Ben Carson Reveals Himself To Be A Delusional Conspiracy Theorist On Fox News Sunday

This weekend Fox News Sunday interviewed the Tea Party flavor of the week, Dr. Ben Carson. The interview (video below) was notable for some of the uncharacteristically clear-headed questions from host Chris Wallace that exposed Carson as the extremist nut case that he is.

Ben Carson

Wallace introduced the segment by noting that Carson has made some controversial remarks for which he will be held to account. That is an understatement, to say the least. Comparing ObamaCare to slavery, and America to Nazi Germany are not your conventional campaign slogans. Wallace even told Carson point blank that “I think you would agree that, at best, your a distinct long shot.” But the statement that Wallace singled out was when Carson warned that, somehow, the 2016 election would be canceled. It was a profoundly stupid notion without any rational foundation, which Wallace seemed to recognize when he asked his question.

Wallace: You said recently that you thought that there might not actually be elections in 2016 because of wide spread anarchy. Do really believe that?

Carson: Well, I hope that that’s not going to be the case, but certainly there is the potential because you have to recognize that we have a rapidly increasing national debt, a very unstable financial foundation, and you have all these things going on like the ISIS crisis, that could very rapidly change things that are going on in our nation. And unless we begin to deal with these things in a comprehensive way, and in a logical way, there is no telling what could happen in just the matter of a couple of years.

Huh? There is a potential that democracy will be dispensed with because of the national debt and ISIS? What in holy hell is he talking about? The United States and its democratic system has endured for over 200 years, through economic catastrophes, civil and world wars, Nixonian corruption, and assassinations. Yet Carson thinks that it may all soon be over because of our present economy (with it’s soaring stock market, record profits, and low unemployment), and a band of desert rats 8,000 miles away?

It is stunning that anyone would take this man seriously as a candidate for president. But the party that has previously placed at the top of their presidential wish list people like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Rick Perry, and Sarah Palin, is just the party to hoist Carson’s flag. He recently placed a close second (after fellow Tea-publican Ted Cruz) in a straw poll by attendees of the right-wing, evangelical Values Voters conference.

For a party that vehemently castigated President Obama as lacking the necessary experience to be president when he launched his campaign, the Republicans have an intense infatuation for candidates with even less experience. Wallace also addressed this hypocrisy in the interview with a cleverly worded question.

Wallace: After looking at Barack Obama and what’s happened with his lack of political experience in the last six years, wouldn’t putting Ben Carson in the Oval Office be akin to putting a politician in an operating room and having him perform one of your brain surgeries?

Carson: I don’t think so. What is required for leadership is wisdom.

Indeed. And the wisdom demonstrated by a political neophyte who thinks that there may not be an election in 2016, but if there is it will be dominated by voters who “have been beaten into submission,” is exactly what the “doctor” ordered, if that doctor is Dr. Strangelove.

Even the Wall Street Journal noticed that the bizarre rantings of Carson were trouble for the GOP. Columnist Peter Wehner, who served in the past three Republican administrations, wrote that “This is the kind of rhetorical recklessness that convinces many Americans that Republican leaders are extreme, irresponsible, and fundamentally unserious.” […and that…] “Dr. Carson’s comments are evidence of a political mind that is not simply undisciplined but also fanatical.” […and that…] “Any political party or movement that is associated with such utterances will pay a price.”

Carson recently declared that the “likelihood is strong” that he will run for president, despite his having none of the requisite knowledge or skills for the job. His putative candidacy rests entirely on his support from Tea Party zealots and Fox News who, in breach of every code of journalistic ethics, continues to employ him as a commentator despite his admitted status as a candidate.

For more fully documented examples of unethical dishonesty…
Get Fox Nation vs. Reality. Available now at Amazon.

Does Fox News Think That Ronald Reagan Tried To Panic The Markets?

This weekend’s edition of Fox News Sunday had a segment wherein the host, Chris Wallace, interviewed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. In the course of the interview Wallace addressed the government shutdown and the approaching debt ceiling crisis with this phony premise:

“This week both you and the president seemed to be trying to panic the markets about both raising the debt ceiling and the government shutdown, saying that they should be more concerned.”

Fox News

In fact, President Obama merely observed what every credible economist has said about the prospect of the United States defaulting on its financial obligations. It would throw the world economy into turmoil and inflate the U.S. debt by billions due to higher interest rates. Just the threat of taking such an irresponsible step would panic the market without Obama having to say a word. And Obama is not the only one who thinks so. Here is what the GOP’s sainted Ronald Reagan had to say about it back on September 26, 1987:

Reagan: Congress consistently brings the Government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the Federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility – two things that set us apart from much of the world.

The hypocrisy of the Tea Party Republicans pretending to care about impacting the financial markets is monumental. Their own words (not to mention their actions) have been far more threatening than anything Obama has said. They have been saying for five years that Obama and his Marxist policies would bring the nation to ruin. They said he would destroy the economy and the country; that ObamaCare would bankrupt the nation and lead to civil war; that asking the rich to pay a little more in taxes, rather than putting the burden on the poor and middle class, would crush the recovery; that anything the President ever proposed would be a job killer and a disincentive to investment.

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Those predictions were about as accurate as last year’s Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy. The stock market is higher now than it was before the recession. The unemployment rate has dropped from 10.1 to 7.3 percent. And ObamaCare has proved to so popular that the demand crashed the government servers. Given the right’s record on forecasting the future, how can anyone take them seriously? Even the words of their idol, Reagan, don’t seem to diffuse their rabid Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Roger Ailes’ Limp Dictum: Keep Flinging Scandals Until Something Sticks

Last week has been described by many in the press as the worst week yet for the Obama presidency. It was a week that saw purported scandals hyped furiously by Fox News and other right-wing media. They almost cheerfully segued from Benghazi to the IRS to the Associated Press, and then looped back for more of the same.

Most of the reports were rife with falsehoods and errors. Most striking was the story aired by ABC’s Jonathan Karl who blatantly lied about his “exclusive” access to internal administration emails but, as it turned out, he not only did not have any emails, he unethically regurgitated false and damaging misrepresentations fed to him by Republicans in congress. And while he issued a vague note of regret for the phony attributions, he has yet to admit that his sources were partisans with an axe to grind. [NOTE: David Shuster appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources this morning and smacked down GOP apologist Jennifer Rubin in grand fashion on this subject. Video below].

Ever since these stories emerged, Republicans have been spinning with feverish glee in the expectation that they might bring down this president that they hate with such vicious intensity. And as an added bonus, refocusing attention on manufactured melodramas allows them to avoid doing any actual work for the people they supposedly represent. The GOP House has voted 38 times to repeal ObamaCare, but not once for a jobs bill.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the witch hunt. Obama’s approval rating has risen 6 points since March in a new CNN poll. And majorities say that they believe Obama’s statements about Benghazi and the IRS. So despite the aggravated bluster of the right, Obama’s fortunes have been faring well.

So how does Fox News react to a scenario wherein they have flung virtually all of the feces they could gather and none if it sticks to their target? Being Fox News they simply get dirtier and more insane as their desperation builds.

Ailes Limp Dictum

Each of the headlines in these stories were built from scratch to disparage the President. And each has not even a smidgen of truth.

The item asserting that Obama “Admits He’s A Socialist,” was wrenched from an article in the New York Times where the author offered his opinion that Obama longed to “go Bulworth.” That was a reference to the Warren Beatty movie where he played a senator who abandoned the pretenses of politicking and went out to say what he really thought, including some positive remarks about socialism. However, the author of the Times article never mentioned the socialism part of the story. He only meant to refer to the straight-talk that Beatty embraced. And more importantly, Obama never mentioned any of it. It was all the musings of the Times author. So there was no “admission” by Obama by any stretch of the imagination.

In the article from the Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Strassel presents her theory that Obama was secretly signalling to people way down the ladder from the White House, his desire that they target conservative non-profits seeking tax-exempt status. The method he used was to say things that he believed. How insidious. Strassel’s idiotic theory would mean that anything any public figure says is evidence of complicity if some other people he’s never met do something illegal or unethical connected to that opinion. For instance, George W. Bush would be guilty of homicide because he publicly stated his opinion that abortion is murder and then George Tiller, a doctor who provides abortions, was fatally shot at his church. See how easy that was?

