Andrew Alexander | Media Matters for America

Andrew Alexander

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  • After calling O'Keefe's ACORN hoax "legitimate," WaPo ombudsman ignores his paper's errors

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Last year, Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander took his paper to task for "tardiness" in chasing after James O'Keefe's ACORN "video sting," calling it a "legitimate" story and suggesting the Post is "Wrongly Deaf to Right-Wing Media."

    Alexander's column was absurd in both the specific (O'Keefe's ACORN videos were heavily edited and the story anything but "legitimate") and the broad (Alexander has steadfastly refused to even attempt to reconcile his repeated intimations of liberal bias at the Post with the paper's treatment of, among other subjects, Al Gore and the Bush administration's rush to war in Iraq.)

    And when O'Keefe's fraudulent ACORN "reporting" unraveled, Alexander kept quiet, never once acknowledging that he had endorsed the legitimacy of a complete hoax. In light of O'Keefe's latest assault on journalism and decency, Alexander has another opportunity to do so.

    See, the Washington Post has twice suggested in the past week that when O'Keefe visited ACORN offices, he did so dressed as a pimp. That simply is not true.

    And yet the Post's Alexandra Petri wrote last week:

    It was a "punk" set-up by James O'Keefe, the same guy who famously dressed up as a pimp to interview members of ACORN. Say what you will, this guy is willing to commit.

    And the Post's Reliable Source added:

    You remember O'Keefe: He's the activist who launched into national politics with an undercover video indicting community organization ACORN (he was dressed like a pimp) and arrested in January for trying to tamper with the phones in Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office.

    Blogger Brad Friedman has notified Alexander, among other Post employees, of the falsehood, but it remains uncorrected several days later.

    That, unfortunately, is not particularly surprising, given that the Post has not corrected a September 18, 2009 article that implied O'Keefe was dressed in a garish pimp costume inside ACORN offices:

    The proposition was outrageous, outlandish, and right up James E. O'Keefe III's alley. Hannah Giles was on the phone from the District, and she was asking him to dress like her pimp, walk into the offices of the ACORN community activist group, openly admit to wanting to buy a house to run as a brothel, and see what happened.


    O'Keefe, 25, packed his grandfather's old wide-brimmed derby hat from his swing-dancing days, his grandmother's ratty chinchilla shoulder throw, and a cane he bought at a dollar store, then drove from his parents' home in northern New Jersey to the District to execute the idea with Giles, 20.

    What happened next was a scandal that has shaken ACORN to its core. O'Keefe and Giles secretly videoed ACORN workers in the District, Brooklyn and Baltimore as they coached the secret filmmakers on how to evade taxes and misrepresent the nature of their business enterprise to get into a home.

    So Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander vouched for the legitimacy of an illegitimate story, rebuking his paper for "tardiness" in echoing James O'Keefe's bogus attacks on ACORN. And now he sits silently as Post reporters perpetuate the myth that O'Keefe was dressed in a garish pimp outfit inside ACORN offices. You might expect this sort of behavior from, say, Post columnist George Will. But this is the paper's ombudsman. Incredible.

  • CNN details media darling James O'Keefe's latest bizarre stunt

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Last year, Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander took his paper to task for "tardiness" in reporting on James O'Keefe's phony ACORN sting videos, suggesting that the Post doesn't "pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints." New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt wrote a similar column. Those columns were horribly misguided at the time, and only look more absurd as time goes by.

    Here's CNN, with yet another example of why nobody should ever take James O'Keefe seriously:

    James O'Keefe, best known for hitting the community organizing group ACORN with an undercover video sting, hoped to get CNN Investigative Correspondent Abbie Boudreau onto a boat filled with sexually explicit props and then record the session, those documents show.

    The plan apparently was thwarted after Boudreau was warned minutes before it was supposed to happen.

    [O'Keefe associate Izzy] Santa told Boudreau that O'Keefe planned to "punk" her by getting on a boat where hidden cameras were set up. Boudreau said she would not get on the boat and asked Santa why O'Keefe wanted her there.

    "Izzy told me that James was going to be dressed up and have strawberries and champagne on the boat, and he was going to hit on me the whole time," Boudreau said.

    CNN later obtained a copy of a 13-page document titled "CNN Caper," which appears to describe O'Keefe's detailed plans for that day.

