Remember when Barack Obama was campaigning for president and Fox News tried to shackle him to anyone they thought would damage his reputation? Bill Ayres, who was barely an acquaintance, turned into a terrorist that Obama was “palling around with.” Rev. Jeremiah Wright became a daily fixture on the Fox News Channel consuming more airtime than the actual presidential candidates. And others, from Louis Farrakhan to Ludacris, were presented as villains that Obama was obligated to renounce, despite the fact that he had nothing to do with them and they were not a part of his campaign.
Which brings us to 2014 and the utterly reprehensible Ted Nugent, who recently called Obama a “subhuman mongrel.” That’s the least of the disgustingly hostile remarks that Nugent has spewed at the President and other targets of his sickly wrath. Yet Nugent was embraced by Greg Abbott, the leading Republican candidate for the governorship of Texas, who even shared the stage with him to accept his endorsement.
When this twisted relationship came to light, some in the media properly put it in context with inquiries about whether it was appropriate for a gubernatorial candidate to link arms with a vulgar, racist, misogynist, pedophile. But one network maintained complete silence, ignoring the controversy entirely. That is until after Nugent issued what may be the most starkly non-apology apology ever made:
Nugent: I do apologize – not necessarily to the President – but on behalf of much better men than myself, like the best governor in America, Gov. Rick Perry. The best attorney general in America, God, just think of America had an attorney general as great as Greg Abbott, like we do here in Texas. So on behalf of those professional politicians, and those who put their heart and soul into representing We The People so actively, like the people I just mentioned [...] I apologize for using the street fighter terminology of subhuman mongrel instead of just using more understandable language such as violator of his oath of the Constitution. The liar that he is.
It can hardly be considered an apology if it expressly excludes the person who was the target of the original attack. Nugent was only sorry for the wingnut politicos who suffered due to their association with him – which was really more their fault, than his. Nobody forced them to accept his advances. Likewise, an apology doesn’t ordinarily include additional personal accusations of lying and treason.
So after ignoring the story when it first broke, and then pretending that Nugent’s apology was even remotely sincere, Fox News addressed the matter again on Howard Kurtz’s Media Buzz. It was a brief segment near the end of the program that only peripherally mentioned Greg Abbott. To Fox News the meat of the story had something to do with a dispute with CNN.
Notice the lower-screen graphics that label the story as “Ted Nugent vs. CNN.” It isn’t Nugent vs. Abbott, or Nugent vs. Obama, or Nugent vs. Decency. Somehow Fox squeezed out an angle that cast the story as a dust up with a competing news network. This is not an incidental point. A team of Fox editors and producers had to have had a meeting to hash out this preposterously skewed perspective. They must have begun with a determination to avoid allowing the story to negatively impact Abbot, or others with whom Nugent has been affiliated, including Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Rick Perry. Then they brainstormed a way to deflect the muck onto a common enemy. Lookout “liberal” media.
Once again Fox News has demonstrated that they are more interested in protecting their allies and attacking their enemies than they are in informing their viewers. The deliberation that had to have been mustered in order to concoct this nonsense illustrates just how hard they work at being deceptive and unethical. And all that hard work pays off in an audience of blindly loyal dimwits with the same ignorant incivility as Nugent.
Both CNN and Fox News have Sunday morning programs that analyze the media. On CNN it’s Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter. On Fox News It’s MediaBuzz with Howard Kurtz. This morning both programs chose to lead off their broadcasts with the same story that essentially takes MSNBC to task for doing respectable journalism.
MSNBC has been at the forefront of the Chris Christie Bridge-Gate scandal from its inception. They broke the story on television with the help of the local Bergen Record newspaper in New Jersey. Since then they have scored some significant scoops that have rattled the Christie regime. One example of that occurred last week when Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer told MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki that the Christie administration held Sandy relief funds hostage to force her to support a real estate project that Christie favored. Not surprisingly, Christie retaliated by dispatching his spokesman to swing back at the messenger:
Christie spokesman Colin Reed: MSNBC is a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him, even taking the unprecedented step of producing and airing a nearly three-minute attack ad against him this week.
Notice that nowhere in that statement did Reed dispute the actual content of MSNBC’s reporting. It was just a self-serving attack on the network’s liberal reputation. The example he offered of an “unprecedented” three-minute attack ad (video below) was really just a thirty second mock video demonstrating how Christie’s opponents could use the scandal against him should he run for president in 2016. And it wasn’t unprecedented either, as Fox News actually did produce a four minute anti-Obama ad prior to the 2012 election that they deleted after it had become an embarrassment.
In a week that included a Supreme Court ruling against Network Neutrality, two speeches by President Obama, and a major book release about Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (The Loudest Voice In The Room), both CNN and Fox led off their weekly media programs with stories about MSNBC’s coverage of Christie. CNN had an on-screen graphic with the pressing question, is “MSNBC Attacking Chris Christie?” While Fox went for the more macho “Christie Declares War On MSNBC.” Of course, everything on Fox News is war (Christmas, class, liberty, capitalism, etc.). Fox also placed Christie’s war with MSNBC at the top of their lie-riddled Fox Nation website. [See the acclaimed ebook Fox Nation vs. Reality for proof of Fox Nation's catalog of lies]
There was nothing in either program that refuted the factual accuracy of MSNBC’s coverage, but the tone was nonetheless disparaging. The real question, however, is why did they both put this story at the front of their broadcasts. Was it really more important than the other media news of the week? Or were they simply jealous that they didn’t get these scoops themselves? It may be significant that MSNBC had a rare Nielsen ratings victory for the week that featured the Bridge-Gate reporting. Could that have been what drove CNN and Fox to criticize it? Either way it makes both networks look awfully petty for attacking a rival for doing their job.
There’s an old saying that wisely counsels to leave well enough alone. Unfortunately, the Tea-guzzlers at Breitbart News have dismissed that advice and unleashed an assault against CNN and its chief, Jeff Zucker. Never mind that CNN has devolved into a nearly useless platform for right-wing propaganda as evidenced by their recent interview of Glenn Beck by Beck’s own employee, S.E. Cupp. But that’s not good enough for the BreitBrats. Now they are launching an attack on CNN that is so feeble they had to make up quotes to hammer them with.
The title on Breitbart’s article is “CNN To Republicans: Drop Dead.” Of course, no one on CNN ever said or even implied that. The flimsy impetus for the citation occurred in an article that was a slobbering love sonnet to Fox News by BreitBrat Tony Lee, whose feathers were ruffled by a remark made by CNN’s Zucker at a TV convention. Zucker responded to a question about a recent Fox criticism of CNN by correctly pointing out that “I think we all know what’s going on there. The Republican Party is being run out of News Corp. headquarters [and] masquerading as a channel.” Zucker was merely acknowledging the obvious: that the cozy relationship between Fox and the GOP is a well documented fact. [Note: Fox happily reposted the Breitbart article on their own web of lies, Fox Nation]
BreitBrat Tony rushed to Fox’s defense with a quote by the Chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Preibus who denied that Fox was his party’s mouthpiece saying “Hey Jeff Zucker, we’re the Republican Party and we speak for ourselves, pal.” Sure they do. They just do it mostly on Fox News, and when they aren’t available, Fox does it for them.
Lee then gets to the point by alleging that “It’s an interesting strategy Zucker has: trash the Republican Party and, by extension, all Republicans.” Except where in Zucker’s remarks did he trash the Republican Party? He merely noted that Fox is a GOP friendly network, which no one who is paying attention would dispute. Zucker’s comments were not even directed at Republicans at all. They were characterizing Fox News’ obvious partisan bias. But apparently associating Republicans with Fox News constitutes “trashing” in Lee’s view.
The rest of the article went on interminably about how Fox is beating their competition in the ratings, as if that had some relevance to the subject or to the measure of news quality. Lee’s conclusion, therefore, was summed up in the article’s second made up quote: “These factors led The Hollywood Reporter to declare that Roger Ailes and Fox News had won the cable news wars.” The only problem with that is that the Hollywood Reporter declared no such thing. In fact, it was Ailes himself who made the declaration in an interview with the Reporter.
