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January 7, 2006


On the January 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly once again repeated his argument that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to nuptials between humans and other species. In the "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day" segment, O'Reilly said that "[o]ne of the arguments against gay marriage, that we just spoke about, is that if it becomes law, all other alternative marital visions will be allowed." He then related the story of a British woman, Sharon Tendler, who "married" a dolphin in Israel.

From the January 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Time now for "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day." One of the arguments against gay marriage, that we just spoke about, is that if it becomes law, all other alternative marital visions will be allowed. We've already seen a Dutchman marry two ladies in the Netherlands. Looks like a happy guy. And now comes word that a British woman has married a dolphin in Israel. Forty-one-year-old Sharon Tendler has tied the knot with a 35-year-old mammal, so age is no problem there. But there might be other issues, which would be, of course, ridiculous to get into, and there is one more thing. The dolphin is a female, Cindy, so you got that going on. Again, I guess this is part of the honeymoon ritual, but far be it from me to know anything about that. Despite everything, we wish the couple the best and we hope to see them at SeaWorld or someplace.

According to an Associated Press report, Tendler's "marriage" was not a legal one. She reportedly "still kept open the option of 'marrying human' at some stage," but, "she said for now she was strictly a 'one-dolphin woman,' " and that she "hope[s] he has a lot of baby dolphins with the other dolphins. The more dolphins the better."

O'Reilly has repeatedly warned that legalizing gay marriage will lead to interspecies nuptials. So far, his predictions include marriages between humans and goats (here and here) and between humans and ducks.

Cetacean note: porpoises and dolphins, while similar, do have notable differences.

Categories: News

Reporting on a January 4 speech Vice President Dick Cheney delivered in defense of the Bush administration's recently disclosed domestic eavesdropping program, a January 5 article in The New York Times by Richard W. Stevenson characterized the National Security Agency program as "eavesdrop[ping] on some international calls involving people in the United States." However, the exact scope and dimensions of the program remain unclear. The NSA program has reportedly intercepted communications in which all parties were located in the United States -- something the Times failed to note despite having been the first to report on these domestic intercepts less than a month earlier.

Stevenson also omitted any reference to the reason why the program -- first reported in a December 16 New York Times article -- has been so strongly denounced: President Bush has acknowledged authorizing numerous wiretaps of communications involving people in the United States, without following the procedures for obtaining a warrant that are set out in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Cheney delivered his speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C.

Stevenson reported:

A few hours after Mr. Bush spoke, Vice President Dick Cheney struck some of the same themes in a speech in Washington. Mr. Cheney, who has consistently advocated an expansive view of presidential powers, especially in wartime, also made an unusually personal defense of the administration's use of the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on some international calls involving people in the United States. Disclosure of the program set off a storm of criticism that the administration had infringed on the civil liberties of Americans and possibly acted illegally.

Contrary to the article's characterization, as Media Matters for America has noted, the scope of the program remains murky, as there has apparently been little to no substantive judicial or congressional oversight. But according to a December 21 New York Times article by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, in addition to intercepting communications between people in the U.S. and people abroad, the NSA has in fact intercepted exclusively domestic communications, as well:

A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.

The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact "international."


Eavesdropping on communications between two people who are both inside the United States is prohibited under Mr. Bush's order allowing some domestic surveillance.

But in at least one instance, someone using an international cellphone was thought to be outside the United States when in fact both people in the conversation were in the country. Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified, would not discuss the number of accidental intercepts, but the total is thought to represent a very small fraction of the total number of wiretaps that Mr. Bush has authorized without getting warrants. In all, officials say the program has been used to eavesdrop on as many as 500 people at any one time, with the total number of people reaching perhaps into the thousands in the last three years.

Categories: News

On the January 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, National Public Radio (NPR) senior correspondent and Fox News contributing political analyst Juan Williams said of talk show host David Letterman's treatment of guest Bill O'Reilly during the January 3 edition of CBS' Late Show with David Letterman: "It's like someone inviting you into their house and you find out you've been invited in by, you know, John Wayne Gacy, the clown killer." Referring to Letterman's interview of O'Reilly, which Williams further labeled a "knife fight," Williams said, "I'm surprised you don't have a black eye this morning."

"[T]he culture war plays out on the David Letterman program," O'Reilly said of his appearance on Letterman's show. O'Reilly went on to state that two main issues dominate this culture war: "the role of God in the public arena and the war on terror, including the Iraq campaign." O'Reilly then characterized the culture war over Iraq as a split between the "secular progressive movement" which "sees America as the wrongdoer in the conflict" and "[t]raditionalists" who "see the USA as doing something noble."

Later on the show, Williams agreed: "I think there is a culture war in the country."

From the January 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: But first, the "Talking Points Memo": The culture war plays out on the David Letterman program. Right now, there are two main issues dominating the culture war in America: the role of God in the public arena and the war on terror, including the Iraq campaign.

The Christmas controversy was all about the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] and others trying to de-emphasize Judeo-Christian tradition in America. All the nonsense was because of that.

On the Iraq front, the secular progressive movement sees America as the wrongdoer in the conflict. Traditionalists see the USA as doing something noble.


WILLIAMS: I think there is a culture war in the country. I must say I was surprised, given his antagonism towards you, that he had you on the show. In some sense, it's like someone inviting you into their house and you find out you've been invited in by, you know, John Wayne Gacy, the clown killer. Because here he is saying, "Oh, I'm just throwing spitballs." Spitballs? He said he doesn't believe 60 percent of what you say, Bill. This was a knife fight, and I do believe it was over culture. When you think about him saying some of the, I think, horrible things that he said to you, I'm surprised you don't have a black eye this morning.

Categories: News

A January 4 New York Times article by reporter Scott Shane selectively quoted a December 21 statement by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) to falsely claim that she "has defended" a National Security Agency (NSA) program authorized by President Bush that allows for domestic eavesdropping on the telephone conversations of people within the United States without court approval. But as Media Matters for America previously noted (here, here, and here), while Harman described the program -- as she said it had been conveyed to her -- as "essential to US national security," she also said that she was "deeply concerned by reports" that the actual program "in fact goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed."

Shane wrote:

Unlike some Democrats, Ms. Harman has defended the eavesdropping, which focuses on people in the United States who officials believe have possible links to terror suspects overseas. In a statement on Dec. 21, she said she believed that the program was "essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities."

But Shane omitted the portion of Harman's statement in which she stated her concerns that Bush's domestic spying program went well beyond what she had been briefed on. Harman's statement (a portion of which appeared in the December 22 Los Angeles Times; the full version is not available online but is in the Nexis database) included the following passage:

"As the Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed since 2003 on a highly classified NSA foreign collection program that targeted Al Qaeda. I believe the program is essential to US national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.

"Due to its sensitive nature, I have been barred from discussing any aspect of this program, and until the President described certain parts of it on Saturday, I have made no comment whatsoever.

"Like many Americans, I am deeply concerned by reports that this program in fact goes far beyond the measures to target Al Qaeda about which I was briefed.


"We must use all lawful tools to detect and disrupt the plans of our enemies; signals intelligence and the work of the NSA are vital to that mission. But in doing so, it is also vital that we protect the American people's constitutional rights."

As Media Matters previously noted, Harman had also expressed concerns about the surveillance program before her December 21 remarks. On December 17, Harman and other congressional Democrats reportedly sent a letter to President Bush expressing concern that media accounts of the program appeared to "have gone beyond what the administration" told Congress. Harman was also one of five House Democrats who signed a December 18 letter requesting that Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) "take steps immediately to conduct hearings on the scope of Presidential power in the area of electronic surveillance." The letter stated that the signatories "believe that the President must have the best possible intelligence to protect the American people, but that intelligence must be produced in a manner consistent with our Constitution and our laws, and in a manner that reflects our values as a nation."

Categories: News

On the January 5 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) The 700 Club, host Pat Robertson suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was the result of Sharon's policy, which he claimed is "dividing God's land." Robertson admonished: "I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU [European Union], the United Nations, or United States of America." Although Robertson professed that "Sharon was personally a very likeable person," he nonetheless declared that "God has enmity against those who, quote, 'divide my land.' " Robertson called the 1995 assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin "the same thing." A previous CBN news article, titled "Dividing the Land, Dishonoring God's Covenant," examined Sharon's decision to return control of the Gaza strip to the Palestinian Authority.

Robertson's comment was first reported by JTA, an international news service that covers "issues of concern to the Jewish people," and Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo weblog, which links to the JTA website.

From the January 5 edition of CBN's The 700 Club:

ROBERTSON: I have said last year that Israel was entering into the most dangerous period of its entire existence as a nation. That is intensifying this year with the loss of Sharon. Sharon was personally a very likeable person. I am sad to see him in this condition. But I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, "divide my land." God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible, he says, "This is my land." And for any prime minister of Israel who decides he going carve it up and give it away, God says, "No. This is mine." And the same thing -- I had a wonderful meeting with Yitzhak Rabin in 1974. He was tragically assassinated, and it was terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless, he was dead. And now Ariel Sharon, who was again a very likeable person, a delightful person to be with. I prayed with him personally. But here he is at the point of death. He was dividing God's land, and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations or United States of America. God said, "This land belongs to me, you better leave it alone."

