The Media Needs To Stop Promoting ISIS Propaganda Videos – NOW!

Today there was a report of another horrific murder of an American Journalist. Steven Sotloff was the victim of a gruesome assault carried out by ISIS terrorists. And just as with the previous murder of James Foley, the media reacted by serving the interests of the terrorists by repeatedly showing pictures of the assault. Such a reaction has a disastrous effect. It is also egregiously hypocritical, but more on that later.

Media Inciting Violence

What needs to be mentioned with regard to these pictures is that they serve only one purpose. They were distributed by ISIS in order to advance their mission of terror. Their goal is to spread fear in the west and to promote recruitment to their cause among extremist Muslims. And like every other public relations campaign, the more the pictures and videos are shown, the better for ISIS.

The American media is providing free advertising for these cretins, and they must stop it. While it is reasonable to report on the brutality that is being engaged in throughout the Middle East, and particularly in Iraq and Syria, there is no useful purpose in blanketing the airwaves with images created by terrorists for their own benefit.

The murder of Sotloff is certainly a tragedy, but it is no more tragic than the hundreds, thousands, of others, many of them Americans, many of them journalists, whose names we were never told because they were killed in more “conventional” ways. The spectacular method of Sotloff’s execution wrenches our hearts, but leaves a corpse that is not one bit more dead. We have to stop assigning an artificial significance to the tactic, because that is exactly what the terrorists want us to do. Why are we accommodating them?

The United States has conducted hundreds of bombing missions against ISIS in the last few weeks, with over eighty yesterday alone. We have driven ISIS back from cities they boasted about capturing. These actions have resulted in the deaths and injuries of untold terrorist fighters. In response, the impotent whack jobs of ISIS choreograph a horror show that takes the life of a single man and we’re supposed to tremble with uncontrollable fright? Hell no. We continue to pursue our interests, bring aid to victims, and get on with our lives. It would probably be advantageous for President Obama to go golfing after every killing of this type that occurs. Don’t validate their tactics by reacting in precisely the way they hope.

It’s ironic that the media is so supportive of the ISIS PR effort. Not too long ago some of them were blasting reporters for going to Ferguson, Missouri to cover the shooting of an unarmed black teenager. In that case media critics like Howard Kurtz of Fox News asserted that “The journalistic invasion of Ferguson is absolutely inflaming the situation on the streets.” He wrote an editorial titled “What if we just pulled the plug on Ferguson?” that suggested the press should pack it in and leave town. Bill O’Reilly said much the same thing about coverage of another murdered teenager, Trayvon Martin, when he asked “Is the media now inciting racial violence?”

Isn’t it interesting that when the media is covering the murders of unarmed African-American kids they are accused of being accomplices to an escalation of hostilities, but when it comes to Americans executed by terrorists thousands of miles away, there is no similar implication of incitement even though that is the indisputable objective of the killers? The real question is: What if we just pulled the plug on ISIS?

Fox News inflaming Violence

There is a demonstrable purpose to reporting on the overly aggressive behavior of American police officers. Such publicity, and subsequent reform, can have an impact on their future behavior and improve relations between law enforcement and the public they are pledged to serve and protect. The same cannot be said of reporting, or more accurately advertising, the behavior of terrorists. We are not going to dissuade them from committing their crimes by publicizing them. Quite the contrary. They will only increase their deadly plots when they see the attention it brings them.

So the only way to react to these events is to acknowledge that they occurred and then stop obsessing over them. Then we can conduct our retaliatory response calmly and decisively. But by no means should we panic, tear out our hair, and give the enemy the impression (and satisfaction) that they have crushed our spirit and won a victory. They haven’t won a damn thing by exposing themselves as savages and taking the life of a single, innocent victim. Rather than helping to advance their PR, we should be publicizing their barbarism, impotence, and desperation. And a big part of that requires the media to refrain from furthering the marketing goals of the terrorists.

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Racist Guest On Fox News Is Offended That He Might Be Viewed As Racist

This weekend’s episode of MediaBuzz on Fox News featured a segment about the press coverage of the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, by a Ferguson, MO police officer. Host Howard Kurtz booked Joe Concha, a conservative from Mediaite, and Keli Goff, a liberal from The Root, to debate the media’s performance during the aftermath of the shooting (video below).

Fox News

Concha immediately went into a defensive posture from the comfort of his TV studio. He took the side of law enforcement against the reporters who have been exposing the realities in the field, at great personal risk, where a militarized police department was harassing reporters and tormenting the residents they are sworn to serve.

Concha’s tirade began by condemning Wes Lowery, a Washington Post reporter who was arrested for doing his job. Concha accused Lowery of deliberately provoking the arrest and backed up his assertion by saying that Lowery’s media appearances afterward proved his self-interest.

Concha: “And here’s how you know that this was all about Wes Lowery expanding his television career. Right after he was released from custody, It was all about Tweeting out, calling Maddow Now (whatever that is), going on national television, went on CNN, MSNBC after that, Fox News as well. This was a media tour, Howie, that was only rivaled by Hillary Clinton’s. All in the effort to give Wes Lowery’s byline a microphone, a future career, and nothing more.”

Zing! Concha managed to slip in a slap at Hillary Clinton while defaming a reporter who is actually engaged in the practice of journalism, as opposed to Concha who is engaged in the practice of character assassination. And not even Kurtz would abide Concha’s slander and ignorance of the profession.

Kurtz: Alright, I think that’s unfair. Wes Lowery is a good, solid reporter. He was deluged with requests to appear on TV, including from me. He only did a few of those. I don’t think this was as self-promotional as you do.”

When a reporter is arrested while covering a news story with national prominence, that is in itself newsworthy. It is not proper or ethical for the police to target journalists in an effort to prevent them from gathering and providing information about matters of public interest. Apparently Concha thinks otherwise. Keli Goff eloquently explained why it so important to have reporters on the scene covering everything that occurs, including police misconduct.

Goff: “With all due respect to Joe, I would hate to hear the kind of criticism he would have doled out about fifty or sixty years ago to the reporters who may have been a little slow to pack up their gear when they were covering another crisis, which was known as the civil rights movement.

Goff correctly pointed out that there were a lot of reporters who were assaulted during the civil rights movement and that they risked their lives due to their commitment to keep the people informed. She described Concha’s criticism of Lowery’s efforts to record the police officers as bizarre. And she went further to say that it would be irresponsible to NOT record such activity.

Next Kurtz raised the question of whether the volume of coverage was exacerbating the tensions in Ferguson. Concha quickly agreed that the television networks and the Internet were “fueling the flames” and then focused his criticism on MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, who went to Ferguson to beseech the protesters to remain peaceful. Then Concha began an exchange that reveals much about what is wrong with television news coverage.

Concha: “The bottom line is that it is now a cottage industry when a white cop shoots a black kid. Or, we saw it with Trayvon Marin last year, CNN, HLN quadrupled their ratings because of these sort of events. And ISIS and Gaza is happening somewhere overseas. This is domestic. A cheap and easy narrative. And that’s why we’ve seen the coverage go where it has.”

Goff: You call it a cottage industry, those of us who have African-American men in our family consider it a crisis, Joe. It must be nice to have an experience in this country where you can dismiss it as simply coverage.”

Concha: “You don’t get to do that to me, Keli. You’re calling me a racist on national television?”

Huh? When exactly did Goff call Concha a racist? It is telling that Concha perceived this imaginary insult and used it to flip the whole segment to one where Goff was doing something to him. After belittling the significance of the shooting of Mike Brown, Concha is now the making himself the victim. This is where Kurtz jumped in to tell Concha that Goff had not called him a racist. Concha later apologized for “overreacting” with regard to the charge of racism, but he never apologized for the underlying remarks dismissing the shooting, disparaging the reporters covering it, and referring to coverage as “cheap and easy.”

It’s a good thing that Goff was there to counter the insensitivity and aversion to ethical journalism as represented by Concha. And it’s a good reminder of why it’s necessary to not only have journalists in the field who are devoted to informing the public, but to have them in the studio as well to smackdown jerkwads like Concha.