    "The plans appeared so outlandish and so juvenile in tone, I questioned whether it was part of a second attempted punk," Boudreau said.

    But in a phone conversation, Santa confirmed the document was authentic. Listed under "equipment needed," is "hidden cams on the boat," and a "tripod and overt recorder near the bed, an obvious sex tape machine."

    Among the props listed were a "condom jar, dildos, posters and paintings of naked women, fuzzy handcuffs" and a blindfold.

    Read the whole thing. And as you do so, remember: This is someone the Washington Post's ombudsman thinks the paper should take seriously.

    CNN's Boudreau has posted her own account of O'Keefe's scheme:

    James says that he wasn't really going to follow through with the plan. He e-mailed CNN this statement:

    "That is not my work product. When it was sent to me, I immediately found certain elements highly objectionable and inappropriate, and did not consider them for one minute following it."

    But that does not appear to be true, according to a series of emails we obtained from Izzy Santa, who says the e-mails reveal James' true intentions.


    I have worked so hard to have people pay attention to my work, and to be a respected journalist. I don't want to be judged based on anything other than my work. But apparently, I represent all of the things this group hates about the mainstream media. They feel because of the way I look that I do not matter, and that my reporting is a joke. They don't know anything about my work ethic – my history – my dedication and commitment – and my love for reporting. They just saw my blonde hair. And the ironic thing is that I'm really a brunette.

  • Washington Post tries new all-Beck format

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Three full days after Beckapolooza, the front page of the Washington Post's web site featured at least six links to Glenn Beck-related content earlier today:

    There's certainly merit in major news organizations taking an in-depth look at Beck -- the factual and logical merits of his claims, the consistency of his arguments, etc. But phrases like "virtually nothing objectionable was said" and "rally recap fills an hour" suggest coverage for the sake of coverage.

    And there were two more links in a separate front-page box that disappeared as I was writing this, so perhaps even the Post is starting to think there are more important things to cover. Then again, maybe not: Here's the front of the Post's On Faith site:

    That's four boxes featuring Beck, including the main box, which gives Beck and the President of the United States equal prominence. Beck is, after all, one of America's foremost spiritual leaders (right up there with Sarah Palin.)

    In 2002, 100,000 anti-war protesters got an article in the Washington Post's Metro section. In 2010, Glenn Beck gets wall-to-wall coverage in the Post for days on end.

    And remember: Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander and executive editor Marcus Brauchli claim the Post needs to be more responsive to conservatives.

  • Salon editor blasts Washington Post's refusal to acknowledge prior reporting

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    On Sunday, I noted that several journalists have criticized the Washington Post for the failure of its "Top Secret America" articles to acknowledge prior reporting by other news organizations. Though the Post, including its ombudsman, has responded to conservative complaints about the series, it has not responded to this criticism, which has largely come from liberal journalists.

    Now, Salon editor Joan Walsh points out that the Post's reporting on problems at Arlington National Cemetery has ignored prior reporting by Salon, and notes that the Post's failure to acknowledge Salon's reporting is not just rude, but deprives readers of valuable information.

  • Halperin: "stories emanating from the right are given more weight" by media

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Time's Mark Halperin, explaining an obvious truth:

    The Sherrod story is a reminder — much like the 2004 assault on John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — that the old media are often swayed by controversies pushed by the conservative new media. In many quarters of the old media, there is concern about not appearing liberally biased, so stories emanating from the right are given more weight and less scrutiny. Additionally, the conservative new media, particularly Fox News Channel and talk radio, are commercially successful, so the implicit logic followed by old-media decisionmakers is that if something is gaining currency in those precincts, it is a phenomenon that must be given attention. Most dangerously, conservative new media will often produce content that is so provocative and incendiary that the old media find it irresistible.

    There's nothing about that statement that should be even remotely controversial. Yet many people -- like, say, the Washington Post's ombudsman -- don't understand it. Conclusion: Those who do understand it need to say it more frequently and more forcefully.

  • Bloggers aren't the problem -- The Washington Post is.

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus writes:

    Blogging is about speed: the early post catches the Google. It is about linking, which may sound like creating a community and encouraging diversity of views but which too often deteriorates into a closed circle of reinforced preconceptions. It is about provocation. Shrillness sells. Even-handedness goes unclicked. Once the people in my business spent time checking and rechecking facts and first impressions. Opinion writers mulled things over. In the world of the blogosphere, mistakes can always be crossed through and corrected; seat-of-the-pants reactions refined.

