Fox News – July 5, 2010, BREAKING NEWS:AN ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN?
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has been battling to suppress reports about a scandal threatening to upend the conservative media empire. Their British tabloid, News of the World (NotW), was caught hacking into the cell phones of politicians, celebrities, royals, and others, in order to find or manufacture salacious stories. But now Murdoch’s own Fox News is reporting this about the illegal campaign waged by its sister company:
Fox News has assiduously avoided the embarrassing story. That would be consistent with their history of ignoring stories that reflect poorly on the company, no matter how relevant to the public interest. Are they now relenting and covering this major corporate scandal? Not on your life. The screen shot above is not actually from a story about the hacking scandal at all. It is from another assault in their current crusade against Media Matters. However, Fox inadvertently snapped a screen shot of the Media Matters web site that featured coverage of the hacking scandal. This is pretty much the only way the story will ever make it onto Fox News.
The headline from Media Matters, “Murdoch Tabloid Accused Of Hacking Murdered Schoolgirl’s Phone,” refers to a particularly despicable incident wherein NotW reporters hacked into the phone of a missing thirteen year old girl who was later discovered to have been murdered. They accessed her voicemail and even deleted messages after the mailbox became full to make room for more messages upon which they could eavesdrop. That action gave false hope to the girl’s family who assumed that she had deleted the messages herself and was therefore still alive. It also potentially destroyed evidence of the crime.
The new hacking allegations concerning the murdered girl have elevated the scandal to new and repulsive heights. In addition, new information is surfacing that reveals similar hacking into the phones of victims of London’s terrorist subway bombing. So while it funny that Fox News inadvertently posts this image that implicates them in a scandal, we must take seriously the threat that dishonest propagandists like Fox pose for our nation.
The big story this morning, despite the sputtering economy, painful unemployment, a presidential campaign, and multiple foreign wars, is of course, Anthony Weiner’s announcement that he is resigning from congress. The blatantly twisted priorities of the media were demonstrated when Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi commenced a press conference and immediately stated that she would be talking about jobs and Medicare, and not Mr. Weiner. On hearing this, all three cable news networks cut away.
Just to recap, Weiner is a congressman from New York who is not a member of the Democratic leadership. He was caught up in a “scandal” that involved embarrassing and inappropriate personal communications on Twitter, but no illegality or sexual conduct. He was never accused of misuse of office and his constituents overwhelmingly support him and do not want him to resign.
Nevertheless, the media has hammered at this salacious triviality while underplaying far more important matters that the public wants and needs to know more about. And when offered an opportunity to engage a leader in the House of Representatives on issues critical to our nation, the press turned away as if it were a distraction.
To those who spin this story as being about lying and not about sex, please inform me as to when a scandal about lying ever produced this much attention from media. What’s more, if we are going to start ejecting politicians from office because they lied, we are going to have a nearly empty Capital Building. And for those who recognize that this is about sex or broader issues of morality, then let’s commence the calls for the resignations of Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), both of whom have been caught violating the law with prostitutes.
The Weiner announcement itself was turned into a circus by a heckler from the Howard Stern Show (whom Fox’s Martha MacCallum characterized as the “anger in the room”). But the embarrassment that is the American press corps is no less a clown act when you get down to it. Perhaps the Stern heckler is a poignant symbol of what the press has become.
Just when you thought that Andrew Breitbart could not become any sleazier, he is now accusing Anthony Weiner and his wife of releasing the news of her pregnancy as a PR stunt. That’s a stretch even for a scumbag like Breitbart. As usual, he has no evidence, not even an anonymous source. It is a wholly invented canard whose only purpose can be to smear the Weiner family and bring them more pain, and consequently bring more pain to his real target, the Democratic Party.
This is politics at its worst. Despite Breitbart’s disingenuous assertion that he didn’t want to hurt the Weiner family, he now says that “We have every right to find out to what extent he’s been misbehaving.” Since when? And if we have that right with regard to Weiner, should we also be stalking every other public servant to disclose their misbehavior? Should we see what Breitbart is up to when he’s not peeking through the windows of his ideological enemies?
If anyone is engaging in PR stunts, it’s Breitbart. When the latest and most graphic picture of Weiner was “leaked” to the media this week, Breitbart feigned outrage, insisting that he had nothing to do with it. Why should anyone believe that?
Here are the known facts: Breitbart took the photo with him when he went to the radio studio of shock-jocks Opie & Anthony. That’s the first curious thing. Why would he need to have that picture with him while visiting a pair of professional jerkwads who make a living off of rank controversy? Then, without any prodding, he handed the photo, which was on his cellphone, to others in the studio who passed it around amongst themselves while making juvenile wisecracks. That is not something someone concerned about the subject’s privacy would do.
Later, Breitbart alleged that a surveillance camera in the room captured the photo from his cellphone. That is a suspect assertion at best. It is simply not credible that a surveillance camera could have picked up the image from Breitbart’s cellphone and produced the detail on the leaked photo that went public. Most surveillance cameras are positioned high on the wall near a corner of the room so that they have a broad perspective of the area they are monitoring. Breitbart expects us to believe that one of those cameras, that are not generally high resolution devices, got a clear and detailed shot over somebody’s shoulder of an image on a small cellphone screen. That assertion needs to be challenged.
Additionally, Breitbart claimed that he only offered to show the photo after he was assured that there were no cameras in the room. That is a verifiable lie. Breitbart knew very well that the show was being videotaped. You can see the video of the show below.
Clearly this was taken on a hand-held device, not a stationary surveillance camera. Breitbart even looks directly at the camera on several occasions. So he obviously lied when he said that he thought there were no cameras in the studio. And his assertion that he was told that there were no cameras was also a lie. The video shows that he never asked for, nor received such an assurance.
In my estimation, Breitbart wanted this photo to be released but he didn’t want to take the heat as the sleazeball who released it. So he manufactured this cover story with a couple of radio publicity hounds who would gladly insert themselves into a national melodrama. Anthony Cumia even admitted as much in an interview on Fox News:
“When you take a chunk of meat into a lion’s den, someone’s gonna take a bite. [...] I do kind of like attaching ourselves to an international story. It is the credo of the shock jock.”
This appears to be a deliberate scheme to extend and amplify the controversy, and it is just the sort of thing Breitbart would do based on his Legacy of Sleaze. There are so many pieces of Breitbart’s story that don’t fit, or are certifiably false, that one has to refer to his history of dishonesty and purposeful deception. Until Breitbart can satisfactorily explain these discrepancies, we should assume that he deliberately devised this scheme to release the photo with his shock-jock pals as accomplices.
[UPDATE]Stephen Colbert also noticed Breitbart’s ridiculous cover story about the “accidental” release of the photo. Colbert succinctly nailed the notion that Breibart was an innocent victim of unforeseeable circumstances:
“What happened to the sacred tradition of confidentiality between respected journalists and shock-jocks?”
Colbert also mocked the absurd claim that Breitbart didn’t know there were cameras in the studio by pointing out that no cameras were visible in the video of Breitbart that was taken by a camera across the desk from him.
With calls mounting for Anthony Weiner to resign, it would be prudent to take a look back at the public record of his accuser. It is Andrew Breitbart whose behavior is most repulsive and destructive. He is a liar and a hypocrite and causes far more harm than a horny congressman who never actually engaged in any sexual misconduct. If anyone should resign and skulk away in shame, it’s Breitbart.
Public apologies are often the source of captivating and prurient entertainment. There seems to be a genetic compulsion in the human DNA to observe our heroes, celebrities, and, of course, adversaries, fall from grace and beg forgiveness. This week we saw what may be Rep. Anthony Weiner’s curtain call but, like any good melodrama, he was upstaged by an ambitious and vainglorious rival, Andrew Breitbart.
After commandeering the podium at Weiner’s press conference, Breitbart declared “I’m here for some vindication.” He portrayed himself as a media-contrived victim of character assassination and challenged the reporters in the room substantiate their alleged assaults on his reputation.
“The media says ‘Breitbart lies, Breitbart lies, Breitbart lies, Breitbart lies.’ Give me one example of a provable lie. One. One. Journalists? One. Put your reputation on the line here.”
For some reason, no one in the room responded. It’s almost as if the press were clueless stenographers, unfamiliar with Breitbart’s past, and were incapable of providing a substantive rebuttal.
This is actually fairly typical of the modern press corps. Another example occurred when the New York Times asked Breitbart about the Weiner affair on Saturday and he attempted to strike a non-partisan tone saying that…
“I am as offended when John Ensign acts like an idiot, when Chris Lee acts like an idiot.”
