -- the man who believes he is Christ returned to earth (seriously) -- for $1 after more than a year of turmoil.
So, what did right-wing internet types have to say when the Washington Post Co. sold Newsweek for the same price?
Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell issued the following statement:
There's something entirely believable about the Newsweek sale. A left-winger pretending to be centrist sold it to another left-winger pretending to be centrist. Newsweek is a dying magazine because no one wants to read their left-wing propaganda masquerading as 'news.' The $1 price tag, then, is probably just about right.
I haven't been able to find a statement from Bozell yet on the Times' identical sale price. So, if Newsbusters managing editor Ken Shepherd -- who posted Bozell's statement with the note that Newsweek was sold to "the guy from RoboCop Sidney Harman, for a grand total of one dollar" -- has one, let's have it.
Robert Stacy McCain called Newsweek's sale, "Jon Meacham's $1 Legacy" but apparently hasn't had time to write about the identical sale price of the Times.
Hotair had fun at Newsweek's expense too. Under the headline "Good news: Newsweek sold -- for a dollar," Allahpundit wrote:
Technically it's a dollar plus an agreement to assume their huge financial liabilities, but if you throw me an opportunity for a headline that sweet, I'm going to take it every time.
What are Allahpundit's thoughts on the Times' sale price? Crickets as far as I can tell.
I could keep going but you get the picture.
The Media Research Center's Tim Graham notices the fact that the New York Times gives more attention to supermarket tabloid claims about Barack Obama than it gave to tabloid articles about George W. Bush -- but he draws the improbable conclusion that this indicates liberal bias:
The New York Times prizes itself as the newspaper of record, as the very definition of prestige media. So it's a little shocking to see them spreading the latest headlines from the Globe supermarket tabloid. Sheryl Gay Stolberg's mournful story about Obama's "otherness" and how "Misperceptions Stick" about the president began:
Americans need only stand in line at the grocery checkout counter to glimpse the conspiracy theories percolating about President Obama. "Birthplace Cover-Up," screams the current issue of the racy tabloid Globe. "Obama's Secret Life Exposed!"
This must be more publicity for a Globe tabloid concoction than you'd see out of Fox News or the Rush Limbaugh program. But it's used to illustrate how the president is bedeviled by lies. Stolberg didn't seem to consider that the Globe and other supermarket tabloids also published stories about Laura Bush divorcing President Bush, of Bush is "back on the bottle," and so on. But that didn't seem to outrage the New York Times.
Graham's basic history is correct: The news media, which obsessed over tabloid gossip about Bill Clinton in the 1990s and has given great weight to spurious claims about Barack Obama, took a break in between, all but ignoring claims that Bush was drinking and heading for divorce. Actually, that isn't quite right: During the Bush presidency, the New York Times and other media did still amplify some tabloid claims -- those that were about the Clintons, as I explained in 2006:
At least [Jonah] Goldberg invented his own absurd anti-Gore story. The New York Times and countless other media elites -- David Broder, Tim Russert, and Chris Matthews among them -- chose instead to take the lead from the Globe supermarket tabloid.
The New York Times -- the same newspaper that couldn't be bothered to report a single word about new evidence suggesting that George W. Bush possessed insider information when he dumped his Harken stock -- this week devoted 2,000 words and a portion of its front page to examining the state of the Clintons' marriage, tallying the days they spend together and rehashing long-forgotten baseless tabloid rumors of a relationship between former President Bill Clinton and Canadian politician Belinda Stronach.
Rather than ignore or denounce the Times' decision to interview 50 people for a story about the Clintons' private lives, the Washington media elite embraced it, turning the pages of the nation's most influential newspapers into glorified supermarket tabloids. And television, predictably, was worse.
The Washington Post's David Broder -- the "dean" of the nation's political journalists -- quickly jumped in, suggesting that the Times might have explored the purported Clinton-Stronach relationship in greater detail and declaring the Clintons' private lives a "hot topic" if Sen. Clinton runs for president.
The New York Times repeats Globe speculation about Bill Clinton, so when can we expect to read on the front page of the Times about the Globe's report that George and Laura Bush have broken up and are leading "separate lives" in part because of "booze problems"?
So Graham is right about the history of the media giving less attention to tabloid reports about Bush than to those about Democrats. But his interpretation of that history is suspect. I have a hard time believing that Tim Graham would really have been happy if the establishment media had spent weeks talking about supermarket tabloid claims that George W. Bush was back on the bottle and that Laura was leaving him -- even if the media noted that those claims were unsubstantiated. Would he be happy if the Times had responded to Globe reports of a coming Bush divorce by devoting 2,000 words to tallying up the number of nights the couple spent apart? Of course not: He'd have denounced it as evidence of "liberal bias," and he'd still be doing so for years to come.
This strikes me as an example of conservatives having believed for so long that the media is out to get them that they just can't recognize how good they often have it. When the national discourse about a president with whom you're ideologically aligned is dominated by spurious tabloid claims, that's a bad thing. When the national media refuses to give weight to spurious tabloid claims about a president with whom you're ideologically aligned rather than obsessing over them for weeks, that's a good thing.
As Media Matters has reported, Media Research Center VP Dan Gainor has offered $100 to the first person who "punches smary [sic] idiot Alan Grayson in the nose." When chastised by a fellow conservative for offering to "finance violence," Gainor claimed to be kidding but added "I'd love to see the video" of Congressman Grayson being punched.
Now, you're probably thinking that a person who runs around offering to finance violent assaults on members of Congress probably doesn't get taken particularly seriously as a media critic. But Dan Gainor seems to be the favorite media critic of Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander, who rarely cites ideological media critics by name -- but who has written two pieces in the past four months that prominently feature interviews with Gainor. And as far as I can tell, Gainor is the only professional ideological media critic Alexander has interviewed for a column or blog post this year. (I've found only one other such critic cited by name in an Alexander column or blog post this year: In May, Alexander extensively quoted a blog post by Gainor's colleague Tim Graham. You could add Andrew Breitbart to the conservative-heavy list if you consider him primarily a media critic.)
Last month, I explained that Alexander favors the arguments of right-wing media critics over their liberal counterparts. One way he does so is in his framing of criticism of the Post. If the Post does something that conservatives don't like, Alexander tends to note that conservatives don't like it, and that it contributes to their skepticism of the Post. But when Alexander writes about something the Post does that liberals criticize, Alexander doesn't mention them -- and certainly doesn't indicate that it may contribute to their skepticism of the Post. For example:
Alexander's column about Post reporter Dana Milbank calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" didn't contain so much as a hint that the episode might damage the paper's credibility among liberals, or that liberals might already have some complaints about the paper that would be exacerbated by Milbank's video. No liberals were quoted or paraphrased; there wasn't even any mention that liberals were unhappy about Milbank's stunt. Contrast that to Alexander's write-up of [David] Weigel's departure from the Post, in which the Alexander dedicated four full paragraphs to the complaints of the conservative Media Research Center's Dan Gainor.
But that isn't the only time Alexander has favored Gainor with such prominent placement. In his March 21 column, Alexander devoted two paragraphs to Gainor's criticism of the Post's coverage of DC's move towards marriage equality -- and seemed to agree with Gainor's broad criticism of the Post:
And the conservative Culture and Media Institute said its review showed that in the week after March 3, The Post coverage totaled 543 column inches ("equal to nearly four full pages") and included 14 photos of "gay celebrations." Supporters of same-sex marriage were quoted 10 times more than opponents, the group said.
"As soon as this became law, it was basically The Washington Post standing up and saying 'Yay!' " Dan Gainor, the group's vice president, said in an interview. "It's news," he acknowledged, but the coverage was excessive and "one-sided." Conservatives see it as evidence that The Post is hopelessly liberal, he said.
The Post is not always sufficiently attuned to conservative perspectives. But with gay marriage coverage, the accusations of journalistic overkill are off base.
It seems the Post's Ombudsman is excessively attuned to the perspective of at least one conservative -- a conservative who offers cash for violent assault on a member of congress. (Good luck finding Alexander writing anything like "The Post is not always sufficiently attuned to liberal perspectives," by the way.)
From the June 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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In 1987, L. Brent Bozell III started The Media Research Center to preserve "traditional American values." As Bozell made clear early on, one of the "values" that needed preserving was the idea that gays and lesbians are irregular and immoral.
In Bozell's mind, media outlets and, especially, Hollywood demonstrated "liberal bias" by failing to portray gays as "morally wrong." "What lessons are we teaching American children with these shows?" Bozell said in a 1992 Hollywood Reporter article. "Why can't a single primetime show say -- with no strings attached -- that homosexuality is morally wrong?"
The entertainment industry, according to Bozell in a 1997 Baltimore Sun interview, is "demanding the public accept the gay lifestyle as normal and acceptable for families." The gay lifestyle and agenda, Bozell warned, includes attempts to "teach children, and that's in utter opposition to mainstream America."
