Conservative media are pushing the falsehoods that taxpayers picked up the tab for Michelle Obama's private vacation expenses in Spain and that 40 friends accompanied her and her daughter Sasha on the trip. In fact, the Obamas were accompanied by two of the first lady's friends and three of their daughters, and all of them, including the Obamas, reportedly paid for their own personal and travel expenses.
Right-wing media have repeatedly compared First Lady Michelle Obama to Marie Antoinette, the eighteenth century queen who was executed during the French Revolution.
Media outlets have run with the false claim that President Obama's upcoming interview on The View will mark the first time a sitting president has appeared on a daytime talk show, when in fact, President Bush appeared on Dr. Phil in 2004. Right-wing media have seized on this false claim and his appearance in general to attack Obama's "priorities."
The New York Daily News apparently agreed to Harold Ford's insistence he not be asked about public policy during a recent interview:
The interview - granted under the condition that the questions be limited to his rationale for running, and not issues - comes at the end of a rocky first week of buzz surrounding his potential candidacy.
Now, I suppose I can see why someone thinking of running for Senate would want to avoid questions about issues (particularly after a question about gun control led him to assure New York Times readers that he does not shoot unarmed children) though it does seem odd that "his rationale for running" and "issues" are separate things. But I'm a little less clear on why the Daily News would agree to that condition.
It isn't that I think journalists should never agree to limit the scope of an interview. But in this case, there doesn't seem to be any public interest (or, for that matter, interest from the public) in Harold Ford's non-policy comments. Why would (or should) Daily News readers care about Ford's "rationale for running" if it doesn't have anything to do with issues?
What public interest is served by running an "interview" in which Ford attacks his potential primary opponent without facing any questions about his own positions? What public interest is served by running an "interview" in which Ford declares "This race isn't about feet, it's about issues" -- but refuses to discuss issues? What possible public interest is served by an interview in which Ford is asked what's on his iPod -- he declares his fondness for Stevie Wonder and Al Green and "Alicia's and Jay-Z's new song," a reference to Empire State of Mind, a four-month-old celebration of New York -- but not about his policy disagreements with the person he's thinking of running against?
There is no real merit in any of that. Worse, in granting the condition that Ford not be asked about issues, the Daily News encourages other politicians to seek such favorable ground rules in the future.
UPDATE: Howard Kurtz seems to agree:
New York, N.Y.: The Daily News interviewed Harold Ford about his possible New York Senate run. As a condition for the interview, Ford demanded (and apparently the News agreed) that he would not be asked about issues. Why would any self-respecting journalist agree to this condition?
Howard Kurtz: Short answer: I wouldn't. And the demand doesn't reflect particularly well on the former congressman.
Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports (emphasis added):
The New York Post editor fired after speaking out against a cartoon depicting the author of the president's stimulus package as a dead chimpanzee has sued the paper. And as part of her complaint, Sandra Guzman levels some remarkable, embarrassing, and potentially damaging allegations.
Guzman has filed a complaint against News Corporation, the New York Post and the paper's editor in chief Col Allan in the Southern District Court of New York, alleging harassment as well as "unlawful employment practices and retaliation."
As part of the 38-page complaint, Guzman paints the Post newsroom as a male-dominated frat house and Allan in particular as sexist, offensive and domineering. Guzman alleges that she and others were routinely subjugated to misogynistic behavior. She says that hiring practices at the paper -- as well as her firing -- were driven by racial prejudices rather than merit.
And she recounts the paper's D.C. bureau chief stating that the publication's goal was to "destroy [President] Barack Obama."
The most outrageous charges, however, involve Allan. According to the complaint:
"On one occasion when Ms. Guzman and three female employees of the Post were sharing drinks at an after-work function. Defendant Allan approached the group of women, pulled out his blackberry and asked them 'What do you think of this?' On his blackberry was a picture of a naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis. When Ms. Guzman and the other female employees expressed their shock and disgust at being made to view the picture, Defendant Allan just smirked... [N]o investigation was ever conducted and the Company failed to take any steps to address her complaints."
Guzman's complaint goes on:
"On another occasion, upon information and belief, Defendant Allan approached a female employee during a party at the Post, rubbed his penis up against her and made sexually suggestive comments about her body, including her breasts, causing that female employee to feel extremely uncomfortable and fearing to be alone with him."
And finally: "... [W]hile serving as the top editor at the Post, Defendant Allan took two Australian political leaders to the strip club Scores in Manhattan..."