Categories: News

On the January 3 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly warned that "far-left smear websites" are "recording every word I say," and, as a result, "we have to record every word I say, because I know they'll distort, they'll lie, they'll take it out of context." He added: "I do three hours of commentary a day. Of course, I'm gonna make mistakes and misstatements. Anybody would, except Jesus." Further, he asserted: "[W]e are very methodical in what we do and how we do it. If we make a mistake, we tell you."

From the January 3 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, which also featured Fox News' Fox & Friends co-host E.D. Hill:

O'REILLY: Look, President Bush knows -- he knows -- 75 percent of the American media is out to get him -- not to cover him, not to scrutinize him, not to be skeptical of what he says -- to get him. When you're in a position like that -- and I'm in the exact position -- I mean, we have these nutty, far-left smear websites recording every word I say, so we have to record every word I say, because I know they'll distort, they'll lie, they'll take it out of context. We know what they're doing. So, we are very methodical in what we do and how we do it. If we make a mistake, we tell you. I do three hours of commentary a day. Of course, I'm gonna make mistakes and misstatements. Anybody would, except Jesus. He'd probably be the only one who could get away with three hours of bloviating every day and not make a mistake.

HILL: Bloviating?

O'REILLY: Just -- it's just an example.


O'REILLY: But, every mistake or misstatement I make is immediately on a [web]blog. You see? Now, everybody knows the game, so it doesn't hurt us. But the Bush administration should have known that somebody was gonna whisper into The New York Times' ear, "Hey, they're eavesdropping," and taken steps to tamp it down, you know, to just -- now, they did, by keeping the Senate and Congress in the loop. That's a big piece of evidence that the Bush administration wasn't trying to hide anything, but they should have done the other thing, in my opinion, if it was practical. And I believe it probably was.

Categories: News

The weblog TVNewser has reported that CNN has hired radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett as a political analyst. Specifically, in a December 30 post, TVNewser reported that "conservative talk show host Bill Bennett will become a CNN political analyst early in 2006." CNN's hiring of Bennett would come despite Bennett's controversial September 28, 2005, comment on his radio show, when he said that "it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime ... you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." CNN would not "confirm Bennett's new role at the cable news channel," according to a United Press International report.

K12 Inc., a company from which Bennett resigned in the wake of the controversy over his comment, is currently part of an investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, which is looking into K12's involvement in a project that received an improper multimillion-dollar grant from the Department of Education during Bennett's tenure at the firm. Meanwhile, during some of his television appearances, Bennett has continued to comment on administration education policy and the No Child Left Behind Act without mentioning the grant, which was awarded while Bennett still was part of the company.

CNN's reported new hire has also repeatedly engaged in misinformation in his television appearances on Fox News, where he previously served as a contributor. He would replace outgoing conservative columnist Robert D. Novak, whose contract was not renewed by CNN. (Media Matters for America had urged CNN not to re-sign Novak.) Novak appeared on CNN only once after the network suspended him in early August for using vulgar language and storming off the set during the August 4, 2005, edition of Inside Politics. As Media Matters President and CEO David Brock noted when he urged CNN not to renew Novak's contract, the conservative's "credibility as a CNN contributor [was] severely compromised by [his] contradictory statements and accounts [of his role in the Valerie Plame case], as well as by his complete lack of candor on the issue of his involvement in the outing of Plame."

As Media Matters first detailed, Bennett's September 2005 comments came in the context of addressing a caller's suggestion that the "lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years" would be enough to preserve Social Security's solvency. Bennett dismissed such "far-reaching, extensive extrapolations" by declaring that if "you wanted to reduce crime ... if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." He added that aborting all African-American babies "would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do," then said again, "but the crime rate would go down."

Bennett later defended his remarks using the false claim (later repeated by his radio show's distributor, Salem Radio Network) that his comment was based on a 1999 online discussion between Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005), and right-wing columnist Steve Sailer, in which Bennett claimed that Levitt "discusse[d], as I did, the racial implications of abortion and crime." But Levitt did not. In fact, in the Slate debate that Bennett cited, Levitt said the opposite of what Bennett claimed: "None of our analysis is race-based because the crime data by race is generally not deemed reliable."

Many public officials condemned Bennett's remarks. In a September 30, 2005, letter to Salem Radio Network, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) and 56 other members of Congress demanded the suspension of Bennett's radio show, writing that "[w]hile we all support First Amendment Rights, we simply cannot countenance statements and shows that are replete with racism, stereotyping, and profiling. Mr. Bennett's statement is insulting to all of us and has no place on the nation's public air waves." That same day, White House press secretary Scott McClellan stated that President Bush "believes the comments were not appropriate." CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reported on that evening's edition of NewsNight that, among Republicans, "there is some off-camera fuming. 'Look,' said one top Republican, 'it was goofy and it was inappropriate.' "

Bennett later attacked his critics, claiming his comments were embarrassing to them because of their support of abortion. On the October 5 broadcast of the nationally syndicated Focus on the Family radio program, Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson suggested that the reason "the left has reacted so viciously to you [Bennett] is that their own abortion movement is rooted in racism." Bennett agreed and expanded on these remarks by stating that "this is the sort of thing, I think, that was probably in their minds. On a conscious or subconscious level, that had something to do with the viciousness of the attack. In using this noxious hypothetical, I hit too close to what they believe, not what I believe." Bennett further stated on the October 5 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto that "I guess the irony is, I'm the pro-life guy. I don't advocate abortion for anyone, any group. ... And my critics are pro-choice, pro-abortion, but we'll clear the air."

But to many, Bennett's views on abortion were not the issue. As Media Matters wrote at the time:

Bennett and his defenders have seized on Bennett's original statement that it would be "impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible" to actually abort all black babies. But that isn't the issue; of course everyone understands that Bill Bennett doesn't want to abort all black babies. The issue is that Bennett, upon thinking "crime rate," immediately thought of black people. The issue is that Bennett thinks and speaks of crime as an issue of race.

Similarly, Conyers wrote in his weblog that "what they [right-wing critics] miss is not the abortion 'hypothetical' -- as absurd and tasteless as that is -- but Bennett's suggestion that African Americans are synonymous with crime. It is a text book case of stereotyping and racism, and cannot be explained away."

Media Matters for America has noted other instances of claims by Bill Bennett that amount to conservative misinformation. For example, appearing on the February 3, 2005, edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Bennett falsely claimed that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would have supported private accounts for Social Security. He stated that "Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the guy who established Social Security, said that it would be good to have it replaced by private investment over time. Private investment would be the way to really carry this thing through." As Media Matters documented, Bennett's claim was apparently based on a distortion of a Roosevelt quote by Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume. Bennett also falsely claimed six times on the November 21, 2004, edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday that former President Clinton committed "perjury" or a "felony" for lying under oath.

Also noteworthy is that Bennett has repeatedly appeared on cable television to comment on Bush administration education policies. However, Bennett never disclosed that he was the chairman of the board of directors and a shareholder (as of October 2005, he reportedly owned less than 5 percent) of K12 Inc., which was a partner in a project that received $4.1 million from the Department of Education -- which Bennett headed during the Reagan administration -- through grants made under the No Child Left Behind Act's Voluntary Public School Choice program. At the time of the company's founding, Bennett said he would receive a salary from K12 for his "significant" role there [Washington Post, 12/28/00]. The grant funded an "online-learning academy" in Arkansas, which K12 worked with the state department of education to create.

According to a July 28, 2004, Education Week report, (noted by The Carpetbagger Report weblog) the department's "decision to award $4.1 million over the past two years ... to a project involving Mr. Bennett's company raises questions about whether the privately held, for-profit K12 Inc. benefited from political connections." The report quoted an unidentified employee "who has knowledge of how the department decided to make the grant to K12" stating, "Anything with Bill Bennett's name on it was going to get funded." The report continued:

An Education Week review of federal and state documents, as well as information from sources familiar with the grantmaking process, shows that K12 and its Arkansas partner received the grant despite the fact that one project that independent reviewers rated higher was not funded. The choice of a lower-rated proposal over a higher-rated one in the department's competitive-grant process is highly unusual, according to sources inside and outside the department. The project received approval from political appointees even though some employees inside the department questioned whether it fit a basic criterion for the program: that the students benefiting from the grant attend public schools.

Education Department officials acknowledge that the office of the deputy secretary of education chose to finance the Arkansas-based project even after department employees who managed the competitive-grant program initially recommended a slate of 10 projects that did not include the online school.


One [federal Education] department employee contends that officials of the current Bush administration acted out of political interests in making the Arkansas award and failed to follow the congressional intent for the grant program or the department's procedures for awarding competitive grants. "Anything with Bill Bennett's name on it was going to get funded," said the employee, who has knowledge of how the department decided to make the grant to K12. The employee asked not to be identified.


The $2.3 million grant for the Arkansas Virtual School technically went to the Arkansas Department of Education, which worked with McLean, Va.-based K12 to establish an online-learning academy. The federal department renewed the grant in 2003, giving the Arkansas project $1.8 million more, according to James Boardman, the state education department's assistant director for information and technology.


