The bogus story of "Pope Joan" was not the only fiction that ABC and Diane Sawyer tried to hustle on the American public in last night's Primetime (Thursday December 29, 2005). In trying to convey the environment of ninth-century Europe, host Diane Sawyer and a guest, Donna Cross (author of Pope Joan), promulgated the debunked feminist myth that the phrase "rule of thumb" originated from a centuries-old law about wifebeating. The popular hoax purports that a man was once allowed to clobber a woman as long as the club was no wider than his thumb.
In her much-acclaimed 1994 book, Who Stole Feminism?, writer Christina Hoff-Sommers shreds the "rule of thumb" myth.
"The 'rule of thumb' ... turns out to be an excellent example of what may be called a feminist fiction ...
"That the phrase did not even originate in legal practice could have been ascertained by any fact-checker who took the trouble to look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary, which notes that the term has been used metaphorically for at least three hundred years to refer to any method of measurement or technique of estimation derived from experience rather than science.
Catching up with an item from last week, on the Christmas weekend edition of the McLaughlin Group which featured the show’s annual “Year-End Awards,” Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift named Cindy Sheehan her “Person of the Year.” Clift championed Sheehan’s negative impact on President Bush: “I give it to Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother who gave the President a vacation from Hell and brought the war home in a way that it hadn’t been before and set the stage for the deceleration in the President’s poll ratings.”
In other categories, Clift assigned the “Best Spin” to the “shameless spin” from the Bush White House of “allowing the terrorists to kill thousands of Americans in Iraq so that they won’t kill thousands of Americans here.” For “Fairest Rap,” Clift forwarded: “The Bush administration misled us into war. They exaggerated the evidence they believed was true and left out all the caveats.” And for “Best Photo-Op,” Clift picked “President Bush trying to get out of a locked door. Wonderful metaphor for the trap he’s in in Iraq.”
One of the central political issues facing the American People over the past few years, and certain to be one in the next few, is the issue over whether or not governments are required to recognize same-sex relationships in the same manner that marriages are recognized. Ground-zero in that debate, and one of the places where that discussion has joined arm-in-arm with the debate over judicial activism, is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In November of 2003, in the case of Goodridge v. Massachusetts, the Commonwealth's Supreme Judicial Court ruled on a 4-3 vote that the state constitution required that the institution of marriage be extended to same-sex relationships. I'm not aware of any public opinion surveys which show a majority of the people of Massachusetts agreeing with or supporting that decision, but it is now the law in Massachusetts anyway.
One of the entities which has been strongly supportive of that decision, however, is the Boston Globe. The largest media entity in New England, it is referred to in some circles as the "all-gay, all-the-time Boston Globe" because it is clearly an entity with an agenda. Unfortunately for the news consumers in New England, that agenda isn't confined to the editorial pages. I've mentioned it before, a couple of times, on front-page stories that don't warrant the front-page on any news judgement other than mainstreaming same-sex marriage.
The Chairman Mao book requesting student speaks out to the public through the duped newspaper that is valiantly protecting his fragile identity.
"The fact is that my being panicked about this hole (sic) event led me to unfortunately prop up my story (i.e., fabricate it), for that I have to apologize to you and to my professors. I have spoken to my family about the whole issue and the fact is that they were understandibly (sic) angry. My name has been dishonored within my family and so I will spend the rest of the winter trying to restore even a little bit of it back, at least."
Apparently there is no writing requirement at UMass Dartmouth. As for your dishonored name, you might want to free up the spring too. They're really doing fabulous work with the kids at Darmouth. I'm sure all the doors swing both ways, if my Far Side friends know what I'm talking about.
The newspaper used this for the headline: "When a story is too good to be true" apparently admitting that they wanted Bush to have library stalking gestapo.
The article describes how it happened, too long to reprint here but worth a read if you want to laugh. The reporter didn't even have confirmation of the story from the two main subjects -- the student or Homeland Security -- yet they ran the story anyway. It's the kind of reporting you'd expect from a couple of kids with mom's typewriter.
