A new NPR piece equating scrutiny of Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital with the racially charged "Willie Horton" ad from 1988 could provide fodder for Romney supporters who want to shield the candidate from criticism.
In a post titled, "Bain attacks on Romney recall notorious 'Willie Horton' ads," NPR's Ron Elving set the clock back to 1988 to explain how criticism of Romney's record at Bain from Republicans in the primary could in turn hurt the GOP during the general election.
But NPR's analogy is flawed. Romney has been citing his experience at Bain Capital as a justification for why he is best suited for the presidency. That makes the intense scrutiny into his record fair game. By contrast, the ads about Willie Horton were unadulterated race-baiting with the intent to scare voters and marginalize Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis.
During the 1988 presidential campaign, Republicans turned questions about Dukakis' support for a program that allowed criminals to participate in weekend furloughs into the Horton attack ads. Elving wrote:
[T]he real danger of the Bain story will not be manifest among Republicans this winter and spring. The real danger is that the story bobs back up in the summer and fall.
To be sure, Dukakis' general election campaign had plenty of other problems. But none was so lurid and enduring as the ads attacking him for the furlough program (and featuring a frightful prison picture of Horton). Those ads -- which also drew accusations of racism for their frightening portrayal of a black criminal -- helped make George H.W. Bush the 41st president of the United States (and his son the 43rd).
It's a distant mirror, of course, but the circumstances of a weak primary candidate raising an emotional issue in 1988 resemble those by which Gingrich and others now attempt to derail the Romney express.
The Horton issue worked because it resonated with Dukakis' image as a bleeding heart liberal. The Bain assault works if voters come to see Romney as a heartless capitalist, a Wall Street marauder wrapped in patriotic patois.
To his credit, Elving acknowledged the racial component of the Horton ads, but the very analogy can in turn be used to make any effort to examine Romney's record at Bain verboten, even as Romney continues to tout that record on the campaign trail.
Reporting on emails selectively released by House Republicans, numerous media outlets falsely claimed the documents show Obama donor George Kaiser -- whose family foundation invested in Solyndra -- discussing Solyndra's federal loan with the White House, with Fox going even further to claim "quid pro quo." In fact, the emails occurred after Solyndra had already received the loan guarantee and do not indicate that Kaiser discussed the loan with the White House.
NPR recently published a laudatory (some would even say fawning) profile of the "one man" behind the controversial Alabama anti-immigration law, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. From it, we learn that Kobach "looked the part" of a "movie star," "handsome and loaded with charisma"; that he is "deified by his supporters" in part because of his Ivy League credentials (Harvard, Oxford, and Yale); and that the time spent on immigration issues has been very "lucrative." Gushed the reporter: "Official documents from Arizona indicate he made $300 an hour with a $1,500 monthly retainer, plus expenses."
Amid all the flattery, however, KCUR reporter Laura Ziegler dropped hints that Kobach isn't all Mr. Congeniality. But she failed to show how extreme a figure Kobach really is. The fact that he has a history of anti-immigrant action and rhetoric elicited barely a mention. Instead, here is what Ziegler reported:
ZIEGLER: At a campaign event before the 2010 elections, candidate Kobach brought in Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Arizona, who's enforcing the immigration law there. Rallies outside the event, in a Kansas City suburb, showed how both had become lightning rods because of it.
MYRNA OROSKO: My name is Myrna Orosko and I came to the United States when I was four years old. And I came legally with a visa. However, like for many immigrants, it expired. I have to, you know, refuse to let men like Kris Kobach and Arpaio continue to spread a message of hate and intolerance for our immigrants around the country.
Zeigler didn't explain what Orosko meant nor did she point to any "message of hate and intolerance." She later added:
ZIEGLER: [Southern Poverty Law Center director of research Heidi] Beirich says Kobach is leading a strategic anti-immigrant crusade, which she says has a racial element.
BEIRICH: His decision to first start at the local level with laws in towns that were going through some strife over growing immigrant populations and then to take that to the state level shifted the entire terms of the debate.
