FOX News Alert! Stay Tuned! The Great O'Reilly Hunt for the Nefarious Bush-Haters Continues
Reported by Marie Therese - January 3, 2006
Last night in a Talking Points Memo entitled "Showdown Time" and later during interviews with Republicans and pseudo-Democrats, Bill O'Reilly made overt threats against two employees of the New York Times because, he claimed, that paper engages in what he perceives to be unwarranted and scurrilous personal attacks against the President of the United States. It would seem that FOX News Channel is taking its cue (as usual) from the GOP. As O'Reilly noted in his Memo, President Bush is going on the offensive in the NSA Spygate matter. Well, now, it seems, FOX News has also decided to take a "more aggressive posture" towards Bush's critics. Monkey see, monkey do!
BILL O'REILLY: Well, it is showdown time for the Bush-haters. That's the subject of the year's first Talking Points Memo. As you may know, President Bush is taking a more aggressive posture towards critics of his administration and they are legion in the media. My column, posted on BillOReilly.com, pinpoints the problem. Some media are no longer just scrutinizing the Bush administration, as we do. They are now actively trying to undermine it.
The New York Times may be suspect number one with four rabid anti-Bush columnists, including the hateful character assassin, Frank Rich. The Times has staked out a very tough position for itself. It's own Public Editor, Byron Calame, wrote yesterday that the paper's reporting of the NSA eavesdropping situation is questionable. Said Mr. Calame:
'For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor [of the Times] and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making ... I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor ... He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher, who also declined to respond.' N. Y. Times, 1-1-06
N. B. Here is the same quote with the redacted portions included and additional paragraphs:
"For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making. My queries concerned the timing of the exclusive Dec. 16 article about President Bush's secret decision in the months after 9/11 to authorize the warrantless eavesdropping on Americans in the United States.
"I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor, on Dec. 19, three days after the article appeared. He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, who also declined to respond. They held out no hope for a fuller explanation in the future.
"Despite this stonewalling, my objectives today are to assess the flawed handling of the original explanation of the article's path into print, and to offer a few thoughts on some factors that could have affected the timing of the article. My intention is to do so with special care, because my 40-plus years of newspapering leave me keenly aware that some of the toughest calls an editor can face are involved here - those related to intelligence gathering, election-time investigative articles and protection of sources. On these matters, reasonable disagreements can abound inside the newsroom.
Taken at face value, Mr. Keller seems to be contending that the sourcing for the eavesdropping article is so intertwined with the decisions about when and what to publish that a full explanation could risk revealing the sources. I have no trouble accepting the importance of confidential sourcing concerns here. The reporters' nearly one dozen confidential sources enabled them to produce a powerful article that I think served the public interest.
With confidential sourcing under attack and the reporters digging in the backyards of both intelligence and politics, The Times needs to guard the sources for the eavesdropping article with extra special care. Telling readers the time that the reporters got one specific fact, for instance, could turn out to be a dangling thread of information that the White House or the Justice Department could tug at until it leads them to the source. Indeed, word came Friday that the Justice Department has opened an investigation into the disclosure of classified information about the eavesdropping.
The most obvious and troublesome omission in the explanation was the failure to address whether The Times knew about the eavesdropping operation before the Nov. 2, 2004, presidential election. That point was hard to ignore when the explanation in the article referred rather vaguely to having "delayed publication for a year." To me, this language means the article was fully confirmed and ready to publish a year ago - after perhaps weeks of reporting on the initial tip - and then was delayed."
To read the entire column, go to Behind the Eavesdropping Story, a Loud Silence.
O'REILLY: Now, the controversy is over why The New York Times held the NSA story for more than a year and why it published said story despite requests from President Bush not to. But far more dangerous to The Times and [in?] criticism is the new Justice Department investigation into just who leaked the NSA story. If the Valerie Plame guidelines are followed, Times reporters and editors might have to give up sources or go to prison just as Times reporter Judith Miller did in the Plame fiasco. Talking Points understands the NSA story is exceedingly difficult and it deals with your right to know about how the Bush administration is waging the war on terror versus national security. In the weeks to come we'll cover the story in a fair and balanced, even giving the benefit of the doubt to The New York Times.
But (pointing finger at camera) there is no doubt, ladies and gentlemen, that The Times has been unfair in its coverage of the Bush White House and the paper also routinely uses personal attacks to hurt people with whom it disagrees. If that does not stop, Bill Keller and Frank Rich, to name the two main culprits, will not have a happy new year. As they say in the auction world "fair warning."
As far as the NSA story is concerned there seem to be valid arguments on both sides and I don't know at this point who's right. I do know the debate is important.
So, summing up for 2006, robust debate is in. Personal attacks are out. That is the Memo.
O'Reilly then did something unusual. He interviewed the two Republicans (pollster Kellyanne Conway and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin) in one segment, then interviewed the two Democrats (FOX News Analyst Juan Williams and FOX News contributor and former Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh) in a different segment. There was no on-air confrontation, which actually was a refreshing change of pace. Generally he was pleasant to the two Republican women and much more edgy with the Democrats.