Guzman alleges that while at the paper, misogynistic and racist behavior was directed at her specifically. According to the complaint, she was called "sexy" and "beautiful" and referred to as "Cha Cha #1" by Les Goodstein, the senior vice president of NewsCorp. After doing an interview with Major League Baseball star Pedro Martinez, she says Allan asked her whether the pitcher "had been carrying a gun or a machete during the interview" -- a line Guzman said was racist and offensive.
When she would walk by certain offices at the paper, Guzman alleges, editors would routinely sing songs from West Side Story -- a nod to her Hispanic heritage -- including the tune: "I want to live in America."
Guzman also makes the following allegations to supplement her case that the Post harbored an environment that was offensive to women and minority employees.
"A White male senior editor sexually propositioned a young female Copy Assistant, telling her that 'If you give me a blowjob, I will give you a permanent reporter job.'"
"The last five employees who were recently terminated by Paul Carlucci, the Publisher of the Post.... Have all been black and/or women of color."
Read Stein's entire piece and the compliant in full here.
Politico's Ben Smith picks up an interesting angle to the story:
The New York Post and New York Daily News, for a time, complemented their fierce competition for circulation with bitter attacks on each other's staff and on their owners, Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman.
But Murdoch and Zuckerman, as has been reported, reached a truce of sorts, and they've been reported to be in sporadic talks about some sort of merger of -- at least -- the paper's back ends. And the clearest signal I've seen in a while of that rapprochement came this week, when a fired Post employee, Sandra Guzman, filed suit against the paper and its brawling Australian editor, Col Allan.
The Daily News offered a sanitized version of the story: "A New York Post editor sacked after complaining that a cartoon likened President Obama to a monkey sued the paper on Monday, claiming rampant racism and sexism in the newsroom," but detailed none of the actual allegations.
In my column this week I looked at the terrain of the media landscape faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans noting, in part:
...despite increased public acceptance and the passage of some basic legal protections, not only is sexual orientation still a taboo for many in the media, all too often it serves as a focal point for hate, ridicule, and misinformation.
Looking back now, I should have also noted that, in addition to the "taboo," "hate, ridicule, and misinformation," LGBT Americans regularly face something far more insidious in the media: silence.
This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which are largely credited with sparking the modern LGBT civil rights movement. For those unfamiliar with this seminal moment in gay history (I don't blame you, so little attention has been paid to the event by the media) here's the gist of it from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights:
[In 1969], there were not many places where people could be openly gay. New York had laws prohibiting homosexuality in public, and private businesses and gay establishments were regularly raided and shut down.
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a group of gay customers at a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn, who had grown angry at the harassment by police, took a stand and a riot broke out. As word spread throughout the city about the demonstration, the customers of the inn were soon joined by other gay men and women who started throwing objects at the policemen, shouting "gay power."
Police reinforcements arrived and beat the crowd away, but the next night, the crowd returned, even larger than the night before, with numbers reaching over 1000. For hours, protesters rioted outside the Stonewall Inn until the police sent a riot-control squad to disperse the crowd. For days following, demonstrations of varying intensity took place throughout the city.
In the wake of the riots, intense discussions about civil rights were held among New York's LGBT people, which led to the formation of various advocacy groups such as the short-lived Gay Liberation Front, which was the first group to use the word "gay" in its name, and a city-wide newspaper called Gay. On the 1st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first gay pride parades in U.S. history took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and near the Stonewall Inn in New York.
The Stonewall riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States.
Well, according to a search of TVeyes.com and Nexis, scant attention this week has been paid by the media to this historic civil rights anniversary.
CABLE NEWS: Since Monday, TVeyes.com turns up exactly four mentions of Stonewall on CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business News, MSNBC and CNBC. All four mentions occurred on the June 23 broadcast of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. Double checked on Nexis – same results.
NETWORK NEWS (Morning Shows/Nightly News): Since Monday, TVeyes.com hasn't turned up a single mention of Stonewall on ABC's Good Morning America or World News, CBS' Early Show or Evening News, or NBC's Today Show or Nightly News. Double checked on Nexis – same results.
MAJOR NEWSPAPERS: Since Monday, a search of Nexis turns up 2 stories discussing Stonewall in any substantive way printed in America's top ten daily newspapers – USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle and Arizona Republic. A search of these newspapers' websites confirm the results. What exactly did these publications print about the anniversary?
USA Today: Nothing
Wall Street Journal: Nothing
New York Times: Passing reference to Stonewall in story about the lack of a national leader in the gay right's movement.
Los Angeles Times: Nothing
New York Daily News: Two good stories about the Stonewall anniversary.
Washington Post: Printed an AP story titled "Today in History" that lists Stonewall as one of 13 events and 18 birthdays worth noting this week.
Chicago Tribune: Passing reference to Stonewall in story about a senior center for gay seniors.
