Did you see that The Huffington Post had to take down a story this week?
The site had published an item accusing Andrew Breitbart of having "doctored" a video posted on one of his websites. But the claim just wasn't true. So when confronted with the facts, the Huffington Post quickly posted a correction as well as an apology. They got the story wrong and alerted readers to that fact.
That's how journalism, including opinion journalism, is supposed work, and The Huffington Post made that plain this week: If you make an irrefutable error you correct it. You don't ignore it or try to explain it away. You own up your mistake.
But take a look at the far-right end of the media spectrum these days and you'll see how those simple rules of accountability don't apply to conservative media outlets, where covering up and ignoring obvious blunders has become a sad (celebrated?) hallmark of the movement.
It just so happens that the Huffington Post correction occurred the same time key right-wing players, such as Michelle Malkin and the Daily Caller, were doing their best to stiff-arm accountability. The contrast between The Huffington Post's honorable response to a miscue and the right-wing media's attempts at damage control tells us we all we need to know about how professionals play this game, as compared to rank amateurs.
Lots of conservative outlets pretend to be in the journalism game. But the embarrassing way they handled the recent fallout from imploding smear campaigns have made it plain they're more at home in the propaganda camp.
Roll Call has hired Daily Caller reporter Jonathan Strong to cover the House. Strong previously worked as a congressional aide to House Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), and more recently drew criticism for his reporting on Michele Bachmann's migraines.
According to House data compiled by LegiStorm, Strong served as a staff assistant and legislative correspondent for Lungren from August 2006 and August 2008. During his time at the Daily Caller, Strong reported on and provided friendly coverage of the congressman.
When asked by Media Matters if Strong would cover Lungren or legislative activity he's involved with, a Roll Call spokesperson said the details of his House assignment have yet to be finalized but they're "excited to bring" him aboard.
"As with many of our talented journalists, they have a distinguished work history that accompanies them to our newspaper," said Rebecca Gale, Roll Call's Director of Promotions, in an email. "We have not finalized details of Jonathan's reporting, but we expect he will continue to report on Capitol Hill with the highest integrity and ethics that Roll Call is known for."
In a staffing note, Roll Call suggested that Strong was hired, in part, because of his ability to break news. In the memo, posted on FishbowlDC, Roll Call editors noted some of Strong's stories, including "the recent excitement over Michele Bachmann's migraines? Jonathan broke that story." While some reporters defended him, Strong's story drew criticisms for sexism from conservatives and liberals (including Media Matters.)
Strong was also the reporter who spearheaded the Daily Caller's series on the JournoList archives, which purported to show liberal journalists conspiring together. The reporting however, resulted in a seemingly endless series of misleading write-ups about JournoList. The Columbia Journalism Review's Joel Meares wrote that "the controversial reports left many prominent Washington press types, Left and Right, cold."
Strong has devoted friendly coverage to Lungren in The Daily Caller (Strong's site biography notes that he worked for Lungren). On April 26, 2010, for instance, Strong published an article with the headline, "Lungren introduces bill to repeal hidden Obamacare tax authority." From the article:
Conservative media are promulgating the myths that higher fuel economy standards are unattainable with current technology, will cost consumers and will increase traffic deaths. In fact, automakers have said they will be able to meet the standards, consumers will net thousands in fuel savings, and safe cars in a variety of sizes will continue to be produced.
Late Monday night, Tucker Carlson's pseudo-journalism rag, the Daily Caller, published a piece on Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann that strongly alleged she popped pills whenever she came under any kind of stress. From the sensationalist headline, "Stress-related condition 'incapacitates' Bachmann; heavy pill use alleged," to a last paragraph that highlighted her "debilitating headache episodes," the article tried very hard to make readers understand that because of this "incapacitating" condition, she is unfit to be president. It wasn't until the eighth paragraph that the Daily Caller informed readers that these "stress-induced medical episodes" are in fact "severe headaches" or migraines.
