--- Just to stay afloat, it requires constant cash infusions from Rob Glaser and George Soros.
--- To sustain a bloated management and staff structure, company spending remains outrageous, with lavish salaries, perks and other benefits. Franken and some of its other hosts are compensated at rates up to ten times industry norms.
--- Does the firm ever intend to make money, or is it merely a political operation?
--- From skits advocating violence against President Bush, to the Gloria Wise taxpayer funds transfer scandal, Air America has had a nearly endless knack for generating bad publicity.
When Hillary Clinton charged that the House Republican immigration bill would "criminalize...Jesus himself," there was national-media notice – if not criticism. Even Hillary’s "hometown" newspaper The New York Times reported on March 23 that Senator Clinton intensified her criticism of Republican immigration proposals, albeit on page B-5. But no one in the story criticized Hillary for her harsh attack. Instead, reporter Nina Bernstein noted only critics to Hillary’s left: "Mrs. Clinton had been criticized by some immigrant activists for saying little about the issue until March 8, and then speaking at an Irish-only rally, rather than at a forum more representative of immigrants. But yesterday all seemed forgiven." Bernstein’s story, headlined, "Mrs. Clinton Says GOP Immigration Plan Is At Odds With The Bible," began:
We saw in the 2000 election cycle that one way national reporters protected Democratic presidential contender Al Gore was to ignore wild or embarrassing things he said in public. The RNC and other Gore critics would play up his gaffes, but the media said "what gaffes"? If they did report the remarks, they didn’t find them overstated or wrong.
It’s not exactly 2008 yet, but the same trend looks to be happening with Sen. Hillary Clinton. She can claim that Republicans would need a "police state" to round up illegal immigrants, and then claim that Republicans would "literally criminalize the good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself" in their anti-immigration zeal, and some media outlets didn’t notice either one of these outrages. On the hear-no-Hillary-gaffe list: CBS, NBC, National Public Radio, and USA Today. (Nexis search of "hillary and police state" and "hillary and jesus" through March 29.)
Both Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank and religion reporter Alan Cooperman covered the "War on Christians" conference Tuesday, but neither touched on one trend in Canada that American evangelicals are warning against: "hate crime" laws that make speech condemning homosexuality illegal. In 2004, the Canadian parliament passed such a law, as U.S. News columnist John Leo explained:
"Canada is a pleasantly authoritarian country," Alan Borovoy, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said a few years ago. An example of what he means is Bill C-250, a repressive, anti-free-speech measure that is on the brink of becoming law in Canada. It would add "sexual orientation" to the Canadian hate propaganda law, thus making public criticism of homosexuality a crime. It is sometimes called the "Bible as Hate Literature" bill, or simply "the chill bill." It could ban publicly expressed opposition to gay marriage or any other political goal of gay groups. The bill has a loophole for religious opposition to homosexuality, but few scholars think it will offer protection, given the strength of the gay lobby and the trend toward censorship in Canada. Law Prof. David Bernstein, in his new book You Can't Say That! wrote that "it has apparently become illegal in Canada to advocate traditional Christian opposition to homosexual sex." Or traditional Jewish or Muslim opposition, too.
On Tuesday, National Public Radio's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross" interviewed Fred Barnes of FNC and the Weekly Standard on his new book "Rebel In Chief." Gross began by asking Barnes if after the anti-Bush books by old Bush officials like Paul O'Neill and Bruce Bartlett, he set out to be a pro-Bush counterweight to those. (He said no.) NPR's website also posted an excerpt of the book, including Barnes reporting on an afternoon meeting with network anchors before the 2005 State of the Union address:
For now, though, the president has to attend an off-the-record lunch in the White House study adjacent to the State Dining Room. "Why do I have to go to this meeting?" Bush asks his communications director, Dan Bartlett. "It's traditional," Bartlett explains. Indeed, for years, the president has hosted the TV news anchors for lunch on the day of the State of the Union address. It's an invitation the anchors eagerly accept. Peter Jennings and George Stephanopoulos of ABC, Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams of NBC, Chris Wallace and Brit Hume of Fox, and Wolf Blitzer and Judy Woodruff of CNN will be there. So will Dan Rather of CBS, magnanimously invited in spite of having sought to derail the president's reelection campaign by spotlighting four documents (later proved to be fabrications) that indicated Bush had used political pull to get into the Texas Air National Guard and avoid Vietnam duty, and that he had been honorably discharged without fully completing his service. (At the lunch, Rather will suddenly appear solicitous of Bush. "Thank you, Mr. President," he will say as he leaves. "Thank you, Mr. President." Bush will betray no hint of satisfaction.)
Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post took up a Dave Mastio post from Real Clear Politics yesterday on the media's pattern of hiring writers from liberal opinion journals, but not conservative ones. His argument: hey, since when did conservative magazine writers apply at the Post? Easy retort: does Kurtz believe they would be hired if they did? (Actually, there is one example: Malcolm Gladwell went from the American Spectator to the Post, and became more and more liberal until he vanished into their mainstream. Now, of course, he's a best-selling author.) Here's how the argument bubbled. First, Mastio:
"There is a literal conveyor belt from left-wing opinion journalism into straight news reporting and editing slots. The New Republic, The American Prospect and The Washington Monthly are the biggest suppliers. That opportunity simply isn't open to those on the right.
"Can anyone name for me a current New York Times or Washington Post reporter who was previously on the staff of National Review, The Weekly Standard or The American Spectator? No? Maybe that's because there are none."
Washington Post reporter/columnist Dana Milbank was in the room yesterday when I spoke on a panel on anti-Christian media bias at Rev. Rick Scarborough's Vision America conference yesterday. (Tom DeLay was the lunch speaker, so we were a mere appetizer for the sharks.) Milbank misquoted me in his Wednesday column as saying "we're making some great inroads" in the national media. I did not say that. American Family Radio's Bill Fancher said that, about the White House press corps. I might object less to the misquote if I agreed with that sentiment.
Before that, Milbank said our examples of anti-Christian bias were old and stale. In my case, I noted a survey in the spring 2001 issue of The Public Interest that showed 97 percent of the national reporters surveyed supported a "woman's right to choose" abortion, 84 percent saying they believed in it strongly, and 73 percent agreed that homosexuality and heterosexuality are equally acceptable. He did not cite these enlightening survey numbers, merely the age of the journal they appeared in. (The survey's even older, from 1995.) There's a reason for that: as I explained to the crowd, national reporters have found it counterproductive to participate in surveys and acknowledge their political views. If Pew or Gallup could poll the press corps today on their ideological views, that would help us not sound so "stale," but I doubt Milbank would endorse that research effort.
As a Catholic, I'm long used to finding the media has a chronic case of schizophrenia on the Catholic bishops conference: they are an oppressive caucus of Nosy Nates if they get involved on social issues like abortion, an emerging threat to the separation of church and state. But if they get involved on the liberal side of the divide -- as the American bishops did on nuclear weapons and economics in 1980s, or when they oppose capital punishment -- they're great moral authorities demonstrating a surge in public opinion. Clay Waters finds that case of the gymnastic splits again today at TimesWatch:
Reporter Nina Bernstein evidently caught the spirit of the weekend protests by illegal immigrants and their supporters in Los Angeles, judging by the positive tone of her Monday article, "In the Streets, Suddenly, An Immigrant Groundswell"....Bernstein gushes in the next sentence: "But if events of recent days hold true, they will be facing much more than that. Rallies in support of immigrants around the country have attracted crowds that have astonished even their organizers. More than a half-million demonstrators marched in Los Angeles on Saturday, as many as 300,000 in Chicago on March 10, and -- in between -- tens of thousands in Denver, Phoenix, Milwaukee and elsewhere..."
