All in all, I like Politico's list of the Top Ten Media Blunders of 2008, by staff writer Michael Calderone, appearing on the website this evening. How can you be too tough on a list that includes, among other faux pas:
MSNBC's use of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as election night and convention co-anchors;
The New York Times's suggestive but unsubstantiated story about John McCain and lobbyist Vikki Iseman; and
The MSM's lack of curiosity despite the National Enquirer's solid reporting on the John Edwards affair?
But no story about a list would be complete without some beefing and second-guessing, and I have some. Here's blunder #6 on the Politico list [emphasis added]:
Does Barney Frank think incest is worse than pedophilia? The question arises because, chatting with Andrea Mitchell this afternoon, here's how Frank reiterated his opposition to Barack Obama having granted Rick Warren the honor of pronouncing the invocation at the inauguration.
BARNEY FRANK: I think Rick Warren's comments comparing same-sex relationships to incest is deeply offensive, wildly inaccurate and very socially disruptive.
The Media Research Center today announced its Best Notable Quotables of 2008: The 21st Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting, and MSNBC's Chris Matthews "won" the dubious honor of Quote of the Year for gushing over a Barack Obama speech back in February: "I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often….And that is an objective assessment."
Top runner-up for Quote of the Year went to Reuters for this ridiculous post-election headline: "Media bias largely unseen in U.S. presidential race."
MRC President Brent Bozell offered this comment: "Year after year, the liberal media outdo themselves in providing conservatives the sheer joy of laughing at their own words. The year of the Obama Paparazzi was no different, as they salivated over their savior and did everything in their power to crush conservatives. And we wonder why Americans don't trust the media."
The people just don't know Caroline like I do. That was the essence of Andrea Mitchell's defense of the would-be senator after Pat Buchanan analogized her to another nominee who famously flopped. Appearing on Morning Joe, Buchanan unleashed a merciless metaphor.
PAT BUCHANAN: It's not only entitlement. It appears–we are getting close to Harriet Miers country, where Bush put her out there, and it became transparent when people started going after her that she wasn't quite up to this --
Lynn Sweet wants the Obama team to come clean over its contacts with Blago. David Shuster has a different concern. He's hoping the media won't get "adversarial" once the Obama folks get around to releasing their report about who said what to whom.
Shuster made his pre-emptive plea for good media manners on this evening's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the MSNBC show Shuster has recently begun hosting now that David Gregory has moved on to Meet The Press.
Sweet, of the Chicago Sun-Times, began with a reasonable reporter's take on the pending release by Team Obama of its accounting of contacts between the President-elect's representatives and Blago and his minions: take your time but be complete. In contrast, Shuster's focus was his demand for media decorum and desire to exculpate Rahm Emanuel before even learning the facts.
Surely no one would view Rev. Jeremiah Wright as closer to the centerpoint of American politics than Pastor Rick Warren, right? Wrong. Here's Chris Matthews on this evening's Hardball.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: It seems like Barack Obama, as much as seems to inspire people, including me, has a problem with pastors. I don't know what it is. You get him hooked up with a pastor, whether it's Jeremiah Wright, or it's this guy Rick Warren. One's on the left, one's on the far right. Both are causing him trouble.
So Wright's merely "left," while Warren's "far-right." Do we really need to prove the obvious: that Warren is vastly more mainstream than Wright? It hardly seems worth the effort, but let's consider a few factoids:
On Thursday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann disputed Vice President Cheney’s recent contention that history would likely judge the Bush administration more favorably than current approval rating numbers would suggest, as the MSNBC host distorted the results of a July 2007 Rasmussen poll to discredit Cheney’s claim that views of President Ford have softened up over the 30 years since he pardoned Richard Nixon. Olbermann, who has a history of using distortion to attack conservatives, declared that Ford was the "twelfth most unpopular President of all time, even though he was only in office for 30 months."
During the show's regular "Bushed!" segment, after imitating Cheney’s voice while quoting the Vice President, Olbermann asserted:
During this week, NBC’s Tonight Show host Jay Leno took a couple of noteworthy jabs at the anti-Bush mainstream media in America, on Monday joking that the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush was "offered his own show on MSNBC," and on Tuesday quipping that "he was so anti-Bush, at first people just assumed he was an American journalist."