    Except: Shirley Sherrod.

    I am being unfair, in part, by singling out the blgosphere. The Sherrod story originated there, but the sins of Andrew Breitbart were aided and abetted by bloggers' co-conspirators on cable news. And, of course, in the Obama administration.

    And, of course (though Marcus never so much as hints at it): The Washington Post.

    The Post's first Sherrod article was absolutely horrible. And it came long after many of those shrill bloggers Marcus criticizes had gotten the story right. It must feel good for legacy media to wag their fingers at irresponsible bloggers -- but they'd do far more good by calling out their peers.

    Another Post columnist, E.J. Dionne, did just that today:

    [T]he Obama team was reacting to a reality: the bludgeoning of mainstream journalism into looking timorously over its right shoulder and believing that "balance" demands taking seriously whatever sludge the far right is pumping into the political waters.

    This goes way back. Al Gore never actually said he "invented the Internet," but you could be forgiven for not knowing this because the mainstream media kept reporting he had.

    There were no "death panels" in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow "the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly." ...

    The traditional media are so petrified of being called "liberal" that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream journalists regularly criticize themselves for not jumping fast enough or high enough when the Fox crowd demands coverage of one of their attack lines.

    Thus did Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander ask this month why the paper had been slow to report on "the Justice Department's decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party." Never mind that this is a story about a tiny group of crackpots who stopped no one from voting. It was aimed at doing what the doctored video Breitbart posted set out to do: convince Americans that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites.

    This is racially inflammatory, politically motivated nonsense -- and it's nonsense even if Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh talk about it a thousand times a day. When an outlandish charge for which there is no evidence is treated as an on-the-one-hand-and-on-the-other-hand issue, the liars win.

    The Sherrod case should be the end of the line. If Obama hates the current media climate, he should stop overreacting to it. And the mainstream media should stop being afraid of insisting on the difference between news and propaganda.


    Washington Post to liberals: Get Lost

    WaPo, Ombudsman ignore right-wing race-baiting

    Is there a phony right-wing attack WaPo's Ombudsman won't promote?

  • Washington Post to liberals: Get Lost

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In the past week and a half, the Washington Post has run a one-sided article hyping the absurd New Black Panther Party allegations that have been promoted by right-wing media including Andrew Breitbart's web sites, an ombudsman column praising that one-sided article, an account of the Shirley Sherrod story that was written from the perspective of the conservative media who lied about her, and a "Top Secret America" package that has been criticized for failing to properly credit liberal publications that first reported key elements of the story.

    The Post's NBPP article and Ombudsman Andrew Alexander's column praising it have drawn criticism:

    • Columbia Journalism Review's Joel Meares called Alexander's column a "a pretty tepid effort" that "provided none of the deeper engagement he so strongly calls for." Meares added "It's difficult to read the column without the sense that Alexander and The Post are caving to at least one of the ideologies at play. After all, the take-away from the column is the same as one gets from watching [Fox News Channel anchor Megyn] Kelly's segments on the matter—this issue needs coverage."
    • The American Prospect's Paul Waldman wrote that Alexander's column was "an example of just the kind of lazy, cowardly 'he said/she said' writing that ombudsmen are supposed to be critical of."
    • Salon's Joan Walsh wrote "Alexander should be criticizing its [the Post's] failure to debunk the story, not to hype it" and noted that Alexander passed off complaints from a former Reagan administration official about the Post's purported failure to cover the story as though they were the views of a neutral observer. Walsh concluded: "It's the job of editors at big papers like the Post to expose those lies, and the movement behind them – not to flagellate themselves for not saying 'How high?' when right-wing media watchdogs say 'Jump!' Andrew Alexander botched his job today."
    • I pointed out that Alexander, like the initial Post article, omitted several important facts that greatly undermine the Right's NBPP allegations, and noted that Alexander has a history of chiding the Post for being slow to pick up on bogus stories peddled by the likes of Andrew Breitbart: He did the same with the ACORN story last year (and never followed up when it turned out the Right's ACORN videos were misleadingly edited.) And I noted that Alexander's column, like the original article, ignored entirely the Right's race-baiting.

