Dick Morris's failure to disclose his financial ties to political entities he writes about for The Hill brought sharp criticism from journalism veterans and news ethicists, one of whom accused the Fox News analyst of breaking an "ethical commandment."
The top editor of The Hill, meanwhile, declined to admit that the newspaper or the columnist had done anything wrong, even as media critics called out the paper's failure to police Morris's column.
In a statement to Media Matters, Hugo Gurdon, the editor-in-chief of The Hill, said:
Our comment pages publish opinion pieces from people on the left and the right who are active in partisan politics. We're confident that our readers know this, but we will continue to make additional disclosures where we think this is necessary.
Asked to elaborate further on Morris's specific actions and whether the paper would subject his work to greater scrutiny in the future, editors at The Hill did not respond.
At issue are several instances identified by Media Matters in which Morris, a well-known conservative political consultant, wrote columns for The Hill, but failed to disclose his financial ties to some subjects of the columns.
In one column earlier this month, Morris attacked "RINO Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.)" for supporting the Law of the Sea Treaty.
The column did not disclose that Morris had headlined a September 2011 fundraiser for Lugar's Republican primary opponent, Richard Mourdock. The Mourdock campaign had also rented Morris's email list in July 2011 for a donation solicitation, which featured an appeal from Morris.
Morris's practice brought criticism from Howard Kurtz on his CNN Reliable Sources program Sunday.
After reading a comment from Gurdon in which the Hill editor said that the paper's readers "are being kept well-informed" about their columnists' potential conflicts of interest, Kurtz commented that those readers "should be kept a little more well-informed."
From the February 26 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Over the past several years, The Hill has published numerous columns by Dick Morris analyzing political groups or races in which he had a financial interest. In these cases, neither The Hill nor Morris disclosed his financial connections to readers.
The Hill's lack of disclosure on Morris include:
Morris has also repeatedly discussed candidates and organizations on Fox News without disclosing his financial connections to them. After the Associated Press questioned Morris and Fox News last December about his promotions of Republican presidential candidates, Morris went on Fox News and admitted that he's taken money from certain candidates.
The AP's David Bauder subsequently wrote about Morris and noted that "advocates for ethics in journalism tend to lean toward full disclosure of conflicts caused by relationships between politicians and on-air reporters or commentators." Does that ethics policy apply to The Hill with Morris?
Requests for comment to The Hill were not returned.
Early on in the Obama presidency, The Hill published a news analysis piece on the "meaninglessness of the 24/7 news cycle." Author Scott Nance counseled the journalists "who contribute to the multimedia cacophony" to "rethink their place in the universe," and reserved special ire for the contrived narrative that the president -- by default the most visible public figure in the country, perhaps the world -- could possibly be "overexposed" [via Nexis]:
And, in perhaps the greatest irony of all for those who are themselves the ones feeding and perpetuating the constant stream of mostly soundbites and general bloviation that calls itself news and analysis -- you would think that Obama himself is just talking too darn much under some threat of being "overexposed."
Like the proverbial game of telephone, these storylines just get more exaggerated and overblown as they are repeated to fill TV airtime, column inches in a newspaper, or lines of text on blogs.
That Obama proved the truth of that this week with his primetime White House press conference probably says as much, or more, about how pointless much of the so-called 24/7 news cycle really is, as it does about the president himself.
Sure, people are real angry about AIG greed, but most Americans continue to express confidence in Obama and his policies. Following Tuesday's primetime presidential press conference -- and after a week of Obama getting hammered for being under attack and "overexposed" -- a national study among 1,375 Americans revealed that confidence levels increased among both Democrats and independents regarding the president's approach to the nation's critical issues like the economy, education, and the federal budget. Confidence levels decreased only among Republicans, a group likely to have a negative impression of Obama anyway.
That advice appears not to have been fully absorbed.
Earlier today I asked whether American news outlets would do their due diligence in evaluating the content of the newly-released batch of "Climategate" emails hacked from the University of East Anglia two years ago. It didn't take long for our esteemed print outlets to disappoint.