Really? What the Times failed to note was that Breitbart’s BigGovernment blog did not publish a single story about the travails of either Ensign or Lee. Not one single story. How offended was he? Compare that to his obsession with Weiner that produced 17 separate stories and consumed every single headline (except for the plug for his lame book), and that was four full days after the story broke.
For those who are interested, including members of the press who were struck dumb at the press conference, here is a brief compilation of Breitbart’s reportorial resume, replete with dishonesty and deliberate disinformation. Feel free to offer these in response to Breitbart’s future challenges. We will await his profuse and heartfelt apologies.
1) ACORN: Breibart’s web site was the central agency for disseminating videos that were later shown to have been heavily edited in order to convey a fictional scenario that smeared a social service organization that had for years been assisting low income citizens with financial advice and voter registration. Every investigation of the affair exonerated ACORN and affirmed the deception of the videos. Breitbart’s henchman, James O’Keefe, is currently being sued by former ACORN employee, Juan Carlos Vera.
2) Shirley Sherrod: In this episode, Breitbart was responsible for slandering a USDA employee as a racist. Lately he has been defending himself by saying that he had included the “redemptive arc” of her story that revealed her innocence. But let’s not forget how he originally portrayed the situation:
“In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions. [...] In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer.”
That is a pretty clear accusation of discriminatory behavior on the part of a federal employee. And it is also a lie. Sherrod did not discriminate against the farmer, as Breitbart later acknowledged, and the story she told was of an incident that occurred 20 years before she held a federal post. Nevertheless, Breitbart’s reaction at the time was another demonstration of his paranoid Narcissism as he whined, “As difficult as it probably was for her, it’s been difficult for me as well.” Poor guy. Sherrod is currently suing Breitbart.
3) Clinton Plotting a Tea Party Attack: Breitbart published a story with no evidence, about an alleged conspiracy that never came to pass:
“Big Government has learned that Clintonistas are plotting a ‘push/pull’ strategy. They plan to identify 7-8 national figures active in the tea party movement and engage in deep opposition research on them. If possible, they will identify one or two they can perhaps ‘turn’, either with money or threats, to create a mole in the movement. The others will be subjected to a full-on smear campaign.”
Also never coming to pass…a retraction. This story bubbled up through the media like much of Breitbart’s fiction, eventually getting coverage from Fox Nation.
4) Jason Mattera’s Punking of Grayson and Franken: Jason Mattera, who later became editor of Human Events, was employed to run a couple of “ambush” interviews that were posted on Breitbart’s web site. One interview targeted Rep. Alan Grayson and castigated him for his support of bill that funded a program to prevent child abuse. The other interview was directed at Sen Al Franken who was attacked for supporting student health and school safety. In both cases Mattera twisted the purpose of the legislation into something unrecognizable and patently false. Expect more of this because, as Breitbart says in his book, Righteous Indignation, “Ambush journalism is the most valuable kind of journalism.”
5) University of Missouri Labor Class: In another phony video sting, Breitbart published a video of the proceedings of a class on the history of labor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. As usual, the video was a deceitful mash-up that misrepresented the professors and students as supporting violent labor activity. The twist here is that it was Breitbart’s one-time friend Glenn Beck who published an accounting of the video deception and vindicated the professors. As a bonus intrigue, the party from whom Breitbart got the UM video is identified only as Insurgent Visuals. That, however, may be a ruse to disguise Breitbart’s long-time partner in crime, James O’Keefe.
6) Beck’s Back Alley Snitch: Speaking of Glenn Beck, in happier times when the two weren’t feuding, Breibart was the source for numerous Beck offensives. He provided Beck with scandalous material on Van Jones who, at the time, was a White House adviser on environmental initiatives. Beck lauded Breitbart, saying…
“You know where the great journalists of our time are? Andrew Breitbart. [...] You were the only one, besides watchdogs, that were really aggressively working behind the scenes with us on Van Jones.”
The same thing occurred with Yosi Sergant, communications director for the National Endowment for the Arts. Breitbart went after him and provided the data to Beck, who said…
“This is again another Breitbart story, where the NEA communications director reached out and said, hey, listen, we have to be very careful with our language here.”
In both cases the information provided by Breitbart was vague and/or untrue, but both Jones and Sergant were jettisoned — just as Sherrod was — by a nervous White House for violations that were either false or greatly exaggerated.
7) Democrats Plotted to Blame Tea Party for Slaughter: Breitbart’s site featured an article that made the sensationalist claim that Democrats devised a plan to blame the Tea Party for the tragic shooting in Tucson, AZ. The allegation consisted of a single, unidentified source who merely offered his own opinion that the massacre could be pinned on Tea Partiers. There was no allegation of a conspiracy or even of any discussions of such a plan by anyone connected to the Democratic Party. But that didn’t stop Breitbart from posting the story with an irresponsibly provocative headline.
8) The Abbie Boudreau Affair: In one of the most bizarre adventures by the James O’Keefe gang, they set out to lure CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau into a floating love nest to embarrass her in some manner that was never really explained. While Breitbart did not act as the agent for this prank, he did provide a platform for O’Keefe to publish his defense after having been outed by an accomplice. O’Keefe managed to take a situation in which he appeared to be a revolting pervert and make it worse by saying about Boudreau…
“She would have had to consent before being filmed and she was not going to be faux ‘seduced’ unless she wanted to be.”
Considering the fact that he never sought the consent of his previous video victims, why should we accept his assertion that he was going to start seeking consent now? Even more troubling is his implication that his intended victim “wanted” it. O’Keefe is resorting to the disgusting defense that rapists offer about their victims. And Breitbart permitted this to be published on his site.
9) GEICO Gecko – Tea Party Crasher? Breitbart’s BigGovernment blog posted a mind-numbingly stupid article that accused Ricky Gervais, the actor/comedian and voice of the GEICO Gecko of disparaging the Tea Party in a profanity-laced voice-mail. The only problem is that Gervais had nothing to do with it. It was an actor (D.C. Douglas) who worked for GEICO a couple of years prior. But it wasn’t enough to smear Gervais with insinuations, Breitbart also posted a picture of the Gecko atop a table that was adorned with a poster of President Obama sporting a Hitler mustache. What that had to do with the story is anyone’s guess. It just appeared to be a gratuitous slap at the President while falsely slandering Gervais.
10) Racism: Breitbart is obsessed with the theme of racism. He is convinced that the charge is thrown around cavalierly, and mostly to insult Tea Partiers and himself. He embarked on a campaign to prove that congressman and civil rights hero, John Lewis, was lying when he said that he had been the victim of racial epithets when attending a congressional rally. He regards the Shirley Sherrod incident as an example of the racism demonstrated by the NAACP. But when discussing allegations of his own prejudice, Breitbart said this to radio host Adam Carolla:
“Can I prove that I’m not a racist toward Hispanics? Did you ever see Moscow on the Hudson? Remember Maria Conchita Alonso in that? The things I did to myself as a teenager prove that I’m not a racist.”
So Breitbart’s proof that he is not a racist is that he used to masturbate to pictures of a Latino actress. That defense would also work pretty well to prove that colonial plantation masters weren’t racist either because they routinely raped their slaves. Breitbart’s repulsive pride in his perverse view of racial open-mindedness tells us much about him. And he is certainly in no position to assess the veracity of people like John Lewis.
This should be a good starting point for the press in case they ever get the chance again to respond to Breitbart’s call for evidence of his dishonesty and low character. Here’s hoping that they are listening and that no one presumes to use the Weiner affair to rehabilitate Breitbart’s deservedly sleazy reputation. Just because Breitbart lucked into being correct (like a broken clock) doesn’t mean that his long-established pattern of deception should be dismissed. Just because Charles Manson didn’t kill Marilyn Monroe doesn’t mean that he’s innocent of every other crime attributed to him.
Breitbart deserves no accolades over this. His reputation cannot be rehabilitated after one lucky scoop sent to him by a Twitter stalker. And he still owes the many people he deliberately harmed an apology. Weiner, at least, was man enough to own up to his mistakes, eventually. Will Breitbart ever do the same? Not likely.
Today Congressman Anthony Weiner held a press conference where he apologized for his “shameful” personal behavior. He said he was taking full responsibility for what he called “dumb” mistakes that included inappropriate communications on Facebook and Twitter and for lying about it when confronted.