    Likewise, the Post's initial Sherrod article drew immediate criticism. I explained in detail how the article privileged the Right's lies about Sherrod -- the first half of the article was written from the perspective of the conservatives who weren't telling the truth; there was no indication whatsoever until the 13th paragraph that anyone thought Sherrod was wronged; it wasn't until the 17th paragraph that the Post admitted that Sherrod helped the farmer she was accused of not helping, etc. NYU Journalism professor criticized both the article and the refusal of Post reporter Karen Tumulty to respond to such criticism (here, here, here, and here.) The Nation's Greg Mitchell called the article "horrible," adding "Tumulty should be ashamed."

    And a number of liberal journalists have criticized the Post for failing to include in its intelligence series credit for prior work:

    • Salon's Glenn Greenwald wrote: "Part 2 of the Post series is great, but it's outrageous not to even mention those who have done this work for years" and "It's good the Post is covering this so thoroughly - that can bring benefits- but so outrageous they're pretending to be first" -- sentiments echoed by The Nation's Jeremy Scahill.
    • Scahill explained: "In reality, there is little in the Post series that, in one way or another, has not already been documented by independent journalist Tim Shorrock, author of the (actually) groundbreaking book, Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing. With the exception of some details and a lot of color, much of what I have read in the Post's series thus far I had already read in Shorrock's book and his previous reporting for Salon, Mother Jones and The Nation. Shorrock was the reporter who first revealed the extent of the radical privatization of intel operations. In 2007, Shorrock obtained and published a document from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence showing that 70 percent of the US intelligence budget was spent on private contractors. Shorrock was way out in front of this story and, frankly, corporate media ignored it. When I was working on my book on Blackwater, which first came out in 2007, Shorrock provided me with some crucial insights into the world of privatized intelligence. Shorrock remains a valued colleague and source and the Post is just wrong to not credit him for the work he has done on this story. Everyone should read Shorrock's latest story which includes an exclusive photo tour through the private intelligence community."
    • Shorrock himself wrote that the Post series is "NOT new. I broke basic story yrs ago," adding "I am truly outraged. Not a single mention!" Marcy Wheeler told Shorrock: "The WaPo has presented their series as big news. And while it may be to members of the Village, they completely ignored the work you and Jeremy Scahill and others have already done on this problem," to which Shorrock replied: "I've been extremely critical of the Post for how long it took them to get this story and their refusal to acknowledge the work of people like myself who broke this story years ago."

    Well, you get the point: A lot of liberals have had a lot of complaints about the Washington Post in recent weeks, and with good cause.

    So what is Andrew Alexander's ombudsman column in today's Washington Post about? You guessed it -- conservative allegations that the Post committed treason by running the intelligence series.

    See, much as Alexander and Marcus Brauchli and others at the Post keep insisting that they need to be more responsive to conservatives, the reality is that they jump at every right-wing complaint that comes along, no matter how bogus -- and that they rarely bother to respond to liberals.

  • MRC VP who offered cash for assault is WaPo Ombudsman's favorite media critic

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    As Media Matters has reported, Media Research Center VP Dan Gainor has offered $100 to the first person who "punches smary [sic] idiot Alan Grayson in the nose." When chastised by a fellow conservative for offering to "finance violence," Gainor claimed to be kidding but added "I'd love to see the video" of Congressman Grayson being punched.

    Now, you're probably thinking that a person who runs around offering to finance violent assaults on members of Congress probably doesn't get taken particularly seriously as a media critic. But Dan Gainor seems to be the favorite media critic of Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander, who rarely cites ideological media critics by name -- but who has written two pieces in the past four months that prominently feature interviews with Gainor. And as far as I can tell, Gainor is the only professional ideological media critic Alexander has interviewed for a column or blog post this year. (I've found only one other such critic cited by name in an Alexander column or blog post this year: In May, Alexander extensively quoted a blog post by Gainor's colleague Tim Graham. You could add Andrew Breitbart to the conservative-heavy list if you consider him primarily a media critic.)