In the other two headlines Fox simply plucked the word “irrelevant” out of comments made by White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer without providing any context. In the first one Pfeiffer was asked about whether any laws were broken in the IRS affair. His answer merely reflected the fact that he was not a lawyer, but that regardless of whether laws were broken, the behavior was inexcusable. He was not saying that “the law” was irrelevant, but that it wasn’t relevant to the determination that what happened was wrong even if not unlawful.

Finally, Pfeiffer’s remarks about the relevance of Obama’s whereabouts during the Benghazi attack came in the course of Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace repeatedly asking him where Obama was that night. Wallace seemed obsessed with which particular rooms in the White House the President might have visited. Eventually Pfeiffer responded by bluntly saying “I don’t remember what room the president was in on that night. That’s a largely irrelevant fact.” Which is unarguably true. Wallace was wandering down some weird and delusional path that had no bearing on anything. But Fox spun Pfeiffer’s response to suggest that it meant something broader with regard to Obama’s overall attention to the unfolding crisis.

This is the kind of nuttiness that ensues when liars become increasingly desperate as they see their lies falling flat. They get more and more surreal as they strain to have an effect. And when the effect turns out to be the opposite of what they hoped (i.e. Obama’s approval rising), they keep walking down that dead-end path, accelerating their pace, until it leads to a cliff. In the next few days and weeks we will see if Fox and the GOP are crazy enough to keep walking right over the edge. This should be fun.

And now for something completely different: Shuster Mauls Rubin…

Fox News Covers the Obama Inauguration: ‘Saddest Day Of The Year’

Seconds after the first inauguration of President Obama, Chris Wallace of Fox News speculated that he wasn’t really president because the oath was flubbed by Chief Justice John Roberts. That suggestion that Obama was not a legitimate president foreshadowed what would become a cacophony of Birthers and Republicans determined to reject any and all of what Obama put forth.

On this morning’s broadcast of Obama’s second inauguration, Fox News continued their dismissive coverage of the President. They led it off with the kiddies at Fox & Friends who exhibited their respect for this historic day by reporting what an awful day it is.

Steve Doocey: “As if a cold Monday in January wasn’t dreary enough, today has been dubbed ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year.”

I’m quite sure that the day of Obama’s inauguration is decidedly depressing for the these remedial, right-wing buzzkills. But Fox was not through casting aspersions on this day and the President. Immediately following the inaugural address, Fox’s panel of sourpuss pundits picked apart the speech, which they universally agreed was a partisan screed aimed at bashing the GOP.

Chris Wallace: “This was an unyielding, uncompromising espousal of a liberal agenda.”
Brit Hume: “This is utterly bereft of an outreach to the opposition.”

Never mind that the President repeatedly spoke of how the nation’s greatest accomplishments were achieved by working together and how that was a necessity for moving forward today in light of the difficulties that lie ahead. Fox is positioning itself for another four years of blind opposition to anything that might help this president – or this country while this president is in the White House.

Fox Nation

Their community web site, Fox Nation, went to even further extremes to disparage the President with at least five derogatory articles by virulent Obama adversaries, including their headline piece featuring Mark Levin who was quoted from a Breitbart interview where he ripped the President in the most repulsive terms.

Levin: “I think there’s a lot of perverse thinking that goes on in Obama’s mind, radical left-wing thinking. He was indoctrinated with Marx and Alinksy propaganda.”

And this is how Fox News covers Obama on the day of his inauguration, a day usually set aside to celebrate America’s democratic principles and offer best wishes for the new administration’s efforts to meet the challenges facing the nation. We can hardly wait to see what Fox is dreaming up for tomorrow, or the next day, or the next four years. And Fox wonders why they are shunned by the White House.

Fox News Shamelessly Politicizes Petraeus Resignation

This afternoon Gen. David Petraeus resigned as Director of the CIA with a letter that cited his having had an extra-marital affair.

Petraeus: Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA. After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.

Despite the specificity of his letter, Fox News immediately began speculating as to the timing of the resignation and suggested that it had something to do with the investigation of the murders in Benghazi, Libya, and his scheduled testimony before congress next week.

Surprisingly, as Fox anchors were rumor mongering about Benghazi, Chris Wallace emphatically shot down such talk pointing out that Petraeus is a man of integrity who should be taken as his word. Wallace went on to point out that nobody tries to cover up political matters by confessing to cheating on their wife. But that moment of sanity was short lived.

The news broke on MSNBC at about 2:51pm ET, but Fox didn’t report it until 3:00. Then they spent about ten minutes stewing in Benghazi sauce without mentioning the Petraeus letter or the affair. It was clear they wanted to clutch onto the conspiracy theory that Obama must have orchestrated the whole thing to cover up his complicity in Benghazi-Gate. At one point Fox’s Trace Gallagher cryptically referred to Petraeus’ reason as “what we will now say is ‘unknown,'” which is evidence that he knew more than he was saying. And even after Wallace’s rational refutation, the conspiratorial ravings continued on Neil Cavuto’s program and The Five.

It simply doesn’t matter what the issue is. If Fox can’t pervert it into something that tarnishes President Obama, then it isn’t news. It couldn’t be more obvious that Fox intends to escalate their journalistic distortions in the coming second term of Obama. But it is repulsive that they would exploit this personal family tragedy as just more scandal bait to titillate their juvenile and easily manipulated audience.

Andrew Breitbart’s Imaginary Democratic Primary

The chronically choleric Andrew Breitbart has published an amusing speculation as to who the Democratic Party could field for president instead of Obama. This is really just an attempt by BigGovernment to sow new discord among the unusually united Democrats.

The article was written by Joel Pollak, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart.com, and features a roster of barely Democratic names who are arguably more conservative than many Republicans (i.e. Harold Ford and Joe Manchin). It also includes a couple of Democrats that would be bitterly opposed by the BigGovernment crowd if there were any real chance of them running (i.e. Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo). However, two names stand out for their surreal presence on any list of of reputed Democrats.

First is the anchor of Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace. Pollak’s basis for including Wallace on a list of Democrats is a five year old article in the Washington Post that reported that Wallace was a registered Democrat. Unfortunately, Pollak didn’t read the whole article that quoted Wallace as saying…

“The reason I’m a registered Democrat is that in Washington, D.C., there is really only one party,” Wallace told us yesterday. “If you want a say in who’s going to be the next mayor or councilman, you have to vote in the Democratic primary.”

So Wallace’s registration is just his way of being able to influence the outcome of primary elections for a party that he opposes. We know that he opposes the Democrats because of the way speaks about them publicly and slants his reporting. For instance…

  • Asking the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes “is it unfair to say that this is a president whose heart doesn’t seem to be into winning the war on terror?”
  • Asking Rush Limbaugh what Obama has done TO the country.
  • Awarding ACORN pimp, James O’Keefe, the “Power Player of the Week.”
  • Calling Democrats “damn fools” for declining to appear on Fox News.
  • [My favorite] Admitting that he “generally agrees” with Sean Hannity.
  • Jumping to the defense of George W. Bush after director Ron Howard suggested comparisons to Richard Nixon.
  • Declaring Sarah Palin to be a “new star in the political galaxy.”
  • Asking George Bush if he was “puzzled by all of the concern in this country about protecting [the] rights of people who want to kill us.”
  • In a criticism of Democratic health care plans, making the absurd observation that “people don’t even contemplate end of life until they’re in an irreversible coma.”

Never mind that Wallace has no experience in politics or government, and has never run any enterprise that might prepare him to be the manager of an Olive Garden, much less the presidency.

But the number one Democratic choice by the BigGovernment editor to replace Barack Obama is —-> Sen. Joe Lieberman – who is NOT a Democrat. Lieberman was run out of the Democratic Party by the voters of his own state who chose Ned Lamont in a senate primary. Lieberman’s ego refused to step aside, so he ran as an independent and was returned to the senate by a majority of Republican voters who abandoned their own nominee in favor of Lieberman.

Pollak’s article is a joke that has failed to inject a sense of humor. It is his effort to distract Breitbart’s flock so that they don’t focus on the hilarity of their own cast of characters running for the GOP nomination. I don’t blame him. If Democrats were running a pack clowns like those in the GOP, I’d want a distraction too.

Republicans Reveal Their Top Priority For America In Iowa Debate

At a time when the nation faces some formidable challenges on critical matters of economics, employment, national defense, health care, etc., the Republican candidates for president met in Iowa to debate the issues that they regard as most important to voters and the country.

