[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
It was bad enough that most of the media -- outside of the liberal anchors at MSNBC -- refused to recognize the import of the content of that prank phone call to Scott Walker. Even more appalling was watching this weekend as the Beltway Villagers bent over backwards to thoroughly dismiss the story -- led by Howard Kurtz and the execrable Amy Holmes at CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday.
Their chief means of dismissing the story was to compare the Buffalo Beast's revealing hoax call as "not journalistic" while comparing it to the treatment given the hoax ACORN videos of 2009:
HOLMES: Right. Well, I think because it fits their ideological framework. And I looked at this, and he was hailed as "Most Intriguing Person of the Day" by CNN. And you didn't see the hand-wringing over journalistic ethics like you did, say, in the ACORN case, when those two young people used the same sorts of tactics of being an impostor and sort of -- some people would say tricking people into participating in this. And there, there was a huge discussion about journalism and is this fair, is this right?But how did Kurtz and Co. -- including Holmes -- treat the ACORN videos back in 2009? Well, as it happens, they attacked other media outlets for their reluctance to treat the videos as legitimate!
In this, it was, like, he's a hero. He accomplished a feat, as you just heard.
KURTZ: And as Amy points out though, when the ACORN sting happened -- you remember James O'Keefe and the pimp and the prostitute -- liberal commentators all attacked them, but Fox News played them up and that story up in a way that was much more favorable.
So how much of this is ideological.
HOLMES: Right. And the ACORN folks, they said that they were activists. They were very explicit about their point of view, where, in this case, oh, well, maybe he's a blogger, maybe he's a journalist. It doesn't really matter and he doesn't get any kind of criticism for his methods.
KURTZ: But much of the mainstream media was well behind on this story. CNN also jumped on the budding scandal 10 days ago, though not with anything approaching Fox's intensity.Indeed, Kurtz even penned the following line in the Washington Post, defending the content of the videos:
But it took five days to hit the CBS "Evening News" and six days to be reported by ABC's "World News," NBC "Nightly News" and MSNBC.
Chris, there was two conservative activists, James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, posing as a pimp and a ho, get this footage with a hidden camera. Is that journalism?
CILLIZZA: I think there is a blurry line of what journalism is now, Howie, with video on demand, with blogs. I will go back to a somewhat less controversial example. Mayhill Fowler, a Democratic donor, wound up in a San Francisco fund-raiser for Barack Obama in which he said some voters in Pennsylvania are "embittered and cling to their guns."
HOLMES: If -- if liberal activist had walked into the Heritage Foundation, for example, and conducted the same sort of sting operation, it would have been on the front page of The Washington Post in a day. I think that what we're seeing here was -- is this just a right- wing, sort of, fringe story that the mainstream media didn't want to touch with a 10-foot pole, or this a real story about corruption at this organization?
And I think the mainstream media, because it was conservative activists going into a liberal organization, were a little bit wary, I would say, of the story.
Nearly everyone dismissed Beck's charge that the president is a racist, but the ACORN videos he and Hannity trumpeted on Fox proved to be a legitimate story.But as the folks at FAIR detailed at the time, not only did the mainstream media lap it all up avidly, there was almost nothing legitimate at all in the ACORN videos -- beginning with the methods used to obtain the videos, but even more significantly, in the faked conclusions they were intended to lead observers to reach. The hoax in those videos was not only perpetrated on the videos' subject, but on their intended audience as well. (Media Matters has the definitive details of the scope of the hoax.)
It's standard modus operandi Andrew Breitbart and Co. Of course, Kurtz defended Breitbart even through the Shirley Sherrod fiasco, too. He only seemed to wake up when O'Keefe tried to scam a CNN reporter -- at which point he began dismissing him as a "fake pimp".