By contrast, CBS’s Late Show host David Letterman used the episode to jab Fox News as he cracked on Tuesday that the "hot head" Iraqi journalist with "poor journalistic skills" was "offered his own show on Fox News." Below are transcripts of the relevant comments from this week’s Tonight Show on NBC and the Late Show on CBS:
Next time you find yourself in a room with Andrea Mitchell, be careful what thoughts you permit to cross your mind. The NBC correspondent evidently has the ability to read them. Defending Caroline Kennedy on today's Morning Joe, Mitchell stated as a fact that Kennedy's press-evading performance in upstate New York was due to her desire not to appear presumptuous.
Continuing her advocacy, Mitchell went on to praise the very remarks Kennedy made yesterday that I found dangerously sleep-inducing. She then dismissed Charles Krauthammer's criticism of Kennedy as "an opinion piece" coming from "the right." For good measure, Andrea accused Andrew Cuomo—a rival for the Senate seat—of leaking to the press unflattering information about Kennedy's failure to have voted in many elections.
Rick Warren had a surprisingly candid response to Ann Curry's question as to whether he would change his views on homosexuality if it were established that people are born gay. The pastor of the Saddleback Church, explaining why such a finding wouldn't cause him to change his position, observed that he is inclined to want to have sex with every beautiful woman he sees, but that that doesn't make it right.
Curry interviewed Warren for a Dateline segment that will be aired tonight on NBC. As noteworthy as Warren's candor was Curry's ostentatious display of righteous liberal anger, captured in the screengrab, while asking Warren whether he is homophobic.
"Five pages into Goldman's earnings report this week, Bloomberg News noticed Goldman's very subtle announcement that the firm's effective tax rate this year was 1 percent," Maddow said. "One percent - they paid 1 percent in taxes. Even though they were down this last quarter, they made $2.3 billion in profit this year."
What a difference an administration makes. During the Bush years, if a spokesman or the president himself attempted to dodge a tough question, the media would go into their Sam Donaldson impressions and pundits would see a conspiracy of silence.
But now that it's Obama, the dodging that was once denounced is suddenly celebrated. Thus, appearing on today's Morning Joe, Larry O'Donnell declared "impressive" Pres.-elect Obama's stiff-arming yesterday of a reporter who dared asked Blago-related questions.
The video clip also includes a gratuitous bit of nastiness from Obama adviser David Axelrod aimed at Mika Brzezinski.
It's said that to work, humor must contain a kernel of truth. No wonder David Letterman's effort to wring humor out of the shoe-throwing incident fell so flat. The Late Show host joked that Muntadhar al-Zeidi had been offered a show on . . . Fox News. Letterman was playing off the report that al-Zeidi is reported to be hot-tempered and possess poor journalistic skills.
How lame was Letterman? After airing the "joke" on Morning Joe today, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist gave it a double thumbs-down.
It's times like this that make me wonder whether I inhabit a universe different from that occupied by the MSM. This morning, discussing Pres. Bush's reaction to the flying shoe incident, I wrote:
Short of going full Ninja hero and snatching the shoes in mid-air, it's hard to see how Pres. Bush could have been any cooler in his handling of the Hush Puppy Hurler.
But on MSNBC this afternoon, host Tamron Hall claimed that in discussing the matter with the press, the president looked "unnerved" and embarrassed. Here's a clip of Pres. Bush discussing the incident with ABC's Martha Raddatz just after it happened. Does this look like an "unnerved" man to you?
Must have been that full moon. Or "fool full moon" as Rachel Maddow stumbled in referring to it.
If the Newseum is accepting suggestions for exhibits, a possibility comes to mind -- the Pantheon of Unfortunate Punditry. First submission -- Maddow's hilarious revisionism of Herbert Hoover on her MSNBC show Friday. I've watched the segment several times, each time in awe at Maddow's supreme confidence, unrivalled since Ted Baxter in his heyday. I plan to preserve it for posterity, to share with my children as a cautionary tale -- This is what happens when a person makes an utter fool of herself in public.