The article has been heavily criticized as "ignorant," as well as sexist. Others have defended the piece, with Slate's Jessica Grose arguing the migraines are "relevant, gender-neutral information." However, the piece reads like an expose of a "catastrophic drama queen," as Wired's Steve Silberman put it, whose migraines are sometimes triggered by "anything going badly" requiring her to be rushed to the nearest emergency room. Additionally, according to the piece, Bachmann is a habitual pill-popper whose condition is so "incapacitating" that she couldn't manage it without the help of her husband.
Reporting on efforts by Democratic legislators to promote healthy media portrayals of women, the Daily Caller's Caroline May offers up a gem of a non sequitur:
So much for the obesity epidemic
Despite the obesity epidemic, North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, and Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis are pushing legislation to encourage the media to produce healthier images of women.
They say women and girls feel overly pressured to be thin.
"Despite the obesity epidemic"? How does "pushing legislation to encourage the media to produce healthier images of women" have anything to do with the obesity epidemic? Rampant obesity and unhealthy, unrealistic portrayals of women are two discrete problems that, to the Daily Caller's apparent and baffling surprise, exist at the same time. Their implication seems to be that we can't simultaneously fight both, and that by encouraging women not be unhealthily thin, we're actually encouraging them to be dangerously overweight.
This is all very silly. Not quite as silly as the Washington Post's ongoing coverage of Michelle Obama's hamburger, but close.
Fox & Friends and the Daily Caller attacked Affordable Housing Centers of America (AHCOA) for receiving federal money, claiming that "ACORN" is receiving "taxpayer funds" -- despite also noting that the Government Accountability Office determined in September 2010 that AHCOA "is not an affiliate, subsidiary, or allied organization of ACORN." In addition, ACORN no longer exists, having filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in November 2010 and "clos[ed] up shop."
Adding to their already impressive list of groundbreaking scoops, the Daily Caller has an exclusive report today on the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria sponsoring a gay film festival. In keeping with the Daily Caller house style, the article stretches to several hundred words without coming near anything resembling a point. They instead list all the movies to be screened and note that the U.S. Embassy will show the Oscar-winning film Milk, starring Sean Penn. Shocking stuff.
The final line of the piece perhaps hints at a point: "The U.S. Embassy did not immediately reply to an email asking how much public money is being spent to sponsor the festival." Left unexplained is why this information would be noteworthy or scandalous. U.S. embassies sponsor film festivals all over the world without much notice or controversy.
Strange that the Daily Caller would single out this particular film festival for scrutiny...
From the May 19 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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An article in The Daily Caller today suggested that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was "more involved with President Obama's health-care law than she disclosed previously" and that "newly released documents" would likely "lead to a revival of questions about whether" Kagan should recuse herself from cases related to the health care law. From the article:
Specifically, the documents show that Kagan was involved with crafting the legal defense of the Affordable Care Act in her role as solicitor general, before her appointment to the bench. The Media Research Center and Judicial Watch obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that was filed in February 2011.
The Daily Caller has the story wrong here in several ways.
Right-wing media continue to attack President Obama over his speech announcing that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden in a firefight. These attacks even include people saying that Obama should not have made the announcement himself.
Right-wing media responded to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate by attacking the president and claiming that certain questions surrounding the document remain unanswered. Below is a sampling of the early attacks by conservative media following the release of Obama's long-form birth certificate.
The "EXCLUSIVE" report from Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller this morning is that Glenn Beck, the one-time host of a popular Fox News program, poached content from right-wing bloggers without attribution. Those bloggers -- Andrew Breitbart, Pamela Geller, and assorted F-listers -- have just realized how angry this makes them now that Glenn Beck has been canceled and will thus no longer be a megaphone for their unhinged ranting "citizen journalism." Pam Geller, who is quite mad, says of Beck: "I like his work, but he's a thief."
