Issues and Bias
General (some general observations on "media bias")
Rathergate and CBS - the "liberal media" hoax continues
sale of "anti-Bush" books
so-called "liberal media's" response to deeply fraudulent,
anti-liberal books by Ann Coulter
attempts to provide "fair and balanced" coverage using
National Press Club invites serial plagiarizer, liar, and GOP planted,
fake White House "reporter"/prostitute James Guckert to a
panel to discuss "journalism" (and James Guckert)
Rathergate and CBS - the "liberal media" hoax continues
Rathergate was a
controversy arising from unacceptably sloppy reporting by CBSs'
Dan Rather and his team on the Bush TX-ANG story. Documents (alleged
to have originated from Bush's then-supervisor Killian) that showed
President Bush in a negative night were presented from a second-hand
source, but additional analysis on those documents revealed that at
best their authenticity was dubious and at worst they were fake. For
good reasons, Rather's team was criticized heavily for it. As it
turned out, some of the news managers were asked to step down and are
fighting this with
For the moment let us even
ignore the fact that Col. Killian's secretary confirmed that the essence
of the documents was correct, even though she did not believe the
documents themselves were authentic. Let us also ignore the fact that
the Bush White House did not expressly dispute the broad contents
of the documents (what Killian allegedly stated). In many ways
Rathergate was a classic example of the media's generally sloppy
reporting on important issues; however, what made Rathergate
particularly appalling was the fact that neither Rather nor his team
made use of voluminous,
that already existed at the time which showed unambiguously that Bush
went AWOL (among numerous other things). Instead, Rather's team chose
to go after some second-hand documents of unknown or dubious
authenticity! Not only that, the work of long-time
Republican operatives and right-wing
media/columnists in promoting lies about the memos, as well as the
of multiple eyewitnesses who have attested to the validity of
the basic content of the memos was almost entirely downplayed by
the media. Thus, rather (sorry, pun intended) than prove
"liberal bias", Rathergate proved one thing yet again. That
the media is illiberal and conservative.
Another way to see how the
media is conservative, using the so-called Rathergate example, is
through this helpful summary from Outlet
Radio (via DailyKos):
Rather, CBS News Anchor
documents he thought were true
- failed to
thoroughly investigate the facts
documents to the American people as true to make his
confronted with the facts, apologized and launched an
- number of
Americans dead: 0
- should be
fired as CBS News Anchor
W. Bush, President of the United States
documents he thought were true
- failed to
thoroughly investigate the facts
documents to the American people as true to make his
confronted with the facts, continued to report untruth
and stonewalled an investigation
- number of
Americans dead: 1100
- should be
given four more years as President of the United States
In fact, if you recall the
egregiously belated mea culpa (see
here) of the New York Times on how it pushed dubious or misleading
propaganda from the Bush administration to help the Iraq invasion
efforts, the media coverage of Dan Rather’s mea culpa completely
dwarfed media coverage of NYT’s apology (see
here and here).
Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler also has a series
examining the fake "liberal bias" claims about CBS and
Yep! Flavia Colgan got it right when she debated the
Rathergate flap with the Earth-crawling mutants of Scarborough
Country (see THE
DAILY HOWLER, 3/8/05). And Gene Lyons got it right in his
universally-ignored newspaper column (see THE
DAILY HOWLER, 3/9/05). Are CBS and the rest of the press driven
by that dread liberal bias? Colgan and Lyons offered an array of
points which are roughly the most obvious points in the world for
anyone debating this seminal topic. This same press corps trashed
Clinton and Gore, Colgan noted; and oh yes, it was that same
“liberal” program, 60 Minutes, which trashed Bob Kerrey,
then a Dem White House hopeful, reinventing him as a war criminal.
Lyons? He recalled a previous time when 60 Minutes put its
faith in a shaky, single source and proceeded to get itself
massively burned—the time they threw Kathleen Willey on the air to
tell lurid tales about Clinton! As noted, these are the most
obvious points in the world—the starting points for any rational
discussion of that ballyhooed bogey-man, liberal bias. Indeed, just
how easy did Colgan make it for any other liberal spokesman? She
even sketched the obvious procedural point in her short-lived
discussion with Scarborough. “That’s what Republicans do,” she
said. “You talk about the issues you want.” In case any
“liberal spokesman” is reading, let’s speak more slowly and
explain what she meant: She meant that pseudo-con pundits pick and
choose from a wide range of press corps bungles, citing only those
that cut against Bush. They feign wild outrage when CBS bungles a
story that hurts the commander. And they simply ignore a decade of
cases in which the press corps trashed Clinton, then Gore.
Here's an extract from
the Gene Lyons column:
Funny, but the last time CBS’ "60 Minutes" broadcast an
unsubstantiated, ultimately discredited story embarrassing to the
president of the United States, there was no investigation and
nobody got fired.
Well, let me amend that. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr
investigated star witness Kathleen Willey’s allegations against
Bill Clinton to a fare-thee-well before concluding what any halfway
skeptical reporter would have suspected from the first: that she was
an unreliable, self-dramatizing person with a habit of embroidering
her own history.
Even that great American, Linda Tripp, told Starr’s investigators
that Willey, whose 1998 interview accusing Clinton of
"groping" her in the Oval Office turned the pretty
Richmond widow into a celebrity, was closer to being a presidential
stalker. That Willey was not exactly an innocent flower would have
been clear to anybody who’d run a simple Nexis search, as my
partner Joe Conason and I did the morning after her dramatic one
on-one interview with CBS’ Ed Bradley.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch had printed many stories about her late
husband Ed Willey Jr.’s alleged embezzlement, his suicide and the
complicated web of lawsuits in which she had become enmeshed. Those
stories featured competing versions of the truth and numerous
In short, Willey was at least as shaky a source as Bill Burkett, the
retired Texas Air National Guard officer who leaked the now infamous
memos to "60 Minutes" supposedly documenting President
Bush’s dereliction of duty in 1972. Even if it took Starr two
immunity grants and a failed criminal prosecution to admit (in a
final report) that Willey was a bad witness, CBS should have been
leery of her from the start.