The K12 program was not on the list of 10 grantees proposed by the program's staff, which based its recommendation on independent peer reviewers' grading of all grant applications, according to the source familiar with the grant. The Arkansas project was not on the list because it did not score high enough in reviewers' grading of all the proposals submitted to the department.

According to records obtained by Education Week under the Freedom of Information Act, peer reviewers gave the Arkansas Virtual School's proposal a score of 95 on a scale of 115, ranking it 11th among the 13 selected for funding.

The office of William D. Hansen, then the deputy secretary of education, chose to add K12 and other projects, said Ms. [Susan] Aspey of the department.

The grant was announced by the Department of Education on October 4, 2002. The GAO opened an investigation into this and other Education Department grants on November 19, 2004. The investigation had been requested on October 21, 2004, by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who cited the July 28 Education Week report.

Despite having been part of a company that received revenue from a project funded by the Department of Education, Bennett has repeatedly appeared on cable television and provided his opinion on the administration's education policies and on the No Child Left Behind Act:

  • From Fox News' January 28, 2003, State of the Union speech coverage, which featured Hannity & Colmes co-host Alan Colmes:

COLMES: Aside from the top of the speech here, which hasn't gotten enough attention, he talked about jobs. You know 181,000 jobs were lost in 2002, 1.6 million in the last two years on Bush's watch. He talked about the standards of our public schools. Yet, he hasn't funded as much as some say he should. He cut $90 billion from our No Child Left Behind Act. So, you know, I see some places where he's falling short that don't match the rhetoric. What's your take on it?

BENNETT: Your perspective, obviously.

COLMES: Obviously.

BENNETT: He increased spending on education dramatically. I think the first part of the speech so far in the commentary has been underrated. Obviously, the Iraq part was the most important. But these are very dramatic initiatives, particularly the AIDS initiative in Africa.

  • From CNN's January 20, 2004, State of the Union speech coverage, which featured CNN anchor Paula Zahn:

ZAHN: Bill, let's move on to what else the president is expected to address this evening. He's supposed to lay out a number of expensive projects, from the ongoing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan --


ZAHN: -- to a very expensive space initiative. Do you have concerns about the fiscal responsibility of this president?

BENNETT: Well, some. I'm one of those persons who thinks that limited government is a -- is a -- ought to be a reality, as well as an ideal. But one has to say about this president that he's a big president. I mean, he thinks big and he acts big. And in the most important ways, that's very positive. He's done so on issues of war and peace. He's done so on foreign policy.

He's taking on big issues. Look at the immigration. He's not afraid of the third rails of politics. I could see some more restraint on some of the spending. I wasn't particularly happy about the Medicare. I think some of the education spending, an area I know pretty well, isn't necessary. But this is a historic presidency. This is a guy who paints in very bold strokes, takes everything on and is not backing off. And I think we're going to see that tonight in the State of the Union.

  • From the November 4, 2004, edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES: Look, you said in your piece that we just mentioned a moment ago, President Bush, you say, now has a mandate to affect policy that will promote a more decent society through both politics and law. What law or laws do you want to see enacted to promote the so-called more decent society?

BENNETT: Well, the things he talked about today would be a good start. Another one would be in the area of education, giving parents more say so their values have more say in the education of their children.

Discussing the then-debut of his Morning in America radio show on the April 2, 2004, edition of CNN's Inside Politics, Bennett commented that he would be talking about education policy on the new show:

BENNETT: Well, to be engaging and interesting, I am a conservative. I guess everybody knows that. But I'd like to be thoughtful about it. I don't want to berate guests. I don't want to make fun of people because they're liberal. I want to hear the argument. I start with a conservative position on most issues. But we want to take a lot of calls and talk to a lot of people. There's not a lot of morning drive talk radio that takes a lot of calls. We do say the most important voice out there is yours. We'll have a lot of guests but we're not going to focus on politics and policy. The focus will be on culture. Culture as it affects the news and politics and policy, but education, too, and the movies and sports. It will be about everything. [Former Sen.] Daniel Patrick Moynihan [D-NY] said culture is more important than politics. Politics can change culture, but culture's more important.

Categories: News

December 21, 2005


As "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day" for the December 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly announced that he would add The New Yorker magazine to his list of "media operations [that] have regularly helped distribute defamation and false information supplied by far left websites." The list already includes the New York Daily News, the St. Petersburg Times, and the cable news network MSNBC.

The New Yorker landed in O'Reilly's "hall of shame" because of a commentary by executive editor Hendrik Hertzberg in its December 26 issue in which Hertzberg argued: "The War on Christmas is a little like Santa Claus, in that it (a) comes to us from the sky, beamed down by the satellites of cable news, and (b) does not, in the boringly empirical sense, exist." Hertzberg called Fox News "[t]he Christmas Pentagon" and O'Reilly its "Patton."

O'Reilly alleged that Hertzberg used "dishonest propaganda fed to him by left-wing smear sites." Hertzberg reported a statistic documented by Media Matters for America that Fox News "during a recent five-day period carried no fewer than fifty-eight different segments about the ongoing struggle." Media Matters undertook a survey of coverage of the so-called "war" on Christmas on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News from Monday, November 28 until Friday, December 2. Hertzberg further referenced additional Media Matters research, all of it excerpted from transcripts of The O'Reilly Factor and his nationally syndicated radio program, The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly.

O'Reilly chastised The New Yorker, stating that it "should be ashamed," and advised Hertzberg to "rethink" his "practice of character assassination."

From the December 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Time now for "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day." New Yorker magazine joins our hall of shame. We are recommending readers and sponsors avoid the publication. The reason: that magazine allows writer Hendrik Hertzberg to print dishonest propaganda fed to him by left-wing smear sites. As I previously stated, any publication or news operation that does that will be listed on as not worthy of your attention or advertising dollars. The spin and the propaganda stop here. The New Yorker magazine should be ashamed and is absolutely ridiculous. And one note to Mr. Hertzberg: You might want to rethink your practice of character assassination, sir. Just looking out for you.

Categories: News

During the December 19 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, The Radio Factor, Bill O'Reilly continued to warn of "a concentrated effort by the secular progressive movement to diminish any kind of spirituality in the public marketplace," a movement he has previously claimed is behind the so-called "war" on Christmas. O'Reilly feels this "war" is part of a broader agenda to enact "secular progressive programs like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage." He further asserted that "secular progressives made great inroads over the past five years" and "if you don't believe that ... you're a moron." According to O'Reilly: "I have proven it [the existence of the secular progressive movement], and others have proven it over and over and over again."

From the December 19 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: Okay, I'm going to bring you up to date on the latest Christmas stuff. And again, this isn't about saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." It's about the culture war, a concentrated effort by the secular progressive movement to diminish any kind of spirituality in a public marketplace. Now, they're never going to admit that, but that is the agenda. And this stems back to "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, "In God We Trust" on the coinage, swearing in to say the truth in a court of law, the Ten Commandments displayed in courthouses, and on, and on, and on, and on. OK. That's what this is all about.

And the secular progressives made great inroads over the past five years in demanding that stores, other commercial enterprises, towns, villages not say "Merry Christmas" or permit Christmas displays of any kind. And look, if you don't know that, if you don't believe that, don't listen to this program. You're a moron, and I don't say it with all due respect. If you don't know what's in play, you're never gonna know, because I have proven it, and others have proven it over and over and over again. You know, the Christians and the Jews are not the ones that started the lawsuits, you know. The people who celebrate Judeo-Christian tradition were fine with putting up menorahs and crèches and everything. The ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] started the lawsuits. OK? Got it? Everybody, got it?

Categories: News

In his December 15 BreakPoint commentary, "Extreme Bias Makeover," broadcast on over 300 Christian radio stations nationwide and printed as a column on the conservative website, former Watergate felon and Prison Fellowship Ministries founder Charles W. Colson -- who identifies himself as a born-again Christian -- argued that discussions in the psychiatric community about whether pathological bias should be classified as a mental illness are "the beginning of a process that has long been popular with tyrants. In the Soviet Union, Christians were sent by the hundreds to mental institutions." Colson warned that once psychiatrists declare extreme homophobia a mental illness, "it's a short step to saying that belief in the Bible, which labels conduct sinful, is also a mental disorder."

Colson's commentary came in response to a December 10 Washington Post article by staff writer Shankar Vedantam about a discussion within the mental health community on whether pathological bias should be classified and treated as a form of mental illness. The report provided examples of people who have sought treatment for that sort of extreme, disabling bias, including a recovering alcoholic whose homophobia became so extreme he was afraid to attend 12-step meetings for fear of encountering gays; a waiter who flung plates on tables when waiting on blacks, and a woman who believed she would contract diseases by being in the proximity of Jews.

Colson denounced the psychiatric trend by asserting that while bias can occasionally exceed an acceptable threshold, "it's not true that racism or homophobia always signals mental disorder. And if we do not make that crucial distinction, we are asking for big trouble."

What sort of trouble was Colson warning of? He continued:

"It may sound extreme, but this is the beginning of a process that has long been popular with tyrants. In the Soviet Union, Christians were sent by the hundreds of thousands to mental institutions. The state was officially atheist, so if you believe there was a God, you were insane. And it's still a wonderful tool for oppressors in places like China and North Korea."