As Salon's Alex Pareene notes, stealing content from people on the internet is essentially the cable news business model, so the revelation that Beck did it isn't exactly groundbreaking. Also, the fact that Beck's "researchers" were just trolling the fever swamp wasn't really a secret. And while I certainly don't begrudge Geller et. al. for kicking Beck while he's down, there's more to this than simple opportunism. This is all part of an ongoing sad/hilarious right-wing media feud. Breitbart and the Daily Caller are on one side, doing their best to get as much attention as they can; Beck is on the other, doing everything he can to halt the decline of his audience and influence.
It wasn't always like this. Beck's breakout story on Fox News was courtesy of Andrew Breitbart and his protégé, James O'Keefe. Back in September 2009, Beck worked with Breitbart to promote O'Keefe's now-infamous ACORN videos, teasing the tapes the night before their release as an "exclusive" that will "change a lot for those in power." Beck said Breitbart was one of "the great journalists of our time" and leaned on him for several of his stories.
Then Breitbart and O'Keefe suffered a string of embarrassing failures. Breitbart released the edited Shirley Sherrod tape and demolished what little credibility he still enjoyed. O'Keefe was arrested inside a senator's office and tried to lure a CNN reporter onto a boat full of sex toys. At the same time, Beck was suffering his own implosion. Between 2010 and 2011, hundreds of thousands of viewers fled Beck's Fox News show -- as did hundreds of advertisers who refused to run ads on Beck's show. Meanwhile, his radio program was being dropped from several major markets due to low ratings and "unacceptable" content. So, coming into 2011, Breitbart, Beck, and O'Keefe were all working towards the same end -- getting people to pay attention to them like they once had.
Right-wing media reacted to news that Democrat-backed JoAnne Kloppenburg emerged from Wisconsin's Supreme Court election with a small lead by predictably bringing up baseless allegations of voter fraud. The right-wing media regularly uses voter fraud to respond to elections where a Democrat wins or is winning, especially following a close race.
On March 31, The Daily Caller reported that Donald Trump -- whose birther claims have been recently hyped by Fox -- appeared on Laura Ingraham's radio show and suggested that Bill Ayers wrote President Obama's memoir, Dreams from My Father.
From The Daily Caller article:
Donald Trump appeared on the Laura Ingraham Show Wednesday morning, discussing the controversy he has generated in recent days over his comments regarding President Barack Obama's birth certificate.
The billionaire also suggested that Bill Ayers, not Obama was the real author of the 1995 memoir "Dreams of My Father."
Trump cited a noticeable difference in the writing quality between "Dreams of My Father" and Obama's 2006 policy-centered book,"The Audacity of Hope," which Trump said "was written by a guy that's like a sophomore in high school."
"They say 'Dreams of My Father' was genius and they give him full credit, and now it's coming out that Bill Ayers wrote it...that's what started him on this road where he became president," Trump said.
Trump is likely making a reference to a video of a speech Ayers made on March 24, in which he claims to be the real author. However, the former Weather Underground member appeared to be joking.
Well. That was quick.
Sarah Palin, on March 23:
PALIN: Of course. Women are held to a different standard in all areas. My point is going to be, so what. Let's work harder, produce more and better, and get over it. I'm through whining about a liberal press that holds conservative women to a different standard because it doesn't do any good to whine about it.
Sarah Palin, on March 30:
Goodness, cleaning up the sloppiness of reporters could be a full time job. In response to The Daily Caller's online inquiry, I gave them a statement that the writer buried on his story's second page (which most people won't even notice - I didn't even notice it) after he spent the first page completely spinning a situation to give the impression that Alaska's film production tax credit legislation was somehow solely my idea hatched up to benefit the Palins years before I was ever involved in a documentary series on TLC/Discovery Channel.
One final thought: having to set the record straight on my Facebook page yet again is further proof that the media can't be trusted even to print a statement in a manner that people can read.
Granted, the Daily Caller probably doesn't fit Palin's -- or anyone's -- definition of the "liberal press," but she broadened her complaint to include "reporters" and "the media" in general.
Guess she just couldn't help herself.