Leading off the Fox News sponsored debate, Fox anchor Bret Baier summarized just what issues the GOP held as their highest priority, and it wasn’t any of those enumerated in the paragraph above.

Bret Baier: We have received thousands of tweets, Facebook messages and emails with suggested questions. And the overall majority of them had one theme: Electability. People want to know which one of you on this stage is able to be in the best position to beat President Obama in the general election. And that’s the number one goal for Republican voters, obviously.

So there you have it. The number one goal is not restoring the nation’s economic health. It is not creating jobs or strengthening the middle-class. It is not Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Al Qaeda, or any other source of international hostility. It isn’t even Republican pet causes of guns, gays, God, or repealing ObamaCare. The number on issue is electability. Republicans are focused squarely on the singular issue of evicting the Kenyan socialist from the White House, to the exclusion of all other principles or positions. Just like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said shortly after Obama was inaugurated.

Taking this theme to heart, the debate continued with a series of question that addressed nothing substantive other than the candidate’s prospects for beating President Obama next November. Here are the first seven questions asked at Thursday’s debate:

Bret Baier: Speaker Gingrich, since our last debate your position in this race has changed dramatically. You are now physically in the center of the stage, which means that you are at the top of the polls, yet many Republicans seem conflicted about you, They say that you’re smart, that you’re a big thinker. At the same time many of those same Republicans worry deeply about your electability in a general election saying perhaps Gov. Romney is a safer bet. Can you put to rest, once and for all, the persistent doubts that you are indeed the right candidate on this stage to go up and beat President Obama?

Megyn Kelly: Cong. Paul, you have some bold ideas, some very fervent supporters, and probably the most organized ground campaign here in Iowa, but there are many Republicans, inside and outside of this state, who openly doubt whether you can be elected president. How can you convince them otherwise, and if you don’t wind up winning this nomination, will you pledge here tonight that you will support the ultimate nominee?

Megyn Kelly: Sen. Santorum, no one has spent more time in Iowa than you. You have visited every county in the state. And yet, while we have seen no fewer than four Republican candidates surge in the polls, sometimes in extraordinary ways, so far you and your campaign have failed to catch fire with the voters. Why?

Chris Wallace: Gov. Romney, I want to follow up on Bret’s line of questioning to the Speaker because many of our viewers tell us that they are supporting Newt Gingrich because they think that he will be tougher than you in taking the fight to Barack Obama in next fall’s debates. Why would you be able to make the Republican’s case against the President more effectively than the Speaker?

Chris Wallace: Cong. Bachmann, no one questions your conservative credentials, but what about your appeal to Independents who are so crucial in a general election? If you are fortunate enough to become the Republican nominee, how would you counter the efforts by the Barack Obama campaign to paint you as too conservative to moderate voters?

Neil Cavuto: Gov. Perry, by your own admission you are not a great debater. You have said as much and downplayed debating skills in general. But if you were to become your party’s nominee you would be going up against an accomplished debater in Barack Obama. There are many in this audience tonight, sir, who fear that possibility and don’t think you’re up for the fight. Allay them of their concerns.

Neil Cavuto: Gov. Huntsman, your campaign has been praised by moderates, but many question your ability to galvanize the Republicans, energize the conservative base of the party. They’re especially leery of your refusal to sign on to a “no tax hike” pledge. How can you reassure them tonight.

Nothing is more revealing of a party’s intentions than what they themselves place at the forefront of their campaigns. And nothing could be more clear than the fact that Republicans simply do not care about issues or the welfare of the American people as much as they do about their own selfish quest for power.

What’s more, the debate sponsor, Fox News, and other right-wing spokesmodels concur with the GOP’s directive on beating Obama above all else. That’s why the questions were littered with words like “worry,” “doubt,” “fear,” and “leery,” to describe the electorate’s mood toward the GOP frontrunners. And the debate amongst Republican elites is raging at an unprecedented pace. Rush Limbaugh thinks Romney is a milquetoast candidate. Glenn Beck called Gingrich a progressive (a pejorative for Beck) and the one candidate he would not vote for. Even Fox’s Chris Wallace slammed Ron Paul saying that a win by Paul in Iowa would discredit the state’s caucuses.

So what we have here is both the candidates and the media fixated on electability. All they talk about is the horse race and not the underlying issues. And of course, the reason for that is that they don’t care about the issues, only the power that comes from political control. And now they have confessed this obsession unabashedly.

Unfortunately for these polito-Narcissists, they aren’t quite smart enough to craft accurate predictions of who is or isn’t electable. They will undoubtedly make the wrong choice and their anointed candidate will suffer an embarrassing defeat. But to be honest, that’s an easy call for me to make because any of the current GOP candidates would be the wrong choice. They are all presently losing to Obama in national polls, and that’s quite a feat considering Obama’s low favorability ratings. The best thing that’s happened for Obama’s reelection prospects is that he’s running against this batch of pathetic Republicans.

Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace Is “In Touch” With His Ass

Chris Wallace has been described by some of his peers as the face of journalistic integrity on the famously biased Fox News Channel. Even the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart once praised him saying that…

“I think that you are here, in some respects, to bring a credibility and an integrity to an organization that might not otherwise have it without your presence.”

That was an uncharacteristically muddled moment for Stewart. He was right, of course, that Fox News has no credibility, but he was way off in his assessment of Wallace who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is right at home on the network that deliberately falsifies the news.

On today’s Fox News Sunday, Wallace provided another example of his overt prejudice when he rudely cut off his colleague Juan Williams (video below). They were discussing presidential politics when Williams sought to make a point about the Republican’s affinity for the rich One Percenters:

WILLIAMS: The Republicans, in this time of Occupy Wall Street, are the protectors of the super rich.

WALLACE: [Laughing] I’m not sure if we should talk about Occupy Wall Street as a plus anymore…

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think we should!

WALLACE: Really? With all the violence in the streets? You really think that most of the American people…

Wallace pointedly interrupted Williams to make a snarky remark about OWS, which he followed up with a distortion about the incidence of violence. Most of the violent episodes at OWS sites have been perpetrated by law enforcement against the protestors. Williams made a valiant attempt to counter Wallace and complete his thoughts, but Wallace was unrelenting.

WILLIAMS: You know what? You are getting distracted, and you’re getting distracted by people who are crazy…

WALLACE: I think I’m in touch with what most people are thinking, which is they’re getting fed up with it.

When did Wallace become the arbiter of “what most people are thinking?” He is the host of the lowest rated Sunday news program and a representative of a minority viewpoint with regard to the key issues expressed by the 99% movement. Every poll shows that broad majorities agree with the agenda of OWS, particularly on taxation of the rich, protection of Social Security and Medicare, and reining in the power of corrupt and abusive corporations and getting them out of politics.

Clearly Wallace is wildly out of touch with the American people and pitifully unaware of that fact. Consequently, he persists in trying to censor Williams who plainly tells Wallace that he is not in touch.

WILLIAMS: The fact that is when you ask most people is Wall Street out of control; is there inequality in terms of income in this country? People say ‘Yes.” And those are the basic tenets of Occupy Wall Street.

At this point Wallace cuts Williams off again even as Williams is pleading to be allowed to finish is point.

WALLACE: Juan, there’s a limit. We want to play fair here.

WILLIAMS: You’re not playing fair, but go right ahead.

Wallace was determined to prevent any positive characterization of OWS from being articulated on his program. It was obviously a frustrating moment for Williams who criticized Wallace on the air for his unfairness. That’s nearly unheard of in these news talk circles.

It is particularly interesting in that Williams regards himself as the victim of editorial repression at the hands of his previous employers at NPR. He wrote a book on the matter called “Muzzled.” One has to wonder if that’s how he felt this morning with Chris Wallace.

Chris Wallace Begs Michele Bachmann’s Forgiveness

On last Sunday’s broadcast of Fox News Sunday, Anchor Chris Wallace listed a few of examples of why many people, including Republicans, consider Michele Bachmann to be a “flake.” Bachmann expressed her dismay at being insulted by Wallace, then left the studio to tell a Fox News reporter that she has the same spirit as serial murderer John Wayne Gacy.