It takes an astonishingly low grade level of comprehension to take a quote by Ailes and attribute it to the Hollywood Reporter simply because that’s where it was published. But the quote itself was deliberately misleading and self-serving, as one might expect coming from the the CEO of Fox News about his own network. The only people who still believe that cable news quality is measured by ratings are the marketing and the PR departments. The truth is, in a point made often here at News Corpse, is that being number one is only a measure of popularity, not quality. After all, McDonalds is the number one restaurant in America, but very few people would say that it is the best quality food in the country. However, they do have something in common with Fox News:
Last week a major story broke about Sean Hannity interviewing three couples who claimed to have been harmed by the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). However, an aide to the former governor of Montana contacted these alleged victims and published his account on Salon.com. What he discovered was that not a single one of them had even bothered to look at the insurance exchange to ascertain whether or not they would be helped or harmed. The entire episode of Hannity’s program was a lie.
So this week the Fox News MediaBuzz program, hosted by Howard Kurtz, spent less than a minute on Hannity’s blatantly dishonest broadcast, but took an interesting perspective. Kurtz trivialized the deliberately false segment by asking whether “Fox News is providing balance to the rest of the mainstream media.” Of course. Bringing in six allegedly neutral Americans to lie through their teeth about a health insurance program they didn’t even bother to explore is merely an attempt to “balance” the news coverage of the plan. At least according to the ethics (or lack thereof) of Fox News.
Kurtz introduced his segment by noting the falsehoods proffered by Hannity and his lying guests. But he ended the same introduction by asking “Could it be said that various news outlets were pushing their own agenda?” This implication that overt dishonesty is equivalent to simply advocating for an agenda reveals the crass interpretation that Kurtz and Fox have of journalistic ethics. And his insertion of blame attributed to unnamed “various news outlets” is just his way of pretending that everybody does it. Forty-five seconds later the segment was over without anyone mentioning Hannity’s name again.
For contrast, CNN’s Reliable Sources covered the same story. They spent four and half minutes on it, complete with clips from Hannity’s show and an interview of the Salon author, Eric Stern. Of course, CNN has a competitive motivation to more thoroughly examine an embarrassing episode for Fox, but the differences between these reports are still significant. CNN did what journalists do. Fox swept their dirt under the carpet.
When Howard Kurtz announced that he was leaving CNN to become a media analyst at Fox News, he said that “Fox wouldn’t have hired me if it wasn’t interested in my independent brand of media criticism.” However, Fox never hires anyone for their independence or accuracy. In fact, the further you stray from reality, the better your employment opportunities at Fox. And this segment that leaves Hannity unscathed and quickly shifts to another subject (how the media unfairly beat up on Republicans after their humiliating defeat over the government shutdown), is evidence that Kurtz has no intention of being independent.
For the past couple of weeks there has been a flurry of fretful reporting about a threat by Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus to ban CNN and MSNBC from the GOP primary debate schedule. Priebus is disturbed by currently non-existent projects about Hillary Clinton that he is certain will characterize her favorably.
Today Priebus made good on his threat by shepherding a resolution though the RNC’s annual meeting that declares that they “will neither partner with these networks in the 2016 presidential primary debates nor sanction any primary debates they sponsor.”
Fun Fact: How many GOP primary debates did the RNC sponsor in 2012? Answer: Zero
There were twenty debates held and not a single one was sponsored by the RNC. However, every debate on Fox News was sponsored by a state Republican Party affiliate. Also notable is that MSNBC held a debate co-sponsored by the Reagan Library, and CNN held debates co-sponsored by Tea Party Express, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute.
There is, however, a small problem with the Priebus declaration. The RNC has no power whatsoever to prohibit any debate by an network. Sure, they can pass resolutions that make grandiose claims to authority that they don’t have, but reality trumps their hubris. The truth is that any network can announce its intention to produce a debate. They can invite candidates to participate. The candidates are free to accept or reject any offer as they see fit. Chances are, the second and third tier candidates will accept virtually any opportunity to promote themselves on national television. Subsequently, the frontrunners will be reluctant to let their competitors have the stage to themselves. So the debates will go on with a full cast of characters.
Priebus’ threat, therefore, is an impotent cry for attention. He is not empowered to force his will on the people who are vying to be the next leader of the free world. In a best case scenario he may be able to influence the number of debates, which is a goal he has previously articulated. After all, it is fairly obvious that the more Republican candidates are exposed to the American people, the more they will embarrass themselves, and the more votes they will lose. The GOP has a distinct interest in limiting their exposure, and that is what Priebus is aiming for.
The hypocrisy of Priebus’ resolution is apparent in the fact that he is only nixing CNN and MSNBC, even though there have been reports that Fox may be producing the NBC project. Priebus cannot extend his toothless ban to Fox or there would be no cable news networks available to host a GOP debate. But there is no reasonable explanation for why Fox would be given a pass (other than their role as the GOP PR division).
Fun Fact: What do you get when you remove the vowels from Reince Priebus’ name? Answer: RNC PR BS
The full text of the resolution cites campaign donations by the head of NBC’s entertainment division to Hillary Clinton, but the head of Fox News’ parent corporation has done likewise. Also, the News Corp political PAC, News America Holdings, has given more to Democrats than Republicans in each of the last four election cycles. So if producing Clinton documentaries and donating to her campaign warrant prohibition as debate hosts, then Fox clearly qualifies.
Finally, there have been recent calls for the RNC to recruit right-wing loyalists as moderators for their debates. The names mentioned most frequently include Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin. In response, Levin has said that he is ready and willing, despite the fact that he has previously said that he will do whatever he can to prevent Chris Christie from becoming the GOP nominee. As for Limbaugh, he told his radio dittoheads that he is “too famous” and would “overshadow” the candidates. That’s a telling remark in itself, as it demonstrates just how diminutive is the stature of the GOP field. Perhaps the GOP should nominate Limbaugh.
This tussle could not be better for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. If the RNC is successful in limiting the number of their debates it will have effectively cut off millions of Americans from learning about their candidates (although, as noted above, that might a good thing for the GOP). But even worse is the prospect of debates led by staunchly conservative radio talk show hosts. Priebus and company think that friendly moderators will help avoid the antagonistic questioning that he presumes would occur on other networks. But to the extent that that is true, it will also result in the candidates being woefully unprepared for the full-contact combat they will eventually encounter in the general election. What’s more, the rightist Taliban, as represented by Limbaugh et al, will be more likely to force candidates to stake out extreme positions which they will be unable to “Etch-a-Sketch” away after the primaries. The wingnut media are notoriously committed to the sort of ideological purity that voters find repugnant.
So if the RNC wants to proceed with this self-defeating initiative, they will have the full support and cooperation of their pals at the DNC. Nothing would please Democrats more than Republicans digging themselves ever deeper holes of extremism. The outrageous statements and gaffes that occur at the “official” RNC events would still be broadcast on the other networks afterwards. So Priebus’ efforts to limit the damage would be futile, and even counterproductive. As would his admonition that disobedience “may include severe penalties for candidates that participate in unsanctioned debates.” That’s right – Priebus plans on giving the reprobates a good spanking. Wouldn’t that look great on a candidates permanent record?
This is just too funny. RNC chair Reince Priebus has sent letters to the heads of CNN and NBC to protest their plans to produce projects about Hillary Clinton, who is a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. Priebus is very upset and is issuing an ultimatum to the networks that will surely cause them to lose sleep – due to their uncontrollable fits of laughter.
What isn’t so funny is a political party that thinks it has the right to demand that entertainment producers bend to its will. In fact, it’s an open assault on freedom of expression. It would be one thing for the RNC to decline to work with a network that it believes has a partisan slant against them. But it is something else entirely to threaten a network in order to force them to alter specific programming.
Priebus begins his missive by whining about the perceived bias that has been a part of the GOP gospel for decades:
“It’s appalling to know executives at major networks like NBC and CNN who have donated to Democrats and Hillary Clinton have taken it upon themselves to be Hillary Clinton’s campaign operatives.”
Appalling indeed! I’m sure that Priebus is just as disturbed by the million dollar gift that Fox News (News Corp) gave to the Republican Governor’s Association, and all the other right-wingers at Fox who have donated to Republicans, including News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch. And there is no network that has so brazenly acted as a partisan campaign operative than Fox News, the PR division of the GOP. Priebus’ letter to Fox must still be in the mail. In the meantime, he is making his position to CNN and NBC crystal clear:
“If they have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote stating that the RNC will neither partner with these networks in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates they sponsor.”
Oh my. If CNN and NBC were unable to acquire any of the GOP primary debates they might be forced to schedule interesting and entertaining programs instead. That’ll show ‘em.