    Last month, I explained that Alexander favors the arguments of right-wing media critics over their liberal counterparts. One way he does so is in his framing of criticism of the Post. If the Post does something that conservatives don't like, Alexander tends to note that conservatives don't like it, and that it contributes to their skepticism of the Post. But when Alexander writes about something the Post does that liberals criticize, Alexander doesn't mention them -- and certainly doesn't indicate that it may contribute to their skepticism of the Post. For example:

    Alexander's column about Post reporter Dana Milbank calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" didn't contain so much as a hint that the episode might damage the paper's credibility among liberals, or that liberals might already have some complaints about the paper that would be exacerbated by Milbank's video. No liberals were quoted or paraphrased; there wasn't even any mention that liberals were unhappy about Milbank's stunt. Contrast that to Alexander's write-up of [David] Weigel's departure from the Post, in which the Alexander dedicated four full paragraphs to the complaints of the conservative Media Research Center's Dan Gainor.

    Four paragraphs!

    But that isn't the only time Alexander has favored Gainor with such prominent placement. In his March 21 column, Alexander devoted two paragraphs to Gainor's criticism of the Post's coverage of DC's move towards marriage equality -- and seemed to agree with Gainor's broad criticism of the Post:

    And the conservative Culture and Media Institute said its review showed that in the week after March 3, The Post coverage totaled 543 column inches ("equal to nearly four full pages") and included 14 photos of "gay celebrations." Supporters of same-sex marriage were quoted 10 times more than opponents, the group said.

    "As soon as this became law, it was basically The Washington Post standing up and saying 'Yay!' " Dan Gainor, the group's vice president, said in an interview. "It's news," he acknowledged, but the coverage was excessive and "one-sided." Conservatives see it as evidence that The Post is hopelessly liberal, he said.

    The Post is not always sufficiently attuned to conservative perspectives. But with gay marriage coverage, the accusations of journalistic overkill are off base.

    It seems the Post's Ombudsman is excessively attuned to the perspective of at least one conservative -- a conservative who offers cash for violent assault on a member of congress. (Good luck finding Alexander writing anything like "The Post is not always sufficiently attuned to liberal perspectives," by the way.)

  • Mediaite misses the point (shocker)

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Mediaite's Michael Triplett writes of my criticism of Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander's New Black Panther Party column:

    Paul Waldman at the American Prospect's TAPPED said Alexander didn't know what he was doing as ombudsman while Jamison Foser at Media Matters for America accused Alexander of "promoting" another right-wing attack while ignoring "race-baiting."

    Apparently, allegations that the Justice Department dropped the ball or didn't pursue a case should be examined among ideological opponents but not by the Washington Post. If the story is a hit-job on the Obama administration, who better to ferret that out than the Washington Post as opposed to the ideological bomb throwers.

    Who better to ferret that out than the Post? Anybody could do it better! The Post did a lousy job! That has been my central point all along, in blog posts that Tripplet linked to and criticized (and that I would therefore hope he read.) My posts have spelled out the fact that the Post and Alexander omitted a ton of factual information that completely undermines the NBPP story. That's how the Post and Alexander failed: They repeated the right-wing attacks, and failed to include essential information that demonstrates the emptiness of those attacks. That's what I criticized Alexander and the Post for doing.

    And yet Mediaite's Michael Triplett thinks I shouldn't have done so because if the attacks are bogus, "who better to ferret that than the Washington Post"? Is he kidding?

    My former colleague Paul Waldman is quite capable of defending himself, so I'll just note that Triplett completely missed his point, too. Waldman didn't say Alexander shouldn't have written about the story; he offered a number of questions Alexander should have addressed but didn't.


    Does Mediaite understand what the New Black Panther story is about?

    Fox News guest Krakauer calls on media to cover bogus Fox News story

  • WaPo, Ombudsman ignore right-wing race-baiting

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Earlier today, I noted that neither last Thursday's Washington Post article about the phony New Black Panther Party scandal nor the Post Ombudsman who praised the article mentioned several key facts that greatly undermine the right-wing's attacks.

    Here's something else neither the original Post article nor Ombudsman Andrew Alexander saw fit to mention: the growing perception that the NBPP story is nothing more than a divisive attempt by conservatives to play on racial fears about Barack Obama.

    The New Republic's Jonathan Chait has written that the NBPP story is "the most widespread and mainstream right-wing effort to exploit racial fears against Obama." Dave Weigel has compared the right's NBPP claims to Nixon-era race-baiting. But it isn't just liberal and libertarian observers who see race-baiting in the NBPP attacks: Conservative blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson called for the GOP to "seize on this issue" and turn the NBPP into "2010's Willie Horton," referring to one of the most infamous examples of race-baiting in American political history.