Shameless self-promotion…
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GOP ‘Word Doctor’ Inadvertently Admits (And Praises) Blatant Fox News Bias

As one of Fox News’ favorite contributors J. Christ said: “Physician, heal thyself.” That would be good advice for Dr. Frank Luntz, who has dubbed himself “The Word Doctor” for his efforts to deceitfully manipulate language in order to peddle otherwise unpopular conservative policies.

Fox News Frank Luntz

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On Sunday’s episode of MediaBuzz, the Fox News media analysis program, host Howard Kurtz brought Luntz in to discuss the public’s low opinion of the media. The segment turned into a slobbering love fest of Fox News with Luntz heaping praise on the network with almost every answer. However, in one instance he may have provided a little too much information.

Kurtz and Luntz were attempting to demonstrate how “fair and balanced” the notoriously conservative network is with a clip from one of Luntz’s focus groups. Luntz began by asking the group if they trust Fox News. A distinct majority raised their hands to indicate that they did. One of the few dissenters who was asked to elaborate was a woman who said that “I really believe – I know no one wants to hear this, especially here – that Fox is an extension of the Republican Party.” Seizing on that candid opinion, Luntz heralded Fox for being “willing to challenge itself,” and took a swipe at MSNBC, who he said would not have allowed the question. Then he escalated his gushing adulation to say that…

“In 2008, when I did focus groups with Obama and McCain, all three of my sessions during the debates had Obama winning. And Fox still devoted six, seven, eight minutes to those focus groups. They have nothing to fear, and I appreciate that about this network.”

Imagine that. A Republican pollster holds focus groups that favor Obama but Fox aired the results anyway. That’s an open admission that Fox is exactly what the woman in the group said: “an extension of the Republican Party.” Otherwise, why would Luntz regard it as so extraordinary that it deserved special recognition? Luntz was praising Fox for broadcasting the segment even though it was contrary to their Republican political leanings. And of course they have nothing to fear when the other 99.9% of their programming is solid GOP talking points straight from RNC press releases.

But Luntz shouldn’t get so excited about this anomaly. Fox’s version of fairness and balance is anything but. Their oversampling of right-wing pundits and politicians has been well documented. They even provide a platform for Republican candidates to campaign while still employed by Fox as paid contributors. And just last week Bill O’Reilly did a segment that attempted to prove that Fox was ideologically evenhanded, but it backfired badly. His guest, Fox host Heather Nauert, noted that there were nineteen “liberals” on Fox “out of quite a lot” of conservatives, Nauert fumbled.

[FYI: I counted only sixteen liberals (and some of those were questionable) facing off against 121 conservatives according to Fox's website. The "liberals" are Evan Bayh, Bob Beckel, James Carville, Alan Colmes, Susan Estrich, Santita Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, Mara Liasson, Leslie Marshall, Deroy Murdock, Kirsten Powers, Ellen Ratner, Geraldo Rivera, Julie Roginsky, Joe Trippi, and Juan Williams]

Elsewhere in the MediaBuzz segment Kurtz posed this question to Luntz: “You are saying that the audience has gotten more partisan [...] Aren’t people like you in part responsible for that?” Good question, Howie. Here is Luntz’s ludicrous response which Kurtz left unchallanged:

“Well, it’s a simple question. Is the death tax an accurate description of being taxed when you die? Isn’t exploring for energy what oil companies do? Is it opportunity in education, in terms of vouchers or school choice? If you believe that the words that I’m using aren’t accurate, then you’ve got a legitimate point. I believe that these are accurate descriptions, which is why the American people seem to support it.”

Quite clearly these are not accurate descriptions. They are deliberate deceptions that Luntz carefully tested to assure that they would elicit predetermined reactions from voters. The “Death Tax” that Luntz coined is not a tax on dying. It is tax on property that is being transferred from one party to another, which is exactly what would happen if it were being done between two living persons. His “exploring for energy” dodge is meant to disguise the fact that it refers to environmentally risky off-shore drilling that the public opposes. As for “opportunity in education,” that is so vague as to be meaningless, and it dispenses with the truly descriptive phrasing of vouchers, which is what the program is all about.

Luntz is a professional deception specialist. Republicans rely on him for ways to package unpopular GOP policies so that citizens are persuaded to vote against their own best interests. In other words, he constructs lies that he sells to desperate right-wing politicos, and he supports a luxurious lifestyle by doing so.

Curmudgeon Watch: Bill O’Reilly Wags His Finger At Jon Stewart’s Daily Show

Pandering to his geriatric demographic, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News devoted his lead segments to concern-trolling the welfare of Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. The theme of his Talking Points Memo was whether or not the Comedy Central duo would have to “change their tone” now that “things are not going very well for the Obama administration.”

Bill O'Reilly

O’Reilly opened by asserting that Stewart and Colbert are unrepentant liberals who are committed exclusively to attacking conservatives and promoting President Obama:

O’Reilly: Here’s the problem with these guys. They prop up the Democratic Party and the liberal line, President Obama, by denigrating the opposition, the Republican Party, conservative people. That’s what they do. That’s how they function on a daily basis over there. Does it get more difficult to do that when the President and the party, the Democratic Party, are descending in the court of public opinion?

First of all, O’Reilly’s logic that Republicans cannot be satirized if Obama’s approval ratings decline is ludicrous on its face. If popularity, or the lack of it, is the driving factor as to whether a potential target of satire will be selected by a comedian, then it’s the Republican Party that can breathe a sigh of relief, because no matter how badly the President is doing, he’s miles ahead of the GOP.

But more to the point, O’Reilly is absolutely wrong in his assessment that Stewart props up Democrats and lives to denigrate the right. Apparently he doesn’t watch The Daily Show or even read Fox Nation (which is edited by his own producer, Jesse Watters). Over at the Fox Nation Lie-Fest they have published dozens of articles heaping praise on Stewart for either “destroying, tearing apart, eviscerating, or grilling” Obama and other liberals (see this list here). And if that weren’t enough, they also highlighted the many times Stewart “mocked, roasted, savaged, scorched, ridiculed, and obliterated” the President and his lefty allies (see this list here).

So where does O’Reilly get the idea that Stewart is propping up liberals? Like almost everything else that O’Reilly (and Fox News) spews, it is made up from whole cloth to advance the conservative agenda. But O’Reilly has his sycophantic guests that appear mainly to agree with him. On this program it was Fox News media correspondent, Howard Kurtz, who declared that Stewart and Colbert are now “out of the zeitgeist” due to their alleged failure to criticize the President. And who knows more about the zeitgeist than Kurtz?

However, Kurtz doesn’t seem to be paying any attention to Fox’s reporting either. That’s pretty damning for the person on the Fox roster whose job is specifically the media. Kurtz criticized Stewart’s coverage of the IRS affair because it contained “nothing about a cover up. He glossed over President Obama’s role.” Kurtz must have missed the fact that there is zero evidence of a cover up or any role by the President. That may have something to do with why Stewart left it out.

When Kurtz’s co-host on Fox’s MediaBuzz, Lauren Ashburn, chirped in to disagree with O’Reilly, she was immediately interrupted so that O’Reilly could ridicule her viewpoint and segue to insulting Stewart’s audience as San Francisco liberals smoking pot. That’s actually a reprise of an insult he flung a couple of years ago when Stewart was a guest on his show. At that time O’Reilly slammed the Daily Show audience (which is documented as being younger, smarter, and more successful than O’Reilly’s) by saying…

“You know what’s really frightening? You actually have an influence on this presidential election. That is scary, but it’s true. You’ve got stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night and they can vote.”

If that’s scary, then how much more frightening is it that the imbeciles who watch O’Reilly, and believe the fairy tales he spins, can vote (or buy guns, or operate cars and other heavy machinery)? O’Reilly concluded by thoughtfully worrying about Stewart and Colbert losing their audience since “they are going to have a harder time pleasing them with the collapse of the liberal establishment.” O’Reilly may have buried the lede in this program. Up until now, most people were probably unaware that the liberal establishment had collapsed. That should have been his headline. Of course, it’s just as phony as everything else he says, but why should that matter to the biggest phony on the phoniest network?

