Politico's Michael Calderone reports:
Megan Whittemore, who was recently the research producer for "Fox News Sunday," has been named deputy press secretary to Republican whip Eric Cantor.
She had previously covered Capitol Hill for Fox News and FoxNews.com, according to the release, and worked on the network's 2008 election coverage.
Fox News is the "scene of the crime" on health care "falsehoods and myths" an unnamed White House official told Politico's Mike Allen in the lead up to President Obama's sit-down interview with the conservative network last night:
A White House official: "Many of the falsehoods and myths about health reform gained traction with Glenn Beck and others on FOX, so the President is returning to the scene of the crime to make the final sale. As we have said, we will work with Fox where it serves our communications interests, and this does."
Over the weekend, Politico published a profile of Media Matters by Michael Calderone.
From a glitzy new office in downtown Washington, the ideological war over the media is fully engaged.
Six years after its founding to counter what it said was "conservative misinformation," Media Matters for America employs a staff of 70 that spends 19 hours a day monitoring newspapers, magazines, broadcast and cable television, talk radio, and the Internet to counter reporting or commentary it deems to be inaccurate or biased.
One of the bloodiest battles in that war occurred last fall, when Kevin Jennings, an openly-gay educator hired by the Department of Education to run an anti-bullying campaign, became a conservative cause.
Jennings was under fire from critics because he once described how as, a 24-year-old teacher, he counseled a student having a sexual relationship with an "older man." Several conservative outlets and commentators said that by law Jennings had to report the incident, claiming the student was only 15 years old at the time, and the relationship thus constituted statutory rape.
Media Matters obtained the student's driver's license and proved he was 16 at the time, the age of consent in Massachusetts. While some may still question Jennings' judgment, he didn't break any law.
"This should put to rest claims made by Fox News and other conservatives that Jennings covered up 'statutory rape' or 'molestation,'" wrote Media Matters senior fellow Karl Frisch. "To continue reporting such reckless speculation is at best willful disregard for the facts and at worst journalistic malpractice."
The battle over Jennings convinced Media Matters that it needed to not only monitor other media but to do its own original reporting. On Monday, Joe Strupp, who covered the press for 11 years with Editor & Publisher magazine, will launch a new media blog after signing on as the group's first investigative reporter.
Joining a partisan organization is a change for Strupp, given that his press coverage with E&P, or in appearances on "Fox News Watch," was solidly non-partisan. However, Media Matters, he says, didn't ask about his political beliefs when it hired him, and his goal remains to do "straight-ahead reporting." Still, Strupp acknowledges that he represents a "new sort of wing for their organization."
So while Media Matters may increasingly hire journalists with more traditional news backgrounds, the reporting and writing still fits in with the organization's goals. Unlike a newspaper, Media Matters is not in the business of selling advertising, subscriptions or competing on a variety of beats. It also has a clear political agenda.
For instance, Media Matters hired Will Bunch, a veteran Philadelphia Daily News reporter and blogger, as a senior fellow last month. Bunch plans on remaining at the Daily News while also working on a book that seems well-suited for the Media Matters audience: "The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, Hi-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama."
While Media Matters president Eric Burns and senior fellow Eric Boehlert are more visible presences on cable news and talk radio, founder David Brock remains chief executive and a major presence in the organization.
He plays a key role in strategy and fundraising, which supports the entire non-profit apparatus, and is typically at the office each day. "He guides us, gives vision," Rabin-Havt said.
That Brock has anything to do with the organization at all is more than a little ironic given his own role as part of the right-wing conspiracy. Two of Brock's notable contributions were his book "The Real Anita Hill," and a 1994 American Spectator article that spawned "Troopergate," leading to allegations that Bill Clinton, while Governor of Arkansas, used state troopers to arrange liaisons with women.
Brock later confessed that much of the Anita Hill book was false, apologized to the Clintons for the Troopergate article, broke with the right officially in a 1997 Esquire piece, and four years later explained his conversion in greater detail with his memoir, "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative."
At the time Brock started Media Matters, the main counter to conservative media groups such as MRC and the even more established Accuracy in Media, founded in 1969, was Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a liberal watchdog group that launched in 1986 to target media bias and censorship. While FAIR offers some analysis online each day, it doesn't do so as comprehensively as the better-funded Media Matters, which has researchers posting clips of video and audio throughout the day along with frequently updated online content.