Let’s face it, the RNC has never been thrilled about putting their candidates in situations where they might face fair questions about their records and policy positions. They herd them onto Fox News where they can expect softballs and gushing praise. During the 2012 campaign right-wingers like Hugh Hewitt and Breitbart’s John Nolte were counseling the RNC to ban debates hosted by what they believed to be unfriendly media. Sarah Palin was advising Republicans to “speak through Fox News.”
The best thing that could happen to the Democrats is for Republicans to sequester themselves in the bosom of Fox News. It would limit their exposure to the broader electorate and the independents they need to win. It would also insure that their candidates were unvetted and unprepared for the real-life battles of a campaign. If they spend the primary season being fluffed by Fox, when they eventually face the general election they will be surprised by sharp criticisms from which they were shielded in their chummy primary.
One positive aspect of this strategy is that fewer voters, and a more narrow, conservative subset, would see the primary telecasts. Considering how often the GOP candidates in 2012 embarrassed themselves, that could be a benefit. Of course, those segments would still be looped on every other news broadcast the following day, so the benefit would be short lived.
By giving CNN and NBC the cold shoulder, the RNC increases the likelihood that only voters who have already decided to vote Republican will see the debate in its entirety. And while that limits their exposure to gaffes, it also limits their opportunity to make an appeal to undecided voters. Since Priebus has already promised to hold fewer debates in the future, the GOP’s visibility to anyone outside their circle shrinks considerably. The result is that GOP primary voters will be more partisan, more extreme, and more out of pace with the general population. That’s a recipe for a Republican nominee who will lead the party to a massive defeat.
Ironically, the motivation for the Priebus ultimatum is the prospect of a couple of Hillary Clinton projects being released several months prior to the 2016 election. That was precisely the issue that sparked the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling that now permits corporations and individuals to make unlimited, anonymous donations to political campaigns. At the time, Republicans were fiercely supportive of the Citizen’s United production and its release just a few weeks prior to an election. Now they are just as fiercely opposed to it.
What’s more, Priebus accuses the networks of producing a “political ad masquerading as an unbiased production.” How he arrived at that conclusion he doesn’t say. He has not seen either production or spoken with the producers. He has no idea whether they will be complimentary, derogatory, or neutral representations of Clinton. He is making a wholly uninformed assumption and using that as the basis of his attempt to bully the networks.
So let the RNC snub CNN and NBC and any other “lamestream” media that they are afraid of. Let them take their balls and go home to Fox News where their cult-like disciples will embrace them with enthusiasm. It will only result in there being less of their obnoxious blather littering the television landscape and a better chance of them losing in November of 2016. Nice work Reince.
[Update: Priebus took his whining to (where else) Fox News last night and reiterated his silly ultimatum. Meanwhile, both CNN and NBC have refused to cave saying that it is “premature” to judge the projects that are not even in production at this time. Priebus gave an 8/14 deadline for the networks to comply. Here’s hoping he is dumb enough to follow through.
Chalk up another acquisition by Fox News of an outcast from some other news network. As has been noted here at News Corpse, Fox “seems to regard the discards of other networks as their richest vein of new talent.” Today it was announced that Fox has scooped up CNN’s media analyst Howard Kurtz, who was recently censured by CNN, and jettisoned by The Daily Beast, for “sloppy” reporting that disparaged Jason Collins, the newly out NBA player. So of course Fox News would leap at the chance to add Kurtz to their roster. Other recent rejects by CNN that have joined Fox include Erick Erickson, Lou Dobbs, and Tucker Carlson.
Kurtz has a spotty reputation at CNN where he has, on occasion, had some profound commentaries that expose media hypocrisy and bias. But he has just as often proven to be a tool of the Washington villagers who dismisses serious failings and neglects the shortcomings of his colleagues. He is the ultimate insider who is married to a right-wing PR consultant, a fact that he does not disclose when reporting on related matters. In statements marking the new relationship, Fox and Kurtz were typically effusive of one another:
Fox VP Michael Clemente: Howie is the most accomplished media reporter in the country. Kurtz: I’m excited to be bringing my independent brand of media criticism to Fox News. [...] I hope to add a new dimension to Fox’s coverage and have some fun while diving into the passionate debates about the press and politics.
Not everyone at Fox has the same opinion of Kurtz as Clemente does. Sean Hannity sneered that Kurtz was a “nitwit,” and railed that “I don’t like him. He’s full of crap. He thinks he’s a sanctimonious, self-righteous, phony establishment journalist.” Bill O’Reilly, upset that Kurtz had criticized his epically erroneous analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision on ObamaCare, said “Kurtz does the bidding of Media Matters, and, I don’t know, maybe I should just ignore that and, as you say, move along down the highway, but it certainly disturbs me a little bit.” It should be noted that associating Kurtz with Media Matters is about the worst thing that O’Reilly could ever say about anyone. He regards Media Matters as “vicious, far-left, dishonest, smear merchants.” The question now is, will Kurtz provide fair and balanced coverage of those programs as a Fox News anchor?
On Fox, Kurtz will assume the anchor role on Fox News Watch, a weekend program that is distinguished by its panel of five devout conservatives against one alleged liberal. The five conservatives (Judith Miller, James Pinkerton, Cal Thomas, Richard Grenall, and host Jon Scott) are weekly regulars while the “liberal” seems to be whatever phony they can manage to scrape up that week. If they stick to this format it should be an easy transition for Kurtz who is used to covering for Fox’s biased reporting.
Full disclosure: I was once mentioned in a Kurtz column when he was with the Washington Post. Kurtz was aggregating reactions from a Laura Bush speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner:
The colorfully named News Corpse says the media should take a deep breath:
“The humor-challenged media is tripping all over itself to to praise the First Lady’s appearance before the White House Correspondents’ Association. Apparently their funny bone twitches uncontrollably at the sight of Laura being able to read from a sheet of prepared jokes. The talk in the television press has ranged from, ‘ Get this woman her own show .’ to, ‘ Maybe she should run against Hillary .’. . . .
“I suppose it’s too much to ask that the people who brought us Monica Lewinsky, Chandra Levy, Michael Jackson, Terri Schiavo, the Old Pope, the New Pope, and Jennifer ‘Runaway Bride’ Wilbanks, would suddenly chose to avoid blowing things up beyond all sense of proportion.”
Colorfully named? Maybe Kurtz will get the joke now that he is working in the News Corp empire. And just so nobody forgets, this is what Fox News thinks about their new colleague:
In yet another attempt to turn their audience into blithering idiots, the Fox Nationalists have posted the results of a CNN poll on ObamaCare with a thoroughly misleading headline and commentary: “Poll: Majority of Americans Oppose ObamaCare.”
Rather than linking to the actual poll results on CNN’s web site, Fox Nation links to a little known blog, Red Alert Politics, an affiliate of Clarity Media. Ultra-rightist billionaire Philip Anschutz owns Clarity as well as the conservative Weekly Standard. The excerpt that Fox extracts from Red Alert says merely that “54 percent of Americans still do not support President Obama’s signature domestic policy, compared to the 43 percent of Americans who support it.”
Not surprisingly, that is not the whole story – or even an honest representation of the limited story. A cursory glance at CNN’s web site fills in the details that Fox has deliberately suppressed. Although CNN also distorts the lede, at least they include the data that puts the poll’s results into context:
“A majority of Americans still oppose the nation’s new health care measure, three years after it became law, according to a new survey.
“But a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday also indicates that more than a quarter of those who oppose the law, known by many as Obamacare, say they don’t support the measure because it doesn’t go far enough.”
In other words, many of those who are being counted as opponents are actually supporters of a more liberal national health care plan. In a rational world, these people would not be lumped in with the Tea-publicans who want to repeal ObamaCare. They would be regarded as supporters who advocate an even more comprehensive policy.
Since 43% of respondents said that they support ObamaCare, and another 16% said that they support a more liberal version of it, a more accurate presentation of the poll’s results would say that 59% of Americans were in favor of the legislation – including some who want it to go further – and only 35% were opposed. That’s a solid majority of supporters.
But it may be too much to expect that Fox could grasp the complexities of math after they spent the last couple of years rejecting it along with pretty much every other principle of science and academia.
