Archive for July 2009
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on July 30, 2009
In the biggest battle over control of an insane asylum since the struggle between R.P. McMurphy and Nurse Ratched, we don’t know who is in charge of CNN: Jonathan Klein, president of CNN/US or anchor Lou Dobbs.
“It seems to definitively answer the question,” Klein wrote in a network memo, according to TVNewser. “Since the show’s mission is for Lou to be the explainer and enlightener, he should be sure to cite this during your segment tonite. And then it seems this story is dead — because anyone who still is not convinced doesn’t really have a legitimate beef.”
Well, that’s it. The president of CNN said the birther story is “dead” so we won’t hear anymore from that. Uh, wait, Mr. Dobbs, you had something to say?
Lou Dobbs keeps talking about it, even though his boss declared it a dead story. Klein doesn’t seem that bothered.
“Look, Lou’s his own show, and CNN in general has repeatedly and thoroughly reported on the facts behind this situation,” Klein said to The Plum Line. “We respect our viewers enough to present them the facts and let them make up their own minds.”
Klein keeps mentioning facts, but the birther movement prides itself on a lack of facts. And media people who encourage such behavior on a “news” channel also aren’t dealing with the facts.
When Lou Dobbs goes on CNN and says we don’t have a birth certificate, and there already is one, then CNN isn’t dealing with the facts.
When Klein first stepped up and admonished Dobbs for his misleading coverage, there was some encouragement that maybe CNN could take a principled stand on news issues. Won’t make that mistake again.
Klein went to a lot of trouble: cable news channel presidents rarely speak up on news issues. So Dobbs’ birthers obsession was clearly significant enough for a response. After all that effort, Dobbs ignores Klein and the birthers continue to get “legitimacy” from CNN.
Klein’s docile reaction hints that ratings are more important than integrity. Of course, choosing ratings over integrity is SOP in TV cable news, and isn’t enough to make you a Media Putz.
The ratings chase hangs on the MSM’s need to feed the frenzy of every right-wing crackpot theory from teabaggers to “euthanasia counseling” to birthers.
However, what makes CNN’s actions worthy of the award is their sham for ratings is based solely on innuendo with its base in racism.
On Tuesday, before CNN’s Television Critics Association summer press tour presentation, Klein said:
“Our journalistic quality is higher than it’s ever been.”
When one of your anchors undermines this by clearly avoiding the facts, when he blows off your stance on the matter, when your explanations don’t add up, your “journalistic quality” isn’t that high. For letting the inmates run the asylum, for throwing out journalistic integrity for a racist-based tirade completely devoid of facts, CNN wins the Media Putz award.
Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on July 29, 2009
For many, Guantanamo Bay is a symbol of the excess in the lack of justice offered up by the Bush Administration. Unfortunately, for people such as Fayiz al-Kandari, Guantanamo Bay isn’t a symbol of anything; it’s the harsh reality of years of their lives. For Fayiz al-Kandari, that figure is 7½ years, and climbing.
Guantanamo is still in business, and things have become worse under Barack Obama, according to one person who has stood up for those who aren’t getting justice — Lt. Col. Barry Wingard.
Wingard is an attorney at Guantanamo and Fayiz al-Kandari is his client. For those who shouted loudly while George W. Bush was in charge, not as many have shouted in the last six months. Wingard has been the exception.
Wingard noted earlier that as bad as things were under the Bush Administration, it has only been in the last few months that al-Kandari’s mail has been open, and the information used against his client. Attorney/client privilege? Gone.
Now Wingard isn’t some snotty nose kid who is trying to make a name for himself. In his career, Wingard has seen a lot of examples of justice, so he can back up his concern over the lack of justice for al-Kandari.
From The Political Carnival’s coverage:
Major Barry D. Wingard, Jr.: Judge Advocate General (JAG), Public Defender (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Office of General Counsel, Guantanamo Bay, Defense Attorney, and so much more. His stellar resume gleams with awards and decorations as a result of 25 years of service in the U.S. military. He has prosecuted more than 100 cases in Baghdad, and has also investigated crimes in Bosnia.
And because he had all that experience, Wingard thought he would be prepared for what was coming. But Guantanamo was filled with chaos — cases with questionable interrogation techniques along with missing and questionable evidence.