While exhorting a government to enforce its immigration laws may not be racist, that's not the reason critics have given for blasting Kobach for "spread[ing] a message of hate and intolerance." Kobach works on behalf of noted hate group FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. As a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he assigned students a book with an anti-Latino immigrant message.
Bill O'Reilly is no fan of National Public Radio.
Last October, after NPR fired Juan Williams, O'Reilly went on Fox News and said NPR "is not a news organization" and "is basically a left-wing outfit" that "throw[s] out propaganda in violation of the First Amendment." He called for "the immediate suspension of every taxpayer dollar going into the National Public Radio outfit" and likened the network to terrorists: "Terrorists want to create terror. Well what does NPR want to create? They're intimidating, too." To cap it all off, he called NPR "boring," "dishonest," and a "snake pit."
This past March, still incensed over the incident, O'Reilly invented a new term, "TL" -- short for "totalitarian liberal" -- and christened NPR the "TL Vatican." Said O'Reilly: "That is totalitarian. You cannot say certain things at NPR, and Juan did, and that's what happened there." And he once again called for NPR to be stripped of all public funding.
So it was curious, then, to tune into NPR's Morning Edition earlier today and hear Bill O'Reilly chat with Steve Inskeep about the Fox News host's new book, Killing Lincoln. They even had a quick discussion about his role as a media figure, which was noteworthy for its lack of self-awareness:
O'REILLY: I'm in the media, I've been doing it for 35 years. I know the media as well as anybody in the world knows it. And there are always going to be people who try to make money by slamming other people and by, you know, creating all kinds of stuff that doesn't really get us anywhere.
INSKEEP: Do you think you add to that sometimes?
O'REILLY: You know, I try not to do it personally. I think that we bring a robust debate to the nation every night. I think we try to stay away from the personal stuff. We try to back up our opinions with facts. So yeah, I mean, you can accuse me of anything you want, but, you know, I'm trying to do the right thing.
So O'Reilly thinks NPR is a totalitarian snake-pit of pseudo-terrorism that shouldn't get taxpayer money to promote its dishonest left-wing ideological agenda. Using taxpayer money to help sell his books, though, is perfectly fine.
National Public Radio's Board of Directors will meet this week to discuss the news organization's ethics code, which is being revised in the wake of the controversy surrounding Juan Williams' firing. Earlier this year, an NPR task force working on the code recommended that the new guidelines move away from long-term associations between NPR employees and outside media outlets. National political correspondent Mara Liasson, who regularly appears on Fox News, is among the very few NPR employees who currently enjoy such a long-term pact.
An NPR spokeswoman tells Media Matters that no final decision regarding Liasson's Fox News job has been made, but that the type of on-going media contract Liasson has with Fox was reviewed by an NPR ethics task force.
According to a report earlier this year in Current, which covers public broadcasting, the task force was clear that NPR should "have its journalists phase out any long-term contracts for appearances on other media outlets." Instead, those media appearances should be approved on a case-by-case basis.
The task force was created in the wake of the Williams firing, prompted by his comments on Fox's O'Reilly Factor that he felt uncomfortable flying with passengers dressed in "Muslim garb." NPR executives, who had long been unhappy with William's association with Fox News, terminated his contract.
The move sparked a wide controversy, with the right-wing media responding with special indignation, echoing Williams' claim he had been unfairly fired. Conservatives also claimed, often hysterically, that NPR's personnel move highlighted what they saw as the network's embedded liberal bias. Indeed, Fox News unleashed a nasty attack campaign against Liasson's employer, regularly ambushed its CEO, and spread all kinds of smears and misinformation about NPR and its staff in an effort to defund and destroy public broadcasting. (Fox News' Brit Hume essentially called NPR racist for firing Williams.)
Liasson, who has been an NPR employee for two decades, maintained her Fox News association in spite of the network's harassment campaign of NPR, which culminated with chief Roger Ailes denouncing Liasson's bosses as "Nazis."
Out beating the bushes for charitable donations, conservative activist James O'Keefe's accidentally spoke the truth in a fundraising email recently sent out to supporters [emphasis added]:
I'm also asking for your financial help today, so I can focus on growing Project Veritas and training thousands of young citizen journalist to expose the corruption and fraud you want uncovered to protect you. That's what I do best.