In likening the psychiatric diagnosis and treatment of extreme bigotry to the oppression of Christians by totalitarian governments, Colson appeared to suggest that some forms of bias are uniquely Christian. And indeed, he concluded his commentary by warning that the classification of extreme bigotry as a mental illness -- in particular, extreme homophobia -- could one day lead to the criminalization of belief in the Bible. Colson stated:

"But if the day should come that opposition to homosexual conduct is labeled homophobia, and homophobia labeled delusional, then it's a very short step to saying that belief in the Bible, which labels that conduct sinful, is also a mental disorder."

To reinforce his criticism, Colson claimed a psychiatrist (whom he did not name in his commentary) told the Post that "if we began to call bias a mental illness, it would let criminals off the hook for any behavior." In fact, Colson misleadingly paraphrased Sally Satel, a psychiatrist who was quoted in the Post warning that if pathological bias was classified as a mental disorder, hate-crime perpetrators "could use it [mental illness] as a defense" in court.

According to the article, Satel is a resident scholar at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (a fact the Post neglected to mention in quoting her) and author of "P.C., M.D.: How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine," (Basic Books, 2002) a book alleging that a vanguard of politically correct "indoctrinologists" has overrun the medical establishment advancing multicultural politics and fringe causes that are at odds with good patient care. In a review of Satel's book for, Ivan Oransky M.D., the deputy editor of The Scientist and editor in chief of peer-reviewed journal Health and the Media, described her as "a conservative ideologue in a white lab coat" who "fails completely in her attempts to show that the menace posed by political correctness to medicine is anywhere near as serious as she contends."

From Charles Colson's December 15 BreakPoint commentary:

Is hate a disease? Some psychiatrists think so. This was the subject of a recent Washington Post article, entitled "Psychiatry Ponders Whether Extreme Bias Can Be an Illness." The title suggests the ominous implications.

The Post explains, "Mental health practitioners say they regularly confront extreme forms of racism, homophobia and other prejudice in the course of therapy, and that some patients are disabled by these beliefs. As doctors increasingly weigh the effects of race and culture on mental illness, some are asking whether pathological bias ought to be an official psychiatric diagnosis."

In short, several psychiatrists are now pushing for racists and people who suffer from "homophobia" to be labeled mentally ill.

Could such a label possibly be justified? Well, the Post tries to make the case by telling about a man who turned down a job because he feared a co-worker might be gay, and who wouldn't go places where he thought he might run into a gay person. Now that was an extreme case. The man did indeed have a phobia, which was interfering with his life, and probably needed help. The man's psychiatrist told the paper, "He felt under attack, he felt threatened." Normally, that would be called paranoia. We wouldn't be developing some new mental illness.

But, just think about where this could lead: In short order, we might begin to put people who strongly oppose homosexual behavior on the same level as people who suffer irrational fears of gays, and declare both people mentally ill. After all, the American Psychiatric Association says homosexual behavior is normal. So, to strongly oppose it would be irrational. It's a very short step from there to saying that this person is suffering from "pathological bias."

Already, the California Department of Corrections is experimenting with drugs to eliminate prejudices. "We treat racism and homophobia as delusional disorders," reported Shama Chaiken, the department's chief psychologist. A number of distinguished scientists agree that the "clinical experience informs us that racism may be a manifestation of the delusional process." Now, sometimes that's true, as with a woman mentioned in the Post who was deathly afraid of Jewish people. But it's not true that racism or homophobia always signals mental disorder. And if we don't make that crucial distinction, we're asking for big trouble.

It may sound extreme, but this is the beginning of a process that has long been popular with tyrants. In the Soviet Union, Christians were sent by the hundreds of thousands to mental institutions. The state was officially atheist, so if you believe there was a God, you were insane. And it's still a wonderful tool for oppressors in places like China and North Korea.

There's another side to this. As a psychiatrist told The Washington Post, if we began to call bias a mental illness, it would let criminals off the hook for any behavior. It will take a few years, of course, to go all through the medical and clinical analyses and deliberations of the American Psychiatric Association.

But if the day should come that opposition to homosexual conduct is labeled homophobia, and homophobia labeled delusional, then it's a very short step to saying that belief in the Bible, which labels that conduct sinful, is also a mental disorder.

Frightening? Indeed. Impossible? I'm afraid not.

Categories: News

On the December 21 broadcast of NBC's Today, MSNBC anchor and correspondent Natalie Morales framed a federal judge's December 20 ruling striking down a policy instituted by the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania to teach intelligent design (ID) -- which maintains that life on earth is far too complex to have arisen solely as a function of random genetic mutation and was instead designed by a supernatural "intelligence" -- alongside evolutionary theory as "a major clash between faith and evolution."

Morales's characterization was directly refuted by the judge in the case, John E. Jones III, who declared "utterly false" a "bedrock assumption" by the proponents of ID of a clash between faith and evolutionary theory. From Jones's ruling:

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

Morales was substituting for regular Today news anchor Ann Curry.

From the December 21 broadcast of NBC's Today:

MORALES: In a major clash between faith and evolution, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled against intelligent design Tuesday, saying it should not be taught in the classroom. Details now from NBC's chief science correspondent Robert Bazell.

Categories: News

On the December 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly retracted his false claim that the Plano Independent School District (Texas) banned red and green clothing. As Media Matters for America reported at the time, the legal complaint filed against the school district did not allege any ban of red and green clothing.

O'Reilly originally asserted on both the December 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor and that day's broadcast of The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly that the Plano school district told students "they could not wear red and green because they were Christmas colors" and labeled the move "fascism."

During the December 20 edition of The Factor, O'Reilly admitted that he "made a mistake a few days ago when I said clothing was included in the party dictum."

From the December 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: In The Factor follow-up segment tonight, ground zero this year in the Christmas controversy is the town of Plano, Texas, just north of Dallas. Four families of second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders have filed a lawsuit in federal court saying their children were denied their rights of free expression. The case centers around children giving each other religious messages at Christmastime.


Now, I made a mistake a few days ago when I said clothing was included in that party dictum. Clothing was not included. It was colors of plates and cupcakes and things like that.

Categories: News

On the December 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and on the December 21 broadcast of NBC's Today, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell framed the debate surrounding revelations that the White House had authorized domestic wiretapping of U.S. citizens as a choice between privacy and civil liberties on the one hand and protection from terrorist attacks on the other. Mitchell's characterization echoed arguments put forth by Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush and forwarded by NBC Today host Katie Couric, as Media Matters for America noted.

During a Hardball segment focusing on Bush's authorization of secret wiretaps of American citizens without court approval, Mitchell asked former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), "What do you think Americans really need to be worried about more? A terror attack or someone going into their hard drive and intercepting their emails?" Similarly, Mitchell began a Today report also focusing on the secret wiretaps by asking rhetorically, "Are Americans willing to give up their privacy to help track down terrorists?" After interviewing former presidential adviser David Gergen, who asserted that the revelations of Bush's wiretapping program would negatively affect the American public's trust in government, Mitchell stated: "But the White House is betting that people are willing to pay any price if they think it will avoid another 9-11."

From the December 20 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MITCHELL: What do you think Americans really need to be worried about more? A terror attack or someone going into their hard drive and intercepting their emails?

GRAHAM: Well, I think they need to be more concerned about the effect of the United States seeing a retreat from our basic values at the same time we are trying to ask the countries from which the terrorists come to adopt principles of democracy and liberty. Wouldn't it be ironic if at the same time, through our initiative, we were able to establish a democracy in Iraq, but we were losing our basic liberties and freedoms here at home?

From the December 21 broadcast of NBC's Today:

COURIC: Now to the war on terror. Tuesday, Vice President Cheney defended the administration and its secret spying, saying, quote, "It's not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years." But some are wondering if Americans are losing their civil rights in the process. Here's NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

MITCHELL: Are Americans willing to give up their privacy to help track down terrorists? Since 9-11, the administration now admits it has been spying on Americans for the first time without court permission. The president says it's all necessary and legal.


GERGEN: The tragedy here is that from now on, many Americans will believe that the government is listening to their phone calls and is reading their emails, even when the government may not be doing that.

MITCHELL: Partly, Gergen says, because images of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo have an impact on Americans.

GERGEN: There's been such a pattern of secrecy and then revelation about torture, about paying off journalists and other things that the Bush administration has engaged in. I think that's only inflated this story about the wiretapping.

MITCHELL: But the White House is betting that people are willing to pay any price if they think it will avoid another 9-11. For Today, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.

Categories: News

In his December 19 "Best of the Web" column, Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto claimed that 108 Democrats "are now on record opposing victory" for voting against a Republican resolution (House Resolution 612) "[e]xpressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to achieving victory in Iraq." Taranto referred to these Democrats as "pro-surrender Dems." Democrats attacked the resolution as a "political stunt" and offered a competing resolution (House Resolution 613) -- immediately blocked by Republicans -- that praised the Iraqi elections, but made no mention of "victory" or an end to the conflict.