Joel Stein is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times – officially a "humor" columnist, but that’s a matter of debate. A few months ago, he drew attention for baldly stating he did not support the troops in the Iraq war, and that "an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying."
Last week, he decided to mock the Federal Communications Commission for a $3.6 million fine of individual CBS stations for airing a teenager-orgy scene on the Thursday night drama "Without A Trace." But a funny thing happened on the way to the Janet Jackson jokes. He asked CBS for a DVD of the episode: "And, to my shock, I was honestly disgusted."
Over at the CBS News blog Public Eye, Brian Montopoli broke down the Rich Noyes Media Reality Check on the trial of Saddam Hussein. Montopoli seems to be missing a major point of Rich's: that the very trial itself is newsworthy in that it demonstrates the difference between the political system under Saddam and the political system in Iraq today, which instead of merely slaughtering Saddam in two minutes -- the way he often conducted business -- Iraq is attempting to create a rule of law:
First, there doesn't seem to be much doubt about Saddam's guilt at this point. There have been many news reports about Saddam's time in power in Iraq, and it's pretty clear to almost all observers that he's responsible for some truly horrendous crimes. That's not to say Saddam does not deserve a trial. Even the worst criminals do. But from a news perspective, focusing on the evidence seems less important because many of his crimes have already been well documented.
At the same time, one could argue that what Saddam did – not his antics – are the real story here. There is something to that argument – I don't think anyone could claim that his crimes are less important or significant than his courtroom outbursts. But it shouldn't come as a surprise that his antics are what's getting most of the attention. Saddam is a compelling figure, one who has existed mostly at a distance for a long time, and the trial offers the best opportunity most Americans have ever had to see what he's really like.
In addition, as alluded to above, the trial, and Saddam's outbursts, are the story of the moment. His crimes have been reported for years. One could claim that the crimes have been insufficiently covered in the past, and that the trial marks an opportunity to make up for that. That's a subjective determination. But members of the media want stories that feel fresh, and there's very little evidence coming out of the trial that goes beyond the horrendous atrocities already documented.
It's not surprising Andrea Mitchell found the best angle on the Abdul Rahman case was the another-problem-for-Bush angle. (Isn't that always their favorite angle?) My friend Cam Edwards trekked to the Afghan embassy protest, and reports the NBC producer on the scene was there, and intensely interested in getting anti-Bush soundbites:
Media turnout was good. There were, by my count, four television cameras there, including one from NBC Nightly News. The producer for Andrea Mitchell, a guy named Carl, kept asking question after question designed to elicit a critical response towards President Bush. Finally I had to say something.
So I said this isn’t a conservative vs. liberal issue, or even a Christian vs. Muslim issue. It’s a human rights issue. And I said if the media ignores the reality of Abdul Rahman being put to death because of his religious beliefs because they’d rather portray this as “Conservatives angry at the President”, then they’re falling down on the job.
In a little half-hour online chat Friday at Washingtonpost.com, WashPost columnist/reporter David Broder complained about the "fiscal profligacy" of the federal government, but specifically against the Bush tax cuts. He sounded the familiar refrain that Americans should be having to "sacrifice" more for the war, even as his questioners pointed out tax cuts are popular.
Ontario, Calif.: David, A recent NBC poll disclosed that nearly 60 percent of the American people "strongly" or "somewhat strongly" support "making the President's tax cuts of the past few years permanent." Do you think that in the face of this much popular support, the Democrats will be able to stand on principle and display the political will and unity necessary to defeat this questionable plan?
Washington Post.com conservative blogger Ben Domenech has resigned. Editor Jim Brady sounds more than deferential to the left-wing bloggers that swarm around his site like angry killer bees:
We appreciate the speed and thoroughness with which our readers and media outlets surfaced these allegations. Despite the turn this has taken, we believe this event, among other things, testifies to the positive and powerful role that the Internet can play in the the practice of journalism.