There is no question that Weiner should and will suffer consequences for these serious lapses in judgment. But Weiner isn’t the only character in this morality play. The media must be held accountable for presenting the issue fairly. They must ask themselves whether this story is as critical to the American people as the debate over the debt ceiling, foreign wars and terrorism, and other pending matters of public concern. Of course it is going to be covered, but to what extent, for how long, and what issues will be displaced as a result?
The press must also seek to position it in context to prior similar events. If they raise questions as to whether Weiner, who broke no laws, ought to resign, they should also press GOP Congressman Ken Calvert and Senator David Vitter, both of whom illegally patronized prostitutes.
Another character in this melodrama is Andrew Breitbart who engaged in a bizarre hijacking of the Weiner press conference. He showed up at the hotel and commandeered the podium for nearly twenty minutes. He spent most of that time in a display of self-aggrandizement and bemoaning his victimhood. But if justice is to be served, Breitbart should be required to apologize for his part in disseminating purposefully deceitful videos smearing the reputations of ACORN and former USDA employee, Shirley Sherrod.
Just because Breitbart lucked into being correct (like a broken clock) doesn’t mean that his pattern of deception should be dismissed. Charles Manson can honestly testify that he had nothing to do with the death of Marilyn Monroe, but that doesn’t absolve him from his participation in other atrocities. Breitbart deserves no accolades over this, and he still owes the people he deliberately harmed an apology. Weiner, at least, was man enough to own up to his mistakes, eventually. If Breitbart exploits this matter for his own gain, I predict it will backfire on Republicans, simply because Breitbart is such a repulsive figure that he will produce more disgust than support.
The tabloid circus surrounding this is going to heat up for a few days. Smarmy, holier-than-thou martinets of virtue will speak out while hypocritically suppressing information that reflects poorly on themselves. Glenn Beck, not surprisingly, has leaped to the front of that line, spending the opening minutes of his program railing against Weiner. And equally unsurprising, Beck failed to note that he previously was engaged in a public feud with Weiner over investigations into the corrupt practices of his sponsor, Goldline. Again, Weiner’s misbehavior does not absolve Beck or Goldline of their own malfeasance.
Let’s see if we can get through the next week without ignoring some of the serious matters that face our nation. We have to address the budget and the Republican threat to Medicare. We have to deal with unemployment, energy, the environment, and funding for programs like education and infrastructure. Our country has a lot on its plate that is more important than the overactive libido of a New York congressman. Will we rise to that challenge?
Committed news junkies this morning are following a ludicrous story about New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. I’m not getting into it now because at this point there is nothing substantive to report. There are only salacious accusations with no proof whatsoever.
What I will get into is the fact that Andrew Breitbart, the notoriously dishonest purveyor of right-wing lies and propaganda who has been caught disseminating slanderous videos that were proven to be faked, has now expanded his field into porn and the yellowest of journalism. Here is a screen capture of the top of his BigGovernment web site:
Note that every single story is on one subject – the alleged Weiner controversy that Breitbart himself invented. (Well, there is one exception – an ad for Breitbart’s thoroughly dishonest book). Apparently Breitbart considers this non-story more important than any other news story on the planet. There is literally no other story worthy of covering than this one. Not the presidential campaign. Not the congressional vote on raising the debt ceiling. Not the tornadoes in the Mid-West. Not the War on Terror. Nothing.
Breitbart’s desperation to hoist a fake scandal on his dimwitted readers is palpable. Seriously – EVERY SINGLE HEADLINE! It exposes Breitbart as obsessed with advancing his slander. And to make matters worse, Breitbart went on CNN this morning (shame on CNN) and talked about “relationships that Congressman Weiner has been having with women, young women…” That despicable quote was wholly unsupported by even the flimsiest of facts. Breitbart even tried to qualify it later, after he had already set it loose into the mediasphere. He knows very well that that’s all it takes to set ignorant tongues wagging, and that was his intention. His whole existence is reliant on the slobbering imbeciles who live for dirt on their liberal adversaries and don’t care if it’s real or manufactured.
The press has to recognize that Breitbart has zero credibility. How many incidents have to arise where he is proven to have fabricated videos, documents, and testimony, before the media stops treating him as if he were their peer? It’s just embarrassing to see them sully themselves by cozying up to this dirtbag. It has got to stop.
Nevada Senator John Ensign resigned from the Senate last week, but his troubles may not end there. The New York Times is reporting that the results of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation may leave Ensign liable for charges of obstructing an FEC investigation, violating federal lobbying bans, and making unlawful payments to the husband of his congressional aide with whom he was having an affair – among other things.
However, any investigation of this matter needs to include possible interference on the part of Fox News and Glenn Beck-wannabe, Megyn Kelly. There is evidence that Kelly, who received a letter from Doug Hampton revealing Ensign’s infidelity, warned Ensign that the news was about to come out rather than reporting on it. As I wrote on June 19, 2009:
“Fox News knew of Ensign’s infidelity five days before Ensign came forward. They got the information from the husband of Ensign’s mistress. That’s a pretty good source, especially when he asserts that he had corroborating evidence.”
First Fox denied having received any letter. Then they admitted that they had received the letter a day before the news broke. Then a FedEx receipt revealed that they had received the letter three days earlier. And Fox broadcast no stories about the Ensign affair during any of that time, or even for several days after.
When Ensign came forward to confess his sins, he told the press that he was doing so because the story was about to come out in the media. So the question is: did he learn that from Megyn Kelly?
The evidence strongly suggests that Kelly tipped Ensign off and set the stage for his announcement. Then she and Fox kept the story quiet in the days that followed. That is not the behavior of a “news” network. It is the behavior of an accomplice.
[Update 5/16/11] The Senate Ethics Committee report suggests former senator (and current GOP presidential candidate) Rick Santorum may have played a role in tipping off Ensign. If true, that does not mean that Kelly didn’t also give a head’s up to Ensign. And it certainly doesn’t explain the changing stories about when she received Hampton’s letter.
There is also the matter of Ensign’s reason for going public (that he was told that the media was going to break the news of the affair). That’s an alert that is more likely to come from Kelly (a Fox anchor) than from Santorum (a former senate colleague). However, it should be noted that Santorum was also a Fox News contributor at the time he is alleged to have tipped off Ensign. So Fox is entangled in this business no matter what.
What does it take to get the attention of the media when a corrosive scandal erupts that they don’t seem to want to cover?
This past week a prominent and powerful public figure was implicated in a searing and salacious controversy. It involves sex, felonious criminal conduct, corporate intrigue, political shenanigans, and personal betrayal. This is either the scoop of the year or the best damn plot of “Days of our Lives” in decades.
The central figure in the controversy happens to be one of the most powerful media executives in the world, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. It is alleged that Ailes tried to coerce a News Corp colleague, Judith Regan, to lie to federal investigators about her affair with Bernard Kerik, President Bush’s nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security. Ailes wanted to shield his friend Rudy Giuliani, who had sponsored Kerik, from an embarrassing episode as he was attempting to launch a campaign for president. Kerik presently resides in federal prison on tax fraud violations.
Can you just imagine what would have happened if the head of CNN or CBS had been the subject of such assertions? First of all, Fox News would have made it their lead story at the top of every hour. It would have been repeated ad nauseum with remotes from the network’s offices. Their primetime pundits would have spun it into a conspiracy that enveloped President Obama, George Soros, Muslim radicals, and protesters from Egypt to Wisconsin.
Instead, there has been a virtual blackout on the broadcast news networks. Not a single one has done a story about Ailes and the newly uncovered legal documents that contain sworn testimony as to his behavior. Of course, I wouldn’t have expected any reports from the Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network as their corporate mission is to lie and obfuscate even when the story doesn’t involve their leader. But what’s the problem with CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC? How is it possible that someone with the public profile of Roger Ailes is getting a free pass by every major television network? Does Ailes have compromising photos of his counterparts at the other networks? Or are they just frightened little hacks with no journalistic integrity whatsoever?
This is not an insignificant story. And it isn’t just the criminal allegations that define its importance. Ailes is still the chief executive of the network despite his apparent attempts to intervene on behalf of a political pal. So this goes straight to the question of his fitness to run a news enterprise and to be fair and balanced while doing so. In recent weeks leaked memos have revealed the institutional bias of Fox News. There has been documentary evidence that Fox is indeed the PR arm of the GOP, just as most objective analysts had already surmised. And the Ailes affair puts an exclamation point on that.
