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):
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.
Click here for complete NewsBusters coverage of the Thomas and the supportive comments she has received from other journalists in the wake of her anti-Israeli remarks.
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.
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):
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."
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....
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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):
"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:
A recent episode of Comedy Central's animated comedy show "South Park" caused an Islamic group to send a veiled death threat to show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, accusing them of insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Comedy Central reacted by censoring a later episode that also had scenes involving the cartoon version of the Islamic prophet.
Two New York Times stories on this free speech issue by Arts reporter Dave Itzkoff were buried on the inside pages of the paper's Arts section, under whitewashed headlines alleging that the "South Park" creators were being "warned" by Muslims, not having their lives threatened.
The issue first came up in Thursday's "Arts, Briefly" column under the lame headline "Muslim Group Warns 'South Park.'" (A more accurate headline would have been "Muslim Group Sends Veiled Death Threat to 'South Park.'")
During a speech to the winter conference of the Young Democratic Socialists the site Verum Serum found that ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis praised socialism and attacked conservatives. She even goes so far as to say that today's political atmosphere is worse than McCarthyism, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and Jim Crow segregation:
Editor's Note:What follows is a statement Mr. Bozell released earlier today wherein he declared the intentional disparaging and false reporting of the Catholic Church and its leader Pope Benedict XVI an atrocity, and demanded the media immediately end their exaggerations:
The Catholic Church has always endured unfair characterizations from the left-wing media, but the most recent and phony ‘news’ coverage of the sexual abuse scandal has reached a new and alarming low.
Last week dozens of news outlets – including the Associated Press, Reuters, Washington Post, New York TimesCBS, MSNBC– reported that the abuse scandal is ‘widening.’ That is absolutely and unequivocally false. The scandal isn’t growing. As Catholic League President Bill Donohue aptly noted, citing evidence from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, abuse is shrinking in the United States, with an even more rapid decline over the last five years.
Update - 10:45 AM | Lachlan Markay: Contessa Brewer is filling in for Shuster during his 10 am slot. Mediaite is reporting that Ed Schultz will take the 3 pm slot. This will not be the permanent lineup, however.
MSNBC's David Shuster was suspended indefinitely today after a flap with the cable network's brass, who were livid that he filmed a pilot for CNN. Shuster, whose contract is set to expire at the end of the year, has not appeared on air since the news broke.
"If true," said MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Ganes after hearing the news, "this is unacceptable and David will be punished appropriately." MSNBC President Phil Griffin was vacationing in Florida, but reportedly "ripped Shuster a new one over the phone," according to Gail Shister of TV Newser.
This morning MSNBC announced that Shuster has been suspended "indefinitely." Anything less than suspension, an MSNBC exec told Shister, "sends a message from management that this is OK."
Ed Schultz rehashed an already-discredited smear of conservative talk show host Sean Hannity on the liberal talker's March 30 "Ed Show" program on MSNBC.
Blustered Schultz as he introduced Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW):
Finally tonight on "The Ed Show," it's been 12 days since Sean Hannity hasn't answered the questions about possible fraud and misuse of funds from his charity. He may have to answer to the IRS and Federal Trade Commission.
Editor's Note: In a statement released today, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell denounced CNN for relying on bigoted anti-Catholic singer Sinead O'Connor as a credible source to discuss recent allegations brought against the Catholic Church in the cable network's repeated interviews with her. Those comments are posted below.
Sinead O’Connor is a despicable, hate-filled person who has no business being portrayed as a reasonable voice to discuss the Catholic Church that she has disgraced for the past twenty years.
CNN’s decision to have her on as a credible source to bash and criticize the Pope and the Catholic Church is like having the KKK on to criticize President Obama, or Nazis on to criticize Jews. It’s disgusting, unacceptable, and disgraceful.
When CNN decides to have legitimate, non-bigoted guests on, perhaps Americans will begin to trust them again as a viable news source.
On his January 29 program, MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan introduced Rall as "an award-winning cartoonist who caught our eye with cartoons like this one showing some Wall Street types chatting about President Obama's bank tax."
But Ratigan must be ignorant of or apathetic regarding Rall's penchant for soldier-smearing left-wing screeds. After all, he all but personally endorsed Rall's fundraising pitch (audio available here):
Some in the liberal media continue to insist that James O'Keefe and his three cohorts were trying to "bug" or "tap" Sen. Mary Landrieu's phone lines when law enforcement officials have clearly said that they were not. Since the left doesn't like O'Keefe, the liberal media seems to think standard practices of journalistic integrity don't apply here.
According to MSNBC, one law enforcement official, who was not named, said "the four men arrested for attempting to tamper with the phones in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) were not trying to intercept or wiretap the calls." This statement comports with the affidavit filed in court after O'Keefe and company were arrested, which did not mention wiretapping or bugging, and only referred to the "tampering" of phone lines (h/t Patterico).
But the Boston Globe parroted this false accusation this morning in a gossip blog post about one of the alleged perpetrators, Joe Basel. The Globe--the same Globe that complained about ACORN's "trial-by-video"--called him a "political dirty trickster who was busted in a Watergate-style bugging operation earlier this week," and said again a couple paragraphs later that Basel was "bagged by the feds allegedly trying to bug the phones" in Landrieu's office. At least the Globe writers said "allegedly" the second time.
Managing Editor's Note: The following was originally published at Greyhawk's Mudville Gazette blog on January 25, 2010.
Wow - growing evidence that multiple identical letters appearing in multiple different newspapers under multiple names implies some sort of astroturf campaign. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, at this development.
Just wait 'til the even bigger news sites discover this story. I don't have to wonder what will happen - I know - and whoever launched these various letter-writing campaigns should be well aware of what's coming, too. After all, it's happened before, and not long ago... (screen wavers, fades out... and...)