So why didn’t "60 Minutes" pay the price for its
credulousness about Willey? Well, the answer sure ain’t
"liberal media bias." Even after prosecutors concluded
that Willey had lied under oath, TV talk shows kept booking her to
trash Clinton. She’d become a star.
That’s also true of the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
Careful reporting by The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New
York Times and Chicago Tribune documented that their attacks on Sen.
John Kerry’s Vietnam record were provably false in every important
respect. Yet they kept showing up on TV.
Embarrass somebody named Bush, however, and the rules suddenly
become very stringent. A former Republican attorney general is hired
to conduct an investigation.
Which is not to say the four dismissed CBS employees involved in
"The Case of the Dicey Documents" didn’t get exactly
what they deserved. They did.
During the infamous Whitewater scandals, reporters pursuing Clinton
credited the "revelations" of paid sources; edited audio
tapes and video clips to make innocent remarks appear suspect;
routinely hid exculpatory evidence (my favorite was a Washington
Post article neglecting to mention that Clinton never endorsed a
supposedly suspicious check); intervened with the Justice Department
on behalf of an embezzler under indictment; actively assisted
prosecutors trying to flip witnesses against the president; hyped
stories about nonexistent FBI testimony alleging that the Clintons
got $50,000 from a crooked loan; and even gathered information from
sources and turned it over to Starr’s prosecutors.
Those should have been firing offenses, too. But that was then; this
is now. That was Clinton; this is Bush Last week, columnist and TV
pundit Armstrong Williams got caught violating the most basic rule
of all: He took $240,000 from the White House for touting its
education reforms. There was a signed contract; he fulfilled it.
Even Pravda did things more subtly.
According to David Corn in The Nation, Armstrong told him that
everybody does it. If so, the coming months could prove very
Using Nexis, we conducted a simple
search: “Bush AND guard.” And yes, we saw references to Bush and
the Coast Guard. We saw references to Bush and the Republican
Party’s old guard. But from May 1, 2000 right through
Election Day, what follows is the only time CBS News—on any
broadcast—discussed Bush’s problem with the Texas Air Guard.
Bill Whitaker was doing a biographical profile from the GOP
WHITAKER (8/3/00): [Bush] finally scored business success as part
owner of the Texas Rangers. Yet the governor with the easy style
has faced questions he's had it too easy. Did his father pull
strings to get him a coveted spot with the Texas National Guard while
less fortunate sons of Texas went off to Vietnam? Did his fathers'
cronies bail him out when the oil business floundered? Bush
insists no. Still, he knows what some people think. They're
thinking, “You're a son of privilege. You got where you were
because of your name and your status.”
That was it! According to the Nexis archives, that represents the
entire CBS News discussion of Bush’s problem with the Guard.
According to Nexis, the matter was never mentioned on the CBS
Evening News, where Rather tries to destroy all Republicans. Nor
was it mentioned on 60 Minutes—or on any other CBS program.
BUSH (videotape): People will say, “He can't do
anything. He's just running on his daddy's name.” Or you can
extend it a step further. “How can he have a heart?” A man can
come to compassion not necessarily through hardship, but through a
Some will think this can’t be true; such people should rethink
their conceptions. In fact, the Guard story was almost completely
ignored by all three networks during Campaign 2000 (see THE
DAILY HOWLER, 5/7/03, for an analysis of CNN’s lack of
coverage). According to Nexis, ABC News never mentioned the
problem, and NBC viewers only heard it mentioned during several
discussions on Meet the Press. Of course, it wasn’t
mentioned on the CBS counterpart, Face the Nation. The
liberal net had Schieffer in charge of that show—and Scheiffer was
a close friend of the candidate, although he absent-mindedly never
remembered to say so when he covered his buddy’s campaign. So it
went as the liberal network worked to stop Candidate Bush.
During Campaign 2000, Rather never mentioned Bush’s
problem with the Texas Air Guard. Nor did Jennings. Nor did Brokaw.
And one more thing—none of your “liberal spokesmen” have cited
this record when they’ve debated the Rathergate flap. That would
have taken a bit of research—and in today’s world, “liberal
spokesmen” don’t go there. Of course, if you provide the
research for them, they ignore it and stare into air.
FAIR has this observation
...the notion that
Rather has used his CBS
platform to disseminate left-wing propaganda over the last two
decades does not hold up to scrutiny.
If Rather can be accused of anything, it's the same bias one can see
throughout the mainstream media: an unwillingness
to challenge official power and policy. And it's a bias that
Rather has admitted to embracing; speaking at a Harvard forum on the
media (7/25/04), Rather offered no apologies for uncritical
reporting on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction:
"Look, when a
president of the United States, any president, Republican or
Democrat, says these are the facts, there is heavy prejudice,
including my own, to give him the benefit of any doubt, and for
that I do not apologize."
Rather has openly advocated for various U.S. military actions. In a
speech at the National Press Club (6/25/99), he had this to say
about the bombing of Yugoslavia:
"When U.S. pilots in U.S. aircraft turn off the lights [by
bombing civilian electrical stations], for me, it's 'we.' And about
that I have no apology." (Civilian infrastructure, of course,
is protected by the Geneva Accords, and deliberately attacking it is
a war crime.) Elaborating further on his approach to war reporting,
Rather said, "I'm an American, and I'm an American reporter.
And yes, when there's combat involving Americans, you can criticize
me if you must, damn me if you must, but I'm always pulling for us
That position was unchanged a few years later (CNN,
"Look, I'm an
American. I never tried to kid anybody that I'm some
internationalist or something. And when my country is at war, I
want my country to win, whatever the definition of 'win' may be.
Now, I can't and don't argue that that is coverage without a
prejudice. About that I am prejudiced."
