Posts Tagged ‘birther’

A False Argument on ‘False Balance’

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

donald_trump_king_of_the_birthersHallelujah! Praise the lord and pass the ammunition! The cavalry has arrived. Less than a week after its public editor offered a bass-ackwards interpretation of the “false balance” issue (“Here’s the Truth About ‘False Balance,’’’ Sept. 11), The New York Times ran an article at the top of its front page that perfectly demonstrated the proper way to avoid false balance in covering a political campaign: Tell the actual truth.

Saturday’s (Sept. 17) Times led with a story headlined: “Trump Gives Up a Lie But Refuses to Repent.’’ It carried a subhead: “No Apology After 5 Years of Nurturing ‘Birther’ Issue to Undermine Obama.” What followed was a carefully detailed accounting of Donald Trump’s “birther” lie, which was nothing more than a racially coded effort to delegitimize the nation’s first black president.

The piece, by Michael Barbaro, was actually a news analysis and was labeled as such, but the Times still led the paper with it, rather than the straightforward (presumably unbiased) story reporting on the big announcement by Trump. That’s because Barbaro’s piece put the whole sordid truth out there, in perspective, for readers to digest. There was no worry about whether the story was “too liberal’ (another worry of the new public editor) or too harsh. It was true. Every bit of it. What Trump said and continues to say (he claims Hillary Clinton started the birther rumors) is not.

The news analysis was, in effect, a front-page editorial leading the paper. The Times also ran an editorial inside the paper that echoed the truth that Trump has lied repeatedly about this and other issues. In my humble opinion, this is called good, aggressive, community-minded journalism that holds public figures accountable for their words and actions without worrying whether it will offend the public figure and/or his supporters. It belongs on the front page, especially when the liar wants to be president and lots of people want to believe his lies.

The public editor, Liz Spayd, might call this approach “preaching to the choir.” She’s apparently also concerned that a lot of people consider The Times to be “liberal.’’ Gambling? Here? I’m shocked, shocked!

She wrote a piece headlined “Why Readers See The Times as Liberal” (July 24), as if that’s a bad thing and as if it’s a new thing. In that article she suggested keeping editorials off the front page after a lot of people who said they were conservative objected to a front-page editorial on gun control. So the newspaper, which has argued unabashedly for gun control for decades, should timidly limit its views to the opinion page because they might offend some people whose political views probably revolve around guns and not much else, because those people might not read the paper if they think its reporting is skewed to the left.

News flash: They probably don’t read the paper anyway because: 1) It’s always been fashionable to bash the most-prestigious paper in the world, especially when its editorial views — not necessarily its reporting — don’t reflect yours; and 2) it costs too much.

In Spayd’s view, Times reporters must resist the arguments about false balance — in this case, giving political candidates’ statements, opinions and actions equal treatment (“fair” treatment) in reporting and writing, even though the truth argues otherwise — because, in their distaste for Trump the reporters might be tempted to go easy on Clinton.

Go ahead, finish laughing.

The Times, like the rest of the media, has been beating up on Clinton for years, searching for scandal and coming up short. This obviously can be frustrating when the editors and reporters also know she pretty much despises most of them, doesn’t hide it and, as a result, brings much of the negative reporting on herself.

But … if it’s only Clinton supporters now who are complaining about “false balance” in Times reporting on the campaign, that’s because virtually the entire mainstream media was guilty of this for months by treating Trump as a qualified candidate for president because the Republican Party didn’t know how to stop him. It’s also because much of The Times’ reporting on Clinton — presumably tough-minded and fair– has also been shoddy, not nearly up to the paper’s reputation. If you’re going to be fair on holding candidates’ feet to the fire, be accurate. If anything, that is what has built the newspaper’s reputation.

Besides, the Clinton supporters had no gripe with The Times during the primary campaign when Sen. Bernie Sanders was often an asterisk in the paper’s coverage of the Clinton coronation as Democratic Party nominee.

In her closing argument on “false balance,” Spayd writes, “Fear of false balance is a creeping threat to the role of the media because it encourages journalists to pull back from their responsibility to hold power accountable. All power, not just selected individuals, however vile they might seem.”

That’s a perfect example of false balance. Reporters, in other words, should not hold back on trying to find something bad to write about Hillary Clinton (again, an absurd premise to start with) just because Donald Trump has proven himself over and over to be (not “seem”) vile, deceitful, bigoted, narcissistic, misogynistic, uninformed, racist, unpredictable, volatile, immature.

And dangerous.

After his major announcement that he had been lying about President Obama’s citizenship for years, Trump said to an audience in Miami that Clinton wants to “destroy your Second Amendment.’’ As a response to that, he suggested: “She goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before. I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. Right? Right? I think they should disarm immediately. What do you think? Yes? Yes. Yeah. Take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns. … Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It would be very dangerous.”

The audience, as always at Trump rallies, applauded this threat.

Go ahead, by all means, New York Times, be “fair and balanced” and don’t stop investigating the Clinton Foundation. But also, do continue to ignore your public editor and keep telling the truth about this vile man on the front page every day. Other media follow your lead. The chorus may be convinced, but others may be ready to join.

