• Los Angeles Times, please define "could be portrayed"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This is from the paper's A1 news article about the Obama/Cheney speeches yesterday [emphasis added]:

    Obama enjoys broad popularity, even on the national security issues that have long vexed his party. But his lengthy address, in which he conceded that his policies were still evolving, laid out a mixed approach that could be portrayed as squishy.

    Portrayed that way by whom? By reporters for the LA Times, of course.

  • Even more Pelosi polling nonsense

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the latest media outlet to go with the completely fictitious claim that CNN polling data revealed that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's approval ratings are down, and that the CIA briefing story is the cause for the decline.

    Keep in mind, neither point is accurate. But hey, it's the Pelosi story so for the press, any claim will do.


    A new national survey by CNN shows President ABM sailing along with a 62 percent approval rating, while Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi struggles far behind with a thumbs-up figure of only 39 percent. Obama's popularity has lifted Congress' normally-dismal approval numbers over the last two months, and produced a sharp rise in the percentage of Americans who feel their country is on the "right track."

    The latest poll shows, however, that Pelosi is feeling the what-did-she-know, when-did-she-know-it controversy over CIA intelligence briefings she received while Democrats were still a minority in the House of Representative. Pelosi has accused the CIA of deception in its briefings. She has been rebuked by CIA chief Leon Panetta, a former House colleague from California.

    The CNN poll of 1,010 adults was conducted May 14-15. It found Obama's disapproval rating at 35 percent, while 48 percent disapproved of Pelosi's performance in Congress' highest post.

    As we noted earlier this week, according to the CNN poll quoted above, Pelosi's approval rating has not budged an inch since January. Period. Those are the facts. Any suggestion made by the PI to the contrary is simply a fabrication.

    But the PI isn't alone. The Boston Globe and Politico both mangled the facts and claimed CNN's latest polling revealed bad news for Pelosi.

    Isn't the news so much more interesting when you can just invent your own facts?

  • The Red Scare Index: 39

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialists, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communists, Communistic, Marxism, Marxist, Marxists, Marxistic, Fascism, Fascist, Fascists and Fascistic.

    Here are the numbers for yesterday, Thursday, May 21, 2009:

    TOTAL: 39
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 25
    Communism, Communist, Commnistic: 11
    Marxism/Marxist: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 3

    By Network:

    CNN: 6
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 4
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 2

    CNN Headline News: 3
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 1
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox News Channel: 12
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 10
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox Business Network: 2
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    MSNBC: 13
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 10
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    CNBC: 3
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a power search for these terms on these networks.

  • UPDATED: NYT, please define "returned"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I see that Politico's Michael Calderone got a comment from the Times' Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet regarding the newspaper decision to alter, midday Thursday, its A1 scoops that 1 out of 7 released detainees had "returned" to terrorism. (See here.)

    Here's what Baquet emailed Calderone:

    Reading some of the criticism it seems that people are saying it undercut the story. It did not. The story was about the estimate of the number of people who ended up, by DOD"s account, as being engaged in terrorism or militant activity after leaving Gitmo. That still stands. The change was an acknowledgment that some assert that not everyone in Gitmo is truly a terrorist. Some critics have said that Gitmo is also filled with people who aren't truly terrorists.

    Anyone who is reading a significant retreat in the story, or as us somehow saying the story is wrong is looking for politics where it ain't.

  • UPDATED: When the press prefers theater criticism to reporting

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    On Thursday we took issue with Jay Newton-Small's Time piece about the Pelosi/CIA story, noting that the entire article ignored the facts of the story and centered instead on the theatrics; how Pelosi had fumbled her way through her press conference and that's why the story continued to live on in zombie form.

    Media message received: It's her own damn fault.

    Well, Thursday afternoon Newton-small wrote another piece, this one for the Time blog, and this time the writer conceded that in the wildly over-hyped Pelosi-CIA showdown, Pelosi likely had the facts on her side, in part because not a single Republican can come forward with first-hand knowledge of the CIA briefings in question and knocked down Pelosi's story that she was misled. Nobody.

    Too bad Newton-Small couldn't find the space for that little nugget the first time around. But, of course, it's been strategic omissions like that have kept the story alive, so you have to wonder if, collectively, among the press corps the omissions regarding Pelosi have become intentional.

    After walking through the lack of evidence, Newton-Small concludes [emphasis added]:

    But all of this has been lost in the GOP sturm und drang, led, by – of all people – Pete Hoekstra and Newt Gingrich. Yes, Pelosi needs a serious lesson in public relations but it increasing looks like there's nothing wrong with her memory.

    Lost by whom? By the press, naturally.

    BTW, there's an insightful reader comment posted below the Time blog post that's worth examining. As part of Time's incredibly belated defense of Pelosi (i.e. Time's examination of the facts), Newton-Small notes:

    Perhaps the most astonishing response has been from the CIA Director Leon Panetta, who basically said: Don't trust our records. Which begs the question: what other issues have they kept questionable records on?

    Time thought it was a big deal, that in response to the CIA briefing controversy, the agency's top man raised doubts about the validity of some of the information.

    Here's what "zachpruckowski" wrote, and it is 100 percent accurate:

    There's an error in your article. Director Panetta has been saying from the outset that the documents are the agents' best recollections and may be inaccurate. That was in the original letter he sent to the Intelligence Committee, the one that contained the list of meetings that started this whole brouhaha. The blog post you linked to (Wash Post's Plumline blog) that reported on the letter did so two weeks ago. It's inaccurate to say that Leon Panetta "responded" to the controversy in the same document that began the controversy. That sentence was in the original letter that started this whole "Pelosi vs. the CIA" thing.

    Panetta made his claim about the veracity of the CIA briefing notes weeks ago and at the outset of the GOP-driven story. But the press, in order to prop up the anti-Pelosi story politely ignored the Panetta angle.

  • NYT, please define "returned"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Justin Elliott at TMPMuckraker highlighted this Times flip-flop, and it deserves the attention. The Times' lead, upper-right A1 story on Thursday was this [emphasis added]:

    1 In 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad, Pentagon Finds

    In it, the Times' Elizabeth Bumiller claimed the following:

    An unreleased Pentagon report provides new details concluding that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.

    The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who have warned against releasing any more prisoners as part of President Obama's plan to shut down the prison by January 2010.

    The Times left little doubt: According to the Pentagon, 1 out of 7 terrorist detained "rejoined jihad." They "returned to terrorism." That announcement went off like a firecracker with conservatives seizing upon the revelation as a way to bash the Obama White House for having a flawed strategy to deal with the detainees.

    But then appearing on MSNBC later in the day Thursday, Bumiller announced, "There is some debate about whether you should say 'returned' because some of them were perhaps not engaged in terrorism, as we know -- some of them are being held there on vague charges."

    Really? There was some "debate"? Among whom? Because there was little hint of any debate in the Times' original article. It's true, as Elliott noted, that the Times online later adjusted the wording of the article to reflect more ambiguity about the detainees' activity. But their supposed return to terrorism was the central thrust of the news report. That's what landed the story on A1. How could the Times not be sure about that before they published the piece?

  • Paul Kane again demonstrates difference between stenography and journalism

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Paul Kane thinks, or pretends to think, that he gets criticized for offering too much "balance and context":

    PelosiPalooza!: Agreed on the "gate" issue, Paul. On another chat yesterday, a Post chatter asked what types of stories we feel should be reported on that aren't. Tangential to that, I'd just like to add that whatever your reporting on (and love your work, by the way), what I think most of us want is not "fair and balanced" or "opposing viewpoints". Just give us the facts. In context. Easy as that. Thanks!

    Paul Kane: Hmmm, I still think I like LollaPelosi better. We try for balance and context, it's a goal I personally shoot for; I know this upsets people, especially at Media Matters, who think there's no need for balance because they already know what we all should know. So we should only present 1 side, their side, of the argument.

    I just can't assume to know which side is right, so I do try to provide both sides of the argument.

    That's pretty much the opposite of the truth.

    Here, for example, Media Matters criticized Kane for simply reporting Olympia Snowe's criticism of the potential use of budget reconciliation to pass health care legislation without noting that Snowe had previously supported the use of reconciliation to pass President Bush's tax cuts.*

    Kane responded to that criticism by writing "We reported what Olympia Snowe said. That's what she said. That's what Republicans are saying. I really don't know what you want of us," thus nicely illustrating the difference between stenography and journalism.

    See, Kane doesn't really get criticized for trying for "balance and context." He gets criticized for leaving context out, and for suggesting that context isn't necessary.

    Even in his post today, Kane suggests that his job is just to provide "both sides of the argument," because he can't know which side is right. Well, sometimes he can. Granted, it'll take a little more work than simply typing up what the two sides say, but he can do some research and find out if one side is saying something that is false, or that is undermined by its previous stance.

    For example, if Paul Kane hears that Hillary Clinton falsely claimed to have always been a Yankees fan, Kane could spend half a minute looking through his own newspaper's archives to find out if is true before passing the lie on. But that isn't Paul Kane's style; he thinks his job is just to repeat the lie as though it were true.

    That's the kind of thing that Paul Kane gets criticized for: making false claims and not understanding that it isn't enough to simply type up Olympia Snowe's comments without including the relevant context.

    Then there's this, in which Kane asserted that "the real fiscal answer is ... slashing Medicare benefits," which isn't exactly a balanced presentation of "both sides of the argument."

    For Kane to now claim that he's being criticized for providing "balance and context" and "both sides of the argument" is nothing short of hilarious. That's exactly what he has been criticized for failing to do.

    * If Kane still doesn't understand the problem with reporting GOP complaints about reconcilation without noting their previous use of it, his colleagues do. Just days after Media Matters pointed out the omission, another Washington Post article included the relevant information.

  • When the press prefers theater criticism to reporting

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That's the path Time takes as it sizes up the Beltway's favorite process gotcha story; Pelosi vs. the CIA. The Jay Newton-Small article at first suggests it's going to examine the facts of the case:

    Self-Inflicted Wound: How Pelosi Got into the CIA Mess

    But no such luck. Instead, the Time piece is a basically a theater review of Pelosi's press conference. She's a "bumbler" who "fumbled through her notes, departed the podium, returned to the podium, departed again." That's right, according to the Time, the press has devoted the last ten days to skewering Pelosi because she (gasp!) departed the podium at a press conference.

    Don't people understand that kind of action demands press attention because it was "a disastrous public performance"?

    What's telling is that at no point does the Time article examine the facts of the dispute between Pelosi and the CIA regarding long-gone intelligence briefings. That's of no interest to Time. But the fact that Pelosi "fumbled through her notes," and won't take media training classes (I kid you not), is all the proof Time, and the rest of the Beltway press corps, need to confirm that a major scandal continues to unfold on Capitol Hill.

    UPDATE: Politico takes the exact same course as Time: This entire Polosi saga only exists because of Pelosi's crummy press conference. And like Time, in its analysis of the process gotcha story, Politico never bothers to examine the facts, which have been flushed down the memory hole.

    Meaning, in this she said/he said, only Pelosi is being held accountable. Nobody, it seems, within the press corps, caress about whether the CIA's version of events regarding seven-year-old briefings is accurate or not.