On Saturday’s Fox News Watch, FNC contributor and panel member Jim Pinkerton of the New America Foundation twice cited the Media Research Center – parent organization to NewsBusters – the first time as he pointed out that ABC News had given six times as much attention to attacking Republican Senator Jim Bunning’s efforts to delay the extension of unemployment benefits – as if doing so were a scandal – as opposed to covering the actual scandal of Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel’s unethical activities. Pinkerton recounted:
Striking, as Scott Whitlock at MRC pointed out, ABC News devoted six times more coverage to trashing Bunning where Jonathan Karl, the reporter, went all Jesse Watters on Bunning, following him around in the Senate and trying to barge into the elevator, than they did on Chairman Rangel's, of the Ways and Means Committee's, forced resignation in a scandal. So a two-day procedural thing was six times bigger news to ABC than a genuine corrupt scandal. [Audio available here.]
The FNC contributor cited the MRC a second time during a discussion of the media’s coverage of Iraq as he noted that the mainstream media have lost interest in the subject and have not asked a question at a White House press conference since June 26. Host Jon Scott brought in Pinkerton by bringing up a recent article in the Daily Beast about positive developments in Iraq which did not mention former President Bush:
On Sunday’s Reliable Sources on CNN, as host Howard Kurtz led a discussion on media coverage of Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel’s ethical problems, guest Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg News – formerly of Time magazine and CNN's Capital Gang – seemed to suggest that Rangel would have lost his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee sooner if the mainstream media were not so biased in favor of the New York Democrat.
Kurtz had just led a discussion with Carlson and the Washington Examiner’s Chris Stirewalt on whether ABC’s Jonathan Karl had slanted his coverage of Republican Senator Jim Bunning’s efforts to delay passage of the extension of unemployment benefits, with the CNN host posing the question: "When the television reports go from Senator Bunning on the floor, clearly ticking off his colleagues, to some poor unemployed person who obviously wants to continue to receive checks, are we loading the dice a little bit?"
After the discussion moved to Rangel, Kurtz recounted that Matthews recently wondered whether the New York Times was going after the Democratic Congressman because of his unethical acts or because he had angered them with some legislative action. The CNN host soon added: "But Matthews went on to say, ‘I've loved the guy,’ Charlie Rangel, ‘for years. I feel like recusing myself.’ But do you think this Rangel story got enough attention? All the networks covered it. NBC Nightly News is the only one that did a full story."
The left-leaning Carlson soon acknowledged the media’s negative feelings toward Bunning as a contrast with press affection for Rangel, with either Kurtz or Stirewalt – or possibly both men – voicing agreement that Rangel would have been gone earlier if not for his popularity:
If there's one thing Rachel Maddow hates, it's hypocrisy. That and dishonesty, oh, don't get her started. Especially when they emanate from the GOP side of the aisle, at least as perceived by her.
But when coming from Maddow, well, let's just say her blind spot is broad of breadth.
On her MSNBC show Tuesday, for example, Maddow repeatedly called Sen. Orrin Hatch a liar in response to a Hatch op-ed that day in the Washington Post criticizing Democrats for their expected use of budget reconciliation to pass health legislation.
Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday highlighted a story on NewsBusters showing that ABC News spent far more time on Senator Jim Bunning and his non-scandal than the network did with Congressman Charlie Rangel's ethics violations.
Speaking to Bunning, Hannity informed his viewers: "NewsBusters, this is Brent Bozell's website, had a piece out and said that ABC News covered your issue involving your filibuster, if you will, six times more than the coverage that they gave to Charlie Rangel's scandal, which is a real scandal." [Audio available here.]
Could Sen. Jim Bunning's desire to pay for extended unemployment benefits with stimulus funds be the result of a serious mental disorder? So suggested Rachel Maddow during her show last night. Maddow based her report on unfouded allegations from a liberal newspaper, and neglected to mention the numerous unstable congressional Democrats that have come unhinged from time to time.