It is well known that Fox News is an unreliable network for anyone interested in factual representations of current events. They will unabashedly lie in order to advance the ideological agenda of their political and corporate allies. And yet, it is still unsettling when something like this happens:
Within the space of about half an hour, Fox News vividly demonstrated that their issuance of a “confirmation” is of no value whatsoever. After announcing that an arrest had been made in the Boston Marathon bombing, Megyn Kelly repeatedly assured her viewers that the information she was reporting had been verified by multiple sources. But it didn’t take long before the bottom fell out of her assurances.
To be fair, CNN also misreported the story and had to make an embarrassing retraction. The only cable news network that applied the rigorous standards of journalism and refrained from jumping on the erroneous story was MSNBC. Pete Williams, NBC’s justice correspondent, and NBC anchor Brian Williams, both made appearances to refute the reports that were coming out of other news outlets.
Will these people never learn? A few months ago both CNN and Fox (also Megyn Kelly’s show) misreported the Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare. And again, only MSNBC got the ruling right. On that occasion CNN acknowledged their mistake and apologized to viewers. Fox refused to do either, claiming that their analysis was justifiable at the time because they believed it was correct and, therefore, there was nothing for which to apologize. I know…it’s crazy.
Nevertheless, a prolonged discussion took place in the media about the pressure to be first butting up against the responsibility to be right. And despite the universal agreement that accuracy is the measure by which news enterprises will be judged, they continue to fall short of the professional standards they profess to hold.
News organizations can be forgiven for making mistakes from time to time because they are staffed by people and people are not perfect. But they ought ot learn from their mistakes and they ought to demonstrate that they care about the product they produce. At least CNN respects their audience enough to show some remorse. Fox News doesn’t have that kind of class. In fact, their routine abuse of their audience via fabrications and distortions suggest that Fox couldn’t care less what their viewers think they know. From Fox’s perspective, the more confused their viewers are, the easier it is for Fox to continue to deceive them.
The mediasphere is buzzing tonight with the news that Fox News is not renewing the contract of the world’s worst pundit, Dick Morris. Shortly after last November’s election Fox announced that he and Karl Rove would not be permitted on the air without special permission from the network brass. Since then, Rove’s contract was picked up, but until today no one knew what the fate of Morris would be.
Well, now we know. Morris has been thrown out in the cold along with Sarah Palin. This development has caused some analysts to ponder whether Fox is rethinking their signature news model of fabricating scandals and fomenting fear. But fear not. Any notion that Fox would alter the formula that earned them the disrespect of actual journalists everywhere can be set aside.
The fact is that, while Fox is jettisoning Morris (the former Clinton adviser who was caught sucking the toes of a prostitute while they both listened in on calls to the Oval Office), Fox has also hired recently dumped CNN contributor Erick Erickson (who honored retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter by calling him a “Goat-fucking child molester”). So as you can see, Fox’s reputation remains in tact.
Dick Morris did become somewhat of an embarrassment for Fox after insisting that Mitt Romney would win a landslide victory over Barack Obama. However, that was only his most recent exhibition of idiocy. Morris has been making an ass of himself for years. Particularly notable was his book, “Condi vs. Hillary,” in which he predicted that they would be the candidates in the 2008 election. But Morris got the Democratic nominee wrong; he got the Republican nominee wrong; and the Republican who Morris said could win if he were nominated (McCain) actually was nominated and lost. Is there any way Morris could have been more wrong?
It is nevertheless curious that Fox thinks Erick Erickson will somehow be less embarrassing. He is a vulgar and ignorant ultra-rightist partisan whose observations are shallow and factless. On second thought, he should fit right in at Fox. CNN’s decision to nix him seemed, momentarily, to be a possible sign of redemption. However, CNN just announced that Morris would be a guest on this Wednesday’s episode of the Piers Morgan show. Hopefully that is a one-time booking for the purpose of grilling him and then casting him back into the garbage where he belongs. But with CNN it’s hard to tell where they might be going with this. After all, they did employ Erickson for the past three years.
The cable news wars have been in a state of flux lately, with MSNBC overtaking Fox in parts of primetime with important audience segments. CNN just hired the former NBC/Universal chief, Jeff Zucker, and is beginning to shuffle their programs and people. But Fox still has the most stagnant schedule in cable news with old timers like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Neil Cavuto, and the Fox & Fools in the morning. So anybody expecting to see much of difference in the future for Fox is likely to be proven as mistaken as Morris has been.
Continuing a downward spiral that began last September during the Democratic National Convention, Fox News primetime ratings, in the key 25-54 year old demographic, have declined to numbers they haven’t seen since August of 2001. These are numbers that revert Fox back to the George Bush, pre-9/11 era when Fox was struggling for attention.
9/11 was an integral part of the rise of Fox News. It was the catalyst that formed their America-first persona and thrust them into a role as cheerleaders rather than journalists.
These twelve year lows for their best known programs portend trouble for Fox as their audience tires of a schedule that hasn’t changed in more than a decade. Creaky old timers O’Reilly and Hannity have been in their time slots since the network launched in 1996. Worse yet for Fox, their slump is occurring at a time when MSNBC is soaring. For most of the time since last November’s election, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell have been beating Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity in the demo. In addition to those victories, most of MSNBC’s programs are the top performers among 18-34 year olds, which means that they have a significant advantage with the next generation of television news consumers. MSNBC is also number one with African-American viewers, a status they have enjoyed for 36 consecutive months.
The graying Fox News is a phenomenon that is occurring with both their programs and their audience. While many of Fox’s shows held steady in total audience, they plunged in the younger demos. This was true across the board with primetime and all other dayparts, including their three hour morning block, Fox & Friends. Conversely, MSNBC’s audience was up in both the demo and total audience. The ratings story for MSNBC is no longer merely one of faster growth and higher percentage gains. They are now beating their Fox competition head-on in primetime and challenging them respectably in daytime.
For the most part it appears that MSNBC’s gains are coming from new, younger viewers. They certainly are not luring dissatisfied Fox viewers over to their channel. However, Fox now has to worry about a rebuilding CNN. Their new president Jeff Zucker is shaking up the roster with announcements of hirings and firings both in front of and behind the camera. Considering that the previous management at CNN was so inept and oblivious to the news marketplace, it is hard to believe that Zucker won’t produce some improvement. And with Fox viewers abandoning the network that has been lying to them so brazenly, CNN may start to look like a plausible alternative.
Of course, as the ratings race heats up, Fox may decide to stop standing around watching their lead disappear. They will need to take bold steps to keep up with the competition. While O’Reilly is still pulling in decent numbers, Hannity is ratings loser and an embarrassment in terms of credibility. He has to be the first to go. Greta Van Susteren’s claim to fame was as an O.J. Simpson groupie who has never risen out of the tabloid mold in which she was formed. Now that her best pal and frequent guest (55 times), Sarah Palin, has been dumped by Fox, Van Susteren would be wise to update her resume. The most likely candidate to fill one of those vacancies would be Megyn Kelly, who has emerged as Fox’s most stridently biased anchor in the daytime.
There are those at Fox who know that a big part of the explanation for their decline is that the audience at large is no longer interested in the vitriolic smear jobs that Fox has specialized in for most of the past decade. They just watched President Obama get reelected, along with Democratic gains in both houses of Congress, despite their fierce determination to kneecap the Democrats and prop up the flailing GOP. They did the best they could to install a Republican regime with a coordinated campaign of propaganda and hate speech, but they failed miserably even in races they were expected to win. So they are aware that the public has rejected their best arguments and lies.
The trick will be to moderate their political biases in order to appeal to a broader audience without causing their loyalist legions to pull up stakes and camp out on Alex Jones’ web site plotting a restoration of the Confederacy from their bunkers. Spurned conservative extremists of the sort that form the foundation of the Fox audience are a vengeful lot. They primary long-serving GOP incumbents and replace them with crackpots who have no chance of winning. And that’s the sort of reaction they would have to any attempt by Fox to become less wingnutty. The Fox regulars would not only stop watching a more moderate Fox, they would turn against it with the force of a swarm of rabid squirrels deranged by disease and paranoia.
That leaves Fox in the impossible position of having to cater to their faithful fringe while reaching out to more rational viewers. It simply can’t be done and they would displease both. The only sensible course for Fox would be to accept a few seasons in the cellar as they regroup with a focus on responsible journalism. But that isn’t the style of the hardcore rightists in the Fox executive suites. Neither Rupert Murdoch nor Roger Ailes would be inclined to surrender the platform they built for wealthy elitists, captains of industry, Christian evangelists, and other power mad egomaniacs who are convinced that God has selected them to rule.