Taranto also falsely referred to a previous proposal (House Resolution 571) for immediate withdrawal as Rep. John P. "Murtha's" (D-PA). The proposal that Taranto labeled as "Murtha's" was, in fact, a one-sentence Republican proposal sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) that news reports described as a "political trap" that was "aimed at embarrassing war critics." As Media Matters for America has documented, Taranto has also falsely attributed this position to Murtha in the past.

From the December 19 edition of the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web":

Watching President Bush's political recovery on Iraq, one is tempted to think that this has all been part of a rope-a-dope strategy. In recent weeks Democrats have taken a host of outrageous positions on Iraq: John Kerry* accuses our troops of "terrorizing kids and children." Howard Dean says victory is "just plain wrong." On Friday the House voted 279-109 in favor of a resolution "expressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to achieving victory in Iraq," which means that 108 Democrats and socialist Bernie Sanders are now on record opposing victory. (Fifty-nine Dems voted for victory, and 32 of them, along with two Republicans, voted "present.")

Most of the pro-surrender Dems--including last month's media darling, Jack Murtha--also voted against Murtha's proposal for immediate withdrawal, so it seems they want to turn tail and run, but not before taking some more casualties--a position they seem to have calibrated carefully with an eye toward completely discrediting themselves.


* Did we mention he's French-looking?

Categories: News

In discussing President Bush's approval ratings in the wake of his recent public appearances, radio address, and televised address, commentators and reporters on CNN and Fox News emphasized the results of a December 15-18 ABC/Washington Post poll showing an improvement in the president's approval rating while not mentioning polling from their own news organizations showing that the president's approval ratings were either unchanged or lower.


On the December 20 edition of CNN's American Morning, Time magazine White House correspondent Mike Allen touted the ABC/Washington Post poll, noting that Bush was "up in approval eight points since they last polled on November 2" and asserting that the poll was "loaded with stocking stuffers for the Bush White House." Accompanied by an onscreen graphic depicting the poll numbers, host Soledad O'Brien stated: "You can see the numbers for approval were ... 39 percent, now up to 47 percent." But O'Brien never told viewers that a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted December 16-18 -- roughly the same period as the ABC/Washington Post poll -- showed a decrease in Bush's approval ratings. The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed Bush at 41 percent approval, compared to December 9-11 polling from the same consortium showing Bush's approval at 42 percent and polling from December 5-8, which showed Bush's approval at 43 percent.

Fox News

Similarly, on the December 20 edition of Fox News' DaySide, guest host Steve Doocy stated that "President Bush's approval ratings have turned around across the board after hitting historic career lows." Accompanied by an onscreen graphic showing the ABC/Washington Post poll numbers, Doocy stated: "[I]n a new Washington Post/ABC poll the president's rating went from 39 percent to 47 percent overall. That's good for him." Doocy and co-host Juliet Huddy then invited Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes and Roll Call executive editor Morton M. Kondracke to comment on the president's recent public relations campaign and poll ratings. Barnes touted "[a] dramatic jump in the ABC/Washington Post poll, not so much in Gallup," and falsely asserted that "all the polls no matter how much the gains, they're all heading in the right direction for Bush." Kondracke later added: "If you look at the ... Washington Post/ABC poll, it's way up: 47 percent. ... Gallup is 41 percent."

But Doocy, Barnes, and Kondracke left viewers in the dark regarding the most recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, conducted December 13-14, which showed Bush's approval ratings at a steady 42 percent - no improvement since the previous poll was conducted November 30-31. In fact, Bush's disapproval rating actually climbed to 51 percent in the most recent poll from 48 percent in the previous one. Moreover, Barnes falsely suggested there was a rise in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, which actually showed a 1 percent decrease in Bush's approval ratings.

From the December 20 edition of CNN's American Morning:

O'BRIEN: You know, if you put up everybody in a quadruple or quintuple box, you would have seen everybody's lips moving at once from the president's cabinet, essentially all going out and giving out the message. Clearly this is a strategy. Is the strategy working?

ALLEN: Well, this Bush White House is big on metrics, big on results. And an ABC News/Washington Post poll this morning has loaded with stocking stuffers for the Bush White House. The president up in approval eight points since they last polled on November 2nd. Up on approval of his handling of Iraq 10 points, and up on the economy 11 points. Soledad, you mentioned some of the many administration figures that have been out. Also Mrs. [Lynne] Cheney, who calls herself the grandmother of the United States jokingly, has been out. I'm wondering if maybe the president doesn't already know that the Man of the Year issue [of Time] is on the stands because he seems to be campaigning for it, maybe getting a jump on next year. You can't get the president on your iPod, but just about every other way. In seven days, we had the president giving six television interviews, three of them to NBC. We had him giving a live radio address in front of the television cameras, which he joked about it a little yesterday, taking unscripted questions from an audience in Philadelphia that was on your air, giving an address to the nation and then yesterday --

O'BRIEN: It's a complete change of strategy. I mean, it's a 180 from what we've seen and heard from the president before. Let's throw those poll numbers up for anybody who missed them. This is an ABC News poll, I believe. And if we put those numbers up right there. You can see the numbers for approval were 47 -- were 39 percent, now up to 47 percent. Do you, Mike, credit this campaign with these rising poll numbers?

ALLEN: Well, Soledad, cause and effect is always tough to establish here. And one of the most interesting points that my former colleagues, Dan Balz and Richard Morin of The Washington Post, make in their story about this poll is that the gains all came among Republicans and conservatives. They said that among Democrats, independents, moderates, the president's flat or not up at all. So that provides him a lot of opportunity to move up more. And that's why you saw the hour-long news conference yesterday. Soledad, as you know, one of the precepts of this president's aides has always been that he is his best salesperson. And going back to '99, 2000, the president was always stronger overall than he was among issues in his polls. People like him even if they don't -- and historically, people have liked this president even if they didn't necessarily agree with him. Now, what we saw in the last few months was people questioning his credibility, questioning his response and handling of national and world issues, and so you saw the numbers sort of come together.

From the December 20 edition of Fox News' DaySide:

DOOCY: Welcome back. President Bush's approval ratings have turned around across the board after hitting historic career lows. Meanwhile, in a new Washington Post/ABC poll, the president's rating went from 39 percent to 47 percent overall. That's good for him. His approval ratings on Iraq jumped 10 points and his handling of the economy up 11 points. So what's he doing right? Joining us right now are the Beltway Boys, Mort [Kondracke] and also Fred [Barnes] live from D.C.


DOOCY: Fred, in watching the president yesterday, unlike his Sunday night address where it was very straightforward, yesterday the president looked steamed, he looked muscular. What's that about?

BARNES: Well, it's about his desire to be on offense, not defense. And I think that's the key thing here. For most of 2005, you know, he didn't return fire to his critics on the issue of Iraq. Beginning on November 11, however, he did, after Democrats were pummeling him with this idea that he had misled the nation on the intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq. But he's fought back and fought back hard. I mean, in less than three weeks he gave five speeches and had a press conference. And he was very combative and animated and angry at times at the press conference, and I think this is what has gotten him back, particularly in the polls. A dramatic jump in the ABC/Washington Post poll, not so much in Gallup, but all the polls, no matter how much the gains, they're all heading in the right direction for Bush.

HUDDY: Well, you know, Mort, whenever you talk about approval ratings and polls to the politicos, they always want to downplay them, they never want to talk about them. But when it's a good thing, it's a good thing. The president has to be pretty happy about this. Why is it happening? Is it because he's been out there stumping so much?

KONDRACKE: Well, I -- you know, as Fred says, there a kind of a mixed message here. If you look at The Wall Street Journal -- I mean, the Washington Post/ABC poll, it's way up: 47 percent. That's near 50. I mean, that's -- that would be back to where he was at the beginning of the year. Gallup is 41 percent. Both polls sort of indicate that people still don't think he's got a plan on the war. So I don't know. I think his activity and his vigor and his -- you know, being out there so much has helped a lot. And I thought the fireside chat on Sunday night, where he had this huge audience where people really could sit down and watch it as opposed to a daytime speech, really helped him.

Categories: News

Last week, BusinessWeek Online reported that conservative columnists Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara have taken payments from lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for writing op-ed columns that aided Abramoff's clients -- without disclosing the payments. Though BusinessWeek Online did not identify any specific columns for which Abramoff paid Bandow and Ferrara, it did note that both wrote about the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, an Abramoff client. A review of the columns written by Bandow and Ferrara about the Northern Mariana Islands, of other news reports and columns about the commonwealth, and of Abramoff's efforts on behalf of his clients, suggests that Bandow and Ferrara may not have been the only media figures Abramoff paid in exchange for writing about the topic.

Media Matters has found that Bandow and Ferrara both wrote columns that praised the commonwealth and discussed allegations against Department of the Interior officials who were pushing for federal intervention in the commonwealth that Abramoff opposed. Media Matters found only one other opinion column in the Nexis database that contained similar praise for the commonwealth and criticism of the Interior officials -- an op-ed by Michael Catanzaro that ran in The Washington Times.

