• Is Glenn Beck still on TV?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The right-wing talker's CNN Headline News ratings continue to embarrass.

    Look at the latest numbers from Friday night. Among total viewers, Beck attracted an audience of 304,000, which meant he got absolutely crushed by his time slot competitors, MSNBC's Chris Matthews (953,000), CNN's Lou Dobbs (1,204,000) and Fox News' Shep Smith (2,032,000).

  • Town Hall Sham

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Matt Yglesias points out that tonight's debate may be a "Town Hall," but moderator Tom Brokaw, not the audience, will pick the questions:

    In essence, Tom Brokaw and his staff will be asking the questions. They're sifting through a big group of people, and their pre-set questions, and picking the questions they like. Meanwhile, though, Brokaw and co. get to evade responsibility for the questions if people don't like them — it was real people asking! And no followups, so if John McCain gets a question about his plan to cut Medicare and wants to give an answer about Bill Ayers, nobody can stop him.

    Remember: Brokaw was the McCain camp's choice to moderate this debate -- and is NBC's liaison to the GOP candidate.

  • The end is near (for cable news)

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    While airing portions of John McCain's stump speech on Monday, CNN temporarily replaced the news ticker on the bottom of the screen with the running text of Twitter messages ("We're in deep doo-doo") that viewers were sending anchor Rick Sanchez.

    No joke. Look for yourself.

  • Richard Cohen won't name names

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That's why it's called a club. As in the Beltway media club.

    Cohen's column in the WaPo today takes the press to task for being too easy on Sarah Palin's debate performance. He stresses that if, for instance, Sen. Hillary Clinton had done the things Palin did during her forum with Joe Biden (i.e. winking at the camera), the press would have unleashed non-stop ridicule.

    We don't argue with that point. But here's the telling part of Cohen's column:

    I could quote the hosannas of some of my colleagues, but I spare them the infamy that will surely follow them to their graves.

    Cohen thinks the press failed at its job in covering Palin but he won't name any names because that might be mean. No wonder the standards for Beltway journalism seem to be evaporating. Journalists have no fear of ever being held accountable by their peers.

  • Jerome Corsi's Kenya woes

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The anti-Obama author recently flew to Kenya, where Obama's father was born, to launch his book, file daily dispatches, and probe Obama's alleged ties to the country's prime minister. But Kenyan officials picked Corsi up at his hotel and are detaining him because he reportedly does have a proper work permit. The AP reports:

    Jerome Corsi, who wrote "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," was being held at immigration headquarters in Nairobi.

    Corsi was invited to Kenya by Christian missionaries, concerned about the rise of Islam there.

  • Conservative media and marketplace woes, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Want to know why the right-wing "comedy" An American Carol flopped so spectacularly at the box office over the weekend? It's not because, as one critic wrote, the movie "is about as not-funny as a comedy can get."

    It was because there was a Hollywood conspiracy in play to defraud the anti-liberal film. It's true, movie theaters purposefully failed to count all the American Carol tickets sold!

    If you still have your ticket stub you can go here and report any funny business. And rest easy, the movie's producers "are investigating."

  • Why does MSNBC call Bill Ayers "Willie"?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Earlier today, MSNBC ran this chyron:

    MSNBC 'Willie' Ayers

    "Race gets personal: Willie Ayers & Keating 5 are latest topics on trail."

    But Ayers' name isn't "Willie" Ayers, it's "William" Ayers. Or "Bill" Ayers. Nobody calls him "Willie."

    So what's with MSNBC's chyron? Maybe they were just trying to save space? No, that can't be it - "Willie Ayers" takes up more screen real estate than "Bill Ayers." Strange.

    Strange enough that we can't help recall another "William" who became "Willie" during an election year: William J. Horton. Kathleen Hall Jamieson has explained:

    Although his given name is William, he calls himself William, court records cite him as William, a July 1988 Reader's Digest article identifies him as William J. Horton, Jr.,and press reports prior to the Republican ad and speech blitz name him "William," the Bush campaign and its supporting PACs identified the furloughed convict as "Willie" Horton. Even the crusading anti-Dukakis newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for its expose on the furlough program consistently identifies Horton as William Horton or William Horton, Jr. When the Maryland man who was stabbed by the furloughed convict contacted the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, he too referred to Horton as William Horton. In his account of the attack in the PAC ad, however, that man, Clifford Barnes, instead identifies the convict as "Willie" Horton.