NBC News Exclusive: Putin Dissed George W. Bush’s Dog

As evidence of how far American journalism has fallen into the abyss of infotainment, minus the info, on Friday NBC’s Today show assigned their crack correspondent, Jenna Bush Hagar, to interview her father George at the opening of an exhibition of his paintings at his presidential library.

NBC Interview Jenna/George Bush

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The interview violated a slew of journalistic ethics, most notably avoiding a conflict of interest, real or perceived. The relationship between the former president and his daughter obviously precluded any potential for an enlightening news report. An example of the depth attained in this segment is this brief exchange about Bush’s encounters with Vladimir Putin:

Jenna Bush Hagar: You could tell from the very beginning that he was interested in power. And there is an anecdote that you’ve written about that is symbolic of that.
George W. Bush: Well, as you know, our dear dog Barney, who had a special spot in my heart, I introduced him to Putin. Putin kind of dissed him.

Indeed. Putin’s uncomplimentary remarks about the First Dog are symbolic of his aspirations to embark on a territorial clampdown that destabilizes the region and sours his relationship with the community of nations. Thanks to Jenna’s dogged reporting we now know more about the Barney Doctrine than was ever previously disclosed.

Unfortunately, Jenna never asked her dad about the war in Iraq, enhanced interrogation (aka torture), the economic meltdown, or any other area of controversy that enveloped the Bush presidency. And since Bush has rarely subjected himself to the media since he left the White House, any unfulfilled chance to fill in some of the blanks is a bitterly missed opportunity from a journalistic perspective.

For NBC to broadcast this charade represents a sad milestone in the collapse of television news. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to let Bush be questioned by his daughter should suffer eternal shame in the eyes of his or her colleagues. What’s more, any media critic that doesn’t condemn this sort of fluffery isn’t doing their job. Imagine the outrage that would have ensued if NBC News permitted Chelsea Clinton (whom they did briefly employ) to interview Bill Clinton. Fox News would have had a collective conniption.

And speaking of Fox News, their ability to fairly recognize media malfeasance is lacking, to say this least. On today’s episode of MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz made the following observation:

“Look, I know this constant coverage has been very, very good for [the] ratings, but I just don’t get the obsessive focus.”

Kurtz was talking about CNN’s coverage of the missing Malaysian plane. The first part of that statement that rubs reality the wrong way is that he doesn’t “get the obsessive focus.” Of course he does. He knows very well that it’s about ratings and he even says so in the beginning of the sentence. But more importantly, he is oblivious to the fact that the same commentary could be applied to Fox’s coverage of Benghazi. Although Fox’s motives are far more nefarious than merely goosing their ratings. Their obsession is focused squarely on attacking President Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

In other Bush news, Fox aired an hour long commercial for Jeb Bush’s prospective presidential campaign. It came in the form of an interview at the George H.W. Bush library during an event that was closed to the press. Lucky for Fox, they are not regarded as press and their own Shannon Bream was the interviewer. Her segments with Jeb were broadcast on the Fox News Channel along with cutesy bits from Mama Bush and other close associates.

However, the program may do Jeb more harm than good. He articulated a couple of positions that are not going to endear him to the fanatical Tea Party wing of his party that of late holds the keys to any nomination. For instance, he offered a rather sane opinion on immigration that will surely boil the blood of folks like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin:

“They crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”

In addition, Jeb defended the Common Core educational initiative. Saying that “I’m totally committed” to Common Core is not going to win him any friends in the Tea Party. But what will surely bring the knives out in force is his criticism of fellow Republicans who caved to the irrational opponents of Common Core:

“I just don’t seem compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country. And others have, others that supported the standards all of a sudden now are opposed to it. I don’t get it.’

Between George Bush’s inquisition by his daughter Jenna, and Jeb Bush’s friendly sit-down with a Fox anchor at a supposedly press-free event, the media has demonstrated this week that ethics are the last thing on its mind. And the fact that both of these affairs involved members of the Bush dynasty suggests that they, and the media, are not yet through screwing up our country.

Republicans, Racists, And Boycotts, Oh My: And Why MSNBC Should Be Celebrating

When you preside over a political party that is the subject of frequent criticism for the racist rhetoric of its members and supporters, it might be a good idea to avoid bringing attention to that gaping wound of oozing hatred. But never let it be said that the leaders of the GOP are capable of recognizing a good idea.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, went berserk today over a tweet by some anonymous social media intern at MSNBC. The comment that so furiously enraged him was a reference to a commercial for Cheerios that features a biracial family (video below). It is a sequel of sorts to a similar ad that played last year. Here is the offending tweet:

Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go aww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ bi-racial family.

That was all it took to send Priebus into a frenzy over what he perceived as a deplorable insult directed at innocent right-wingers. His response was to announce that he would order a boycott of MSNBC unless its president, Phil Griffin, made a personal and public apology. He sent letters to Griffin as well as an open letter to “all Republican elected officials, strategists, surrogates, and pundits,” that said that he was “banning all RNC staff from appearing on, associating with, or booking any RNC surrogates on MSNBC,” and asking anyone affiliated with the GOP to join the embargo.

Fox Nation - Reince Priebus

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First of all, how would anyone know that a boycott had been initiated by the GOP against MSNBC? Most Republicans already refuse to go on the network simply because they know they will be challenged when they lie, unlike the friendly reception they get at Fox. But for the RNC chair to feign outrage over such a trivial tweet defies reason. The message conveyed by the tweet was simply that this heart-warming advertisement was likely to irk many conservatives whose intolerance for diversity is well documented. And where would the tweeter get an idea like that? Perhaps from the response that followed the release of the first Cheerios ad with the same biracial family. As reported at the time…

“A new Cheerios commercial that included an interracial family drew so many racially motivated hate comments on YouTube that the video-sharing website shut down the commercial’s comment section. [...] some of the comments made reference to Nazis, ‘troglodytes’ and ‘racial genocide.'”

With that historical perspective, why would anyone doubt that the same right-wingers who spewed such vile hatred at the ad’s charming family last year, would react any differently today? Conservatives who are offended by the tweet ought to look at their own confederates to understand why everyone else regards them as hardened bigots who would hate the Cheerios ad. It isn’t MSNBC’s fault that conservatives openly express themselves in such a thoroughly reprehensible manner. However, the behavior of the rightists when this ad’s first installment was aired justifies the sentiment in the tweet. For some additional evidence of the unbridled bigotry on the right, have a look at…

The notion that MSNBC would be a target of a boycott simply because they recognized the bigotry that is inbred into much of the American conservative movement is especially ironic when you consider that Fox News, the mouthpiece of the rightist agenda in the media, is so brazenly racist. It’s a network that regularly demonizes minorities as criminals or moochers. What’s more, Fox feverishly advocates public policies that are detrimental to minorities, such as voter suppression laws and slashing benefits for low income workers. If any news outlet should be boycotted for insulting broad swaths of the American public it should be Fox

Which brings us to the subject of hypocrisy by the infuriated right. There actually have been efforts to embargo Fox News and persuade Democrats to avoid appearing on the network. During the Democratic primaries in 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus successfully shut down a Nevada debate that was to be broadcast on Fox. The response by Republicans was that the Democrats were either misguided or cowards, and would be afraid to face our enemies if they couldn’t face Fox. Fox anchor Chris Wallace said that “the Democrats are damn fools [for] not coming on Fox News.” Do these criticisms now apply to the boycotters of MSNBC?

This isn’t even the first time that Priebus has floated the boycott balloon. Just last year he sent similar threatening letters to NBC and CNN because they had plans to produce films about Hillary Clinton. However, he didn’t make the same threat to Fox, who also had Hillary projects in the pipeline. It seems that Priebus is just itching for a boycott, unless the offender is his PR department (aka Fox News).