Maddow noted that "even his hometown newspaper has at times questioned his mental fitness," and quoted the Louisville Courier Journal, which in October 2004 asked, "Is his increasing belligerence an indication of something worse? Has [he] drifted into territory that indicates a serious health concern?"
Of course Maddow neglected to mention that Bunning's doctor at the time said his health was "excellent". His campaign manager said the Courier-Journal was spreading false accusations to damage Bunning's election prospects "because he's not a liberal." A political press? Never! (Clips from Maddow's show below the fold - h/t Brian Maloney.)
Over the last three days, ABC's World News devoted almost six times as much coverage to Senator Jim Bunning and his temporary hold-up of an unemployment bill as the program did for the ongoing revelations that Democratic Charlie Rangel violated House ethics with his trips to the Caribbean.
World News investigated and followed the Republican for four minutes and 38 seconds over two days. In comparison, the program could only manage a scant 48 seconds of coverage for Rangel. (Anchor Diane Sawyer on Wednesday finally asked George Stephanopoulos about the news that Rangel was stepping down from his powerful Ways and Means committee.)
The difference here is that Rangel's story was an actual scandal and ABC only treated Bunning's actions, which amounted to not giving unanimous consent to a $10 billion spending bill, as a scandal.
When a political editor declares that U.S. Senator Jim Bunning (R-Ky) makes "even former Vice President Dick Cheney seem warm and fuzzy," you know that the mainstream media are reaching for the long knives. Associate editor of The Hill A.B. Stoddard wrote in yesterday's "Bunning’s gift to Dems:"
Bunning’s blowup was indeed a gift to bewildered Democrats on more than one level. It portrayed Republicans as obstructionists, showed Republicans dissing the unemployed, gave the GOP the face of a mean old white guy that made even former Vice President Dick Cheney seem warm and fuzzy, illustrated how hamstrung Democrats are in trying to pass legislation within the confines of Senate rules, made fellow home-state senator and former friend Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) squirm and distracted from the plans Democrats have to pass healthcare reform with the reconciliation procedure, as well as from Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) stepping down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee amid ethical troubles. Let’s call that a six-fer.
Beyond that, it appears that no establishment media outlet has raised a few self-evident points made in a Wednesday Wall Street Journal editorial, proving yet again that the paper's editorials are as much a real news source as they are a rundown of the editorialists' particular take on things.
The critical points of the editorial (link may require subscription, and will probably not be available in a few weeks) are these:
Bunning was trying to do in practice what Nancy and Pelosi, Harry Reid and President Obama are fond of only talking about (Clay Waters also made this point in one of those NewsBusters posts).
The outrage is the result of substance-free political gamesmanship.
(Tea Partiers take note) Many of Bunning's fellow party members headed for the tall grass when the media heat commenced.
What follows are the Journal excerpts that make those points (bolds are mine):
Congressional reporter Carl Hulse took the Democrats' side in a running controversy over federal spending involving Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky. Until Tuesday night Bunning, a Republican not running for releection, had flummoxed and angered the Democrat majority (and the media) by employing a legislative tactic to block a new spending bill that would have extended funding on a variety of fronts, including unemployment benefits.
Instead, Bunning insisted the spending first be paid for by other spending cuts and that to pass the bill as is would violate legislation passed by the Democratic majority a month ago known as pay-as-you-go (PAYGO).
Hulse, who usually sides with Democrats in such tactical battles, quickly got off-Trek in his Sunday coverage:
In the original "Star Trek" series, a popular episode centered on two planets that fought a bloodless war through computer simulation but then delivered real casualties. The partisan conflict in the Senate has been waged in a similar fashion.
While the legislative toll has been high, the struggle has been conducted in a genteel, decorous manner. Senators routinely initiate filibusters, lodge objections to votes and impose "holds" on White House nominees and then go about their business as they await make-or-break procedural votes.
Now things are threatening to get a little messier. Incensed over a decision by Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, to stand between jobless Americans and extended unemployment benefits, a group of Democrats took to the floor in a late-night session Thursday to hold Mr. Bunning's feet to the political fire.