Since its founding, Bozell and the MRC have often been on the front-lines against any attempt by Hollywood to treat gays as human. Over the years, they've complained about the negative portrayal of a movie character who disowned her gay daughter and objected to the presence of gay characters on television programs. A brief history of some of their complaints:
CNSNews.com, a subsidiary of the Media Research Center, "reports":
Middle Class--Not the Rich or the Poor--Pay Majority of Federal Taxes, Says CBO Data
Monday, June 21, 2010
By Terence P. Jeffrey, Editor-in-Chief
(CNSNews.com) - Middle-class Americans--not the rich or the poor--pay the majority of annual tax revenues taken in by the federal government, according to data released in a new Congressional Budget Office study. Households earning less than $34,300 per year, meanwhile, actually pay a negative average federal income tax rate.
Middle-class households that earned between $34,300 and $141,900 paid 50.5 percent of all federal tax revenues in 2007 (the most recent year analyzed), according to the CBO study released Thursday, and households that earned between $34,300 and $352,900 paid 66.7 percent of all federal taxes. [Emphasis added]
CNSNews is, of course, playing fast and loose with the definition of "Middle-class households" by including those households that earn up to $141,900 a year. Ninety-five percent of U.S. households make less than $141,900 a year. Ninety percent make less than $102,900. The 10 percent of American households that made at least $102,900 in 2007 paid 55 percent of federal taxes. So in order to claim that "middle-class households … paid 50.5 percent of all federal tax revenues in 2007," CNSNews included some of the very richest Americans among its definition of "middle class."
Why would CNSNews do that? Maybe because it's easier to argue for tax cuts for the wealthy if you call them the middle class.
Earlier today we brought you news of Media Research Center's Clay Waters who inadvertently "outed" himself as using the pseudonym "Sam Tyler" to comment on posts at Columbia Journalism Review (CJR).
Waters' unmasking earned the rebuke of CJR's Ryan Chittum who said in a follow-up comment, "...you had a duty to be above board with who you are here. You're paid to criticize the so-called liberal media by a right-wing advocacy group, Brent Bozell's Media Research Center."
It now appears that Waters used the same "Sam Tyler" alias to comment on a post here at Media Matters as well.
Oddly enough, Politico reported in March that, "MRC, as a rule, doesn't comment on Media Matters."
I guess that doesn't apply to comments posted on the Media Matters website by MRC staffers using aliases.
After posting back-to-back identical comments -- first as Clay Waters and then as Sam Tyler -- the MRC staffer fessed up:
oops, outed myself! at least now I'm free....
Posted by Clay Waters on Fri 14 May 2010 at 01:39 PM
It wasn't long until CJR's Ryan Chittum weighed in (emphasis added):
I think that there can be a need for pseudonymity (unfortunately) on the Internet. But my first instinct is that you had a duty to be above board with who you are here. You're paid to criticize the so-called liberal media by a right-wing advocacy group, Brent Bozell's Media Research Center.
I would never comment on your site--or anybody else's--under a false name.
I have previously outed an Obama administration flack for sockpuppeting on here. I don't think this rises to that level. But I don't think it's kosher, either. Do you think it'd be cool if somebody from Media Matters came on here and did that?
Anyone else have any thoughts?
Posted by Ryan Chittum on Fri 14 May 2010 at 06:02 PM
Right-wingers love to haul out the tired liberal-bias mantra anytime some significant media event happens. So when it was announced that the Washington Post Co. was planning to sell Newsweek, guess how right-wingers reacted?
At NewsBusters, the Media Research Center's Brent Baker claimed that Newsweek "repeatedly showcased their favorite candidate, Barack Obama, on the cover" and asked, "Might such obvious blatant liberal advocacy, which anyone could see in the grocery store checkout line, help explain its decline in fortunes -- in credibility followed by finances?"
He was joined by fellow MRC employee Clay Waters, who complained that a New York Times article on the sale failed to mention "Newsweek's purposeful shift toward liberal opinion over news-gathering."
At Fox News on May 8, contributor Liz Trotta highlighted John Podhoretz's claim that Newsweek is "a liberal journal of opinion masquerading as a news publication," added that "even The Washington Post" called it left-leaning, and posited that Newsweek's strategy of "shoving liberal opinion down [people's] throats" failed because it "colossally ... misjudged what the American public and the American readership is. It's not a bunch of lefties from New York."