The pitiful part of this story is that MSNBC has already caved in to the demand for an apology. Phil Griffin issued a statement calling the tweet “outrageous and unacceptable,” which it certainly was not. Even worse, he said that he had “dismissed the person responsible.” That is a monumental injustice and overreaction. This merely proves that the network that conservatives like to demean as unfailingly liberal is just a facade that will collapse at the slightest whiff of controversy. It’s why MSNBC issues apologies every other week and fires people for little reason.

Fox News, on the other hand, is far worse when it comes to offending liberals and Democrats, but they will never apologize, nor do they correct their many “errors” of fact. But if MSNBC keeps bowing down to competitors who seek its destruction, they will remain a perennial loser and shed any credibility they hope to maintain. This silly boycott threat should be cause for celebration by MSNBC. It serves as an opportunity to remind people of why Republicans are correctly perceived to be racist. It relieves them of the burden of making excuses for why the GOP is not represented on the channel. And it allows them to focus on expanding their audience among the key demographics that are most likely to tune in.

What this all comes down to is that Priebus is throwing a tantrum to attract attention and donations. The tweet that started the whole thing was provocative, but perfectly justified. But that doesn’t stop the disingenuous onslaught of phony rage that turns into a ludicrous threat that no one will notice should it be carried out. We are witnessing a drama that is more painfully shallow than the typical reality TV tripe that consumes way too many hours of broadcast time. And, sadly, “Keeping Up With The Republicans” has even less reality in it than you’ll find over at the Kardashians place.

[Update: 1/31/2014] Fox News is cashing in on this controversy. So far they have featured it on The Five, Fox & Friends, and the Kelly File. Greg Gutfeld of The Five injected the mandatory Nazi reference by calling MSNBC a “one-stop shop for master-race-baiting.” And Megyn Kelly asserted that liberals have a “kneejerk instinct to accuse conservatives of racism.” In her segment that featured uber-rightist flame-thrower Brent Bozell, she went on to say…

“They [liberals] saw this ad and said, ‘Oh the conservatives will hate it because it’s a black man and a white woman together in a family.’

Wrong Megyn. They said “Oh the conservatives will hate it because that’s exactly the response they had to it when the first version of it came out last year.” What better evidence can you have of how someone will respond to something than their own prior response?

And this morning Fox’s media analyst, Howard Kurtz, called the MSNBC tweet “an outrageous and really disgusting message,” before excreting this BS:

“You do have to wonder about the culture there, and whether there is such a loathing for conservatives that things that are so clearly way, way, way over the line are somehow deemed acceptable.”

Once again I have to say ARE YOU FRIGGIN’ KIDDING ME? The outpouring of loathing by Fox of liberals (and African-Americans, and Latinos, and gays, and women, and the poor) is a daily – even hourly – occurrence. For Kurtz to say that with a straight face is proof of his total devotion to the dishonest promulgation of Fox’s propaganda, hate, and commitment to the corporatocracy they were invented to defend.

Does Fox News Have A Culture That Encourages Personal Attacks?

Much of the cable News circus was preoccupied this weekend with remarks made by MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry about Mitt Romney’s family. It was a relatively trivial incident that sought to highlight the blinding whiteness of the Romney clan and, by extension, the Republican Party for which he was was briefly the de facto head. Harris-Perry apologized for the comments and her apology was accepted by Romney and it seemed as if life on Earth would endure.

Enter Howard Kurtz, the media analyst for Fox News. On Friday he published an op-ed, which was followed by a segment on his Sunday Fox News program MediaBuzz, wherein he proposed his theory that MSNBC suffers from a “culture in which harsh personal attacks are encouraged, or at least tolerated.” His evidence for this was a series of recent controversies involving personalities at MSNBC, which he claimed not to be biased against.

Kurtz: I’m not designing this to bash MSNBC, but you had Martin Bashir with the vile attack on Sarah Palin, apologizing and then losing his job. You had Alec Baldwin losing his job at MSNBC over an alleged anti-gay slur hurled at a photographer. Now Melissa Harris-Perry. Is there something in the culture there that tolerates this unacceptable language?

One has to wonder why, if Kurtz did not intend to bash MSNBC, did he focus solely on “unacceptable language” by people on MSNBC. It’s not as if he didn’t have plenty of examples of Fox News anchors and pundits who did much the same thing. Just within the past week Fox’s Mike Huckabee compared doctors at a hospital, that had been caring for a girl who was pronounced brain dead, to the Nazi regime that was responsible for the murder of millions. Fox also hosted a former CIA agent who recently wrote an article that advocated the assassination of President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron. Neither of these commentaries entered into Kurtz’s examination of the culture of cable news. The only observation that Kurtz deemed notable was his severly skewed impression of how conservatives are viewed by liberals.

Kurtz: If there is a theme to these episodes, it is a view of Republicans and conservatives as so mean-spirited, hard-hearted and clueless that just about any rhetoric against them can be justified.

Thus we had the spectacle of Martin Bashir so reviling Sarah Palin that he not only called her a “dunce” and an “idiot” but prescribed for her an old slave treatment in which he said someone should defecate in her mouth.

Oh my. Bashir called Palin a “dunce” and an “idiot.” Apparently Kurtz has never seen Bill O’Reilly’s program where for years he has had a regular segment in which he called his liberal adversaries “pinheads.” Not that he needed a dedicated segment to disparage his foes. He was found by Indiana University to have called people derogatory names every 6.8 seconds. Recently O’Reilly even expressed his hostile intentions toward the Democratic Majority Leader of the senate, saying…

“Harry Reid, I think you’ll have to kidnap. Tie him to a tree up in Idaho somewhere, leave him there for a few weeks.”

Surely O’Reilly will insist that the was joking about kidnapping and torturing Sen. Reid, but the Harris-Perry segment was premised that it was all in humor. The same cannot be said for Glenn Beck’s declaration that Obama was a racist who hated white people. Neither Beck nor his superiors ever apologized for that. In fact, Rupert Murdoch agreed with it. Perhaps the most glaring example of repulsive rhetoric was that displayed by Fox News contributor Erick Erickson upon the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter when Erickson said

“The nation loses the only goat fucking child molester to ever serve on the Supreme Court in David Souter’s retirement.”

Fox News

Let’s not forget the Fox News community website, Fox Nation. It’s culture is so riddled with hostility that they won’t even refer to some people by their actual names. The Fox Nationalists refer to Sen. Al Franken as Stuart Smalley, after a character he played on Saturday Night Live twenty years ago. They also call comedian Bill Maher “Pig” Maher for reasons no one seems to know. [For more on Fox Nation, read Fox Nation vs. Reality, a book that documents the website's steady stream of lies]

There are, however, some notable differences between the incidents of verbal abuse as articulated by MSNBC and Fox News. At MSNBC the lapses in judgment were followed by apologies and sometimes suspensions or terminations. The lapses at Fox were either celebrated or ignored by management and often repeated with more emphasis by the abuser.

So Howard Kurtz has the gall to wonder if there is culture of harsh personal attacks at MSNBC where such incidents are routinely punished, but he has no concerns about his own network where they are a point of pride. That’s a distinct difference that would enter into the analysis of an honest media critic. Luckily, Kurtz works for Fox so he doesn’t have to worry about being honest.

To Fox News Lying Is Just “Providing Balance To The Rest Of The Mainstream Media”

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 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.

Howard Kurtz

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.

Fox News Media Analyst, Howard Kurtz, Absolves Fox Of Its Sins

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. So, I’m very comfortable that I’ll have the freedom to criticize anyone I need to in my new role.”

First of all, Fox never hires anyone for their independence or accuracy. In fact, the further you stray from reality, the better your employment opportunities at Fox.

Howard Kurtz

Secondly, Kurtz has not been as comfortable, or as independent, as his statement suggests. Media Matters has published a study that shows that Kurtz has rarely criticized Fox when there were obvious opportunities to do so. For instance, he said nothing about the controversial firing of Fox’s head of communications, Brian Lewis. He said nothing about the much-ridiculed interview of author Reza Aslan by Christian reporter Lauren Green. These were two of the biggest media stories in the two months since Kurtz moved to Fox, but not one word was said or written about them.