The good news is that their self-centered intransigence will insure that Fox continues to slide into obscurity and the people will have a better opportunity shape a more equitable society. Of course, the people would still have to overcome the rest of the media-corporate-government complex that has long been the biggest obstacle to a truly democratic nation. But it’s a start.
Monday’s presidential inauguration was a television event that was heavily promoted by all of the networks covering it. But one network was conspicuously short of viewers during President Obama’s speech and throughout the broadcast day.
While overall viewing was down for all three cable news networks compared to 2009′s inauguration, Fox took the deepest dive. CNN led during the President’s address with 3.1 million total viewers. MSNBC came in second with 2.3 million. Fox was dead last with 1.3 million. In the critical 25-54 year old demographic the numbers for Fox were even more dismal: CNN had 1.1 million in the demo. MSNBC had 706,000. Trailing significantly was Fox News with only 294,000, which was less than half of MSNBC and just over a quarter of CNN.
To some extent it is not surprising that the network that appeals most to Obama haters did not deliver their audience of whiny-ass sourpusses. It’s a constituency of sore losers who aren’t interested in staying informed and were probably busy cuddling their Bushmasters and forwarding chain emails about tyranny and the collapse of civilization.
What’s most startling in the ratings data is the relative disparities between the networks and their declines. Fox News was off a jaw-dropping 75% (82% demo) from 2009. CNN sunk a hefty 61% (67% demo). MSNBC, by comparison did fairly well with a mere 25% decline (37% demo). Digging deeper, these numbers tell us something that is even more foreboding for Fox. The percentage of their audience composed of the lucrative younger demos falls way below that of their competitors. CNN’s demo audience was 35% of their total viewers. MSNBC has 31% in the demo. But only 22% of Fox’s viewers are 25-54 years old.
That means that the next generation of news consumers is avoiding the severely conservative channel in droves. What’s more, MSNBC’s primetime anchors Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell were number one in their time slots for 2012 in the 18-34 demo. MSNBC has also led in African-American and Latino viewers. So by every measure MSNBC is positioned for future gains, while Fox is bracing for the bottom to fall out.
These numbers are not merely tabulated for bragging rights. They represent the potential for ad revenue. As the numbers fall, so do Fox’s profits. And with their dearth of the desirable youth demos, the advertising Fox maintains will command lower rates.
However, it is also true that the lion’s share of that plunge was the 75% of Fox viewers who tuned out. Apparently Fox is so intent on publicizing information that they believe reflects badly on the President that they didn’t even notice that it looks even worse for themselves. Well, nobody ever accused them of being brainiacs.
Once upon a time there was a groundbreaking 24-hour cable news network that came to dominate broadcast journalism. After nearly two decades as the undisputed leader in its market, CNN began to stumble and was eventually overtaken by both Fox News and MSNBC.
There are many factors that contributed to CNN’s decline, including a certain arrogance derived from having the field to itself for so long. When Fox came along and challenged CNN, they were unprepared for a competitor that didn’t really care about news, instead favoring a more entertainment oriented approach that focused on a sexier brand of melodrama and sensationalism. Also, the hardcore, right-wing partisanship of Fox News herded all of the conservative news sheeple into one corral, artificially inflating the ratings picture. From the start, Fox reflected the views of its financier, Rupert Murdoch, and its CEO, former GOP media guru Roger Ailes, who described his own philosophy of journalism this way:
“If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?”
And ever since Fox has been throwing Democrats into orchestra pits that were built by Fox engineers and reporting that in place of actual news.
In responding to the competition, CNN did not help itself by embarking on the path to Foxification. Their management made the foolish mistake of concluding that Fox’s success was related to their blatant conservative bias and abandonment of journalistic principles, and rushed to reproduce that model themselves. They installed Ken Jautz, a rabidly right-wing promoter, as it’s chief. Jautz was the man who gave Glenn Beck his first job in television. Then CNN went on a hiring binge that consisted of the most unsavory figures from Wingnutlandia including: Amy Holmes and Will Cain (of Glenn Beck’s The Blaze), Erick Erickson (of the uber-conservative blog RedState), Dana Loesch (of Breitbart News and the Tea Party), and E.D. Hill, a former Fox anchor and Bill O’Reilly guest host, who is most famous for saying that a friendly fist bump between the President and the First Lady was really a “terrorist fist jab.”
CNN was the only cable news network to broadcast live Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response to Obama’s State of the Union address. Then they co-sponsored a GOP primary debate with the corrupt Tea Party Express. They also co-sponsored a debate with the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. However, they conspicuously failed to program similar events with lefties like MoveOn.org or the Center for American Progress.
Dressing up like Fox was damaging to both CNN’s credibility and their ratings. Even Fox’s business network recognized that copying Fox News was a losing strategy. FBN VP Kevin Magee sent a memo to his staff saying that…
“…the more we make FBN look like FNC the more of a disservice we do to ourselves. I understand the temptation to imitate our sibling network in hopes of imitating its success, but we cannot. If we give the audience a choice between FNC and the almost-FNC, they will choose FNC every time.”
Unfortunately, no one at CNN could grasp that simple truth. Now CNN has a fresh opportunity to restore its former glory. Following the resignation of Jim Walton, CNN has tapped former NBC/Universal chief Jeff Zucker to replace him as the president of CNN Worldwide. Zucker has a mixed record at NBC. During his tenure the entertainment division went from first to fourth. He presided over the catastrophic move of Jay Leno to primetime, then back again to late night, which resulted in the loss of Conan O’Brien. However, NBC News boasts the top rated morning and evening news broadcasts. And MSNBC has rocketed into an unexpectedly competitive position with Fox. In fact, since election day, MSNBC has actually outperformed Fox.
Zucker has an abundance of existing assets with which to remake CNN into the global media powerhouse it used to be. They have more reporters in more parts of the world than their competitors. In fact, CNN has more domestic and foreign bureaus than Fox and MSNBC combined. Fox invests very little in news bureaus or other news gathering operations. The bulk of their expenditures is on their “celebrity” presenters and pseudo-pundits. Fox is an enterprise that is engaged more in news analysis and manipulation than anything resembling journalism. While MSNBC benefits from the substantial resources of NBC News, the cable network has concentrated more on opinion and advocacy in recent years.
All of this creates an opening for CNN to become what its marketing department already pitches the network as: a news channel. CNN’s audience still expects the network to perform at its best when some catastrophic event occurs. They continue to get high tune-in for natural disasters and acts of war. However, there isn’t always a convenient calamity to fill their airtime. So they cram their schedule with pablum and phony attempts at balance, but succeed mostly at boring their viewers with a desperate effort to avoid offending anybody.
The question now is, where will they go from here? The best way to put CNN back in the game is to adopt a hard news profile that dispenses with petty partisan bickering. In one of his first quotes after the announcement of his hiring, Zucker said that “news is more than just politics and war.” That’s true. Viewers have many immediate concerns that would compel them to watch a network that provided them with information about issues that impact their lives. That includes economics, civil liberties, health, crime, education, jobs, the environment, etc. And the job of a news network is more than just reporting what occurred. It is also putting it context, explaining matters that are often complex, and making the whole package entertaining enough to keep the viewer’s attention.
By concentrating on real news, CNN can stake out territory that its competitors are neglecting. They can focus on the fundamentals of journalism that consist of shoe-leather investigations, relevant interviews, and compelling production values. They need to jettison the political hacks who populate their studios and replace them with policy experts and academics. This will turn the predictable, partisan slapfights into informed discussions. And the audience can get something out of the program that is more substantive than a red face and ammunition for their next bout with a contrary uncle at a family dinner.
When the subject turns to politics, who would you rather see debating, for instance, raising the age for Social Security eligibility? A Democrat and a Republican who will spew the same old party line talking points? Or an expert on retirement economics and an apolitical career administrator from Health and Human Services? Obviously the later would be more informative, but it could also be more dry and difficult to sit through. That’s why the art of storytelling needs to be brought back to news reporting.
With actual intellectual content to convey, it would be up to anchors and producers to package it attractively. For that you need professionals who know how to tell a story and engage an audience. The newspaper business used to be full of people with those skills until all the papers started folding up. CNN could snap up some of that talent and put them to work juicing up stories that people are really interested in. In fact, there would nothing wrong with employing dramatists and humorists to write news copy that makes people feel something, so long as they stick to the news. And the presenters should be people with demonstrated abilities to connect with audiences on a personal level. Add some dynamic graphics and music and those experts on retirement economics can become downright scintillating.