Houston Chronicle: Printed an AP story titled "Today in History" that lists Stonewall as one of 13 events and 18 birthdays worth noting this week.
Arizona Republic: Nothing
Of America's top ten daily newspapers, only the New York Daily News spent much time at all discussing the Stonewall anniversary this week – the rest either make passing reference with little context or, worse yet, print nothing at all.
So, the 40th anniversary of Stonewall has been granted one cable news segment and 2 print stories this week. Surely such an historic milestone merits more serious attention, not just from cable and network news outlets but from newspapers as well.
UPDATE: It's nice to see the AARP doing so much with its various media arms to commemorate Stonewall.
UPDATE 2: Newsweek.com has a good package up on Stonewall. Hopefully they'll follow suit with something equally substantive in the print edition.
From a May 28 New York Daily News op-ed by Robert Morgenthau:
No sooner had President Obama announced his nomination of Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor than conservative partisans began calling for her defeat. These so-called pundits have pronounced her a "radical," an "activist," part of the "far left," an "affirmative action case" and, most astoundingly, a "racist." We were not long left in suspense as to whether this administration's judicial nominees can expect to be vetted with objectivity and due civility.
I have known Judge Sotomayor for decades, and I know how absurd these charges are. I doubt that anyone will be fooled by them, but let me state for the record my views on her nomination.
Assistant District Attorney Sotomayor was no "liberal." Rather, she was a tough and effective prosecutor. Young prosecutors are sometimes picked on by judges and defense attorneys, but no one successfully pushed this ADA around. Within a short time she had come to the attention of trial division executives as someone who was a step ahead of her colleagues, one of the brightest, an immediate standout who was marked for rapid advancement.
The judge's work since she left this office confirms that she is a strong champion of the law. In particular, she has served with distinction on what I consider to be the second most important appellate court in the world, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. To be sure, she is in favor of civil rights, in the sense that she believes there should be fair treatment for all. But that is, of course, the law. And she understands poverty, and does seem willing to accept government action that provides a safety net to the poor. But that is not exactly "radical."
Numerous media figures have compared President Obama and his administration to the mafia, frequently referencing films and television shows such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos.
The New York Daily News reports:
He said WHAT?!
CBS golf analyst David Feherty sparked outrage after he asserted that U.S. soldiers, given the chance, would kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"If you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama Bin Laden, there's a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and Bin Laden would be strangled to death," Feherty wrote in a magazine piece.
Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami ripped into Feherty for his eye-popping remarks in the April issue of D magazine, a Dallas publication.
"Such comments are unacceptable and beyond the pale and an insult to our patriotic men and women in uniform," Elshami said.
Jim Manley, a senior communications adviser for Reid, called Feherty's statements "irresponsible."
"I understand that he thought that he was trying to be funny with the article," Manley said. "If that is the case, it was a pretty pathetic attempt at humor."
Feherty's outrageous claim appeared in a first-person piece about how former President George W. Bush's return to Texas might affect Dallas residents.
The comments drew the ire of Washington and media groups after Feherty's column was read on conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh's radio show Friday.
Eric Burns, president of Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog group, called the statements "disgusting."
Several media outlets echoed the assertion of a Drudge Report headline that President Obama's March 24 press conference was "boring."
Several media outlets touted President Bush's purported candor during an ABC interview with Charles Gibson in which Bush said the "biggest regret" of his presidency was the "intelligence failure" regarding the absence of WMD in Iraq and declined to "speculate" whether the administration would have invaded Iraq if the intelligence had shown no WMD. But none of these reports noted the substantial evidence that Bush had already decided to invade Iraq regardless of the available intelligence, or mentioned the substantial uncertainty about the evidence the administration cited in support of the war.
New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin falsely suggested that former President Bill Clinton has not disclosed "the paid speeches that he gives around the world." In fact, the sources and amounts of Clinton's speaking fees are disclosed annually in Hillary Clinton's Senate disclosure forms.
Numerous media outlets uncritically reported the assertion by Sen. John McCain's campaign that Sen. Barack Obama "voted against funds for American troops in harm's way." However, none of these outlets noted that McCain himself has voted against legislation to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nor did they mention that Obama has voted in the past to provide funds for troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A New York Daily News editorial endorsing Sen. John McCain asserted that McCain "has delivered 'straight talk' and risked the consequences of unpopular positions," citing as an example McCain's "forceful advoca[cy] of comprehensive immigration reform," claiming that "[c]haracteristically, he has held his ground against an anti-immigrant fervor that rivals ... have exploited." In fact, McCain has reversed his position on a key element of the immigration debate and has offered inconsistent statements on whether he would support his own comprehensive immigration bill.