Politico Lambasted for Inventing Obama/Polanski Link


Politico is taking heat from all over the blogosphere for a story they posted Wednesday that conflated support for convicted rapist Roman Polanski with political donations to President Obama.  The splashy headline read “Roman Polanski Backers Gave $34k to Barack Obama, DNC.”

The story prompted a strong reaction from the DNC, whose spokesman called it “lowbrow…amateur hour…one of the silliest stories that I’ve ever seen.”  Politico is now being ripped by HuffPo, Media Matters, Gawker, and many others for what Salon calls the “Smear of the day.”  Politico, however, stands by their story:

“We will look for the political angle in virtually any story,” responded top Politico editor Jim VandeHei. “This short blog item was done for the Click page — where we run a lot of entertainment and personality items. It was quick item based on FEC data alone.”

Critics of Politico’s story point out that the data offered doesn’t actually support any sort of link between the President and Polanski, and seems designed solely to generate traffic from conservative websites.

I took a look at Politico’s story, then did some checking of my own.

First of all, Politico says that the Polanski arrest “sparked a vigorous national debate about sex, justice and extradition that – thus far – has yet to draw in the Obama administration.”  That’s not entirely accurate.  Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the case several days after the arrest:

Q Will the President pardon Polanski? Will he, or not?

MR. GIBBS: I don’t know of any pending pardon request, Lester.

Q Does he believe pedophiles should not be prosecuted?

MR. GIBBS: The President believes pedophiles should be prosecuted, Lester.

I also did some checking into this “US Government” that sought Polanski’s arrest, and it turns out Barack Obama is in charge of it.

Still, there is the matter of those 6 signatures on the Polanski petition.  The 7th, Harvey Weinstein, didn’t actually give Barack Obama any money at all.  In fact, Politico even points out that Weinstein gave $88,000 to Hillary Clinton.  I wonder why that didn’t make it into the headline?  Maybe he was the only Hillary donor on the list.  It’s still almost 6 times what Obama got, but let’s give Politico the benefit of the doubt and check it out.

Director Michael Mann (who didn’t make Politico’s list) donated $2300 to Hillary Clinton, Brett Ratner has donated $8,800 to Hillary (and $4,600 to John Edwards, tee-hee), Martin Scorsese donated $3,500 to Clinton, and Harvey Weinstein donated that whopping $88,000 to Hillary.  That’s $102,600 to Hillary, versus $15,500 to Barack Obama, almost a 7 to 1 difference.  Does Hillary’s name belong in a headline with a rapist?

I was also able to identify an even stronger link between Polanski and 2004 congressional candidate Nick Clooney.  Adrien Brody donated $2000 to Nick Clooney. and Weinstein gave Clooney $4,000.  Taken as a percentage of total dollars raised, Clooney cleans Obama’s clock by a 348-1 margin.  Is “Obama, DNC Snubbed by Polanski Pals in Favor of Nick Clooney” too long a headline?

Still, you have to give Politico credit for caring so much about women.

The White House And Glenn Beck Agree! Mainstream Media Is Failing At Its Job

Obama press conferenceIf you watch Glenn Beck with any regularity you know that he thinks the mainstream media is not doing their job (to be fair, the ACORN debacle and the NYT delayed response to it sort of suggests he’s right). Looks like the Obama administration agrees with him!

Michael Scherer
has a particularly interesting piece over at Time this week about the White House’s summer of discontent with the mainstream media (the NYT and WaPo are called out in particular) and its increasingly bad habit of picking up stories from Fox without doing the fact-checking, and how it has resulted in the White House deciding to hell with the media! They are going to do their own fact-checking.

All the criticism, both fair and misleading, took a toll, regularly knocking the White House off message. So a new White House strategy has emerged: rather than just giving reporters ammunition to “fact-check” Obama’s many critics, the White House decided it would become a player, issuing biting attacks on those pundits, politicians and outlets that make what the White House believes to be misleading or simply false claims, like the assertion that health-care reform would establish new “sex clinics” in schools. Obama, fresh from his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, cheered on the effort, telling his aides he wanted to “call ‘em out.”

How does the White House manage to become a player? Looks like they may have finally got their own Glenn Beck (sans the chalk board) in the form of a veteran campaign strategist Anita Dunn who is a “devoted consumer of conservative-media reports and a fierce critic of Fox News, leading the Administration’s effort to block officials, including Obama, from appearing on the network.” She is also the person behind the White House blog “denunciations.”