Today Kurtz posted the latest issue of his Media Buzz column on Fox News. In it he purports to cover the publication of a study (pdf) from Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. It’s a pretty mealy review of the study’s fascinating insights with regard to the impact of social media on modern political campaigns.

Somehow Kurtz managed to leave out entirely a portion of the study that directly referred to Fox News. The study’s author, Peter Hamby, spoke to Mitt Romney’s senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom (of Etch-a-Sketch fame), about how the campaign took advantage of the friendly environment provided by Fox:

Fehrnstrom: We’d much rather go on a Fox program where we know the question is going to come up and Mitt can give his answer and it’s not going to a frenzy of questioning. He will be able to give his response. There may be a follow up or two, and then that’s it. The frenzy is not something that you would willingly do if you had other options. It’s like here you can either do this frenzied news conference, or we can do a more sedate studio appearance with Sean Hannity. I’d take the sedate over the frenzy any day.

It’s funny how that remarkably candid admission escaped Kurtz’s notice. If you are reviewing an academic study that specifically cites the organization for whom you work, it would be appropriate to make some mention of it. But since this casts a negative (or accurate) light on Fox, Kurtz elected to ignore it. That’s not exactly a fulfillment of his promise to be independent or to criticize anyone. In fact, Kurtz is behaving more like Fox’s PR agent, promoting his client’s interests and suppressing bad publicity. For someone who identifies himself as a media analyst, it is the death knell of credibility.

By the way, here is what Kurtz’s new colleagues at Fox had to say about him prior to his joining the team:

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Irony Alert: First Issue Of Biased Fox News Newsletter Questions Media Bias

This morning marks the debut of a new service by the folks at Fox News aimed at delivering their trademarked GOP-authored propaganda directly to your email inbox. The “Fox News First” newsletter introduces itself asking…

“Always wanted Fox’s political must-reads? Now you can have them. Each weekday morning, our DC team, led by Chris Stirewalt, delivers the FOX NEWS FIRST political newsletter.”

For those of you who don’t know him, Chris Stirewalt, Fox’s digital politics editor, is the smarmy correspondent who appears daily on Fox’s “America Live” with a round-up of right-wing outrages to titillate their frenzy-starved audience. His television persona is reminiscent of a perverse Mr. Rogers approaching a potential child victim, complete with creepy, twisted smile, darting eyes, and sickly, syrupy voice.

Fox Nation vs. RealityThe premiere issue of Fox News First features a collection of anti-Obama stories and generally conservative items to whet the appetites of the Fox faithful. It is a compendium of broadsides aimed at liberals, but that have little connection to reality. [Speaking of which, have you read my ebook, "Fox Nation vs. Reality" yet?] They lead off with an obligatory shout out to the Benghazi conspiracy crowd, then segue to how Obama is screwing up Egypt. This is followed by a slap at ObamaCare that manages to include an ACORN angle. At Fox they never let an old pseudo-scandal go to waste.

The newsletter includes quotes from GOP governors Rick Perry and Scott Walker, along with critical comments by other conservative politicians and pundits. There is even a blurb about the most activist Supreme Court Justice in history, Antonin Scalia, who laments the activism of the Supreme Court. What’s missing is any attempt to provide balance by reporting the views of liberals or Democrats. But then, that isn’t the purpose of the newsletter, or of Fox News.

However, perhaps the funniest bit of blather in this utterly useless screed, is the nod to Fox’s new media analyst, Howard Kurtz. Commenting on today’s launch of the Al-Jazeera cable news network, Stirewalt notes that Kurtz is wondering whether the network can “shake its reputation for bias and fulfill its promise of more serious news and less fluff?”

Seriously? Is he talking about Al-Jazeera or his new boss, Fox News. Because the notion of Fox News questioning the ability of another network to shake it’s reputation for bias is downright hysterical. That’s Fox News, the network that hires half the Republican candidates for office as political analysts. Fox News, the network that cribs their stories from RNC press releases. Fox News, the network that fills their airtime with manufactured controversies and conspiracy theories against Democrats. Fox News, whose reputation for bias couldn’t be shaken by dropping it in the San Andreas fault during the Big One. That’s the Fox News that wonders about the seriousness and fluff of Al-Jazeera, an award-winning international news enterprise?

With the announcement of his hiring at Fox, Kurtz said that he wanted to bring his “independent brand of media criticism to Fox News.” He is off to a pitiful start.

Fox News Hires CNN’s Washed Out Media Analyst Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz

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:

Bill O’Reilly Can’t Stop Embarrassing Himself: The Drone Edition

Last week Bill O’Reilly demonstrated how utterly inept he and his staff were when he asked “You heard anything on NBC about the drones?” Then he answered his own question saying “Neither have I. Neither has my staff.” As it turns out it was actually NBC who broke the story that had spurred the media dialogue on the subject.

Bill O'Reilly

However, O’Reilly stiffened his back and insisted that he was still right with a tortured explanation that talking about drones was not talking about drones. On last night’s program he wandered further into delusional territory during an interview with Howard Kurtz, who had previously criticized O’Reilly about his not noticing NBC’s role in the coverage of drones. O’Reilly charged Kurtz with hypocrisy and accused him of…

“…confusing hard news reporting about drones with the New York Times editorial page, which hasn’t condemned, as far as I know, in any great measure as they did with waterboarding, the use of it. What we were clearly talking about here was why the left doesn’t condemn killing terrorists with drones.”

As you might expect, O’Reilly stuck his massive foot into his even bigger mouth yet again. Nearly a year ago, well before this current dust up, the Times published an editorial titled “Too Much Power for a President.” The very first paragraph reads…

“It has been clear for years that the Obama administration believes the shadow war on terrorism gives it the power to choose targets for assassination, including Americans, without any oversight. On Tuesday, The New York Times revealed who was actually making the final decision on the biggest killings and drone strikes: President Obama himself. And that is very troubling.”

The Times goes on to say…

“No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights.”

So much for the Times not condemning drones. Even worse, O’Reilly actually contradicted his own premise that liberals have not been critical of Obama’s drone policy despite their criticism of Bush’s waterboarding and torture tactics. In the opening of this segment O’Reilly explicitly acknowledged that liberals were openly opposing Obama’s CIA director nominee over this very issue.

“Will counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan become the head of the CIA? He testifies on Capitol Hill tomorrow, but some liberals don’t like him because he is the director of the drone program that kills terrorists from the sky.”

O’Reilly needs to explain how liberals can be hypocrites for not speaking out against drones when they are, in fact, speaking out and O’Reilly himself has heard it and used it to introduce his story. He may also want to explain how he missed the New York Times editorial hammering the President on drones, but still went on the air to say the Times never criticized Obama. His loathing for depraved lefties was palpable as he piled on his rage:

“This is about one thing. Hypocrisy. You leftists screaming about waterboarding yet they’re muted about killing with drones because they’re in the tank for Barack Obama.”

Right! Leftists like the New York Times, Rachel Maddow, Glenn Greenwald, etc. are all in the tank for Obama even while they harshly slam him for deploying drones. It should also be noted that another news organization actually did mute the drone story – Fox News. Therefore they must also be in the tank for Obama.

How many times does O’Reilly have to get virtually everything wrong before people will take notice that he is just blabbering old fool who can’t form a coherent argument on any subject? If he had the capacity to feel shame he might hole himself up in a cabin in Idaho for the remainder of the decade. Unfortunately, his prodigious ego will ensure that he will continue to misinform his audience and whine pitifully when someone tries to point out his mistakes. And somehow this gets ratings for Fox. Well, I guess if people will watch Honey Boo Boo, they will watch anything.

Fox News Deliberately Low-Balled Sarah Palin According To Reliable Sources (CNN)

Sarah PalinMuch has been made of the news that Tea Party queen Sarah Palin and Fox News, the cable network that served as the PR agency for the Tea Party, have parted ways. The reporting generally implied that Palin had turned down Fox’s offer to renew her contract. That is, in all likelihood, exactly what happened.