Maddow told of Vice President Dick Cheney visiting Capitol Hill earlier in the week and warning congressional Republicans that if the GOP blocks the auto bailout, "... We will be known as the party of Herbert Hoover forever," according to the Los Angeles Times.
"Red Eye" host Greg Gutfeld marvelously blasted the insufferable Keith Olbermann Friday for his "homoerotic obsession with Bill O'Reilly."
This deliciously came hours after the "Countdown" host bashed former Nixon administration figure Chuck Colson for having the nerve to speak out in favor of California's Proposition 8 which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
What really caught the ire of Gutfeld and company was a false assertion Olbermann made on air Wednesday about what transpired on a recent "Red Eye" (video embedded right, partial transcript below the fold):
Though there's not a ruble's worth of difference between their politics, I normally find Rachel Maddow a kinder, gentler, smarter version of Keith Olbermann. Not tonight. Granted, the Countdown host was on hiatus. But even if Olby had been around, he would have been hard-pressed to outdo Maddow for sheer silliness.
The preposterous proposition Rachel propounded? Republicans just don't want Americans to make good wages. That's how Maddow in part explained the decision of Senate Republicans to oppose the Big Three bailout.
Which would be the safer place to be for a political figure who's received death threats?:
a. A school concert in a public venue. b. A press conference in the company of the President-elect of the United States of America.
If you answered 'b,' you're thinking like me and presumably most people. If you answered 'a,' you're A.B. Stoddard. The associate editor of "The Hill" offered up the strange excuse that death threats are preventing Rahm Emanuel from attending press conferences in the course of an MSNBC appearance this afternoon during which she also claimed that "President-elect Obama is taking steps to be as forthcoming and as open and as transparent as he promised he would be."
"I will say that when I started [at MSNBC] in 2003, nobody spoke to me for six months. I was a strange man in a strange land," Joe Scarborough is reported to have told Time magazine.
TVNewser's Steve Krakauer noted today that in an upcoming 10 Questions feature the "Morning Joe" host will share his thoughts about his network, which he sees, "right now" to be "a free marketplace of ideas where everybody's invited and opinions clash."
Scarborough added that "as long as I'm fair, I don't think there's a problem at all." There's no word, however, on if Scarborough thinks fairness is strived at by his colleagues Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann.
Chris Matthews invited Bill Ayers on Wednesday night's "Hardball," and actually confronted him about his bombing of Capitol Hill during his days as a member of the '60s terrorist group Weather Underground, as the former Capitol Hill police officer emotionally observed: "I was a Capitol policeman at the time, so I was one of the guys that could have been killed obviously at the time you put that, your guys put that bomb in there. So I have a little personal interest. It wasn't just vandalism. To me it was life-threatening to the guys I worked with. And there were some pretty good guys working there."
However Matthews, who paradoxically may not even be alive to conduct this interview today if the Weather Underground's bombs were more devastating, devoted most of the interview tossing softballs Ayers' way, as the two often agreed with each other on Barack Obama and Iraq policy as the "Hardball" host pointed out they only really differed on how to spread their points of view: "Well, Mr. Ayers, with all due respect, you agitate your way, I agitate my way."
Yes -- "perhaps." Hard to believe there are people who harbor doubts about this. Not so shocking to learn they dwell on the left side of the aisle.
Former "Wonkette" blogger Ana Marie Cox, a contributor to Time magazine and The Daily Beast, appeared on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show last night to discuss, among other things, a Los Angeles Times story about Bush cabinet members receiving talking points on accomplishments they can cite from the 43rd president's tumultuous tenure.
Two of the achievements cited are that Bush has "kept the American people safe" since 9/11 and the president's work to curb AIDS in Africa. Maddow and Cox take it from here --
If naiveté were a crime, Jesse Jackson Jr. could be looking at a life sentence. Either that, or Senate candidate 5 wasn't being completely candid in his press conference this afternoon.