Finally, there is a concept that has crept into the production of contemporary news that is not, and should not be, a part of quality journalism. CNN should ban the notion of balance from all of their reporting. Balance is a false objective. The goal of honest journalism should be truth. For example, it does no one any good to interview a doctor about the documented health risks of smoking, and then bringing in a tobacco advocate for “balance.” An opposite opinion is worse than a waste of time, it is counterproductive, if it is not based on reality. A news network should not tolerate science deniers, birthers, and zealots who peddle fables as if they were facts.
If CNN wants to be a player in cable news, they need to avoid accepting the terms of their competition. They need to set the terms themselves. And if they commit to identifying the issues that matter to people, and presenting them honestly and with a bit of showbiz flash, they can draw the kind of engaged and loyal audience that appeals to advertisers which, of course, is critical to success in this business. Plus, they can actually serve a positive purpose by educating viewers and advancing dialogs of substance. Even better, if this approach is successful it will spur other news enterprises to follow a similar path. Then, maybe, one day, we can be proud of the American media and not regard it with the disdain that it currently inspires.
When you hear the right complain, as they always do, about the so-called liberal media, keep in mind the fact that Fox News is the most watched cable news network, that the Wall Street Journal is the largest national newspaper, that talk radio is dominated by conservatives, and that the Internet’s most referenced site belongs to Matt Drudge. What exactly do they think the media is?
Add to that the fact that many establishment news providers bend over backwards to avoid being targeted by conservative critics for having a liberal bias. Or worse, they strive to emulate the right-wing media in hopes of duplicating their perceived success.
CNN is the worst offender in this contest of running to the right. Their aggressive shift in ideology has been well documented. They have hired numerous far-right extremists with no effort to achieve any sort of balance. And that includes the news chief, Ken Jautz. Consequently, their ratings have collapsed along with their journalistic integrity.
This past weekend CNN broadcast another example of how their sinking ethics have impacted their news judgment. The segment by Tom Foreman was centered on the absurd premise that the Obama campaign has engaged in “Swiftboating” Mitt Romney by accurately questioning his business experience, his millions of dollars in off-shore tax havens, and his refusal to release more than a year or two of his tax returns. Foreman concludes his report saying…
Tom Foreman: In ad after ad, Democrats are suggesting that Romney is a fatcat job outsourcer, an opportunistic financial predator, and an elitist out of touch with the working class. Never mind that many of those claims appear to be backed with little or no evidence. [...] Some Republican analysts fear that Mitt Romney could be the second politician from Massachusetts to be Swiftboated out of the presidency.
The problem with Foreman’s conclusion is that there is abundant evidence of the claims made in the Obama ads. And the questions they raise are those that would require answers from any political candidate. Who could deny that Romney is a fatcat? The job outsourcing by Bain entities is not even denied by Romney. He just argues that he wasn’t there at the time (despite official SEC filings that contradict him). And how could someone be more out of touch than by saying that he likes to fire people, he’s not concerned about the poor, and that corporations are people?
Foreman was not alone in raising the specter of Swiftboating on CNN. Reporter Jim Acosta misused the term when he interviewed Mitt Romney on Friday asking him whether he thought he was being Swiftboated. Talk about your softball questions. And media analyst Howard Kurtz also misused the term while promoting his Sunday program Reliable Sources. He was acutely concerned about Romney’s welfare under the intense pressure he must be suffering.
Howard Kurtz: I’ve been increasingly worried about whether the media that have been pushing a lot of these stories, “Boston Globe”, “Washington Post” on outsourcing, “Vanity Fair” on Cayman Island accounts, seem to some people to be echoing the message of the Obama campaign by raising so many questions about Romney’s business background.
Apparently Kurtz is of the opinion that if a story is getting a lot of attention the reporters should immediately stop covering it for fear of overtaxing the beleaguered subject of the story and to avoid charges of bias by “some people” on the receiving end of the bad news. How very considerate of him.
For the record, Swiftboating is a term that describes a campaign to disparage a candidate’s strengths that is based on falsehoods and lacks evidence. It is wholly improper to use the term simply to denounce ads that are critical of a candidate. Criticism that is rooted in the truth, with evidence to back it up, is not Swiftboating in any way shape or form. In fact, refraining from such relevant criticism would be campaign malpractice.
Asking Romney to account for his activities in business, which is the core of his campaign, is fair game. So is asking him to release tax returns as almost every candidate in modern times does – since his own father set the standard back in 1968. But suggesting that news coverage of such issues is Swiftboating, as CNN has done three times in as many days, is proof that the network has lost all interest in being a professional news enterprise.
CNN, the network that is presently struggling in third place in the cable news field it once dominated, has published an interview of Glenn Beck that sets a new standard for obsequious pandering. The article is not much more than a promotional vehicle for Beck’s new media enterprise and fails to disclose that two Beck employees currently work for CNN (Amy Holmes and Will Cain).
The article’s lede concerns Beck’s announcement that he is folding his GBTV web video unit into his web tabloid site TheBlaze. The author, Steve Krakauer, makes little mention of Beck’s vulgar rhetoric and conspiratorial delusions, instead describing Beck euphemistically as “a man full of complexities.” The only complex that can be associated with Beck is his Messianic one. He also doesn’t bother to offer any analysis of whether the merger is the result of rapid success, as Beck claims, or due to poor performance necessitating a merger to reduce costs.
Krakauer takes Beck’s claims of his alleged success at face value. He repeats estimates for subscriber numbers without attempting to verify the claim or inquire as to whether they are actually paying for the service. GBTV offers free trials for new subscribers, but does not reveal how many subscribers are paying or how many cancel after the free trial expires.
Then Krakauer gets into some truly puzzling territory when he permits Beck to assert his brand of fairness and balance. Krakauer cites what he calls the “clear non-Beckness” of TheBlaze, and lets Beck complete the picture by saying that “If you just look at the comments section, there are people who read the Blaze all the time but hate my guts.” Why that would surprise anyone is beyond comprehension. The Internet has a wide open, frontier ethos that allows everyone access to everything. It stands to reason that Beck’s adversaries would visit his site, just as Tea Partiers show up at the DailyKos. That is not evidence that TheBlaze is independent of Beck, just that it is online. And Krakauer’s next example of Beck’s alleged impartiality is no better. He cites an incident when TheBlaze criticized a fellow conservative:
“[O]ne of the most memorable and talked about series of articles on TheBlaze.com was a meticulous debunking of the James O’Keefe NPR videos, which claimed to show an NPR executive denigrating the Tea Party, that ran on an Andrew Breitbart-associated website.”
Indeed, TheBlaze did publish a detailed breakdown of O’Keefe’s slanderous hoax. But what Krakauer leaves out is that Beck was not acting out of any sense of journalistic integrity. He and Breitbart were engaged in a bitter feud at the time, with each alleging the other was a backstabbing phony. That may have had something to do with Beck’s takedown of Breitbart’s protege. However, Krakauer uncritically lets Beck get away with portraying himself as even-handed, but misunderstood:
“I think that’s people forgetting who I was and what I was saying when I was on CNN before Barack Obama. [...] Nobody ever, ever gives me credit for the times I’ve said on the air ‘the president is right on this, did this right’ or ‘the media is unfair by trying to say this about the president,’ or ‘the right is unfair.’ I bet I do that at least once a month.”
That’s just revisionist history on Beck’s part. He was broadly criticized for his dishonest and hateful rhetoric on Headline News. And, of course, it was that very rhetoric that got him his job at Fox after CNN ditched him. And the reason he doesn’t get credit for commending the President is because it occurred so rarely and only between accusations of fascism, socialism, racism, and threats of destroying America.
Astonishingly, Krakauer writes without any sense of irony that “Beck isn’t outwardly supporting either of the two major candidates in the 2012 election.” If he believes that he’s ready for the guys in white suits with the butterfly nets to take him to the friendly asylum in the country with the barbed wire fences. Does Krakauer think for a second that Beck would consider supporting the man he characterizes as a Stalinist bent on assuming tyrannical control of the nation and executing all resistors? Beck may not have endorsed Romney in so many words, but he has stated explicitly that America cannot survive another four years of Obama. So who do you think he’s supporting?
