Brent Bozell is getting pretty good at being ignored. Shortly after Barack Obama's reelection, the president of the conservative Media Research Center signed onto a letter warning congressional Republicans not to compromise with Democrats on taxes. The Republicans compromised. Then Bozell and his allies wrote a letter demanding that Karl Rove's American Crossroads fire a spokesman after he referred to Bozell as a "hater." No one lost their job. And all throughout 2012, Bozell's group erected billboards warning America: "DON'T BELIEVE THE LIBERAL MEDIA!" Yet according to Bozell's latest book, America spent most of 2012 believing the liberal media.
Collusion: How the Media Stole the 2012 Election -- and How to Stop Them from Doing It in 2016 is Bozell's (and co-author Tim Graham's) post-mortem of how the "liberal media" exerted its considerable influence to steal the 2012 election for the president. "Stole the 2012 Election" implies that the press behaved illicitly and in a way that contravenes the values this country holds dear, but that turns out not to be the case. "It's a free country -- at least for now, mostly -- and the national news media have the freedom to present Obama as the finest naked emperor that's ever lived," Bozell observes. "We must also salute that freedom, and defend it always." "Stole" would also seem to imply that Mitt Romney was a capable candidate who was wrongly denied the presidency, but Bozell apparently doesn't believe that either. "It was a testimony to the singular ineptness of their effort," Bozell writes of Team Romney, "that for the first time a presidential campaign chose to go into a prevent-defense crouch -- while losing."
So what happened? According to Bozell, it is "reasonable to conclude" that the media "provided four points for Obama -- his margin of victory." How he arrived at this conclusion is anyone's guess (he just sort of throws it out there after conducting a polling analysis "that, admittedly, is not entirely scientific"), but it's helpful to look at Collusion to get a sense of just how rattled and disjointed movement conservatism is in the second half of the Obama era.
"Barack Obama was a disaster," Bozell writes. "And he won reelection, handily." The tension between these two statements animates Bozell's analysis. That Obama's first term was a "disaster" is presented as a given: self-evident to anyone who was paying attention. The only plausible way to resolve that tension, per Bozell, is to point the finger once again at the media, which collectively decided to carry Obama into a second term and tear down any Republican who stood in his way.
Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center, reacted to MSNBC's announcement of Karen Finney as host of a new program by suggesting that Finney's skin is not dark enough for the "average viewer" to guess that she is African-American.
According to MSNBC's press release, "Finney, who served as the first African-American spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, has been an MSNBC political analyst and guest host on the network since 2009."
Graham responded with the following tweet:
UPDATE: Graham adds:
From the September 13 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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In an interview on NRA News, Media Research Center Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham leveled a very serious allegation at the supposedly liberal media: They haven't spent enough time talking about the "white girlfriends" President Obama had in his early 20s.
From Graham's May 25 interview:
TIM GRAHAM, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Where we have seen [David Marannis, author of Barack Obama: The Story] excerpts are in the magazine Vanity Fair. This apparently the deal he struck. That was where they talked about his white girlfriends in college. Which again you would think that would be a story that a news media that is so conscious about race seemed to not think that was an interesting development, that Obama had these white girlfriends. And how exactly would the black women feel about Obama having white girlfriends? Well they just weren't really... again, suddenly they are race neutral. They're colorblind.
Graham's chastising of the media for supposedly ignoring Obama's white girlfriends is the latest instance of a right wing fixation on the idea that Obama has never been properly vetted by the media. The truth is the fact that Obama dated a white woman was revealed by Obama himself in 1995 when he published his memoir Dreams From My Father:
"Well...there was a woman in New York that I loved. She was white. She had dark hair, and specks of green in her eyes. Her voice sounded like a wind chime. We saw each other for almost a year. On the weekends mostly. Sometimes in her apartment, sometimes in mine. You know how you can fall into your own private world? Just two people, hidden and warm. Your own language. Your own customs. That's how it was." [Dreams From My Father, Page 210]
The real question is who exactly -- in the year 2012 -- would consider the fact that Obama dated white women to be "an interesting development"?
Media Research Center director of media analysis Tim Graham wrote on his Twitter feed today: "If black Christian voters still vote for Obama now, they're not really Christians. Just like Robin Roberts for being such a lamb on ABC":
Graham was apparently referring to President Obama's interview with ABC News correspondent Robin Roberts, during which he announced his support for marriage equality, saying, "I think same sex couples should be able to get married."
As Graham's tweet shows, conservatives have been speculating about how African-American voters would take the news. Here's how Limbaugh highlighted the issue recently: "African-Americans on the Democrats' side, I hate to tell you what this came down to is the color of your skin versus the color of their money. Where Obama's concerned, guess what he chose."