What I don't do best is editing. It takes me forever because I'm not a professional. I need to hire an editing professional. I need to purchase editing equipment for that person.
Amen to that, James.
Between the ACORN pimp hoax you got caught trying to spread, the NPR videos that were unfairly altered, and the law enforcement reviews of your work that determined clips were "severely edited," it's safe to say editing is not your strong suit.
Although honestly, I'm not sure getting strangers to pay for new equipment is going to solve your ethical shortcoming.
NPR has decided that anti-immigration activist Mark Krikorian's nativist dogma is worthy enough to be a featured "point of view" in the immigration debate. Never mind that the entirety of Krikorian's solution to the issue involves a scheme where all unauthorized immigrants and their children, American citizens or not, would be given "90 days or ... six months" to "pack up your things ... resolve your affairs" and "go home."
On its website on Thursday, NPR thought to contrast Krikorian's extremist views with those of journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who recently admitted he is an undocumented immigrant who has been in the United States since he was 12 years old. Vargas' take on immigration reform was highlighted in an interview with the station's Fresh Air program.
Krikorian, the executive director of "low immigration" think tank, the Center for Immigration Studies, and a columnist for National Review Online, explained why Vargas should leave the United States and why the DREAM Act shouldn't apply to immigrants like Vargas. From NPR:
"It's not so much that he's undocumented. It's that he's an illegal immigrant -- he had illegal documents," says Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that advocates a "low immigration, high enforcement" immigration policy. "He came here as a child [but] ... he came here with an identity formed as a Filipino. In other words, he came at 12."
Vargas says he was inspired to write his article after the Senate failed to pass the Dream Act, which would have granted amnesty to people younger than 36 who arrived in the United States as children, have lived here for five years or more and are currently attending college or serving in the military.
But Krikorian says legislation like the Dream Act shouldn't apply to people like Vargas -- because he arrived in the United States at the age of 12.
"The moral case that you can make for the Dream Act -- or something like the Dream Act ... really only applies, it seems to me, to people whose identities have been formed here, who have no memory of any other country, who really are -- as some of the advocates sometimes put it -- are Americans in all but paperwork," he says. "This doesn't really cover a lot of the people who would be covered under the current version of the Dream Act, including Mr. Vargas. The man has real abilities and real skills, and he should go home to his country of citizenship, the country he grew up in for most of his childhood."
Krikorian further stated: "The strongest case you can make for something like the Dream Act is for people who prudence suggests we should allow [to] stay because their identities have been formed here. They really are, psychologically speaking, Americans."
So, according to Krikorian's ridiculous logic, a child who moves here around age 12 will never be, "psychologically speaking," American? I'm sure Madeleine Albright, Patrick Ewing, and a host of others who immigrated here as pre-teens, like me, would have something to say about that. But putting aside the absurd notion that there is a cookie cutter formula to national identity, Krikorian has maintained that immigrants are considered truly American only if they embrace "Anglo-conformity."
If it seems that relentless news coverage of the federal deficit is coming at the expense of covering other economic issues, such as employment, that's because it has. And if it seems that the conservative movement has been able to force the media to pay attention to precisely what they want them to (i.e. the deficit), that's because conservatives have.
The press is suffering from "deficit" overload and Tea Party leaders are likely quite pleased, having made deficit reduction a hallmark of far-right movement. Indeed, the deficit coverage illustrates what happens when Republican and conservatives frame a national issue: the Beltway press falls in line.
Deficit! Deficit! Deficit!
Or, as an NPR anchor recently put it while introducing a political discussion, "the massive public debt" represents "the biggest problem facing the nation."
Note however, that the media obsession is clearly out of sync with mainstream America, according to Gallup. And the latest CBS News poll found that when asked which issue is the most important one facing the country today, 48 percent said the economy and/or jobs, compared to just ten percent who selected the deficit.
