Thursday, March 31, 2011
by Joe Strupp
The revelation that Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon intentionally misled viewers in 2008 with speculation linking Barack Obama to socialism has drawn criticism from a handful of veteran Washington bureau chiefs.
Several former D.C. newsroom leaders told Media Matters that Sammon acted unethically when he publicly hinted several times in 2008 that Obama might have socialist tendencies, only to later admit that at the time, he "privately" believed the allegations were "far-fetched."
"At that time, I have to admit, that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism," Sammon said in a 2009 speech that Media Matters publicized this week, "a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched."
Later in the speech, Sammon said his "mischievous speculation" was actually proven correct during the first months of Obama's presidency.
John Walcott, former McClatchy Washington bureau chief who stepped down in 2010 and ran the bureau during the 2008 election, criticized the actions.
"I don't think deception is ever acceptable in journalism," Walcott said. "I think there are times when we don't say everything we've learned for reasons of personal security and national security. But outright deception, saying something that you know to be untrue or have no basis for believing is true is not journalism, it is propaganda."
"This also reflects an increasing tendency to abandon the fourth estate's role of holding those in power -- political, economic, whatever -- accountable, regardless of their ideology, political party or social standing, in favor of taking sides."
Walcott added: "In theological terms, this is a sin of commission. This is more overt. This isn't journalism."
Frank Sesno, CNN Washington bureau chief from 1995 to 2001, said of Sammon: "Of course he's partisan. If Fox wants to define the role of its reporters and its bureau chief in a traditional journalistic capacity, then they have no business offering opinions or political speculation in any fashion.
"But if Fox wants to define itself differently, not as a traditional news organization but a news and opinion organization, then he is free to do that."
Marc Sandalow, San Francisco Chronicle bureau chief from 1996 to 2007, said Sammon's actions were not proper for a news person.
"Journalists should not be involved in mischievous speculation, journalists should not engage in mischievous speculation, they should be provocative and if they identify it, they can be analytic and opinionated," Sandalow said. "But mischief is not part of journalism."
Asked what it means for Sammon's newsroom leadership role, Sandalow added: "That's a problem, he is overseeing the news operation. For news gatherers, credibility is everything. You should never deceive viewers or readers."
Max Frankel, former executive editor of The New York Times and its Washington bureau chief from 1968 to 1972, called Sammon's actions "clear partisanship."
"In our politics, the word socialist is a curse word," Frankel said. "Especially when hurled at the Democrats, it is a clear case of partisanship and I don't believe that anybody who is calling Obama a socialist to this very day, really believes that."
"It is obviously name-calling, and partisanship of that sort has no place in fair journalism," he said. "The only surprising thing about the episode is that he would go so far as to admit it."
Marvin Kalb, a former NBC News chief diplomatic correspondent and one-time Meet The Press host, said Sammon went too far:
"I believe that Bill Sammon crossed a line between reporting and editorializing in his 2008 coverage of candidate Obama," Kalb said, later adding, "Decades ago, his campaign commentary would have been unacceptable. Reporters reported and did not offer personal critiques."
Steve Goldstein, former Washington Bureau chief for The Philadelphia Inquirer, e-mailed this view:
"If I'm not mistaken, Sammon also wrote a column for the Examiner. In any event, that's where his work came to my attention. After reading some pieces by him, it was abundantly clear that he was writing as some sort of party apparatchik and not as a journalist."
Dean Baquet, the current Washington bureau chief for The New York Times, told Media Matters: "Come on, it is Fox. So no surprise, right?"
by John Tramontana
LANSING – Governor Rick Snyder has signed a bill which will lead to job losses across Michigan. The repeal of item pricing will cost many retail workers their jobs, further halting economic recovery in Michigan.
This is the latest example of the Governor eliminating jobs in Michigan. Earlier this year, Michigan lost movie production jobs to Ohio after the Governor publicly stated he will eliminate Michigan’s film industry tax incentives.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, Governor Snyder told reporters, “Next year, let’s focus on job creation” (Gongwer News Service, 3/29/11).
“Let’s not focus on job creation until next year? Michigan workers need jobs now,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said. “The Governor is out-of-touch with what’s happening in Michigan. We have an unemployment rate of over 10%. The Governor’s focus should be on creating jobs now, not waiting until next year.”