The article concludes with Krakauer gifting Beck with a closing statement that makes him appear to be some sort of visionary:
“We are on the threshold of something I think is as powerful as the Industrial Revolution was, except this one will happen in a very short period of time.”
Really? The threshold? Sorry but this revolution began at least twenty years ago. And many true visionaries were (and are) way ahead of Beck. The only thing Beck has done is to post web videos and publish an online tabloid-style news site. That has been done so much it’s almost passe. Every brick and mortar television station and newspaper has been doing it for years. Where’s the innovation? Saying his unoriginal venture is on par with the Industrial Revolution is like saying that starting a new blog today is on par with Gutenberg. Never mind that millions of bloggers have been doing for years.
This puff piece appearing on CNN is in line with their recent editorial direction. They have been heading ever more determinedly toward a Fox-Lite state that has done nothing for them but land them in the ratings cellar (a condition I wrote about just a couple of weeks ago). It’s a sad state of affairs for both CNN and the viewing public who would be better served by an honest, professional news provider than another megaphone for right-wing propaganda.
It has been well documented that Fox News is a disreputable enterprise that shuns any semblance of journalistic ethics. The most recent example, producing and airing an anti-Obama campaign-style video, perfectly demonstrates how far afield they are from a being legitimate news organization. Amongst the traits of Fox News that separate them from the pack is their tendency to attack their peers in the news business. That is almost unheard of from other cable networks, newspapers, or other outlets.
Today Fox News continued in that vein by leaping on the Nielsen ratings reports for May 2012. To be sure, CNN’s ratings were dismal. But so were the ratings for Fox which declined double digits and notched a primetime low that they haven’t seen since 2008. Nevertheless, Fox reported only on CNN’s numbers and ignored their own sickly showing. And nowhere in their story did they note that the decline was primarily due to the inflated ratings in May 2011, when the killing of Osama Bin Laden, hurricanes in the Midwest, and Casey Anthony were dominating the airwaves.
That said, Fox is inadvertently correct about a debacle at CNN, but not the way they mean. CNN is suffering a decline in viewership that is historic mainly because they pioneered the concept of the 24 hour cable news network but are now languishing in last place. But if they are perplexed by the sorry turn of fate they have experienced in recent years it is only because of their own willful blindness to the circumstances that led to it.
When Fox News began to approach and overtake CNN in the ratings, CNN management made the foolish mistake of concluding that Fox’s success was related to their blatant conservative bias and abandonment of journalistic principles. While that was (and is) the model for Fox’s programming, that played only a small part in their success story. The real reason that Fox excelled was that they had switched the deck. They were not in any practical sense a news network. Their programming was (and is) closer to an entertainment channel than anything else. They feature shallow, sensationalistic stories that rely heavily on melodrama, controversy, emotion and sex – the main characteristics of soap operas and reality shows. And they decorate their broadcasts with flashy graphics and sound effects that would be more appropriate for game shows. That’s what draws their viewers in, and that is always more compelling than actual news content.
However, CNN panicked and decided that the way to compete with Fox was to emulate their right-wing partisanship and theatrics. Ironically, even Fox’s business network recognized that emulating Fox News was a losing strategy. Fox Business Network VP Kevin Magee sent a memo to his staff saying that…
“…the more we make FBN look like FNC the more of a disservice we do to ourselves. I understand the temptation to imitate our sibling network in hopes of imitating its success, but we cannot. If we give the audience a choice between FNC and the almost-FNC, they will choose FNC every time.”
Unfortunately, no one at CNN could grasp that simple truth. Instead they installed Ken Jautz, a rabidly right-wing promoter, as it’s chief. Jautz was the man who gave Glenn Beck his first job in television. Then CNN went on a hiring binge that consisted of the most unsavory figures from Wingnutlandia including: Amy Holmes (of Glenn Beck’s GBTV), Will Cain (of Beck’s The Blaze), Erick Erickson (of the uber-conservative blog RedState), Dana Loesch (of Breitbart News and the Tea Party), and E.D. Hill, a former Fox anchor and Bill O’Reilly guest host, who is most famous for saying that a friendly fist bump between the President and the First Lady was really a “terrorist fist jab.”
CNN demonstrated its new found rightist perspective by producing programming that was straight out of the conservative PR playbook. They were the only cable news network to broadcast live Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response to Obama’s State of the Union address. They co-sponsored a GOP primary debate with the corrupt Tea Party Express. They also co-sponsored a debate with the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.
For a network that claims to be the only truly neutral source for news, CNN has conspicuously failed to permit a representative from MoveOn.org to respond to a presidential address, nor to co-host a debate with the Center for American Progress. They have navigated toward a full-on Foxification of the network without any pretense to objectivity or balance.
And what have they got for it? A steep collapse to last place in the ratings, an embarrassing forfeiture of credibility, a severe loss of viewer loyalty and respect, and the pleasure of becoming a target of Fox’s ridicule.
As a division of TimeWarner, CNN has the resources to brand itself as a powerhouse news provider. They have more domestic and international news bureaus than any television news enterprise. They have access to the talent and technology that could set them apart from their competitors. Yet they fail to take advantage of these assets. And worse, they squander them in the vain hope of being FoxLite.
That’s what I call an historic debacle. And it’s why CNN just posted their worst ratings in twenty years. It’s also why they are now seen as an object of sympathy as Fox News batters them in the ratings and in the press. The first step in rehabilitating themselves would be to recognize their problem and clean house. Then they would need to fight back. If they would aggressively hammer at Fox as a lightweight purveyor of lies in a flashy, soap opera package, they might just begin to recover some measure of pride and start their long trek back to legitimacy.
Perhaps the most insignificant news on this or any day is that Donald Trump made an ass of himself. It would be like reporting that the sun came up. But Trump’s appearance today on CNN is notable mainly for its comedy value. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Trump revealed himself to be an arrogant, ignorant, egotistical, moron with delusions of grandeur. Again, that’s not exactly news – except for the part that it was Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s resident potted plant and icon of blandness who exposed Trump. It doesn’t really take much.
The interview began with Blitzer welcoming Trump to the program. That led to Trump launching into a defensive rant without even saying hello.
Trump: I thought your reporter was very inaccurate in his description. And I thought the introduction was totally inappropriate and was actually very dishonest.
Blitzer then gave Trump an opportunity to explain specifically what troubled him about the report that preceded the interview. Trump declined and just repeated that he thought the reporter was “wrong” and was shilling for President Obama. Blitzer gave Trump another chance to explain himself, and Trump weaved and dodged and finally failed to describe a single thing that was wrong with the report.
From there the conversation devolved into name calling. Blitzer observed that Trump’s defensiveness and evasion was making him sound ridiculous. So Trump responded with a very literal “I know you are but what am I?” Trump repeatedly commented on Blitzer’s ratings, as if that had anything to do with the substance of his reporting. He rattled off some false assertions that Obama had told a former publisher that he was born in Kenya. And several times he dismissed the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate saying that “a lot of people don’t agree with that birth certificate.” That’s true – a lot of really stupid people. But when Blitzer asked him to provide a single name, Trump harrumphed that “I don’t give names.”
I have been waiting for someone to ask Trump what became of the investigators that he had sent to Hawaii and Blitzer finally did so. Blitzer played video of Trump saying that “I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding.” So Blitzer asked Trump to reveal what they had found. Trump’s response: “We don’t have to go into old news.” Except that Trump has NEVER revealed what his alleged investigators found, and didn’t did so today either. The truth is most likely that he never had any investigators. This was another stunt from a reality show clown.
Contributing to the hilarity is Fox Nation who posted an item about Trump’s visit with Blitzer with this headline: “Trump Knocks Wolf Blitzer Into Next Week.” For the Fox Nationalists it literally doesn’t matter what happens in the real world. They will just slap their headline to the top of it and pretend that everything went their way. It doesn’t matter that Trump couldn’t answer a single question and acted like a jerk while desperately trying to avoid any substantive responses. Fox knows that their audience will devour whole whatever Fox tells them. By making up phony headlines they can comfort their glassy-eyed audience who simply can’t handle the truth.
Last week Gary Stein, the Marine sergeant who runs the Facebook page Armed Forces Tea Party, was found to have violated military rules of conduct when he made hostile remarks directed at his commanders, including his commander-in-chief, President Obama. The board hearing his case ruled unanimously to recommend an “other than honorable” discharge for Stein and he is now awaiting a final decision from the base’s general.
