Republican Intelligence Committee Report Blows Up The Benghazi Hoax [Updated]

The Republican-led House Intelligence Committee responsible for investigating Benghazi released its final report in a pre-Thanksgiving Friday news dump. Their conclusions debunked nearly every right-wing, Fox News, conservative fruitcake, conspiracy theory that has been circling the wingnut drain for the past two years.

Benghazi

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The Associated Press is reporting that the Committee’s findings absolve the administration of any wrongdoing. That includes the grossly unfair attacks on then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice, the allegations that military rescue units were told to “stand down,” and numerous assaults on Hillary Clinton’s character and management of the State Department. The House Committee report’s conclusions affirm those of the Senate Intelligence Committee who issued their own report on Benghazi nearly a year ago. The AP said in part…

“In the aftermath of the attacks, Republicans criticized the Obama administration and its then-secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016. People in and out of government have alleged that a CIA response team was ordered to ‘stand down’ after the State Department compound came under attack, that a military rescue was nixed, that officials intentionally downplayed the role of al-Qaida figures in the attack, and that Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels. None of that is true, according to the House Intelligence Committee report.”

Some of the flaws in the follow-up to the attack were identified by the committee as being the result of mistakes by “intelligence analysts, not political appointees.” This absolves both the Obama administration and Clinton, who Republicans were hoping to smear with false allegations connected to the Benghazi affair.

One area that received criticism in the report regarded whether adequate security was in place at the time of the attack. The report concluded that the facility was not well protected. However, it did not go into the fact that it was a diplomatic outpost, not a military base. Generally diplomatic facilities are designed to be open to the public and welcoming of local residents. A militaristic presence would defeat the purpose of the diplomatic mission. Consequently, the fine line between security and accessibility is often difficult to define.

The question now is whether the new House Select Committee on the Politicization of Benghazi that GOP Speaker John Boehner impaneled will continue its work. In order to do so they would have to presume that their colleagues on the Intelligence Committee screwed up. That would make for an interesting fight between fellow GOP chairmen Mike Rogers and Trey Gowdy. However, the new Committee, that was formed last May, hasn’t done much work and has held only one meeting in the six months since its creation. If it were to dissolve tomorrow it’s probable that nobody would notice. So while failing to uncover anything untoward, the GOP has spent millions of dollars struggling to create a controversy, but succeeded only in proving that they are utterly inept.

It will also be interesting to see if Fox News even bothers to report the conclusions of the Intelligence Committee. Fox has spent innumerable hours flailing Obama, Clinton, Rice, and anyone else they thought they could impugn with slanderous allegations for two years now. They have attacked people as liars, incompetents, even traitors, and called for the impeachment of President Obama. Never mind that they never had any evidence of any wrongdoing.

And now their own GOP inquisitors have given the administration a complete vindication. Will Fox News do a special hour report on “Benghazi: The Exoneration of the White House?” Not that that would compensate for the Benghazi fixation that has consumed Fox for so long. In addition to their relentless blanketing of the airwaves with Benghazi porn as a matter of routine, they have produced several special reports on the subject with hyperbolic titles such as…

  • Fox News Reporting: 13 Hours at Benghazi.
  • Fox News Reporting: Benghazi: White House Cover-Up Revealed?
  • Special Report Investigates: Death and Deceit in Benghazi.
  • Fox News Reporting: Benghazi: The Truth Behind the Smokescreen.
  • Special Report Investigates: Benghazi – New Revelations.

And nothing has come of any of it. When does Fox News broadcast a retraction and an apology to those whose reputations they have tarnished? When do they admit that it was all a partisan scheme to demean Democrats and help Republicans? When do the begin to honor their slogan “fair and balanced” by giving their viewers a more complete picture of reality?

Don’t waste too much time pondering the answers to those questions. Fox will never exhibit the integrity required to be legitimate journalists. They were conceived as a right-wing propaganda operation and they will remain faithful to that nefarious mission. Even as facts emerge, like those from the House Intelligence Committee, that prove they are flagrantly partisan and dishonest.

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[Update:] Fox News posted an account of the House Intelligence Committees’s report on their website that was predictably biased. It failed to report any of the exonerating conclusions made by the GOP-led panel. Instead, it appeared under a misleading headline that read “CIA gathered intelligence on weapons to Syria: Benghazi report,” and focused on ancillary issues that were either not in contention or were the flawed product of intelligence analysts.

[Update: 11/22] Fox News finally mentioned the House Intel report on the air in a segment that lasted only 36 seconds and, true to form, they completely ignored the salient facts that exonerated the administration.

[Update: 11/23] On Fox’s MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz raised the question of whether the committee report received the amount of coverage that it warranted. He concluded that it did not.

“The House Intelligence Committee issued the results of a two year investigation of Benghazi and, among other things, the committee controlled by Republicans says that their was no intelligence failure. There was no stand-down order. There was no cover up by administration officials, or at least no intention to deceive. […] Given all the attention that Benghazi has gotten, including on this network, should that have gotten more coverage?

Also on the program was disgraced former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson who disagreed for some absurdly petty reasons.

“There were no answers, I think, to the great imponderables, which may be why it didn’t get more coverage. Like what was the President doing that night? Why can’t we see the White House photos. What happened to the surveillance video in Benghazi.”