“The repeal of item pricing will only add to the unemployment,” continued Brewer. “The people who have been pricing items to protect consumers will now lose their jobs. This is a job-killing, anti-consumer law. First the Governor cuts unemployment benefits and now he’s eliminating jobs. It’s time for Governor Snyder to start putting people back to work in Michigan instead of putting more people in the unemployment line.”
Today, Rick Scott Will Lay Out Cuts For Developmentally Disabled And Then Attend A Special Olympics Photo-Op
Today, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) will announce deep cuts to programs that help the developmentally disabled in his state. Scott will invoke his “emergency powers” to impose a 15 percent cut to the rates charged by group home workers and case workers that help the 30,000 Floridians with cerebral palsy, autism, and Down Syndrome.
Those who provide services to the developmentally disabled are already decrying the cuts. “This would be a catastrophe,” one advocate told the Miami Herald. “The system can’t take this. Eventually, we will have to cut jobs and reduce services.”
Scott says the cuts are necessary to address a $170 million deficit in the Agency for Persons with Disabilities — but at the same time, he is also proposing $1.5 billion in corporate tax cuts and $1.4 billion more in property tax cuts.
Even more galling, today — the same day his cuts are announced — Scott is scheduledto appear at a Special Olympics Torch Run with his wife and other state officials. The run is designed to promote the upcoming Special Olympics in Florida, and raise money for developmentally disabled athletes along the way:
Funds are generated through contributions from individuals and businesses along the way and through sales of the popular Torch Run T-shirts and caps.
This event is held each year prior to Special Olympics Florida State Summer Games.
Given the deep cuts Scott has just proposed, they might need to sell a lot of t-shirts
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) brought the house down last night at the Congression Correspondents’ Dinner, touching on the proper pronunciation of his name, his “seventies Jew-fro” that adorns with Twitter page and the proper method for engaging with journalists in live videos to show the proper amount of respect.
Watch the video below, which first aired on C-SPAN 3 on March 30, 2011:
By Pat Garofalo
The House Republican spending plan for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 — H.R. 1 — includes many economically counterproductive cuts that will lead to job loss and stunted growth. One of these is a provision rescinding unobligated money from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery II, or TIGER II, grant program. The program is designed to deliver competitive grants to states for high-need infrastructure projects.
All but three Republican senators voted for H.R.1when it was before the Senate, and those three only voted no because they wanted even deeper cuts than those included in the bill. But three GOP senators — Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) — are now taking credit for a grant to rebuild the Memorial Bridge that was provided under the TIGER II program they voted to cut:
COLLINS: “I am delighted by today’s announcement that this critical $20 million will be preserved that will help to rehabilitate a vital link for our states’ businesses and people…I particularly appreciate Secretary LaHood’s working so closely with me to expedite the process to guarantee this funding.”
SNOWE: “Snowe said she is grateful the US DOT fulfilled its commitment to the Memorial Bridge project in a timely fashion, and that completion of the bridge overhaul was not jeopardized by ongoing budget debates in Washington, D.C.”
AYOTTE: “Having been called ‘one of the worst bridges in America,’ I am pleased that paperwork issues have been resolved allowing this project to move forward. New Hampshire and Maine have already made a serious commitment to replacing Memorial Bridge, and I am glad that DOT followed through on its commitment.“
After having voted to rescind any funding left for this program, the three New England Republicans lobbied the Department of Transportation to release the funding quickly before the recissions could take place. When H.R. 1 was before the Senate, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood warned people before the vote that approving those could put projects in peril. “We just want to make sure everybody understands that,” LaHood said.
Overall, H.R 1 “cuts funding for transportation infrastructure by 9 percent, slashing $2.7 billion from rail, $675 million from federal transit investments, and nearly $1 billion from highway investments.” Unfortunately for those trying to use America’s aged and disintegrating infrastructure, not every project will be rushed through to avoid the budget cuts that the GOP wants to implement.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
by Matt Gertz
In a letter today to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Robin Ashton of the Justice Departments Office of Professional Responsibility, wrote that her investigation found that in their handling of the voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party, senior career attorneys at DOJ "did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately." The investigation also found "no evidence" that their decisions were improperly affected by political considerations or by the race of the defendants.