We've seen this response time and again this year: News consumer peg the economy and jobs as being the most important issue of the day, while the Beltway press obsesses over the deficit [emphasis added]:
Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing with executives from the world's five largest private oil companies. One of the main topics of the hearings was how the oil companies could justify the billions of dollars it saves every year in tax breaks while simultaneously recording record profits. According to the Associated Press, "Democrats accused the oil companies of not paying their share to help the country emerge from economic hard times. Republicans derided the hearing as a dog-and-pony show staged to score political points." But Republicans were not the only ones going to bat for the oil companies. The right-wing partisans at Fox also bravely stood up to defend the tax breaks for oil companies.
The hearing culminated a weeks-long campaign by the right-wing media to defend the oil companies at all costs. First, they promoted the false claim that proposing and end to the subsidies is tantamount to "[coming] out in favor of even higher gas prices." They also attempted to deflect criticism by attacking subsidies on wind and solar energy, despite the fact that those subsidies are miniscule by comparison. But on this morning's Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade took a new tactic and dismissed the proposal to end tax subsidies for oil companies as "a feel good move for people who think we're spending too much."
National Public Radio is supposed to be a bastion of liberalism and biased journalists who ridicule the American right, right?
I mean, that's been one of the key claims fueling the relentless conservative attempt to defund NPR this year: It's a Democratic outpost and doesn't deserve taxpayer funding. Of course, the problem conservatives have had is showing how NPR is liberally biasing and illustrating the ways in which its journalism is unethical and untrustworthy. They say it's all left-leaning and anti-GOP; they just can't point to any concrete examples.
But for those looking for more proof that the right-wing attacks on NPR are utterly hollow, watch the video below, recently posted by Crooks and Liars. It captures NPR commentator Amy Dickinson blasting MSNBC for its liberal views, bragging about listening to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh every day, and then agreeing with GOP partisans who claim NPR has a liberal bias.
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.
National Public Radio's Board of Directors was so panicked by James O'Keefe's initial video sting release last month that it requested its CEO resign just as the organization was getting its hands on the transcripts to O'Keefe's unedited video. It was the unedited video that later revealed how the original NPR tapes released to the public had been heavily, and unethically, edited by O'Keefe in order to make the NPR executives captured on tape look as bad, and partisan, and as possible.
NPR's former CEO, Vivian Schiller, explained her forced resignation during a recent sit-down interview at the Paley Center For Media on Tuesday. She said the Board was under intense pressure to save its public funding and moved immediately to try to contain the O'Keefe story.
She stressed the irony of the controversy was that when the story first broke, she was determined to take things slow and to not make what she conceded were mistakes in the handling of Juan William's firing last year:
SCHILLER: In fact, when the video tape, the sting video emerged on the morning, I think it was, of March 9th, the first thing, actually, popped into my head was, "okay let's not make the mistake we made in October. Let's slow down. Let's look at what this tape is. Let's take a look at the whole two hour version of it." It was almost an opportunity to, you know, say let's fix what we didn't do right in October.
SCHILLER: The timing was, the edited video hit at about ten o'clock. They released the two hour version I think it was about two o'clock in the afternoon. We rushed to get a rush transcript. But even a rush transcript --it was two hours, it takes two hours, at a minimum. So we were just getting our hands on that long one. But then, anyway, the Board met and the rest is history.
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.
From the March 29 edition of NPR's All Things Considered:
In the wake of James O'Keefe's orchestrated gotcha on National Public Radio, Republicans in the House passed a bill to permanently strip public radio of its federal funding support. The bill appears to have little chance of passing in the Senate, but it's clear the Republican Party and the conservative movement have made NPR a prime target of partisan attacks; attacks that will continue for years to come. (Cultural wars are never-ending.)
So even the though O'Keefe's videos have receded from the headlines, how the public radio network responds to the increasingly unethical volleys in the future remains crucial. It's crucial for NPR and it's crucial for other targets of dishonest right-wing assaults. Following the O'Keefe sting, for instance, a defensive NPR made several missteps, including not waiting until all the facts were known about the undercover tapes. (Just like the Dept. of Agriculture did in the Shirley Sherrod case.)
Incredibly though, NPR leaders deny they moved too quickly, which raises questions about what NPR learned from its unwanted time in the partisan spotlight.