The right-wing's madcap revisionism continues all week in the wake of the mighty birther collapse. Although, I have to say the extent to which revisionists will go remains eye-popping.
From a Fox News apologist at NewBusters [emphasis added]:
Of course even Fox News did its part to debunk the birther nonsense. The channel's hosts of course played no part in the conspiracy theory, but its commentators also frequently spoke out against it.
Having spun the Media Matters birther archive wheel, I'll suggest that these headlines disagree:
Trust me, that's just a small sampling.
And the search continues for a coherent conservative argument to back up the far-right claim that National Public Radio is hopelessly liberal and bias. We all know conservatives want to defund NPR. But most of us still are not sure why.
Here's the latest supposed sin of NPR, as devised by NewsBusters:
NPR Leans Toward Democrats 7 To 3 On Federal Budget Showdown
I'll make sense of the confused headline: In a report on the looming budget showdown, NPR quoted Democrats seven times and Republicans only three times.
Until, that is, you examined the NPR report, which consisted mostly of quotes from President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Speaker of the House John Boehner. Note that two of the three key figures in the budget battle are Democrats because Democrats control the White House and the Senate. So yes, logic dictates that if they're each quoted, there will be more quotes from Democrats. And no, that does not constitute bias on the part of NPR.
But don't tell far-right critics.
In the first half of the report, NewsBusters objects to the fact that NPR quoted the President of the United States three times, the Senate Leader once, and the House Speaker once. And yes, this is how hollow the right-wing's supposed critique of NPR has become; complaining that the POTUS gets quoted too often in news stories.
I'm still searching for a conservative media critic who can explain what NPR's liberal media sins.
By contrast, and in a nice bit of irony, notice this week that NPR's David Folkenflik provided some real media reporting and analysis (as opposed to what NewsBusters did), when he examined six months worth of programming on Fox News' Special Report. Folkenflik found that the anchor program of Fox News' supposedly serious news coverage chronically underrepresented liberal voices during its round table "All Star" segments, where partisan conservatives are featured and often pitted against non-ideological journalists and reporters.
Based on the detailed research, Folkenflik's point about the tilt at Special Report was unassailable. Meaning, what NPR did was produce an actual piece of journalism and media analysis. What NewsBusters produced, on the other hand, was a complaint that the president was quoted too often in a single news story.
It's been a few days, but the Media Research Center has finally finished crafting their response to Media Matters' report that Fox News' Bill Sammon admitted lying on-air about Obama advocating "socialism," and it is as follows:
I'm not joking:
Soros Grantee Aids Soros Grantee: NPR Covers 'Scandal' of Fox News VP Calling Obama a 'Socialist'
By Tim Graham
In the same week, leftist hedge-fund billionaire/philanthropist announced he was giving millions to Media Matters for America and to National Public Radio. So NPR might have found it wise to avoid publicizing Media Matters initiatives and risk being seen by many as a walking conflict of interest. That's not what's happening. Instead, Soros is happily seeing his grantees play very nicely together. On March 26, Politico reported that Media Matters declared "war on Fox" and a campaign of "guerrilla warfare and sabotage" against not just Fox, but Rupert Murdoch's empire in general. Three days later, on the March 29 All Things Considered, NPR was participating in it.
It began with Media Matters giving the world a tape of FNC executive Bill Sammon on a 2009 fundraising cruise for Hillsdale College proclaiming that he thought 2008 charges that Barack Obama was a socialist were "rather far-fetched," but thought Obama made it very plausible upon taking office. Media Matters said the tape showed "Lying" by Sammon. NPR media reporter David Folkenflik, already looking like a robot-for-hire in his reporting on NPR's Schillergate scandal, became the wind beneath their wings in promoting it.
Let's address matters of factual accuracy, shall we?
First off: yes, both Media Matters and NPR have received donations from George Soros or his Open Society Institute (OSI). However, the OSI donation to NPR that Graham highlights was specifically earmarked for a project to "better inform the public about the impact that the actions of state governments has on citizens and communities." How that would impact media reporter David Folkenflik's reporting on Fox News is anyone's guess. Graham certainly didn't explain, but instead lazily implied some sort of conspiratorial quid pro quo.
Second: Graham's description of Media Matters' report omitted the key fact it uncovered: that Sammon acknowledged speculating on-air about charges of Obama's socialism despite privately believing them to be "far-fetched" -- which Sammon himself described as "mischievous." Given that Sammon is a news executive at Fox and directs their Washington coverage, that makes it a major media story, Graham's protestations notwithstanding.
Notably, Graham didn't even attempt to defend Sammon. Instead, he just wrote "Soros" over and over and berated Folkenflik over matters unrelated to the story in question. Sort of makes you suspect they don't have a whole lot to say.