Jackson professed shock that Rod Blagojevich—a man who long before this week's arrest had a Katrina-sized cloud over his head—might have been conducting his Senate-seat search in accordance with anything but the most Mother Teresa-worthy standards.
This is just too perfect. Earlier today, noting that none of the network morning shows explicitly identified Rod Blagojevich as a Democrat, I wondered out loud how the MSM would treat a Republican in like circumstances. It's taken less than three hours to get our answer.
Let's preface this by saying that Norm Coleman is not, repeat not, the target of an investigation. To mention him anywhere within a million miles of Blago is unfair. I'm citing the MSNBC coverage just for purposes of illustrating the double standard. At about 11:20 AM ET, here's how Contessa Brewer threw it to Norah O'Donnell.
CONTESSA BREWER: Let's head over to Norah now, live at the politics desk, with more on a potential problem for GOP Senator, and the incumbent here in Minnesota, Norm Coleman. Norah.
Rachel Maddow is on a mission -- to stop what she perceives as egregious revisionism when it comes to the war in Iraq. And if Maddow has to engage in the real thing to indulge her outrage, all while airbrushing away the ominous decade between the Persian Gulf war and 9/11, so be it.
The media's fave lefty mouthpiece of the moment has been in high dudgeon, her indignation initiated by Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard describing the so-called "Bush Legacy Project."
On her MSNBC show Dec. 3, Maddow showed a clip of Bush's interview with Charles Gibson of ABC News where Bush said "the biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq." Many people "put their reputations on the line" that Saddam Hussein's suspected possession of WMD justified an invasion, Bush said, and "it wasn't just people in my administration." This is "not a do-over," Bush added, but "I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess."
Sure, the sitting Democratic governor of Illinois has been arrested and charged with attempting to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat. But enough about that. Jay Leno is starting his show 90 minutes earlier!!
Yes, a bit after 1 PM today, MSNBC actually pre-empted its Blago coverage to go to a news conference at which NBC honchos, with Leno present, announced that the Tonight show host would be moving from 11:30 to 10 PM.
Andrea Mitchell was in the midst of a serious dialogue with Pete Williams, when someone apparently whispered in the NBC justice correspondent's ear . . .
Promise, or threat? John Harwood declares "the New York Times isn't going anywhere." The Times correspondent, who also toils for CNBC, made his unconditional claim on today's Morning Joe in response to Joe Scarborough's envisioning of a future in which major news organizations, including the Times, might disappear. Scarborough was concerned that the public would be deprived of the media's investigative function.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: The problem is, though, that these people are all being fired. So what are we going to do without a New York Times or a Washington Post or an NBC News? The investigators that hold government accountable.
That's when Harwood sprang to his employer's defense.
Looks like Chris Matthews is actually disappointed in Barack Obama, but only in the sense that he's worried Obama isn't moving to the left fast enough. Throughout Monday night's "Hardball," after reciting recent appointments like Robert Gates, Jim Jones and yes even Hillary Clinton, Matthews repeatedly asked his guests questions like: "What happened to the victory of change, and I hate to use the phrase, the Left? Who won this election?" and "Why do we have no lefties in this Cabinet?"
Matthews even invited on two "lefties," Tim Carpenter of Progressive Democrats of America and David Corn of The Nation, to blast Obama for not going left enough and offered them regular spots on his show to "Keep the guy [Obama] where he ought to be."
A little later in the program, Matthews had on Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg news and Roger Simon of the Politico and fretted about his perception that there weren't enough leftists in the cabinet: "Why no lefties? Why nobody that talks like Barack Obama talked when he got elected?"
The following exchanges occurred on the December 8, edition of "Harball":
Contessa Brewer has suggested that Pres. Bush should be ashamed of his administration's decision to exempt the chemical perchlorate from federal regulation. Speaking with a Republican guest this afternoon, the MNSBC host analogized the decision to Bill Clinton's scandalous last-minute pardons.
Did Brewer ever read the official EPA explanation of its ruling, or had she only looked at articles like this one, "subtly" featuring a huge photo of a baby drinking from its bottle?