Media Scandals

By Noel Sheppard | June 13, 2010 | 4:47 PM EDT

CNN's Howard Kurtz on Sunday said an inconvenient truth that few in his industry would care to admit: "Helen Thomas has been saying all kinds of questionable things in [the White House] press room for the past decade, but her colleagues, for the most part, had given her a pass until now."

This indeed is the real lesson behind last week's retirement of the nation's longest living member of the White House press corps: she for years was allowed by her colleagues to regularly get away with what most of them knew was unacceptable behavior.

Interesting that media members are learning this lesson only when one of their own falls from grace. The question is whether or not they'll recognize that they should always be scrutinizing each other's performance in order to maintain the integrity and professionalism key to an industry that is charged with policing government and the politicians that serve our very nation.

This seems especially important given how the same people now admitting they let Thomas get away with media malpractice ignored all journalistic standards during the last presidential campaign and have continued to do so since Barack Obama was inaugurated.

Consider that as you watch Kurtz and his panel discuss the Thomas affair on the opening segment of Sunday's "Reliable Sources" (video follows with transcribed highlights and commentary, full transcript at end of post):  

By NB Staff | June 12, 2010 | 12:59 PM EDT
Earlier this week, NewsBusters senior editor and MRC Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham appeared on CBN to talk about Helen Thomas's comments that Israeli Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to Germany and Poland.


By Fred Lucas | June 9, 2010 | 6:43 PM EDT

Editor's Note: The following originally appeared at NewsBusters sister site CNSNews.com.

The fallout from Helen Thomas’ controversial comments about Israel and Jews, which led to her immediate retirement on Monday, has prompted journalists covering the White House to re-evaluate the role of an opinion columnist in the White House press corps.
 
Thomas, 89, the so-called dean of the White House press corps, covered the White House as a news reporter for United Press International (UPI), beginning with the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s. In 2000, she left UPI to become an opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers. She has a front row seat at the White House press gallery with her name on it.
 
On Friday, June 4, a video surfaced of Thomas saying (on May 27) that Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine” and that the Jews should “go home” to “Poland, Germany,” and to “America and everywhere else.” After initially apologizing for the comment, Thomas announced her immediate retirement on Monday.

By Ken Shepherd | June 8, 2010 | 5:00 PM EDT

As other media outlets have given Helen Thomas the kid glove treatment in light of her "trailblazing" career, media consumers may be forgiven for assuming that Helen Thomas's anti-Israel, arguably anti-Semitic comments were an aberration in an otherwise unblemished career of assertive but fair journalism.

To his credit, Washington Post's media reporter Howard Kurtz made note of other incidents, such as the time Thomas blamed Israel for inspiring "99 percent" of terrorism and the time in 2002 when she exclaimed "Thank God for Hezbollah," the Iran-backed terror group that murdered 241 U.S. servicement in 1983 and has plagued Israel for decades.

As the excerpt below shows, it's not just conservatives who have had complaints about Thomas (emphases mine):

By Lachlan Markay | June 8, 2010 | 1:18 PM EDT
An emerging defense of Helen Thomas's "Jews go home" comment is that either what she said really was not that bad, or that others occasionally say worse things without the same level of reproach.

Richard Greener, writing at the Huffington Post on Monday, was so close to making a good point. He noted that a number of other public figures have said things that could reasonably be interpreted as more offensive than Helen Thomas's comment, and have not been forced into retirement.

Though Greener neglected to note the higher standard to which White House correspondents are inevitably held, his credibility was instantly reduced to ashes when the only example of vitriol from the left he could come up with was Keith Olbermann saying Sarah Palin is "an idiot." And he even followed it up with a pathetic attempt to satiate his readership's intense hatred for Palin (and Olby affection) by noting that "perhaps truth is an absolute defense."
By Tim Graham | June 8, 2010 | 6:23 AM EDT

During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the news agency Reuters admitted that one of its pictures of smoke and destruction caused by Israel's bombing of Beirut had been augmented in a Photoshop program by photographer Adnan Hajj. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz yesterday reported Reuters was under fire again yesterday for manipulating photographs in a bias against Israel, this time in the Gaza flotilla story. Natasha Mozgovaya reported Reuters cropped inconvenient truths out of the frame:

The Reuters news agency has been accused of removing images of activists wielding weapons and bloodied and wounded Israeli naval commandos from photographs taken on board a ship headed for Gaza during deadly clashes last week.

Reuters on Monday rejected accusations of biased coverage, adding that it had reverted to the use of "the original set" of images, once the organization realized that the photographs it had published had been cropped....

By Ken Shepherd | June 7, 2010 | 5:59 PM EDT

Well that didn't take long. The folks at the left-wing MoveOn.org are practically in mourning over Helen Thomas's "retirement."

Just a few hours after news broke that Hearst columnist Helen Thomas is calling it quits after a viral video of her anti-Semitic comments led to widespead condemnation of the White House press corps dean.

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post has the story:

The abrupt retirement of Helen Thomas from her perch as the ranking member of the White House press corps was essentially accepted as a fait accompli by supporters and detractors alike after her controversial remarks urging Jews to leave Israel surfaced.

Indeed, if there was any defense made of Thomas's comments, it wasn't done persuasively or at an influential level. But that didn't stop the progressive community -- many hearing about her retirement while at the Campaign for America's Future conference in D.C. -- from collectively fretting on Monday about what the loss of her voice bodes for the day-to-day interaction between the White House and the Fourth Estate.

