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."
From the May 6 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Last week dozens of news outlets - including the Associated Press, Reuters, Washington Post, New York Times CBS, MSNBC- reported that the abuse scandal is 'widening.' That is absolutely and unequivocally false. The scandal isn't growing. As Catholic League President Bill Donohue aptly noted, citing evidence from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, abuse is shrinking in the United States, with an even more rapid decline over the last five years.
Any credible journalist would have done his or her research before reporting a fallacy of this magnitude. And any other religious institution that was targeted in this unconscionable fashion would have been rescued by the same liberal media that claims to be objective.
Bozell's sole critique of news coverage of the subject is that it has depicted the abuse scandal as "widening," when -- according to Bill Donohue -- "abuse is shrinking."
Is Bozell serious? He can't possibly be.
The sexual abuse scandal isn't said to be "widening" because there are more instances of abuse this year than last. It is said to be widening because we are learning more about instances of abuse that happened in the past, and how they were handled by church officials, including the current pope.
Bozell must know that, mustn't he? That's a common -- perhaps the most common -- meaning of references to "growing" or "widening" scandal. Not that instances of wrongdoing are increasing, but that we're learning more about that wrongdoing.
I hate to have to break out the dictionary on Bozell, but here's a relevant entry for "scandal": "Damage to reputation or character caused by public disclosure of immoral or grossly improper behavior; disgrace." Obviously, the Church scandal is "widening" -- and Donohue's statistics about annual abuse cases don't have much of anything to do with that.
There's just no conceivable way Bozell really doesn't understand that. And yet he angrily denounces the media for reporting that the scandal is "widening," which makes you wonder why he's really so upset.
UPDATE: Here's Brent Bozell complaining about a purported lack of media coverage of the "great and growing scandal" he referred to as "ClimateGate." Of course, there wasn't a "growing" number of controversial emails; there was a growing body of information about emails that had already been sent. Newsbusters' archives are littered with references to "growing" scandals -- ACORN, "ClimateGate," Tiger Woods, et centera. Those are generally references to situations in which public knowledge of alleged wrongdoing was growing, not in which the underlying wrongdoing was increasing in frequency. So Bozell and his underlings know what "growing scandal" means -- he's just pretending not to.
First it hired Erick Erickson, the editor of the far-right RedState.com, an embarrassing move to say the least. After all, it was Erickson who just a year ago posted on his Twitter profile that then-Supreme Court Justice David Souter was a "goat fucking child molester."
Fear not though, Erickson made his way to CNN's Reliable Sources for an interview with Howard Kurtz in which the right-wing blogger claimed to have "grown up" since making that and other hateful and incendiary comments.
It's nice to see a grown man mature so quickly in just a single year!
Then, just days after his interview with Kurtz, he was back to his old self. Pulling the political equivalent of a Benjamin Button, Erickson reverted back to his previous non "grown up" state claiming on his local radio show: I'll "[p]ull out my wife's shotgun" if they try to arrest me for not filling out the American Community Survey.
Well, CNN has apparently only just begun its efforts to court the likes of Erickson and his friends in the conservative blogosphere.
Mediaite's Tommy Christopher writes:
Newsbusters credits CNN for what it considers to be "one of the first to offer fair coverage of the Tea Party movement outside of Fox News," while bringing up the infamous Susan Roesgen report from a Tea Party last year.
At the same time, they wonder why CNN is pushing the story so hard to conservative blogs, illustrating this with emails from CNN's PR department. This one was reportedly sent to Michelle Malkin:
"Hi there, I thought this might be an interesting post for you- a behind-the-scenes piece about the Tea Party and how the stereotypes don't tell the full story. Let me know if you need anything else!"
There's nothing all that sinister here. This kind of email is pretty standard PR promotion.
"Clearly our critics from the left don't think we should be covering the Tea Party movement in the way we are and clearly CNN thinks it's a legitimate and important story.
If anyone from Newsbusters is interested in this angle - let me know."
I'm guessing the CNN checklist looks something like this:
Hire Erick Erickson? Check.
Heap coverage on the Tea Party movement? Check.
Get in touch with Michelle Malkin? Check.
Drop a line to Brent Bozell? Check.
What's next, Andrew Breitbart hosting a very special Conservative in America?
Apparently, the Media Research Center believes there is no such thing as ideological bias at Fox News -- even when it's irrefutably demonstrated that there is.
A January 27 MRC press release touting the Public Policy Polling survey finding that Fox News had the highest trust rating among TV viewers quoted chief Brent Bozell as saying: 'The proof is in the pudding. Americans want balanced news, not liberal advocacy. Fox offered them 'fair and balanced' journalism, and America has embraced them."
Just one little problem: Fox is not "fair and balanced" -- and the MRC knows it. The day before Bozell's press release was issued, the MRC highlighted a Center for Media and Public Affairs study finding that, while most major news outlets were, on the whole, almost evenly balanced in negative and positive coverage of President Obama's first year, Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier was much more harsh -- only 22 percent positive coverage of Obama and a whopping 78 percent negative.
MRC research director Rich Noyes -- a former CMPA employee who "helped [to] develop the methodology the Center uses for tallying good and bad press for presidents" -- somehow didn't see this as media bias. Rather, Noyes claimed, Fox News was merely providing "historically normal scrutiny" of Obama, because it was "roughly equal to that provided by the old networks in the past."
But the MRC has historically portrayed overly negative coverage of Republican presidents and their causes, such as the Iraq war, as examples of media bias. Now that Fox News has been caught exhibiting the same kind of negativity, using methodology one of its own employees developed, it's suddenly no longer bias but "historically normal scrutiny."
It's no surprise that Bozell would slavishly adhere to right-wing talking points to declare Fox News "fair and balanced" -- never mind that Public Policy Polling made no correlation between trust and balance. As PPP director Tom Jensen pointed out: "A generation ago Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in the country because of his neutrality. Now people trust Fox the most precisely because of its lack of neutrality."
But it seems the MRC as a whole is just as dedicated to those same talking points, to the extent that it will redefine and whitewash its own methodology and research to avoid having to hang that dreaded B-word on Fox News -- a channel on which MRC employees make regular appearances.
On the November 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly referenced a 2008 report by the Media Research Center's Culture & Media Institute, which claims that out of 69 stories on network news about Sarah Palin in the two-week period examined, 37 were negative, 30 were neutral and only two were positive. O'Reilly further complained, citing the report: "Twenty-one of the stories portrayed Sarah Palin as unintelligent and unqualified. Eight stories used clips from Saturday Night Live to ridicule her." O'Reilly added: "Is that kind of presentation an accident? No."
But the report O'Reilly cited was more a function of the MRC's shilling for Palin than any serious media research. The tone of the report is more about complaining that anything negative was reported about Palin at all, what was reported didn't reflect the McCain campaign's talking points, and (channeling Stephen Colbert) facts and reality have a well-known liberal bias.
The report's scope was carefully limited to only the broadcast news networks -- no Fox News -- and only to coverage in "the two weeks beginning September 29 and ending October 12," thus avoiding having to discuss the period immediately following Palin's nomination and Republican National Convention speech, when news coverage of her was largely -- and perhaps disproportionately -- positive.
The report conflated negative coverage with bias, scoring stories by "negative," "positive" and "neutral," then deciding that the network that ran the most "negative" stories versus "neutral" or "positive" ones was the "most biased." Despite suggesting that the "negative" stories were not factual or fair, no evidence is offered to support it. The report's basic premise is that all news about Palin must be balanced or positive, whether or not the facts call for it.
The report complained: "Most observers agree that Palin did not perform well in the [Katie] Couric interview, but the network coverage dwelled on the worst moments, making Palin look as unprepared and inexperienced as possible." After noting the focus on Palin's refusal to give a straight answer to Couric's question about what magazines and newspapers she read, the report further stated:
The network coverage of this exchange left the impression that Palin was unable to identify any news sources because she isn't interested in current events -- an implausible supposition to make about an accomplished politician.