If your public editor regards that as “taking sides,” so be it. This is not a high school debate; this is about the future of our country. A major responsibility of newspapers is to inform, educate and help mold public opinion. Unlike some other media (Fox News), The Times does this without lying. At least that’s the reputation. Live up to it.

(Full disclosure: The author was editorial page editor of the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., for 23 years.)

‘Mittstorm’: Romney Plays Birther Card

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

“Romney isn’t using birthers and bigotry against Obama. It just looks that way,” wrote Will Saletan of Slate in “Pin the Tale on the Honky,” his send-up of the Mittstorm-of-the-Week: the deplorable birther “joke” that Willard told last Friday during a Michigan campaign stop.

“No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised,”  Mitt snarked, just before Twitter went wild with writers furiously typing “#futureMittjokes.”

RNC propagandist-in-chief Reince Priebus has the unenviable job of following in Mitt’s footsteps to scrape up whatever fresh heap of elephant dung the candidate deposits on the campaign trail each time he rolls out a new crock of “strategery.”

“Have we really gotten to the point where we can’t have any levity at all in politics?” Reince wheedled, in defense of the indefensible, on CNN’s State of the Union.

His shaky premise didn’t hold up to minimal scrutiny. Mitt’s descent into the cesspool of birtherism was a calculated effort to turn the page on Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” imbroglio before it engulfed the GOP ticket. How better to put out a conflagration about women’s reproductive rights than to change the subject to race, the third rail of American politics?

Asked by Candy Crowley during the same program whether he thought Romney’s birther comment was “code” for “appealing to the white vote,” Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland replied, “Look at the number of Republicans that have signed bills that make it harder to vote. When you have a party that … makes totally false ads up saying the president is trying to undo welfare reform, I think you’re going to see a lot of … coded messages from the Romney-Ryan campaign that it (are) not in keeping with an America that is … becoming more diverse.”

Priebus tried again the next day on Morning Joe to shrug off Romney’s deliberate dog whistle to white Obama haters — targeted by an opportunistic pol who’s stooped to humoring bigots in order to reach a new strategic goal. In order to win in November, Romney must now capture at least 61 percent of the white vote — a figure that will not only be extremely difficult to attain, but which will only snag Mitt “a slim national majority” if Obama isn’t able to improve on his 80 percent share of the 2008 minority vote.

‘Tweety’ eats Reince’s Wheaties (on somebody else’s show)
When one of Joe Scarborough’s panel members, Chris “Tweety” Matthews, artlessly chomped Reince’s Wheaties over Romney’s shameless racial pander (camouflaged though it was as a lighthearted comedic “Mitt Moment”), nobody there was laughing. Joe, Mika, Tom Brokaw, and the gang were clearly anxious as hell over how Tweety’s outburst might look to viewers and critics. They kept trying to “shush” the garrulous Hardball host or, failing that, to succeed at talking louder than his rant.

Funny that the crowd in Michigan last Friday didn’t laugh, either, as Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC pointed out. “They cheered,” he observed, as if Mitt had made an important policy pronouncement. They applauded the new knowledge that Romney was willing to go there, to be on record as not merely the Republican who was running for president but the white man who was running to win back the White House for white voters.

Priebus muttered, “Garbage,” under his breath at the end of the cable segment — to which Matthews countered, “It’s your garbage.” A headline for the right-wing site’s story about the on-air tiff, however, read, “Chris Matthews Loses It, Calls Reince Priebus Garbage.” Neither combatant had characterized the other person as “garbage,” but only what he had said.

You can bet that the headline will go viral in the Nutbag-o-sphere, especially since blogger Katie Pavlich’s “story” consists of one paragraph referring indignantly to what she believed to be unwarranted criticism of “Mitt Romney’s joke about a birth certificate.”

How low will Mitt go to attain his 61 percent goal?
Unfortunately, Mitt will find no easy path to cobbling together a national majority, after burning almost every bridge once open to him among black, Latino, and women voters. That, of course, all went up in smoke when he talked trash to the NAACP, excoriated the DREAM Act, and paid lip service to everything from passing a “fetal personhood” bill to shutting down Planned Parenthood. Now, Mitt needs to woo and win three out of every five white voters, and he’s not polling anywhere near as well as Obama does (at nearly 60 percent) among the very “college-educated plus” white women who feel the most threatened by the Republican “war on women.”

What Romney needs, therefore, is the stereotypical Republican: the white, older, working-class male seething with racial resentment, whom Mitt believes he can rely on to vote against his own economic interests rather than reelect the hated “Obummer” —

  • despite the Romney/Ryan plan to raise his taxes so they can even further reduce the taxes of people so rich and greedy, they’ll croak before they’ve even touched their principal, even as he dies a virtual pauper;
  • despite their plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system that will start out costing him $6,300 more a year for health care than he pays now, and escalate in each successive year he’s still alive;
  • despite  their plan to turn Medicaid into a block-grant program , so that when his wife needs nursing home care and he can’t afford long-term care insurance, he has no way to pay for it.

