Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Republican-leaning media puts kids at risk

The headline above should be screaming around the world right now. Denny Hastert is right that there was a coverup in the media (and not only his office), but he's right for the wrong reason.

You see, it’s recently come to light that a Republican leaked Mark Foley’s original e-mails to a number of people, including a Democrat. That Democrat spent nearly a year trying to get someone to pay attention, while the media showed him or her the hand.
"There was never a plan to undermine the GOP or to destroy Hastert personally, as the speaker has vaingloriously suggested," Ken Silverstein, Washington editor for Harper's, said on the magazine's Web site yesterday. "I know this with absolute certainty because Harper's was offered the story almost five months ago."

Silverstein said his source was a "Democratic operative," the same source that had provided the e-mail exchanges to the St. Petersburg Times in November 2005. Both the magazine and the paper declined to publish a story. But the source "was not working in concert with the national Democratic Party," Silverstein added. "This person was genuinely disgusted by Foley's behavior, amazed that other publications had declined to publish stories about the emails, and concerned that Foley might still be seeking contact with pages."
For the record, the Supreme Allied Commander of Left Blogosphere—Generalissimo Kos—says that this is “makes some sense.”
If you are the media, and a Democrat offers you these emails, skepticism would be warranted and understandable. Regardless of timing, the story was explosive, and one would wonder at motives and veracity of the story. But when a Republican who has nothing partisan to gain from the story comes forth, the story immediately becomes more credible.
I say bullshit!

Sure, I get what Kos is saying, but he’s actually acting as if we’re living in a fair media environment. Doesn’t anyone else remember how eagerly the media jumped on baseless suggestions that John Kerry was having an affair? Here’s how it was covered by Howard Kurtz on CNN:
KURTZ: OK, let me jump in here. There is, as you both know, an unsubstantiated rumor bouncing around the Internet, started by Drudge, about John Kerry's personal life. We are not going to describe it at all, but Senator Kerry did go on the Imus show Friday morning. Here's what he had to say.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, there is nothing to report. So there is nothing to talk about. I'm not worried about it. No. The answer is no.


KURTZ: Andrew Sullivan, you wrote about this on your blog. Any second thoughts, any guilty feelings about furthering the conversation or something that you don't know whether it's true, I don't know whether it's true.

SULLIVAN: Well, what we do know, a friend of mine called up and said is this going to go mainstream? And my answer was, well, it's on the Drudge Report. There were 15 million visits to the Drudge Report yesterday. I don't know anybody in Washington that isn't aware of this story. So you get into this excruciating dilemma: How do you talk about it? Should you talk about it? I've talked about it from a -- removed, talking about the story as a press story, which is what we're doing now, without mentioning the details of it.

But I have to say, I am deeply conflicted about it. I don't know what -- can you anymore not talk about something that's on the front page of the "Times of London," front page of the Drudge Report, on everybody's minds. There comes a point at which the media has to acknowledge people are talking.

KURTZ: But on that point, Frank Rich, in the first 24 hours, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh picked this up, the Web sites of the "Wall Street Journal" and "National Review," "Chicago Sun-Times" and "Philadelphia Daily News" did a little bit, and the British press has jumped on this with great glee. What does that tell us about the way the media food chain works when after all, there may not be a story here? What we have is an unsubstantiated rumor.
First you should note that Kurtz is basically attempting to play in the mud without getting his own hands dirty with this should we be reporting these unsubstantiated SEX RUMORS ABOUT KERRY shtick. Then realize that, within a day, completely unfounded rumors about a Democrat went global.

You know, it would be bad enough if the press just had this attitude about sex, but they don’t. Here’s Thomas Ricks—author of Fiascobeing interviewed by wingnut Hugh Hewitt.
HH: You quote on Page 431, Juan Cole, the University of Michigan leftist, who's a...

TR: Oh, good. The one lefty quote in the whole damn book, and you dig it out.

HH: (laughing) I read closely, Tom Ricks. I read very closely.

TR: But I want to remind you, though, the ratio of conservatives to liberals quoted in this book is probably about a hundred to one.
Get that? Thomas Ricks admits that the ratio of conservatives to liberals in his book was 100-1 and doesn’t bat an eye. And even then, Hewitt goes on bitch about Cole’s quote. This is why Democrats who have been arguing about real changes of strategy in Iraq get ignored in the press, but, if a Republican says it’s only 92 percent perfect, they get a frontpage story. This is why McCain and Warner still get credit for “standing up to the president” on the torture issue, even though, once they got the Scooby Snacks for which they were begging, they rolled over and decided he could imprison and torture whomever he wished.

People, we have got to hold the press’s feet to the fire. I don’t mean that we should, like Hewitt and other rightwingers, demand that the press exclusively quote our sources, but we should ask them why they were unwilling to even investigate further the claims of a Democrat, since that failure clearly put more pages at risk.

Of course, the numerous “our bads” from the press on their willingness to accept Bush’s claims about Iraq without scrutiny should have changed the way the press investigates and balances the information they’re given, but it doesn’t seem to have sunk in.

Thousands and thousands of Americans and Iraqis dead and it still doesn’t sink in.

But death bores the press when it’s repetitive and, well, sex scandals sell. Let’s see if they sink in.

Update: Boehlert has more on the press and Foley.

Update: Edited brain error. I wrote "Tom Foley" rather than "Mark Foley." Thanks, Jim. I do know why I was thinking about Tom Foley, though. As Wikipedia reminds us:
His thirty year career in Congress was notable for its length and for his steady climb up the ranks of the Congressional and Party leadership, and also for the manner of its conclusion: when the Republican Party gained control of Congress in 1994 after 40 years in the minority, Foley became the first sitting Speaker of the House since 1860 not to be reelected.
It's a stretch, but we might not have to wait another 134 years for a repeat.


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