• ABC News ignores the facts in order to prop up the Pelosi story

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This, as Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler has explained over the years, is what happens when the Beltway press weds itself to a storyline. Once that narrative is agreed upon, there's no adjusting it. It is what it is, and everyone marches ahead in unison using the same 'facts.'

    And recently, the agreed upon storyline is that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has become deeply entangled in a controversy about what she did and didn't know about torture techniques.

    Here's how ABC reported it today:

    Pelosi yesterday accused the CIA of giving her "inaccurate and incomplete information" on the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics by the Bush administration, saying that CIA officials are guilty of "misleading the Congress of the United States." Her recollection is contradicted by an intelligence report sent to Congress last week, which said Pelosi was briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques "that had been employed" in September 2002.

    Yikes, Pelosi was caught red-handed telling a fib; unmasked by a CIA intelligence report which totally undercut her claim that she was never told about torture techniques. Busted!

    But what did ABC dutifully leave out of its explanation about how Pelosi's recollection was "contradicted" by a CIA intel report? Just the fact that the head of the CIA warned Congress that that intel report may not be accurate or reliable.

    Today's process gotcha thriller pits Pelosi vs. the CIA report. But in the press' preferred telling, news consumers don't need to know that the CIA report might not be accurate.

    UPDATE: Like we said, the press moves in a pack. And this pack has no interest--none--in detailing doubts about the CIA report.

  • Why is the CEO of GM appearing on Glenn Beck's TV show?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Yes, the the CEO gets credit for deflecting Beck's anti-union rants. As the Huffington Post notes:

    In an amazing interview on Thursday afternoon, Glenn Beck consistently attempted to goad recently-promoted GM CEO Fritz Henderson into bashing the automaker's partners: the United Auto Workers and the federal government. Throughout the interview, Henderson sat there and gamely deflected Beck's rants and calmly explained how his company works.

    But that doesn't answer the question of why was Henderson even on Beck's show in the first place. Why would the CEO of an American (still) landmark company think it was a good idea, image-wise, to appear on a loony bin show like GB? And why would a CEO of a company working closely with the U.S. government in an attempt to fend of its demise, appear on a show that has claimed the current administration is a communist/socialist/totalitarian outpost? Why show up on a show that's pretty much a laughing stock?

    There's nothing wrong with GM's CEO trying to get its message out, or even doing that via Fox News. But by showing up on Beck's hate-fest program, Henderson simply tarnished his own reputation, as well as GM's.

  • The Red Scare Index: 43

    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 14, 2009:

    TOTAL: 43
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 30
    Communism, Communist, Commnistic: 5
    Marxism/Marxist: 2
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 6

    By Network:

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

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

    Fox News Channel: 7
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 5
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 1
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    Fox Business Network: 7
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 5

    MSNBC: 24
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 19
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 4
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 1
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    CNBC: 3
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 3
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    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.

  • "Pelosi's Claims Getting Much More Media Scrutiny Than CIA's Assertions"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Greg Sargent details a crucial point about the on-going Bizarro World coverage of the torture 'debate.' (i.e. The Beltway's latest/favorite process gotcha story.) And how the long-forgotten issue of why the Bush administration okayed the use of torture has morphed into a question about the credibility of Democrats.

    Writes Sargent:

    Multiple news accounts this morning report that [Nancy] Pelosi's credibility is in question after yesterday's press conference, in which she accused the CIA of lying about what they told members of Congress about the agency's use of torture. This theme was sounded by MSNBC, WaPo's Dan Balz, the New York Times write-up, and many others.

    That's as it should be. But I challenge you to find a news account that stated with equal prominence that the CIA's credibility is also in question.

  • Why MSNBC doesn't use Rasmussen

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The surveys are beloved by conservatives. Remember how John McCain was in striking distance late last October, according to Rasmussen? And conservatives can always turn to Rasmussen today to find outlier polling data which suggest Barack Obama isn't really that popular. But more and more journalists seem to be concluding that from a public policy perspective, the Rasmussen polls aren't worth much.

    Note this exchange on Thursday during an interview MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell did with a conservative Catholic, Patrick Reilly, who appeared to argue against the invitation Notre Dame University extended to Barack Obama, who will speak at the school's commencement this weekend [emphasis added]:

    O'DONNELL: Is it possible, given the poll numbers that are out, that show that 60% of Catholics in this country think that President Obama should -- be out there, that your view is a minority view?

    REILLY: It's possible. There are a minority of Catholics who are faithful practicing Catholics who attend Mass regularly. However, there are other polls. There was the Rasmussen poll that showed that Catholics, 60% to 25% opposed the honor and the reason is --

    O'DONNELL: You know, we don't use the Rasmussen poll at NBC.

    REILLY: Well, that's a shame. But the reason is, because they ask the question in the context of explaining to respondents that the bishops had instituted a policy banning this type of honor under that -- in that context.

