Illiberal Conservative Media (ICM) TM

[alternately, Insidious Corporatist Media, U.S.A.]

One Page Summary
Defining Media Bias
How the Liberal Media Myth is Created
Why the Liberal Media Myth Persists
1. Conservatives Let Out The truth
2. Conservative Books and Studies Alleging "Liberal Bias" 
3. Conservative Media Watch Orgs Alleging "Liberal Bias" 
4. Issues and Bias 
5. Pravda, U.S.A. 
Liars, Inc.
Alternative Media

4. Issues and Bias

4.5 General (some general observations on "media bias")

4.5.1 Rathergate and CBS - the "liberal media" hoax continues

4.5.2 The sale of "anti-Bush" books

4.5.3 The so-called "liberal media's" response to deeply fraudulent, anti-liberal books by Ann Coulter

4.5.4 C-SPAN attempts to provide "fair and balanced" coverage using Holocaust denier

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)

4.5.1 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 a lawsuit

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, clear, evidence 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 words 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):

Dan Rather, CBS News Anchor
  • given documents he thought were true
  • failed to thoroughly investigate the facts
  • reported documents to the American people as true to make his case
  • when confronted with the facts, apologized and launched an investigation
  • number of Americans dead: 0
  • should be fired as CBS News Anchor
George W. Bush, President of the United States
  • given documents he thought were true
  • failed to thoroughly investigate the facts
  • reported documents to the American people as true to make his case
  • when 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 Rather.

Here's one:

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 intriguing subplots.

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 enlightening.

Here's another:

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 Convention:

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.”

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 religion.

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.

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 as well: 

...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."

Off to War

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 to win."

That position was unchanged a few years later (CNN, 4/14/03):

"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-- I'm there."

Paying Tribute

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 be."

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!, 5-6/03).

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 happened (Extra!, 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 isn't."

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 Herald, 9/18/91):

"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."

In the end, here's a simple question. How could an anchor and a network, who botched the enormously easy case against George Bush's National Guard record be liberal? 

4.5.2 The 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.

Reynolds continues:

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.

4.5.3 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 an example.

Daily Howler (1):

 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 evidence.”

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.

Daily Howler (2):

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).

Daily Howler (3):

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 the earth.

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?
JUAN WILLIAMS: Absolutely not.
SNOW: I’m clueless, too.
HUME: I heard it the other day, I read the name, I still can’t say it!
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 Bush.

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 confidence.
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 it.

The NewsHour’s panelists claimed no knowledge. Here’s the exchange from Washington Week:

ALAN MURRAY: Let me say for the record, Gwen—
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 president.
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 computer.
IFILL: Exactly.
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 made up.

It’s been quite clear for quite a while; Coulter’s book is largely invented.

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 Coulter?

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 [Jon] Stewart?

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.

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.

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 (1), Think ProgressMedia Matters, and David Sirota. Also see my note at The Left Coaster

4.5.4 C-SPAN attempts to provide "fair and balanced" coverage using Holocaust denier

Via Atrios, here's David 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.

Richard 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, for once:
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?' "
As the New York Times reported, this raised immediate concerns among historians:
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 historical evidence.

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 chambers."

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 Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. 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.

Roger Simon hit the truly classic note in all this:
It seems that C-SPAN has lying confused with opinion. How pathetic and shameful.
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 now.

It was not uncommon, in the 1990s, to see clearly outrageous liars like Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Kathleen 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 Malkin?

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 no bounds.

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)

The media sleeps on Gannongate and welcomes him instead. "What Liberal Media?" indeed.

Raw Story reports on 4/4/05:

The show will go on: Gannon to remain on National Press Club journalism panel


“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 the table.

RAW STORY 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 business.”

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 experience.”

More on Jeff Gannon/James Guckert, here.