In the pantheon of insane anti-Obama conspiracy theories, few hold a candle to the idea that former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers secretly wrote Barack Obama's autobiography Dreams from My Father.
This particular bit of crackerjack analysis was popularized by WorldNetDaily writers Jack Cashill and Aaron Klein, who have based their theories on "evidence" like the frequency of nautical terms in Obama's book, despite the fact that "Obama gives little indication that he has any real experience with the sea or ships beyond bodysurfing at Waikiki." (Slightly less unhinged conservatives like David Freddoso have labeled Cashill's work on this "a lot of crap, all conjecture and no concrete evidence.")
The Ayers ghostwriter theory has been back in full force this week, thanks to some conservative bloggers' inability to detect sarcasm. Speaking at Montclair State University last week, Ayers responded to a question from an audience member by joking that he "wrote" Obama's autobiography, and saying, "if you help me prove it, I'll split the royalties with you." Ayers was quite clearly kidding, and, as Jim Newell explains at Gawker, he's used this same joke before.
Numerous conservative websites like NewsBusters (which exists to lecture places like the New York Times on how to properly conduct their journalistic activities) promoted the Ayers comment as an admission that he wrote Obama's book. The story does seem to have caused a bit of a rift in the conservative blogosphere, however, with Dan Riehl writing that people running with the supposed admission look like "a bunch of Kool-Aid inebriated Right Wing nut jobs."
And while it's always good sport to point and laugh at the clownishness of certain corners of the conservative media, it's important to point out that conspiracies theories like this are actually not out of the conservative mainstream - they are the bread and butter of the movement.
In his upcoming book, which Media Matters obtained in advance of its release, Andrew Breitbart asserts that Ayers wrote Obama's book. Twice.
In a chapter titled, "Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Revolutionaries," Breitbart discusses the rise of conservative "citizen journalists" and purports to enumerate their various accomplishments. Apparently unfamiliar with the words "proved" and "reasonable," Brietbart lists among citizen journalist accomplishments that they "proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers." From Breitbart's Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save The World:
In the past few years alone, citizen journalists have deposed Dan Rather for his scurrilous and baseless attacks on George W. Bush; exposed John Kerry's true war record during the 2004 election cycle; debunked Reuters's photography fraud in the Middle East; proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers; gotten rid of communist Van Jones; and the list goes on. [Righteous Indignation, pg 149-150]
On the next page, advising activists to "Be open about your secrets," Breitbart again references Obama's "Ayers-written autobiography":
3. Be open about your secrets. If you're going to go out in public, be absolutely open about what you've done in the past. Take a page from Barack Obama, who revealed in his Ayers-written autobiography that he had done a bit of blow, hung out with commies and racists like Jeremiah Wright, and hated whitey. Once it was out there, there wasn't much the right could do with it - he'd already admitted it. [Righteous Indignation, pg 150]
We'll have more on Breitbart's book closer to the release date, but this seemed as good a time as any to remind people that he shouldn't be taken seriously.
Update: Proving yet again that there is nothing too absurd for conservative media outlets to promote, Fox & Friends hosted Cashill this morning to discuss his various conspiracy theories about Obama, including the idea that Ayers wrote Obama's book.
Update 2: In contrast to the review copy we were sent, Breitbart's endorsement of Cashill's theory is somewhat toned down in the retail version of the book.
Whereas in the version we were sent Breitbart says citizen journalists have "proved beyond a reasonable doubt" that Ayers wrote Obama's autobiography, it now says that citizen journalists have "raised the question whether Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers."
It truly is a special brand of human who does not grasp when he or she is being mocked. Case-in-point, Media Matters has previously reported that the right-wing media has vigorously tried to spread the idea that Bill Ayers, political activist, personally penned the president's first book - Dreams From My Father.
Recently, Ayers appeared at Montclair State, where he very clearly mocked right-wing conspiracy nuts who have previously credited him with this particular feat. The right took this as an admission that he actually did write Dreams.
This is so typical of right-wing "media criticism: Yelling, 'Biased!' without having any evidence to back it up. We've seen it most recently in the phony debate over NPR, and now NewsBusters take a swing at Associated Press for its allegedly unfair news coverage.
But oops, NewsBusters can't be bothered to cite a single AP example to prove it's point. (Telling, don't you think?)
AP's Expired Contract May Explain Much of Its Union-Sympathetic Wisconsin Coverage
In fact, the NewsBusters item is about how the News Media Guild's contract with AP expired in November and that negotiations between AP and its unionized workers continue. The item also highlights various provisions of the expired contract, which still applies to AP workers while negotiations continue. Period. That's it.
What about the claim that that expired contract has tainted AP's journalism, and specifically its reporting from Wisconsin, as alleged in the NewsBusters headline?