So basically the White House is attempting to step into the deep-end of the blogosphere. Perhaps it’s inevitable — this is the Internet Presidency after all, and Obama does carry a Blackberry. But still. Is it really a good thing? Doesn’t deciding to respond to Glenn Beck et al. in kind merely elevate much of the nonsense Beck spews and simultaneously lower the White House a few rungs down the credibility ladder? Wouldn’t the more prudent approach be to figure out how Glenn Beck has out-Obama’d Obama, pinpoint what it is exactly that is so appealing about Beck and than address that fear instead (preferably with a chalk board!)? One more voice in the politico online din, even if it’s the White House’s, is going to end up being just that: one more voice.

Ailes Meets Axelrod: What’s A Cup Of Coffee Between Friends?

the_week_15089_27Looks like the Obama administration is serious about dealing with Fox News. Politico reported yesterday that during President Obama’s visit to the UN two weeks ago senior adviser David Axelrod met privately with Fox News head Roger Ailes…for coffee, according to Michael Scherer at Swampland.

“I’ve known Roger for a long time,” Axelrod told Time in an email on Monday. “We chatted from time to time during the campaign. I was going to be in NY, so we got together for a cup of coffee.”

The details of the conversation that accompanied that cup of coffee, and who instigated it, are sketchy. But the timing is certainly notable. Obama’s trip to the UN on Wednesday Sept. 23 followed his Sunday morning talk show blitz where the only network he didn’t stop by at was Fox, begging the question: was this meeting the first step in negotiating a detente of sorts after a summer during which Obama’s health care plan was practically derailed by mainly Fox coverage of the town halls? Or perhaps an attempt to make nice in the aftermath of Van Jones’ resignation at the hands of Glenn Beck? Or was Fox attempting to mend fences in the hopes of not being skipped over during the next Obama blitz?

Be it any or all, you’d never know it by watching Fox! Glenn Beck in particular has only ramped up his criticism of all things Obama, so much so the White House took the unusual step of responding on its blog the other week. Per Swampland: “[Fox's senior vice president for news] “Michael Clemente said that White House aides, in their increasingly vocal criticism, were failing to distinguish between Fox News’s journalism, and its pundits and opinion voices, like Beck, who he likened to the op-ed page of the New York Times.” (White House aides and a lot of American viewers one might argue!) Meanwhile a White House official tells Scherer: “[Fox] are the paid political programming for a party, and occasionally a couple of news stories break out in the midst of 23 hours and 45 minutes of political rantings and opinion.”

Snap. Doesn’t sound like either side is willing to make nice any time soon! Perhaps Ailes and Axelrod would have managed better if that cup of coffee had been, say, a double whiskey.

For more on the burgeoning relationship between the Obama Administration and Fox News, please see: Roger Ailes Is The Most Powerful Political Figure In America, or Why the Smartest Thing President Obama Can Do is Go on “The Factor”.

“Real News” Surrenders: CNN Fact-Checks SNL – UPDATE


There has been a battle brewing for years between the “real news” and the fake news, with poll after poll showing that more and more Americans get their news from comedy shows like “The Daily Show.” Who can forget Jon Stewart’s throwdown with the hosts of “Crossfire?“  More recently, Stewart got into a fact-fight with Bill O’Reilly (and won), and became a hero-of-the-moment to the right for pointing out the mainstream media’s abdication on the ACORN story.

Now, it seems the “real news” is acknowledging the fake news as its equal, as CNN runs a  “fact check” segment dissecting a Saturday Night Live sketch: (h/t Hot Air)

While there is certainly value in fact-checking a comedy skit that is widely replayed on all of the other news networks, this is usually the purview of the more partisan blogosphere, and of filmmakers like Sarah Palin booster John Ziegler.  A fine example of this comes at about the 2:30 mark in this clip, where CNN references Tina Fey’s “dead-on” impersonation of Palin, without ever mentioning its factual verisimilitude.

As a matter of fact, Saturday Night Live clips featured heavily in the 2008 Presidential campaign, but usually, the discussion centered around the larger points raised by the sketches, not a fact-by-fact analysis.  One cable network even played a snippet of a sketch alongside a snippet of an actual Palin interview to show how they matched exactly.  In this case, there was no attempt to clarify or provide context, but simply to laugh.  Can you guess which network it was?

This is basically the other side of the coin, as they give the impression that the entire sketch used Palin’s actual interview as its script.  They could have clued viewers in that the rest of the sketch did not match the interview verbatim.

By framing the segment as a fact check, CNN is providing conservatives with confirmation that the mainstream media is “in the tank” for Obama, despite evidence to the contrary.  They could have accomplished the same thing by deconstructing the clip as part of a broader examination of the way comedy fiction becomes popular fact.

Perhaps CNN isn’t being inconsistent, but rather instituting a new policy.  If that’s the case, I can’t wait to see their first fact-check of “Family Guy.”