A man who identified himself as Winston Steward, 51, of Frazier Park, Calif., says he made up the name "Ellie Light" to protect himself from criticism and possible physical attacks, and used fake addresses across the country to get local newspapers to publish his letters.
"I am Winston Steward and have been sending the letters from Ellie Light," he told The Plain Dealer in an e-mail late Tuesday, following a phone interview in which he said the same. "I hope this ends any confusion and sets the record straight."
Three days ago, NewsBusters contributor Candance Moore wrote about pro-Obama letter-to-the-editor spammer "Ellie Light" who had duped some 40+ papers (the number stands at 68 now), into publishing nearly identical letters that praised the president. In each case, the writer claimed to hail from cities or towns served by the local newspaper's print circulation.
Today, Fox News Channel's "America's Newsroom" had Media Research Center President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell on for comment.
Write-the-editor campaigns are a classic tactic of political campaigning, Bozell noted, saying he couldn't blame pro-Obama organizers for attempting it. The real problem is with sloppy newspapers that failed to verify the authenticity of the letter writer's identity and residence (audio available here). Said Bozell:
Brand new at MRC.org today: a new Special Report titled "Omitting for Obama: How the Old Media Deliberately Censored New Media Scoops in 2009."
A few weeks of digging into just how little the Old Media covered these stories -- and how they often tried to explain them away as distractions caused by Obama's enemies -- showed me that conservatives who are very well-versed in New Media scoops might fail to understand just how little these stories may not have penetrated into the news seen by less politically committed Americans who rely on "objective" Old Media.
The converse may also be true: that Old Media bosses assume that if they haven't covered a New Media story damaging to their liberal heroes, it hasn't really penetrated into the political culture in a way they cannot manipulate.
In January, an anonymous person supposedly named "Ellie Light" launched a massive PR campaign on behalf of President Barack Obama.
The goal appears to have been to infiltrate as many newspapers as possible to spread pro-Obama propaganda -- as if the press needed the help.
Light's plan was simple enough: write a compelling letter to the editor, pretend to be a concerned reader in the region, and persuade the paper to print her liberal blather.
For three weeks, editors of mainstream newspapers big and small allowed Light to spread Democrat talking points under the guise of small-town grassroots without anyone bothering to double check her story.
Democrats generally do not have to worry about an unfriendly press. Most journalists are more than happy to toe the liberal line. But when things turn south for the Democrat, the harder questions start flowing, and occasionally it can get ugly.
We've seen our fair share of backlash against reporters from the Democratic candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, Martha Coakley. Videos keep popping up of people directly affiliated with the campaign harassing--verbally and physically--members of the press.
First it was veteran Democratic political operative Michael Meehan, who was caught on video shoving the Weekly Standard's John McCormack to the ground outside a restaurant on Capitol Hill. McCormack was trying to ask about the "no terrorists in Afghanistan" blunder Coakley uttered a couple weeks ago.
A video appeared today on RealClearPolitics showing two staffers at a Coakley campaign office screaming at a member of the press to leave the office, shouting obscenities at the woman, and calling her a Nazi (video here - h/t Ed Driscoll).
In a Monday interview on MediaBistro.com’s weekly video series Media Beat, disgraced former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather shared his concerns over the credibility of internet journalism: “The difficulty with some of the things on the internet...is transparency and accountability about who’s responsible for what’s on.”
TVNewser.com columnist Gail Shister sparked the discussion by asking Rather: “Are you concerned at all that there is the absence of quality control when it comes to so much of the modern platforms?” Rather went on to fret: “...you can put something on the internet that’s really terrible about your neighbor or about a friend or a competitor and it’s almost impossible to find out who the source is. And you can say anything about them. That part of it troubles me.”
Rather of course ended his tenure at CBS after using fraudulent documents to smear President George W. Bush just days before the 2004 presidential election. He showed little concern for accountability and proper sourcing as he used fabricated memos to claim that Bush had gone AWOL while serving in the Texas Air National Guard in the 1970s.
"Well, NBC, ABC and CBS finally got around to reporting on ClimateGate" but it "wasn’t worth the wait," Media Research Center President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell said in a statement today. [Click here for the full press release]
"NBC and ABC’s reports were so biased, they left their audiences as ill-informed afterwards as they were before. And CBS came about as close to blacking out their own coverage as possible," Bozell added, referring to how the network reported the story on a program blacked out in much of the country in favor of college football.
ABC finally reported on ClimateGate on Sunday. But they provided no specifics from the reams of emails and data from East Anglia University that caused the scandal, and concluded their report with the flatly incorrect assertion: “The science is solid, according to a vast majority of researchers, with hotter temperatures, melting glaciers, and rising sea level providing the proof.”
The Washington Post put ClimateGate on the front page, top left in Saturday’s edition. It’s also the top story at washingtonpost.com. The headline is "In e-mails, science of warming is hot debate." The website summary: "E-mails stolen from British research center show climate-change leaders noting flaws in their own data and seemingly scheming to muzzle critics."
Wow. The story is breaking. Here’s paragraph two of the David Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin story:
Now it has mushroomed into what is being called "Climate-gate," a scandal that has done what many slide shows and public-service ads could not: focus public attention on the science of a warming planet.
Except now, much of that attention is focused on the science's flaws. Leaked just before international climate talks begin in Copenhagen -- the culmination of years of work by scientists to raise alarms about greenhouse-gas emissions -- the e-mails have cast those scientists in a political light and given new energy to others who think the issue of climate change is all overblown.
The e-mails don't say that: They don't provide proof that human-caused climate change is a lie or a swindle.