In the wake of revelations earlier this year that conservative columnists have taken payments from the Bush administration, from Jack Abramoff, and from interest groups, it is natural for readers to wonder whether the opinion columns they read have been bought and paid for by undisclosed interests. Those involved -- Abramoff, Bandow, Ferrara, Copley News Service, and others -- should fully reveal everything they know about who was paid how much for which columns and by whom. News consumers would be the most obvious beneficiaries of such disclosure, but not the only ones. Conservative columnists who have written columns similar to those for which Abramoff paid Bandow and Ferrara would also benefit. Catanzaro may be one such columnist. Shortly after publication of Catanzaro's column in 2001, it was the subject of public speculation that it was "spoon fed from a lobbyist." The column may have been "spoon fed." It may have been paid for. It may also have had nothing at all to do with any lobbyist. We do not know at this point. And that is precisely why full, immediate disclosure -- by those who were paid for writing columns as well as those who paid for them -- is necessary: to help ensure that readers know what interests are behind the opinions they read and to help ensure that honest columnists have their readers' trust. Neither readers nor columnists are well-served by continued secrecy.

Jack Abramoff's plan to attack Interior Department officials

A March 25, 1998, article in The Hill revealed a four-page January 31, 1998, email memo sent by Abramoff that described "in unusual and potentially embarrassing detail the strategies" his lobbying firm, Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, "crafted to counteract possible action by Congress affecting its client, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)." A March 31, 1998, Washington Post article revealed that the memo outlined a plan to publicly attack Allen Stayman, the director of the Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) and an advocate of federal government intervention in the commonwealth:

The lobbying plan, according to the e-mail, was aimed primarily at using congressional hearings, scheduled to begin in the Senate today, to "impeach Stayman and his campaign against the CNMI, enabling us to then go to the appropriations process and either defund or severely restrict his activities."


Other planned activities included "preparing the Stayman attack" and "preparing legislation to be introduced into the appropriations process. ..." It said that "thanks to past trips" to the tropical islands, the CNMI has "many friends on the Appropriations Committees in the Congress."


The e-mail, which said that Stayman's office "has been the main source of difficulty" for the CNMI, suggested that it would be better to enact funding restrictions to stop Stayman from attacking the commonwealth rather than to close his office, which could generate "hostile" news coverage and allow the Clinton administration to move Stayman and his duties to another office.

Conservative news outlets promote otherwise-ignored Stayman story

On August 3, 1999, a Washington Times article by Audrey Hudson raised questions about whether Stayman and a subordinate, OIA policy director David North, improperly used government resources for political purposes:

An Interior Department official told his boss in a secret memo about his covert on-the-job political campaign aimed at unseating House Republican leaders in the 1998 election, according to a document obtained by The Washington Times.

In a 1997 memo, David North, policy director for the Office of Insular Affairs, asked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for information on how to assist Democratic candidates, and sent a copy of the memo to his boss, Allen P. Stayman, then director of Insular Affairs.

Mr. North and other federal employees are under investigation by the House Resources Committee for using official equipment and time in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat at least four House Republicans and one GOP senator.

Mr. North drafted press releases for Democratic candidates, provided derogatory information about Republican members to campaigns and reporters, and wrote letters to the editor for constituents to submit to local newspapers, investigators say.

Hudson -- who went on to write six more articles for The Washington Times about Stayman and North from August 1999 to July 2000 -- joined the Times in 1999 after serving as spokeswoman for Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) and Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO).

The day after the first Washington Times article, the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) called for an investigation into the allegations against Stayman and North, based on the Washington Times article. In its press release, NCPPR also referred to "labor union attacks on the garment industry of the CNMI." NCPPR's release closed with the disclaimer:

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan Capitol Hill think-tank established in 1982. It has received no cash contributions from the government of the CNMI nor any business operating in the CNMI.

Abramoff previously served on NCPPR's board of directors. NCPPR has been tied to the federal investigations into Abramoff's dealings with Republican lawmakers; Abramoff reportedly used NCPPR as a conduit to pay for junkets for members of Congress.

The House Resources Committee, under chairman Rep. Don Young (R-AK), continued to investigate Stayman and North through July 2000, but neither was prosecuted.

Though investigations of Clinton administration officials rarely lacked for media coverage, the Allen Stayman-Northern Mariana Islands matter received scant attention. Other than Hudson's seven articles, only nine news reports available on Nexis mention the Northern Mariana Islands and the Stayman investigation. Five of them were:

  • Knight Ridder, August 15, 1999
  • The Hill, September 8, 1999
  • Environment and Energy Daily, July 10, 2000
  • Agence France-Presse, July 6, 2001
  • The Hill, July 8, 2003

The other four are more interesting: one is an editorial in The Washington Times; three are columns, written by Bandow, Ferrara, and Michael Catanzaro. Two of the three columns ran in The Washington Times.

On August 20, 1999, Ferrara -- who is now known to have taken money from Abramoff for columns helpful to Abramoff's clients -- wrote an op-ed for The Washington Times that attacked Stayman and North and argued against federal government intervention in the Commonwealth:

The Interior department's vendetta against the U.S.-owned Northern Marianas Islands now has crossed over into illegality. But instead of sanctioning the lawbreakers, corrupt Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has begun granting them awards.

The Marianas are located in the far Western Pacific near Guam. They are a commonwealth of the United States, which means they are official U.S. territory, with a democratically elected local government. Notoriously protectionist U.S. garment manufacturers and unions back in the states are carrying on a vicious smear campaign against the islands to shut down competition from them. As a result, we hear fantastic tales of prison labor camps and indentured servants slaving away on the islands for virtually no pay.

While the islands have been rightly granted broad local control, federal laws in general, including all constitutional rights, apply there. Indeed, the Labor Department, FBI, Justice Department, and other federal agencies all have jurisdiction and agents on the islands. If the law is being broken by outrageous human rights abuses, why doesn't the Clinton administration enforce the law?

Instead, Interior, which handles federal administration of the islands, has joined the smear campaign and sought legislation to shut down the islands. It proposes to apply on the islands the same minimum wage as in the states, even though imposing such a requirement in a lower-wage, lower-cost structure environment is the economic equivalent of carpet bombing.

Interior also proposes that the highly ineffective INS take over local administration of immigration. The aim here is to shut down the extensive temporary guest worker program that provides the necessary labor supply for the booming garment and tourism industries, and the rest of the islands' highly prosperous free market economy.


David North, until just recently policy director for Interior's Office of Insular Affairs actually wrote to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1997 offering assistance to Democratic candidates running against key Republicans who had opposed Interior's Marianas legislation. He then followed up in 1998 with a shockingly blatant campaign against the targeted Republicans, on government time and using government office resources. He wrote press releases for the Democratic candidates attacking the Republicans, and sample letters to the editor for local newspapers. He cooked up dirt and smears for the campaigns as well.


Mr. North's documents show that his boss, Allen Stayman, then director of the Office of Insular Affairs, was informed of these illegal activities, which he apparently supported. Indeed, Mr. Stayman has personally pursued this vendetta as well.

Mr. Stayman actually used taxpayer funds to hire a private investigator and "human rights activists" to cook up charges of forced abortions, religious persecution, and forced prostitution on the islands. He openly bragged to the media that this was a strategy to split Republican opposition by developing "hot button" issues to appeal to them.

Ferrara's op-ed identified him as "general counsel and chief economist at Americans for Tax Reform."

Three days later, The Washington Times ran its own editorial, echoing Ferrara's praise for the commonwealth and his attacks on Stayman and North.

On June 27, 2001, The Washington Times ran an op-ed by Catanzaro, who was described in a note at the end of the piece as a "reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report." (The version of the op-ed available on Nexis spells Catanzaro's name as "Cantanzaro.") Catanzaro, like Ferrara, argued against the need for federal government involvement in the commonwealth and criticized Stayman and North. The Northern Mariana column is the only thing Catanzaro ever wrote for The Washington Times and one of only eight items he has written that appear in the Nexis database. Catanzaro, an alumnus of the conservative National Journalism Center, later worked as communications director for the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works under chairman James Inhofe (R-ID) and as deputy policy director for energy and environment for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign.

On October 9, 2001, Copley News Service ran an op-ed by Bandow that praised the commonwealth, criticizing Stayman and arguing against federal intervention. The BusinessWeek Online report about Bandow taking money from Abramoff in exchange for writing columns beneficial to Abramoff's clients noted that Bandow had written in praise of the Northern Mariana Islands; the October 9, 2001, column is the only Bandow column available on Nexis that mentions the islands.

According to a July 12, 1996, NCPPR press release, Bandow visited the Northern Mariana Islands on a "fact-finding tour sponsored by" NCPPR -- the "independent" group reportedly used by Abramoff as a conduit to fund excursions on behalf of his clients without revealing the true source of funding.

Questions about Abramoff and the Stayman stories

The BusinessWeek Online report strongly suggests that Bandow and Ferrara were paid by Abramoff for writing their columns promoting the commonwealth and attacking Stayman. Given that Abramoff paid Bandow and Ferrara for writing columns in general and that these columns directly mirrored the interests of Abramoff's clients and his strategy to attack Stayman, it seems unlikely that Bandow and Ferrara did not take money from Abramoff for these columns.