However, contract negotiations are more complex than that. And now we have reporting from CNN’s Howard Kurtz that fleshes out some of the ambiguities of the original stories. On his program Reliable Sources, Kurtz expanded on the matter by saying…

“My reporting shows that Fox News did offer Sarah Palin a new contract, but it is what I would call a low-ball offer, significantly less, a fraction of the million dollars a year she had been paid.”

In other words, Fox deliberately made an offer that they knew Palin would reject because they had no interest in retaining her beyond her current contract. As speculated previously here at News Corpse, Fox probably “offered her a moose burger and parking validation to re-up – and even that would have been more than she’s worth.” After all, why would Fox continue to overpay someone about whom Fox CEO Roger Ailes reportedly said he thinks is an idiot?

Palin’s star has been fading fast. Fox News only posted a modified AP story about the separation on their web site. Fox Nation, known for its rabid partisanship and rank dishonesty, didn’t report on it all. As evidence of Palin’s rapidly declining value, her first post-Fox stop was at the Internet’s home of doctored videos and right-wing propaganda, Breitbart News. There she answered a couple of vacant questions from BreitBrat Stephen Bannon, the sycophantic producer of the fawning Palin crockumentary, “The Undefeated” (the most ironically named box office bomb ever, considering it chronicles one of modern history’s most frequently defeated political failures).

In response to Bannon’s query about what she planned to do next, Palin had no answer other than vagaries about her desire to quit “preaching to the choir.” She spoke of “sharing more broadly the message of the beauty of freedom” to a larger audience. She didn’t give any indication of where she would find an audience receptive to her wingnuttery that she thinks is larger than Fox News from which she was just ousted. The narrow appeal of her conservative extremism is unlikely to find much acceptance beyond the tiny choir that is currently singing from her warped hymnal.

Then Bannon asked her where she thinks the country stands today and she launched into a dirty laundry list of every worn out criticism the right has lobbed at Obama for four years. She spoke of deficits and unemployment – problems that resulted from George Bush’s mismanagement of the economy and have improved under Obama. Of course, she also included fabricated controversies about ObamaCare, Benghazi, and gun control, that are a staple of the right’s outrage machine.

Palin told BreitBrat Bannon that “Conservatism didn’t lose.” She blames the 2012 GOP debacle entirely on Mitt Romney, despite the fact that he ran as a “severely conservative” candidate embracing every position held dear to the Republican far-right fringe. And she declares that “we haven’t begun to fight! But we delight in those who underestimate us.” In that regard she must be filled to the brim with delight, because it would hard to have a lower estimation of the woman who thinks a “gotcha” question is “What magazines do you read.”

On the basis of that level of insightful commentary, it’s no wonder that Fox chose to insult Palin with a pittance of her prior pay, and free her to tarnish the reputation of some other news enterprise (i.e. Breitbart). Apparently somebody at Fox has concluded that their reputation has already been tarnished enough.

The Swiss Boating Of Mitt Romney: A CNN Fable

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.

Swiss MittThis 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.

Bill O’Reilly Is An Idiot Whether Apologizes Or Not

Back in March, Bill O’Reilly had a contentious debate with Caroline Fredrickson, the president of the American Constitution Society, on the potential outcome of the Supreme Court’s hearing on ObamaCare. Ms. Fredrickson presciently predicted that the bill would be upheld as constitutional and even noted specifically that the justification would come from the Constitution’s taxing authority. However, O’Reilly disagreed and concluded the segment by saying this:

“Ms. Frederickson, you’re going to lose, and your argument is specious. We appreciate you coming on. But this is absolutely a mandate. It’s absolutely a force. It’s absolutely police powers from the federal government, and it’s going to be 5 to 4. And if I’m wrong I will come on, and I will play — I will play your clip. And I will apologize for being an idiot. But I think you’re desperately wrong.”

Last week, following the Court’s decision, O’Reilly was on vacation, but he did call into his program and spoke with guest host Laura Ingraham. He said nothing about himself having been so desperately wrong. Today he returned and brought up the the incident in March, however, he did not apologize. Just prior to a disingenuous pseudo-apology, he declared that he is “not really sorry,” which cancels out anything he said afterwards. You don’t get credit for an apology if you precede it by saying that you’re not really sorry.

Rather, O’Reilly spent several minutes blaming CNN’s Howard Kurtz and Media Matters for – well, I couldn’t really figure what he was blaming them for. Apparently they were somehow responsible for his being a complete moron, and therefore he had nothing for which to apologize. He alleged that Kurtz was empowering Media Matters in some respect, and that…

“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.”

And that was it. No actual apology. No admission that he was an idiot. No integrity in keeping his word. Just an obvious and pathetic dodge. He pointed fingers at others who had nothing to do with any of this and pretended that he never made a spectacularly stupid promise in support of his ill-informed prediction. It was a display of dishonesty and cowardice that befits someone like – well, like Bill O’Reilly. So I thought I’d help Billo out by saying what he is to chickenshit to say:

Bill O'Reilly is a Sorry Idiot

I think that about covers it.

Liberal Media My Ass!

Nothing will make me happier than when the utterly delusional notion that the media in this country is liberal has been refuted, defeated, exterminated, and cremated.

While most observers are already aware of the fact-hating editorial policy of Fox News, at least they did fire Glenn Beck earlier this year (although only because his increasingly hysterical ravings were making them look bad). What people may not have noticed is that CNN is taking up Fox’s slack.

This morning on CNN viewers could have awakened to see two of Beck’s surrogates bloviating on the events of the day. Amy Holmes, an anchor on Beck’s GBTV was a guest commentator on Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz. A couple of hours later, Will Cain, a repoter for Beck’s The Blaze appeared on CNN’s Your Money.

For CNN to feature two representatives of Glenn Beck’s insignificant and failing Internet venture is unbelievable. Is that the best they could come up with? Was CNN unable to find any reputable commentators from distinguished networks, newspapers, or universities? Or maybe their attempts to book members of the John Birch Society fell through.

Elsewhere, NPR made news by firing the host of an opera program because she had taken part in an OccupyDC protest. According to NPR, Lisa Simeone was sacked because her activity “has the potential to compromise our reputation as an organization that strives to be impartial and unbiased.”

Mara LiassonNever mind that Simeone hosts a music program and does not cover politics or any other subject that could pose any kind of a conflict. Unlike NPR’s Mara Liasson who is a political reporter as well as a commentator on Fox News. Somehow NPR justifies Liasson’s fraternizing with Fox on matters that are explicitly political, but Simeone can’t introduce classical music after having exercised her Constitutional right to free speech on her own personal time.

Conservatives assail CNN as the Communist News Network due to their perception of it as unabashedly liberal. NPR is a perennial target of right-wingers in Congress who seek to defund what they considered to be a hopelessly biased mouthpiece for the left. At what point are these fallacies laid to rest? Do we really need any more proof than when CNN hosts two Glenn Beck flunkies on the same day, or NPR fires an opera program host because she is a liberal outside of work?

The Occupy Wall Street movement has done a great job of defining the 99% of Americans who are being rolled over by the !% of wealthy, corporate interests who are dominating our political culture. Something the Occupiers need to remember and focus on is that the media in this country is also wealthy and corporate, and they are Platinum members of the 1%. Wall Street firms and bankers spend billions on advertising and the media rewards them with positive coverage and the sort of ludicrous editorial decisions noted above. This needs to be addressed and corrected if we are to see any substantive improvement in the massive social and economic disparities that are threatening our nation’s welfare.

The Sorry Truth About Roger Ailes And Fox News

Roger Ailes

A few days ago Howard Kurtz of Newsweek published an article profiling Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News. It was revealing of both Kurtz and Ailes.