    But, somehow, the Post and its ombudsman completely missed that angle to the story.

  • Is there a phony right-wing attack WaPo's Ombudsman won't promote?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Last Thursday, the Washington Post reported on the phony New Black Panther Party controversy, under the ludicrous headline "2008 voter-intimidation case against New Black Panthers a political bombshell."

    In May, months prior to the publication of the Post article, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez testified to the Commission on Civil Rights that the Bush Justice Department chose not to pursue criminal charges in the case because it "determined that the facts did not constitute a prosecutable violation of the criminal statutes."

    Again, that testimony has been public for months, and the fact that the Bush DOJ decided not to pursue criminal charges against members of the New Black Panther Party for alleged voter intimidation was easily found on Media Matters' web site -- among other places -- for more than a week before the Post article ran.

    But the Washington Post made no mention of the fact that George W. Bush's Justice Department determined that there was insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal case -- which is kind of a big deal, given that the right-wing allegation is that Barack Obama's Justice Department is going easy on the NBPP. Instead, the Post reported: "Justice officials who served in the Bush administration have countered that the department had enough evidence to pursue the case more fully and called the decision to narrow it political."

    Then Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander weighed in, praising the Post article for having "succinctly summarized the issues." Like the original Post article, Alexander didn't mention that the Bush DOJ had found insufficient evidence to support a criminal case.

    Like the Post article, Alexander didn't mention that J. Christian Adams, the right-wing activist behind the attacks onto Bush administration, worked in the Bush DOJ, having been hired "under a process the DOJ Inspector General later determined was improperly influenced by politics." That's kind of a big deal, given that he is accusing the Obama DOJ of being improperly influenced by politics.

  • Wash. Post ombudsman says his paper should cover the phony New Black Panthers story

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    In a column appearing in tomorrow's Washington Post, ombudsman Andrew Alexander writes that his paper should cover the New Black Panther Party story:

    The Post should never base coverage decisions on ideology, nor should it feel obligated to order stories simply because of blogosphere chatter from the right or the left.

    But in this case, coverage is justified because it's a controversy that screams for clarity that The Post should provide. If Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his department are not colorblind in enforcing civil rights laws, they should be nailed. If the Commission on Civil Rights' investigation is purely partisan, that should be revealed. If Adams is pursuing a right-wing agenda, he should be exposed.

    As Media Matters' Simon Maloy noted, the manufactured scandal over the Justice Department's actions regarding the New Black Panthers case has followed a familiar pattern in which Fox News picks up a story from the conservative media, then attacks the "mainstream media" for ignoring the distorted story.

    The Post's Alexander writes that if "the Commission on Civil Rights' investigation is purely partisan, that should be revealed." As Media Matters has noted, while the commission is technically "bipartisan," it's chair acknowledged that conservatives "gam[ed] the system" and packed the panel with conservative activists. Further, the commission's two Democrats, as well as one Republican, have criticized the panel's investigation of the DOJ's actions in the New Black Panther Party case. On Friday, Politico reported that Abigail Thernstrom, a "tough conservative" appointed by President Bush to serve as vice chair, criticized fellow conservatives on the commission:

  • Howard Kurtz sees evidence of media bias -- occasionally

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Howard Kurtz, tonight:

    Howard Kurtz, January 29, 2005:

    Columnist Charles Krauthammer heaped praise on President Bush's inaugural address. But, he says, he had nothing to do with shaping the speech.

    Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol also lauded the speech. He says he did not consult on the speech itself but discussed with two White House officials "themes for the second term and included in that, themes for the inaugural."

    Both conservatives are unapologetic about having privately offered advice to top White House aides, saying that is perfectly proper for commentators.

    Krauthammer and Kristol have drawn some criticism since a Jan. 22 Post article described them as among those consulting on the inaugural address.

    Liz Spayd, the paper's assistant managing editor for national news, said: "We stand by the story we wrote. We have a firsthand source who says it was crystal clear a primary purpose of the meeting was to seek advice on both Bush's inaugural and State of the Union speeches."