Writing on the Washington Post's website, Juliet Eilperin quotes an email exchange that she said was about "whether the IPCC has accurately depicted the temperature rise in the lower atmosphere":
In one round of e-mails, researchers discuss whether the IPCC has accurately depicted the temperature rise in the lower atmosphere. An official from the U.K. Met Office, a scientific organization which analyzes the climate, writes to the Climate Research Unit's former director Phil Jones at one point, "Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further if necessary [...]"
Later, the official adds, "I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run."
Astoundingly, Eilperin does not tell readers that these email exchanges took place in February 2005 and were about the first draft of a chapter of the IPCC report released two years later. The emails depict the authors of the chapter hashing out what should be included -- exactly what you would expect this process to look like.
After providing comments on the draft, then-Met Office official Peter Thorne wrote: "I'm pretty sure we can reconcile these things relatively simply. However, I certainly would be unhappy to be associated with it if the current text remains through final draft - I'm absolutely positive it won't."
So were his concerns addressed in the final draft? If only we had reporters who asked these questions. For his part, The Hill's Ben Geman simply repeats what Eilperin reported, while admitting that he hasn't even "been able to view the newly released emails."
On the same day Fox News analyst/hype man-for-hire Dick Morris released a DickMorris.com video and column in The Hill promoting the electability of Newt Gingrich, Gingrich's campaign rented Morris' email list to send out a fundraising appeal.
Gingrich is now the third GOP presidential candidate paying Morris during the primary, following Herman Cain, whose campaign has sponsored at least nine emails to Morris' list, and Michele Bachmann, whose campaign has sponsored at least three. Several of the Cain and Bachmann emails were promoting softball interviews Morris had conducted with the candidates, with the emails indicating that they were "paid for" by the campaigns.
Monday night on Fox, Morris may have set the new land-speed record for violating disclosure ethics.
Morris joined Sean Hannity to discuss the state of the GOP primary and what Morris described as the "incredible field we have." Morris praised Cain (who is paying him) as "one of the most charismatic politicians" since Obama and declared that he is "now immune from the charges of sexual harassment." He said that Gingrich (who is paying him) "knows it all" and is "the smartest person in the room." After declaring that it was likely a three-way race between Cain, Gingrich and Romney at this point, Morris hastened to add that "I don't think you can count out Bachmann" (who is paying him).
Fox & Friends promoted a GOP-backed effort to repeal sections of a 2007 law setting efficiency standards for light bulbs, falsely suggesting that the law bans incandescent bulbs and featuring on-screen screen text that stated: "Don't touch our bulbs!" In fact, the law only restricts the sale of inefficient incandescent light bulbs, not all incandescent bulbs, as Fox & Friends suggested.
In his column for The Hill and in a Fox News appearance , Dick Morris called for a "targeted shutdown" that would close certain agencies if Democrats do not capitulate to tea party demands on the budget and, more specifically, "zero-fund" the State Department.
Morris said such a move would be necessary to achieve conservatives' prized goal of stopping foreign aid.
But does Morris really not know that the State Department does more than provide foreign aid? Does he not know that if Congress defunds the State Department, it would shut down all of our overseas embassies and consulates, which are part of the department?
Does he not know that closing down the embassies and consulates would strand Americans abroad who are arrested on trumped-up charges in nations such as China?
Or does he know all this and just not care?
Yesterday, Media Matters highlighted news of a former Fox News booker and senior producer for Fox contributor Laura Ingraham's radio show that is reportedly facing charges of unlawful possession of a Congressional pin.
Well, it appears there's more to the bizarre story.
Nelson Lewis, the former Fox Newser, was apparently impersonating more than a member of Congress. You can now add Rolling Stone features writer/columnist AND Minister Plenipotentiary for Artistic Endeavors at the Embassy of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to his list of Catch Me If You Can worthy gigs.
The Hill's Christina Wilkie reports:
The 26 year-old man who allegedly impersonated Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) last month is facing new questions about his background and work history.
Walter Nelson Lewis, of Savannah Ga., claimed in a video interview in October to be a Bahamian diplomat, a claim which was denied Friday morning by a spokeswoman for the Embassy of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
Wait, there's more. Really.
As Mediabistro FishbowlDC blogger Matt Dornic noted yesterday:
According to Lewis's Facebook page, he is a currently a classic rock features writer and columnist for Rolling Stone. FishbowlDC contacted the magazine's HR department who could not verify his employment and a web search produced no Lewis-penned articles for the magazine. Another source at the mag said, "never heard of him."