As if he weren’t already in enough trouble, Stein appeared on CNN this morning for an interview with Soledad O’Brien where he was given the opportunity to defend his behavior. In response to a question from O’Brien, Stein somehow thought it would advance his position to blatantly lie.
Stein: First of all let’s talk about those comments. Those comments were made on a closed forum. They were up for five minutes, which we found out from testimony in the hearing. And only three people saw them. In fact the only reason anybody has a picture of those posts or knows what those posts are is because a Marine master sergeant decided that he was gonna take a screen capture and send it out to God knows who.
This is shockingly stupid on Stein’s part because the truth is so easy to verify. Stein’s assertion that the comments were made on a closed forum is rebutted by the fact that the forum is still available and is wide open for anyone on Facebook to access. His claim that the comments were up for only five minutes is rebutted by the fact that some of them, including one specifically cited by O’Brien (pictured above), are still there weeks later. And he must surely know that his comments were seen by more than three people because they have “Likes” and responses attached to them (note the 114 “Likes” and 32 responses on the image above). Finally, that image was not sent to me by a Marine master sergeant. I captured it myself on Stein’s Facebook page, and so can you.
So Stein’s remarks on CNN were entirely, and certifiably, false. That dishonesty is surely going to be apparent to anyone reviewing his case. It is startling that his attorney, sitting next to him for the whole interview, permitted him to be so brazenly deceitful on national television.
That brings us to the identity of his attorney, Gary Kreep, of the United States Justice Foundation. Kreep’s biography reveals that he was the general counsel to the racist, anti-immigration group, The Minutemen. He has been affiliated with the radical and violent anti-choice group, Operation Rescue. He was a California delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1976 and 1980. He was also the creator of the “DefendGlenn” web site launched to counter the opposition to Glenn Beck that eventually led to his ouster from Fox News.
Most notably Kreep has been a leader of the “birther” movement that seeks to nullify Obama’s election on the grounds that he is not a U.S. citizen. Kreep has been one of the most vocal proponents of the birther myths going back to at least November 2008, when he tried to prevent California delegates to the Electoral College from casting their votes. He originally worked with birther queen, Orly Taitz, representing several clients, including Alan Keyes. He later replaced Taitz as counsel to birther litigant “Rev.” Wiley Drake. Drake is notable for publicly praying for the death of President Obama.
When a man like Drake selects you to represent him, over Orly Taitz, that is quite an endorsement. It is likewise revealing that Stein should retain Kreep out of all the lawyers available to represent him. He received help during his discharge hearing from the ACLU, and Tea Party organizers FreedomWorks are rallying support for his dubious cause. Yet the best he can do for legal representation is this Kreep (and how ’bout that tie?).
[Update] On April 25, 2012, the Marines formally discharged Stein as the commanding general of the base accepted the administrative board’s recommendation for discharge.
The secretive and influential American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been toiling in the political shadows to advance a far-right agenda aimed at enhancing the power of corporations and suppressing the voice of the people. Their so-called “voter integrity” initiatives are thinly disguised efforts to obstruct the voting rights of minorities, students, seniors, and low income citizens. The Center for American Progress authored a study that details ALEC’s operations, it’s ties to the powerful in politics and business, and its pride in concealing its activities from the public:
“Under ALEC’s auspices, legislators, corporate representatives, and ALEC officials work together to draft model legislation. As ALEC spokesperson Michael Bowman told NPR, this system is especially effective because ‘you have legislators who will ask questions much more freely at our meetings because they are not under the eyes of the press, the eyes of the voters.’“
Recently, a campaign was launched by Color of Change and other activists to hold some of the enterprises bankrolling ALEC accountable for their support of the extremist organization. They include Altria, AT&T, ExxonMobil, Phizer, Wal-Mart, and, of course, the Koch brothers. The campaign has enjoyed some success in compelling Coca-Cola to terminate their relationship with ALEC. Pepsi, Intuit, and Kraft Foods are also severing ties with ALEC.
This citizen-driven movement is effective because free people in democratic societies are entitled to express themselves and redress their grievances with public and private institutions that have an impact on their lives. However, some rightist defenders of the ruling elite are appalled that ordinary citizens have found a way to join together and make their concerns heard. One of those is Breitbart editor Dana Loesch, who had this to say on her radio show in response to Coke’s announcement:
“Coca-Cola decided to side with an admitted Marxist, 9/11 truther, cop-killer supporter [...] This is the guy whose company Coca-Cola is siding with. This is what happens. Progressives will target businesses and try to shut them down if they support those who are telling the truth. It’s a fascistic movement. Fascism is alive and well in the United States on the left.”
The alleged Marxist to whom Loesch is referring is Van Jones and her allegations are verifiably untrue. Jones is a firm believer in the ability of free markets to empower people and advance the goals of the American dream. In fact, he wrote the book on it. He never supported the 9/11 truth movement and even proved the allegation to be false. And his efforts on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal cannot be portrayed as supporting a cop-killer if the evidence shows that Abu-Jamal is innocent. Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was rescinded last year in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Also, Jones left Color of Change over two years, so Loesch’s attempt to associate him with this campaign is merely her way of trying to demonize the organization by associating it with a public figure who is hated by right-wingers because of their prior and continuing efforts to demonize him.
With everything that Loesch has gotten wrong in this affair, it is unsurprising that she also doesn’t understand political theory. Her accusations of fascism directed at a citizen effort to persuade Coke and other corporations to refrain from funding an extremist right-wing organization demonstrates her ignorance of the subject. She may want to consult the words of a man who is known to be something of an expert on fascism:
“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” ~ Benito Mussolini
So Loesch is aligning herself with giant multinational corporations who are seeking with ALEC to integrate their power with that of government, while simultaneously calling those who oppose such activity fascists. If anyone can plausibly be regarded as having fascist leanings it is the American right. Their obsession with advancing the interests of corporations and wealthy oligarchs, to the detriment of the people, is closer to the fascist model than anything else in the American political spectrum. Why do you suppose that Republicans and the Tea Party are funded so heavily by corporatists like Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers, and the rest of the Wall Street One Percenters? And is it just a coincidence that Mitt Romney, the GOP’s likely candidate for president, is from the same fraternity of elitists who want to decimate the government programs that benefit the poor and middle classes? Mussolini also said that fascism is revolutionary against liberalism “since it wants to reduce the size of the state to its necessary functions.” Sound familiar, Grover?
Ordinarily the twisted observations of Dana Loesch would be insignificant and harmless, but for their dimwitted asininity. Her radio show, and her work for Breitbart, are confined to the narrow world of uber-rightists who have already bought into the lies and slander of propagandists like Loesch. The problem is that Loesch is also a paid political analyst for CNN. It is wholly inappropriate for an allegedly credible news enterprise to employ someone who accuses millions of Americans of being fascists simply because they exercise their constitutional rights and participate in civic affairs.
Loesch has also accused the president of “siding with terrorists” and defended soldiers who urinated on the corpses of Afghan combatants. Now she maligns civic-minded Americans as akin to tyrants and perpetrators of torture and mass murder. Is that really the caliber of character that CNN wants to project? Unfortunately, based on the direction the network has taken the past couple of years, with the addition of people like Will Cain and Amy Holmes (of Glenn Beck’s Internet operation), and Erick Erickson (of RedState), it appears to be inescapably so.
File this under “Tell Me Something I Didn’t Know.”
Mitt Romney appeared on CNN this morning and told Soledad O’Brien something that was already known by anyone paying attention:
“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich. They’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
Romney’s qualification about the safety net is a weak argument for ceasing to care about people who are struggling to find work, to feed their children, and to pay for housing and health care. This is a statement that could only be made by someone so utterly lacking empathy and experience with anything outside of his millionaire bubble.
The poor in America are all too familiar with the safety net’s shortcomings. A politician can reasonably choose to focus on middle class issues, but to say aloud that they don’t care about poor people reveals something fundamentally amiss in their character. Especially if that politician is a multimillionaire.
Romney’s statement also asserts that he isn’tconcerned about the very rich. But if that’s true, then why is he struggling so feverishly to give them (him) additional tax cuts and federal benefits? For the rich people he doesn’t care about, he fights to increase their wealth. For the poor, he might try to fix some holes in the safety net if he determines it’s needed. That’s the perspective of a selfish elitist who has no idea what the nation is going through. And it’s a perspective that will make it very difficult for him to ever become president.