Everybody knows that the “MittWit” has become so desperate to break away from President Obama in the polls that the only pathway to the presidency he can envision is appealing to the “basest, racist” instincts of the lowest common denominator. White male voters may not be wild about Mitt Romney, but they hate Barack Obama so much more than they love anything — even America — that they’re willing to vote for literally anybody else.

Hordes of  ‘zombie voters’ prepare to descend on polls
If the simple fact that Mitt Romney’s face is as white as a KKK bedsheet doesn’t win over his target voters, he can always fall back on the kooky pop psychology of the Great Voter Fraud Hoax of 2012. This theory is held by purveyors of the myth that hordes of unregistered impostors are prepared to show up at polling places and “impersonate” registered voters if Americans fail to take drastic measures to stop them. These imaginary “vote-scammers” — sketchily described as urban blacks signed up fraudulently during voter-registration drives conducted by federally funded agencies, or “illegal aliens” who purloin dead people’s Social Security numbers — are so widely feared by the far right because they “tend to vote for Democrats.”

The infamous ACORN case, which led to 22 convictions in seven states after temporary workers registered ineligible or fictitious voters, involved cases of registration fraud, not impersonation fraud. “Mickey Mouse has been registered hundreds of times but Mickey has never turned up on Election Day to vote,” said Richard Hasen, a professor of political science and election law expert.

Yet Republican alarmists insist that, as GOP presidential candidate John McCain said during a 2008 debate, fraudulent registrations collected by ACORN were “one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”  (The Congressional Research Service “found no instances” of anyone who was “allegedly registered to vote improperly “by ACORN actually “attempting to vote at the polls.”

Even though voters are less likely to be victimized by “voter fraud” than they are to report sighting a UFO, the GOP embarked in 2011 on a nationwide effort to “shut down” this virtually nonexistent phenomenon. (News21, a national investigative reporting project, revealed earlier this month that only 10 instances of voter-impersonation fraud have occurred nationwide since 2000 — a period when 146 million people were registered to vote. The infinitesimal amount of in-person voter fraud that actually occurred equaled one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.)

Nevertheless, 34 states since 2011 have proposed or passed laws requiring that voters show state-approved photo ID cards at the polls. In other states, early voting days and extended voting hours have been curtailed — including Ohio, where Republican Secretary of State John Husted attempted to prohibit early voting in Democratic-majority counties while encouraging it in Republican-majority counties. Progressive pundits soon shamed him into abandoning his shamelessly partisan plan. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott even tried to purge “non-residents” from the state’s voter rolls, until an analysis of a submitted list of 2,700 names revealed that 87 percent of the people on the list were minorities.

If Republicans can’t persuade more angry white men to turn out for their lackluster candidate, the Mittster still has one more ace up his sleeve. Anticipating a dearth of minority and female voters, Republicans recruited what they claim will be one million “True the Vote” poll-watchers. Should any straggling minority Dems make it through the gauntlet of GOP speed bumps and onto the threshold of the voting booth, this volunteer goon squad has promised to kick in, kick butt, and even Romney’s troubling odds.

GOP Convention attendee gets ugly with CNN employee
Just as the 2012 Republican National Convention’s roster of evening speeches was getting under way, former MSNBC anchor David Shuster tweeted: “GOP attendee ejected for throwing nuts at African-American CNN camerawoman + saying ‘This is how we feed animals.’ ”

Needless to say, this atrocious racial slur is not terribly surprising, given the venue, the occasion, and the decidedly “hostile environment” in which this professional journalist was required to work. It is, however, horrifying, degrading, and barbarous. This person must have felt emboldened by some sort of group camouflage to publicly target another human being that way, surrounded by people he imagined would harbor as much racial animus as he did.*

At least they looked as if they did. Out of 4,411 GOP delegates and alternates attending the 2012 convention, only 46 of them (a paltry 2 percent) are black, according to two Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters who collaborated on a story about the party’s struggle with diversity. By contrast, they noted, African-Americans comprise 26 percent of the 4,000-plus delegates slated to attend the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

I don’t care how many Nikki Haleys, Ted Cruzes, Artur Davises, and Mia Loves the GOP hustles onto that convention stage for the sake of appearances. All I could see on my TV screen was a vast, monolithic ocean of white privilege, flecked with clusters of jingoistic balloons.


* Update, 8-30-12: Yesterday, the racist peanut assault incident at the GOP convention was clarified by numerous new press accounts. Two “older than middle-aged white men” rather than one, of just the sort I described above,  collaborated on tormenting the CNN camerawoman. A number of pundits criticized CNN for apparently “hushing up” the incident because the channel has recently embarked on a campaign to appear the least biased of the three major cable news networks.

Just before the two white goons pelted Patricia Carroll with peanuts and called her a zoo animal, a Puerto Rican delegate included in the convention’s program, as part of the party’s effort to put on a false show of  “highlighting diversity,” was shouted down by the crowd, with chants of “USA! USA! USA!”, after beginning her remarks in Spanish.