Be sure to check out Dornic's post from today detailing just how much effort Lewis went to in order to create his bogus diplomatic identity.
Right-wing media have been using recent headlines on TSA body scanners and pat-downs as an excuse to promote hysterical fears over the reach of "Big Sis," as internet gossip Matt Drudge refers to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Now The Hill is trumping up such concerns with a false spin on a recent interview Napolitano gave PBS host Charlie Rose.
In a November 23 article titled, "Next step for body scanners could be trains, boats, metro," The Hill reviewed Napolitano's November 22 interview with Rose to claim that Napolitano is one politician "who's suggested the advanced scanning machines could be used in places beyond airports."
Right-wing bloggers immediately pounced on The Hill headline. Blogger Jim Hoft titled a November 23 post on his blog Gateway Pundit, "Good-Bye Freedom -- Hello Police State... Napolitano Announces Next Steps for Naked Scanners Involves Trains, Boats, Metro." A November 24 post on the conservative blog Hot Air claimed, "Now it looks like we'll be getting scanners all over the place, including public transportation, trains, and boats." Drudge posted a link to The Hill article as "BIG SIS: Next step for body scanners could be trains, boats, metro..." on the Drudge Report on November 24:
In fact, Napolitano never actually claimed that the DHS is considering expanding the use of body scanners to other forms of public transport. Bizarrely, The Hill article itself acknowledges this, noting at one point that "[Napolitano] gave no details about how soon the public could see changes in security or about what additional safety measures the DHS was entertaining."
Here's what Napolitano actually said during her interview with Rose (accessed through Nexis, emphasis added):
CHARLIE ROSE: You said a very interesting thing. Part of your job is to know what [terrorists will] be thinking in the future. So what will they be thinking in the future?
JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, I think they're going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through. I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to train or maritime. So what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?
And then I think what we also, what we as a country need to be thinking about is what is the role in prevention. In other words, what is the process by which a young man in the United States goes from becoming radicalized to becoming radicalized to the point of leaving the United States to going to a camp somewhere for six months or whatever and then coming back with the intent of murdering his fellow citizens?
CHARLIE ROSE: So what do we know about that now?
JANET NAPOLITANO: I think that's where we need and can do more work. And when I speak with my colleagues in other countries, I think we all believe that understanding that process better is important.
Napolitano did talk about the body scanners and so-called enhanced pat-downs, but only to explain and defend their current use. She also briefly acknowledged that "there will be some tweaks or some changes as we go through...as we learn some things to improve the procedures." But, by the time she got around to discussing future threats to "mass transit or to train or maritime," the discussion had long since moved on from airport body scans.
So, The Hill could conclude, "Napolitano mentions DHS looking to mass transit safety," or even, "Napolitano defends DHS use of body scanners." But "Next step for body scanners could be trains, boats, metro" simply doesn't hold up.
Earmarks contributed, in large measure, to the budget deficits that piled up during the Bush administration.
Here's Dick Morris, September 27:
The undecided vote always goes against the incumbent, so if a congressman is significantly under 50 percent, even though he may have a lead, he is likely to lose.
That, as I noted at the time, is false.
Now here's Dick Morris, November 9:
John Zogby's post-election polling reveals that voters who made up their minds about how to vote within the last week voted Democrat by 57-31 while those who made up their minds earlier backed the Republican candidate, 53-44. Zogby's data indicated that it made no difference whether the voter decided for whom to vote two or three weeks before the election or more than a month before. Both groups backed Republicans by 10 points. But those who decided in the voting booth or in the week immediately before voting backed the Democrat by large margins.
Morris couldn't quite bring himself to acknowledge that what he wrote previously was laughably and obviously false, but at least he did admit that undecided didn't break the way he expected.
But because this is Dick Morris, I'm quite certain that the next time he thinks he can talk some gullible donors out of a few bucks by claiming that "The undecided vote always goes against the incumbent," he'll do so. That's because Dick Morris' defining quality is that he simply is not an honest person, which probably explains why Fox likes him so much. But why does The Hill keep publishing his nonsense?