Yes it’s the Friday before New Year's. Yes there is not much in the way of news. But CBS was so desperate to fill time this morning, they brought on an astrologer to predict the future. Needless to say, she predicted a bad year in 2006 for both President Bush and the economy. Would it really have been on CBS had she done otherwise?
In the 8:30 half hour of this morning’s "Early Show," host Harry Smith interviewed the writer of the daily astrology column for the New York Daily News, Susan Miller. Smith began the interview inquiring about the President’s moons and planets.
Harry Smith: "Now, you know, one of the people who really had a tough year last year, his approval ratings down, everything else, President Bush. How are his moons and planets?"
A friend told me on Wednesday I had to check out Wolf Blitzer's taped CNN interview with ex-president Jimmy Carter. Filling in as host on "The Situation Room," Tom Foreman puffed up Carter's resume: "Since losing the White House 25 years ago, Jimmy Carter developed a reputation as a better ex-president than president. This is not a reputation that he cares for much. Nonetheless, he has been a leading voice for free and fair elections, and a 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner -- a very accomplished man."
Blitzer read Carter wild, accusatory paragraphs about Bush's "imperialistic" policies. In his second quoting-the-book question, Blitzer asked: "Let me read from 'Our Endangered Values' once again, Mr. President. "Some neo-cons" -- referring to neoconservatives in the administration -- "now dominate the highest councils of government. They seem determined to exert American dominance throughout the world and approve preemptive war as an acceptable avenue to reach this imperialistic goal." Blitzer explained that Team Bush believes it can wage pre-emptive war on nations which threaten our security to prevent terror attacks: "That's their argument for preemptive strikes, an argument you reject?" Carter said no, he would defend the country against an imminent threat, but Iraq wasn't imminent.
A UCLA political scientist conducted a recent study on media bias and came to the conclusion that many of us reached a long time ago. The media tilts left. But the study did produce some unexpected results.
It turns out that PBS’ NewsHour With Jim Lehrer is the most "centrist outlet," while the Drudge Report "leans left." Most readers find the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page to be conservative (with the exception of their stance on illegal immigration, which mirrors that of the far left), but the UCLA study found that the news pages are "even more liberal than The New York Times."
If the Wall Street Journal’s Middle East news coverage is any indication, UCLA knows what it’s talking about. A front page article in the news section of the December 28th issue demonstrates all the usual biases and blind spots of the liberal media when it comes to the Middle East.
Closing out a slow news week on CNN’s American Morning today, anchor Miles O’Brien couldn’t resist taking a potshot at the Iraq war. O’Brien was discussing singer Willie Nelson’s brand of alternative fuel, "BioWillie," with co-host Carol Costello shortly before 6:30 am. Costello noted that Nelson views his product as an anti-war statement, "He says, why not grow--grow our own fuel, instead of starting wars over it?" In response, O’Brien quipped, "Well, then, we’d have to invade Nebraska. Get the corn, right?"
The transcript of the brief exchange follows below.
Our analysts discovered quite a contrast on the evening news shows Monday night, displaying two different ways of covering Iraq. ABC's "World News Tonight" honored the Iraqi voter as part of a series on people of the year. "NBC Nightly News" aired another gloomy Richard Engel piece saying democracy in Iraq was like a kidnapped bride. MRC's Megan McCormack filed both transcripts to show the contrast.
NBC, 12/26: Anchor substitute Campbell Brown: “In Iraq, a Kurdish coalition and the main Shiite religious group have taken a third each of the earliest votes cast in the recent election. Those votes by expatriates, soldiers, prisoners and hospital patients are just a small percentage of the overall balloting. Meanwhile, the nation has suffered it’s bloodiest day since the election, with nine attacks that left at least twenty dead. NBC’s Richard Engel in Baghdad has the latest.”