First of all, all of those “imponderables” were previously pondered and answered. But more to the point, it is ridiculous to suggest that seeing photos from the White House, thousands of miles away from the scene, is more important than than correcting allegations of a cover up or debunking scurrilous conspiracy theories claiming that Americans were deliberately left behind to die. Attkisson, who wants to taken seriously as a journalist, is embarrassing herself again with a fixation on tabloid irrelevancies.

Glenn Beck’s Failing Health And Wealth Gets Treated By Fox News Spin Doctors

When Glenn Beck lost his perch on Fox News three years ago, his public profile shrunk considerably. He was no longer seen by a million addled viewers every day who clung worshipfully to his every utterance of apocalyptic doom. Yet he soldiered on promising to become “a thousand times more powerful” in whatever new venture he undertook. That was a promise he has not been able to keep.

As a result, he has resorted to literally begging his audience to subscribe to his Internet webcast, reaching out to investors he once swore off as limiting his free expression, and prostrating himself to the television gods hoping to regain access to their domain. It gives the title of his 2010 book a whole new meaning as to whether Beck himself is going broke.

Glenn Beck Going Broke

Beck’s recent confessional regarding his health problems has stirred a great deal of controversy from skeptics who regard the performance as a cynical ploy for attention and revenue enhancement. News Corpse addressed that skepticism with the observation that Beck had conveniently healed himself at the same time he announced the mystery malady. However, he also confirmed that throughout much of the time he was accused of saying crazy things he actually was (is?) crazy.

Enter Fox News to clean up the mess Beck created and put it all in a glowing light of blessed prosperity. Fox’s whoring media analyst, Howard Kurtz, brought in conservative shill Joe Concha to polish the story. Concha began by lionizing the woefully ailing Beck as a brave figure who is leading the “the humanization of opinion journalism” (whatever that means). He added that…

“Guys like [Mark] Levin, and [Rush] Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck – they’re humanizing this whole process as well. Think about what Glenn said when he made that statement. He said ‘You know what? This isn’t meant for the press. This is between you and me.'”

Note to Joe Concha: When someone posts a two hour video monologue, seated next to a long-suffering wife, while sobbing and praising God for a miraculous healing, that is not a personal message to a private audience. And if you think that Beck was not aware of the interest in this campy melodrama among members of the tabloid press, you really should get out of the media business.

Concha continued his defense of Beck by taking a cowardly swipe at Cenk Uygur, who he called “a former MSNBC host screaming to be relevant again,” but whose name he could not utter. Ironically, if anyone is screaming to be relevant again it’s Beck, but that was beyond Concha’s ability to comprehend. Instead, he criticized Uygur’s assertion that Beck was hyping a dubious illness in order to get back on television and make more money. Then Concha rattled off a list of mostly unverified accounts of Beck’s wealth. He sought to belittle Beck’s critics by smugly declaring that “Anybody who says he’s going bankrupt and he made up this whole thing because he doesn’t have a couple of dollars in his pocket doesn’t live in a reality that has Google, a calculator, and basic logic.” To which an obviously enchanted Kurtz responded “Alright, you’ve settled that question,” which, of course, he had not done.

To the contrary, it is Concha who has abandoned both logic and any understanding of basic economics. What’s missing from his Beck-fluffing analysis is that income is not the sole determinative component of net worth. You also need to factor in spending and debt. And by Beck’s own account he was bleeding money and needed to be rescued by either his loyal disciples, outside investors, or a return to television.

Beck has wailed plaintively in the recent past that “Already I’ve lost quite a tidy sum.” As a result he was forced to beg his disciples to increase his subscription base because “I thought I had time. I need your help.” That doesn’t sound like a healthy business enterprise. To be sure, he has spent heavily on a new television studio in the suburbs of Dallas. And he is allegedly bankrolling a film studio modeled after the Walt Disney organization, complete with high tech animation and effects facilities. He is also running retail businesses and stage presentations and publishing imprints. All of these activities have costs associated with them.

Beck does not disclose financial statements for himself or his businesses, so there is no way of knowing whether the mega-bucks he is reported to be pulling in cover his expenses. However, the debt he is compiling may be what led to his filing with the SEC seeking $40 million in funding for TheBlaze (As of 7/1/2014 he had only $6.4 million). This comes after he previously vowed to abstain from outside investors saying that…

“I do not want outside investors. We have talked about it. We have had outside investors come to us. We have had hedge funds come to us. People want to invest in my business because we are creating jobs and creating wealth. I do not want outside investors because I do not want to have to answer to anyone else.”

Apparently he wants them now. He also wants back on TV. He has been working furiously to get cable operators to carry his video blog. That in itself is an admission that the web business is failing. If he does get the cable carriage he longs for, that programming will be available for free to all of the current cable subscribers on the system. So why would anyone pay for the web programming? If the Internet subscription model was working for him, Beck wouldn’t risk cannibalizing his online customers by offering the same content for free on cable.

It’s clear that the hacks on Fox News haven’t taken these factors into consideration. Consequently, they mouth off on subjects about which they are totally ignorant. But then that’s how they got their jobs at Fox in the first place. Being ignorant, or at least willing to lie with a straight face, is a prerequisite for employment at Fox News. What else could explain Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, Keith Ablow, and, of course, Joe Concha and Howard Kurtz?

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.

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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. http://t.co/SpB4rQDoAR

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

And of course Fox Nation made this their top story.
Read Fox Nation vs. Reality for more tales from the loony side.

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 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.

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.