So what’s wrong with the other broadcast news organizations? Why are they protecting Ailes? If the situation were reversed Ailes would be pummeling them. In fact, Fox News already pummels their competitors on a nightly basis without even having a scandal as a starting point. This is a competitiveness issue. Can anyone imagine that if Reebok discovered that the CEO of Nike had approved harmful materials for use in his footwear products, that Reebok would keep its mouth shut? Yet that’s what Fox’s competitors are doing now, and have been doing for years.
First and foremost, the other networks have an obligation to inform the public, and they are failing utterly in that. But, shockingly, they aren’t even willing to advance the truth when it would benefit them competitively against the biggest player on the cable field. Do they want to always be also-rans behind Fox News? That suggests either some dastardly compact has been drawn up surrendering the lead to Fox, or an Olympian dose of incompetence.
Tell the networks to do their job and report this news now!
Contact: [ CNN ] [ ABC ] [ CBS ] [ NBC/MSNBC ]
A cable news bombshell was dropped this evening, but not the one in the headline above. And anyone who clicked on this article thinking it might be true should take a minute or two to have a little chuckle at your own expense.
The actual breaking news is that Keith Olbermann closed his program tonight with the announcement that it would be his last. That’s pretty shocking in and of itself. Countdown is the highest rated program on MSNBC. It has been the launching pad for the rest of the network’s primetime lineup and its ratings cornerstone. It isn’t often that a network will jettison its top fare without some compelling justification. Although it should be noted that MSNBC did it once before when they canceled the number-one-rated Phil Donahue Show. At that time it was conservative politics that precipitated the cancellation. One can only hope that it is not the same case here.
There has already been rampant speculation as to the reason for this split, most of it centering on the just-approved acquisition of NBC by the notoriously conservative folks at Comcast. I find it unlikely that the new management stepped in to abruptly set Olbermann adrift before they have even moved into their offices. But since speculation is the special of the day, I’ll add mine. Olbermann’s au revoir began with him noting that…
“I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I’ve been told: That this is going to be the last edition of your show.”
Keith Olbermann has always been an artful author who chooses his words carefully. In saying that he was “told” that this show was his last, it is fair to say that the decision to leave was not his own. So what sort of issue could get a popular news anchor canned on such short notice? Generally it is either something he did recently, or something he was about to do. And since there doesn’t appear to be any event in the recent past that might have gotten him in trouble, it is more likely that there was some conflict with where Olbermann wanted to go in the future. My guess is that he wanted to cover a major event in the world of television news: The Comcast acquisition of NBC.
If Olbermann were to produce a report on this merger, I would expect that he would insist on addressing the passionate opposition to it. Most progressive media reformers have been lobbying mightily to prevent the merger from going through. Coincidentally, today happens to be the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s disastrous support for corporations over people in the Citizen’s United decision. There may have been an irresistible temptation for Olbermann to comment on the loss of rights for average Americans resulting from the CU case in the context of a media merger which puts even more power into the hands of a giant corporation. And if Olbermann pitched this story to his bosses who are presently jockeying to keep their jobs post-merger, they may have forbade him to do the report. And that could possibly have led to a heated disagreement and a parting of ways.
Of course, this is just conjecture. No one will know what the real low down is until the parties involved spill the beans and, as of now, no one’s talking. However, it would be in line with the management philosophy of Olbermann’s boss, Phil Griffin, who is an admirer of Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News.
The biggest unanswered question after why is where. What will happen to Olbermann going forward. CNN stands as the biggest potential beneficiary. If the 3rd place network were able to snap him up it would deliver another million or so loyal viewers. But the hardest part of this to understand is how Olbermann, a caring, passionate, honest, progressive voice has lost his job, while Glenn Beck, a hostile, lying, egomaniacal, rodeo clown remains employed even after telling his viewers that to stop progressives “You’re going to have to shoot them in the head.”
The present state of the American political process is in dire distress. In order to even contemplate running for any federal or statewide office, a potential candidate must have access to sums of money in amounts that either prevent participation or invite corruption. And if there’s one thing that Washington doesn’t need it’s invitations to be corrupt.
In a new wrinkle, unprecedented quantities of funds are being raised by independent advocacy groups whose donors are allowed to be kept secret, thus depriving voters of information critical to assessing the character and independence of the candidate. The recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United made the situation even worse by permitting corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money directly to candidates and causes with no transparency or oversight.
I’m not sure, however, that anyone anticipated the prospect of a media corporation turning their ability to make political contributions into a profit center and earning money on the funds they donated to candidates. It’s bad enough when media is simply acting out of greed and failing to serve the public interest. But leave it to News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch to discover a whole new vein to mine that yields results for both his greed and his megalomania.
The Nation just published an enlightening commentary co-written by media reform heroes John Nichols and Robert McChesney titled The Money & Media Election Complex. Their premise is that the confluence of media and wealthy partisans in politics is as dangerous as the military/industrial complex Pres. Eisenhower warned us about. And exacerbating the risk is the fact that, to the extent that independent reporting might once have uncovered suspicious relationships and activities, the press has been gutted in many respects and is incapable of playing their traditional role as watchdogs.
While there has long been a problem with massive infusions of cash polluting the electoral environment, the problems today are unique in the way that the media participates and benefits from the process. This past election cycle is estimated to bring in billions to the television networks airing campaign ads and hosting candidates. Thus they have a vested interest in provoking controversy and manufacturing volatility in order to stimulate more ad buying. Nichols and McChesney wrote that…
The most important yet least-recognized piece of the money-and-media election complex is the commercial broadcasting industry, which just had its best money-making election season ever. [...and that...] We have to stop thinking about the crisis of our politics merely in terms of reforming the campaign finance system (though of course it’s important to fight for reforms). It’s a media ownership and responsibility issue as well.
After it was disclosed that Murdoch had contributed a million dollars each to the Republican Governor’s Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it was obvious that these ultra-partisan organizations would be using that money largely to advance the electoral prospects of conservatives and Republicans by producing and distributing television ads. And those ads would likely be placed on networks and stations specifically selected to reach a friendly audience – like maybe Fox.
An analysis of data obtained from Media Matters reveals that one of Murdoch’s beneficiaries, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, purchased over $20,000,000 in ads on local broadcast stations across the country. In five of those markets (three in the top ten) there are one or more stations owned by Fox Television. On those stations the Chamber bought $1,223,770 in ads. That means that News Corp earned $223,770 in profits on their million dollar donation to the Chamber.
Looking at this another way, News Corp gave the Chamber a million dollars to buy ads with. Then the Chamber gave the money right back to News Corp with 22% “interest.” So News Corp makes a healthy profit and the Chamber gets their ads broadcast for a 78% discount. And both get to further their shared political agenda. Remember also that the revenue on the analysis above is just from Fox-owned broadcast stations. It does not include ad buys on the cable Fox News Channel. Nor does it include revenue from any other recipient of Murdoch’s largesse, like the Republican Governor’s Association. So there may be millions more in earnings from these allegedly benevolent contributions flowing from the Murdoch media empire.
The fact that this is apparently legal is disturbing, to say the least. It is a thinly disguised kickback scheme. If any other company were to seek to inflate their balance sheet by covertly providing funds to a vendor so that the vendor could purchase that company’s products, somebody would be going to jail. How is this any different? In this scenario News Corp gets to book the revenue, the Chamber gets to air their ads, and the public is subjected to propaganda designed to sway the election. And because of the weakness of the press and the perversion of the current campaign finance legal landscape, the public is also precluded from learning about any of it.
There is the making of a crime syndicate in all of this. Murdoch is not the only media mogul who can employ this scheme. Throw in Richard Mellon Scaife and Philip Anshutz and a variety of other TV, radio, and newspaper barons, and there is potential for significant manipulation and deception through collusion between wealthy media corporations and powerful political operators.
The lesson here is that the media is in need of serious reform, along with campaign finance regulations. If these matters are not addressed adequately, we can expect to see more severe and more frequent corruption of our democratic processes. This is an issue that requires our nation’s immediate attention. And it’s an issue that should be pursued by a true nonpartisan alliance of Americans devoted to fair elections and a free press. The media and political bosses exploiting these loopholes think that the people are too lazy and/or stupid to notice and to challenge them. Are they right?
A couple of recent revelations regarding the charitable proclivities of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp are now raising chilling questions for which there has been no answer to date.
It was widely reported a few weeks ago that News Corp made a $1 million donation to the Republican Governor’s Association. Reaction to that report was swift and damning. The notion that News Corp, parent company of Fox News, is bankrolling the campaigns of people they are also purporting to cover in their newspapers and on their TV networks, is appalling and unprecedented. To make matters worse, Fox continues to give positively biased coverage to GOP candidates without disclosing their contributions.