On Wednesday's CBS Early Show, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer ranted against Republican Senator Jim Bunning's opposition to a spending bill: "it's unconscionable what has happened here....this is about politics. It is not – it was not about anything of substance." [Audio available here]
Co-host Maggie Rodriguez began the segment by explaining that Bunning had stopped blocking the legislation and asked Schieffer: "Isn't this just another example of why it takes so long to get things done in Congress?" Schieffer agreed, claiming: "it's another example...of why there is so much anger and disillusionment out in the country about Congress."
Schieffer went on to dismiss the Kentucky Senator's concerns over the rising deficit: "[He] claimed he was doing this because he was trying to get the Senate to go along with the Republican principle and that is pay things...before they approve them but this was emergency legislation." In reality, Democrats, not Republicans, just passed pay-as-you-go legislation last week, mandating that all new spending being paid for before passage. As for the "emergency" nature of the bill, on Tuesday's Early Show, CBS White House correspondent Chip Reid claimed it was simply "routine legislation."
ABC on Wednesday continued to berate Senator Jim Bunning for daring to hold up a $10 billion spending bill, despite the fact that the Kentucky Republican has since allowed the unemployment legislation to pass. Reporter Jonathan Karl piled on, "Even after the deal was struck, Democrats lashed out at Bunning for causing such a mess."
Karl replayed video of him harassing Bunning on Capitol Hill and forcing his way into a Senators-only elevator. Yet, Karl spun, "...Unemployment benefits can now be extended, but only after Senator Jim Bunning tied the Senate up in knots for a week, snapping at reporters." As the video shows, Karl seemed be doing much of the "snapping."
Some faulty memes get repeated so often they get burned in the media's collective memory as fact, even though they are myth. Perhaps the most notable example of that in 2009 was the myth that the New York 23rd congressional district had been solidly Republican since the Civil War until Doug Hoffman's third-party challenge of the liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava ensured a Democrat's victory in a special election. We've a lot of 2010 left to go, but perhaps history will record the greatest political myth of this year as Jim Bunning's "filibuster" that was anything but.
This isnot a filibuster, which is a specific procedure in which Senators force debate to continue indefinitely as a means to block a final vote, denying “cloture” to the majority party. Alternatively, and now somewhat archaically, it also describes an effort by one Senator to just continue talking to stall action. Bunning is using another mechanism altogether, one that won’t block a final vote, although it will delay it:
The deficit for last year was 1.4 trillion dollars. The deficit rose as a share of the gross domestic product from 3.1 percent in 2008 to 9.9 percent in 2009, the highest deficit as a share of GDP since 1945. The projected deficit for the fiscal year that ends in September is another $1.3 trillion.
So much for all that fiscal sanity blather from Team Obama in ‘08. How dishonest. Even worse, there’s a good reason to stay pessimistic about deficits as far as the eye can see. It’s called the "news" media.
Legislators who want to get re-elected will clearly want to avoid any spending decision that will create bad national publicity, and our news media, the manufacturers of bad national publicity, will send crying victims down the assembly line at the slightest thought of a social spending cut or freeze.
"Campbell Brown . . . the only non-partisan cable news anchor at 8 pm." -- CNN description of Campbell Brown
"Non-partisan": right. The hit that Brown, with help from reporter Dana Bash, put on Jim Bunning this evening was worthy of that hyper-partisan guy over at MSNBC in the 8 PM ET slot.
Bash first narrated a classic of the liberal media genre: an anecdotal story of someone allegedly hurt by hard-hearted Republican policies. Bash claimed that "in the real world," Bunning's position is having a "devastating effect" on people like single mother Madonna Alvarez.
For the second straight night, ABC's World News scolded Senator Jim Bunning for daring to block a $10 billion spending bill until it is offset by cuts elsewhere, parading out victims as Diane Sawyer and Jonathan Karl painted him as a nuisance “even fellow Republicans” – that would be a liberal one – oppose. (After the EST broadcast, news broke that Bunning has agreed to some sort of deal.)