Rabin-Havt, who like other Media Matters executives, arrived at the organization after working for a number of groups affiliated with liberal advocacy and the Democratic Party, said he thinks Media Matters has been somewhat misunderstood by mainstream reporters.
"The culture here, in this office, and I think reporters would be surprised by this, isn't one of sniping or disrespect towards the media," Rabin Havt said, adding that "being a reporter is such an incredibly honored profession, and plays such a role in our society and our debate, and we want people to do the best job they can."
Be sure to check out the profile in its entirety.
Other Profiles of Media Matters:
Every winter, there are two things you can count on, two things that are absolutely assured of happening. The first is that at some point somewhere in the northern hemisphere, it will snow. The second is that some thick-as-a-brick conservative will guffaw loudly that the presence of snow on the ground means that Al Gore is a moron and climate change is a fraud.
It happens all the time, and as funny as those jokes weren't the first time they were made, they're downright tiresome now.
But for Politico writers seeking to nab their latest link from Matt Drudge (a connoisseur of lame Al Gore/winter snowfall jokes), conservative mockery of the former vice president stemming from the record snowfall in Washington, DC is big news:
Conservatives mock Al Gore on snowstorms
By Andy Barr
With the nation's capital buried in several feet of snow and the federal government brought to a halt by Mother Nature, conservatives are mocking former Vice President Al Gore and his crusade to curb global climate change.
The vocal doubters of global warming frequently use any unseasonal snowfall or cold spell to mock Gore and the scientists who believe human actions are unnaturally warming the planet.
But the historic snowfall in Washington -- coinciding with a push from Democrats to enact legislation capping emissions -- has given conservatives more fodder than usual to bash the former vice president.
What follows are quotes from Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin all making THE SAME EXACT JOKE about Gore -- a joke they've probably all made dozens of times in the past.
Absent from the article was any indication that these conservatives, in addition to demonstrating a marked aversion to fresh comedic material, are also flat-out wrong to suggest that isolated weather phenomena, like the DC snowstorms, are at all relevant to the climate change debate. They certainly don't disprove climate change theory, much in the same way that unseasonably warm temperatures in Vancouver do nothing to confirm it.
But why let facts get in the way when there's a tired joke to flog and a Drudge link to be had?
UPDATE: Politico has since updated their article, citing Media Matters' item from yesterday documenting the plethora of conservatives using the snowstorms to make foolish and ignorant attacks on Al Gore and climate change theory. The Politico article now contains the following language:
Most climate scientists would disagree with the two senators -- both of whom are frequent critics of cap-and-trade legislation -- pointing to numerous studies indicating that carbon emissions have contributed to rising global temperatures.
The left-leaning group Media Matters wrote in its blog Tuesday that "conservative media figures have used the recent snowstorms in the Washington, D.C., area to level more science-free attacks on global warming."
But criticism of the position has not deterred global warming deniers from using an unusually snowy winter in Washington to bash Gore.
In an article headlined "Republicans revive 'soft on terror' charge," Politico uncritically repeated several GOP attacks on the Obama administration's response to the attempted Christmas Day bombing which are undermined by the similarity of that reaction to the Bush administration's response to Richard Reid's 2001 attempted shoe bombing. The attacks included that President Obama was "slow to speak to the public" after the attempted Christmas Day bombing, and that the Justice Department was wrong to read the bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights and decide to try him in a civilian court; moreover, Politico pushed the misleading GOP attack that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "said 'the system worked' because passengers on the plane jumped on" Abdulmutallab.
Politico's Ben Smith posted the FBI agent's affidavit in the alleged plot to interfere with the phones* at Sen. Landrieu's office by O'Keefe and three others to his Twitter account this afternoon. You can read it here (pdf).
In a Politico article headlined "History according to Glenn Beck," reporter Michael Calderone asked history professors what they thought of Beck's documentary on "the atrocities of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara - 'the true unseen history of Marxism, progressivism and communism; as Beck described it."
