Ridiculous Maddow Paints NewsBusters as Vehicle of ‘Right-Wing’ ‘Intimidation’

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow “apologized” on Friday for her false report the previous night that conservative public relations executive Craig Shirley was somehow behind a Web site that hosted incendiary anti-Obama video, a site funded by a group called Grassfire.org. “I apologize for saying that they [Shirley & Banister Public Affairs] were still currently involved in representing Grassfire. They are not,” she admitted.

Undeterred, Maddow then ludicrously tried to impugn Shirley & Banister by connecting them to the anti-ObamaCare protests (as if that would be a bad thing) through a convoluted set of associations. She then displayed Friday’s NewsBusters’ article on her wrong reporting as evidence that “right-wing Web sites” were using “threats and intimidation” to pressure Maddow to back off.

I will not and we will not be intimidated out of covering the news,” Maddow pompously declared.

Maddow on Thursday night had claimed that Craig Shirley could credibly be blamed for an incendiary “Obama=Hitler” video posted by a user on ResistNet.com, a Web site paid for Grassfire.org, which she falsely claimed Shirley & Banister represented. Even if the PR firm did represent the Grassfire group, that would hardly suggest that Shirley had planted that video on that Web site, which has more than 3,500 user-posted videos.

On Friday, as she back-handedly apologized “for us getting the timing wrong on their representation of Grassfire.org,” Maddow attempted to trace another conspiracy involving Shirley & Banister:
Shirley & Banister represents an organization called the Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation is a major funder of -- wait for it -- FreedomWorks. In 2008, the Bradley Foundation provided a $25,000 grant to the FreedomWorks Foundation. The same year, the Bradley Foundation also gave a $25,000 grant to the organization Americans for Prosperity....These two organizations -- FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity -- are both visibly, observably responsible for organizing these protests at the health care reform events. And they're quite proud of it.
What Maddow didn’t say -- but what you can discover in about 10 minutes using Google -- is that in 2008 the Bradley Foundation handed out more than $37 million in grants, making their combined grants to these two groups barely one-tenth of one percent of their total giving. And FreedomWorks 2007 fiscal statement shows they are a roughly $4 million organization; Americans for Prosperity had an annual budget of more than $5 million. Which means the Bradley money (although I’m sure it’s appreciated) is hardly the driving force behind these groups — and the idea that these contributions makes the Bradley Foundation’s PR man the Svengali behind the anti-ObamaCare protests is beyond ludicrous.

But the Left must lap up such weak logic, because Maddow keeps dishing it out. “I will not and we will not be intimidated out of covering the news.

To show how silly Maddow's six-degrees-of-separation game is, consider that:
■ Before she landed her MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow was a host on the left-wing Air America radio network, which still airs a re-broadcast of her MSNBC show in the mornings.

■ Air America was originally launched by Progress Media, whose chairman was Evan Montvel Cohen.

■ Evan Cohen was also the director of development at a New York City charity for kids, the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Clubs. Cohen misappropriated $875,000 from the charity to Progress Media.

■ According to Wikipedia’s article on Air America Media, “On May 28, 2008, Cohen was arrested at Guam International Airport on a warrant from the State of Hawaii. He was indicted in that state for money laundering and stealing over $60,000 from a Honolulu-based landscaping company.”
So does Maddow have anything to do with stealing money from children? Maybe if I read those facts with a lot of smirking and a voice dripping with innuendo, it might seem that way. But real journalists don't substitute vocal inflection for evidence.

Here’s the relevant transcript from the August 14 Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, which aired near the top of the show:
There are other signs that reporting on the increasingly extremist rhetoric that's being embraced by health care reform opponents is causing some consternation among those who are being linked to the protesters by the press [points to herself].

Another report that we did on anti-health reform protestors last night on this show has provoked a double barreled response from the public relations firm of Shirley & Banister. Now, Shirley & Banister currently list as clients on its Web site some very big names in the conservative movement, groups like the NRA, the conservative news outlet Human Events, conservative direct mail guru Richard Viguerie.

Now, we reported last night that Shirley & Banister also represented a Web site called Grassfire.org. Grassfire.org funds another Web site called ResistNet.com.

And ResistNet.com is a hub for online organizing for anti-health reform protests. You can find there, among other things, a video entitled "Obama=Hitler." ResistNet.com bills itself as the online community for patriotic citizens who are opposing the Obama-led socialist agenda. And it appears to be one of the more radical online organizing hubs for these town hall protests. They have hosted some of the most extreme rhetoric and imagery that we have yet seen in this era of very extreme anti-Obama rhetoric and imagery.

Well, today, Shirley & Banister wrote to us to let us know that while they used to represent Grassfire.org, they no longer represent them. Now, I apologize for saying that they were still currently involved in representing Grassfire. They are not.

Shirley & Banister did, however, represent the group in 2004. Back in 2004, Grassfire was busy producing TV ads attacking Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry ahead of the 2004 election -- which would of course be sort of normal and fine, except for the fact that Grassfire told the IRS at the time that they weren't doing any work to influence the elections of 2004. Now, again, Shirley & Banister no longer represent Grassfire, but when they did, that's what Grassfire was up to.

Now, currently, Shirley & Banister represents an organization called the Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation is a major funder of -- wait for it -- FreedomWorks. In 2008, the Bradley Foundation provided a $25,000 grant to the FreedomWorks Foundation. The same year, the Bradley Foundation also gave a $25,000 grant to the organization Americans for Prosperity.

We called the Bradley Foundation today to ask if those groups have also received funding this year, in 2009. They told us that FreedomWorks has indeed received 75 grand so far this year. And they have another application pending to receive more. Americans for Prosperity has not received any money from the Bradley Foundation this year, but they, too, have a grant application pending.

These two organizations -- FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity -- are both visibly, observably responsible for organizing these protests at the health care reform events. And they're quite proud of it....

Americans for Prosperity, who we have hosted on this show, they're the group that is currently driving buses around the country to campaign against health care reform. Any time you see the big, bloody red hand print and "hands off my health care," that's Americans for Prosperity....

Americans for Prosperity...and FreedomWorks are being funded in part by the Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation is currently represented by Shirley & Banister.

Who else does Shirley & Banister represent?

Well, there's the group Citizens United, which is currently pushing the Obama-has-an-enemies-list story on its Web site.

There is conservative activist Richard Viguerie, whose Web site currently features the image of President Obama as the Joker from "Batman" next to the title "Why so socialist?"

When Shirley & Banister came after us today, they not only requested a correction for us getting the timing wrong on their representation of Grassfire.org, which I'm happy to provide, more than happy. They also immediately threatened to sue us and then they went on a right-wing P.R. jihad today against us, providing the e-mails they sent us to right-wing Web sites [image of NewsBusters appears on screen] to write stories about their demanded correction and their threatened lawsuit before we were even on the air again to get a chance to offer the correction that they had demanded....

I understand that this is the way beltway P.R. works -- specifically this is the way that beltway right-wing P.R. works. It is threats and intimidation and ginning up an angry mob if you need to in order to get your way.

We deal with the facts here. We correct the record when we need to. But I will not and we will not be intimidated out of covering the news. Enjoy yourself if you want to keep trying.
Rich Noyes
Rich Noyes
Rich Noyes is the Senior Editor for Newsbusters