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  • What, exactly, did Howard Kurtz expect?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Parroting GOP talking points about how rapturous the media coverage was of Obama inauguration, the WaPo's Kurtz wrote:

    Well, the coverage has been so positive in the past week that you almost got the impression Obama would solve all of America's problems while fixing the college football playoff system and discovering a cure for cancer.

    Kurtz didn't offer up any specific examples of coverage that was somehow offensively "positive." But more importantly, what was Kurtz comparing the coverage to, all that nasty, negative coverage George Bush got when he was first sworn in? Give us a break.

    Inauguration coverage is what it is. The press, and especially television, loves tradition and pomp and circumstance and pretty pictures. And whenever a new president is sworn in the press produces wall-to-wall, feel-good coverage built around those pretty inaugural pictures. This week was no different than what Bush received for his first inaugural in 2001.

    So where's Kurtz's actual proof that somehow this year's inauguration coverage was unusually positive?

  • Oscar insults from MSNBC's Courtney Hazlett

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    MSNBC's Courtney Hazlett, discussing Oscar nominations:

    First: Frozen River was nominated for two awards, Best Actress and Original Screenplay. It is doubtful that viewers will avoid the Oscars because a movie they've never heard of was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

    More significantly: Hazlett's contention that only "elite, effete" viewers watch "obscure" films like Frozen River is a slur against both those who have seen Frozen River and those who will never hear of it.

    Enjoying a movie that Courtney Hazlett has never heard of does not make one "effete" - it simply suggests that perhaps MSNBC should find an entertainment reporter who actually takes the time to watch - or at least read a review of -- Oscar-caliber films.

    It's simply astonishing that an MSNBC reporter would feel comfortable describing people as effete - "Marked by self-indulgence, triviality, or decadence"; "effeminate" - merely because they liked a movie she hasn't heard of.

    Imagine if she said something similarly insulting about moviegoers who preferred, say, Kung Fu Panda.

    Actually, she did - though she almost certainly doesn't realize it. Hazlett referred to Frozen River's audience as "elite." But watching, or even enjoying, a film like Frozen River doesn't mean a person is "elite" - "The best or most skilled members of a group." Hazlett's formulation suggests Frozen River viewers are better than Kung Fu Panda fans. This is complete nonsense. And, though Hazlett probably meant it as an insult to Frozen River viewers, it is actually an insult to every one else.

    Hazlett's commentary is quite similar to the way many reporters talk about politics and the so-called "culture wars." They portrayed John Kerry, for example, as "elite" and "effete" for drinking green tea and wind-surfing. They tried to do the same when Barack Obama displayed somewhat limited bowling abilities - and even when he wore sunglasses.

    This is stupid and insulting. But it is not only insulting to Frozen River viewers and green tea drinkers. It is stupid and insulting to everyone else, as well. Saying that the "elite" watch art-house films and drink green tea suggests that those who watch Ironman and drink Budweiser are inferior.

    Most people, I think, got over that worldview shortly after middle school. Most people realize that watching Frozen River doesn't make you better than anyone else - and it doesn't make you worse, either.

    Sadly, that's a lesson Courtney Hazlett and many other journalists still haven't learned.

    More narrowly, it seems time for somebody at MSNBC to have a little talk with Hazlett about her insults. Today it was "effete"; last year she called director Spike Lee "uppity."

    UPDATE: Hazlett makes fun of Frozen River's obscurity by claiming you have to go to some web site to view it and, later in the day, pointing out that if you are in New York City and want to see it, you have to travel all the way to Ithaca to find a theater at which the film is showing. Presumably, that's because the film was playing in New York City in August. Hazlett is aware that films that appeared in theaters before December are Oscar-eligible, isn't she? And that movies don't tend to stay in theaters for six months?

  • Why was Bush's 2005 inauguration so wildly expensive?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That's the question the press ought to be asking. But apparently unwilling, or incapable, to perform actual journalism, lots of reporters and pundits remained fixated on the supposed cost of the Obama bash, which the press excitedly claims will cost $160 million, including security costs.