After the September 11
attacks, Rather made an appearance on CBS's
Late Show with David Letterman (9/17/01) and announced his
willingness to do more than just root from the sidelines:
"George Bush is the president. He makes the decisions, and, you
know, it's just one American, wherever he wants me to line up, just
tell me where. And he'll make the call." Rather issued a
similar call on the show Entertainment Tonight (10/2/01), according
to a transcript from the conservative Media Research Center
(10/3/01): "If he needs me in uniform, tell me when and where--
When they make their case against Rather, conservative critics are
fond of pointing out that he has made flattering statements about
Democratic politicians like Bill Clinton. But that would seem to
have less to do with Rather's partisanship than with his fondness
for power. After Ronald Reagan's death (CBS
Evening News, 6/5/04), Rather recalled that Reagan
"was the great communicator, yes. But he was also a master at
communicating greatness. He understood that, as he once put it,
'History is a ribbon always unfurling,' and managed to convey his
vision in terms both simple and poetic. And so he was able to act as
a conduit to connect us to who we had been and who we could
According to the Media Research Center (6/6/04), Rather appeared
choked up during a June 5 broadcast dedicated to Reagan, during
which he said, "May we share his optimism and may his steed
hold steady as he completes his journey. We will think of him always
when the West wind blows."
It wasn't just Reagan; during the 1996 Republican National
Convention, Rather fawned over Elizabeth Dole's
"tremendous" performance (8/14/96), even dubbing her
"my fair Liddy."
And Rather's alleged fondness for liberalism certainly doesn't run
very deep: During the 1992 Democratic National Convention (7/13/92),
Rather had this to say about former presidential candidate and civil
rights activist Jesse Jackson: "There have always been two
Jesse Jacksons. There's Jesse the radical, who preaches rage and
black separatism. That Jesse has always angered whites. And there's
Jesse the self-promoter, who preaches desegregation and
compromise." Take your pick: Jackson's either a radical black
separatist or a "self-promoter."
By the Numbers
If Rather were indeed liberal-- or just more liberal than his
network competitors-- one would think that the CBS
Evening News would include more critical perspectives in
its newscast, particularly during a Republican administration. But
FAIR's study of guests and sources appearing during coverage of the
Iraq war (3/20/03-4/9/03) actually found that Rather's broadcast had
the highest percentage of official U.S. sources (75 percent) and the
lowest number (less than one percent) of U.S. anti-war voices (Extra!,
A FAIR study of all the network news broadcasts in 2001 (Extra!,
5-6/02) found that CBS Evening News
had the most Republicans and the fewest Democrats (76 percent vs. 23
percent). The difference between CBS and the other networks was
slim, but such analysis belies the notion that Rather's network-- or
any of the others-- have a left bias.
It's a good bet that Rather's retirement will draw significant
attention to the so-called "Rathergate" controversy-- the 60
Minutes report (9/8/04) on George W. Bush's National
Guard service that relied on dubious documents. But instead of
revealing partisanship in Rather's work, the episode falls into a
pattern of sloppiness on Rather's part in his eagerness for certain
stories-- including stories that benefit Republican administrations.
One early controversy remains relatively obscure: Rather's fawning
coverage of the Afghan mujahadeen in the 1980s (Extra!,
11-12/89). A series of articles in 1989 in the New York Post alleged
that Rather's gung-ho reporting from the front lines of the
anti-Soviet mujahadeen was supplemented by phony re-enactments of
rebel assaults. Some scenes were reportedly filmed in Pakistan, and
facts were distorted-- on one broadcast (8/11/87), for example,
Rather claimed to report the "the biggest one-day defeat for
Soviet forces since World War II," when in reality the battle
was relatively small and didn't involve Soviet forces.
Rather and CBS relied on
two partisan freelancers to assist its coverage of Afghanistan: Kurt
Lohbeck, who set up news conferences for mujahadeen leaders and
testified before Congress to request additional aid for the Afghan
rebels, and Mike Hoover, a cameraman sympathetic to the rebels who
had been suspected of faking scenes in some of his earlier work--
allegations that CBS
officials were aware of while they were working with him.
There are more recent examples of Rather's erroneous reporting. On
September 11, 2001, Rather went to great lengths to report on the
terrorist attacks on United States soil-- including some that never
11-12/01). "Let me pause and say that a car bomb has exploded
outside the State Department in Washington," Rather told CBS
viewers. He repeated: "Now a car bomb has exploded outside the
State Department in Washington. No further details available on
that." He reported this "car bomb explosion" as fact
at least three more times before finally adding a qualifier.
This gaffe did not prevent Rather from reporting another
"scoop" later that evening: Citing reports from the local CBS
affiliate, Rather claimed that "two people have been arrested
with explosives under the George Washington Bridge…. As this
report-- now, whether it was connected with the events of the day,
we do not know. But an interesting report."
Later, he prefaced the story with "It may not be over
yet," and added that "Authorities say there were enough
explosives in the truck to bring down the bridge." As with the
State Department car-bombing, Rather had to backtrack on this story
as well: "Further checking on that story [reveals] that other
law enforcement officials in New York said they knew nothing about
it.... We'll have to put that in a long line of things that's under
the, 'Well, we're skeptical now.' Maybe it's true and maybe it
Rather accompanied the backtracking with another self-justification:
"I repeat for emphasis, we'd rather be last than be wrong, but
in reporting of this kind, we're bound to make some mistakes."
Surely reporters should have a better defense for airing
uncorroborated allegations than that.
Right-wing media critics and pundits have been effective in tagging
Rather with the "liberal" label. But the context of
Rather's entire career points to a different conclusion. More often
than not, Rather's reporting followed the pattern that Rather
himself criticized in an early-'90s interview (Boston
"We're gutless. We're spineless. There's no joy in saying this,
but beginning sometime in the 1980s, the American press by and large
somehow began to operate on the theory that the first order of
business was to be popular with the person, or organization, or
institution that you cover."
end, here's a simple question. How could an anchor and a network, who
botched the enormously
against George Bush's National Guard record be liberal?
sale of "anti-Bush" books
Tim Lambert at Deltoid tells
us what this is all about.