So it was the theme of Sunday's show that there was nothing, NOTHING worth legitimately reporting on in the case of the Walker hoax, too -- as Jim Warren tried to emphasize:
WARREN: Yes. I mean, on one hand, I thought it was fascinating and revealing, what was going on in the governor's mind in a certain sort of cynical pragmatism that was playing out on his side.The problem for Warren, Kurtz, and Holmes et. al. is that the hoax wasn't simply an attempt to embarrass Walker -- it legitimately laid bare, through well-known means of trickery, the cozy relationship between Walker and his financial beneficiaries. As the WaPo's Greg Sargent put it at the time:
At the same time, I didn't see this guy as performing any vaguely legitimate form of journalism. He was perpetuating an absolute hoax, starting with misidentifying himself.
Although I think there are times when mainstream legitimate journalists can misidentify themselves. But, boy, it has to be for higher causes -- maybe saving lives or actually revealing some huge systemic government fraud. In a case like this, just to embarrass, no.
UPDATE, 11:54 a.m.: In a key detail, Walker reveals that he is, in effect, laying a trap for Wisconsin Dems. He says he is mulling inviting the Senate and Assembly Dem and GOP leaders to sit down and talk, but only if all the missing Senate Dems return to work.Indeed, it was amusing watching Walker try to lie his way past the gaffe. Amusing, that is, except for the subsequent eagerness of the mainstream press to help him cover it all up.
Then, tellingly, he reveals that the real game plan here is that if they do return, Republicans might be able to use a procedural move to move forward with their proposal. "If they're actually in session for that day and they take a recess, this 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they'd have a quorum because they started out that way," he says. "If you heard that I was going to talk to them that would be the only reason why." Then the fake Koch says this: "Bring a baseball bat. That's what I'd do." Walker doesn't bat an eye, and responds: "I have one in my office, you'd be happy with that. I've got a slugger with my name on it."
12:09 p.m.: Another key exchange: FAKE KOCH: What we were thinking about the crowds was, planting some troublemakers. WALKER: We thought about that. My only gut reaction to that would be, right now, the lawmakers I talk to have just completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this.The teachers union did some polling and focus groups... It's unclear what Walker means when he says he "thought" about planting some troublemakers, but it seems fair to ask him for clarification.
UPDATE: John Amato:
Even the Washington Post bought into the ACORN atrocity video perpetrated by O'Keefe; their ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, also wrote that it was a legitimate story and promised to take conservative pundits more seriously in the future: Wrongly Deaf to Right-Wing Media?
It's tempting to dismiss such gimmicks. Fox News, joined by right-leaning talk radio and bloggers, often hypes stories to apocalyptic proportions while casting competitors as too liberal or too lazy to report the truth.I criticized Alexander for his insanity in my 2009 piece: The Washington Post bows down to Conservatives! So as I watched the above segment from Reliable Sources yesterday, my blood began to boil because they make believe like their glowing coverage of the ACORN story previously never happened.
But they're also occasionally pumping legitimate stories. I thought that was the case with ACORN and, before it, the Fox-fueled controversy that led to the resignation of White House environmental adviser Van Jones.
With ACORN, The Post wrote about it two days after the first of several explosive hidden-camera videos were aired showing the group's employees giving tax advice to young conservative activists posing as a prostitute and her pimp. Three days passed before The Post ran a short Associated Press story about the Senate halting Housing and Urban Development grants to ACORN, which operates in 110 cities. But by that time, the Census Bureau had severed ties with ACORN. State and city investigations had been launched. It wasn't until late in the week that The Post weighed in with two solid pieces.
Why the tardiness?
One explanation may be that traditional news outlets like The Post simply don't pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints. It "can't be discounted," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Complaints by conservatives are slower to be picked up by non-ideological media because there are not enough conservatives and too many liberals in most newsrooms."
Media Matters called Alexander out over his op-ed too: Post ombudsman adopts right-wing mantra that ACORN videos are a major story
The Washington Post even falsely reported about the events that actually took place. You see, O'Keefe was never dressed up as a pimp when he went into ACORN's offices, a point which drove the story on FOX, but the WaPo never bothered to correct its own error.
To top it off, the Washington Post even promoted the phony Black Panthers story.
Conservatives don't only get help from Fox News and hate talk radio. They have the traditional media in their pockets too.