    As Media Matters has been noting for close to a week now, the tab for Bush's second inauguration, after figuring in security costs, totaled $157 million. Yet it's virtually impossible to find a single press report in the last week that has documented that fact. That number does not exist. It has been suppressed and flushed down the memory hole. Because if it's mentioned alongside the Obama tab, than the Obama's-inauguration-is-historically-expensive storyline evaporates. (Because it's not historically expensive.)

    But let's move on. The official crowd estimate for Tuesday's swearing now stands as a eye-popping 1.8 million. How many attended Bush's 2005 inauguration? The official estimate was 400,000. So let's do some math. 157 million divided by 400,000 equals 392. It cost nearly $392 per-person to cover the expenses for Bush's modest sized bash.

    For Obama? Based on the current projection of $160 million (the final official tab, once security costs are factored in won't be known for months), and divided by 1.8 million people in attendance, the per-person cost for the Obama bash came out to $88.

    So we ask again, why was the Bush inauguration so wildy expensive?

  • Somebody get the Washington Times newsroom a paper bag

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Because after (goofy) hyperventilating dispatches like this is from Jon Ward, we're concerned about the health risk.

    Apparently at a joint appearance today, Joe Biden made a quick joke at the expense of Chief Justice John Roberts who botched the inauguration oath yesterday, and Barack Obama asked an aide "Are we done"?

    Blockbuster stuff, we know. But get a load out of the Times' hysterical, almost parody-like, language [emphasis added] used to describe how the pedestrian events unfolded:

    That didn't take long. During his first full day in office, Vice President Joseph Biden made a jarring verbal gaffe, shooting a public dig at the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court that left President Obama grim-faced...

    But the new president was not amused by Mr. Biden's crack. As some in the audience drew in breath and gave low "oohs," Mr. Obama stood silently next to Mr. Biden and appeared to just barely shake his head.

    It was the most awkward moment in a ceremony full of them, highlighting the new world in which the infant administration now finds itself

    Mr. Obama did not know, after finishing his comments on executive orders, what was supposed to happen next, and had to ask for guidance from an aide in the audience.

    "Are we done?" he said...

    Worst of all, all of it happened as TV cameras were rolling.

    Oh the humanity!

    P.S. The Times headline: "Biden draws Obama's ire over flubs." Apparently it was the kind of super-secret/invisible "ire" that only Ward could detect.

  • Riiiiight

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Watching Dem/media hater Brent Bozell have to play nice, if only for one sentence ("I hope he does well"), during Obama inauguration season was sort of amusing.

    Here's Bozell in his more comfortable environment, attacking Inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander for allegedly stoking racist fears.

  • Every fool's got a reason to feel sorry for himself

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Two weeks ago, the folks at Media Research Center got worked up over an issue of the Spiderman comic book in which the super hero thwarts a criminal's attempt to disrupt Barack Obama's inauguration. Yesterday, MRC's "CyberAlert" featured three similarly absurd examples of "liberal media bias."

    MRC is upset that ABC's David Muir reported that despite the clogged streets in Washington due to an extraordinary influx of visitors, coupled with widespread road closings, "there were no car horns, no shouting." MRC managed to interpret that simple statement that there was a noteworthy lack of audible indications of frustration despite frustrating circumstances as excessive praise for Barack Obama - despite the fact that Muir didn't attribute the lack of horns or shouting to Obama. Under the sarcastic header "And Obama Shall Bring Tranquility to the Land," MRC wrote:

    Is there anything President-elect Barack Obama's very aura cannot make better? Apparently, he has eliminated road rage -- and even honking. ABC's David Muir, over video of stuck traffic followed by the sound of singing, in a Monday World News story on the crowds coming to Washington, DC: "So many of the streets are closed those that are open are clogged. But there were no car horns, no shouting. Instead, the San Francisco Boys and Girls choruses practicing for their Inaugural moment on the steps of the Capitol."

    Again: Muir didn't attribute the lack of "road rage" to Obama. MRC simply made that up - and this is their second-best example of "liberal media bias."

    If that's their second-best, their third-best must be pretty bad. And it is: MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall asked a woman in a crowd what she thinks "this next administration brings to the country." In response, the Santa-hat-wearing woman said "I think they bring diversity. I think they bring a spirit of excellence. I think they bring unity and they bring love. Santa Claus loves them." That's it. That's all that MRC required to declare this exchange its third-worst example of "liberal media bias" -- a live interview with a bystander who makes a tongue-in-cheek reference to her Santa hat.