"Mulligan - A golf shot not tallied against the score, granted in informal play after a poor shot especially from the tee." - The American Heritage Dictionary
A Mulligan is where you act like what just happened didn't really happen even though everyone really knows what really happened. The following, in my opinion, are the 8 worst Mulligans the collective media took in 2005. They are areas of failure in the media that we are supposed to pretend don't exist.
Washington Post columnist (and former Post reporter) David Ignatius concludes his year in review by endorsing the notion that liberal reporters ought to stick by their biases and passions. Don't be afraid to be liberal, and don't try to please everyone (conservatives):
It was a bad year, finally, for the people who are paid to make sense of things -- the unhumble and increasingly unloved scribes in my business. Newspaper circulation was plummeting, network television lost its anchors, literally and figuratively, and new media seemed to be feeding on popular anger at the Mainstream Media and its claims of impartiality.
At the center of some of the year's biggest stories stood the media themselves -- trying to balance codes of professional ethics against demands of citizenship. The New York Times lionized Judith Miller for going to jail to protect her sources from a grand jury investigation, but when her key source turned out to be Vice President Cheney's top aide, the cheering stopped and Miller lost her job. Top editors of the Times and The Post tried to act responsibly by discussing explosive intelligence stories with the White House before publication, and then they were vilified by the left for publishing too little and by the right for publishing anything at all.
Signaling the slow-as-a-glacier news pace right now, the big AP story of the morning is "Core of White House Staff Largely Intact." And they're trying to tell us planes landing safely is not news, but this is? Reporter Jennifer Loven projects: "The big question is how much longer Bush's inner circle can hold together."
Of course, there is room eventually for liberal spin, the old Newsweek bubble-boy spin: "And the lack of change has contributed to criticism of Bush as governing from inside a bubble that isolates him from smart dissent, healthy competition, fresh ideas and bad news. 'If people stay that long, group-think can set in, and that's dangerous for a president,' [David] Gergen said."
Young Newsweek writer Devin Gordon (Duke, class of 1998?) did the magazine's weekly Live Talk online chat Thursday on his cover story on the movie of "The DaVinci Code." In addition to sounding completely in the tank for the movie, including defending the casting choices, Gordon was a bit cheeky when dealing with serious questions about the film being objectionable to Catholics:
Bossier City, LA: This is just typical of Hollywood to produce a movie like this to make a buck in spite of the fact that the underlying premise is absolute heresy. Ron Howard would have been burned at the stake if he lived 500 years ago.
While we've tried to police the pajama party in our comments section (you behave down there or I'm coming down!), some disgruntled lefty bloggers wail in sordid tones without a nanny. James Wolcott putting down someone else for being sour is certainly an accomplishment of some sort:
Take Tim Graham, for example. The righteous stick up his butt extends to the top of his head, leaving a little nub that he's convinced has magical qualities. He believes that if he keeps rubbing it the Hooters girls will bring him extra pie.
Put aside for a moment how difficult it would be to feel magical while impaled from bottom to top. I must confess I've only been to Hooters once, for an MRC employee's farewell lunch (although the ham and cheese was magical, as I recall.) Wolcott thinks it's quite un-Christmaslike to demand Brokaw and Koppel get something more difficult than a manicure from Tim Russert.
Once again in 2005, the New York Times provided a bounty of material to choose from, whether it was a pattern of biased coverage -- Hurricane Katrina, Cindy Sheehan -- or a single bizarrely biased story, like one from Sarah Boxer on a pro-U.S. blog in Iraq.
Here are some samples fromTimesWatch's top 3 examples of the worst from the liberally slanted year of coverage.
