“Media Matters,” week ending April 15, 2005; by Jamison Foser

Last week, we noted that Fox News' John Gibson, among others, dismissed the allegations of unethical conduct by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), saying that "[t]he liberal media is hammering 'The Hammer'" and asking: “Is this simply a media hit job?”

Week ending April 15, 2005

This week:

“Liberal media” continues to gain influence; expands to include Republican officeholders and newspapers that endorsed Bush

They report, you decide

Conservative publisher set to unleash Swift Boat-style attack on Sen. Clinton

Fake news update: FCC calls for end to undisclosed fake news segments, while Bush administration allegedly impedes payola investigation

How would he know?

Who are “Pharmacists for Life”? The media STILL won't tell you

“Liberal media” continues to gain influence; expands to include Republican officeholders and newspapers that endorsed Bush

Last week, we noted that Fox News' John Gibson, among others, dismissed the allegations of unethical conduct by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), saying that "[t]he liberal media is hammering 'The Hammer'" and asking: “Is this simply a media hit job?”

But while Fox News hosts, DeLay himself, and some other conservatives dismiss the growing scandal as a “liberal media” concoction, it's worth keeping a running tally of who they're apparently classifying as “liberal media.”

So far, DeLay's critics include:

Truly a “liberal media” conspiracy if we ever saw one.

Speaking of Shays, the Republican congressman had some pretty harsh words for DeLay last weekend, as Salon.com noted:

On Sunday, Republican Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut called for DeLay's resignation.

“Tom's conduct is hurting the Republican Party, is hurting this Republican majority and it is hurting any Republican who is up for re-election,” Shays told the Associated Press Sunday. “My party is going to have to decide whether we are going to continue to make excuses for Tom to the detriment of Republicans seeking election.”

Lest there be any confusion, Shays' spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that her boss meant exactly what he said: He's calling for DeLay's resignation.

Pretty strong stuff, and pretty newsworthy, we'd guess. So we wondered how The Hill, a Washington newspaper that has taken an, um, interesting approach to the DeLay matter, covered Shays comments.

The April 12 edition of The Hill, the first published after Shays's comments, contained an article headlined “Simmons distances himself from DeLay, Shays.” The article went on to devote four paragraphs to a press release put out by Republican congressman Rob Simmons (R-CT), in which he said ... well, not much of anything. “I will not call for Tom DeLay's resignation solely on partisan or personal grounds,” the Simmons release read in part. That's right: a Republican member of Congress said he wouldn't call for DeLay's resignation. Not exactly breaking news.

Even more curious than The Hill's decision to cover the press release with four paragraphs of text and a headline is that the article virtually ignored Shays's far more newsworthy comments. The only mention of Shays in the article was to give context to Simmons' press release:

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) issued a statement yesterday insulating himself from the ethics attacks against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) while simultaneously distancing himself from statements made by fellow Connecticut Republican Rep. Christopher Shays, who over the weekend asked DeLay to resign.

That's it. The Hill didn't quote a single word of Shays's comments.

Perhaps The Hill gave greater coverage to Shays's comments in another article. If so, the paper didn't post that article on its web page. And the April 12 edition is not yet available on Nexis, despite the fact that previous issues have typically been added to the Nexis database shortly after publication.

Regardless of whether another article in the April 12 issue detailed Shays's comments, the fact that it wasn't posted on the paper's website, coupled with the fact that the article that focused on Simmons was posted, suggests The Hill saw greater news value in the Republican congressman who didn't call on DeLay to resign rather than in the Republican congressman who did.

There's an old media saying that “dog bites man” isn't news, but “man bites dog” is. The Hill, apparently, doesn't believe in that.

They report, you decide

How committed are the good folks at Fox News to bringing you the straight, unvarnished truth? We already knew they are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to bring you insightful guests you just won't find on other networks. But this week, we learned that Fox's commitment to giving viewers the facts, free of “spin,” goes even further. The New York Daily News revealed that Hannity & Colmes co-host Sean Hannity leaves nothing to chance, going so far as to coach two recent guests, telling them what to say on-air and how to say it:

On the March 31 installment of the shouting-head show, the guests included two of the late Terri Schiavo's former nurses, Trudy Capone and Carla Sauer Iyer, arguing that their patient wasn't brain-dead.

Between commercials, according to an off-air audiotape obtained by investigative comedian Harry Shearer for last Sunday's episode of his weekly radio program, “Le Show,” Hannity coached the women on exactly how to respond when liberal co-host Alan Colmes cross-examined them.

“Just say, 'I'm here to tell what I saw,'” Hannity can be heard instructing his guests. “No matter what the question, 'I'm here to tell you what I saw. I'm here to tell you what I saw.'”

Hannity adds helpfully: “Say, 'I'm not going to be distracted by silliness.' How's that? Does that help you? Look into that camera. Look at me when I'm talking.”

On the air, Iyer performs beautifully. “I don't have any opinions or judgments. I was there,” she declares

After the segment ends, Hannity gushes off the air to the nurses: “We got the points out. It's hard, this isn't easy. But you did great, both of you. Thank you, guys. Those nurses are powerful, aren't they?”

It's only a matter of time before Hannity, tired of guests not saying precisely what he wants them to, does away with guests entirely and simply performs a dramatic reading of what he thinks they would -- or should -- say, if only he'd let them in front of a camera.