Bookstore market failure
For a webzine that has “Where free
markets meet technology” in its masthead, Tech Central Station
sure seems to have little faith in the ability of free markets to
provide consumers with what they want. Consider this
column by Glenn Reynolds. Reynolds reckons that bookstore
employees are driving customers away:
Even my hard-core lefty colleagues have noticed the wall of
Bush-bashing books that are prominently displayed at the entrance
to every bookstore in town, and to my surprise, one of them told
me the other day that it was turning him off. He hates Bush, and
will certainly vote for Kerry (unless Kerry looks like such a lost
cause that his temptation to vote Nader wins out) but he’s still
taken to buying his books from Amazon. All those Bush-bashing
books, he said, are just too depressing to encounter every time he
visits the bookstore. He buys books to escape politics.
Now here’s the thing: bookstores need to sell books or else
they will go out of business. So if they are building walls of
anti-Bush books, it’s because people are buying those books and
that’s the way to sell them. They will also conduct market
research to find out how they can get customers into the store, so
are likely to have more basis for their decisions than Reynold’s
one anecdote. And if they weren’t doing these things, there would
be a business opportunity for someone to start a bookstore with no
anti-Bush wall and clean up. Reynolds seems to believe that the free
market has failed to provide consumers with the sort of bookstore
that they want.
On the right, of course, people are a lot unhappier. And they’re
unhappier still since word got out that Borders employees were
actually bragging about hiding copies of the anti-Kerry book, Unfit
for Command. (You can see a cached Google page here.
Example: “Just ‘carelessly’ hide the boxes,
‘accidentally’ drop them off pallets, ‘forget’ to stock
the ones you have, and then suggest a nice Al Franken or Michael
Moore book as a substitute. Borders wants those recommends,
remember? . . .I don’t care if these Neanderthals in fancy suits
get mad at me, they aren’t regular customers anyway. Other than
‘Left Behind’ books, they don’t read.”)
Unfortunately, Reynolds seems to have
fallen for a posting by a sock
puppet. The forum administrator reports
According to IP Address records, the person who posted the
“let’s hide the book” message was also posting under another
name, responding to the messages he posted under his first name.
Under his second ID, which identified him as a free market
conservative, or “Classical Liberal”, he said he was shocked
that Borders employees would not tolerate diversity of opinion,
and that the messages (he) posted under his first pseudonym proved
that there was a problem. This suggests to us that this was a
troll who was trying to manufacture controversy. His account(s)
have been deleted. He was a new user.
This information was posted at the forum a week before Reynolds
wrote his column, but he does not seem to have checked. Oh well, at
least he didn’t base his column on forged memos.
Update: I emailed this post to both Glenn Reynolds and
Atrios. Atrios linked
here. Reynolds posted a correction
but did not link or acknowledge my email. It is possible that
somebody else emailed him first, but the timing of his correction (a
couple of hours after my email and a couple of days after his
column) suggests otherwise. More interestingly, he has posted some
comments from his readers speculating about why bookstores are
prominently displaying anti-Bush books. Amazingly, in neither his
comments or the other comments he posted is the explanation I gave
above (and emailed to Reynolds) considered: the anti-Bush books sell
and make money for the bookstore.
The so-called "liberal media's" response to deeply
fraudulent, anti-liberal books - by Ann Coulter
Another way one can infer that the mainstream media in
the United States is conservatively biased is in the way they gloss
over or ignore the outright fraud committed by right-wing
"pundits" or "writers" against left-leaning groups
or politicians or sometimes simply make up lies to shade
readers from the real Ann Coulter . Let's take Ann Coulter's book "Slander", as
MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE: How strange are
the mainstream press corps’ procedures? In the August 11 Los
Angeles Times, Andrew Malcolm became the latest reviewer to praise
Ann Coulter’s ton-of-footnotes. Earlier, the same nonsense went on
in the New York Times (see THE
DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/02), but that paper’s Janet Maslin wasn’t
the first to tout Coulter’s voluminous notes. In the Oregonian,
David Reinhard said that “[Coulter’s] arguments—her charges
and countercharges—come peppered with footnoted quotations and
documentation.” (“No commentator today argues with more
honesty,” he said.) Later, the National Review’s Michael
Potemra was impressed with Coulter’s “massive amounts of
footnoted evidence.” Avoiding charges of being a “girly boy,”
Potemra praised Slander for its “painstaking marshaling of
What is so silly about these presentations? Duh. Footnotes
don’t prove that claims are accurate until the footnotes are
actually checked! And, starting on page one of her book,
Coulter’s citations frequently show that her claims have been
simply made up. Indeed, by the time Malcolm penned his recent
review, it was perfectly clear that Coulter’s book was packed with
factual howlers. Her publisher had already agreed to revise the last
page of her book, due to the groaning factual “error” on which
her closing argument is based.
Malcolm simply ignored all this. He counted his “36 pages of
footnotes” and called Slander “a clever, documented
diatribe.” Los Angeles Times readers were kept in the dark about
the problems with Coulter’s text.
When the New York Times’ Janet Maslin reviewed Slander,
she had some good solid fun with a footnote. “[O]ne bit of proof
that Phyllis Schlafly is treated dismissively by the left comes from
a People magazine review of The Muppets Take Manhattan,” she
chuckled. Indeed, just how eager was author Ann Coulter to slam the
press corps’ treatment of Schlafly? She went all the way back to
1984 to cite the Muppet movie review, which included a jab at the
Illinois icon. Of course, Coulter’s text doesn’t say what
she’s citing. You have to read the footnote to see how far she
went to find a vile slam at the right.