The first sign that Kurtz was either unconscious or delusional was when he offered this description of Ailes’ allegedly changing moods:

“[A]s President Obama’s popularity has plummeted and the country has grown increasingly sick of partisan sniping, something unexpected happened. Roger Ailes pulled back a bit on the throttle.”

Kurtz never provides any evidence to support that contention. In reality Fox News is just as extreme an outlet for rightist propaganda as it has ever been. They incessantly hammer on fabricated scandals and openly disparage the President. The departure of Glenn Beck, which Kurtz mentions in passing, has done nothing to reduce the vitriol. Now Eric Bolling is calling President Obama a socialist in the program that replaced Beck.

Kurtz did manage to slip in this insight from unnamed Fox executives:

“Privately, Fox executives say the entire network took a hard right turn after Obama’s election, but, as the Tea Party’s popularity fades, is edging back toward the mainstream.”

The interesting thing about that is not the contention that Fox is “edging back toward the mainstream.” It’s not. What’s interesting is the admission that Fox “took a hard right turn.” That is something that Fox has been denying for years as they pretend to be “fair and balanced.” It also contradicts the constant Fox drumbeat of support for the Tea Party which they believe is a dominant factor in modern political culture (despite their puny 16% approval in recent polling). Another moment of clarity occurred when Kurtz painted Ailes with concern after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

“Ailes ordered his troops to tone things down. It was, in his view, a chance to boost profits by grabbing a more moderate audience.”

Notice that Ailes did not want to tone things down to ease tensions and prevent further outbursts of violence. According to Kurtz, Ailes wanted to tone things down to make more money. Of course, returning to reality, Ailes never toned anything down and he most likely doesn’t believe that doing so would be more profitable.

Perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious part of the profile is when Ailes complained that “America used to be able to get straight journalism.” This was such an egregious separation from sanity that even Kurtz noticed.

Roger Ailes is still running a dishonest enterprise dedicated to spreading falsehoods and advancing an ultra-conservative agenda. He still employs demagogues like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly, and Sarah Palin (who is NOT running for president and Fox is lying about it). He still allows the ignorant stooges on Fox & Friends to spew gossip and inane conspiracies.

Kurtz was able to ply a few morsels of truth from Ailes about his inherent bias, but that does not excuse his naivete about whether Ailes has softened. He hasn’t. And in the coming months, as the election season heats up, expect to see even more radically untrue attacks on Democrats and progressives. If Kurtz really thinks that Fox News is moderating their biases, he is even dumber than Sarah Palin.

BUSTED: Fox News Memo Reveals Coordinated Bias

In August of 2009, while the debate over health insurance reform was in full swing, GOP pollster Frank Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity’s program and advised Hannity and other Republican operatives to stop using the term “public option.” As a result of his own polling Luntz discovered that…

“…if you call it a ‘public option,’ the American people are split, [but] if you call it the ‘government option,’ the public is overwhelmingly against it.”

Luntz is a Republican pollster who specializes in language. His web site, The Word Doctors, sports the motto “It’s not what you say. It’s what people hear.” He is responsible for introducing rhetorical distortions such as the “death tax” into the public discourse. He truly does have a gift for doctoring words.

Two months after Luntz’s appearance with Hannity, Bill Sammon, Fox News’ Washington managing editor, issued a memo to Fox producers ordering them cease the use of the term “public option.” Media Matters published the memo today:

From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the “public option”

1) Please use the term “government-run health insurance” or, when brevity is a concern, “government option,” whenever possible.
2) When it is necessary to use the term “public option” (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.”
3) Here’s another way to phrase it: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”
4) When newsmakers and sources use the term “public option” in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.

This is about as clear a demonstration of institutional bias at Fox News as you’ll ever see. The evidence of their bias has always been apparent on the air, but this shows that it isn’t merely the opinions of the presenters, but that it is a coordinated policy embraced and enforced from Fox News’ executive suites. It is also contrary to an earlier memo Sammon distributed disingenuously asserting that, “We do not cheerlead for one cause or another.” However it is perfectly aligned with Sammon’s ideology as expressed in his books:

Bill Sammon Books

  • The Evangelical President: George Bush’s Struggle to Spread a Moral Democracy Throughout the World
  • At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election
  • Strategery: How George W. Bush Is Defeating Terrorists, Outwitting Democrats, and Confounding the Mainstream Media.
  • Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism from Inside the White House
  • Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, Media Bias and the Bush Haters

In an interview on The Daily Beast. Howard Kurtz got Sammon to respond to the email flap:

“The term public option, he said, ‘is a vague, bland, undescriptive phrase,’ and that after all, ‘who would be against a public park?’ The phrase ‘government-run plan,’ he said, is ‘a more neutral term,’ and was used just last week by a New York Times columnist. I have no idea what the Republicans were pushing or not,’ Sammons says. ‘It’s simply an accurate, fair, objective term.’

If you believe that you’re probably already a loyal Glenn Beck viewer. Sammon’s complaint that “public option” is vague and bland is actually an endorsement of its neutrality and makes it more appropriate for unbiased reporting. Sammon knows full well that “government-run” is a loaded phrase. It certainly would have an impact on the anti-government Tea Party that is the foundation of both his network and the Republican Party.

His claim that he has no idea what Republicans were pushing is utterly implausible. If it were true it would mean that he is an incompetent manager and an uninformed journalist. How could he not know the GOP preference for “government-run” when it was broadcast on the second highest rated Fox News program? Does he expect people to believe that Frank Luntz could conduct polling on the phrases and report the results to Sean Hannity, without him having any knowledge of it? And was he entirely oblivious to the fact that only Republicans ever used the term “government-run”? His defense forces us conclude that he is either a liar or an idiot.

When Sammon objected to accusations that he was biased, Kurtz correctly pointed out a number of incidents that supported the accusations. He also mentioned a couple of Sammon’s books. However, I can’t let this little escape from reality go without comment:

Kurtz: “The significance of the marching orders is that they were issued to the news division, which aims to be fair and balanced and is run separately from the opinion side, populated by the likes of Hannity and Glenn Beck.”

I would like to see Kurtz provide any evidence that the news division at Fox is run separately from the opinion side. Or that they aim to be fair and balanced. The significance of the marching orders is that they were marching orders. An ethical network would not impose such constraints, even on their editorial commentators. The only sort of enterprise that would do so is one that is focused, not on news, but on propaganda; one that has an agenda and seeks to maintain ideological purity in their messaging. In other words: Fox News.

The Nazi Talk On Fox News Starts At The Top

If you have ever wondered where Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity et al, get their propensity for accusing every liberal or Democrat of being a Nazi, the mystery is solved.

Roger Ailes is the chairman and CEO of Fox News. As such he can be considered the role model for his staff and the authority on the network’s journalistic doctrine. In an interview this week with The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz (Part 1, Part 2), Ailes demonstrated precisely the sort of example he hopes to set for his team. In response to a question about Juan Williams’ departure from NPR, Ailes said:

“They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.”

That’s right. The folks at NPR are synonymous with a genocidal regime that murdered millions and sought to create a vast tyrannical empire for a “master race.” I always suspected that Lake Woebegone’s predominately white, Christian residents were secretly fascists.

This wasn’t a slip of the tongue. He said it three times. And if this is what he says in public to a reporter for The Daily Beast and CNN, just imagine what he says privately to direct the activities of his news producers, correspondents, and anchors. And what must Mara Liasson, an NPR correspondent and Fox News contributor, think of Ailes trashing her primary employer this way?

Ailes is guilty of a typical anti-Semitic tactic of trivializing the Holocaust in an attempt to dampen its historical impact and ultimately deny its existence. This is illustrated further when Ailes defended Glenn Beck’s atrocious smear of George Soros as a Nazi collaborator. Ailes dismissed the criticism directed at Beck by disparaging an imagined cabal of…

“…left-wing rabbis who basically don’t think that anybody can ever use word, Holocaust, on the air.”