Last week another story emerged that revealed another $1 million contribution by News Corp, this time to the pro-GOP US Chamber of Commerce. This has the same potential for conflict of interest as the gift to the GOP governors and, again, Fox puts a muzzle on its reporters to suppress the story.
Now Ben Smith at Politico reports what may be the worst part of this scandal of all. Responding to a query as to why News Corp would make these donations that overtly contradict their claims to fairness and balance, and further damage their already mutilated journalistic credibility, Smith reports that…
“A person close to News Corp. told me this week the company didn’t realize its $1 million to the RGA would become public. And the $1 million to Chamber of Commerce was supposed to be secret as well.”
That explains a lot. If Murdoch never believed that these donations would become public he would have no reason to be concerned about the blowback. But what is even more troubling is this: If Murdoch made these donations with the expectation that they would be kept secret, what other donations might he have made whose secrecy has actually been preserved?
Could Murdoch have contributed to the Tea Party Express or other AstroTurfers like FreedomWorks? Could he be bankrolling the operations of Sarah Palin’s PAC or Glenn Beck’s Holy Rollover Revue? Since the Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Court earlier this year, the ability of corporations to sink unlimited resources into politics has been greatly enhanced. It created an open door for multinational corporations to influence American elections
Murdoch’s business connections have deep roots in many financial and political matters around the world. He is closely tied with Saudi oil and media barons and billionaires like Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Alwaleed is a backer of the Park51 project to build a Muslim community center a couple of blocks from ground zero in Lower Manhattan.
What other Muslim initiatives might Murdoch be connected to? Could he have an interest in the affairs of Al Qaeda? There is presently reporting on Fox News about the escalated terror alerts in Europe. Murdoch could be seen as being a beneficiary of this because it could reflect badly on President Obama’s national security policies. And Murdoch is always happy to see this President in decline. What contributions might he have made to bring about this or any other event that accrues to his benefit?
Seriously, the problem here is that we have no way of knowing what sort of enterprises Murdoch (or any other corporate baron) is financing. If we only find out by accident, there is a very real prospect that there are far worse things that have not yet been revealed. And the new legal interpretations make it harder, if not impossible, to acquire this information.
Is Rupert Murdoch funding Al Qaeda. Probably not. But that’s not the point. Who is he funding (besides the GOP governors and the Chamber of Commerce) that is still being kept secret from us? His scope of influence, due to his position and wealth, makes him a significant figure on the political landscape. The fact that he runs an international media empire makes his political contributions relevant to his readers and viewers. And the fact that he is making donations that he presumed would be secret suggests that he may have made others that still are.
Murdoch needs to either come clean about his political largesse or stop making contributions altogether. He cannot operate a media enterprise that he asserts is unbiased without greater transparency, especially in light of what has become known already. And the rest of the media must stop treating Fox News and other News Corp operations as if they were legitimate journalists. Fox News is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. Their partisan reporting has made that more than clear, and their financial activities prove it again and again.
The past couple of weeks Glenn Beck has been raving about some sort of criminal enterprise that he imagines is being run from the White House. Even with the help of his blackboards he hasn’t ever been able to coherently explain it, but he is convinced that it exists and, as befits his Messianic hallucinations, it is out to get him.
The cabal that Beck has dubbed “Crime Inc” began as an alleged conspiracy contrived by the climate change gang, which includes everyone from Al Gore to General Electric to the United Nations. Lately the conspirators grew to include your church and any institution that embraces social justice (including Beck’s Mormon church). It’s a global syndicate that seeks to collapse international economies and install a one-world government. I assume it’s being run by the Lizard People (whose leader is Barack Obama) but Beck hasn’t gotten to that part yet.
However, it appears that the real Crime Inc is the assembly of advertisers who sponsor Beck’s show (the ones who haven’t yet fled in disgust). As it turns out, many of them are running less than reputable operations that have run afoul of the law. For instance…
This peddler of over-priced gold products is passing itself off as an investment advisor. They advertise prominently on right-wing radio and TV programs that spread fear of an economic meltdown, which they contend gold is a hedge against. The only problem is that they charge far more than the actual value of the gold in their products and employ high-pressure sales tactics. In many cases gold would have to increase in value over 200% for you to just break even. Rep. Anthony Weiner is requesting that federal regulators look into whether Goldline’s highly questionable business practices violate the law.
This is an identity security company that is famous for its CEO who parades his Social Security number around on a billboard mounted to a truck. He also includes it in his TV ads. But now the Federal Trade Commission has “accused Lifelock of operating a scam and con operation. The commission announced, along with 35 state attorneys general, that it had levied a fine of $12 million against the company for deceptive business practices and for failing to secure sensitive customer data.” In short, investigators found that LifeLock failed to provide any of the services they promised.
In addition, an investigation by the the Phoenix New Times revealed that LifeLock’s CEO has had his identity breached multiple times. Losses in the thousands were racked up for the company head who so confidently broadcast his ID to the world. The New Times also uncovered some nefarious activities by another company founder that included gambling debts, arrests, and even identity theft.
Citing nearly 1,000 complaints, the Texas Attorney General filed an enforcement action against TaxMasters, charging them with unlawful conduct and misleading customers. The action asserts that Tax Masters “unlawfully misled customers about their service contract terms, failed to disclose its no-refunds policy, and falsely claimed that the firm’s employees would immediately begin work on a case.” In addition, the AG charged that Tax Masters failed to even provide the services they promised and refused to give refunds, yet pursued debt collection efforts against clients who canceled their contracts.
The first thing you need to know about Free Score is that it is not free. Well, except for the score, that is. But the report that provides you with useful information will end up running you $29.95 per month. It’s a classic bait and switch operation that tags unwary customers for thirty bucks a month for a report that can actually be obtained for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. The company employed conservative hack Ben Stein as its spokesman. That relationship cost Stein his column for the New York Times which does not permit its employees to be commercial shills. Free Score is owned by a disreputable firm called Vertrue that has been the target of actions by both the New York Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive business practices.
These are amongst the steadiest remaining advertisers on Beck’s show. And they appear to reflect the same disregard for ethics and honesty that Beck has made his trademark. It’s rather funny that Beck attacks his imaginary crime syndicate when he has such a close relationship with so many actual criminals. And it isn’t just as advertisers. Beck has long personally acted as a spokesman/shill for Goldline. Even when this violated the guidelines of his employer Fox News. You have to wonder how many of Beck’s other advertisers also have legal problems that have yet to surface. This would be another good reason for reputable companies to cease to associate themselves with Beck. Do they really want to be lumped in with the profligate companies listed above?
Beck’s latest hyperventilations feature a foursome who Beck fears are in cahoots with the White House in a plot to destroy him. Jim Wallis is the head of Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization. After Beck ordered his followers to “run as fast as they can” from any church that practiced social justice, Wallis wrote an item that called on Christians to run from Glenn Beck. Van Jones is the former presidential advisor on green jobs who was once affiliated with Color of Change, the group that initiated the advertiser boycott against Beck. Jones left the group two years before the boycott, which was in response to Beck calling the President a racist. Andy Stern is the former head of the union SEIU, which has joined with Color of Change and MoveOn.org to boycott Beck. These three EOGs (enemies of Glenn) have been portrayed by Beck as agents of the President. Never mind that none of them have any association with the White House or any other government office whatsoever. This is classic Beckian conspiracy mongering wherein everything he deems evil is connected to everything else he deems evil.
The fourth horseman of the Beckocalypse is Rep. Anthony Weiner, who just asked federal regulators to look into Goldline. Beck’s response was to launch a web site called WeinerFacts.com, where Beck’s disciples have been tasked with searching for dirt to smear on Weiner while making fun of his name. It’s all very mature.
Since Beck is so concerned about potential criminal activity, I wonder if he will look into the sordid histories of the people and companies that bankroll his show. And for that matter, his boss, Rupert Murdoch, has also been found guilty of improprieties ranging from corporate espionage to hacking into private email and phone systems of celebrities and politicians. Criminal behavior is part and parcel of the way these people do business. When you look at the big picture here, it’s obvious who the real Crime Inc is.
Update 4/2/2010: A major development occurred overnight.
It is now April 2, 2010! (no foolin). Update 5/10/2010: See this new analysis and addendum.
This week saw the release of the quarterly ratings performance data for television programming. Much of the reporting on this story focused on the dominant position Fox News retains in the cable news sector. As has been the case for several years, Fox News smothered the competition and experienced rapid growth while other news programmers stagnated or declined.