Conservative publisher set to unleash Swift Boat-style attack on Sen. Clinton

swift-boat: v.t.: 1: to smear; to attack unfairly; to falsely accuse; 2: to relentlessly and unquestionably hype those attacks in the media.

A new book by Edward Klein may “bring down the (currently non-existent) presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), according to The Washington Times. The ”revelations inside could torpedo Hillary Clinton's chances," MSNBC's Joe Scarborough breathlessly noted. It's the “ultimate Hillary-attack,” according to cybergossip Matt Drudge.

What, exactly, is in the book that's so damaging? Well, none of them actually, technically know what's in the book. That's because the book isn't actually, technically, available. Hasn't even been published.

Though the book hasn't been published, we know a little bit about it. It's already clear that it is intended more as a political tool than an objective book. A spokesperson for the publisher, the conservative Sentinel imprint of publishing giant Penguin Putnam, says the company's “fondest wish” is for the book to do to Clinton what the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth did to John Kerry. As Media Matters noted:

The comparison to the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is significant for at least two reasons. First, the SBVT were explicitly formed to defeat John Kerry's presidential campaign; thus, the publisher's comparison of the book to the Swift Boat group reveals the book to be little more than a partisan political tool designed to influence an election. But the comparison is also telling because, as Media Matters for America and others extensively documented, the SBVT repeatedly lied, misled, and distorted the truth about John Kerry.


In short: the publisher suggests the purpose of the book is to defeat Clinton; the author is known to dislike the Clintons; and the one known source has leveled increasingly bizarre allegations against the Clintons for years and says he'll do anything he can to defeat her. Perhaps the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are a good comparison after all.

And, though the book isn't available yet, we know the author “doesn't care for the Clintons”; we know he relied on the notoriously unreliable Dick Morris as a source; and we know the author's previous books have been widely denounced for reliance on “anonymous sources” and “psychobabble.”

And we know we'll be hearing much, much more about the book than it deserves in the coming months.

Fake news update: FCC calls for end to undisclosed fake news segments, while Bush administration allegedly impedes payola investigation

Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission called on television broadcasters to clearly disclose the source of so-called “video news releases” they use in their news broadcasts. Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office determined that the Bush administration has broken anti-propaganda laws by distributing such fake news broadcasts without disclosing that they are actually government productions. While the disclosure rules apply only to videos the stations are paid to broadcast, two FCC commissioners, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, referred to the Bush administration VNRs in statements about the need for greater disclosure.

Also this week, a congressman revealed that the Bush administration is apparently hampering an investigation into its practice of paying journalists to support its policies. USA Today reported:

A senior House Democrat said Thursday that the Bush administration is shielding current and former White House officials from being interviewed in an investigation into the Education Department's hiring of commentator Armstrong Williams.

But White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the department's inspector general, who is investigating, lacks the authority to interview White House staff.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said the inspector general, Jack Higgins, told him that he is being barred from interviewing current and former White House staffers who may have knowledge of the $240,000 contract the department had with Williams. It called for Williams to promote the No Child Left Behind education program.

Miller requested the investigation after the contract became public Jan. 7. He asked Higgins to examine whether the deal constituted “covert propaganda.”


Perino, the White House deputy press secretary, said the inspector general was given permission to interview one White House employee who had been assigned to the department for a time, but only about non-White House duties. Perino did not name the individual.

Alan Morrison, a former U.S. attorney and a law professor at Stanford University, said the White House is “surely right, legally. The inspector general has no right to tell anyone outside Education that they have to talk to him,” he said.

“But if the president wanted people at the White House to talk to the inspector general, he could tell them to,” Morrison said. “The questions to ask are whether the White House is preventing people who want to speak from speaking, and why doesn't the White House want the inspector general to talk with these people?”

How would he know?

Bill O'Reilly continues to insist that, if gay marriage is allowed, someone is going to try to marry a goat. Last month, he predicted that “you'll be able to marry a goat” within 10 years if gay marriage is allowed. This week, he continued that theme, as Media Matters noted:

So this is just the beginning, ladies and gentlemen, of this crazy gay marriage insanity -- is gonna lead to all kinds of things like this. Courts are gonna be clogged. Every nut in the world is gonna -- somebody's gonna come in and say, “I wanna marry the goat.” You'll see it; I guarantee you'll see it.

O'Reilly's comments raise many questions, but we'll start with one of the most obvious: How, exactly, can O'Reilly be so certain that someone will try to marry a goat? How can he “guarantee” it?

Who are “Pharmacists for Life”? The media STILL won't tell you

We've noted that an obscure group that calls itself “Pharmacists for Life” keeps getting media attention, without much scrutiny or explanation of who the group is. And we're going to keep noting it.

In the past week, the Washington Post, Associated Press, CNN.com, and The Economist, among others, have covered Pharmacists for Life and its president, Karen Brauer, without detailing their background. As we asked last week:

If Pharmacists for Life is going to continue to use Brauer's “degree and credentials” as a pharmacist to bolster her credibility, and if news organizations are going to implicitly do likewise in identifying her as a “pharmacist,” shouldn't those news organizations give readers and viewers a more complete understanding of her credibility on these matters, perhaps by noting that -- by her own admission -- Karen Brauer is a pharmacist who lies to patients when she doesn't want to fill their prescriptions? Isn't that the kind of detail that might help readers assess her credibility?

Jamison Foser is Executive Vice President at Media Matters for America.