    One might trace the familiar "Willie" to the naming practices of slavemasters, to our patterns of talk about gangsters, or to the sort of benign paternalism that afflicts adults around small children. Whatever its origin, in discussions of murder, kidnapping, and rape, "Willie" summons more sinister images of criminality than does "William." After all, it wasn't J. "Eddie" Hoover who hunted down "Alphonse" Capone. And during his trial, the person to that point known as Willie Smith was identified by family and attorney as either William or Will. After his acquittal on charges of rape, the family reverted to the name by which he had been known before the trial.

    The televised PAC ad titled "Weekend Prison Passes," as well as the PAC ads featuring Horton's victims, all refer to him as "Willie Horton." When his mug shot appears on the screen of "Weekend Prison Passes," the name under it reads "Willie Horton." Reporters reduced Dukakis on crime to the Republican sculpted image of "Willie Horton." In news reports, "Willie" Horton's name was mentioned more often by reporters than by George Bush or any of his representatives. Use of dramatic, coherent narrative increases the likelihood of recall. Once the Horton narrative was embedded in public consciousness, mention of his name should have been sufficient to evoke the entire story.

  • Marc Ambinder's selective outrage

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Marc Ambinder:

    It's probably a little scuzzy for the Obama campaign to relitigate the Keating Five -- after all, it happened seventeen years ago, McCain was never charged, and he's acknowledged misjudgment -- what more can some reasonably expect out of him?


    The Obama campaign's Keating Five criticisms are factual statements about actions McCain took as a public servant - he met with regulators on behalf of his wife's business partner, who had generously funded McCain's campaigns and flew him to lavish vacations on his private jet.

    The criticisms have to do with a banking collapse that was at least partially a result of deregulation, making them relevant to both the current financial situation and to McCain's general opposition to regulations. (Ambinder knows this: in a previous post, he wrote: "the Keating Five was a banking and financial scandal. So it fits better with the political environment than sudden attempts to re-raise Obama's associations with Ayers and Wright.")

    And, though the Keating Five happened years ago, it's a safe bet that the majority of voters don't know key details - such as the fact that McCain's wife was a business partner of Keating's - because the media has been politely ignoring the scandal for the bulk of this campaign.

    And Marc Ambinder says it's "scuzzy" for the Obama campaign to bring Keating up. That's laughable on its own merits - McCain was involved in what may be the most famous scandal in the history of the U.S. Senate, and his opponent isn't supposed to mention it? - but it is even more absurd in the context of Ambinder's reaction to recent attacks by McCain and his campaign.

    In three separate posts today, Ambinder notes the McCain campaign's criticisms of Obama's relationship with Jeremiah Wright - something that had nothing to do with actions Obama took as a public servant. In none of the three does Ambinder call the criticisms "scuzzy." The closest he comes to criticizing the McCain campaign for talking about Wright is saying it doesn't fit well "with the current political environment."

    Bill Ayers is mentioned at least in passing in five different Ambinder posts today. In none of them does Ambinder say it is "scuzzy" to bring Ayers up - even though the attack has nothing to do with Obama's performance as an elected official, even though Obama had nothing to do with Ayers' anti-war activities decades ago, and even though the McCain campaign has not been honest about Obama's relationship with Ayers. (Indeed, on Saturday, Ambinder repeated Sarah Palin's false description of Ayers as a "Pal" of Obama's, despite the fact that the New York Times article on which Palin based her comments specifically concluded that the two men "do not appear to have been close.")

    So: The McCain campaign is attacking Barack Obama not for things he has done as an elected official, but for things people he knows have done. And they are doing so dishonestly. But Marc Ambinder thinks it is "scuzzy" for the Obama campaign to make factual statements about things John McCain himself did - his use of public office on behalf of his wife's business partner and his political and personal benefactor.