But what of the few other news reports about the Northern Mariana Islands and the Stayman investigation? Were they, too, a result of Abramoff's anti-Stayman strategy? Or were they a result of his generosity toward those who helped his clients?

Catanzaro's column raised suspicions when it ran, long before the recent revelations that numerous conservative columnists took undisclosed payments from interested parties in exchange for writing columns. Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz was asked about Catanzaro's column during a July 2, 2001, online chat:

Annapolis, Md.: Are columnists often just lobbyists in journalist's clothing? I saw an editorial piece last week in the Washington Times by Michael Cantanzaro, a Novak reporter. Because I know a little about the subject of that piece, it read like it had been spoon fed from a lobbyist involved on the other side of the issue. Do columnists represent lobbyists, and if so, do they take money for it?

Howard Kurtz: If you hear of any reporters taking money from lobbyists, please let me know. I might be able to get that into the paper. Look, the truth is journalists get "lobbied" by all sides -- corporations, the White House, the Hill, political consultants, ax-grinders, kibitzers and other loudmouths. Good journalists sift through the spin and reach their own conclusions. Others become known basically as mouthpieces for a particular point of view. Sometimes you can smell the talking points. A few days ago, Bush administration officials were peddling the line that his drop to 50 percent in the polls was not really a drop because he had been at 50 percent back in January (kind of like buying a stock at 50, it soars to 150, then plunges back to 50 -- you're supposed to feel good, right?) It took only several nanoseconds for the Bush line on polls to show up in some commentaries. But I hardly think these people were lining their pockets.

Categories: News

As Republicans in Congress have become increasingly willing to oppose policies put forth by their Republican leadership and the Bush administration -- whether attributable to President Bush's sagging poll numbers, prominent senators' presidential ambitions, or the fast-approaching 2006 midterm elections - the media continue to frame major policy disputes as purely partisan battles. For example, recent reports by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and NBC's Today provide clear examples of how the media has mischaracterized four such issues as merely partisan disputes: Congressional proposals to attach a provision to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to a military spending bill, dramatically cut the budget on social programs, and renew all major provisions of the Patriot Act, and the Bush administration's effort to defend monitoring the phone conversations of Americans without a search warrant.

Sen. Stevens's ANWR proposal

A December 20 New York Times article on the congressional debate over ANWR drilling, by reporters Carl Hulse and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, began by mischaracterizing as purely partisan the dispute over Sen. Ted Stevens's (R-AK) plan to use procedural tactics to ensure passage of a provision permitting drilling in ANWR:

With tensions rising in the Capitol, Senate Democrats threatened on Monday to derail a $453 billion military spending bill over an Arctic oil drilling dispute, just hours after the House approved the measure in an all-night session that also included passage of a $40 billion budget-cutting bill.

Anticipating a Democratic-led effort against the military bill, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, took procedural steps on Monday to cut off debate on the measure, setting the stage for a decisive vote Wednesday on the legislation.

Frustrated Democrats predicted they could round up the votes to stall the Pentagon measure even if it put them in the awkward position of blocking money for American military operations. They called on Republicans to drop the language allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

"I don't have any hesitation to be part of a filibuster," said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, who is a military hawk and a longtime foe of the Arctic drilling plan. "This is a tough fight," he added. "But it is a fight worth waging."


Upset with the oil drilling initiative and other add-ons, Democrats accused Mr. Stevens of twisting Senate rules to hijack the military bill to advance an unrelated pet cause, a charge he angrily denied in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor Monday.

As Media Matters for America documented when the Times previously portrayed the debate over Stevens's proposal as partisan, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is one of the conferees and negotiators on the defense bill, described Stevens's move as "disgusting" and "disgraceful," while Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) said it would make the vote on the defense bill "very uncomfortable for me."

Moreover, three separate December 20 articles in the Washington Post noted that many other Republicans are also opposed to Stevens's efforts to attach the ANWR provision to the 2006 defense spending bill. One report noted that Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R-RI) said the ANWR provision "doesn't belong on a defense bill" and that Stevens's move is "just not fair." A second article documented that a spokesperson for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said Snowe believes "inserting ANWR into the defense appropriations bill discredits the integrity of the process" and that "[t]he American people will see this for what it is, a cynical approach to legislating that will further erode public confidence in the federal government." The article also reported House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert's (R-NY) contention that the ANWR provision "never, never, never should have been added on as an extraneous matter to a bill to fund and pay and equip our troops." The third report noted that in the House, Republican leaders "had to beat back a bipartisan parliamentary maneuver to scuttle the defense spending bill over the Arctic drilling provision."

But the Post has also engaged in problematic reporting on the ANWR dispute. One day before highlighting Republican opposition to Stevens's plan, a December 19 Post article mischaracterized the debate by suggesting that only "Democrats were furious about the drilling maneuver on the defense bill."

The USA Patriot Act

After misrepresenting the debate over Stevens's ANWR plan, the December 20 Times article similarly reported that "Senate Democrats and Republicans remained at loggerheads" over some provisions of the Patriot Act that opponents fear curtail fundamental civil liberties:

In addition to the Pentagon bill snarled in the oil fight, Senate Democrats and Republicans remained at loggerheads over the USA Patriot Act, the broad antiterror law containing major provisions that were set to expire Dec. 31 without Senate action.

But contrary to the Times' suggestion, that issue also does not fall purely along party lines. In fact, four Senate Republicans -- Larry E. Craig (R-ID), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and John E. Sununu (R-NH) -- joined all but two Democrats in supporting a filibuster of the Patriot Act on December 16 (Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) "subsequently changed his vote" to supporting the filibuster in a procedural maneuver that "gives him the right to call for a second vote," as the Los Angeles Times noted on December 17).

Nonetheless, in an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney broadcast on the December 19 edition of ABC's Nightline, chief White House correspondent Terry Moran allowed Cheney to claim that "Democrats are trying to filibuster" the Patriot Act:

CHENEY: The Patriot Act is a vital piece of legislation. It was, in fact, passed in the aftermath of 9-11. It extended to our ability to operate with respect to the counter-terrorist effort, the need to maintain the capability of this government to be able to defend the nation. And that means we have to take extraordinary measures. But we do do it in a manner that's consistent with the Constitution and consistent with our statutes. And when we needed statutory authority, as we did for the Patriot Act, we went and got it. Now Congress, the Democrats are trying to filibuster it.

MORAN: Does the United States maintain secret prisons around the world?

CHENEY: I'm not going to talk about intelligence matters --

In the House, 18 Republicans voted against extending the controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, while 44 Democrats voted in favor of doing so.

Budget cuts

Some media have also suggested that the dispute over proposed budget cuts is merely between Republicans and Democrats. For example, in a December 19 article reporting that the Republican leadership in the House and Senate had reached an agreement on the cuts, the Los Angeles Times wrote:

House and Senate negotiators also agreed to cut $41.6 billion from Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and other domestic programs over the next five years -- a measure that Republicans describe as part of a new, more determined effort to reduce the federal budget deficit, which totaled $319 billion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Democrats contended that the savings would be wiped out by billions of dollars in tax cuts that Republicans hope to pass early next year.

But the Los Angeles Times ignored congressional Republicans who also oppose the budget cuts. In a December 19 roll call vote in the House, nine Republicans voted against the budget cuts, while no Democrats voted in favor of it. As The Washington Post reported on December 20, in the Senate "[t]hree Republican moderates, Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), Gordon Smith (Ore.) and Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.), said they will oppose the measure, and Senate Republican leaders expect a fourth, Mike DeWine (Ohio), to join them." The number of Senate Republicans opposing the budget cuts increased to five, according to an updated December 20 tally by the Associated Press, which also noted that no Senate Democrats plan to support the cuts.

Secret domestic surveillance

The most recent issue that media have begun to cast as partisan is the revelation that the Bush administration has been secretly monitoring the phone conversations of Americans without a search warrant. For example, on the December 20 edition of NBC's Today Show, NBC White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell reported:

O'DONNELL: The White House cites the Constitution and Congress's authorization to use military force as a legal basis for the president to act. But Democrats in Congress charge the president went beyond the law.

In fact, several Republicans have also expressed concern that the Bush administration's actions might violate the law. For example, on the December 18 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that "I don't know of any legal basis to go around" the requirement that the White House formally apply to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court for a warrant to engage in domestic surveillance:

BOB SCHIEFFER (host): Does he have that authority, Senator?

GRAHAM: If he has the authority to go around the FISA court, which is a court to accommodate the law of the war of terror, the FISA Act was -- created a court set up by the chief justice of the United States to allow a rapid response to requests for surveillance activity in the war on terror. I don't know of any legal basis to go around that. There may be some, but I'm not aware of it. And here's the concern I have. We can't become an outcome-based democracy. Even in a time of war, you have to follow the process, because that's what a democracy is all about: a process.

Similarly, on the December 18 edition of ABC's This Week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said: "Why did the president choose not to use FISA? That's a legitimate question."

Finally, a December 20 New York Times article noted that after attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales claimed that the administration was within the law in secretly monitoring calls from within the United States, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) responded that he was "skeptical of the attorney general's citation of authority." As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Specter is in charge of arranging an investigation into the Bush administration's actions. A December 20 Post report similarly noted Specter's statement that "I have grave doubts about the wide scope of executive power claimed by Attorney General Gonzales." The Times also noted Specter's contention that, even if the administration did adequately inform some members of Congress of its actions, that "does not constitute a check and balance" because "[y]ou can't have the administration and a select number of members alter the law."