REPUBLICAN SEGMENT: Malkin and Conway Muddy the Waters
O'Reilly started off by asking Malkin "Who is the worst Hate-Bush offender in the media today?"
Malkin responded that "the Gray Lady is the queen of the Bush-haters in the mainstream media. This contempt for Bush and conservatives in general seeps from the news pages to the opinion page to the Arts section to the Book Review to the New York Times Magazine and I'm sure you'll find Bush hatred buried in the obituary section and the cooking section as well. And the NSA story is really just the latest in a pattern of news articles and opinion and analysis that has undermined the Bush war on terror since September 12th, 2001..."
COMMENT: Poor Michelle. She just can't seem to make a distinction between hard news and the rest of the paper! Let's see. How would you write a Bush-hating obituary?
JOHN SMITH, 58, of Manhattan, New York, died of a heart attack while watching President George W. Bush's State of the Union address. Mr. Smith was a life-long Bush-hater. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Sarah, and two children, Sadie and Maurice, none of whom like George Bush either. Donations may be made to the ACLU, Amnesty International, Hillary Clinton or Cindy Sheehan. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, you send a nasty letter to Bill O'Reilly telling him how much you despise President Bush.
O'Reilly (trying to seem fair and balanced) asked Malkin if The New York Times should go after Bush "if they see a pattern of incompetence."
MALKIN: "Well, look, Bill, both you and I have been very critical of the Bush administrationin many areas, from border security to transportation security to, you know, any number of things the Bush administration should of (sic) done better but I think it's the hypocrisy, the sanctimony and the arrogance of The New York Times that distinguishes it itself..."
O'REILLY: See, I think what distinguishes The Times are the personal attacks. That is where I draw the line. Debate is fine, issues are fine but these character assassins like Frank Rich, Krugman - [Maureen] Dowd doesn't bother me because Dowd is more of a satirist than anything else."
He then asked Kellyanne Conway who topped her list of Bush hating media outlets. She sidestepped the question by giving the titles of certain "articles" by Frank Rich.
CONWAY (after reading several titles): "In other words you don't even need to get into the content to know what he's talking about and I fear that with The New York Times somebody can just breeze by the headlines and the by-lines and feel like they're getting the entire content, which is a steady stream of anti-Bush rhetoric."
COMMENT: Kelleyanne Conway is really, truly a piece of work. She's an absolute mistress of linguistic subtlety and the deliberately misleading word and/or phrase. For example in her diatribe she did not describe Rich's writings as "opinion columns," which is what they are, but used the word "articles" instead, thereby misleading the FOX audience into believing that Frank Rich is a reporter. She then uses this misconception as a springboard to make the generalizations about "headlines," which the average viewer would take to mean "news headlines." This is typical of her style. This is a very sneaky maneuver, geared to inflame an audience that does not suspect it is being manipulated on such a deep level.
Conway continued: "One thing I'd like to mention about The New York Times poll as well as the CNN polling is they have something in common wherein they tend to use polls sometimes to create public opinion rather than to reflect it. And in getting those polling numbers they're able to add evidence to conclusions that already exist. The conclusions are tomorrow's headlines and by-lines ..."
For some strange reason O'Reilly shut Conway down on this polling stuff very fast. At the time I remember thinking that she was hitting too close to home and letting the FOX viewers in on the dirty little secret of polling - any poll question can be molded to generate a predetermined result. A recent example of this is the 12-31-05 Rasmussen poll that claimed that 64% of Americans favor permitting the NSA to eavesdrop on potential terrorists. There was only one teeny little problem. The poll was skewed.
The original question was "Should the National Security Agency be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States?" 64% of Americans answered in the affirmative.
The way it should have been worded: "It is against the law to eavesdrop on people living in this country unless you first obtain a warrant. In light of this, should the National Security Agency be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States without first obtaining a warrant?> I can guarantee the results would have been radically different. This is a perfect example of what Ms. Conway described above, a pollster "creating" the result that then becomes the headline throughout the media.
Michelle Malkin went on to trash Newsweek as a Bush-hating publication, using as one of her examples the now-debunked "Koran flushing" story. As I've posted twice before, the DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE website contains a press release that absolves Newsweek of any complicity in the Afghani riots. But like the good conservative jihadist she is, Malkin hears only what she wants to hear.
COMMENT: Which brings up a wonderful video that illustrates this point perfectly. Click here to see a priceless display. On C-SPAN Janet Parshall a conservative talk show host sticks her fingers in her ears so she doesn't have to listen to Randi Rhodes. I could not believe any public person would actually make herself look so ridiculous on a national broadcast. Hilarious! Click here to view the video at Crooks and Liars: Randi Rhodes Rocks
Kelleyanne Conway added Vanity Fair to the list of Bush-hating publications.