For nearly two years, the right wing has been obsessed with the decision by those senior career attorneys to drop civil charges against three defendants affiliated with the New Black Panther Party who allegedly intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008. This fixation became stronger last year, when two DOJ attorneys on the trial team who are linked the Bush administration's politicization of the DOJ claimed in media appearances and in testimony that the DOJ's actions were part of a pattern of racially-charged corruption at the department, in which lawyers there refused to protect white voters from intimidation by minorities.
These allegations received a ready airing on Fox News, but they simply never added up: There was simply no evidence that this was anything more than a disagreement between career attorneys on how to apply a rarely-used provision of the Voting Rights Act; the Obama DOJ did get obtain an injunction against one of the defendants in the case; it also took action in another case to protect white voters from intimidation by black political leaders; and the Bush administration had failed to take action in a similar case in which Latino voters were allegedly intimidated by whites.
As the story dissolved, a broad and bipartisan group of media and political figures dismissed the supposed scandal, with the Republican vice-chair of the U. S. Civil Rights Commission condemning that partisan group's investigationas an attempt "to topple the administration."
Nonetheless, there is little hope that the right-wing bitter-enders who have been pushing this story will accept the conclusions of OPR. Last week, the foremost proponents of the New Black Panthers conspiracy, J. Christian Adams and Hans Von Spakovsky, began claiming that the "fix is in" because Adams' sources at DOJ had said that OPR would find no wrongdoing on the part of the attorneys who overruled Adams and his trial team. The pair also began what will likely become a right-wing drumbeat intended to undermine Ashton and OPR.
It's worth pointing out that every new revelation in this case has only served to diminish their own credibility and highlight their partisan motives.
From the OPR letter to Rep. Smith:
Based on the results of our investigation, we concluded that Department attorneys did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately, in the exercise of their supervisory duties in connection with the dismissal of the three defendants in the NBPP case. We found no evidence that the decision to dismiss the case against three of the four defendants was predicated on political considerations. We found that the decision by the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, a career Department employee, was made following appropriate consultations with, or notification to, career attorneys and supervisors, and Department leadership. We found no evidence of improper political interference or influence from within or outside the Department in connection with the decision in the case. In sum, we concluded that the decision to dismiss three of the four defendants and to seek more narrowly-tailored injunctive relief against King Samir Shabazz was predicated on a good faith assessment of the law and the facts of the case and had a reasonable basis. We found no evidence that political considerations were a motivating factor in reaching the decision.
We also concluded that the decision to initiate the NBPP case was based upon a good faith assessment of the facts and the law. We found no evidence that political considerations were a motivating factor in authorizing the civil action against the four defendants.
Finally, we found no evidence to support allegations (which were raised during the course of our investigation) that the decision makers, either in bringing or dismissing the claims, were influence by the race of the defendants, or any considerations other than an assessment of the evidence and the applicable law.
By Jeff Spross
The latest continuing resolution to fund the federal government runs out on April 8. While the last six deadlines have ultimately produced a temporary budget agreement between Republicans and Democrats, both sides say they are fed up with the piece-meal approach and want to hammer out a final budget for the rest of the year.
It’s looking more likely that this latest impasse cannot end without a government shutdown. This week, House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) declared that the American people would hold Democrats accountable for such a result. And this morning on Fox & Friends, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) repeated the talking point:
BACHMANN: We learned from Harry Reid, we learned from Chuck Schumer what the whole game plan is on the Democrats’ side. They are giddy about seeing the government shut down. That’s what they want. We can’t forget that. The Democrats want the government shut down.
In fact, Republican intransigence is the driving force behind the likelihood of a shutdown. Previous resolutions cut $10 billion from the budget, and the Democratic leadership has offered a total of $30 billion in cuts through the end of the year. This is roughly what Republican budget chairman Paul Ryan suggested at the start of the debate, before a Tea Party upheaval forced the House Republicans to pass a bill with both $61 billion in spending reductions and a series of controversial budget ridersgutting funding for Planned Parenthood, health care reform, and the EPA.
Republicans now insist this budget must be the bare minimum for negotiations moving forward. They have also pointedly refused to consider savings in other parts of the budget, including defense spending or wasteful corporate tax subsidies.
Republicans have, of course, claimed again and again that they have no desire for a shutdown, and that it will be the fault of the Democrats if one occurs. The record, however, says otherwise. Watch this video report:
Whatever Eric Cantor may think, recent polls say it’s the Republicans that the public would hold accountable for a shutdown. As the video evidence demonstrates, there’s good reason for Americans to believe that.