Guantanamo has fallen off the radar of the MSM in the last six months: “What? Guantanamo? Isn’t that closed already.” Wingard will tell you differently.
Lt. Col. Wingard stands up for a better way, even if he has had difficulty getting the message through. As Wingard noted in an interview earlier this year, “I’ve given up on American media.”
But thanks to alternative media sources such as The Political Carnival and BuzzFlash, Wingard is being heard somewhere. But that hasn’t changed much in Fayiz al-Kandari’s life.
The baton of command has changed, but not much else for al-Kandari and Wingard. As Wingard pointed out to us, the story of Fayiz al-Kandari is “7½ years without a court date, doing charity, sold to American forces, beaten/brutalize, interrogated over 400 times, and still the answers have never changed.”
For standing up for people such as Fayiz al-Kandari and crying out for a justice system worthy of the United States of America, Lt. Col. Barry Wingard is our Wings of Justice award winner this week.
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on July 23, 2009
The aftermath of journalists — and Stephen Colbert — sucking up to South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford showed us that we have come a long way since the now-famous Dan Rather-Richard Nixon confrontation of March 19, 1974.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Dan Rather, with CBS News. [Sustained audience reaction] Mr. President — Mr. President
THE PRESIDENT. Are you running for something? [Laughter]
Q. No, sir, Mr. President; are you? [Laughter]
Somehow, even in the sea of faux journalism in the Sanford affair, one popped up as the lead swimmer — David Gregory, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The people who were probably the happiest that Gregory got the job (besides the Republican Party and its most prominent members) were Roger Mudd, Marvin Kalb, Chris Wallace, and Garrick Utley — pre-Russert hosts of the show — guaranteeing them that they would never again be called the worst host in the history of the show.
Let’s get to the juicy stuff. Here is the e-mail quote from Gregory that shows his “concern” for journalistic integrity.
Look, you guys have a lot of pitches .. I get it and I know this is a tough situation … Let me just say this is the place to have a wider conversation with some context about not just the personal but also the future for him and the party … This situation only exacerbates the issue of how the GOP recovers when another national leader suffers a setback like this. So coming on Meet The Press allows you to frame the conversation how you really want to…and then move on. You can see (sic) you have done your interview and then move on. Consider it.
This is modern-day TV journalism in action: Treating the hypocritical governor of South Carolina, and a reported serious presidential contender in 2012, in the same manner as trying to get an interview with Michael Jackson’s doctor. The excuse is that “they’re all celebrities, and we have to defer to them to get them on our show.”
Uh, no. You don’t get a legitimate interview if you don’t treat your subject on equal footing. Gregory was so bowed down that he could tell you every detail of Sanford’s shoes.
Most of the reports have focused on the “frame the conversation how you really want to” element. Very disturbing in itself. But consider the gem just before that part:
This situation only exacerbates the issue of how the GOP recovers when another national leader suffers a setback like this.
David Gregory can’t be concerned with the health of the Republican Party and be a journalist. After all, real journalists aren’t supposed to pick sides.
To be fair to Gregory — he offered a clarification in his remarks. But even his clarification carries this timeless classic.
I meant my forum allows him to have the time to discuss the situation in a fullsome way, to say what he wants and move on.
In other words, Sanford would be the bull and Gregory would stand downwind, holding a red cape. Olé.
But anyone who has watched Gregory handle the legacy of “Meet the Press” shouldn’t be surprised by the language in the e-mails.
One such recent example had Gregory expressing outrage of the Nico Pitney incident where he asked President Obama a question from an Iranian. As Gregory was badgering David Axelrod, he exclaimed:
“If President Bush had done that, don’t you think Democrats would have said that’s outrageous?”
Does Jeff Gannon count? Because we’re pretty sure Jeff Gannon counts. Considering that David Gregory was literally in the same room with Gannon much of that time, that small detail seems all the more disturbing that he would “forget” that part.
After all, this is the man who was dancing with “MC Rove,” and built his reputation in “covering” George W. Bush for most of eight years.
In Gregory’s own words on what the Bush press corps was supposed to do:
“I think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not stand up and say this is bogus, and you’re a liar, and why are you doing this, that we didn’t do our job. I respectfully disagree. It’s not our role.”
Dan Rather reportedly said of Richard Nixon: “I strongly believe that in our system no citizen has to face any leader on bended knee.”