In the article, Clemson professor Steven Marks called Beck's assertions "a complete lie":
Clemson University professor Steven Marks, author of "How Russia Shaped the Modern World," said that while Beck doesn't explicitly tie the left-wing totalitarian regimes of the past to contemporary liberals, that's what "he's hinting at here."
"No one in their right mind is going to defend Stalin or Mao or Che Guevara," Marks said. "The implication is that this is what's going to happen if Democrats get their way. This is just a complete lie."
Boston College professor Alan Wolfe said Beck "lives in a complete alternative universe":
Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Life at Boston College, said that the film not only isn't accurate, but that Beck "lives in a complete alternative universe."
As an example, he said, Beck mentions how the Nazis supported programs like universal health care as evidence that their ideology may have more to do with the left than the totalitarian right.
Nazi Germany was "not evil because of their economic program," said Wolfe, which he noted included a few programs designed to promote public health.
"It was evil," he said, " because it aimed at the extermination of European Jewry."
Politico's Michael Calderone reports this morning that, Alexander Zaitchik who "wrote a multi-part series for Salon looking at the life of Glenn Beck, probably the most comprehensive take in terms of back story that I've seen on the conservative talk star" will be releasing a new biography on the right-wing conspiracy-theorist this spring titled, Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance (Wiley & Sons, 2010).
If you've not yet read Zaitchik's amazing series on Beck for Salon, you can do so here.
Politico has been in the hot seat in recent months for, as MSNBC's Chris Matthews put it earlier this week, serving as a "hot line" for Dick Cheney, saying, "[h]e uses you like you'd use Drudge or somebody."
The pressure has been so intense that Politico editor John Harris was forced to offer up a lame defense of his publication's stenography services for the former Vice President.
All is not lost however. One Politico employee wants us to know that he hasn't been pulling any punches when it comes to Bush's former number two. In fact, so seemingly upset by the spat of negative attention hovering around the beltway rag, this enterprising soul sent an email to Romenesko to straighten things out once and for all. Did I mention he's the cartoonist?
I kid you not.
The email from Matt Wuerker to Romenesko follows:
I couldn't help but have my fragile cartoonist ego hurt by the building beef out there about the Cheney coverage by Politico.
As part of the slowly shrinking tribe of editorial cartoonists, it's hard not to be a little thin skinned these days, so it pains me to have to point out myself that at least in my little corner of Politico (which runs off our home page) I don't think Cheney's getting a free ride. The bloggers that are all howling about how we're so clearly in the tank for Cheney seem to not read down toward the bottom of our homepage.
To bolster my case I'm attaching three examples from just this past year. I have many more going further back. I know that my little cartoon corner doesn't have nearly the reach that Mike Allen does, but still, even ink-stained wretches hate to be completely overlooked.
It was reported this morning by paidContent.org that Politico is estimated to be a $20 million operation. The dollar figure is all the more interesting when you consider this post from Think Progress today:
Reporting on criticisms of right-leaning pollster Scott Rasmussen, Politico presented as fact his official bio as "an independent pollster" who "has never been a campaign pollster or consultant." The article quotes Rasmussen's critics, but fails to question his supposed independence.
According to the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity, Rasmussen has been a paid consultant for the RNC and President Bush's 2004 campaign. The RNC paid Rasmussen $95,500 between 2003 and 2004 for items listed as "survey," "survey cost" and "voter data." Bush's campaign paid Rasmussen $45,500 for "survey research."
You'd think with that kind of dough on hand they could afford to hire a few more fact-checkers.
Earlier today Markos Moulitsas did us all the favor of providing a glimpse into Politico's next effort to win the mid-morning-after-breakfast-but-not-quite-brunch hour, relating an exchange he had with Politico's Daniel Libit as the reporter fished for a "buyer's remorse" storyline highlighting the similarities between President Obama's agenda now and then-candidate Hillary Clinton's platform during the Democratic primaries. Markos' response to Libit's inquiry is worth reprinting in its entirety:
My god, what a stupid premise.
Indeed. Kos rightly pointed out that reporting on "similarities" between the agendas of two mainstream Democrats is hardly big news. What's more, Libit is late to this particular party. This exact story was written seven months ago, appearing in the pages of -- you guessed it -- the Politico. The fact that this story is resurfacing at all is a testament to how much the political press love to flog the Obama-versus-Clinton meme, even though it hasn't shown any signs of life for some time now. The Democratic primaries ended over a year and a half ago, Obama won the election over a year ago, Clinton joined his Cabinet eleven months ago, and there's been nary of whiff of discord between the two since. And yet, here's the Politico taking another swing at it.