By Lee Fang
As Roll Call reported earlier this month, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has a history of blending his personal business interests with his work as a member of Congress. Companies owned by the Issa family, including a firm called DEI (an acronym for Issa’s initials), set up websites to channel users to Issa’s official congressional campaign website. After Roll Call made an ethical inquiry to Issa, he changed the website.
ThinkProgress has discovered more troubling evidence that Issa may have blended his work as a lawmaker with his own business empire. After founding a successful car alarm company, Issa invested his fortune in a sprawling network of real estate companies with holdings throughout his district. One of Issa’s most valuable properties, a medical office building at 2067 West Vista Way in Vista, California, is called the Vista Medical Center, and was purchased in 2008 for $16.6 million. Described as “a long-term investment,” the property was bought by a company called Viper LLC, a business entity operated by Issa’s family that Issa has up to a $25 million dollar stake in.
Around the same time Issa made the Vista Medical Center purchase, the congressman began requesting millions of dollars worth of earmarks to widen and improve the highway adjacent to the building. In 2008, he requested $2 million to expand West Vista Way, the road in front of his “long-term investment,” but only received $245,000 from the government. The next year, Issa made another earmark request for improving the West Vista Way highway next to his building. He earmarked another$570,000, bringing his total to $815,000, to add parking lots, widen the road, add bus stops, improve the sewer system, and other utility work. A map showing the location of Issa’s property, and the road, is below:
Although the highway project has not begun yet (because of local budget problems), the federal money is allocated through Issa’s efforts. Already, a firm representing Issa’s real estate company is advertising the Vista Medical Building and its “Excellent Access with Freeway Visibility.” As ethics experts have explained, lawmakers shouldavoid earmarks in the immediate area of their own business interests.
Issa’s highway earmarks not only potentially benefit his multi-million dollar medical office building, they provide better access to his other properties in the area. About 2 miles down West Vista Way from the Vista Medical Center, Issa owns a commercialoffice building worth over $9 million, as well as an adjacent retail office building. The commercial office building leases to a number of different clients, and Issa’s retail building leases to a Hooter’s. All three properties are on the same highway, which Issa plans to retrofit with taxpayer money.
Yesterday morning, the Indiana House considered an anti-abortion bill that “would put some of the tightest abortion restrictions in the nation into Indiana law.” Introduced by state Rep. Eric Turner (R), HB 1210 would make most abortions illegal after 20 weeks. Current law restricts abortions after the fetus is viable, generally around 24 weeks.
In an attempt to soften the blow this bill would land on Hoosier women, state Rep. Gail Riecken (D) introduced an amendment to exempt “women who became pregnant due to rape or incest, or women for whom pregnancy threatens their life or could cause serious and irreversible physical harm” from being forced to carry to term. Fearing this bill would “push women to the back alleys” for illegal abortions, Riecken pleaded with lawmakers to allow women to make the choice in these cases.
Turner then stepped to the podium and insisted that Riecken’s amendment would create a “giant loophole” for women. That loophole? Women “could simply say they’ve been raped”:
TURNER: With all do respect to Rep. Riecken, I understand what she’s trying to do. But as you know that when the federal health care bill was going through Congress there was a lot of discussion whether this would allow for abortion coverage and of course we were all told it would not. And the bill, my house bill 1210, would prevent that for any insurance company to provide abortion coverage under federal health care bill. This [amendment] would open that window and I would ask you to oppose this amendment.
I just want you to think about this, in my view, giant loophole that could be created where someone who could — now i want to be careful, I don’t want to disparage in any way someone who has gone through the experience of a rape or incest — but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest.
Outraged by Turner’s allegation, state Rep. Linda Lawson (D) — who spent six years as a sex crimes investigator for the Indiana police — delivered an emotional rebuke. Describing her experience with both elderly and young children who had been raped, she forcefully informed Turner that “they don’t make it up.” “Women don’t make this up! My Goodness!” she exclaimed. “This is the state of Indiana!”
The House voted down Riecken’s amendment 42 to 54. The bill “now is eligible for a final vote in the House later this week. It then would move to the Senate, which earlier passed similar legislation aimed at abortion.”