The networks would have provided a more accurate portrayal of Palin had they highlighted the Alaska governor's thoughtful responses to other questions from Couric.
The report doesn't mention the fact that Palin could have avoided that kind of focus by simply giving a straight answer to the question.
The report then baselessly asserted that "Palin's strong performance during the October 2 vice-presidential debate sucked the oxygen out of the attacks on her qualifications and intellect," failing to note that polls taken immediately after the debate found that a majority of viewers thought that Joe Biden won. The report also complained that Tina Fey's dead-on Saturday Night Live impression of Palin got media attention, calling the impression "demeaning" and adding: "Funny stuff, but is it news?"
After lamenting that the networks reported "criticism of Palin from a handful of conservative writers," the report added, "The networks failed to mention that Palin enjoyed the enthusiastic support of far more influential conservative pundits, including premier talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin." So a guy who said, as Levin did, "It's not the National Organization of Liberal Women. It's the National Organization of Ugly Women," is a "premier" conservative radio host in the eyes of the MRC?
The report went on to express annoyance that the networks were "depicting Palin as nothing more than GOP presidential nominee John McCain's attack dog. ... Rather than investigate the substance of Palin's accusations against Obama, the media suggested the criticism was somehow improper." In fact, Palin was the McCain campaign's attack dog, substantive allegations or no.
Finally, the report arrived at its key bit of annoyance: "The networks failed to acknowledge adequately that Palin was doing more during her speeches than attacking Obama. She was also talking about issues, McCain's plans for the nation, and her own qualifications." In other words, the networks weren't mindlessly repeating McCain campaign talking points to the MRC's satisfaction.
This is a study that simply can't be taken seriously and must be seen through the MRC's pro-Palin, anti-media agenda.
From Media Research Center director of communications Seton Motley's Twitter.com account:
The Media Research Center's Rich Noyes has issued a "Media Reality Check" purporting to be a "report card" of how major media outlets covered the 9/12 anti-Obama protests. But Noyes' analysis is curiously incomplete.
For instance, Noyes noted the performance of only one newspaper, The New York Times, which "buried the protests on page A37 of Sunday's paper." Noyes didn't mention what The Washington Post did -- perhaps because it broke the MRC's faulty liberal-bias template by putting the protest prominently on the front page. (That high-profile placement wasn't enough for fellow MRC employee Tim Graham.)
Noyes didn't do any relevant comparison of coverage, complaining only that the Times' "932-word story [on the protest] was only slightly longer than the 724-word story the paper granted back in March to an ACORN protest with only 40 participants." But that protest was in the New York metro area and thus more directly relevant to its core readers than a larger protest outside of NYC.
A more direct comparison would be to a similarly sized 2002 anti-war protest in Washington. As we've noted, while the Times published a photo of the anti-Obama protest in its front page -- something Noyes failed to mention -- it did not do so for the anti-war protest; the articles on both protests were inside the A section.
Noyes also downplayed the extent to which Fox News fawned over the protest. He wrote: "By far, Fox News offered the most detailed coverage, with a two-hour midday program on Saturday plus regular updates throughout the day, and FNC stuck to presenting the protesters' point of view, not denigrating them."
Noyes fails to note that Fox News did a lot more than present the protesters' point of view -- it promoted the bejeezus out of the protest, to the point where it was an unofficial sponsor. That's some serious straying over the line from news into advocacy, but it earned Fox News an "A" for coverage from Noyes.
Noyes downgraded Fox News' rating on tone of coverage to an"A-" apparently for a single comment by Geraldo Rivera that Noyes called a "sour note." After all, balanced coverage of conservatives is not what Noyes and his MRC buddies really want -- nothing less than completely positive, sycophantic coverage will do.