#3 Relaying Reckless Leftist Charges Against Pro-U.S. Bloggers in Iraq
Reporter Sarah Boxer achieved instant notoriety in blogging circles for an irresponsibly speculative piece January 18 on a pro-U.S. blog run by Iraqi brothers. Boxer began in a breathless style that probably helped her story garner the top slot of the Arts front page: "When I telephoned a man named Ali Fadhil in Baghdad last week, I wondered who might answer. A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war? Or simply an Iraqi with some mixed feelings about the American presence in Iraq? Until he picked up the phone, he was just a ghost on the Internet. The mystery began last month when I went online to see what Iraqis think about the war and the Jan. 30 national election. I stumbled into an ideological snake pit." But her story was rooted entirely in the speculative postings from a far-left group blog called Martini Republic.
Earlier this week, one columnist for ESPN’s web site went out of his way to recycle a cheap shot at President Bush, and another inadvertently reminded some of us that for a few brief, shining moments, a highly rated, prime-time, broadcast-network TV program aired unambiguously conservative points of view.
--Scoop Jackson (no relation to the late U.S. Senator from Washington state) took the NFL to task for "showing zero compassion for the people of New Orleans or [Saints] players" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Fair enough, but Jackson also sniped, "It almost made you wish Kanye West would have added the NFL to the comment he made about George W. Bush."
Once you've seen the conservative columnists on Brokaw and Koppel's "Meet the Press" spot, get a look at what the lefties said in three outraged letters to Editor and Publisher for the old anchor claims that Clinton, too, would have invaded Iraq after 9/11:
Chris Dodson: For example, I would reply, "If Clinton (or Gore) were president, 9/11 would not have happened, therefore, no invasion of Iraq. How? Clinton/Gore keeps Richard Clarke at the 'principal' level, allowing him constant access to cabinet members. 'Chatter' increases through the spring and summer. Clinton/Gore order a 'shaking of the trees,' which nets the Phoenix memo and brings Colleen Rowley's concerns to the highest levels of the FBI. The CIA informs the FBI about the two terrorists in San Diego. They are brought in and the plot is unraveled."
As 2005 winds down, it's a good time to recall some of the worst journalistic moments of the year. The Media Research Center polled 52 distinguished media experts -- talk show hosts, columnists, journalism professors and other keen observers -- who generously supplied their picks for The Best Notable Quotables of 2005.
A few of the highlights:
Newsweek's Managing Editor Jon Meacham won the "Madness of King George Award for Bush Bashing" for recoiling when the current President toured the former captive nations of Eastern Europe and apologized for the deal FDR made with Stalin back at Yalta in 1945: "It’s like he stuck a broomstick in his wheelchair wheels," Meacham complained on MSNBC.
Copy-catting the tendencies of certain conservative media watchdogs, Washington Post political writer Mark Leibovich produced an article for the front page of today's Style section on the top quotes of the year for public figures (mostly politicos and their families, except for Tom Cruise pounding Matt Lauer, Rafael Palmeiro's read-my-lips, no-steroids testimony -- oh, and Drew Barrymore raving about her bathroom break in the woods.) Leibovich finds his quote of the year to be President Bush telling his soon-to-be-reassigned FEMA director Michael Brown: "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job."
Leibovich explained: "Really, it was never even close. The president's vote of confidence had all the markings: Patently false, it came during a widely viewed event, was uttered by a prominent speaker, played to an unflattering caricature (of both people), and packed supreme irony," since Brown was out within days. "I think for concision and cluelessness, Bush wins hands down," Ted Widmer, identified as a Clinton speechwriter, adds. (Leibovich also nominated the president's mother for saying that for hurricane victims, being evacuated to Houston is "working very well for them.")
As anti-terror techniques go, the one announced this week by the TSA - that of chatting with airline passengers to see if they exhibit tell-tale signs of nervousness - seems relatively unlikely to result in racial or ethnic profiling, since it focuses on behavior rather than superficial characteristics.
But that wasn't sufficient to prevent Matt Lauer, with a little help from his guest, from playing the racial profiling card on this morning's Today show.