After receiving harsh feedback from Bachmann’s supporters and Fox News disciples, Wallace immediately posted a video apology on the Fox News web site. However, that wasn’t enough because Wallace also had to call Bachmann that evening and personally kneel to kiss her ring.

All of this genuflection on the part of the Fox News anchor toward a favorite character on the network’s political soap opera is rather curious. One has to wonder why Wallace never apologized for calling President Obama and his administration “the biggest bunch of crybabies” he’d ever dealt with. Wallace also never apologized for calling Democrats “damn fools” for not gracing his program with their presence. These were insults that were aimed directly at his adversaries and represented his personal opinion, unlike the Bachmann episode where he was relaying the opinions of others. Yet he never felt compelled to apologize.

Does this represent Wallace’s fairness and balance? Or is it more representative of the point Jon Stewart made after getting Wallace to admit that Fox News “tells the other side of the story.” Wallace has since tried to back away from that comment by claiming he meant to say the “full” story. However, this isn’t the first time Wallace has used that framing to explain the Fox News bias. In July of 2008, Wallace told an interviewer that…

“…whether you like Fox News or don’t like it, it seems to me that it is a healthy development if only because it creates another view point.”

Yep. Fox News has been creating another point of view for years. Creating it from scratch at the behest of the conservative Republican hierarchy. That’s why no affront to liberals or Democrats is deserving of an apology, but when it comes to folks like Bachmann the amends must be made within minutes and repeatedly.

Fox News vs Jon Stewart vs Politifact

Last week The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. The interview included a discussion of Fox’s well known conservative bias and disinformation. While noting that Fox’s Washington chief, Bill Sammon, dictated “marching orders” to the network’s anchors and reporters (a segment that Fox edited out of the television broadcast), Stewart remarked that “the most consistently misinformed? Fox. Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.

Subsequently, the non-partisan fact-checkers at PolitiFact analyzed Stewart’s comment and concluded that it was false. This set off a flurry of activity in the blogosphere with lefties defending Stewart and righties hailing PolitiFact.

To be sure, there is room for debate on the matter of Stewart’s accuracy. Stewart himself accepted PolitiFact’s findings and apologized. But Media Matters made an excellent case refuting PolitiFact’s analysis and charging that they were making dissimilar comparisons. For instance, PolitiFact cited surveys that measured the civic knowledge of viewers. However, asking whether a viewer knows how many amendments there are to the Constitution is not the same asking whether the viewer believes that the health care bill contains “death panels.” The former is a civics lesson, the latter is misinformation.

One fact that is inarguable is that Fox is responsible for a great deal of misinformation. Politfact’s conclusion was strictly literal, holding Stewart accountable for saying specifically that “every poll” found Fox viewers the most misinformed. That may have been an exaggeration and, had Stewart said simply that many polls placed Fox viewers at or near the bottom of the pack, he would have been correct and PolitiFact would have agreed. On several points PolitiFact noted that…

  • Fox isn’t last on the list, although it’s close.
  • Once again, Fox News as a whole ranked fairly low among regularly used media outlets.
  • Fox clearly did the worst among the major news outlets.

After reporting PolitiFact’s findings, and apologizing, Stewart made a another attempt to illustrate the point he was originally making with Chris Wallace: that Fox misinforms their viewers, and they do so frequently. He used PolitiFact’s own research to make this point by enumerating some of the incidences where PolitiFact ruled against Fox News. It was a hilarious bit that itemized them in a rapid-fire fashion. As a public service I am reprinting them here, following the video, for those who wish to take their time to savor the irony:

  • Glenn Beck:Less than 10 percent of Obama’s Cabinet appointees have worked in the private sector.” — False (December 2, 2009)
  • Steve Doocy:White House Political Director once served as right-hand to ACORN chief.” — False (September 30, 2009)
  • Gretchen Carlson:The Texas State Board of Education may eliminate references to Christmas and the Constitution in textbooks.” — A Pants on Fire! liar award (March 12, 2010)
  • PolitiFact’s 2010 Lie of the Year: “Health care reform is a government take-over of health care.” (December 16, 2010)
  • Glenn Beck:The Muslim Brotherhood has openly stated they want to declare war on Israel.” — False (February 15, 2011)
  • Karl Rove:American troops have never been under the formal control of another nation.” — False (March 29, 2011)
  • Brian Kilmeade:Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s approval ratings are up.” — False (April 15, 2011)
  • Laura Ingraham:The Massachusetts health care plan is wildly unpopular among state residents.” — False (May 16, 2011)
  • Sarah Palin:There’s been more debt under Obama than all other presidents combined.” — False (June 1, 2011)
  • PolitiFact’s 2009 Lie of the Year: “Health care bill includes Death Panels” (December 18, 2009)
  • Kimberly Guilfoyle:Cash for Clunkers will give government complete access to your home computer.” — False (August 3, 2009)
  • Sarah Palin:Halting Gulf drilling costs $8 billion a day in imports.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (June 3, 2011)
  • Sarah Palin:Democrats plan largest tax increase in history.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (August 4, 2010)
  • Bill O’Reilly:Attorney General Eric Holder was involved in the dismissal of criminal charges against the New Black Panthers.” — False (July 23, 2010)
  • Sarah Palin:Obama voted ‘present’ in the U.S. Senate quite often. ” — False (February 8, 2010)
  • Glenn Beck:John Holdren proposed forced abortions and putting sterilants in drinking water.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (July 29, 2009)
  • Glenn Beck:Labor union president Andy Stern is the most frequent visitor at the White House.” — False (December 7, 2009)
  • Glenn Beck:America is the only country without automatic citizenship upon birth.” — False (June 19, 2009)
  • Bill O’Reilly:O’Reilly never called Dr. George Tiller a baby killer, only reporting what others called him.” — False (June 5, 2009)
  • Bill O’Reilly:Only Fox News picked up that Anita Dunn said Mao was one of her favorite philosophers.” — False (October 27, 2009)
  • Bill O’Reilly:Nobody at Fox News ever said you’re going to jail if you don’t buy health insurance.” — A “Pants on Fire!” liar award (April 27, 2010)

Is that misinformed enough for y’all?

Has Chris Wallace Ever Watched Jon Stewart?

Consider this article the flip side of my November 2010 article titled: Has Jon Stewart Ever Watched Chris Wallace? At that time I criticized Stewart for praising Wallace as a credible journalist despite the evidence to the contrary, which I enumerated in the article.

In this interview of Stewart on Wallace’s Fox News Sunday, Stewart continued to extol Wallace’s credibility even as Wallace demonstrated that he had none. However, Stewart was somewhat more on point distinguishing the rabid partisanship of Fox News from other media. Wallace opened the interview with a relevant and insightful quote by Stewart describing Fox News as…

“…a relentless agenda-driven 24 hour news opinion propaganda delivery system.”

So far so good. Then Wallace asked…

“Are you willing to say the same thing about the mainstream media – about ABC, CBS, NBC, Washington Post, New York Times?”

To this Stewart responded with an unequivocal “No.” He later elaborated saying that the bias of much of the media is toward “sensationalism, conflict, and laziness,” rather than liberalism. That was certainly borne out by the recent coverage that fixated on a liberal congressman’s adventures in sexting. Wallace is as oblivious to the mainstream media’s frequent bias against liberals as he is to Stewart’s regular satirizing of them.

When Wallace suggested that Stewart’s comparison of the editing techniques used in a Sarah Palin video and an advertisement for a Herpes medication was political, Stewart pointedly told Wallace, “You’re insane!” But Wallace was utterly incapable of comprehending the difference between the mockery of a person or a practice. It is the same distinction that many people miss with regard to The Daily Show. It is not, in fact, a program of political satire. It is media satire, and to the extent that it addresses politics, it is almost always with respect to how it is covered in the press.

For much of the interview Wallace attempted to portray Stewart as a “political player,” while Stewart maintained that he was, first and foremost, a comedian. In Wallace’s view there is no difference between what Stewart does and what Wallace himself does. I would say that at least one difference is that, while people are laughing with Stewart, they are laughing at Wallace. And when Wallace said that he thinks Stewart is an idealistic, partisan, activist, Stewart responded that “That’s the soup you swim in,” implying that Wallace simply can’t see it differently because of the partisanship that envelops Wallace’s perspective.

So far so good. Then Stewart referenced “ideological regimes” that get “marching orders” and Wallace asked…

“Then how do you explain me? Do you think I get marching orders?”