Nope. There's not a single reference to AP's Wisconsin union coverage, let alone any claims AP was "union-sympathetic" while reporting that story. None. NewsBusters simply concocted that attack for the headline.
This is becoming rather comical. The GOP Noise Machine has ginned up a nasty crusade to undermine public radio and get it defunded, but oops! they forgot to form a coherent reason for why the venerable news institution deserves to be undercut.
Last week I noted that Andrew Breitbart had two shots at detailing NPR's supposed sins. But each time Breitbart threw up air balls. First on CNN, and then writing at the Huffington Post. Both times Breitbart failed to point to anything of significance that NPR has done wrong, especially in terms of its coverage of conservatives and the Tea Party movement. And certainly Breitbart failed to point to anything NPR had done that would warrant the kind of bloodless right-wing pursuit that's now on display.
Now, the latest to fail at the mission is Brent Bozell's Newsbusters, an organization that, in theory at least, is supposed to be able document liberal media bias. But when it comes to NPR, Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard seems to concede the organization has no NPR evidence to point to, and instead suggests NPR "should hire an outside, neutral entity that knows what metrics to use to come to a valid conclusion" about the question of bias.
Are you kidding me? The conservative media movement and elements of the Republican Party have made it priority to defund NPR, but it turns out they have no actual proof of its wrongdoing. But if NPR paid for an outside study they might be able to document what NPR does wrong?
Let's face it, if NPR were as blatantly one-sided as conservative haters claim it is critics would instantly be able to point to a dozen or two examples of unfair journalism to back up their claim. Instead, over the last week conservatives haven't been able to point to any examples.
During the Bush administration, liberals criticized the media for mindlessly parroting the Bush administration's fraudulent case for war in Iraq. Now, conservatives complain about reporters carrying water for the Obama administration:
Kate Betts is so pro-Michelle she wouldn't allow a glimmer of negativity damage the beautiful, casual picture she was painting. Meredith Vieira mentioned her fashion "mistakes," and like an administration publicist, Betts wouldn't even contemplate the possibility:
VIEIRA: Yet she's made some fashion mistakes, according to some people. The bare legs on Air Force One and then--showing her legs, actually--and then recently she wore a British designer at that dinner for the president of China. Big mistakes in your view?
Ms. BETTS: You know, I don't think those are mistakes. I think the British designer was something that she did because she wears what she loves and she really telegraphs this message of self-possession and confidence. And to me that's what defines American style.
That's Media Research Center director of media analysis Tim Graham accusing a reporter of behaving "like an administration publicist" because she doesn't think it was a mistake to wear clothes designed by a Brit to dinner with the president of China.
And that, basically, is the difference between media criticism from the left and from the right: Liberals didn't like it when the media obediently repeated deeply false claims about war, and conservatives don't like it when a reporter refuses to go along with a deeply stupid criticism of Michelle Obama's clothes.
In a January 25 post on the Media Research Center's Newsbusters blog, Matthew Balan criticized CNN.com's write-up on the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., because it supposedly "downplayed the number of attendees as merely in the 'thousands.'" But Balan's colleague Clay Waters described the march's numbers in the exact same terms on MRC's own website. Waters wrote today that there were "thousands who marched in frigid weather" at the rally.
Following an NPR Morning Edition story on a Pakistani lesbian couple who have to live in secret for fear of being imprisioned or killed -- part of the ongoing series on "The Hidden World of Girls" -- NewsBusters's Tim Graham complained that "NPR Celebrates Pakistani Lesbians." In the post, which was promoted by Fox Nation, Graham wrote:
On Monday's Morning Edition, National Public Radio offered the latest entry in its year-long series "The Hidden World of Girls," which is subsidized by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. Naturally, any series with this title might disappoint if it didn't explore lesbians in Islamic countries, in this case, Pakistan.
Apparently, though, the definition of "girls" is quite flexible. On the October 16 All Things Considered, NPR celebrated the journey of Adam "Theresa" Sparks, running to be the first transgender member of the San Francisco City Council.
Graham then pasted a part of the story's transcript in which the Pakistani couple laughed and wrote:
When the story and the giggles were over, they explained that the whole Hidden Life of Girls series is available at the NPR website, and then an announcer added that this enterprise was funded by CPB and the NEA. Your tax dollars, hard at work.
Newsbusters yesterday continued the Palin pity party that the far-right press has been throwing for nearly two weeks in the wake of the Tucson gun massacre. And Newsbusters' claim is that the press has been paying waaaay too much attention to Palin recently, and that's why her polling numbers are down. (i.e. Please ignore the fact that Palin's approval numbers have been dreadful for months.)