Maslin has some fun with this footnote, but gives too much
credence to others. “A great deal of research supports Ms.
Coulter’s wisecracks,” she writes—apparently not understanding
how much of this “research” has simply been made up by Coulter.
Do reviewers ever fact-check books? If Maslin had checked the “780
footnotes” she approvingly cites, she might have seen—and she
might have told readers—how much of this book is just false.
As we’ve seen, if Maslin had
fact-checked Slander’s first page, she would have found
instant dissembling (see the DAILY HOWLER, July 11). Page two? The
same sad result. But Coulter loves to mask bogus claims with a
footnote. Indeed, when Coulter limns Schlafly, she does it again.
She slams the press corps’ performance:
COULTER (page 40): [T]he mainstream media ignore Schlafly when not
deploying their trademark elitist snubs. Revealing true facts
about Schlafly would inevitably result in unfavorable comparisons
with inconsequential feminists. Not one of Schlafly’s books has
ever been reviewed in the New York Times. Schlafly is
preposterously demeaned with articles reporting that she is trying
to remain “relevant.”
That last claim is duly footnoted; Coulter cites a Chicago Tribune
piece from 8/1/96. (Her charge is plural, but there’s only one
cite.) But in fact, the Tribune’s profile of Schlafly—by the
AP’s Jim Salter—is flattering from beginning to end. In
paragraph one, Salter says that Schlafly “will be attending her
11th GOP convention this month…showing no intention of
being irrelevant” (emphasis added).
HOW CLUELESS: In the meantime, just how clueless is
Malcolm’s review? Comically, it singles out one of Slander’s
most thoroughly bogus passages:
MALCOLM: A major Coulter point is the media’s ready acceptance
of Democrats’ questioning of Republicans’ intelligence. Thus,
Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have at least two
things in common: All were president and all were not too smart. Bush’s
failure on a TV interviewer’s pop quiz of world leaders was,
according to Coulter, endlessly cited as proof of his
intellectual challenge. Bush was asked about it frequently.
Coulter makes such a claim in Slander. “Andy Hiller, the
wise-ass local reporter who sprung the pop quiz on Bush, was giddily
feted as if he’d just invented cold fusion,” she writes on page
139, complaining about the “liberal bias” which makes the media
so tough to get down.
Malcolm highlights this presentation. In fact, Coulter’s
statement about Hiller’s treatment is total, complete, utter
fantasy. Hiller popped his quiz on November 3, 1999. Was he
“giddily feted” for his conduct? In fact, Hiller was slammed
throughout the press as the corps engaged in its standard Group
Thinking. As always, pundits recited a list of Standard Spin-Points.
Hiller had engaged in gotcha journalism, they said. After
all, we were electing a president, not a Jeopardy! champion. And
pundits rarely failed to note that they couldn’t have answered
Hiller’s questions themselves. Was Hiller “feted” for his
quiz? In Coulter’s imagination, yes. Nowhere else on the face of
What was actually said about Hiller? He was slammed, all over the
dial. On the Friday, November 5 Today show, NBC’s David
Bloom interviewed Larry Sabato, the press corps’ leading media
maestro; Sabato said, of the pop quiz, “It really is pure,
unadulterated, gotcha journalism. We’re electing a president, not
a Jeopardy! champ.” Elsewhere, Sabato called Hiller’s
quiz “the cheapest of cheap shots”—and his views were echoed
on the weekend talk shows. On the November 5 NewsHour, for
example, Paul Gigot, Mark Shields, and Jim Lehrer all agreed—there
was an “ambush, gotcha quality” to Hiller’s “ankle-biting”
questions, which “gave journalism another black eye.” Lehrer
referred to “the Jeopardy! questions” which Hiller asked;
Shields voiced “a sense of relief that I wasn’t asked” them.
“Well, you join millions with that one,” Lehrer said—and
indeed, all over Washington, pundits were saying that they
couldn’t have answered the questions, either. On the November 5 Washington
Week, Jeffrey Birnbaum accused Hiller of “gotcha”
journalism; Alan Murray said that he couldn’t have
answered. On the November 6 Capital Gang, Robert Novak called
Hiller a “wise guy reporter” engaging in “gotcha
journalism.” “The real problem,” Novak said, “is that
winning Jeopardy! games and leading the nation require
different skills.” Margaret Carlson called it “gotcha” too. On
Meet the Press the following day, William Safire also said
“gotcha.” The quiz was “fun and games,” but “phony.”
As usual, mainstream pundits all said the same things—but
routinely, they beat up on Hiller. Just on Sunday, November 7, for
example, a range of journalists spoke up to say that most people
couldn’t have answered those questions. Steve Roberts made the
point on CNN’s Late Edition. Ditto for Cokie, on ABC’s This
Week, and David Maraniss on Meet the Press. Meanwhile,
over at Fox News Sunday, the pundits engaged in some ritual
clowning. Hiller’s questions had been so fiendish, the scribes
couldn’t answer them still:
TONY SNOW: And now, it’s panel time…Let’s begin with a pop
quiz. First, can anybody here at this moment name the prime
minister of Chechnya?
Hiller’s questions defied response! For the record, the quiz was
called “gotcha” journalism by Gwen Ifill, Andrea Mitchell, Fred
Barnes, Juan Williams, Deborah Orin, Al Hunt and Martin Schram,
joining Lehrer, Sabato, Birnbaum, Novak and Carlson in that
assessment. Jeopardy! comparisons were also widespread,
voiced by Morton Kondracke, Clarence Page, Michael Barone and Howard
Kurtz, along with Lehrer, Sabato, Mitchell and Novak. Your pundits
routinely speak with one voice. In this case, that voice spoke for
BRIT HUME: No.
MARA LIASSON: No.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Absolutely not.
SNOW: I’m clueless, too.