And here is where Stewart stumbled saying…

“I think that you are here, in some respects, to bring a credibility and an integrity to an organization that might not otherwise have it without your presence.”

Stewart is right, of course, about Fox’s lack of credibility, but he completely missed the fact that Fox is well known for issuing marching orders to their reporters. Former Fox News VP John Moody used to do so in his “Morning Memos,” and current Fox Washington Bureau chief, Bill Sammon, has repeatedly issued directives to cover stories with a specific bias. For example, he told his staff to use the phrase “government-run health care” instead of “Public Option” after establishing that public option tested better among voters. Likewise, he prohibited talk of global warming without disclaimers that there was disagreement about the theory, despite the fact that every legitimate climate scientist agrees that climate change is occurring and it is caused by humans.

Stewart should have been able to counter Wallace’s query on marching orders. Instead he gave Wallace a wholly undeserved compliment. How can Stewart regard Wallace as fair and balanced when Wallace is on record saying that, on the whole, he agrees with Sean Hannity? And where is Wallace’s integrity when he responds to Stewart’s assertion that news consumers are disappointed by saying that…

“I don’t think our viewers are the least bit disappointed with us. I think our viewers think, “Finally!” they are getting somebody who tells the other side of the story.”

That is a brazen admission that Fox’s purpose is to be biased and take sides on the way news stories are told. That quote should be chiseled into the facade of the Fox News headquarters building in New York, and it should settle, once and for all, the argument as to whether Fox News is biased.

But Stewart did get in a final dig that really sums up the role Fox plays in modern media when he noted that Fox has “the most consistently misinformed viewers.” That was a pretty gutsy thing to say to the Fox viewers who will be watching this. [Note: Stewart must have forgotten that his own viewers were rated the most knowledgeable]. Wallace didn’t even bother to rebut the point, instead he showed a vulgar and unrelated clip from a celebrity roast on Comedy Central and implied that Stewart had something to do with it. That was just a cheap shot that landed with a thud. More to the point is the fact that Stewart’s Daily Show is more popular than Fox News. Let Wallace deal with that.

[Update] I just swapped in the video above. This video contains portions of the interview that were cut out of the on-air version. Some notable segments that didn’t make it to air include Stewart asking Wallace if he “think[s] that Fox News is exactly the ideological equivalent of NBC News?” In response, Wallace said that “I think we’re the counterweight. I think they have a liberal agenda, and I think that we tell the other side of the story.” That’s another confession by Wallace that Fox is deliberately biased in a partisan way.

Also cut out was Stewart mentioning Bill Sammon’s emails, and the incident when all three networks cut away from Nancy Pelosi after she said she would be commenting on jobs and Medicare, but not Weiner. I wonder why Fox didn’t want their viewers to hear these segments.

[Update II] Jon Stewart has addressed the concerns of critics (and some commenters here) regarding the PolitiFact assessment of his remarks on Fox’s proclivity for misinformation. He notes that Fox has earned PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” award for two years running. But that aint all. Here is his informative and hilarious smackdown:

Has Jon Stewart Ever Watched Chris Wallace?

On last night’s The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart interviewed Chris Wallace of Fox News. The resulting veneration was cringe-worthy and wholly undeserved.

Stewart repeatedly praised Wallace as the lone representative of journalistic principle on Fox News, calling him their “news guy.”. This makes me wonder if Stewart has actually ever seen Wallace in action. If he had he would be familiar with how Wallace slants his reporting and cushions his interview subjects with praise, softballs, and leading questions, i.e.:

  • Asking the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes “is it unfair to say that this is a president whose heart doesn’t seem to be into winning the war on terror?”
  • Asking Rush Limbaugh what Obama has done TO the country.
  • Awarding ACORN pimp, James O’Keefe, the “Power Player of the Week.”
  • Calling Democrats “damn fools” for declining to appear on Fox News.
  • Admitting that he “generally agrees” with Sean Hannity.
  • Jumping to the defense of George W. Bush after director Ron Howard suggested comparisons to Richard Nixon.
  • Declaring Sarah Palin to be a “new star in the political galaxy.”
  • Asking George Bush if he was “puzzled by all of the concern in this country about protecting [the] rights of people who want to kill us.”
  • In a criticism of Democratic health care plans, making the absurd observation that “people don’t even contemplate end of life until they’re in an irreversible coma.”

To be sure, Stewart got in a couple moments of clarity. For instance, when he noted that Wallace was hesitant to ask challenging questions of fellow Fox Newser Sarah Palin. Stewart was also on target when he congratulated Wallace and Fox News for “taking back control of the House of Representatives,” clearly associating the goals of Fox News with those of the GOP. Wallace assumed the tribute was for besting MSNBC and CNN in the ratings (all Foxies care more about ratings than reporting). However, Stewart properly corrected him. And then there was the exchange wherein Stewart zinged Wallace by saying…

Stewart: You have a very clear narrative.
Wallace: You mean the truth?
Stewart: [Laughing] No. You know which party you want to elect.

But overall this interview affirmed my long-held criticism that interviewing is not Stewart’s strong point. He often seems more focused on fawning over his guests than challenging them. That’s tolerable when he’s interviewing Hugh Grant about his next romantic comedy, but with political guests he should be at least as provocative as he is in the show’s earlier “funny” segments.

Stewart’s Daily Show is still the funniest and most biting satire on TV. But he should never let a guest get away with the sort of spin for which they would be mocked were they to have done it on another program. And the ingratiating tone he took with Wallace, who is as overtly partisan as the rest of the Fox roster, was a failure from both an informative and a humorous perspective.

Hypocrisy Alert: Fox News Sues Democrat For Infringement

In a feat of Olympian hypocrisy, Fox News has filed a lawsuit against Robin Carnahan, the Democratic candidate for senate in Missouri. The network that regularly rails against the excess of litigiousness in American society, is alleging that Carnahan’s ad infringes on their proprietary property.

The ad in question has been temporarily removed from Carnahan’s web site, and YouTube as well, but you can still view it here. The offending content was a clip of Carnahan’s opponent, Roy Blunt, in a 2006 interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Wallace is seen asking whether Blunt is the right man to “clean up the House” given his financial ties to convicted felon Jack Abramoff, and his efforts on behalf of the tobacco industry despite his romantic relationship with a tobacco lobbyist.

In addition to copyright infringement, Fox alleges violation of privacy, misappropriation of Wallace’s likeness and – I kid you not – that the ad is “compromising its apparent objectivity.” This begs the question, apparent to whom? The filing itself (pdf) begins with a paragraph that contradicts Fox’s assertion of objectivity:

“In a smear ad against political rival Roy Blunt, Defendant Robin Carnahan for Senate, Inc. usurped proprietary footage from the Fox News Network to made (sic) it appear – falsely – that FNC and Christopher Wallace, one of the nation’s most respected political journalists, are endorsing Robin Carnahan’s campaign for United States Senate.”

By characterizing the ad as a “smear ad,” Fox may be setting up a lawsuit against itself for compromising its objectivity. Perhaps what Fox is really concerned about is that the ad may instead compromise their reputation for partisanship, as Wallace’s question actually addresses some very real and damaging facts about Blunt, a candidate belonging to Fox’s favored political party (the GOP). In fact, the ad’s representation of Wallace may actually enhance his reputation for objectivity, and therein lies the real dilemma for Wallace and Fox. They are fiercely attached to their biases and can’t abide anyone casting them as even marginally neutral.

Fox’s complaint is unlikely to prevail in court. The doctrine of Fair Use permits the reproduction of segments of copyrighted material, particularly in works of commentary and political expression. Fox News Sunday is an hour long program, but the clip in Carnahan’s ad is a just a few seconds. And it is clearly political in nature, which grants it further protection from the First Amendment.

However, what propels this lawsuit from the merely frivolous to the strikingly hypocritical is that Fox News doesn’t seem to have any problem with candidates who use their precious, copyrighted material in support of Republicans. In that scenario there isn’t any infringement or harm to objectivity. Take for example this ad for Rand Paul, featuring Fox News contributor Sarah Palin:

The ad contains all of the same elements that triggered Fox’s complaints against Carnahan: infringement, misappropriation of likeness, and harm to apparent objectivity. In the Paul ad, Palin is even making her endorsement on Wallace’s Fox News Sunday. So you have a Fox News employee, on a Fox News program endorsing a Republican candidate in a campaign ad, and yet Fox never filed suit against Paul.