While most industry insiders accept the routine pronouncements from the sole ratings provider, Nielsen Media Research, without question, some observers could not help but notice a certain incongruity in the results. How is it, they wonder, that Fox News can be so consistently in the lead despite their obvious niche programming focus on a narrow segment of the viewing audience. The decidedly right-of-center bias of Fox News corresponds to a rather small portion of the national electorate. Republican favorability has been hovering in the mid-twenties for years. So how does this negligible slice of the market translate into such a disproportionate ratings advantage?
The answer may be evident in new disclosures of business relationships that call into question the integrity of Nielsen’s data. With the rollout of its People Meter methodology in the early 2000′s, Nielsen entered the high-tech era of TV market research. It was heralded as a major advancement of data collection that would vastly improve the ability of producers, programmers and advertisers to evaluate the marketplace. But as with any upheaval in the status quo, there were skeptics and dissenters. Chief amongst them was Fox Broadcasting, who argued that the new system significantly under-counted African-Americans, a key component of their audience at the time. There was also a question as to the security of the new set-top boxes that would be recording viewer choices. With the introduction of technology comes the risk of miscalculations and tampering. But eventually the complaints receded or were resolved and the new service took its place as the signature survey product for television marketing.
It was during this time, subsequent to the implementation of People Meters, that Fox News began its rapid ascent to ratings dominance. A prudent observer might wonder how this new system came to report so much more favorably for a network that had fiercely opposed its adoption. What transpired that caused Fox News to withdraw their objections and become the biggest beneficiary of the change?
It has recently been discovered that the Wegener Corporation, the manufacturer of the set-top devices that Nielsen uses, has a long association with Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation, the parent of Fox News. Wegener was founded by the former management of Scientific-Atlanta, a producer of set-top boxes for cable access and other purposes. One of the other products in Scientific-Atlanta’s line was a device used by Gemstar to provide television program listings to cable operators and their subscribers. Gemstar was an affiliate of TV Guide, which in turn was owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. So the executives who were responsible for developing and manufacturing Murdoch’s equipment for Gemstar became the principles of the company providing Nielsen with their ratings collection devices. And around that same time Fox News dropped their objections to the new People Meter service.
It would not be difficult to encode an electronic device so that it would purposefully miscalculate survey data. A simple algorithm to multiply a target by a fixed percentage could produce a result that would artificially inflate one set of figures while keeping it in proportion to a larger set, making it virtually impossible to detect. At present, their is no confirmation that such a deception has been contrived. It would require a thorough examination of Nielsen’s hardware and the ability to reverse engineer the chips inside of it. But for those who presume that it would be an outlandish notion, they would be well advised to study recent news events that uncovered similarly scandalous conduct on the part of News Corp.
One situation involves a digital recorder and satellite receiver made by NDS Group for Murdoch’s Sky network in Europe. Unlike TiVo, the Sky+ system records “personal viewing information,” which is information about your viewing practices that is tied to your contact information (i.e., it’s not kept anonymous, like TiVo’s).
In addition to that, NDS was also charged with using spies and hackers to steal Sky competitor Dish Network’s programming and make it available to viewers for free, thus undercutting Dish’s financial viability. As reported in Wired Magazine:
“The case involves a colorful cast of characters that includes former intelligence agents, Canadian TV pirates, Bulgarian and German hackers, stolen e-mails and the mysterious suicide of a Berlin hacker who had been courted by the Murdoch company not long before his death.
On the hot spot is NDS Group, a UK-Israeli firm that makes smartcards for pay-TV systems like DirecTV. The company is a majority-owned subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corporation. The charges stem from 1997 when NDS is accused of cracking the encryption of rival NagraStar, which makes access cards and systems for EchoStar’s Dish Network and other pay-TV services. Further, it’s alleged NDS then hired hackers to manufacture and distribute counterfeit NagraStar cards to pirates to steal Dish Network’s programming for free.”
On yet another occasion Murdoch’s news group engaged in some sleazy and illegal behavior to get stories about celebrities and politicians. The Guardian reported that Murdoch paid substantial sums of money to keep this scandal under wraps:
“Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers has paid out more than £1m to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal evidence of his journalists’ repeated involvement in the use of criminal methods to get stories.
The payments secured secrecy over out-of-court settlements in three cases that threatened to expose evidence of Murdoch journalists using private investigators who illegally hacked into the mobile phone messages of numerous public figures as well as gaining unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills. Cabinet ministers, MPs, actors and sports stars were all targets of the private investigators.”
And if that’s not enough, check into the incestuous and disturbing web of connections Murdoch has to the communists in China. Glenn Beck tried to pull the veil off of this one but was censored by his own employer.
Given the history of sleazy conduct and nefarious associations, is it really that far-fetched to conclude that something similar has taken place with regard to Murdoch’s relationship to Nielsen and the firm that manufactures their ratings collection devices? It would explain how Fox News could wind up with such a dominate lead in the ratings despite catering to a relatively small potential audience. It would explain why Fox suddenly halted their objections to a new process that they previously considered inaccurate and biased against them.
It would also explain a deep discrepancy between the allegedly broad viewing of Fox News and their nearly invisible impact on the political landscape. If Fox were as ubiquitous as they (and the ratings) claim, then why, during the years of their strongest growth, did they fail to move the country to their positions. With a sustained 24/7 propaganda effort, Fox failed to stop the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress. They failed to stop the 2008 election of Barack Obama despite incessant and false allegations of him being a Muslim, a radical leftist, and a pal of terrorists. They failed to stop the 2010 passage of a health care bill despite charges of socialism, death panels, and national bankruptcy. Does this sound like a network that holds a commanding majority of America’s television viewers under its sway?
To be sure, I am not the first to question the legitimacy of Nielsen’s numbers. Many people in the industry quietly accept what they regard as a flawed methodology simply because there is no alternative – or because proposed alternatives are even less acceptable. When it suits their purpose, even Fox News complains about the ratings. And I’m not talking about simple complaints concerning minor numerical inconsistencies, but allegations of rampant fraud that warrant federal investigation. After basking in the glow of Nielsen’s data, Bill O’Reilly turns around and castigates them as having “major problems…that have benefited MSNBC,” and asserts that…
O’Reilly: “The bottom line on this is there may be some big-time cheating going on in the ratings system, and we hope the feds will investigate. Any fraud in the television rating system affects all Americans.”
Of course the “feds” don’t have any jurisdiction over private market research firms. And it’s rather hypocritical for O’Reilly to suddenly advocate for big government intruding on the free market. But conservatives like O’Reilly are not averse to hypocrisy when it furthers their agenda. And in this case the agenda is to work the refs at Nielsen and suppress any notion that Fox is not the king of the television hill.
In conclusion, if we are to have any certainty as to who the real king of the hill is, we will need to get to the bottom of this lingering controversy surrounding Nielsen’s systems and procedures. The connection to Murdoch’s covert operations and his history of unlawful corporate espionage cannot be dismissed. Nielsen must investigate their equipment providers and perform intensive examinations of the devices they place in viewers’ homes. Anything short of this would leave them open to charges of complicity and render their survey data useless.
James O’Keefe, the ersatz “pimp” famous for pestering ACORN, has published an amusing defense of his most recent criminal adventure. The statement was fittingly posted on Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment web site, as Breitbart is O’Keefe’s mentor and protector, despite having disavowed himself of any connection to little Jimmy’s felonious conduct.
O’Keefe begins his defense by stating that…
“The government has now confirmed what has always been clear: No one tried to wiretap or bug Senator Landrieu’s office. Nor did we try to cut or shut down her phone lines. Reports to this effect over the past 48 hours are inaccurate and false.”
However, nowhere is there any statement from the government that says any such thing. In fact, the only government statement is the release from the FBI that says O’Keefe and company…
“…were charged in a criminal complaint with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony.”
O’Keefe’s goes on to make an assertion that is patently false.
“As an investigative journalist, my goal is to expose corruption and lack of concern for citizens by government and other institutions, as I did last year when our investigations revealed the massive corruption and fraud perpetrated by ACORN.”
First of all, O’Keefe’s characterization of himself as a journalist is an insult to journalists. He brazenly violates the code of ethics as enumerated by the Society of Professional Journalists. Secondly, his goal has never been to expose corruption, but to harass liberals, as he freely admits:
“If you use their rules against them, you can really just tease them and mock them and really destroy them.”
