Nov
30
2011

Mitt Romney's Murderous Dictator Gaffe

If you've paid attention to the presidential campaign season, you've no doubt been entertained by the string of embarrassments and gaffes: Rick Perry blows the voting age! Herman Cain can't remember what to say about Libya! Mitt Romney talks about the upside of a murderous dictatorship! Wait–what? In the November 22 debate, Romney gave this answer to a question about what to do about Pakistan: We don't want to just pull up stakes and get out of town after the enormous output we've just made for the region. Look at Indonesia in the '60s. We helped them move toward modernity. […]

Nov
29
2011

Newt Gingrich, Smartest Man in the Room

The New York Times today (11/29/11) has a somewhat cheeky piece about Republican candidate Newt Gingrich's background as a historian–which, according to reporter Trip Gabriel, means he's unusually smart: In an election season rife with factual misstatements, deliberate and otherwise, Mr. Gingrich sometimes seems to stand out for exhibiting an excess of knowledge. I don't know whether he really "sometimes seems" to have an "excess of knowledge"–whatever that might be. The point seems to be that he comes across as smarter than, say, Michele Bachmann. Well, sure. But what about Gingrich's misstatements? According to PolitiFact, at one debate Gingrich claimed […]

Nov
29
2011

Anonymously Explaining Pakistan Deaths

A New York Times piece today (11/29/11) about the U.S. airstrikes that apparently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers opens with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani speaking publicly about the incident, as does Pakistani military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. Readers are then treated to a lesson in how U.S. officials speak to important news outlets about an emerging, controversial story. They don't use their names. Instead, we hear from: "A United States official" who comments on the "growing frustration in Washington about the increasingly harsh language coming out of Islamabad." He "spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the need […]

Nov
28
2011

Dead Afghan Kids Still Not Newsworthy

Back in March, we wondered when U.S. corporate news outlets would find U.S./NATO killing of Afghan kids newsworthy. Back then, it was nine children killed in a March 1 airstrike. This resulted in two network news stories on the evening or morning newscasts, and two brief references on the PBS NewsHour. On November 25, the New York Times reported–on page 12–that six children were killed in one attack in southern Afghanistan on November 23. This news was, as best I can tell, not reported on ABC, CBS, NBC or the PBS NewsHour. There were, on the other hand, several pieces […]

Nov
28
2011

Sam Husseini, David Ignatius: Who's the 'Real' Journalist?

Sam Husseini asked a tough question of a member of the Saudi royal family at a National Press Club event–which got him into some trouble with folks at the Press Club. (Good news–his suspension has been lifted.) Part of what motivated Husseini to question Turki al-Faisal was the fact that a representative of such a repressive regime would have the nerve to give a talk about Arab democracy. Elite journalists, on the other hand, don't spend much time worrying about this. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius filed his Sunday column (11/27/11) from Riyadh, where he was speaking about, what else, […]

Nov
28
2011

Which Side Are We On? NYT, U.S and Cluster Bombs

International efforts to ban cluster bombs fell apart late last week. If you were reading about this in the New York Times, you might have been led to believe that the United States was pushing to get rid of the weapons–instead of the opposite. Here's the lead sentence from a story in Saturday's paper (11/26/11): GENEVA — Despite last-minute attempts to broker a compromise, American-led efforts to conclude an international treaty restricting use of cluster munitions collapsed on Friday in the face of opposition from countries that said it did not address their humanitarian concerns and would undermine existing international […]

Nov
23
2011

A Fox News Blacklist?

Conservative David Frum writes in the new issue of New York: Back in 2009, I wrote a piece for Newsweek arguing that Republicans would regret conceding so much power to Rush Limbaugh. Until that point, I'd been a frequent guest on Fox News, but thenceforward some kind of fatwa was laid down upon me. Over the next few months, I'd occasionally receive morning calls from young TV bookers asking if I was available to appear that day. For sport, I'd always answer, "I'm available–but does your senior producer know you've called me?" An hour later, I'd receive an embarrassed second […]

Nov
22
2011

Does the Lie in Mitt Romney's TV Ad Matter?

Huffington Post reporterJon Ward did what reporters should do when covering political campaign ads. He told readers, at the top of his story, that the new Mitt Romney ad was based on a lie: The 60-second Romney ad quoted Obama as saying, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." It sounds like Obama is talking about his own chances in 2012. But it's actually a clip of Obama mocking his 2008 opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), for not wanting to talk about the economy in the final stretch of that election. McCain's response to the collapse […]

Nov
21
2011

Jonathan Karl Plays the Freddie/Fannie Blame Game

News that Newt Gingrich was receiving millions of dollars to advise Freddie Mac has to be a little unsettling for at least some conservative voters, who are accustomed to demonizing the government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for causing the housing bubble, and hence the recession. But it's not just right-wing pundits like Bill O'Reilly who are fond of blaming it all on Fannie and Freddie. Here's ABC reporter Jonathan Karl, speaking in conservative shorthand in his job as network news correspondent on This Week yesterday: Meet this week's new front-runner. He's a good debater, man of ideas, and […]

Nov
21
2011

It's True: Cops Beat Protesters Even Before OWS

New York Times media reporter David Carr has written some interest pieces on Occupy Wall Street. His piece today tries to work out where things go from here, but one comment in the piece about how Occupy Wall Street compares with protests of the past caught my attention: There were citizens screaming invective about the rich while being confronted by the police in riot gear, the kind of spontaneous uprising we have not seen in almost half a century. Huh. This is used to explain why the mainstream media found OWS so newsworthy. But I remember things like this happening, […]

Nov
18
2011

The Ex-Spymaster Currently Known as Prince

Sam Husseini's encounter with Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud makes me wonder once again–why do we call a person like Al Saud a "prince"? Al Saud was the longtime chief of Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency, and later served as ambassador to the United States and Britain. His grandfather, Abdul Aziz Al Saud, declared himself a king in 1926–which seems like kind of a late date to be latching on to the legitimacy implied by a once-upon-a-time title. Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq in 1968. If he had decided to call himself "King Saddam," would U.S. media have […]

Nov
18
2011

Media Get 'Lazy' Factchecking Rick Perry's Ad Claim

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's new TV commercial is based on a lie. Will reporters say so? The ad starts with a Barack Obama quote: "We've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades." To which Perry responds: "Can you believe that? That's what our president thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy? That's pathetic. It's time to clean house in Washington." Now, it would be rather unusual for a president to say that. Obama didn't. The quote comes from an event where Obama spoke about efforts to woo corporations to do more […]

Nov
18
2011

Don't Commit Journalism at the National Press Club

When former FAIR staffer Sam Husseini found out that Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Sa'ud would be speaking at the National Press Club, he thought it might be a good chance to ask a tough question. The National Press Club apparently didn't like that idea. Husseini writes: Before the end of the day, I'd received a letter informing me that I was suspended from the National Press Club "due to your conduct at a news conference." The letter, signed by the executive director of the Club, William McCarren, accused me of violating rules prohibiting "boisterous and unseemly conduct or language." Want […]