This morning on Fox News, contributor Deneen Borelli took up the theme, repeatedly claiming that Obama has "thrown the black community really under the bus in order to get money from the gay community and to get their votes":
Recent polling, however, shows that black voters have not changed their views of Obama as a result of his statement on same-sex marriage.
In an ABC News interview today, President Obama announced his support for marriage equality, saying, "I think same sex couples should be able to get married." Conservative media figures immediately accused Obama of declaring a "war on marriage" and the Catholic Church.
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 a February 10, 2011 tweet by Media Research Center's Tim Graham:
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.
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.
Earlier this week, NewsBuster Tim Graham criticized the Washington Post for referring to MSNBC's Chris Matthews as "devoutly Catholic," arguing that Matthews is instead a "devout liberal, including on contentious social issues like abortion and homosexuality." Graham was essentially rehashing an argument he made last year about Matthews: "You can't accept the teachings of the Church and then turn around and promote legalized abortion."
It irked me at the time -- what business is it of a media critic to pass judgment on the religiosity of a media figure, or any person? But if we're going to accept Graham's framework that one's religious bona fides are contingent upon one's stances on hot-button political issues, then what would he have to say about this?
Pope Benedict XVI and other church leaders said it was the moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay.
Access to adequate medical attention, the pope said in a written message Nov. 18, was one of the "inalienable rights" of man.
Are we now to doubt the devotion of Catholic conservatives who argue against government-guaranteed access to affordable health care? Is the pope a socialist usurper who is corrupting the teachings of the Catholic Church?
I don't know the answer, but I do know that right-wing bloggers shouldn't moonlight adjudicating men's souls.
Yesterday, NewsBusters' Tim Graham reported that on Election Night Arianna Huffington tweeted that Marco Rubio was "Looking Like a Central American Dictator." Hours later, professional smear merchant and race-baiter Andrew Breitbart slapped the headline "Why Arianna Huffington Played The Race Card" across three of his Big sites, accusing her of making a "racist comment" in order to "inject race" and "play off racial fears and ignorance," and thus prevent Rubio from becoming president at some future date.
Aside from being based on a wholly inflated view of the power of Huffington's Twitter feed, the claims by Graham and Breitbart were completely incoherent. In her tweet -- which both conservatives posted -- Huffington wrote:
This is not the clearest statement in the world (probably because it's a tweet), but do you see the three words that you need to completely ignore in order for Breitbart and Graham's reading of the tweet to make sense?
Doesn't it look like Huffington is quoting something Bush-Cheney '04 chief strategist Matthew Dowd said to her while they were on the set of ABC's Nightline, and not stating her own opinion?
Sure enough, a few hours later, Huffington tweeted:
Given that Breitbart helped Huffington launch Huffington Post, I'm willing to bet that he actually has her contact information and could have, if he actually cared about the truth, cleared this up with a phone call.
And so we learn again two very important lessons about Andrew Breitbart: He really needs to stop accusing other people of being racist, and he will always smear first and ask for comment after, if ever. He's clearly learned absolutely nothing from the Shirley Sherrod fiasco that annihilated what reputation he had.
Incidentally, I can't seem to find Breitbart's statement calling out Rush Limbaugh for "playing off racial fears" after Limbaugh said President Obama "is behaving like an African colonial despot." Go figure.
The notion of what passes for conservative "media criticism" has always been rather generous, and at Brent Bozell's Newsbusters it often means posting attack items because journalists report irrefutable facts that conservatives don't like. (Biased!) But increasingly, the Newsbusters team doesn't even try to camouflage their weird rants as having anything to do with media or media criticism.
Which brings us to the latest from Tim Graham, who was last seen weirdly lashing out at the CNN reporter who was reportedly targeted for a James O'Keefe prank. (Graham piped down after boss Bozell called O'Keefe's alleged plan "ugly, dishonest, and filthy.")
What sets Graham off this time is the New York Times' utterly straight-forward report detailing MSNBC launching a new brand awareness campaign:
Here was how Graham's incoherent attack began:
New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter found it easy Tuesday to embrace the idea that liberalism means forward progress.
Then check out this deep-thinking analysis from Graham regarding MSNBC new tag line: "Lean Forward":
It can also easily be mocked as lean forward, as in to vomit -- or lean forward in a bow, as Obama does to foreign leaders.
So, Graham's suggesting that in its news article about MSNBC's new "Lean Forward" ad campaign, the Times should have mentioned that that phrase could also reference vomiting? Okaaaaay.
And here's Graham, after noting the Times article reported that director Spike Lee was hired to direct the new MSNBC commercials:
Stelter didn't suggest that perhaps Olbermann could throw a trash can through the window of a pizza parlor, and then burn it down -- as in the crucial police-brutality-race-riot scene in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing.
From Media Research Center director of media analysis Tim Graham's Twitter: