Former MSNBC GM Slams Chris Matthews, NYT and 'Media’s Shameful, Inexcusable Distortion' of Citizens United
You don't often see a well-known liberal media member publicly criticizing the liberal media he's a part of.
But when Dan Abrams, the former General Manager of MSNBC and founder of the left-wing Mediaite, trashes his former network - in particular Hardball host Chris Matthews - as well as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other media outlets for their "Shameful, Inexcusable Distortion Of The Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision," one should take notice:
There are two media myths and inventions that are most commonly cited.
Myth 1: The Court invalidated disclosure requirements in political advertising, thereby allowing donors to remain anonymous.
Wrong. The Court ruled just the opposite and upheld, by an 8-1 vote, the McCain-Feingold requirement of identifying donors.
Myth 2: That the Court’s ruling in Citizens United opened the door to wealthy individuals like Sheldon Adelson to pour millions of dollars into PACs.
Wrong again. The Citizens United ruling had NOTHING to do with the ability of individuals to spend their money to support candidates. That had been decided back in 1976, when the Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment protected the right of individuals to make unlimited independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates for federal office. In Citizens United, the Court ruled that corporations and unions were entitled to the same rights. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that the Swift Boat ads, legally paid for by individuals, soiled John Kerry during the 2004 campaign.
Abrams then cited examples:
On January 9, in a front-page piece on the influence of Newt Gingrich supporter Sheldon Adelson, the Times inaccurately reported that Adelson’s $5 million donation to a pro-Gingrich SuperPAC “underscores” how the Citizens United case, “has made it possible for a wealthy individual to influence an election.” [...]
The Washington Post has done no better. On January 11th, Dana Milbank, writing of Adelson’s $5 million donation to a pro-Gingrich SuperPAC, asserted that it was, “the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision which made such unlimited contributions possible.”
Then Abrams went after his former employer:
It seems this faulty analysis has worn off on MSNBC host Chris Matthews as well, since he, too, regularly misreports the case’s ruling. “Under this new court ruling, Citizens United, your opponent can run a terrible campaign and relentlessly destroy your reputation without putting your fingerprints on the ad,” Matthews said. “You don’t have to say, ‘I’m Mitt Romney and I paid for this ad.’ So now in Iowa, where the people don’t like negative campaigning, you can run the bombing campaign or destroy your opponent without having your face or voice associated with it. That’s what Newt wasn’t aware of. It’s his fault that conservatives like them have gone along with these court decisions, that have allowed big contributors, wealthy people to put unlimited amounts of money into negative campaigns without putting the name of their favorite candidate in the ad.”
This is a double dose of wrong, since the disclosure requirement in the law was upheld and the case had nothing to do with individuals. One might forgive Al Jazeera for getting it wrong and it’s not unusual to see partisan advocates misstate a ruling like this to further a political agenda, but the mainstream American media should have no excuse.
Abrams concluded, "You may disagree with the opinion, you may think that expanding the ability of corporations to fund campaign messaging is a true danger, or just, as I do, that outside money is a major concern for our democratic system but that doesn’t change the fact that the political chattering set ought to be far more concerned and outraged by the indolence, indifference or just bias, that has led to the widespread misinformation by the media about what the court actually considered and ultimately ruled."
Indeed it has thereby allowing the media to unfairly and dishonestly rail against the Super PACs currently supporting the various Republican presidential candidates. But now that their beloved Obama has said that he's just fine with people giving money to a Super PAC backing him, the press are likely going to soften their criticism of wealthy campaign financiers.
Which makes one question the timing of Abrams' editorial.
To be sure, a motivating factor in writing this piece was his father being one of the attorneys that argued the case before the Court on behalf of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
But the media have been guilty of "shameful, inexcusable distortion" of Citizens United since the ruling was first made public in January 2010.
How convenient is it that the founder of one of the nation's most liberal websites, just two days after the President he likely supports gave his blessing to Priorities USA Action, took to his keyboard to excoriate media's coverage of this two year old Supreme Court decision?
Or am I just being too cynical?
*****Update: Original version of this piece named Abrams as managing editor of Mediaite. He's actually the founder.
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