Newsbusters even has statistics to back up its claim [emphasis added]:
From January 8 through January 16, CNN ran 80 stories that included the name of the former Alaska governor.
That's roughly nine pieces per day, during which her name was mentioned approximately 664 times or over 70 times every 24 hours!
During the same time period (chosen to coincide with CNN's polling period ending January 16), MSNBC ran 25 reports on Palin mentioning her name a staggering 474 times during those segments.
Those figures are even more astounding when you consider that MSNBC only transcribes weekday prime time programs. Just imagine the kind of pounding Palin was taking from these shills during the weekends and outside of prime time.
MSNBC's sister network NBC also was involved in the attacks logging 23 reports with 126 mentions of Palin.
NPR did 20 stories with 100 mentions; ABC 17 and 62; CBS 14 and 59.
Add it all up, and these outlets did 179 reports about Palin in those sixteen days (remember - this only includes weekday primetime for MSNBC!) mentioning her name a staggering 1485 times.
Did you notice which news outlet was absent from that Palin tally? That's right, Fox News.
As I noted earlier, if anyone's obsessed with Palin in recent weeks it's the folks at Fox News who can't stop talking about her. But of course, that fact ruins the right-wing claim that it's the "left" and the liberal "press" that's obsessed with Palin, so Newsbusters forgets to mention Fox News' endless fixation.
Curious attempt at gotcha from Brent Bozell's team today [emphasis added]:
Keith Olbermann Praised Fuller Day Before His Death Threat to Tea Party Leader
The insight of Noel Sheppard:
On Friday, roughly 24 hours before J. Eric Fuller was going to be arrested for publicly threatening the life of a Tea Party leader at an ABC News town hall meeting, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann praised him via Twitter:
That's basically Sheppard's entire point, that the day before Fuller did something objectionable by threatening the life of a Tea Party leader, Olbermann said nice things about Fuller. And.....? Was Olbermann supposed to know that Fuller might do something foolish the next day? Does Sheppard know what people are going to do in the future? I suspect Sheppard does not. But apparently Olbermann should. Or something.
Fuller was arrested and charged with threats and intimidation as well as disorderly conduct.
Makes you wonder what Olbermann thinks of him now.
Ha-ha. Sheppard wonders what Olbermann thinks of his pal Fuller now! Um, well if Sheppard read Twitter he would know what Olbermann thinks of Fuller's arrest because Olbermann tweeted it yesterday:
Olbermann was quite clear about what he thought of Fuller's arrest. Sheppard pretends he doesn't know that.
If there is one thing the right-wing media can agree about, it's that they've been treated unfairly following the shooting in Tucson. To push this point, Brent Bozell, the head of the Media Research Center, appeared on Fox & Friends this morning to cry foul. In addition to his normal complaints of left-wing bias in the media, Bozell made one thing patently clear: The shootings in Tucson had nothing to do with politics. He drove this point home over and over again, saying, "Politics had nothing to do with this. This is a man who never even listened to talk radio or watched the news." Watch:
Got that? Jared Loughner's shooting spree had "nothing to do with politics." Seems like Bozell needs to get Media Research Center's blog, NewsBusters, on the same page. Last Sunday, Noel Sheppard wrote a blog, complaining that "[a] friend of the gunman accused of Saturday's tragic shooting spree involving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was interviewed on Sunday's 'This Week,'" but that "[f]or some reason, her claims posted on Twitter Saturday that Jared Lee Loughner was a liberal went completely ignored."
Sheppard repeatedly participated in the nonsensical right-wing effort to try to label the shooter as "left wing" based on the fact that he listed Mein Kampf as one of his favorite books. On January 8, Sheppard wrote:
A video that he posted at his YouTube channel features a flag burning, certainly not what one would expect from a conservative. Loughner also listed his favorite books including "Mein Kampf" and "The Communist Manifesto."
Liberals love to claim Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party were right-wing. However, as Hitler wanted total governmental control of industry and healthcare, his views were quite opposite of what conservatives in America currently stand for, especially Palin, Beck, and members of the Tea Party.
Today, Bozell was so furious that anyone would tie the incident to politics this morning that he shouted "How dare [the far left] turn around and demand civility? They're the ones being uncivil!" Sheppard must not have gotten the memo.
Right-wing media have accused Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of being a liberal activist in the wake of the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona. However, Dupnik has previously encouraged gun ownership among his constituents, has advocated for citizenship checks of students in public schools, and supported the controversial Arizona immigration law after some provisions were removed.
Following Obama's widely praised address at the memorial for the victims of the Tucson shooting, the right-wing media have nonetheless strained to find ways to attack him. Their attacks have included the presence of T-shirts at the event -- which were reportedly handed out by the university -- the "pep-rally" atmosphere, and the timing of Obama's speech, among other things.