CONWAY: "This is supposed to be a Hollywood entertainment type of magazine and they've taken upon themselves - much like the women's magazines - to just get right into politics now and the people who read them - have read them over the years for non-political stories - are now getting so much of their content through these stories. The issue on the newsstand right now, Bill, has no fewer than three articles, each of which contends that the Bush administration is doing the same that people did during the cold war in terms - in the cold war it was military operatives, now it's your press flacks who are out there trying to push this war that was illegitimate and again echoing what The New York Times said. In Vanity Fair they talk about how Bush himself has had this huge roll in the increase of power of Osama bin Laden and the jihadist movement around the globe.
COMMENT: Aw, my heart goes out to Kellyanne! Boo-hoo! No more mindless women's magazines discussing the latest in nail polish shades and giving tips on catching a man without letting him know how smart you are. Oh, what a horror! Women actually might - gasp! - learn to THINK for themselves! How dare that nasty old Vanity Fair publish articles that challenge and expand a woman's mind? Oh, well, Kellyanne, there is a magazine you would enjoy, except for the fact that it's published by a high-profile Democratic ex-felon. Why don't you pick up a copy of "Martha Stewart Living." You'll just absolutely adore it, dear! No politics at all!
The trashy trio ended by naming CBS News and CNN as the two worst Bush-hating electronic media outlets.
DEMOCRATIC SEGMENT: Williams and Marsh Dance The Doormat Tango
Suffice it to say neither Juan Williams or Mary Anne Marsh made any headway with O'Reilly. The most important thing to come out of this segment was O'Reilly's threat to dig up dirt on The New York Times' Bill Keller and Frank Rich (see my earlier post on this).
O'Reilly argued belligerently, pressing home his point about bias at the New York Times.
Wonder of wonders, Mary Anne Marsh was actually allowed to speak more than two sentences without being interrupted. She made the quiet but excellent point that the American people have turned away from Bush for three reasons: Incompetence, dishonesty and ideology. Katrina and Iraq has shown his administration to be incompetent. Plamegate, Abramoff, Delay and now the NSA eavesdropping scandal have eaten away at his "honest Abe" image. According to Marsh, "ideology can be left or right as we know. As much as some people think The New York Times is out there, bashing Bush and is liberal, people could say the same thing about Rush Limbaugh, who always thinks Bush is right on the other side. So I think when you look at those three things, they really came from the campaign. Now when you look at the poll numbers, the vast majority of Americans have a negative opinion of George Bush largely based on incompetence and a lack of honesty when it comes to Iraq and Katrina, so when any media outlet writes about either one of those topics now, people more likely to believe it, because there was some germ of truth to begin with."
The audience did not get to hear the last 14 words because Mr. Bill talked over her, one of his favorite ways to invalidate and control someone making a good point or saying something he'd rather his audience did not hear.
Juan Williams delivered a good retort, sayingr "What we're talking about here is not really an attack dog press. We're talking about having a watchdog press. But it sounds to me like in some ways you'd like a lapdog to be the press."
O'Reilly denied this. Williams continued: "Let's take the eavesdropping case. The New York Times held that story for a year ... If they had run that story a year earlier it would have had impact on the election. It might have negatively impacted President Bush's [O'Reilly interrupted him to say "we don't know that."] And let's talk about the Washington Post and the secret prison story. In both cases the Washington post cooperated with the White House, withheld some information. The New York Times also said they withheld information at the request of the administration, so I don't see that you can say that this is a hateful press if they're cooperating with the administration."
O'Reilly begrudgingly admitted that had Williams made a good point. Marsh then tried to make a point by saying "The New York Times, for example, was brutal on Bill Clinton. The Boston Globe crucified John Kerry during the primaries when he was running for President, their hometown guy and they're owned by the New York Times ..."
O'Reilly interrupted her to say "They did it on issues. I don't mind the issues."
"The New York Times stock price is down as low as it can get. They have internal feuding. There's a Justice Department investigation that may put some of their reporters in jail vis a vis Plame, same kind of situation. Newsweek magazine is imploding. Thing's losing advertising and circulation like crazy. Don't you think, Juan, there's a backlash against these (sic) personal attack type stuff?"
Then Williams played his second banana role perfectly, as he does so often on FOX News Channel.
WILLIAMS: "Oh, I think without a doubt what you've got to understand is people really get tired of this kind of thing. I think what people want is fair and balanced reporting. They want no spin. If it's a fact that there's eavesdropping, tell us, but don't spin it. If it's fact that there's secret prisons or torture or people dying, let us know but you don't have to take a political position on it. You be the news. You deliver the story."
Williams has clearly figured out that his job on FOX News is to play the lapdog (to use his own analogy) to whatever host he's up against. It sickens me to see someone I used to admire acting as a shill for someone as despicable as O'Reilly.
O'REILLY: "No. Listen. We are very, very critical of the Bush administration here in certain areas and I think you're absolutely right. Stay on the issues, you're OK. Get in the personal, and you're gonna lose."
"Get in the personal, and you're gonna lose."
From your lips to God's ears!
May what you wish on others, Bill, become the truth of your own future!