HUME: I heard it the other day, I read the name, I still can’t
Was Andy Hiller “giddily feted?” In fact, he was slammed in
almost every quarter. Indeed, just how silly is the pop quiz
punditry as an example of “liberal bias?” Consider where the
Standard Points seemed to come from. All over the dial, pundits
recited a set of points—but where, oh where had they first been
heard? The record on that is abundantly clear; the points were first
offered by Bush rep Karen Hughes, speaking to the Associated Press
on November 4. “The person who is running for president is seeking
to be the leader of the free world, not a Jeopardy!
contestant,” Hughes said. “I would venture to guess that 99.9
percent of most Americans and probably most candidates could not
answer who is the president of Chechnya.” Her points went out on
the AP wire—and were quickly recited all over the press. In Slander,
of course, this very episode is used to show the press corps’
overpowering “liberal bias!” But then, this type of silly
dissembling is on display all through Coulter’s wreck of a book.
Coulter dissembles all through her strange book. This fact has
long been crystal clear. Where on earth did the L. A. Times find a
reviewer who still doesn’t know it?
ANN COULTER’S PROBLEM WITH THE
TRUTH: In her treatment of Hiller’s quiz, Coulter indulges
herself in the type of nonsense found throughout her book. Read this
account, for example:
COULTER (page 139): The pop quiz soon raised a delicate matter
even more urgent than Bush-bashing: How many answers would the
opinion-makers lyingly claim they could have gotten right? Eventually,
the blabocracy bravely settled on “only two” as the
appropriate answer. This was probably because Zbigniew
Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security advisor,
admitted he would have known the answer to only two. Noticeably,
only two well-known commentators admitted that they could have
identified only one of the world leaders (the same one Bush got):
George Will and Chris Matthews. Say what you will about Will and
Matthews, neither can be accused of lacking intellectual
This is typical work for Coulter. In this passage, she directly
accuses the press corps of lying. In fact, it is Coulter herself who
is baldly misstating. This is surely one of the most ludicrous
passages in her thoroughly ludicrous book.
According to Coulter, the blabocracy
settled on a lie, agreeing to say they could have answered two
questions. Only Matthews and Will copped to less. These claims are
utterly bogus. We have seen the exchange on Fox News Sunday, where
no one knew a thing four days later. Here’s what was said on the NewsHour:
LEHRER: How do you read the—what do they call it—the Jeopardy!
questions last night [sic], Mark?
SHIELDS: Well, Jim, a sense of relief that I wasn’t asked.
LEHRER: Well, you join millions with that one—including those of
us who talk about those stories every night.
SHIELDS: No, that’s right. That’s right. Secondly, I think,
Paul [Gigot] is on to something. There’s a “gotcha” quality
to it—“Ho, ho, ho.” I think if anybody comes out—you know,
journalism comes out with another black eye when it least needs
The NewsHour’s panelists
claimed no knowledge. Here’s the exchange from Washington Week:
ALAN MURRAY: Let me say for the record, Gwen—
Did anyone say he’d have known two names? At least one
major pundit did, but Coulter doesn’t seem to know who it was. For
reasons that are fairly obvious, Coulter offers no footnotes
supporting her claim about the blabocracy claiming two answers. That
claim—like so much of Coulter’s book—was simply, completely
GWEN IFILL: For the record, Al.
MURRAY: My score on that test would have been exactly the same as
George W. Bush’s. And—
IFILL: Well, thank goodness, Alan, that you’re not running for
MURRAY: Well—but, you know, I think he made a good point here
because I am running a bureau [for the Wall Street Journal]
that’s responsible for our coverage of foreign policy, but I
don’t think I have to know those names to do my job well, nor do
I think that the president has to be able to know those names.
DAVID BRODER: All you have to do is look it up in your Microsoft
It’s been quite clear for quite a while; Coulter’s book is
Bob Somerby posted an update on 4/15/05:
For all we know, it may be true! It may be true that flamboyant
public crackpot Ann Coulter is one of the world’s “most
influential people,” as Time magazine judges this week in
its annual hackery issue.
And uh-oh! Coulter’s kookery goes undiscussed when self-dealing
“journalists” like Time’s Jay Carney are assigned to
discuss her great work. Carney’s
profile of Coulter in this week’s mag is a perfect
study in journalistic bad faith. Here’s the way the brilliant
fellow begins his three-paragraph portrait:
CARNEY (4/18/05): To Ann Coulter, liberals are worse than
wrong; they are traitors out to destroy the American way of life.
That view is at the core of her columns, her TV appearances and
her best-selling books. But it is not just her perspective that
has made Coulter, 43, an icon to her fans and malice incarnate to
her critics. It is the way she delivers it–in ferocious, lucid,
hyperbolic bursts of invective. It helps too that she is a tall,
thin, attractive blond who favors miniskirts and furs. Coulter is
the right-wing pinup of partisan vitriol.
Note the oddness of that opening sentence–a sentence which is
perfectly accurate. At present, about twenty percent of American
adults identify themselves as “liberal.” But according to
Coulter, these people–one-fifth of the nation’s population–are
a group of “traitors” who are “out to destroy the American way
of life!” Obviously, this is the view of a raving lunatic, if the
view is sincerely held. But Carney’s magazine wants to pander to
people who find themselves drawn to Coulter. Therefore, Carney is
paid a very good wage to type a paragraph like the one that follows.
Yes, this actually is the way he ends his three-paragraph profile:
CARNEY: In her books, Coulter can be erudite and persuasive, as
when she exposes the left's chronic softness on communism. But
her signature is her gleeful willingness to taunt liberals and
Democrats, to say out loud what some other conservatives dare only
think–that Bill Clinton is a "horny hick," for
example, and his wife "pond scum." It's what makes
Coulter irresistible and influential, whether you like it or not.