This is probably for the best, considering the plagiarism examples liberals unearthed against him. But I must confess to being bamboozled by the idea that the Center of All Media Influence is somehow the blogs pages on Washingtonpost.com, which seem a bit hard to dig up -- at least compared to where, say Time.com puts cartoonish Andrew Sullivan.
Over at Opinion Journal, James Taranto adds his two cents and research to the question of ABC executive producer John Green's e-rant against Bush making him sick for hitting a "mixed messages" talking point in the first presidential debate on September 30, 2004:
We went back and reviewed the debate transcript, and it turns out that Kerry was the first to talk of "mixed messages." Here are all the times the phrase appeared during the debate
Kerry: Jim, let me tell you exactly what I'll do. And there are a long list of thing. First of all, what kind of mixed message does it send when you have $500 million going over to Iraq to put police officers in the streets of Iraq, and the president is cutting the COPS program in America? . . .
The Drudge-revealed e-mail of ABC weekend executive producer John R. Green has not yet been put in context. It's dated September 30, 2004 and Green is saying "Are you watching this? Bush makes me sick. If he uses the 'mixed messages' line one more time, I'm going to puke."
September 30, 2004 was the night of the first presidential debate between Bush and Kerry. (That puts "Are you watching this?" in context.) Looking at the transcript, Green had plenty of occasions to get sick of Bush's message that Kerry couldn't decide on a position. First, this line early in the debate from Bush:
I had the honor of visiting with Prime Minister Allawi. He's a strong, courageous leader. He believes in the freedom of the Iraqi people. He doesn't want U.S. leadership, however, to send mixed signals, to not stand with the Iraqi people.
In a talk with the editor of the liberal Texas Monthly that airs on Texas PBS stations, former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite uncorked some more liberal opinions. In praising the CBS-boosting, Joseph McCarthy-trashing movie "Good Night and Good Luck," Cronkite liked how it reminded Americans that "one nut could endanger the democracy," was "locking up our democracy in a very dangerous way," and persecuting people who were "simply good Americans." When pressed to compare Vietnam and Iraq, Cronkite declared that the comparison was "almost exact."
On Thursday, the Poynter Institute’s Romenesko web site linked to an interview that Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith did with Cronkite for broadcast on Thursday night in thirteen TV markets. First, they discussed the danger of Sen. Joseph McCarthy to our democracy. It's a bit surprising that at this late date, with all the archival information we have now on the Soviet state and its espionage activities, Cronkite still can't acknowledge any Soviet spies in the United States in the 1950s, and how that was a danger to our democracy.
National Review Online was kind enough today to publish a little piece I composed, titled "Role Reversal: David Gregory finds out what it's like to be Scott McClellan." It briefly chronicles how Laura Ingraham started a wave of defensive media coverage with her fiery soundbites in favor of the liberal media getting off the balcony if-it-bleeds-it-leads beat. Here are some additional notes I took as I was putting this together...
Reporters were shaking their heads at the thought that a few speeches by President Bush could undo their handiwork in lowering Americans’ approval of the war and its commander.
One particularly absurd sentence came out of ABC White House reporter Jessica Yellin: "Even the President’s aides acknowledge this speech on its own won’t reverse falling American support for a war that increasingly defines the Bush presidency." No one on Earth expects one daytime speech in Cleveland to completely reverse public opinion. But it was almost a taunting sentence: the White House must admit that they can’t turn around public opinion if the TV news crews oppose them tooth and nail.
VH-1 watchers enjoying the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction concert Tuesday night received some perhaps unsurprising political commentary along with the music. When rock singer Elvis Costello came on stage to perform with New Orleans music legend Allan Touissant, he took a few shots at the Iraq War and the Bush administration's apparent inability to handle Hurricane Katrina because of that war:
I feel very lucky and very proud that music jumped to the aid of New Orleans back in September...But it’s a drop in the bucket for what is needed. There is a lot of things that I could say. I could say something like we are fighting the wrong wars in the wrong countries and not dealing with the people here that are living in this country that are not living right. You could call to account the people who have the audacity to blaspheme and say that Katrina was a judgment of God on the city of New Orleans. This is absolute nonsense because the devastation that followed Katrina was man-made, as we now know.