David Gregory wouldn’t face any Republican leader without being on bended knee, and so he wins the Media Putz award.
Walter Cronkite kept speaking out for democracy when he could have played it safe and wins Wings of Justice
Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on July 22, 2009
The assassination of JFK. The moon landing. Iconic moments in TV news that belong to one man — Walter Cronkite. In a world where you had to wait for the national news at 6:30, Walter Cronkite was king.
Cronkite’s long career at CBS would be enough to warrant giving him the Wings of Justice award. However, what really set Cronkite apart from the rest was what he did after leaving the CBS Evening News in 1981.
Cronkite could have spent his later years sailing with his wife, Betsy. And at 65 years old, he deserved a long and relaxing retirement. Instead, Cronkite stepped up for truth, even if it risked his reputation.
We learned first-hand last summer and fall what happens when a retired news anchor — Tom Brokaw — takes the safe way out after leaving the anchor desk. Cronkite had much more to lose in public luster, yet he felt the truth was more important.
For his “retirement,” among many other things, Cronkite was an occasional special correspondent for CBS, CNN, and NPR, wrote a syndicated opinion column for King Features Syndicate, and contributed to The Huffington Post.
He spoke out on areas that he felt were important not to him, but to democracy. Cronkite was clearly passionate about freedom, liberty, and democracy.
Cronkite fought hard for free airtime for political candidates. In an essay from November 4, 2002, he spoke of the impact that the purse strings had on democracy:
The battle for the airwaves cannot be limited to only those who have the bank accounts to pay for the battle and win it. Democracy is in danger. Seats in Congress, seats in the state legislature, that big seat in the White House itself, can be purchased by those who have the greatest campaign resources, who have the largest bank accounts or own riches.
That, I submit to you, is no democracy. It is an oligarchy of the already powerful. It is no less than a conspiracy of the powerful to deny access to government to those who literally cannot afford to run for public office with any realistic hope of getting elected.
He noted that of “all the major nations worldwide that profess to have democracies, only seven — just seven — do not offer free time. These are Ecuador, Honduras, Malaysia, Taiwan, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States of America. Does it make us proud to be on such a list?”
At a Drew University forum, Cronkite said he feared the war would not go smoothly, ripped the “arrogance” of Bush and his administration and wondered whether the new U.S. doctrine of “pre-emptive war” might lead to unintended, dire consequences.
Then there’s the classic Cronkite moment on video with his scathing remarks about the Fox “News” Channel in Robert Greenwald’s “Outfoxed.”
“It was quite clear when they founded the Fox Network that they intended to be a conservative organization — beyond conservative; a far-right-wing organization.”
And Cronkite spoke out against another war — the War on Drugs —
“And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives, and how much more money, will be wasted before another Robert McNamara admits what is plain for all to see: the war on drugs is a failure.”
In the tributes, we have heard extensively about Cronkite’s Tet Offensive editorial from 1968 after Cronkite personally went to Vietnam and went to see what was going on for himself. Even though he took that extensive risk, the public stayed with him.
But even in 1968, there were enough people who felt the same way as Cronkite did. In many of the subsequent post-CBS battles, Cronkite wasn’t on the side of popular, but he was on the side of right.
There is literally a whole generation who knows nothing firsthand about Walter Cronkite sitting behind the anchor desk for a famous event or just to tell us what was going on in the world. However, they — and the rest of us — got to see a different side of Cronkite, one who stood up when he saw injustice. Long after his final official sign-off, Cronkite told us the truth missing from the stoniness of TV news. For the last 28 years, that’s the way it is — and was. Rest in peace; You’ve earned it, Uncle Walter.
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on July 16, 2009
Having a quote read back over and over without the context, and knowing the quote is out of context is a sample of lazy journalism, much of which we have seen with the Sonia Sotomayor “wise Latina” comment.
But when you deliberately edit an interview to remove context in order to make the person look foolish through omission, then you have been elevated to Media Putz status.
Sean Hannity, no stranger to this award, is back once again for his malicious editing of an interview with President Barack Obama and Major Garrett of Fox “News.”
Let’s start with Garrett’s question:
In your speech this morning, you said the Cold War reached its conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years. Mr. President, are the Russian sensitivities so fragile that you can’t say the Cold War was won, the West won it, and it was led by a combination of Democratic and Republican American presidents?