Sawyer thundered in teasing her top story: “Tonight on World News, the 'Politics of No.' For the second straight day, one Senator stymies Congress, unemployed Americans struggle and we track that Senator down again.” Sawyer led:
Good evening. Even his fellow Republicans have asked him to stop, but Republican Senator Jim Bunning still has Congress under blockade. For another day, he's kept thousands of unemployed workers from getting their benefits and forced some highway construction projects to stop.
Karl treated the Senator as a child (“Jim Bunning was at it again today”) before he showcased an “unemployed microbiologist in Texas” who, Karl ludicrously relayed -- just two weekdays after unemployment benefits were stopped -- “says no unemployment check will mean she will have to move out of her house” while “Bret Ingersoll of Denver is an unemployed forklift operator, who has already lost his apartment.” So, “today even fellow Republicans were asking Senator Bunning to relent.” That would be Maine's Susan Collins.
Just days after Rick Sanchez and his producer asked for "hardship stories" online, CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 program on Tuesday looked for people who have lost their unemployment benefits due to Republican Senator Jim Bunning's opposition to a $10 billion emergency measure which would have extended benefits.
The unsigned entry on the AC360 blog, which was posted on Tuesday afternoon, first recapped how Democrats attacked Bunning for blocking the unanimous consent of the measure. In the last sentence of the entry, the unnamed author asked readers of CNN.com to reply for their sob stories:
Reporting on Republican Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning blocking spending legislation over deficit concerns at the top of Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith proclaimed: "Congressional quagmire. Democrats blame one Republican senator for preventing thousands of federal workers from working."
In a later report, White House correspondent Chip Reid continued to assail Bunning: "The White House is pointing its finger at a single Republican senator who they say is standing in the way of federal aid for hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans....he is single-handedly holding up a routine piece of legislation." Rather than address Bunning's spending concerns, Reid declared: "Because of his objection, 2,000 federal transportation workers had to be furloughed without pay. 400,000 Americans risk losing their unemployment benefits over the next seven to ten days. And Medicare fees for doctors suddenly slashed by 21%."
Reid briefly noted: "Bunning wants the Democrats to come up with a way to pay the $10 billion price tag." A couple clips were played of the Kentucky Senator voicing his opposition: "And I'm going to object every time because you won't pay for this....We cannot keep adding to the debt."
A retiring Senator not facing re-election stood up last week for principle, insisting new federal spending be covered by a matching reduction elsewhere, but instead of hailing Senator Jim Bunning as a “maverick” making sure the ruling party adheres to its promise new spending will be “paid for,” television network journalists on Monday night painted him as an ogre, focusing on the presumed victims of delayed spending.
Teasing World News, ABC anchor Diane Sawyer stressed how he’s “denying” people unemployment benefits so ABC decided to “confront” him: “One man's stand. A single Senator stops the whole Congress, denying thousands of people unemployment benefits. We confront him to ask why.” Sawyer framed the story around how Bunning is blocking “life support for the unemployed.”
Reporter Jon Karl concentrated on victims as he played video of himself confronting Bunning by an elevator: “We wanted to ask the Senator why he is blocking a vote that would extend unemployment benefits to more than 340,000 Americas, including Brenda Wood, a teacher in Austin, Texas who has been out of work for two years.” That’s not all: “Bunning is also blocking money for highway construction. So across the country today, 41 construction projects ground to a halt, thousands of workers furloughed without pay.”
New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich specializes in spunky profiles of politicians -- hostile profiles of conservatives, flattering ones of liberals.
His latest, on controversial Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, "Republicans Looking for a Reliever in Kentucky," fell safely into the former category, crammed with personal attacks ("questions about his mental fitness") and colorful insults(Bunning's "a bit of a screwball"). The headline is a reference to Bunning's former fame as a baseball pitcher.
Leibovich's latest is similar in tone to his profile of another conservative Republican, former Rep. James Sensenbrenner ("commonly described as 'prickly,' 'cantankerous' and 'unpleasant'"). By contrast, Leibovich has been quite kind to liberals like Al Gore (a "compelling" "pop-culture icon") and Sen. Chris Dodd (a "happy warrior" in a "joyous orbit").