If, as the lawsuit claims, Carnahan “intruded upon Wallace’s private self-esteem and dignity; and caused him emotional or mental distress and suffering.” then why isn’t the same true for Paul’s ad? Perhaps the severity of the mental distress and suffering was such that the aggrieved party became incapacitated and was unable to respond.

News Corpse would like to extend its sympathies to the poor and suffering Chris Wallace, Sarah Palin, and Fox News. This must be so hard on them.

Chris Wallace’s Heart Isn’t Really Into Journalism

This morning on Fox News Sunday, the lowest rated of all the network Sunday morning news programs, host Chris Wallace once again demonstrated his lack of commitment to fairness and balance when he asked the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes an absurdly framed question about Obama’s speech on the Iraq troop withdrawal last week:

Wallace: In that speech, to say “my central mission is to restore the economy,” is it unfair to say that this is a president whose heart doesn’t seem to be into winning the war on terror, no matter what it costs?
Hayes: No, I don’t think that’s at all unfair

Hayes deftly picked up the cue from Wallace who was obviously presenting Hayes with a gift-wrapped opening to disparage the President. For either of these notorious hacks to suggest that Obama’s attention to this nation’s serious economic difficulties translates into disinterest in battling Al Qaeda is borderline psychotic.

The President’s focus is pretty squarely aligned with that of the American people who are most concerned about the economy and jobs. That doesn’t preclude anyone from being concerned about national security as well. However, most serious analysts recognize that without a stable domestic economy we cannot expect to have much success in achieving our international security goals.

The ridiculous framing of Wallace’s question is not a fluke. He has long been a source of overt bias even as Fox News touts him as an example of their “real” news personalities, distinct from blatherers like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly, Neil Cavuto, Glenn Beck, and the cast of Fox & Friends. Some of Wallace’s great moments in partisanship include:

  • Asking Rush Limbaugh what Obama has done TO the country.
  • Awarding ACORN pimp, James O’Keefe, the Power Player of the Week.
  • Calling Democrats “damn fools” for declining to appear on Fox News.
  • Admitting that he “generally agrees” with Sean Hannity.
  • Jumping to the defense of George W. Bush after director Ron Howard suggested comparisons to Richard Nixon.
  • Declaring Sarah Palin to be a “new star in the political galaxy.”
  • Asked George Bush if he was “puzzled by all of the concern in this country about protecting [the] rights of people who want to kill us.”
  • In a criticism of Democratic health care plans, making the hilarious observation that “people don’t even contemplate end of life until they’re in an irreversible coma.”

Chris Wallace long ago cemented his reputation as a partisan phony in the field of journalism. He was fortunate to find his home on Fox News because few other news organizations would tolerate his level of unprofessionalism. But I suppose we should appreciate his willingness to serve up new examples of deceit and bias with each of his weekly outings. It makes it just that much easier to dismiss him and to prove that he and Fox News are not actually news and are wholly unworthy of our trust.

Chris Wallace Romances Rush Limbaugh On Fox News Sunday

If there really is a war between the White House and Fox News, Fox has fired the most recent shot. By booking Rush Limbaugh on his Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace has unveiled his undisguised enmity of the Obama administration. After a week of grueling debate on critical issues like health care and Afghanistan, Limbaugh’s appearance had no newsworthy justification. He had only his well worn opinions to offer, and nothing of substance regarding the week’s developments. The only purpose in booking Limbaugh is one that reveals Wallace’s biases and cynical desperation: He needs the ratings for his last place clunker of a news show.

The interview did have some sparks of entertainment. Wallace leads off with a comically prejudiced question:

“This week it will be one year since Barack Obama was elected president. In that time, what has he done for and to the country?”

Wallace asking Limbaugh what Obama has done “to” the country is a milestone in the history of softball questions. It superbly set Limbaugh up to make the startling announcement that he is “really, really worried;” that he has “never seen this kind of radical leadership;” that he believes that “the economy is under siege, is being destroyed;” and that it is “a denial of liberty, an attack on freedom” that “may be on purpose.” Limbaugh went on to describe Obama as immature and inexperienced. And in an unparalleled demonstration of a total lack of self-awareness, he said…

“I think he’s got an out-of-this-world ego. He’s very narcissistic.”

As the country’s collective laughter subsided, Limbaugh continued bashing the President, saying that he doesn’t care about Afghanistan and national security in general, or about soldiers and their families in particular, but that he has seen George W. Bush cry. He accused Obama of plotting “to regulate every aspect of human behavior” via his health care proposal. And when Wallace asked a question sent in by a viewer, the exchange went like this:

Viewer: If President Obama would agree to an interview, what would be your first question?

Limbaugh: Why are you doing this? Why? What in … what … What do you not like about this country that makes you want to inflict this kind of damage on it?

Now there’s a question that will surely stump Obama. That Rush sure is a brilliant inquisitor. It is that sort of superiority that drives Limbaugh’s success. When Wallace asked him about Glenn Beck, Limbaugh agreed that Beck has tapped into a vein of fear and anger. Ya think? But then he sought to take credit for it by asserting that before he came on the scene there was nothing that could be compared to him. He assumed responsibility for…

“…all of this conservative media, conservative talk radio, television, Fox News, the conservative blogosphere.”

It is interesting that Wallace just sat there as Limbaugh declared that he had created Fox News. [Note: Roger Ailes, who actually did create Fox News, had previously produced Limbaugh’s failed attempt to syndicate a TV show] And Wallace also didn’t seem to be bothered by Limbaugh lumping Fox into the vast garbage heap of conservative media.

Which brings us back to the Fox/White House war. If Fox were not deliberately adversarial, then why wouldn’t Wallace object to Limbaugh’s characterization? Why would Wallace have booked Limbaugh in the first place? This can only be viewed as a hostile act aimed at the President and crafted for Fox’s audience of rightist disciples. Who else even wants to hear what Limbaugh has to say? In the interview, Limbaugh delusionally confesses to Wallace that…

“It was a tough thing, Chris, to learn to take as a measure of success being hated, you know, by 20 or 30 percent of the country.”

If he thinks that’s tough, the real numbers should really depress him. In fact, they are the reverse of his rosy citation. Contrary to his unfavorables being between 20 and 30 percent, Gallup has his favorable rating at 28%, Democracy Corps has 21%, and CBS puts him at 19%. If this is war, Limbaugh and Fox are woefully short of ammunition.

Ever since Anita Dunn had spoken up honestly about the war Fox News had started against President Obama, even before his inauguration, there has been a great gnashing of teeth on the part of conventional punditry. Most, though not all, took the pedestrian and self-serving view that the President ought not to take aim at a media outlet. However, it would be folly to permit an enterprise with less credibility than the National Enquirer to persist in outlandish attacks without noting their journalistic deficiencies. The result has been that a public discussion has begun, and it can only be regarded as positive that much of the media has had to confront the question of whether Fox is actually a news organization. And nothing can be more delightful than hearing Fox anchors and reporters raising the issue of their own legitimacy on their own air. Even as they defend themselves, they replant the question in the minds of viewers.

With obviously partisan programs like Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday handing over large chunks of scarce airtime to committed conservative bulldogs like Limbaugh, the question as to the fairness and balance of Fox News becomes ever more evident.

Chris Wallace Fluffs James O’Keefe On Fox News Sunday

For much of the past week, Fox News has been promoting the exclusive appearance of James O’Keefe, the ersatz pimp who produced the ACORN entrapment videos, on their Sunday interview program. The actual segment, it turns out, was not an interview at all, but an overtly favorable puff piece. O’Keefe was heralded as the Fox News Sunday Power Player of the week:

This blatant adoration of O’Keefe had no news content whatsoever. It was pure puffery from start to finish. The only items worthy of note were 1) O’Keefe’s answer to Wallace’s question on whether he broke the law. O’Keefe’s answered “I don’t know what the law is.” 2) Wallace’s search for what drove O’Keefe. Wallace said that what he found was “A special outrage with liberal hypocrisy.” 3) O’Keefe’s admission of intent to do harm in his “reporting” saying that “If you use their rules against them, you can really just tease them and mock them and really destroy them.”