From the get-go, NBC terrorism expert and former FBI agent Christopher Whitcomb expressed scorn for the new program: "the color coding system was kind of ridiculous, and I kind of think this is. I think the public looks at this and says 'what are they doing?'"
Happily, NewsBusters wasn't the only conservative outlet to pick up on the Christmas Day "Meet the Press" with Tom Brokaw and Ted Koppel. The spectacle spurred columns by David Limbaugh and Jonah Goldberg. Limbaugh summarized:
"Russert was uncharacteristically tame toward these two, offering them repeated softballs concerning the past year's main stories. But the relaxed atmosphere gave us a clearer picture of the worldview these men share, which is doubtless representative of most of the Old Media players. From race and taxes to health care and Iraq, they spoke in a monolithic liberal voice, accented by its familiar air of moral superiority."
Did you know that a brave Navy Chaplain by the name of Gordon Klingenschmitt has been on a fast since December 20th? Probably not because the coverage in the mainstream media has been very limited, if not at all. An examination of the websites of ABC News, CBS News, and NBC News all come up with nothing. Cable news has also barely covered this story. Fox News has one short story, MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson had Klingenschmitt on as a guest, while CNN has completely ignored the story.
However, this story is one that needs to be shouted from the rooftops because if you’re a Christian and you believe in praying in the name of Jesus, and you believe that those military chaplains who are Christians have the right to pray in the name of Jesus, then you need to be aware of the blatant hostility and intolerance going on in the United States Navy.
On MSNBC's Countdown show Tuesday night, Keith Olbermann devoted the first segment of his show to more discussion about President Bush's impeachability over the NSA wiretapping controversy. On the December 20 show, as detailed in an earlier Newsbusters posting, substitute host Alison Stewart discussed the issue with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer without any conservative guest to provide balance. Similarly, this time Olbermann interviewed, without rebuttal from any Bush supporter, former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, a longtime critic of the Bush administration, who notably helped inspire Boxer's inquiries into impeachment by proclaiming to her that Bush was "the first President to admit to an impeachable offense." At one point, after quoting from Dean's book, Worse than Watergate, that "terrorism presents its real threat in provoking democratic regimes to embrace and employ authoritarian measures," Olbermann concluded that it "sounds kind of like a forecast of this NSA spying story."
James Carville appeared, all alone, on the December 28th edition of the Today. Let’s count the number of things wrong with the piece, airing at 7:15AM: During the interview, Campbell Brown questioned Carville uncritically, never challenged his assertions, and, worst of all, allowed the man to pimp his new film. Brown opened the piece this way:
"As we prepare to ring in the new year, we can’t help but wonder what big political stories will dominate in 2006. Democratic strategist James Carville is going to peer into his crystal ball this morning."
CNN’s promotion of Cindy Sheehan's anti-war crusade continued on today’s American Morning. During the show’s Top Five in ‘05 segment, anchor Carol Costello profiled ‘The Peace Mom’ who "forced the nation and President Bush to take a long, hard look at the war," as number three in their countdown. And while a billion Catholics worldwide may disagree, CNN actually ranked Sheehan’s "national movement" and "worldwide spectacle" higher than the legacy of one of the most influential religious leaders of our time, Pope John Paul II, number four on American Morning’s list.
During the mostly fluff piece on Sheehan and her "fight," one line was particularly laughable. Costello asserted, "Love Cindy Sheehan or loathe her, the one thing that was almost impossible to do in 2005 was to ignore her." CNN helped make that possible, thanks to their constant coverage of Sheehan's every move from Crawford to D.C. to her most recent trip to Britain, as reported by Newsbusters.
A full transcript from the 9:45 am segment follows below.
I know this is the week between Christmas and New Years, but did CBS really need to dig up 12 year old news to fill time this morning? The subject was commercial advertising on public school buses in Colorado Springs, an outrage pretty much contained to liberals who hate commercials and lower school taxes.