And finally, he revealed no corruption or fraud, massive or otherwise, on the part of ACORN. Subsequent to the release of his videos there have been two independent investigations that concluded that there was no unlawful activity on the part ACORN and there have never been any findings of guilt or even charges brought. Well, except for the charges brought against O’Keefe for unlawful videotaping.
Then we come to O’Keefe’s ludicrous and illogical self-defense.
“In investigating this matter, we decided to visit Senator Landrieu’s district office – the people’s office – to ask the staff if their phones were working.”
That assertion is false on its face. By his own admission to the FBI, he and his associates did much more than ask if the phones were working. They “manipulated the telephone system” in the Senator’s office. They sought access to the main wiring facility at another location and went to that location where they tried unsuccessfully to get in. O’Keefe’s attempt to diminish this by portraying it as an innocent effort to question the Senator’s staff is just plain dishonest. If, as he says, his “sole intent” was to ascertain whether the Senator “was purposely trying to avoid constituents,” then why did he need to go off-site to the wiring facility?
My favorite part of this whitewash was O’Keefe’s reconsideration of this idiotic escapade.
“On reflection, I could have used a different approach to this investigation, particularly given the sensitivities that people understandably have about security in a federal building.”
“On reflection?” I suppose a night in the slammer presents an ideal opportunity to reflect on one’s imbecility. And the prospect of ten years in prison and a quarter million dollar fine might inspire some serious self-appraisal as well. But I suspect that most of his time in lockup O’Keefe spent concocting these lame excuses. Apparently he needed more time behind bars to come up with something that didn’t blow copious chunks, because the single night was obviously not long enough.
The rest of O’Keefe’s anti-apologia was an extended whine about how the mainstream media is so mean to him. On that note – Be sure to catch James O’Keefe Monday on “Hannity” – Only on Fox News.. That’s right, The nation’s #1 cable news network (is that mainstream enough for you?), Fox News and Sean Hannity somehow scored this exclusive interview. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. Much like the fact that Fox Nation officially exonerated O’Keefe. It was just a “stunt” according to the Fox Nationalists. Nevertheless, it is still a felony. Good luck with that stunt defense, Jim.
With the arrest of the Fox News’ “pimp,” Andrew Breitbart, the pimp’s Godfather, is struggling to distance himself from his own Frankenstein monster. He created James O’Keefe and now his creation has gotten loose and is terrorizing the countryside.
For his part, Breitbart wants nothing more to do with O’Keefe. He is disclaiming any knowledge of him or the activities that got him busted in New Orleans. O’Keefe told reporters, as he slipped into a cab leaving the jailhouse that “Truth will set me free.” I believe this was a reference to Truth Bail Bonds of Louisiana. He also released this statement from prison directly addressing Breitbart:
“Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” ~Snark
Dare I say it is a scandal of biblical proportions. But O’Keefe’s prophecy was right on the mark. Breitbart issued his denial on all three of his “Big” web sites (Government, Journalism, and Hollywood). But he did not throw O’Keefe entirely under the bus. Breitbart left room for some legal squirming to insinuate that nothing dastardly actually took place.
“But there is absolutely no allegation in the criminal complaint that ‘wiretapping’ or ‘bugging’ is any part of this case, just the charge that O’Keefe and the others entered Sen. Landrieu’s office in New Orleans ‘for the purpose of interfering with the office’s telephone system.’”
That’s right. The perpetrators merely entered the Senator’s office dressed as telephone repairmen, fiddled with the phones, and sought access to the central wiring facility. What about that would lead anyone to believe there was intent to tap the lines?
Breitbart argues fiercely that judgement should be withheld until all of the facts are in. That’s an interesting position from someone who has never been especially enamored of facts. Nor has he ever shown an interest in reserving judgment. His assaults against ACORN were unambiguously accusatory. Even though ACORN was never found guilty of any crime. They weren’t even charged with any crime. And they were exonerated by an independent investigation as well as a non-partisan Congressional probe. Now, all of a sudden, Breitbart is advocating restraint.
But the piece de resistance came when Breitbert was interviewed on the Hugh Hewitt radio program. He continued his chorus of denial as Hewitt engaged in a friendly interrogation designed to setup Breitbart’s foes as slanderers, or so he thought. However, one part of the exchange was particularly notable as Hewitt inquired what Breitbart would have done if he had known what O’Keefe was up to:
Hewitt: Would you have told him don’t do that, if he had asked you? Breitbart: No, I have nothing to do with what James O’Keefe does. James O’Keefe is an independent filmmaker.
So if O’Keefe had told Breitbart that he was on his way to New Orleans to bug Sen Landrieu’s phones, Breitbart would have said nothing to dissuade O’Keefe from his felonious mission. Even though O’Keefe was, at that very time, on Breitbart’s payroll, which Breitbart admitted during the Hewitt interview.
This is an outstanding display of the ethical deficiencies at work in Breitbart’s sphere. He is unrepentantly slanderous towards others. He has a sociopath’s sense of loyalty and self-preservation. And he has no problem with people he pays engaging in felonious conduct. Look for Fox News to make him their next managing editor. What a perfect fit.
“Alleging a plot to wiretap Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O’Keefe, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group’s credibility.”
For those who don’t recall, O’Keefe, along with his hooker pal, Hannah Giles, unlawfully videotaped ACORN representatives so that they could deceptively edit their footage to deliberately slander the organization. It should come as no surprise that someone so brazenly criminal would violate the law again to manufacture his fake news stories. It is nice to see that the FBI is enforcing the law. I assume that all good law-and-order Republicans will agree that it is unacceptable to plant bugs in senators’ offices.
While ACORN’s credibility was indeed damaged by the phony “journalists,” they were subsequently exonerated by an independent investigation headed by Scott Harshbarger, the former Attorney General of Massachusetts. Even an attempt by Congress to prohibit funding to the group, despite no charges against them having been proven (or even brought), was reversed by a court that deemed the action an unlawful bill of attainder.
O’Keefe and company have a long association with right-wing media. They were mentored by Matt Drudge apprentice, Andrew Breitbart. It was on Breitbart’s BigGovernment web site that the ACORN videos were first made public. Oddly enough, at this time BigGovernment has no mention of their favorite pimp’s arrest. There is a link on Breitbart.com to a story in the Associated Press that does not mention any names, although the names are available in other news accounts and in the arrest affidavit.
Fox News is another friend of O’Keefe. In fact, it is the only television “news” service that O’Keefe would grant an interview to. Both O’Keefe and Giles appeared several times on Fox News, but nowhere else. Fox News hyped the ACORN story incessantly. On one day last year they featured sixteen separate stories on the subject on their Fox Nation web site. Fox Nation even helped to solicit donations for a Hannah Giles Defense Fund.
What remains to be seen is the extent to which there may be other unknown accomplices. Is Breitbart in on this? Or Glenn Beck? Could Fox News have encouraged this action to manufacture a news story they could exploit? It has been a while since the ACORN scandal, the Tea Bagger uprising, or any other of the sensationalistic events that Fox likes to promote.
One thing for sure is that O’Keefe’s defenders cannot claim that this is the result of Obama’s henchmen going after him in retribution for the ACORN affair. After all, these guys were caught red-handed in a senator’s office tampering with the phone equipment. On second thought, the right will almost certainly claim persecution. They will somehow blame liberals, Obama, or George Soros. It’s not like they ever needed facts to support their assertions in the past.
[Update]Breitbart comments: “We have no knowledge about or connection to any alleged acts and events involving James O’Keefe at Senator Mary Landrieu’s office,” said Breitbart. “We only just learned about the alleged incident this afternoon. We have no information other than what has been reported publicly by the press. Accordingly, we simply are not in a position to make any further comment.”
Not much of a comment, and not much more than you would expect even if he were involved. At least he has the story posted on his “Big” web sites now (same AP story on both).
Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers has paid out more than Â£1m to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal evidence of his journalists’ repeated involvement in the use of criminal methods to get stories.
The payments secured secrecy over out-of-court settlements in three cases that threatened to expose evidence of Murdoch journalists using private investigators who illegally hacked into the mobile phone messages of numerous public figures and to gain unlawful access to confidential personal data including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills. Cabinet ministers, MPs, actors and sports stars were all targets of the private investigators.
Today, the Guardian reveals details of the suppressed evidence which may open the door to hundreds more legal actions by victims of News Group, the Murdoch company that publishes the News of the World and the Sun, as well as provoking police inquiries into reporters who were involved and the senior executives responsible for them.
The rest of the story just gets more lurid. This is a shocking look into the way that Murdoch and his accomplices operate.