Of course, there is no support for that statement. The Jewish organizations that condemned Beck’s programs are not averse to using the word, they merely object to it being used to slander actual Holocaust survivors, and to turning it into a colloquial insult. However, Ailes apparently believes the word should be used more frequently, no matter the context, and aimed at any progressive individual or institution that he doesn’t like. And his network is evidence of that belief. (See Lewis Black’s Nazi Tourettes)

The interview revealed several other examples of the inherent bias of a network that calls itself “fair and balanced.” On President Obama, Ailes advanced the notion that he is somehow “foreign” saying that…

“He just has a different belief system than most Americans.”

That must be why most Americans voted for him and still prefer him to every potential Republican opponent. They also prefer him to our previous president, George W. Bush, whom Ailes praised saying…

“This poor guy, sitting down on his ranch clearing brush, gained a lot of respect for keeping his mouth shut.”

I may have to give him that one. Keeping his mouth shut may be the only way Bush could ever gain respect. However, Ailes must not be paying attention because Bush hasn’t set foot in Crawford since he left the White House. His faulty attention span also missed some critical facts regarding Rupert Murdoch’s political contributions:

“Rupert Murdoch’s worked for 60 years. He’s the biggest media mogul in the world. I don’t think anyone can tell him what to do with his money. That’s sort of his right.”

Except that the millions of dollars that Murdoch donated to partisan GOP campaigns didn’t come out of his pocket. It was from News Corp, so it was the shareholders who were paying for his electoral largesse.

Finally, Ailes couldn’t help taking a swipe at a perennial foe whom he apparently thinks is another enemy of America: Jon Stewart.

“He openly admits he’s sort of an atheist and a socialist. [...] He hates conservative views. He hates conservative thoughts. He hates conservative verbiage. He hates conservatives. He’s crazy.”

OK, let’s just set aside his hyperbolic derision of Stewart’s faith and patriotism. Ailes casts Stewart as crazy and hateful toward conservatives. But he sure gets along well with Bill O’Reilly, Newt Gingrich and many other conservatives who have been guests on his show. But here’s the fun part:

“If it wasn’t polarized, he couldn’t make a living. He makes a living by attacking conservatives and stirring up a liberal base against it. He loves polarization. He depends on it. If liberals and conservatives are all getting along, how good would that show be? It’d be a bomb.”

Couldn’t you make almost the exact same comment about Fox News? Just switch liberals and conservatives as the objects of attack and you have the Fox business model. And he’s right. Without the constant liberal bashing and polarization Fox would bomb. That’s because they don’t have any actual news to support their network.

Ailes exhibits a stunningly dense appreciation for reality. He is oblivious to what every objective analyst sees with crystal clarity. But the worst part remains his personal affinity for the sort of rhetoric that divides our nation. His embrace of Nazi and socialist slurs is a crucial part of the broadcast philosophy of Fox News, and now no one can wonder who set that repulsive and hostile tone that the rest of the network emulates.

Update: Roger Ailes has issued an apology of sorts. He sent a letter to Abe Foxman of the ADL saying that he regretted his use of the term “Nazi attitudes.” However the rest of the letter was a surreal justification for his language.

First he blamed it on his anger at NPR for having fired Juan Williams. Then he shifted gears and blamed it on a couple of rabbis with whom he had met to discuss Glenn Beck’s frequent comparisons of Nazis to Democrats, progressives and other Beck targets. He also defended Beck’s Smear-laden programs on George Soros by saying that his “Brainroom” had found the programs valid. For an apology he sure had a lot of other people to fault for his wrongdoing.

But the real flaw in the so-called apology is that Ailes sent it to the ADL. But it wasn’t the ADL whom he had called Nazis. It was the folks at NPR. I don’t think you can call it an apology if you don’t address it to the people you actually offended. It was more of a cowardly PR gesture.

NewsBusters: The Most Powerful Name In Stupid

You know that you’ve reached new lows in stupidity when you make it necessary to defend CNN/Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz. But Noel Sheppard, NewsBusters’ Associate Editor, can hang his head in pride at having achieved just that feat.

In an article “analyzing” a segment of Kurtz’s Reliable Sources, Sheppard manages to demonstrate an astonishingly deficient ability to comprehend simple English. In this segment Kurtz correctly criticized Fox News in general, and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity in particular, for falsely asserting that Democratic Delaware senatorial candidate Chris Coons had “admitted” to being a Marxist. The basis for the assertion was this excerpt from an article Coons wrote 25 years ago in college:

“I spent the spring of my junior year in Africa on the St. Lawrence Kenya Study Program. Going to Kenya was one of the few real decisions I have made; my friends, family, and professors all advised against it, but I went anyway, My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe a strange diet, or the tropical sun, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear thinking Americans and sends back Bearded Marxists.”

It’s plain from reading this that it was Coons’ friends who raised the subject of his being a Marxist, and even that was clearly stated to be a joke. There is nothing there resembling an admission of Marxism, and there is no way a person with a functioning cerebrum could arrive at that interpretation. Which neatly explains how Beck and Hannity managed to do so. Kurtz, for whom I rarely find anything worthy of commendation, deserves credit for calling out the pair of Fox News hacks for their blatant and deliberate deceit.

Here’s where NewsBusters steps in to lather themselves in shame. Sheppard begins with an inquiry as to why Kurtz didn’t mention a previous article that appeared in Politico and referenced the Coons article. Sheppard asks…

“Why didn’t Kurtz scold Politico? After all, [Politico author Alex] Isenstadt appears to be the first national reporter to bring this article to light.”

The answer, of course, is that Isenstadt never alleged that Coons confessed to being a Marxist. There is nothing wrong with drawing attention to prior writings by political candidates. The problem comes when someone dishonestly portrays the contents of it, as Beck and Hannity did. Isenstadt didn’t do that so there was no reason for Kurtz to scold him.

Next Sheppard quotes a line from Isenstadt’s article that cites Coons’ campaign spokesman calling the “bearded Marxist” reference a joke. Sheppard then asks…

“Is this where Kurtz got the idea that the whole article was a joke? From Coons’s campaign spokesman? That doesn’t seem like good journalism, does it?”

Sheppard wouldn’t know good journalism if it reached out of his monitor and slapped him. The first idiotic hokum in this question is the premise that Kurtz held that “the whole article” was a joke. Kurtz never said that, nor did Coons or his spokesman. But where Sheppard goes off the rails is by suggesting that Kurtz got the idea that it was a joke from the campaign spokesman’s comment rather than from the actual text of Coons’ article that said explicitly, “My friends now joke that…” It was right there in black and white, in the original article, that Kurtz, and everyone else who can read, got the idea that it was a joke. It couldn’t be more clear if you pasted a picture of Henny Youngman above it. I guess it’s that clarity that accompanies reality that confused Sheppard.

And yet Sheppard persists in making a fool of himself. He concludes his analysis by complaining that Kurtz has a double standard because he criticized the coverage of Coons but not that of his GOP opponent, Christine O’Donnell. However, Kurtz was criticizing the Coons coverage because it was wrong. The coverage of O’Donnell was merely replaying video of her own performance on television. Nobody mischaracterized what she said, they just broadcast it as it was. If there was something wrong with it, even Sheppard didn’t bother to point it out. But he did take one more swing at the debunked smear that Coons was a self-avowed Marxist:

“As such, an autobiographical article by Coons in which he referred to himself as a bearded Marxist is all a joke while comments O’Donnell made concerning her religious faith are somehow relevant to this campaign.”

Once again, Coons did not refer to himself as a “bearded Marxist,” and his friends who did so were joking. And both candidates’ histories are relevant to the campaign, but they must be presented accurately. Unfortunately, Sheppard prefers the lying gasbag approach.


On a separate matter from the same program, Kurtz earned himself another commendation by calling out his own network, CNN. They declined to broadcast a story of war atrocities by Michael Ware due to graphic imagery. Kurtz observed that a story of this importance should still have been aired, and if the images were deemed too disturbing they could have simply left them out of the broadcast. He also took the network to task for refusing to make anyone available to discuss the matter. Kurtz deserves credit for that position. I hope we see more of this sort of media criticism going forward, but I’m just a cockeyed optimist.