Time magazine celebrates an exclusive interview with Mel Gibson, described as an "ultraconservative Roman Catholic" with a Holocaust-denying Dad, as he prepares his new film, "Apocalypto," based on the Mayans and performed in the old Mayan language (more subtitles). Gibson says he doesn't give a "flying f---" about his critics, but the comments Time highlighted suggested he may be trying to get back in the good graces of the people living inside Hollywood's liberal bubble, attacking President Bush and sounding an environmentalist alarm:
Gibson and his rookie cowriter on Apocalypto, Farhad Safinia, were captivated by the ancient Maya, one of the hemisphere's first great civilizations, which reached its zenith about A.D. 600 in southern Mexico and northern Guatemala. The two began poring over Maya myths of creation and destruction, including the Popol Vuh, and research suggesting that ecological abuse and war-mongering were major contributors to the Maya's sudden collapse, some 500 years before Europeans arrived in the Americas.
Washington Post reporter Thomas B. Edsall hits the front page today with a story headlined "Grants Flow to Bush Allies On Social Issues." Edsall reports that a bevy of tiny crisis pregnancy centers and abstinence groups have seen their budgets double and triple through federal grants from groups established as part of President Bush's faith-based initiatives.
Edsall briefly refers to the left in his opening: "For years, conservatives have complained about what they saw as the liberal tilt of federal grant money." What they saw as liberal? And yet, Edsall can't use the C-word enough in this story, about 13 times. It was especially overdone in this late passage:
The CNN Headline News show "Showbiz Tonight" led Monday night with controversy over the movie "V for Vendetta," and stomped hard on the idea that it was directed at the Bush administration. Host A. J. Hammer began with a promo: "On ‘Showbiz Tonight,’ the war in Iraq, the war on terror and the hottest movie in America. The shock and awe over 'V for Vendetta.' And the controversy. Is art imitating life? A political thriller where the hero is a terrorist. Is that really such a bad thing?"
Is this a rhetorical question? Or is Hammer auditioning for al-Jazeera International?
MRC's Michelle Humphrey tipped me off to the story. Hammer explained: "All right, let me tell you what happened this weekend. America had a big choice of movies. Here's the one they made No. 1: 'V for Vendetta.' This is a movie all about terrorism. This is a movie that raises some serious and unsettling questions about who should really be called a terrorist. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. A movie that has chilling allusions to everything from September 11 to government spying to terror bombings to the war in the Iraq. It`s a movie that opened just as we crossed yet another disturbing milestone in the struggle to end the seemingly unending war in Iraq. It`s enough to make critics and Showbiz Tonight ask, what's going on here?"
Washington Post magazine-beat writer Peter Carlson writes an admiring profile of Harper's magazine editor Lewis Lapham in the Style section today, headlined "Lewis Lapham Lights Up," as Lapham prepares to step down as Harper's editor. The man is a raving leftist, and while Carlson notes his cover story in the March issue is "The Case for Impeachment," he never quite locates Lapham on the far left. He merely lets friend Tom Wolfe call him "left-leaning."
Carlson also claims Lapham is an equal-opportunity offender, that he has "skewered every president since Nixon. He is a world-class curmudgeon." But Lapham has predictably hated conservatives more. Lapham's biggest media moment may have been his 1989 PBS series "America's Century," in which he sulfurously condemned Ronald Reagan as someone who could be relied on to "defend the sanctity of myth against the heresy of fact."
Greg Sheffield mentioned earlier the wacky al Jazeera-Fox comparisons in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. I would only add in that Gail Shister report, former ABC reporter Dave Marash is coming out swinging again in defense of his new employers, Al-Jazeera, against those "hysterical" Americans who aren't fond of Arab propaganda channels:
Marash says he expected a backlash when he was hired. When it comes to the Arab world, Americans display an "anxiety and suspicion that sometimes rises to the hysterical level."