An awkward, biased question, Garrett asks this in a way to get Obama to repeat back that Democratic and Republican presidents had their role.
And let’s have all of Obama’s answer:
Well, listen, the — I think that you just cut out Lech Walesa and the Poles. You just cut out Havel and the Czechs. There were a whole bunch of people throughout Eastern Europe who showed enormous courage. And I think that it is very important in this part of the world to acknowledge the degree to which people struggled for their own freedom. I’m very proud of the traditions of Democratic and Republican presidents to lift the Iron Curtain. But, you know, we don’t have to diminish other people in order to recognize our role in that history.
Obama does in part what Garrett wants from the question, but as usual from Obama, there is so much more. There’s some nice historical perspective: Obama didn’t just stick with Lech Walesa, the obvious pick and someone even the Fox viewers have heard of; he went one step further and dropped the name Havel and the Czechs. Obama even showed some style and stopped at Czech, not going into the old Czechoslovakia, a fate that his presidential rival had quite a bit of trouble over last year. And instead of presenting the Cold War win as a jingoistic effort (something Fox “News” is known for), Obama nodded to our history and the others as well.
This would have been swell if only… if only Hannity and his well-trained editing butchers hadn’t taken out the meat from the steak and left the fat.
Here is what Hannity and the butchers left the viewers glued to his show on Fox.
There were a whole bunch of people throughout Eastern Europe who showed enormous courage, and I think that it is very important in this part of the world to acknowledge the degree to which people struggled for their own freedom. We don’t have to diminish other people in order to recognize our role in that history.
Hannity removed a 99-word answer and replaced it with a 56-word answer. But anything juicy or relevant was taken out of the equation. This was bad enough, but since Hannity is Hannity — severely ethically challenged — he didn’t stop right there.
Unbelievable. Now, that’s interesting, because Lech Walesa, the leader of the Polish Solidarity Movement, said this about the end of the Cold War; he said, quote: “We in Poland took him, Ronald Reagan, so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. Now this can’t be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century.” Mr. President, if I were you, you may want to consider hitting the history books maybe before your next foreign trip.
Hitting the history books? Obama would school Hannity any day, any time in history. We doubt seriously that Hannity could have even named Havel.
But the only way Hannity could look like he could outsmart Obama — or anyone else for that matter — would be to cheat. It was almost as if Hannity took Obama’s paper and wrote “Hannity” on it, and wrote “Obama” on his own paper.
There are numerous examples of selective editing from Hannity so he can express “outrage.” In watching the Hannity version, you can tell where the editing took place, but then again, it was a butcher job.
Hannity and Fox certainly aren’t the only ones guilty of doing this on television. Last year right around this time, Katie Couric had an interview with John McCain where she and her staff substituted a different answer to a question on Iraq designed to make McCain look less foolish.
But Hannity is guilty way more often than any other TV news “journalist” in this malicious craft. It’s yet another reason why Fox “News” has no legitimate credibility, and why Sean Hannity has to build a new bookcase to hold yet another Media Putz.
Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on July 15, 2009
Imagine an underground railroad similar to the one in the mid-1800s in the United States. But instead of hundreds of miles, imagine that the route is 6,000 miles long, and the journey can be as much about food as it is freedom.
This is no mythical adventure, but the sad reality of those trying to escape from North Korea. And one person who is there to help them is Mike Kim.
Kim, a Korean-American, founded Crossing Borders in 2003 to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korean refugees. Kim spent four years helping and listening to the stories of what life was like in North Korea. Kim is also the author of “Escaping North Korea: Defiance and Hope in the World’s Most Repressive Country,” where he talks about the complex paths to freedom for these North Koreans striving for a better life.
In the 6,000 mile journey that stretches from Pyongyang, North Korea to Bangkok, Thailand, their worries don’t stop just because they are out of North Korea. Much of the journey involves crossing through China, which as Kim notes, has “zero tolerance,” returning caught North Koreans back to their homeland to face severe punishment and dishing out harsh penalties for their own citizens who give aid to fleeing North Koreans.
“To feed a North Korean refugee is punishable by imprisonment and a fine,” Kim told Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” on June 30.
In the interview, Kim noted that the Chinese PSB — their equivalent of the FBI — was chasing after him. He also had to worry about North Korean assassins, since he said there were documented cases where they abducted and assassinated workers such as him at the border.