In the 7:00 half hour of Wednesday’s Early Show, host Harry Smith interviewed two guests about the growing trend of school districts selling advertising space on their school busses, and once again the Early Show is more than a decade late in reporting the controversy (Christmas Card Controversy). Elaine Naleski, Director of Communications for Colorado Springs District 11 school, told Harry Smith "Colorado Springs District 11 started putting ads on busses in 1993 and it was because they couldn't pass a tax increase of any kind..." So why is this news? Could it be that CBS wanted to put on a guest that would argue that higher taxes are the answer? Gary Ruskin of the "consumer group" Commercial Alert opposed the idea of private revenue sources and called for higher taxes when he told Smith, " The answer is for school districts to band together and to demand a partial revocation of the Bush tax cuts and send it back to schools and police and fire departments that are absolutely abjectly poor." Ruskin neglected to mention that the Federal government is spending more money than ever on education, and that spending on education has risen faster under President Bush than it had under President Clinton, nor did Harry Smith feel the need to mention that fact either.
Check out the promotional ad for this Thursday evening's (December 29, 2005) episode of ABC's Primetime. The promo is for the story, "On the Trail of Pope Joan" (audiotape on file; emphasis mine):
"Diane Sawyer takes you on the trail of a passionate mystery. Just as intriguing as The Da Vinci Code. Chasing down centuries-old clues hidden even inside the Vatican. Could a woman disguised as a man have been Pope? Thursday night. One astonishing Primetime."
It doesn't get much uglier than this, folks. Quite simply, there was never a female pope, or "Pope Joan." The tale is a complete fabrication dating back to the 13th century - nearly 400 years after the reported "reign" of the so-called "Joan." For reliable summaries of the bogus tale, see this and this. Scholars debunked the fable hundreds of years ago, and recent books (this and this, for example) have further repudiated it.
Over the centuries, the "Pope Joan" story has been used as a slanderous tool to tarnish the Catholic Church and degrade Catholics. In his acclaimed 2003 book The New Anti-Catholicism, Philip Jenkins writes, "The Pope Joan legend is a venerable staple of the anti-Catholic mythology" (page 89).
New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse's Friday "news analysis" is devoted to Congress departing for its Christmas break amid the usual hectic end-of-session machinations ("A Messy Congressional Finale"). And it's all Republicans' fault.
"In the end, Republicans largely have themselves to blame for the muddled and haphazard finale of the Congressional session....At nearly every crucial turn in recent weeks, it was a group of Republicans, painfully aware of President Bush's decline in popularity, who broke from the White House and the party leadership in the House and Senate and forced concessions in major legislation or stalled it until the bitter end."
[This article was reprinted at length and with favor in "Inside Politics" in the Washington Times today (Thursday).]
A poll by Rasmussen Reports today (Wednesday) illustrates the pervasive dishonesty of the American press in dealing with the NY Times story about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) intercepts of international communications. There are both minor dishonesties and major ones in this story as first reported by the Times and later a gaggle of reports throughout the media.
The major dishonesties are demonstrated by the two questions asked in the Rasmussen poll just reported. Here’s the first, and the responses:
Should the National Security Agency be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States? Yes 64% No 23%
The key fact is that these conversations cross international boundaries. Many parts of the MSM persist in calling this “domestic” spying. This is a lie. These calls are international, not domestic.
Here’s the second question and the responses:
Is President Bush the first President to authorize a program for intercepting telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States? Yes 26% No 48%
New York Times writer John Leland reviews the growing phenomenon of Christian film criticism -- and how it now both evaluates the artistic and moral content. While it's nice to see the Times notice and even publicize conservative cultural efforts, Leland still employs the notion that the permissive liberal critics represent the "mainstream" of the media. They love the gay-cowboy flick "Brokeback Mountain," while the conservatives are cooler to it:
"Brokeback Mountain" has received overwhelming acclaim from mainstream critics, but elicited a different reaction from conservative Christian media: respectful and often laudatory, but finding biblical fault with the film's content."