• Halperin's Page write-up of Ricci ruling ignores 5-4 split

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Page screengrab

    In his write-up on The Page of the Supreme Court's ruling on Ricci v. DeStefano, Mark Halperin did not note that the Court was split, voting 5-4 in favor of reversing the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. In addition, while mentioning that Monday is retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter's last day, Halperin did not note that Souter agreed with the 2nd Circuit's decision in Ricci.

  • The press, Sotomayor and Ricci

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Like the sun coming up in the East, this one we saw coming a mile away.

    The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the white firefighter from New Haven, CT. Five of the nine justices agreed that the firefighters "were unfairly denied promotions because of their race." It's a big deal because, as the WashPost, notes, the decision "revers[es] a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge.

    Not only was the reversal a foregone conclusion, but so too, was the narrative now being played out in the press. The press and Republicans (notice how they work in tandem) have been touting this reversal for weeks, hyping it as a potentially "embarrassing" reversal, which would (supposedly) raise all kind of doubts about Sotomayor's smarts and her ability as a judge.

    And trust us, this meme is already being hammered and will likely continue throughout the week: Sotomayor was reversed--she got smacked down--by the Supreme Court! It's a huge deal.

    Except, of course, it is not. Judges get reversed everyday. In fact, the system of American jurisprudence is built upon the idea of judges getting reversed. It happens all the time. And yes, the Supreme Court reverses judges all the time. But only now, in the case of Sotomayor, is the press pretending that that reversal is a singular rebuke; that it's a mark of shame for Sotomayor because she got the case wrong.

    Let's take a step or two back and just look at how idiotic a premise this is: Because five of the nine SCOTUS justices ruled to reverse the case, Sotomayor ought to be ashamed because she got the case all wrong. But what about the four Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of Sotomayor's Ricci's ruling, should they also be embarrassed because they got the case 'wrong'? Should we question their qualifications for the highest court in the country?

    Do you see the absurdity? The press and Republicans are peddling this completely novel notion that reversal = shame.

    For instance, go back to Gore v. Bush, which was ruled 5-4. Should the four justices who ruled in the minority be ridiculed because they got the case 'wrong'? And should members of the Florida Supreme Court whose Gore v. Bush ruling was overturned still be ashamed about their decision? (If history is the judge, I'd argue the five SCOTUS justices who voted in favor of Gore v. Bush ought to be the ones who are ashamed.)

    Meaning, there is not precedent in American law for automatically declaring that whenever a judge, or a panel of judges, is reversed by SCOTUS, that that means they got the case wrong; that they misinterpreted the law. It means, SCOTUS, more often for partisan reasons, came to a different conclusion and had the votes to reverse. Period.

    The Daily Howler saw this meme coming weeks ago, and wrote:

    It's entirely possible that the Court will reverse the New Haven decision narrowly—by a 5-4 vote. Will that mean that the Court's four dissenters "got it wrong"—that they should perhaps leave the Court in disgrace? In fact, courts split on such cases all the time; no one except an upper-end pundit is so unsophisticated as to assume that the five-vote majority must surely be "right," and the four-vote minority must therefore be "wrong." No one actually thinks that way—except the slumbering, withered minds which comprise our celebrity press corps.

  • Howard Kurtz continues to pretend Joe Scarborough doesn't exist

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Here's Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz this morning: "MSNBC is down to just five daytime hours of straight news, which once formed a counterpoint to its liberal evening programming."

    Funny, I thought the three hours a day that former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough hosts an MSNBC show might be something of a "counterpoint" to MSNBC's "liberal evening programming." The evening programming to which Kurtz refers (Schultz, Maddow, and Olbermann) takes up -- wait for it -- three hours.

    But Kurtz didn't even mention Scarborough. He gives readers absolutely no indication that MSNBC has a single conservative host, much less one who gets a three hour block each day.

    This isn't the first time Kurtz has glossed over Scarborough in order to pad his case that MSNBC leans left.

    JoeSco can't get no respect

    Howard Kurtz, media critic

    And just last week, Kurtz pretended that Chris Matthews is a reliably Democratic-leaning host, despite his lengthy history of attacking prominent Democrats, dismissing liberals, and gushing over conservatives like George W. Bush, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.

    So, once again: If MSNBC is really as liberal as Howard Kurtz says it is, why does Kurtz insist on exaggerating his evidence?

  • Newsbusters' Sheppard hasn't been paying attention

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard:

    [A]s NewsBusters' Brad Wilmouth pointed out Thursday:

    [T]here are some obvious differences in the cases of people like former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, ex-New Jersey Governor James McGreevey and Republicans such as Senator John Ensign. For example, Spitzer used campaign funds to stay in hotels where he met with prostitutes. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick committed numerous illegal acts and ultimately received a 120 day prison term for a sex scandal that also included felony counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.

    And, Mcgreevey resigned in 2004 under threats of a sexual harassment lawsuit by his gay lover who also happened to be his homeland security advisor.

    As such, comparing Sanford's transgressions to those of Spitzer, McGreevey, and Kilpatrick is absurd.

    Got that? Comparing Sanford's transgressions to Spitzer's is absurd, because Spitzer used campaign funds to stay in hotels to meet with prostitutes.

    Of course, Sheppard leaves out the fact that Sanford used government funds to travel to Argentina. And that he skipped town, lying about where he was going and giving state officials no way to reach him -- essentially leaving South Carolina without a governor for several days. That's something Spitzer never did. (If Sheppard is hanging his hat on the fact that Spitzer "met with prostitutes," and that prostitution is illegal, he might want to take a look at South Carolina's adultery laws. He might also want to refresh his memory about David Vitter, who remains in office.)

  • Meet the Process

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Speaking of David Gregory and Meet the Press, his first four questions of David Axelrod yesterday were about whether the Senate would pass a climate change bill. Not whether the bill should pass, not what the bill would do or whether it would work- simply whether it will pass.

    MR. GREGORY: An important victory for the president Friday night on the climate change bill, he gets it through the House. But there were signs of division among Democrats. Forty-four Democrats voted against this. Is this a red flag about whether this massive energy bill is going to fail in the Senate?

    MR. GREGORY: But Republicans say it's not going to create jobs, it's going to kill jobs, and they say it's dead in the Senate.

    MR. GREGORY: Do you have unity among Democrats in the Senate?

    MR. GREGORY: But you're facing the prospect--the very real prospect of a filibuster by Republicans in the Senate. Do you have the votes to overcome that?

    And when Gregory finally moved on to a question about health care, it was again a vote-counting question, not a substantive one:

    MR. GREGORY: There's a lot on the agenda, and health care is the centerpiece of all of this. But again, that fact of 44 Democrats opposing you on climate change in the House, is this a shot across the bow that applies to health care? Do you think the president will get a healthcare reform bill that includes a public plan this year?

  • Slate's John Dickerson bungles his WH press conference history

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Riffing off the Nico Pitney kerfuffle, Dickerson writes:

    What's new about this little press conference episode is not the arrangement but the context. The White House arranges things all the time with reporters. It just doesn't usually happen during a press conference. (The Jeff Gannon incident was the exception that proves the rule.)

    And therein lies the problem--the double standard--with traditional journalists jumping all over Pitney and his crowdsourcing involvement in Obama's press last week. The problem is that when Bush "arranged things" during press conferences, the same press corps never said boo.

    From Lapdogs [emphasis added]:

    At one point while making his way through the press questioners, Bush awkwardly referred to a list of reporters who he was instructed to call on. "This is scripted," he joked. The press laughed. But Bush meant it was scripted, literally. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer later admitted he compiled Bush's cheat sheet, which made sure he did not call on reporters from some prominent outlets like Time, Newsweek, USA Today, or The Washington Post.

    Yet even after Bush announced the event was "scripted," reporters, either embarrassed for Bush or embarrassed for themselves, continued to play the part of eager participants at a spontaneous news conference, shooting their hands up in the air in hopes of getting Bush's attention. For TV viewers it certainly looked like an actual press conference.

    During perhaps his most important press conference as president (i.e. the one right before the invasion of Iraq), Bush made clear that the performance was scripted; that he had a pre-determined list of reporters who would and would not get called on. Yet in the wake of that "scripted" performance, virtually nobody within the press corps raised any objections.

    That's why the current chorus rings a bit hollow.

    UPDATE: Dickerson only makes matters worse when he writes:

    There are members of the traditional press who concede that there is a symbiotic relationship between the White House and its press corps—but they're still bothered by this episode because it took place at a press conference, which turned the other reporters into props.

    Reporters-as-props when Obama does it = bad. Reporters-as-props when Bush did it = irrelevant.

  • What's the point of having an ombudsman at the WashPost?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Especially when Post editors stonewall the ombudsman when he asks uncomfortable questions? Isn't that the whole point of having an ombudsman--to get answers on behalf of readers?

    Yet there's the Post's ombudsman this weekend, reporting that when he tried to find out more about the firing of Dan Froomkin, the ombudsman was basically told to buzz off by Post editors who refused to address his questions:

    Institutionally, The Post is now responding by circling the wagons -- ironic for a news organization that insists on transparency from those it covers. Its initial statement on June 18 from spokeswoman Kris Coratti lacked substance... Raju Narisetti, the managing editor who oversees the Web site, declined to go beyond last week's PR statement. Online Opinions Editor Marisa Katz, after talking Thursday with the Washington CityPaper, said she had been instructed not to respond to additional queries. And Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, who had previously responded to questions from me and other journalists (including the CityPaper on Thursday), today said he was unable to comment.

    As one online Post reader asked:

    What good is an ombudsman if he gets a "wall of silence" built around him every time he asks a tough question? Are you just window-dressing, Mr. Alexander, or what? What's the point of your job?

  • The Post, Dan Froomkin, and Howard Kurtz

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Eric (and Bob Somerby) makes the point that the Washington Post's decision to get rid of Dan Froomkin is a reminder that among "mainstream" reporters, media criticism from the left is not allowed. Keep that in mind as you read and watch Howard Kurtz in the future. His work may be "balanced" in the sense that he often seeks comment from both conservatives and progressives - but much more often than not, he adopts a conservative media critique as the basis of the conversation.

    That's why I've previously written that the Post's hiring of Greg Sargent was so important -- he is willing to criticize the news media, the Post included, and he does not do so from a conservative point of view. It will be interesting to see if the Post allows him to continue.

  • What must the Iranians think about Dana Milbank and David Gregory?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    OK, the whining from Village reporters about Nico Pitney's question at last week's White House press conference is well beyond ridiculous at this point. This morning, David Gregory used valuable airtime to grill David Axelrod about the question, as though there aren't more important things he could ask a top White House aide about.

    Here's the thing: Nobody is actually claiming that Obama knew what question Pitney was going to ask. The allegations of "coordination" and "staging" are premised on the idea that the Obama folks knew what topic Pitney would ask about - Iran.

    Well, it isn't all that unusual for a president to have a pretty good idea what topic a reporter is going to ask about. If you call on a reporter from Stars & Stripes or Army Times, you'll probably get a question relating to the military. Call on a Washington Post reporter, and you'll likely get a question about steroids in baseball or haircuts. Call on a New York Times reporter, and there's a pretty good chance he'll ask what enchants you about the White House. Call on a Huffington Post reporter, and they'll probably ask something a little more substantive.

    But here's where the complaining gets really ridiculous. David Gregory hosts Meet the Press. Do you know what happens when Gregory and his staff book guests for Meet the Press? Much of the time, they tell guests what topics they want to discuss. That's right - they coordinate! The whole thing is staged! Quick, someone convene an ethics panel!

    And it's not just Meet the Press. I'm pretty sure Dana Milbank knew what topic he was going to be asked about when he appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources opposite Pitney today. Ohmygod! Dana Milbank and Howard Kurtz coordinated! It was staged! What will the Iranians think?!?

    Enough of this nonsense. Pitney has serious journalism to do; Milbank has his play-acting to get back to. Time to move on.

  • Change Congress' Green responds to "r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s" Connolly's interpretation of his quote

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From Change Congress interim chief executive Adam Green's Open Left blog post in response to Ceci Connolly's June 28 Washington Post article:

    Connolly then asked me why progressives were picking a political fight on the public option, as opposed to another issue. I guess the fact that it's the #1 domestic issue of the day -- one that affects millions of American families -- wasn't explanation enough.

    I figured she was looking for a quote summarizing the political stakes, so I though for a moment and said, "The public option has become a proxy for the question of whether Democrats will stand on principle and represent their constituents."

    I was quite proud of that answer. It summarizes what a lot of people are feeling -- the public option is the "line in the sand" issue for Democrats, something Chris has written about here on OpenLeft several times.

    Connolly's take on that quote:

    Green, in an interview, was hard-pressed to articulate a substantive argument for the public plan but said that it "has become a proxy for the question of Democrats who stand on principle and represent their constituents."

    WHAT? Connolly asked me a question on the politics, and when I gave her an answer on that, she said I didn't answer on the substance? Did I mention Ceci Connolly is a r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s reporter?

    FLASHBACK: In December 1 and December 2, 1999, Post articles, Connolly misquoted then-Vice President Al Gore, falsely claiming that he said he had discovered the Love Canal disaster. On February 17, 2000, editor-at-large Jack Shafer wrote that New York Times reporter Katharine Q. "Kit" Seelye and Connolly were responsible for creating the false Love Canal story: "[I]t's Seelye's fault -- and the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly's -- that folks think Gore claimed credit for Love Canal in the first place. Which he didn't" [emphasis in original].