    My hunch is that O'Donnell meant that MSNBC doesn't use Rasmussen polls period, and not just the Rasmussen one regarding the Notre Dame issue. But Rasmussen's Notre Dame survey is a perfect example why conservative love the polling firm. Why? Surprise! Rasmussen, virtually alone, found that Americans do not agree with Notre Dame' invitation to Obama. All the other major polling conducted on the question has found most Americans agree with the commencement speaker choice, but not in Rasmussen's world.

    BTW, here was the Rasmussen ND polling question, which reads like it was typed up by the right-wing Cardinal Newman Society itself:

    Guidelines established by U.S. bishops state that Catholic institutions such as Notre Dame should not honor people whose actions conflict with the church's moral principles. Given these guidelines, should Notre Dame award President Obama an honorary degree?

    Compare that to the more practical question posed by the Pew Forum:

    Do you think it was right or wrong for Notre Dame to invite Obama to give their graduation speech and receive an honorary degree?

    I wouldn't be surprised to see more news outlets adopt MSNBC's rule when it comes to Rasmussen.

  • WashTimes editor John Solomon responds to the Obama children photo controversy

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a statement to Media Matters, Solomon explained:

    The Washington Times published the Chicago school deaths story in its print edition without a photo. The story likewise was uploaded to our Web platform by editors without a photo attached. At some point, our automated news Themes engine _ which was constructed to match related content on our Web site _ paired the AP photo to the Washington Times story in the Themes section of our Web site. An online editor later spotted the photo and added a short caption. That editor should have removed the photo from the site but did not recognize the inappropriate mismatching.

    As soon as we learned about the problem, we detached the photo from the story. We regret that this technical glitch led to an inappropriate pairing of the photo with the story and we've taken steps both technologically and in our editorial process to try to avoid such an episode in the future. At no time did this newspaper intend to link the Obama children to the school story. We also hope that this glitch does not distract from the important and well-reported subject of the story: the crisis of school violence in one of the nation's largest cities.

  • Do conservative columnists even believe what they write?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Or is it more propaganda on behalf of the movement? A couple recent cases provide further proof that it's likely the latter.

    First, as Media Matters noted, when the Philadelphia Inquirer's new favorite new columnist, John Yoo, wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal in 2004, he:

    made assertions that were later revealed to be highly misleading or at odds with legal memos he had written during the Bush administration as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

    In other words, spinning in the Journal, Yoo made statements about interrogation techniques; statements that were at odds with legal memos that he wrote as part of the Bush administration.

    Which raises an interesting question: Did the Journal editors know Yoo was writing one thing in public about interrogation and pretty much counseling the opposite in public? Or perhaps more importantly, do the editors at the right-wing Journal even care that they paid writers to apparently purposefully mislead Journal readers? I have my doubts that Journal editors even care, mostly because they seem to see their job as advancing GOP talking points, and not necessarily engaging in authentic opinion journalism.

    For the second case of conservative columnist purposefully playing dumb, let's turn to the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer. Think Progress has the details [emphasis added]:

    On May 1, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer conceded in a column that waterboarding is torture. Krauthammer argued that torture is justifiable "under two circumstances" and that in those cases "you do what you have to do. And that includes waterboarding." But in an interview on Dennis Miller's radio show today, Krauthammer said that he didn't mean it when he wrote that waterboarding is torture:

    Here's an idea. Why don't conservative pundits actually write what they mean. Or is that just considered to be an outdated approach to public debate?

  • Jeffrey Rosen/TNR credibility watch: It's gone

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    To recap:

    On May 4, The New Republic posted Jeffrey Rosen's "case against Sotomayor." In it, Rosen cropped a 1995 quote by a federal judge, leaving out the judge's description of Sotomayor as "smart," and portrayed the quote as an example of someone describing Sotomayor as "not that smart." Rosen, in short, misleadingly cropped the quote and portrayed it as meaning the opposite of what it actually meant.

    On May 5, The New Yorker's Amy Davidson pointed out the distortion.

    On May 7, I noted the distortion and wrote that TNR owes Sotomayor a correction.

    On May 8, I again highlighted the distorted quote.

    And again on May 11:

    The New Republic owes Sonia Sotomayor, Jose Cabranes, and its readers a correction. As of today, May 11 -- a full week later -- it has not yet posted one.

    Everybody, including reporters, makes mistakes. That's no reason to never trust them again. But when those mistakes are pointed out, and they refuse to correct clear errors, they sacrifice credibility. Perhaps even worse, they demonstrate that they simply don't care about their credibility.

    Now, maybe Rosen still wasn't aware of the error. Maybe he doesn't read The New Yorker. (Doubtful: he's a law professor and writer, a DC resident and a Harvard grad. And he's written for The New Yorker.) Maybe he hadn't seen our posts about the error. (Certainly possible, but Rosen did respond to a seperate Media Matters criticism of his article in a blog post here.)

    So on May 12, I emailed Rosen, and pointed the error out to him.

    Two days later, I have not heard back. So it's probably time to close the books on this little saga; TNR and Jeffrey Rosen clearly don't care about their credibility. Good to know.