This isn’t just another book tour; in many cases, this is the first time people have heard about individual efforts by North Koreans to escape. As much as North Koreans don’t hear about the rest of the world, we don’t really hear much about the stories of real North Koreans, and the abuses they have suffered under Kim Jong Il.
Their silent world becomes silent for us; Mike Kim is working to make sure we hear their cries for freedom.
And those stories don’t get better, especially for North Korean women; once they cross the border into China, they run into human traffickers.
As the Underground Railroad inspired other slaves to escape in the United States, word of North Koreans who have made it to freedom can inspire those still in the country.
Kim’s stories help shine light on one of the last bastions of darkness on the planet. We figure that the world is getting smaller with expanded communications, yet for North Koreans, they are sheltered from the rest of the world. And yet, it’s really good to know that some are trying to get out, and they are getting help.
While Kim is not alone in this fight to bring freedom to these people trapped in a dictatorship, he has served them well within their fight, and by coming back to the Western world to share their stories with us. For his part in the process, and also for telling us their stories, Mike Kim is this week’s Wings of Justice award winner.
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on July 9, 2009
This week’s Media Putz award is brought to you by the letter D, as in Democratic, the letter R, as in Republican, and the letter F for Fox “News” that can’t seem to tell the difference between the letters D and R.
Those of us who have gone through the third grade remember that a D can be made with a straight line and a half-circle, and an R is a P with an extra right leg sticking out.
To be fair, perhaps the folks at Fox “News” suffer from a highly unusual form of dyslexia, where they go to write the letter R and it comes out like a D. For example, in a classic Monty Python sketch “Travel Agents,” Eric Idle’s character can’t say the letter “c,” instead he substitutes the letter “b.” Michael Palin’s character suggests he say the letter “k” instead of the letter “c.”
The good news for Fox (and bad news for us) is that their illness comes and goes. Fox “News” only has this problem with Republicans go bad, the latest example was Gov. Mark Sanford from, that’s right, R-SC. That is R for Republican.
There have been other moments of non-lucidity. When Rep. Mark Foley had his problems, Fox “News” declared him a D instead of a R. There is even a screen capture when Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) defeated Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) in the Senate race in 2006. In this graphic, the parties are switched around, as if Fox couldn’t believe someone named Whitehouse would belong to the Democratic Party.
Being in denial is not much of a way to go through life, and it’s a really lousy way to run a news operation. But Fox is only pretending to be a news operation: “we have anchors, we have opinion shows, just like a real cable news operation.”
When Republicans do poorly, FNC tries to hide the facts. When Democrats do poorly or okay or even great, Fox finds a way to spin it in a different direction. That’s not news; that’s propaganda.
But it’s clear that Roger Ailes and his flunkies at Fox “News” are starting to swallow their own propaganda: “Republicans, good; Democrats, bad.” So when a Republican governor goes up to confess that he has a mistress in Argentina, he should be identified as Mark Sanford (R-SC), not (D).
As Stephen Colbert put it, “When someone misbehaves, it’s natural to assume he’s a Democrat, even when he is the head of the Republican Governors Association.”
This isn’t to say CNN, Headline News, or MSNBC don’t have screwups in their screen crawls. The sad truth is that people with too much work on their hands in all elements of the media don’t have the time to make sure what is being presented has been spell-checked or examined for grammar issues. But the other cable news outlets don’t have a pattern to their mistakes that is ideological; their screwups are just that: screwups.
You have to wonder what the punishment is at these places when there is a screwup of this type:
Regular cable news outlet: “How could you make that mistake? You made us look stupid and foolish! Pay more attention next time!!”
Fox “News” Channel: “You know you put a D instead of a R in front of Mark Sanford’s name. Just for that, I’m forcing you to take the last donut and take the rest of the afternoon off with pay. And I don’t want to see your face around here until tomorrow morning!”
The MSM loves treating FNC as a legitimate news outlet, but we know better. At some point, passive/aggressive behavior, subconscious behavior, well, isn’t. The Fox “News” continuing pattern of “deliberate” screwups in a specific fashion is part of the master plan, the masquerade of disguise as a news operation. For once again putting propaganda before news, we award Fox “News” the Media Putz of the week award.
Screen captures from Democratic Underground.