    So, when Howard Kurtz writes about a media figure helping write a speech for a Democratic president, he portrays it as evidence that the media is liberal -- but when two media figures, one of them employed by his own newspaper, help a Republican president write a speech, he doesn't give any indication that he thinks it has anything to do with the question of media bias.

    This is a key reason why the myth of the liberal media has taken hold: People like Kurtz -- and Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander -- are more likely to frame discussions of questionable media performance as evidence of bias when the performance in question could suggest liberal bias than when it could suggest the opposite.

  • You need to read WaPo "through a filter," too

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    This is a pretty compelling criticism of the Washington Post: a Sunday "economy watch" article by Washington Post staff writer Frank Ahrens quoted Paul Krugman, then spent two paragraphs warning readers not to trust him, including this: "When you read Krugman on economics, you need to read him through a filter. " But when Ahrens quoted Peter Boockvar, an equity strategist for Miller Tabak (whose comments, Ken Silverstein notes, were "far more political than anything Krugman offered") he didn't include any such disclosures or disclaimers.

    I'd say it's the kind of thing the Washington Post's ombudsman might want to look into -- but since it contains actual examples of flawed Post content, and since those examples don't fit into the neat little "liberal bias" frame he's so fond of, I doubt Andrew Alexander will pay it any attention. But you should keep it in mind the next time he frets about the paper's "institutional bias" against conservatives.

    Speaking of reading "through a filter," that might not be a bad approach when it comes to Ahrens. Here's what he said about Krugman:

    When you read Krugman on economics, you need to read him through a filter. He believes that the $787 billion government stimulus approved last year was not enough to really kick-start the economy and that much more is needed. You can correctly read many of his columns — including this one — as arguments for more taxpayer-funded stimulus. So just know that.

    When you read Frank Ahrens on economics, you need to read him through a filter. He seems to prefer tax cuts over government spending as a means of stimulating the economy (economists like Mark Zandi disagree) and thinks the way to deal with a stalled economy is to focus deficits. So just know that.

    And once you know that, it probably isn't surprising that he'd suggest in what is ostensibly a straight news story that Paul Krugman should not be trusted as much as Peter Boockvar.

  • When the Right says jump, WaPo ombudsman asks "how high?"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander continues to behave as though he's never heard a criticism of the Post from a liberal.

    Alexander's most recent column opens with a discussion of Post contributing editor Cathy Abreu, who has called Sarah Palin a "fearmonger" on television, and who Alexander believes should be stripped of her title because it "amounts to fiction and should be ended before it provokes more allegations of institutional bias."

    Alexander then frets that "some Post journalists now are hired to express" opinions, which can "puzzle readers" and goes on to quote executive editor Marcus Brauchli saying that Post reporters "should remain 'nonpartisan, unbiased and free from slant in their presentation in the paper and in any other public forum. There should be no appearance of conflict.'" The two examples Alexander's presents as potentially problematic: liberal writer Ezra Klein, whose Business section column "contains no descriptive identification beyond his name and area of expertise," and former Postie David Weigel, who conservatives claimed "was biased against them."

    So all three examples Alexander provided of opinionated journalists affiliated with the Post just happen to play into conservative criticisms of the paper -- or, as Alexander obliquely put it, "institutional bias" against conservatives. No mention of, say, Dana Milbank calling Hillary Clinton a bitch (after which Alexander went easy on Milbank and his partner-in-crime, Chris Cillizza) or the walking, talking conflict-of-interest that is Howard Kurtz. No mention that long before David Weigel and Ezra Klein wrote blogs for the Post that contained opinion, the Post hosted a blog called Think Tank Town, written by a former (Republican) White House press secretary who used the blog to attack liberal organizations. No mention of the Washington Post calling Nancy Pelosi "imperious" right there on the front page, just a few days earlier. Not a single mention of anything the Washington Post has ever done that might anger liberals, rather than conservatives.

    And, of course, during his hand-wringing about "allegations of institutional bias" against the Right, Alexander never got around to noting that those allegations might seem a bit of a stretch, considering the paper's relentless promotion of bogus Clinton scandals, its shameful treatment of Al Gore during the 2000 campaign, and its lapdog coverage of the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq. But that's par for the course for Alexander, who consistently grants conservative attacks on the Post more credibility than they deserve and ignores examples of the paper's shoddy treatment of progressives.