Her absence will be felt "significantly," said Ilyse Hogue, Communications Director of Moveon.org. "The burden will fall on the rest of the press corps to make sure the administration feels the need to be transparent about its plans to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan."

By Tim Graham | June 7, 2010 | 12:48 PM EDT

Via Politico, Hearst Newspapers columnist Thomas issued a statement today: "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon." 

Michael Calderone at Yahoo! News reports that a second half of the Thomas interview is yet to come from Rabbi David Nesenoff and his site RabbiLive.com, and the first half was delayed while the rabbi's 17-year-old webmaster son finished his finals: 

Although she's apologized, Nesenoff said Thomas should do more, and "the only way to fix it is to become a poster child for tolerance and non-hatred."

Next, Nesenoff said that in a day or so, he'll release part two of the interview, but was tight-lipped about what else Thomas said that day.

"Part two will be very interesting to watch," he said, adding that Thomas is in it "100 percent" of the time. 

By Brent Bozell | June 7, 2010 | 12:34 PM EDT

Managing Editor's Note: The following was originally published today at the Washington Post/Newsweek "On Faith" page. Mr. Bozell was asked to contribute this "Guest Voice" column to explain his complaints about Comedy Central's planned "JC" cartoon.

Comedians often pride themselves on being irreverent, and in today's popular culture a favorite thing to ridicule is religion. The network Comedy Central has made laughing at religion its bread and butter. Their irreverence has limits, however, and it has nothing to do with taste. When radical Muslims wrote ominously online that the creators of "South Park" could end up like Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh - shot eight times on the street - mockery of Muhammed was formally and publicly censored.

Within weeks of that very public retreat, Comedy Central announced plans to work up a series laughing at Jesus Christ called "JC," a half-hour animated show about Jesus trying to live a normal life in New York City to escape the "enormous shadow" of his "powerful but apathetic father." God the Father is preoccupied with playing video games while Christ is the "ultimate fish out of water."

Beyond the glaring double standard there is this question: Where is the market demand for an entire television series dedicated to attacks on Jesus Christ? What did Jesus Christ do to Comedy Central that they must relentlessly mock Him by portraying him defecating and talking about his "yummy, yummy crap" on "South Park" and roast him on specials titled "Merry F--ing Christmas"? Why the visuals of Jesus Christ being stabbed to death? Of the Blessed Virgin Mary menstruating? To call these attacks "juvenile" is an insult to juveniles.

By Ken Shepherd | June 7, 2010 | 12:03 PM EDT

Time's Joe Klein, no fan of the present Israeli government he, has weighed in on Helen Thomas's now infamous "get the hell out of Palestine" comments.

Writing for his magazine's Swampland blog yesterday, Klein denounced the Hearst columnist's comments as "odious," but stopped short of demanding her ouster from the White House press briefing room. Instead, Klein urged in his June 6 post that Thomas should forego her front row seat and get pushed towards the back of the room:

[I]t's not unprecedented for journalists with odious views to have access to the press room. What is unprecedented is for such a journalist to have a front-row center seat. Thomas should no longer have that privilege. The front row should be occupied by working reporters, not columnists. The WHCA should sanction Thomas by sending her back to the cheap seats. This would accurately reflect her current status as a journalist while preserving her First Amendment right to be as obnoxious as she wants.

Of course Thomas has a First Amendment right to be obnoxious, but that doesn't mean she has a constitutional right to a slot in the press briefing room. Perhaps Klein thinks his is a reasonable middle ground for the WHCA to stake out, but there were plenty of reasons to boot Thomas from the front row long before her anti-Semitic ranting made for viral video.
By Ken Shepherd | May 28, 2010 | 12:08 PM EDT

Time's Michael Crowley, late of the liberal publication The New Republic, took to his new magazine's Swampland blog with a salutatory post yesterday. After the obligatory kind words about how excited he was to be on board "another great [journalistic] institution," Crowley laid out his case about why author Joe McGinniss was foolish for renting a house right next door to the Palin family's Wasilla residence.

He did take a few swipes at Palin in the process -- arguing Palin is on a mission to discredit journalists and this just bolsters her argument -- but Crowley's case is the polar opposite of Slate's Jack Shafer, who defiantly praised McGinniss's journalistic "a**holery." Here's the relevant excerpt from Crowley's May 27 post (emphases mine):

By Ken Shepherd | May 6, 2010 | 4:14 PM EDT
"Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but not his own facts," Daniel Patrick Moynihan is credited as having once said. MSNBC's Chris Matthews would do well to heed the counsel of the late liberal New York senator.

The "Hardball" host yesterday smeared former Bush FEMA Director Michael Brown as having this kooky notion that President Obama approved of offshore drilling in March only because he knew the BP oil rig disaster would happen.

But as the video embedded at right shows, this is Matthews's own warped misunderstanding of Brown's argument about how the Obama administration is poised to take advantage of a disaster for political ends. [MP3 audio available here; WMV video for download here]

Matthews is certainly entitled to disagree with Brown's assessment about the Obama administration's motives behind its slow response to the BP oil spill, but not to lie to viewers about Brown's argument.

Below the page break you'll find a transcript excerpt: