Jan
20
2012

Joe Klein Notices Newt Stole His Kid Janitor Idea

Time columnist Joe Klein jumped to Newt Gingrich's defense (12/19/11) when the Republican presidential candidate floated the idea that poor school children should work as janitors at their schools. Klein's endorsement (FAIR Blog, 12/9/11) earned him a coveted P.U. Litzer Prize. But apparently there's more to it. As Klein explains in this week's issue of Time (in an article that bears a title "Racial Slant Aside, Newt's Poverty Plan Could Work"), "When you strip away the racial appeals, though, Gingrich proposes some very creative ways to address poverty and dependency." He added: And yes, as Newt suggested, that last idea […]

Jan
20
2012

NYT's Apple Debate Factcheck, Without Facts

If Arthur Brisbane wants the Times to consider becoming factchecking 'truth vigilantes," this is hopefully not what he had in mind. At last night's Republican debate (1/19/12), CNN host John King asked the candidates how they would convince a corporation like Apple to employ more workers in the United States: It employs about 500,000 people in China. It is based in the United States, has some employees here, about 40-something thousand, I think 46,000. Most of them in retail stores and at the headquarters. 500,000 of them are in China. As a president of the United States, what do you […]

Jan
19
2012

Dubious Pipeline Assertions Become USA Today Headlines

Today's front page of USA Today: The paper adds that "Obama was putting politics ahead of jobs and the nation's energy security by rejecting the pipeline now, Republicans and oil industry leaders said." It closes with this: Business leaders and Republicans say approving the project now would create as many as 20,000 jobs for an ailing U.S. economy and lessen dependence on foreign oil. "This political decision offers hard evidence that creating jobs is not a high priority for this administration," said Tom Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. If the argument in favor of this pipeline […]

Jan
19
2012

NYT, SOPA and Internet Factchecking

Remember last week's uproar about the New York Times and factchecking? In today's paper, we see a great example of how this works. Former Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd's new job is as a lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America, which means he's leading the charge in support of SOPA, the bill that big media companies believe will stop online "piracy." Opponents see it as a potentially devastating blow to free speech on the Internet, and they seem to have had great success in turning the tide of the debate. This is not good news for people like Dodd, […]

Jan
19
2012

O'Reilly's Comes to Romney's Aid on Taxes–Armed with Inaccuracies

Mitt Romney might need some help defending his considerable wealth or controversial career in private equity. But he doesn't need the kind of help Bill O'Reilly is offering. Mitt Romney's declaration that he pays about a 15 percent tax rate on his income has generated plenty of chatter, in part because it confirms that much of the Republican candidate's yearly income is taxed at a rate appropriate for capital gains and dividend income–much lower than if Romney were actually working for a living. But enter into the picture Fox host Bill O'Reilly, who apparently thought he should rescue Romney by […]

Jan
18
2012

NYT and the Racism Bog

When a Republican presidential candidate goes around talking about Barack Obama as the "food stamp president," eventually reporters are going to have to write about racism. But how they talk about the issue in instructive. In today's New York Times (1/18/12), Jim Rutenberg has a piece headlined "Risks for GOP in Attacks With Racial Themes," where we learn this about Newt Gingrich's food stamp rhetoric: Mr. Gingrich was clearly making the case that he is the candidate most able to take the fight to Mr. Obama in the fall, but he was also laying bare risks for his party when […]

Jan
18
2012

What Do NPR's Right-Wing Critics Have to Complain About?

David Margolick has an interesting piece about NPR in the new issue of Vanity Fair. He spends much of his time on Juan Williams, but this observation about NPR's right-wing critics is an important observation: Apart from the occasional stories about gays or Palestinians (and maybe even gay Palestinians), there's precious little on NPR these days for conservatives really to hate. For them, despising NPR and cutting off what amounts to the few pennies it collects from the federal budget has increasingly become more a matter of pandering, or habit, or sophomoric sport, than of conviction or serious policy. The […]

Jan
17
2012

PBS, NPR Try to Defend Iran Distortions

Evaluating reporting and commentary about Iran could be reduced to one simple rule: There is no evidence that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon. Statements that suggest otherwise are misleading. Reports that fail to point this out are doing readers/viewers/listeners a disservice. That sounds simple enough. But don't tell that to the outlets that are being criticized over their Iran reporting. Take NPR and PBS, both of which were singled out by the group Just Foreign Policy. A few days ago (1/10/12), the FAIR Blog featured a post criticizing the PBS NewsHour for a deceptive report on Iran. The […]

Jan
12
2012

NYT to Readers: Can You Handle the Truth?

New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane has a new column wondering if the readers of the Paper of Record want to know if the politicians the paper covers are telling the truth. Seriously. It's right here. He writes: I'm looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge "facts" that are asserted by newsmakers they write about. He even has a pretty good example: on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches "apologizing for America," a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing […]

Jan
12
2012

When the Campaign Moves Back to the 'Center'

The presidential campaign is breaking down along familiar ideological lines, according to New York Times reporter John Harwood (1/12/12): American voters loathe both major symbols of the forces squeezing their pocketbooks and life savings. President Obama will seek re-election vowing to rein in one of them: Wall Street. Mitt Romney will focus on the other: Washington. There are some complications (Republicans attacking Mitt Romney's "vulture" capitalism for starters), but Harwood assures readers that soon enough the candidates will be back to the sensible middle. But what's the center? Romney's right-wing rhetoric about Obama's fondness for Big Government and European socialism […]

Jan
11
2012

At WaPo, Editorial Page Can Make Up Iran Facts

Last month the group Just Foreign Policy alerted readers to a Washington Post feature that was headlined "Iran's Quest to Possess Nuclear Weapons." The Post changed the headline, and ombud Patrick Pexton weighed in with a column (12/7/11) saying that the IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one, only that its multiyear effort pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb. Pexton added that Just Foreign Policy's Robert Naiman "and his Web army were right. The headline and subhead were misleading." […]

Jan
10
2012

'Opinions Differ' Should Be the Start of PolitiFact's Job

There are two ways to approach being evenhanded: You can try to actually be evenhanded, which could mean that you find that one side is right and the other is wrong. Or you can strive for the appearance of being evenhanded, which means that you decide in advance that you're going to find that there's truth on both sides. PolitiFact, a political factchecking project based in St. Petersburg, Florida, has been criticized for taking the latter approach. An item it posted yesterday (1/9/12) is further evidence of its preference for the appearance of evenhandedness over its reality. The item addressed […]

Jan
10
2012

Pundits and the Romney Pass

In theory, presidential campaigns are a valuable opportunity for journalists to evaluate candidates' positions on important issues so citizens can make an informed choice. Actual media coverage is different, of course. And it's striking how some media voices diminish the importance of what the candidates are saying, treating it as meaningless theater that need not bear any relation to what they really think. It's remarkably cynical–and arguably dangerous as well. But that seems to be the approach when it comes to Republican candidate Mitt Romney. As Jim Naureckas already pointed out, there's a tendency in the corporate media to argue […]