Were there any bad blood between Democrats, the "buyer's remorse" that Politico believes is out there, a good place to look for it would be in opinion polls. If Democrats really are souring on Obama, then you'd think the president's approval rating among Democrats would have taken a sizeable hit. That doesn't appear to be the case -- Obama's approval among Dems is holding strong in the 80s.
Of course, that's no reason why Politico still won't run with the article. Just look at the Drudge-baiting dreck they've served up in the past two weeks alone: an article on how Obama says "unprecedented" too much; John Harris' round-up of right-wing smears repackaged as the "seven storylines Obama needs to worry about;" and an article giving space to Senate Republicans complaining that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is too partisan.
That's what they consider news. Their goal is to produce articles like these.
My god, what a stupid premise.
This morning, Politico published a story, the premise of which appears to be that Republican senators are mad at Al Franken for having proposed an amendment - which passed two months ago - banning federal contracts from being awarded to companies who require their employees to use their firms arbitration process - rather than the courts - for workplace discrimination claims. Why was this article published? I have no idea.
A Franken press release sent out after the amendment passed stated that Franken had been "inspired" to offer the amendment by the story of Jamie Leigh Jones, "a 19-yr-old employee of defense contractor KBR (formerly a Halliburton subsidiary) stationed in Iraq who was gang raped by her co-workers and imprisoned in a shipping container when she tried to report the crime" who subsequently "learned a fine-print clause in her KBR contract banned her from taking her case to court, instead forcing her into an "arbitration" process that would be run by KBR itself."
According to the Politico article, the amendment has - horror of horrors! - "spawned attacks like the satirical website RepublicansforRape.org." And so, the Republican senators in the article are complaining that Franken has been excessively partisan, demanding that he come out and say that opponents of his amendment are not effectively pro-rape, and claiming that until that happens, Franken's ability to work with Republicans in the future will be undermined.
Why has the Politico decided to let Republicans like John Cornyn - the head of the Republican National Senate Committee, i.e., the chief Republican partisan in the Senate - decide what constitutes excessive partisanship? No idea.
Does the Politico think it's somewhat unusual for Senators to be criticized for the votes they cast, and respond by complaining? Sure looks like it.
Why is the article running now, two months after Franken's amendment passed? Dunno.
But I'm sure it has nothing to do with this blog post, in which a different Politico reporter complains that Franken won't talk to him in the halls.
Remember how the media flipped out when Rep. Alan Grayson said the GOP's health care plan was: "Don't get sick, and if you do get you do get sick, die quickly"? NBC Nightly News covered it, with anchor Brian Williams calling the comment "incendiary" and noting that Republicans wanted him to apologize. Politico's Roger Simon said Grayson is "like a guy on crack who is always searching for a bigger high."
CNN's Howard Kurtz claimed Grayson benefitted from a "media double standard" -- that Grayson's comment drew less criticism than GOP Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's address to congress.
Well, if Kurtz is right about media double standards, there should be a huge media firestorm over Republican Sen. Tom Coburn's statement yesterday that under the Democratic health care plan, seniors will "die sooner." Seems pretty unlikely to me, but we'll see.
From Kenneth P. Vogel's 738-word November 20 Politico article:
Glenn Beck, the controversial Fox News television host, is planning on becoming more active in the populist conservative movement he spawned, according to sources familiar with his thinking.
At a rally Saturday at a massive retirement community in Central Florida, Beck is planning to unveil what he has billed as a "big plan" for 2010, which is expected to involve the 9.12 Project, the group he started earlier this year and named for the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when he says the nation was unified.
"Coming this January, my whole approach changes on this program," he hinted cryptically on his Wednesday show. "This next year is going to be critical, and I think it's going to change and I think we are going to set it right, at least set our course right. And if that means the Democrats or the Republicans are destroyed along the way, well, good. Good."
Beck's Saturday rally, which is set for 3 p.m., is timed to coincide with the kickoff of a tour promoting his new book, "Arguing with Idiots."