    And at Number 10, Media Research Center whined that a British newspaper interviewed Bruce Springsteen, despite the fact that Springsteen - like the overwhelming majority of Americans - does not much care for former president George W. Bush. Here's MRC:

    This past weekend singer Bruce Springsteen got in his last anti-Bush licks as he vented to a British newspaper about how the Bush years have been a "nightmare" in which "thousands and thousands of people died, lives were ruined" because of Bush's policies

    Outrageous, isn't it? Bruce Springsteen criticized George W. Bush, and a British newspaper published his comments. And that's one of the best examples of "liberal media bias" MRC could find.

  • Politico scrounges around for some Obama drama

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And bingo, Politico claims to have found some on the new White House website. Scoop!

    Politico discovered that on "The Agenda" page, which listed 24 policy topics (i.e. defense, disabilities, health care, etc.), there was a subset of "Additional Issues," and within that subcategory was an entry for the topic of "Katrina," and buried under that heading came these two passing sentences:

    President Obama swiftly responded to Hurricane Katrina. Citing the Bush Administration's "unconscionable ineptitude" in responding to Hurricane Katrina, then-Senator Obama introduced legislation requiring disaster planners to take into account the specific needs of low-income hurricane victims.

    The Politico headline? "New White House site slams Bush," of course. [Emphasis added]

  • Fox News, loyal to the end

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Notes the Los Angeles Times [emphasis added]:

    Former Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials sometimes let it be known that they stuck with Fox News for their informational needs. And on Tuesday, Fox News returned the favor, even as the rest of Washington remained gripped by Obama fever. Late Tuesday afternoon, Fox News was the only major national TV outlet that carried a live telecast of former President Bush's homecoming speech to cheering supporters in Midland, Texas.

  • CNN erroneously claimed Obama's inauguration will "easily shatter" spending records

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As it continued the media's cavalcade of misinformation about the cost of the Obama inauguration, CNN reported Monday night that this week's swearing-in would likely be "the most expensive inauguration ever." And that with a possible price tag of $160 million, the Obama bash would "easily shatter" inauguration spending records.

    Isn't it amazing how, when the press gets a story it wants to tell, that no matter how many times the facts are explained, the press simply ignores the facts and keeps on telling the tale it wants to tell? And make no mistake, this week the Beltway press corps is absolutely wedded to the idea that Obama's inauguration is going to going to rewrite--no, shatter--the inauguration spending records.

    Memo to CNN, the only thing shattered this week is the media myth about Obama's supposedly historic inauguration expenses. As we've been pointing out for days, the $160 million figure the media used combined the traditional expenses attached to the swearing-in festivities along with the massive security and logistic costs. (Question: Why, after decades of calculating inauguration costs by always leaving out security costs, has the press decided, for the first time in modern memory, to attach security costs to Obama's tab? Just curious.)

    It's a big eye-popping number for sure, and the press fell in love with it in recent days. But is the tab historic, as CNN so breathless claimed? What the clueless CNN reporters and producers don't understand is that when security costs are factored into the cost of Bush's (much smaller) 2005 inauguration, that event cost $157 million.

    So again CNN, our question is simple: If Bush's bash cost $157 million and Obama's might cost $160 millio, how does Obama "easily shatter" the spending record?

    We'll wait....

  • NYT "seems" to know a lot about Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Personally, we prefer when journalists simply report the facts and stay away from explaining how things "seem." But in its piece about how Fox News "seems" to be poised for a new heights under the Obama administration, the Times just can't help itself [emphasis added]:

    But the network is showing no concern about the new administration; if anything, it seems re-energized. With a series of program changes this month, Fox News is doubling down on the programming strategy that has made it the No. 1 cable news network for seven years. Some of the network's prominent conservative hosts seem invigorated about being back on offense.

    Also note that reporting on the arrival of Glenn Beck to Fox News from CNN Headlines News, the Times politely declines to mention that Beck spent his time at CNNHL in the ratings cellar. Then again, the Times has always played nice with the ratings-challenged Beck.