According to Carney, Coulter–who thinks that twenty percent of the
public are traitors–is frequently “erudite and persuasive, as
when she exposes the left's chronic softness on communism.” But as
Digby pointed out earlier this week, Carney is cleaning up for
Coulter when he presents this mild construction. What does Coulter
actually say in Treason, the book to which Carney alludes? As
Digby notes, this is the way she starts her critique of the
left’s great softness on Communism:
COULTER: Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a
position on the side of treason. You could be talking about
Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American
position. Everyone says liberals love American, too. No they
don't. Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or
without, liberals side with the enemy. This is their essence. The
Left’s obsession with the crimes of the West and their
Rousseauian respect for Third World savages all flow from this
subversive goal. If anyone has the gaucherie to point out the
left's nearly unblemished record of rooting against American,
liberals turn around and scream "McCarthyism!”
Is Coulter sincere–or is she just playing the rubes, separating
them from their money? We don’t have the slightest idea. (For what
it’s worth, she has always struck us as the one public figure who
may well be mentally ill.) But as almost any sane person can see,
that is the work of a screaming nutcase if we assume that Coulter is
sincere. Indeed, Treason was such a nut-cake book that a long
string of major conservative writers stepped forward to denounce it
when it appeared. But not Carney! Carney pretends that Coulter made
an “erudite” presentation, a presentation that was quite
“persuasive.” In fact, Treason was denounced as the work
of a crackpot all across the conservative world. But Carney is
playing Time’s readers for fools. So Time’s readers
don’t have to be told.
PAINTON’S KNOWLEDGE: On Monday night, Bill O’Reilly
questioned Time’s executive editor, Priscilla Painton,
about the “most influential” list. Fairly quickly, he challenged
the choice of Coulter. And viewers learned an important fact:
Priscilla Painton will do and say anything:
O’REILLY (4/11/05): All right–Ann Coulter. Wow! Ann
You see? When Coulter called Hillary Clinton “pond scum,” that
was just another of her “funny, amusing, outrageous quips!” It
was just the latest example of the wonderful way she “summarizes
issues and treats them with humor!” We don’t know how much dough
Painton makes, but we can be fairly sure of one thing: It’s more
than she could ever earn doing a job that did not involve
soul-selling. Result? Monday night, she showed the world that
she’ll do and say anything to keep her big fat pay-days in place.
PAINTON: Ann Coulter is big.
PAINTON: She had a huge best-seller, as you know, this year.
Everywhere she goes, she attracts throngs of people.
O'REILLY: But doesn't she just speak to the choir, almost like
PAINTON: Well, yes, she does. But that doesn't mean that that
isn't influential. I mean, in the sense that when there's a big
debate, usually it's her funny, amusing, outrageous quips
that people walk around–
O'REILLY: Do you think people, Americans, listen to Ann
Coulter? Do you think she has influence in public opinion?
PAINTON: I think so. I think the way she sort of summarizes
issues and twists them with humor has a big impact. But I also
think people read her books.
O'REILLY: Well, obviously. She's another best-selling author.
The utter and massive journalistic malpractice and/or incompetence
associated with Time Magazine's coverage of Ann Coulter has been
mentioned by several sites, notably Eschaton
Matters, and David
Sirota. Also see my note at The
attempts to provide "fair and balanced" coverage using
Neiwert of Orcinus on this case:
What "balance" has become, in essence, is a fig leaf for
broadcasting falsehoods on behalf of right-wing propaganda efforts.
In the process, it has become a major means for transmitting
extremist beliefs into the mainstream. The Schiavo matter is only
the most prominent recent example of this.
Perhaps less noticed, but even more illustrative, was the recent
case of C-SPAN's decision to "balance" its coverage of Deborah
Lipstadt's book on her ordeal with Holocaust denier David Irving
by insisting that Irving be given equal airtime.
Cohen of the Washington Post (who has, it must be noted,
been known for
succumbing to right-wing notions of "balance" himself)
was the first to raise the issue, in a column that gets it right,
As the New
York Times reported, this raised immediate concerns among
- You will not be seeing Deborah Lipstadt on C-SPAN. The
Holocaust scholar at Emory University has a new book out
("History on Trial"), and an upcoming lecture of hers
at Harvard was scheduled to be televised on the public affairs
cable outlet. The book is about a libel case brought against her
in Britain by David Irving, a Holocaust denier, trivializer and
prevaricator who is, by solemn ruling of the very court that
heard his lawsuit, "anti-Semitic and racist." No
matter. C-SPAN wanted Irving to "balance" Lipstadt.
The word balance is not in quotes for emphasis. It was invoked
repeatedly by C-SPAN producers who seemed convinced that they
had chosen the most noble of all journalistic causes: fairness.
"We want to balance it [Lipstadt's lecture] by covering
him," said Amy Roach, a producer for C-SPAN's Book TV. Her
boss, Connie Doebele, put it another way. "You know how
important fairness and balance is at C-SPAN," she told me.
"We work very, very hard at this. We ask ourselves, 'Is
there an opposing view of this?' "
- More than 200 historians at colleges nationwide sent a
petition to C-Span yesterday to protest its plan to accompany
its coverage of a lecture by Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of
Holocaust studies at Emory University, with a speech by David
Irving, who has argued that Hitler was not fully responsible for
the mass murder of Jews.
"Falsifiers of history cannot 'balance' histories,"
said the petition, delivered to Connie Doebele, the executive
producer at C-Span who planned the coverage. "Falsehoods
cannot 'balance' the truth."
Mr. Irving, a British writer, sued Professor Lipstadt for libel
for calling him a Holocaust denier, but the British Royal High
Court of Justice dismissed the lawsuit on April 11, 2000,
concluding that Mr. Irving was anti-Semitic and racist and that
he persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated
Professor Lipstadt has been promoting her new book, an account
of the case titled "History on Trial: My Day in Court With
David Irving," which Ecco published last month.
C-Span wanted to feature the book on its weekend program
"Book TV" and asked Professor Lipstadt if it could
record a speech she was making on March 16 at Harvard Hillel, a
Jewish organization at Harvard University.