So O’Keefe wants to destroy the liberals and doesn’t seem to care about what laws he breaks to do it. He also doesn’t care about what journalistic ethics he violates. A short examination of the Code of Ethics as enumerated by the Society of Professional Journalists, reveals numerous breaches. These are just a few, with some particularly egregious transgressions highlighted:

  • Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
  • Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
  • Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
  • Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
  • Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
  • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
  • Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
  • Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
  • Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
  • Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.

With so many infractions of credible behavior, it is interesting that Fox News chose this character to honor as a Power Player. O’Keefe’s avowed prejudices and absence of professionalism would lead most reputable news enterprises to denouncement rather than tribute. But instead, Fox celebrates this journalistic parasite. It is a testament to the lack of credibility of Fox News itself.

Fox News Is Soliciting Donations For ACORN Foe Hannah Giles

In yet another example of the interconnectedness of Fox News to blatantly partisan political activities, a “news” link on the Fox Nation website actually goes to a defense fund donation page for ACORN foe, Hannah Giles. You may recall that Giles is the YAFfie who dressed up as a hooker and accompanied her ersatz pimp, James O’Keefe, on a mission to entrap ACORN workers on hidden video.

The defense fund site was set up by the Plano, TX, based Liberty Legal Institute, an organization whose mission statement describes as their purpose…

“To achieve expanded religious freedom and family autonomy through litigation and education designed to limit the government’s power, increase the religious rights of citizens and promote parental rights.”

A defense fund for Giles appears to be outside the mandate of LLI, as it has nothing to do with religious and/or parental rights. Nevertheless, the right-wing organ has assumed responsibility for raising cash on behalf of the pseudo-journalist. The site’s administrator is Roe Ann Estevez, Director of Marketing for the LLI affiliated Free Market Foundation. Despite its name, it is also a faith-based enterprise that seeks to impose religious principles into government affairs.

However, the big problem here is that Fox has partnered with these conservative organizations to provide legal funds and cover to an individual who is an avowed activist for conservative causes, and who is presently being investigated for violations of privacy laws. The link at the Fox Nation will not land you on an article about the defense fund, but on the fund’s donation page. It does not provide information about the legal efforts on behalf of Giles or the groups organizing those efforts. It simply provides you with a solicitation to contribute.

The closeness of this association flies in the face of Fox’s recent attempts to distance themselves from the activities of Giles and O’Keefe. When ACORN announced that they would be suing the pair, along with Fox News, Fox complained that they had nothing to do with the video stunt. They asserted that they were merely broadcasting a story brought to them by a couple of independent reporters with whom they had no affiliation. But by openly promoting a defense fund for Giles, Fox can no longer pretend that there is no relationship between them.

As further evidence of Fox’s complicity with the anti-ACORN punkers, James O’Keefe will be interviewed this Sunday by Chris Wallace. This is another in a long line of appearances on Fox, the only network where the pair will agree to be questioned.

This fundraising project by Fox is an egregiously inappropriate affront to journalistic ethics. What would Bill O’Reilly say if CBS News directly promoted a defense fund for the fired ACORN workers? That is simply not within the purview of a legitimate news organization. And there is the key word: legitimate. Fox News is proving once again that they can make no claim to legitimacy. They are an unabashedly partisan player with an open interest in advancing their own political agenda. Nothing more.

Chris Wallace Contemplates The End Of Life

From the Department of Prize Winning Stupidity

Chris Wallace of Fox News was interviewing Jim Towey, former director of faith-based initiatives in the Bush administration, about the trumped up “death book” controversy. This is a pamphlet distributed by the Veteran’s Administration that assists people in making end-of-life decisions, like preparing a living will. Wallace has twisted this into another ludicrous myth that accuses the VA of promoting suicide. And then he let’s this whopper loose:

WALLACE: I guess one of the questions I have about it is why would those even be in a document about end of life? Usually people don’t even contemplate end of life until they’re in an irreversible coma.

Yep. That’s when I plan to contemplate end-of-life. The next time I’m in an irreversible coma it’ll be the first thing I do.

The Figment Of The Center-Right Imagi-Nation

Throughout much of last year’s presidential campaign, and right on through the first weeks of Barack Obama’s administration, the media has persistently peddled the falsehood that America is a center-right nation, politically and socially. Now Media Matters has published a study (full pdf here) that thoroughly debunks this notion, and they do it by using surveys and facts that realistically portray the ideological character of the country – something the media may want to check in to.

The Media Matters study is a comprehensive look at the American electorate. It covers virtually every one of the most debated subjects of public discourse: Size of government; health care; taxes; abortion; gay rights. It also examines the demographics of age, ethnicity, gender, and geography. And every case the evidence shows that America is a progressive, and yes, a center-left nation.

And nowhere is this more misunderstood than in the media:

  • Tom Brokaw (NBC): “This country, even with the election of Barack Obama last night, remains a very centered country, or maybe even center-right in a lot of places.”
  • Jon Meacham (Newsweek): “…insisted that to govern successfully, Obama had to become a center-right leader in order to match America’s ‘instinctively conservative’ streak.”
  • David Broder (Washington Post): “…warned that too many victorious Democrats in Congress had ‘ideas of their own about what should be done in energy, health care and education.'”
  • Karl Rove (Fox News): “Barack Obama understands this is a center-right country.”
  • Chris Wallace (Fox News): “You could make the argument that this is still a center-right country.”
  • Chris Matthews (MSNBC): “I’ve noted that we’re right of center except when we’re in a crisis, when we’re left of center.”
  • Bob Schieffer (CBS): “These Democrats that were elected last night are conservative Democrats.”

I’m not sure exactly why the press is so brain dead in this regard. It’s not as if the record isn’t crystal clear. Obama was portrayed by Republicans, and most of the press, as a liberal extremist – even as a Socialist, or worse. And yet, Obama won a decisive victory. Democrats have also been winning larger majorities in the Congress with each election cycle. And Obama’s approval rating have maintained stratospheric levels. The public supports the President’s policies even when they are told that it may increase their taxes.

At the other end of the scale, Republicans are descending into historical depths of disrepute. Their de facto leaders are universally despised figures like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh. Their policies, I’m sure, would be rejected with equal disdain, if they were to articulate any. As it is, they just regurgitate the same old slogans they have been chanting for decades, and those are not particularly well received.

It will be interesting to see what it will take to get the media to recognize what the rest the country already knows. This is a nation that has had its fill of rightist greed and incompetence. We have ousted many of the representatives in public office who led the nation down a path of war and recession. While we can, and did, adjust the make up of our government to more closely reflect our values, it will not be as easy to fix the media. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

Starve The Beast: The Wrath Of The Right

We are now a month into the administration of Barack Obama. It’s a month that seems to have been packed with a year’s worth of activity. From the first day in office when Obama issued executive orders permitting more openness with presidential records and Freedom of Information Act requests, to announcements of major policy agendas for an economy on life support and the still soul-sapping wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the White House has been busy, to say the least.

At the same time, they have had to deal with the opposition of an increasingly obstructionist Republican minority and a media that is overtly hostile. Last year, prior to the election, Fox News was already fortifying its right flank. New multimillion dollar contracts were handed out to Roger Ailes, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. Hannity’s show shed the dead weight of alleged liberal Alan Colmes. Glenn Beck was brought in to shore up the daytime crowd. Neil Cavuto, a bully who is every bit as obnoxious as O’Reilly poisons the economic news, and he is also managing editor of Murdoch’s Fox Business News. And just this week Bill Sammon, author of a shelf full of bitterly partisan books, was promoted to VP and Washington Editor for the network.

The result is a full court press of some of the dirtiest political assaults ever waged by what is advertised as a “news” network. Fox News is shamelessly pushing a campaign to characterize Obama as a Socialist – a committed opponent of America and its values – from 6:00 am with the crew of Fox & Friends, to after midnight with broadcasts and repeats of their primetime neanderthal shoutcasters. They get their marching orders directly from Rupert Murdoch who last September said that…

“[Obama’s] policy is really very, very naive, old fashioned, 1960’s socialist.”

Even worse, these rightist dissidents come very close to openly advocating acts of violence and armed rebellion. Glenn Beck’s ominously titled “War Room” was an hour long descent into fear mongering that posited nothing short of the decline of western civilization. The upshot of this Terror Hour is that America’s days are numbered, so you had better start stockpiling guns, hoarding food and water, converting your dollars to gold, and barricading your secluded compound in the Wyoming wilderness (move over Ted Kaczynski). And, of course, it’s all Obama’s fault.