Categories: News

On the December 19 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, guest host Kitty Pilgrim claimed that Democratic criticism of President Bush's controversial decision to authorize wiretaps of American citizens without warrants is "a fairly risky move given that any day there could be another attack." Pilgrim's comment came during a discussion with Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin:

TOOBIN: That's right. And he [Bush] went defending this now-controversial NSA policy. But to me the most interesting part of this NSA controversy that started is that you have the Democrats for the first time since September 11th attacking the president about national security. They seem to think, and I don't know if they're right, that the issue of protecting individual rights will trump the issue of we're protecting you from terrorism. I've been shocked at how aggressive the Democrats have come out on this, because this is an issue that has been right into the president's wheelhouse for a long time.

FUND: Especially because we don't know a whole lot about this. We do know that Congress was briefed. We don't know quite how much they were briefed. We know [Senate Democratic Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV] was briefed. Also, during the Clinton administration there was a program called Echelon, which is the NSA scooping up all the electronic communications in the country. Whether or not they were monitoring people at that time is a separate issue. I think it's interesting the Democrats are attacking because people do care about civil liberties. I'm interested that they're attacking before all the facts are in.

PILGRIM: And it certainly seems like a clear stand against the president on terror, a fairly risky move given that any day there could be another attack.

In fact, the Democrats -- and several Republicans -- might argue that it's a "clear stand" in favor of complying with the law and a "clear stand against the president" on civil liberties, not "terror." Moreover, Pilgrim's statement implies that those criticizing the president over his recently disclosed authorization of domestic spying run the risk of being held responsible in the event of another terrorist attack.

Categories: News

On the December 16 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, host Chris Matthews recounted his experience at a White House Christmas party the night before. Matthews remarked that he "felt sensitive" during his interactions with the president, adding that "[y]ou get your picture taken with him. It's like Santa Claus, and he's always very generous and friendly." He continued: "I felt like I was too towel-snappy with him," explaining that Bush had noted his "red scarf" and remarked that he looked "preppy."

During another segment, Matthews also stated: "If [President Bush's] gamble that he can create a democracy in the middle of the Arab world" is successful, "he belongs on Mount Rushmore." Matthews made this remark during a discussion of the timing of The New York Times' December 16 report on President Bush's authorization of secret National Security Agency wiretaps of U.S. citizens without court warrants. The Times reported that it held the story for a year after meeting with administration officials who expressed concern it could compromise ongoing investigations and alert terrorists that they may be under surveillance. Matthews questioned his guests, New York Times reporter Anne E. Kornblut and Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman, regarding the timing of the story, which coincided with positive coverage of the December 15 parliamentary elections in Iraq.

Media Matters for America has previously noted other examples of Matthews gushing about Bush. Matthews has stated that Bush "glimmers" with "sunny nobility," argued that "[e]verybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs," and denounced Bush's critics as "carpers and complainers."

From the December 16 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, which also featured Newsweek's Howard Fineman:

MATTHEWS: So what do you think about your paper running that story the very day of the president's greatest victory? You guys are raining on his parade, the best day of his life.

KORNBLUT: If only we were that organized. No, this is, I think, a really good story. I knew nothing about it.

MATTHEWS: Why today? Why did you break it today?

KORNBLUT: There was room in the paper. I actually -- I honestly have no idea why. I don't think there was any big calculation behind it, if I had to guess.


FINEMAN: Big picture, big headlines, lots and lots of stories about that marvelous story in Iraq. And my guess -- strictly a guess -- it didn't even occur to the editors of The New York Times as they sat there putting the paper together, that one would be necessarily be seen in the context of the other. I really don't think so, and I think they gave great coverage to Iraq, and I think that the Iraq story out in the country is politically going to mean more than the one about the National Security Agency.

MATTHEWS: Because?

FINEMAN: Because the pictures are positive. They're inspirational. And most important, General Casey said, as a result of the success in Iraq, 12,000 troops are going to begin coming home immediately.

MATTHEWS: By the way, just to rain on that parade -- I'll do it right now -- didn't we know that they were going down to a complement of 138,000 after the election?

FINEMAN: Sure. But he also said that they're going to look to the rather rapid removal of additional troops after that. He's already talking about American troops coming home. And I do think the pictures, to any American, are inspirational, and a reminder to us of how lucky we are as a country. There is no gain say. It's the real deal over there.

MATTHEWS: I was hoping we could come on tonight with purple fingers.

FINEMAN: It's red this time.

MATTHEWS: Red, then.

KORNBLUT: Aren't you going to get a parade of members of Congress now for the next few days who've all gone over and seen it? It strikes me that this is going to be a fairly huge story for days and days to come.

MATTHEWS: Well, it's probably the greatest gamble since Roosevelt backed Britain before World War II. The president deserves credit, if this gamble comes through -- and it's not clear yet. If his gamble that he can create a democracy in the middle of the Arab world and he does it, he belongs on Mount Rushmore.


MATTHEWS: What comes next, Anne?

KORNBLUT: Well, I mean, I think if -- you know, I think if what you were getting at before is that there were moments of irritation from Bush in this interview or in this day that he's not, you know, getting his due, I think the administration has always taken a much longer view. This is not sort of a one-day story. This, you know -- sure, the pictures were lovely out of Iraq but, you know, they're looking way down the line. They're looking a year, five years. I mean, Bush himself always talks about this in the sweep of history. So I think, you know, in that sense, I actually don't know that the White House is sweating about the one-day coverage of this, of the election.

FINEMAN: Yes, they still would have loved the heck out of it, I can tell you.

MATTHEWS: You know, I felt sensitive. I was with him last night, the president. We all went to see the president. You were there -- went to see the president for our Christmas. You get your picture taken with him. It's like Santa Claus, and he's always very generous and friendly.

FINEMAN: You don't get to sit on his lap.

KORNBLUT: What did you ask him for?

MATTHEWS: And I was wearing a red scarf. And I wanted to look a little bit festive for the occasion, look a little preppy. And he came up to me and said, "Matthews, I didn't know you were that preppy." This is the president of the United States after his biggest victory, and he goes, "I didn't know you were that preppy." And I said, "Well, you know, I went to Holy Cross, but you guys started with all this stuff -- the old guys started with all this stuff," and then he started kidding around. I felt like I was too towel-snappy with him. I felt he deserves a little -- I mean, he deserves a lot of respect for this bet he's making.

Categories: News

On the December 15 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, The Radio Factor, host Bill O'Reilly called the San Francisco Chronicle's use of the term "field marshal" a "Nazi reference." The Chronicle, in a December 15 article, wrote of O'Reilly:

Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, a field marshal for the conservative counter-campaign against the "war on Christmas," will be happy to know that San Francisco called this its "Dreaming of a Green Christmas" tree program.

"Field marshal" is also the highest rank in the military forces of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and is related to the French rank of "Marischal du Camp."

O'Reilly also apparently invented his assertion that a San Francisco program to bring live Christmas trees to the homes of city residents for $90 was started "[b]ecause people were putting lights on regular trees ... [a]nd the Department of Environment in San Francisco said this was bad for the tree." According to the Chronicle article, the program was actually initiated because some residents felt that buying a tree for two weeks and throwing it away was wasteful. The new project helps get the most out of Christmas trees:

For $90, the city will bring a live, 7- to 9-foot potted tree to your home for you to decorate. After Christmas, the city will retrieve it and plant it in one of San Francisco's tree-starved neighborhoods, like Bayview-Hunters Point.

From the December 15 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: San Francisco Chronicle, one of the nation's most secular newspapers, says today, quote, "Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, a field marshal" -- notice the Nazi reference -- "for the conservative counter-campaign against the 'war on Christmas' will be happy to know that San Francisco has called [sic] its 'Dreaming of A Green Christmas' tree program. Not that there wasn't discussion about other names. 'Some people wanted to call it a peace tree, or a holiday tree,' said Mark Westland, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment in San Francisco, 'But we figured that only people who would be celebrating Christmas would want one for the most part.' " So San Francisco has a Dreaming of A Green Christmas tree program, but I am a field marshal now, according to that newspaper.


O'REILLY: And I read you the San Francisco Chronicle thing, I'll just re-read it. "Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, a field marshal" -- Nazi reference -- "for the conservative counter-campaign against the 'war on Christmas' will be happy to know that San Francisco has a program called 'Dreaming of A Green Christmas' " -- where, for $90, the city will bring you a 9-foot potted tree. You know why they do this? Because people were putting lights on regular trees. You know, like in their front yard. You probably -- might know someone who does that. You might do it. And the Department of Environment in San Francisco said this was bad for the tree. Apparently, the tree called the Department of Environment. "Look, I hate these lights. Get them off me!"

So now in San Francisco, nut central USA, for $90, the city will bring you a potted tree so you don't hurt the shrub in your front yard. [Laughing] Anyway, somehow they dragged me into this insane program. But I am now a field marshal.

Categories: News