• When will Brian Williams stop with the blue collar shtick?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It's so annoying: He's a man of the people, he's one of us, he hasn't forgotten his roots. He used to be a firefighter! I might even believe some of his relentless NBC marketing rhetoric if Williams didn't stop reminding us every chance he got. Of course, the fact that a journalist feels the need to construct, and relentlessly sell, a forced public persona pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the state of corporate journalism in America today.

    But Williams takes the whole blue collar thing and just jams it down everyone's throat. All the time. BriWi, give it a rest. You reportedly pocket $10 million each year to read the news for 20 minutes each night. (That comes out to roughly $50,000 per-broadcast.) You live in a restored farmhouse in Connecticut, and park your 477-horsepower black Porsche GT2 in the garage. And that's when you're not decamped to your Upper East Side apartment or appearing on Saturday Night Live or The Tonight Show. You're not like everyone else. You occupy the tiniest stratosphere of elitism in America. So why this obsessive marketing campaign to sell yourself as just an Everyday Joe?

    I'm reminded of all this beause when I opened my NJ newspaper today out popped a copy of Inside Jersey magazine.

    Williams spent part of his youth in Jersey so Inside Jersey profiled him. That's great. But the blue collar shtick is, as always with Williams, just relentless:

    Williams says his youth at the Shore was fantastic, though solidly middle class -- a three-bedroom ranch, a wooden locker at the Surfrider Beach Club instead of a cabana, a 10-year-old car when he was old enough to drive...And with it comes a little dose of middle-class Jerseyness, too. "It's my world view. It's who I am," he says.

    And this:

    He considered taking the police exam in Middletown or becoming a county dispatcher. "I could have easily and happily become a 'townie' as we used to call them."

    Yep, just one of the guys. The marketing routine has become so predictable, even Williams' boss know which phrases to pitch to reporters:

    Steve Capus, president of NBC News, says Williams' Jersey roots are part of his success. "He has a real connection with middle America," says Capus, a Hoboken resident who has worked with Williams since 1986. "He stays true to his roots and who he is. He could go out to a black-tie event every night of the week, but he'd rather go home and watch a Yankees game with his son."

    Williams is special and different and remarkable because he likes his kids! Can you imagine Peter Jennings or Dan Rather or Walter Cronkite ever being so slavishly devoted to maintaining a public persona in such a hackneyed way? But hey, it works. Here's the second comment posted under the article at Inside Jersey:

    Good story. He sounds like a terrific, down to earth guy.

  • Another reason not to trust the British press (or Drudge)

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Because the British press makes stuff up and then Drudge hypes it. It's pretty much like clockwork at this point.

    Today's entry, via Drudge:


    The link leads to an article in the increasingly unreliable Telegraph of London, which claims in its headline:

    New 'prisoner abuse' photographs emerge despite US bid to block publication: Graphic photographs of alleged prisoner abuse, thought to be among up to 2,000 images Barack Obama is trying to prevent from being released, emerged yesterday.

    Except that the photo highlighted by the Telegraph was published by Wired 16 months ago. But other than that, great scoop for the Telegraph and Drudge.

  • A must-read about the rise of Militia Media

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The book is The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right. It's by blogger David Neiwert and it's what helps put the radical path of right-wing rhetoric under Obama into proper, and historical, perspective. It give much-needed context regarding how that brand of hate speech has been mainstreamed via talk radio and Fox News, among others.

    Reviewing the timely new book in American Prospect,

  • New York Times, please define "drawn into debate"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It seems the Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg is inventing news hooks again. Today, it's about how Obama is allegedly being "drawn into" a controversial debate about abortion. That, despite the fact that Obama himself pretty much hasn't said boo about the topic since taking office. But that's does stop Stolberg from constructing her narrative of choice--the White House is fighting an abortion war!

    Times headline:

    On Abortion, Obama Is Drawn Into Debate He Hoped to Avoid

    Here's the breathless thrust of the article:

    Now, Mr. Obama is suddenly in the thick of the battle he had hoped to transcend, and his delicate balancing act is being put to the test. The confluence of two events — his commencement speech on Sunday at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, and his forthcoming choice of a candidate to replace Justice David H. Souter, who is retiring from the Supreme Court — threaten to upend Mr. Obama's effort to "tamp down some of the anger" over abortion, as he said in a news conference last month, and to distract from his other domestic priorities, like health care.

    Now, in order to be 'drawn into debate," doesn't that mean that Obama has to, y'know, actively engage in the topic of abortion? Doesn't that mean there has to be some back-and-forth between Obama and those who disagree with him on the issue of abortion? Meaning, doesn't Obama have to say something about abortion in order for there to be a debate? Not at the Times. Or at least not according to Stolberg's approach.

    Yet note this passage/concession regarding the ND kerfuffle:

    The White House must now decide whether to engage in the debate and, if so, how deeply.

    In truth, the White House hasn't even engaged in the abortion debate, yet Stolberg writes an entire article about how the White House has been "drawn into" the abortion debate; how Obama is "suddenly in the thick of the battle."

    Nifty trick.

  • 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.