Another result of this Apocalyptic programming surge is higher ratings for Fox News. The core primetime schedule on Fox has enjoyed a rare uptick in audience growth. For the past three years, Fox, while number one in total audience, has been the slowest growing network in cable news. CNN and MSNBC produced consistently stronger growth. Particularly MSNBC, which was once a struggling also-ran, but which now challenges Fox’s powerhouses and routinely beats CNN. But the numbers for this February are another story.

Total Day: FNC +29%, MSNBC +17%, CNN +2%.
Primetime: FNC +28%, MSNBC +23%, CNN -30%.

What accounts for the turnaround in Fox’s fortunes? Well, first of all, they are benefiting from their previous slack performance. In other words, they were able to record higher comparative rates of growth because their prior year numbers were held down due to some rather unique circumstances. To understand the current numbers, you need to remember what was going on a year ago.

In February of 2008 the Democratic Party was in the middle of a hotly contested presidential primary. Early in the month it was already apparent that McCain would win his Party’s nomination. Consequently, audiences viewing campaign news were disproportionately composed of Democrats. Amongst the biggest draws were the televised debates. Democratic candidates, you may recall, had forsworn Fox News as a host for their debates. So the two Democratic debates held in February 2008 were carried by CNN and MSNBC, and both drew audiences many times greater than their regularly scheduled programming. Democrats also shunned Fox for other TV appearances and interviews. It had gotten so bad that Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, made a veiled threat in December of 2007:

“I think the Democrats are damn fools [for] not coming on Fox News.”

We know the problem still existed in March of 2008 because that’s when Wallace debuted his Obama Watch: a clock that would record how long before Obama appeared on Wallace’s show. It was a childish prank on Wallace’s part, but it clearly showed that the Democratic embargo of Fox News was having a real impact. For CNN and MSNBC, who had the guests and the event programming that appealed to the most motivated news consumers, it meant higher ratings. Fox, on the other hand, had depressed numbers because their most loyal audience – Republicans – already had a candidate, so there was no campaign drama to keep them tuned in. Comparing those numbers to February 2009 would, therefore, be favorable to Fox by producing a greater percent difference.

So some of the good news for Fox was really just a matter of perception. But that’s not the whole story. They are actually having a pretty good year, particularly post-inauguration. All the networks have suffered some falloff from January, but Fox has retained more of their recent gains than have their competitors. I can only offer some informed speculation as to why that would be.

First, Fox has more new programming that may be piquing the interests of their viewers. The new programs include a retooled Hannity, minus Colmes, and Glenn Beck’s Acute Paranoia Revue. Beck has found his home at Fox. His ratings have significantly increased over what he had at HLN, and he has also improved the time period he fills on Fox. As for Hannity, dumping Colmes was obviously popular amongst the Foxian pod people. It’s just that much less non-approved, pseudo-liberal noise they have to sit through.

Secondly, by heating up the aggressive tone, Fox has fashioned a hearth around which despondent conservatives can huddle. In 2006 they suffered the loss of both houses of congress. Now they have lost the presidency as well – and to what they view as an unpatriotic, Muslim, elitist, intent on driving the nation to Socialism in a Toyota hybrid. So now they congregate in the warm red glow of the Fox News logo that provides them the comfort that comes from numbing propaganda and the righteous smiting of perceived enemies.

This doubling down on rancor has had mixed results for Fox. While it endeared them to their base, and those they could frighten into submission, it also cost them dearly on a broader financial scale. The stock of Fox News parent, News Corp, is down 70% for the last 52 weeks. To be sure, the economy, particularly for media companies, was difficult, to put it mildly. But News Corp competitors Time Warner, Disney, and even the Washington Post were only down in the 45-55% range. News Corp suffered its worst loss ever of over $6.4 billion. And going forward, they advised Wall Street that income will decline another 30% for fiscal 2009.

In examining the reasons that Fox would perform so much worse than similar enterprises, one would have to consider the possibility that people have become disgusted with the obvious one-sided manipulation and the non-stop, phony news alerts that are Fox’s shock in trade. But I believe that it would also be fair to conclude that the direct actions taken against Fox News by Democrats last year are at least partially responsible for Fox’s inordinately more severe decline. The ratings disparities year over year document the effect that a sustained campaign of snubbery can produce.

Starve The BeastWith the stepped up efforts of Fox to sling ever more buckets of mud, it is more imperative now than ever that Democrats act affirmatively in their best interests. They must resist the siren call of televised glory and begin to discriminate between those who are fair practitioners of journalism and those who seek only to engage in slander and slime. In two previous installments of my Starve The Beast series (part 1 / part 2), I described how complicity with Fox News is not merely a waste of time, but is demonstrably harmful. This is even more true today, as the evidence above illustrates. The message that Democrats and other progressives must take to heart with all deliberateness and determination is: STAY THE HELL OFF OF FOX NEWS! Since it hurts us when we appear and it hurts them when we don’t, the way forward is crystal clear. It makes absolutely no sense to lay down before lions who are determined to devour you.

Now, I don’t want to approach this from a purely negative standpoint. While constructing a united front in opposition to Fox News is an absolute necessity, there are some positive steps that can be taken as well. Other news organizations must be pressured to present a more balanced picture of current events. And, where possible, true liberal voices must gain access to the televised public square. Media Matters long ago documented the imbalance of conservatives and Republicans on the Sunday news programs. That ideological discrepancy has continued apace since Obama’s inauguration. Now it’s time to do something about it. It’s time to make a case for TV to offer a more equitable representation of liberal views – the views of the majority, the winners.

Political activism has always been shaped in part by access to polling. It is an irreplaceable asset for anyone managing a campaign for a candidate or an issue. Similarly, TV survey data is critical in analyzing media performance and prospects. This data is distinct from conventional polling. Remember, networks don’t care about the public. They care about a subset of the public that is attractive to their customers. And their customers are not viewers – they are advertisers. While there are many sources for political data, there are few for media data – and most of those are press releases from vested corporate interests. There is little that we can do with ratings data that has already been massaged to advantage one particular party.

If progressives want to have some influence on programming, they must be able to anchor their arguments with original research and facts. For this reason, it is no longer enough for sites like Media Matters or Talking Points Memo or Daily Kos or News Corpse to merely document right-wing media abuses. If we want to help shape the editorial direction of the Conventional Media, we have to offer authoritative presentations to map a path to bigger audiences and ratings victories. We need to speak to the needs of the news providers and give them a business case for adopting a truly balanced programming model. To do this we need access to the raw data that is at the heart of television marketing.

So who amongst the lefty netroots will step forward and subscribe to Nielsen Media Research broadcast and cable data? I’m going to rule out News Corpse because I can’t afford it. But I do have 14 years of experience in media research and would be willing to help produce analyses and presentations. Just as progressive authors and bloggers offer informed advice to advance political goals, we need to be able to make a persuasive, market-based case for the sort of programming reform that we want to see. We need to be able to show the networks that it is in their interest, financially and ethically, to develop programming that is honest and in keeping with the principles of an engaged and probing press. We need to be able to counter the false impressions relentlessly pushed by faux news enterprises that tout themselves as the popular voice of the nation. It seems that a day does not go by that Bill O’Reilly doesn’t boast about his ratings. The funny thing is that he also condemns the source of those ratings with the delusional paranoia that only he can muster:

“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.”

So O’Reilly thinks that the system he so proudly cites for affirmation of his massive popularity, is also engaging in big-time cheating for the benefit of his foes. If he’s right, and Nielsen data is not to be trusted when they report that his competition is catching up, than why should we trust it when it reports his success. In truth, the only cheating going on is on the part of the self-promoting networks and the egomaniacal personalities they employ. It is their selective and misleading interpretations that are distorting the reality of viewer behavior.

Suffice it to say that we would be in a much better position to dispute the spin that’s being peddled if we had access to unfiltered Nielsen data. We could mine that data to develop solutions and strategies to present to news programmers. Then we may begin to have some influence over news programming, personalities, and content.

This is as important an endeavor for progressives as the strategies we promote for politicians. I would argue that it’s more important. Especially in a media environment where prominent news enterprises are openly fomenting a near-militaristic antagonism to our representatives and our values.