But when Professor Lipstadt learned that the cable network
planned to include a lecture by Mr. Irving along with her
remarks, she refused to allow C-Span to tape the event.
"I called the producer at C-Span and told her that this was
a man who was a Holocaust denier, and this idea of using both of
us made no sense to me," Professor Lipstadt said.
She and many of her supporters believe that including such a
figure in an account of her views would be as wrongheaded as
accompanying a story on slavery in the United States with
remarks from someone who said that slavery never happened.
"I told C-Span that I assumed that if they weren't going to
tape my lecture, they also wouldn't use David Irving, but they
said no, they were committed to having him on," Professor
Lipstadt said yesterday. "This is a man who's said that
Holocaust survivors are all liars, and that more people died in
Senator Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than in the gas
C-Span did tape the speech Mr. Irving made last weekend at the
Landmark Diner in Atlanta. But Peggy Keegan, a spokeswoman for
the network, said in an interview yesterday that its plans were
now up in the air.
Indeed, as the Los
Angeles Times later reported, C-SPAN is in full
"reconsideration" mode on this decision.
It must be noted that this isn't the first time that C-SPAN has
pandered to right-wing extremists. In the past, it has broadcast
conferences of Jared
Taylor's American Renaissance organization, as well as Council
of Conservative Citizens conferences. Both are white-supremacist
organizations, designated hate groups by the Southern
Center and the Anti-Defamation
And no, C-SPAN didn't see fit to find "balancing"
viewpoints to these conferences. I wonder if might have been hard to
find someone who would go on-air and to argue that blacks, contra
Taylor, aren't a "retrograde species of humanity."
What was most amusing about this, though, was the way right-wing
bloggers used the matter to position themselves on the side of the
angels. Even the hatemongers at Little
Green Footballs and Free
Republic got into the act.
Simon hit the truly classic note in all this:
Yes, that is precisely the problem with this model of
"balance." But what seems to have eluded everyone on the
right is that this is not an isolated problem with C-SPAN. It is, in
fact, pervasive throughout the media -- and particularly from
self-identified "conservative" media like the "fair
and balanced" Fox. And it has been going on for a long time
- It seems that C-SPAN has lying confused with opinion. How
pathetic and shameful.
It was not uncommon, in the 1990s, to see clearly outrageous liars
Willey, and L.
Jean Lewis treated not only with kid gloves, but as the chief
source of supposedly credible "investigations" into Bill
Clinton's private life.
As impeachment fever reached its crescendo in 1999, this willingness
to treat blatant falsehoods as "the other side of the
story" became pervasive. It was not uncommon to see Barbara or
Ted Olson, or Mark Levine, or Ann Coulter, or some other congenital
frothing-at-the-mouth Clinton-hater fulminate all over the tube
daily with some bizarre speculation or other based in nothing but
groundless conspiracy theories and a heavy dose of bile. It
continued through the 2000 election, when we were told constantly
that "Al Gore says he invented the Internet" and, later,
that machine recounts were more accurate than hand recounts.
And it has continued apace since. We've been continually bludgeoned
with weapons of mass destruction, orange-code warnings, Swift Boat
Veterans and the phony "Rathergate" brouhaha -- all of
them exercises in overt mendacity, all designed to bolster
conservative-movement propaganda, and all accorded respectful
treatment by a "balanced" media.
Perhaps the defining moment was the treatment given to Michelle
Malkin, whose book defending the Japanese-American internment was
boosted by a fawning press (and right-wing blogosphere) onto the New
York Times bestseller list, despite the fact that it represented,
rather clearly, an extension
of David Irving-style historical revisionism. If Irving is so
reprehensible to the folks at Little Green Footballs, why isn't
Roger L. Simon's note that "It seems that C-SPAN has lying
confused with opinion. How pathetic and shameful" is rather
amusing. Even more hilarious? As Neiwert points out: "Even the
hatemongers at Little
Green Footballs and Free
Republic got into the act [of criticizing C-SPAN]". Isn't
that just dandy? It is as if these people are unaware that the
Right, which they are a part of, has been forcing the media to confuse
lying, not just with opinion but also with "fact", for
decades now (as shown in other parts of this website). Hypocrisy knows
UPDATE 4/4/05: David Neiwert reports
that C-SPAN's behavior gets even more outrageous and egregious. He
also posted a correction
on one item here.
4.5.5 National Press
Club invites serial plagiarizer, liar, and GOP planted, fake White
House "reporter"/prostitute James Guckert to a panel to
discuss "journalism" (and James Guckert)
media sleeps on Gannongate and welcomes him
instead. "What Liberal Media?" indeed.
Raw Story reports
show will go on: Gannon to remain on National Press Club
“The Jeff Gannon show will go on as planned at the National
Press Club on Friday,” Roll Call’s Mary Ann Akers is set to
pen in Tuesday’s editions of Roll Call, RAW
STORY has learned. “No joke,” Gannon, the faux
White House reporter whose real name is James Guckert, is a key
guest on a morning panel titled “Who is a Journalist?”
Akers says liberal bloggers are clamoring to have a place at
has reported on myriad examples of alleged plagiarism
by Gannon, one of the most stinging allegations that can be
leveled against a journalist. The Press Club has held various
panels on plagiarism, some focused on former New York Times
reporter Jayson Blair. Blair was not invited to such panels.
Salem News (MA) Reporter Melissa Beecher, who says
Gannon plagiarized her work, expressed disappointment last week
that Gannon had been selected as a panelist.
“When I attend those conferences and I’ve been to many,
you always think the person behind the desk that you’re
learning from has qualifications that put them there,” Beecher
said. “It’s just disturbing that a person who is accused of
doing what he did is now teaching the next generation of young
reporters. Or fostering a dialogue between professionals in this
National Press Club officials, reports Akers, “insist
they’re going to sharply question Gannon about how he wound up
covering the Bush White House with no prior journalism
More on Jeff Gannon/James Guckert, here.