[Update 7/9/09] Rupert Murdoch appeared on his own Fox Business Network today where Stuart Varney, who is notorious for aggressively challenging (i.e. interrupting) liberals, attempted to ask him a question:
Varney: The story that is really buzzing all around the country, and certainly right here in New York, is that the News of the World, a News Corporation newspaper in Britain… Murdoch: No, I’m not talking about that issue at all today. Varney: OK. No worries, Mr. Chairman. That’s fine with me.
That’s fine with you? Way to suck up to your boss, Stuart.
I have little to add to this example of another attempt by Rupert Murdoch’s factory of falsehoods to fabricate stories designed to either advance his interests or harm those of his adversaries.
In this case Murdoch’s newspapers in Australia hyped a suspicious email that cast Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as a corrupt politician. This was intended to benefit the conservative opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull. [Note: In Australia, Turnbull's Liberal Party is farther to the right than Rudd's Labor Party]
The same day [Murdoch-owned] News Limited published its story in the two thirds of newspapers it owns in Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for an Australian Federal Police investigation to examine the authenticity of the email.
By Monday the AFP had established the email was a forgery. Turnbull came under pressure throughout this week for relying on a fake email, and promoting it. The whole matter was a hoax and even members of Turnbull’s own party criticised his naivety.
Nowhere was there any criticism of the Murdoch newspapers for not authenticating the email before engaging in a mass publication of its content. It seems News was taken in, hook, line and sinker, and did far more to promote what turned out to be a fake email than Turnbull.
This journalistic atrocity comes on the heels of a fake scandal publicized by Murdoch’s papers a couple of months ago. In that affair, a nude photo allegedly of a candidate for senate was published. The candidate, Pauline Hanson, offered ample evidence that the photo could not have been of her, but the papers would not retract the story.
Typical. Anyone who thinks that this isn’t going on here in the U.S. is terminally naive.
A new legal precedent has been introduced by the Obama Justice Department. If permitted by the court, defendants nationwide may have a powerful new tool to assert in pursuit of legal vindication.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents containing statements by former Vice-President Dick Cheney to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. The documents were part of Fitzgerald’s investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA operative. Scooter Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury for his role in the matter, but his sentence was later commuted by George W. Bush as he slinked from office.
The Bush administration originally denied a congressional request for these documents citing executive privilege. Now Obama’s Justice Department is also seeking to prevent this disclosure for many of the same reasons that Bush’s lawyers argued. But going further, civil division lawyer Jeffrey M. Smith, claimed that the documents should remain confidential because their release might inhibit future vice-presidents, or other officials, from speaking candidly to investigators researching criminal activity.
That is a rather surprising argument in that most Americans probably expect their representatives to be cooperative in criminal investigations. The notion that they would deliberately impede an investigation because their testimony might be made public is disturbing, to say the least. But the specific reference made by Smith as to what might scare off official witnesses is even more disturbing. He said that the prospect that “it’s going to get on ‘The Daily Show’, “ was enough for the judge to grant a denial of the FOIA request.
Seriously? Is the Daily Show now considered to be so influential that the mere mention of its name can squelch a court case? Does that mean that anyone previously convicted of a crime, who happened to have been the subject of satire by Jon Stewart can now seek to have the conviction overturned on appeal? Does Comedy Central need to seek legal counsel prior to Photoshopping public figures with funny hats or broadcasting video of them saying stupid things (which happens with way too much frequency). Is the “Daily Show Defense” this generation’s “Twinkie Defense”?
At this point the judge seemed to be unconvinced and asked the attorney to come back with more evidence to support denying the FOIA request. But just the fact that a professional, respected, government lawyer would advance this argument is pretty sad. I can’t wait to see what Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert say about it.
A few days ago Sen. John Ensign admitted to having an extra-marital affair with Cythia Hampton, a woman who was an employee of his campaign operation and the wife of a staffer in his senate office. In the wake of this disclosure, Ensign has apologized, resigned his senate leadership post (but not his senate seat) and floated excuses for his confession that ran the gamut from media attention to blackmail.
Today, the Las Vegas Sun has identified another twist that puts Fox News squarely in the Ensign camp as a co-conspirator to hush up the affair.
“In a letter dated five days before Sen. John Ensign’s public confession of an extramarital affair, Doug Hampton pleaded to a national Fox News anchorwoman for help in exposing the senator’s ‘heinous conduct and pursuit’ of Hampton’s wife.”
So Fox News knew of Ensign’s infidelity five days before Ensign came forward. They got the information from the husband of Ensign’s mistress. That’s a pretty good source, especially when he asserts that he had corroborating evidence. Yet Fox News failed to report the affair prior to Ensign’s press conference, and has still neglected to disclose their receipt of the letter from Mr. Hampton.
Hampton addressed the letter to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Both she and Fox News have yet to comment on the matter. However, the Sun obtained a copy of Hampton’s letter that began…
“More than any time in my life I understand why people take matters into their own hands. I am disheartened! I have sought wise counsel, tried to do the right thing and continue to run into road blocks (sic) in dealing with a very terrible circumstance and injustice that lives in my life. I am hoping you and Fox News can help.”
Hampton then summarized his relationship with Ensign and gave a brief description of the affair that roiled his family. He revealed that Ensign forthrightly pursued his wife, and would not desist even after confronted by other friends and colleagues, including Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn. The letter was sent to Kelly in an apparent, last resort plea for justice from someone he presumed would show fairness and empathy. He told Kelly that…
“I love this country and considered it a great privilege to work in the US (sic) Senate. I am bringing this to you and Fox News to address this professionally and correctly. I could have sought the most liberal, Republican hating media to expose this story, but there are people’s lives at stake and justice is about proper process as well as outcome. Senator Ensign has no business serving in the US (sic) Senate anymore!”
At this time there is no confirmation from Fox news that they received the letter. However, they did not deny having received it when given the opportunity. It seems improbable that a letter from a staff member of a U.S. senator, alleging that his boss and his wife were having an affair, would be ignored.
It is also curious how Ensign became aware that a major news organization was going to report the affair. Did he learn this from Kelly? That would not be surprising in the course of an investigation wherein a reporter sought comment from someone accused of impropriety. The problem is that, under ordinary circumstances, such a reporter would then publish the story, but neither Kelly, nor any other reporter at Fox did so. So if Ensign did learn of the letter to Fox News from Kelly, it was more of a tip off than a journalistic inquiry.
The Ensign scandal seems to get dirtier by the day. It is not merely a matter of his personal indiscretions, but Mrs. Hampton also received salary increases during the period the affair took place. And Ensign also gave the Hampton’s son, Brandon, a job at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Ensign chaired.
This combination of sexual, fiscal, and political improprieties, exacerbated by the collusion of a major television news network, would be juicy fare for a sensationalistic, tabloid news enterprise. Ironically, it would be perfect for Fox News, but i wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their report.
“We never received any letter from Mr. Hampton,” Lowell told the Huffington Post. “He might have sent it, but we never received it. He did reach out to us about 24 hours before the news conference, and he sent an e-mail to a booker on my staff.”
“We followed up with him, but he seemed evasive and not credible, thus we didn’t pursue it,” he said.
Hampton was apparently so lacking in credibility that Ensign came out and confessed less than 24 hours after Fox decided not to pursue it. The Fox spokesman also denied tipping Ensign off. He said that “Somehow, somebody told the Senator something” but insisted it wasn’t anyone from their editorial staff. Uh huh…..
[Update 2] The Sun has some more details, including financial compensation Ensign doled out to the Hampton family.
After the news conference, Lowell passed Hampton’s contact information to his Washington bureau but did not send the letter or show it to senior Fox executives, who have expressed unhappiness at not being informed. “The letter was an allegation of an affair,” Lowell said. “I don’t know that it would have shined a light on anything new.”
Two problems: First, there were several new developments revealed in the letter, like the involvement of Sen. Coburn and the fact that the Hamptons were fired. Second, If the Fox executives were so unhappy about not being informed about the letter after Ensign’s press conference, then why have they still not produced a single story about it three days after the fact? To date there have been precisely ZERO stories on Fox News, FoxNews.com, or TheFox Nation.com, that address the existence of a letter they have had in their possession for at least five days.
It appears that the Fox producer for Megyn Kelly’s program is attempting to fall on his sword.
[Update 4] Apparently Fox News lied (again) about when they received the letter from Hampton. The Las Vegas Sun has a FedEx receipt that confirms that Fox received the letter on June 12, three days before they previously acknowledged receipt. So Fox had three extra days to investigate (which they didn’t do) and to tip off Ensign (which they probably did do).