Bad news for Dems: Rain in the forecast for 2010 Election Day
And the Onion-esque, Dems-are-screwed lede:
In more bad news for Democrats, rain is in the forecast for much of the country on Election Day.
Weather tracking websites, including weather.com and The Old Farmer's Almanac, are calling for rain in the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast regions, with chances for precipitation in other parts of the country as well.
The Farmer's Almanac?! Oh brother.
But the truly goofy part is that it's Election Day all across the country so, of course, it's going to be raining in America. It's pretty much always raining (somewhere) in America. Why? Because this is a really, really big country.
Are there fears of significant ice storms or wind storms on Election Day? No. Instead, The Hill, after checking with the Farmer's Almanac, among other sources, has come to the startling conclusion that next Tuesday may bring rain to parts of America.
Good to know.
Oh and BTW, here are the weather.com forecasts for next Tuesday for key markets in states with closely watched races:
-Milwaukee, "mostly sunny"
-Las Vegas, "sunny"
-San Francisco, "sunny"
-Wheelng, W.V., "partly cloudy"
-Lexington, KY, "mostly cloudy"
-Nashua, N.H., "mostly sunny"
Honestly, stuff like this will just make your head hurt.
Headline from The Hill:
Democrats have raised $1 million from foreign-affiliated PACs
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate criticizing GOP groups for allegedly funneling foreign money into campaign ads have seen their party raise more than $1 million from political action committees affiliated with foreign companies.
See the obvious dots that The Hill is trying to connect? It's trying to suggest because Democrats have accused GOP-friendly attack groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, of possibly using money foreign donations to help influence U.S. elections in the form of paying for relentless attacks ads targeting Democrats, that there's some double standard in play because Democrats have cashed checks from "foreign-affiliated" PACs.
But of course there's no comparison between the two. None.
The questions that continue to swirl around the Chamber revolve around unknown donors who may live in foreign countries giving undisclosed amounts.
As for the PACs in question? Behold [emphasis added]:
The PACS are funded entirely by contributions from U.S. employees of subsidiaries of foreign companies. All of the contributions are made public under Federal Elections Commission rules, and the PACs affiliated with the subsidiaries of foreign corporations are governed by the same rules that American firms' PACs or other PACs would face.
Like I said, this is The Hill trying to connect non-existent dots. And I'm sure the GOP and right-wing bloggers are happy to watch.
In a column for The Hill, Dick Morris pretends to explain why Democrats face a difficult political environment:
Obama has a lot to do with it. But so does Congress itself. With congressional approval at 23 percent in the realclearpolitics.com average, the Democrats in the House and Senate have contributed mightily to their own demise. The Rangel and Waters investigations and the impending decision to let each keep his and her seat does a lot to undermine Congress' image. So did the deals surrounding health care reform as the public watched sausage being made in Washington. The spectacle of Congress voting on bills the members have not read adds to public discontent.
Notice what Morris doesn't mention? That's right: The economy. Unemployment has been near 10 percent for months, and Dick Morris wants you to think the Democrats are in trouble because of "the spectacle of Congress voting on bills the members have not read." That's absolute nonsense. But it is, I suspect, nonsense with a purpose.
The economy's role in the Democrats' current political predicament is so obvious, it's nearly impossible that anyone -- even someone with Dick Morris's spectacular history of being wrong -- could be unaware of it. So when someone like Morris suggests that Democrats are in trouble not because the economy is lousy, but because of health care reform, the obvious conclusion is that he wants to mislead people. He's ideologically opposed to the steps that economists think need to be taken to fix the economy, and politically opposed to the Democrats doing things that would help their political fortunes. And he's ideologically opposed to things like health care reform, so he wants Democrats (and the media and the public) to believe that health care reform, rather than a poor economy, is to blame for the Democrats' political peril.
Morris's political analysis is fraudulent: It isn't intended to explain what is happening; it's intended to manipulate perceptions of what is happening. Either that or Morris is honestly unaware that 9.6 percent unemployment plays a role in the political misfortunes of the incumbent party, in which case he's so spectacularly unqualified to offer political analysis that The Hill would be better off setting a chimpanzee in front of a word processor and publishing whatever it has typed after 90 minutes.