Note: Marash was talking on a speakerphone in Washington, with AJI publicist Jazayerli in the room. Network policy, she said.
In the daily Washington Post online political chat, reporter Shailagh Murray (that's Shay-la, and not Shay-laugh, although you might call this exchange Shay-laughable) quips with very little originality that Dick Cheney sounds over-optimistic on talk shows because Bush is like a tenth-grade kid without much potential:
New York, N.Y.: Before the invasion, Vice President Cheney said that we will be greeted as liberators. Ten months ago he said the insurgency was in its last throes. Yesterday, he said that both of these statements "were basically accurate, reflect reality."
Is the vice president the most clueless person on earth, or is he just a big liar?
Columnist Don Feder has viewed the new shaved-Natalie Portman movie, "V for Vendetta," and he is not a fan, as he reports for Front Page Magazine:
"V for Vendetta," which opened on Friday, combines all of the celluloid left’s paranoid fantasies – Christian conservatives in charge of a brutal regime, the war-on-terrorism as an excuse for the suppression of civil liberties, homosexuals harassed and killed by conservative Christians, a pedophile priest (who works miter-in-hand with the regime) and an attack blamed on terrorists that’s really a right-wing conspiracy.
Michelle Malkin has a nice roundup of reports on how the New York Times messed up in its attempt at yet another juicy Abu Ghraib story. Does this correction from the Times give you confidence about the media's professionalism?
A front-page article last Saturday profiled Ali Shalal Qaissi, identifying him as the hooded man forced to stand on a box, attached to wires, in a photograph from the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal of 2003 and 2004. He was shown holding such a photograph. As an article on Page A1 today makes clear, Mr. Qaissi was not that man.
The Times did not adequately research Mr. Qaissi's insistence that he was the man in the photograph. Mr. Qaissi's account had already been broadcast and printed by other outlets, including PBS and Vanity Fair, without challenge. Lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib vouched for him. Human rights workers seemed to support his account. The Pentagon, asked for verification, declined to confirm or deny it.
The Washington Post reported yesterday on A-6 that the Food and Drug Administration announced two more women have died from infections after using the RU-486 abortion drug cocktail. Marc Kaufmann's story offered some balance, pairing Vanessa Cullins of Planned Parenthood with Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America:
The agency's handling of the seven deaths of women who had undergone medical abortion was criticized by opponents of the drug.
"The FDA has pulled other drugs that have caused fewer deaths and less severe complications than RU-486," Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said in a statement. "Why the double-standard for an abortion drug that is now linked to the deaths of seven healthy women and over 800 other reported complications?"
John in California noted yesterday that Associated Press reporter Jennifer Loven has found news in the idea that "Bush Uses Straw-Man Arguments In Speeches." (Or as she's known on Power Line, "Jennifer Loven, Democratic Operative." Tom Blumer has pointed out her husband has worked on environmental issues for Bill Clinton and John Kerry.) Loven argues -- not reports, but argues:
When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.
Arrogance: "a feeling or an impression of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or presumptous claims." – Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
The word is well-defined in sentences like these from the liberals:
[T]he right’s sustained accusation of "bias" is both a powerful organizing tool...and an effective way of "working the refs." Knowing that they face constant charges of bias, reporters respond by bending over backward to show how tough they can be on progressives and Democrats. In contrast, when Media Matters for America criticizes the news media, it’s for a simple reason: we want them to do their jobs and do them right.
There may be no more profound difference between the left and the right on media issues than this: progressives believe in journalism.
If Democrats predict elections like they predict basketball games, the President's in for a happy November. On the blog of the Democratic National Committee, official blogger Tim Tagaris offered his hot betting tip:
Last night to fill out your brackets. Friendly advice, pick Southern Illinois in rounds one & two then brag to your friends about it on Sunday night.
But the Salukis were crushed, (or as they might say in Morgantown, Pittsnogled) by West Virginia, 64-46.