– Via email John Ziegler offered the following comment:

“This CNN “bit” is far more hilarious than the SNL skit. The funniest part (other than them doing the piece to begin with) is that CNN claims that parts of the SNL sketch couldn’t be further from the truth and yet I can’t find one thing that they cam close to proving was totally untrue. I am still waiting for CNN to “fact check” Tina Fey implying Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her “house,” which 87% of Obama voters and many members of the news media (including Barbara Walters) wrongly believed she did. This is simply Media Malpractice in the extreme. I wish I could say I am surprised, but I am not.”

Obama-Obsessed Pundits Go After ‘Vain Obama’ For Olympic Loss

obama olympics

Judging from some conservative pundits’ reactions, you’d think that Barack Obama lost his reelection bid when Chicago failed to get the IOC’s blessing to host the 2016 Olympics. Matt Drudge wrote that the “World Rejects Obama.” George Will suggested that Obama’s new nickname could become “Vain Obama” after a speech to the IOC in which he used the word “I” a lot. The staff of Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard reportedly erupted into cheers at the news that Chicago didn’t get it.

a. Aren’t Americans typically supposed to want American cities to host the Olympics?

b. Isn’t it a little self-obsessed to assume that everyone is as fixated on Obama’s every move as the American op-ed column/cable news cycle?

This is not to say that the Olympic presentation was well-handled by the Obama team in Copenhagen, but making it all about Barack and Michelle Obama is simplistic. With characteristic pith, Monocle editor Tyler Brûlé dissects everything that went wrong in the “slightly smug and overly corporate presentations:”

Chicago’s bid might have been technically up to scratch but the moment its IOC member Anita DeFrantz took to the stage with her hammy delivery, she’d lost the first three rows. When Mayor Daley got up and pitched his town like he was wooing another Boeing to move its HQ there, he lost Europe. When Doug Arnot butchered the French language, he lost the Francophone bloc. And whoever allowed the Obamas to serve up such helpings of cheese so early in the day should be sacked. Michelle Obama’s overly personal story was disjointed and her husband just looked annoyed that he had to address such a small audience.

Sure, Michelle Obama’s speech was a little maudlin, and she got slightly confused about Carl Lewis. But is this the sort of thing that sinks Olympic bids? Put another way — even if the US came in making an airtight presentation, would it have mattered, given other factors at play?

As a veteran IOC member told the LA Times, “We [North Americans] kind of think if you’ve got the best bid, the world will recognize that, and these decisions are made solely on the merits of the bid. Well, not solely.” Rio came into Copenhagen representing an entire continent that had never hosted the Olympics — period. Hopefully, they will be able to satisfactorily address the safety concerns that continue to worry experts, but they’ve got it. Conservatives who think that the world is as obsessed with every move of President Obama’s as they are forget that the Olympics are a world game, not just another dull frontier of American partisan politics.

(image via Newsday)


Your Moment Of Glenn: Beck Goes After Jarrett, Instructs NYT To Take Notes

Sometimes it seems like Glenn Beck closes his eyes throws a dart at the White House staff list and voila! He has his next target. Or maybe he’s just looked at his ratings and decided he’s got the clout to play in the big leagues. Either way, looks like senior adviser Valerie Jarrett is the latest to step into Beck’s direct line of fire…more commonly known as his chalkboard.

Beck employed his chalkboard to great effect today to highlight Jarrett’s (and one presumes, the President’s) connection with Russia, Che Guevera, and…Van Jones (Darth Vader makes a late appearance). Less directly with “sad Al Gore.” Short version (I think) is that Obama’s inner circle might benefit from Chicago getting the 2016 Olympics and this is the real reason the Obamas are in Copenhagen.

Jarrett is the biggest fish Beck has yet gone after in the Obama administration and he’s hitting close to home — Jarrett is indeed very close to the Obama’s and has close ties with them that date back many years. Considering the White House blog took the unusual step of pushing back today over yesterday’s coverage of 2016 Olympic, one wonders how they will react to today’s inner circle parsing.

Newsmax Pulls Column Calling For Military Coup Against Obama (UPDATED)

Picture 3Yesterday, conservative website Newsmax posted a column by frequent contributor John L. Perry entitled “Obama Risks a Domestic Military ‘Intervention,’” justifying the possibility of using military force against President Obama. But by today, the article had disappeared from the site without comment, although the headline still appears in a search for Perry (screenshot below). Luckily, Gawker’s political writer Alex Pareene was quick enough to snag his own screenshot of the entire piece. And it’s a doozy! 

In it, Perry was clear about his ideas from the beginning, wasting no words and coming right out to say what he meant:

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.

But he moves on quickly from outlandish claim to detailed fantasy:

Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

And for Perry, lest you think his line of reasoning dramatic or illegal, this is a legitimate action and viable possibility:

Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later.”

Non-violent opposition, he says, is practically impossible. Just you try to think up an alternative! Not only is this sort of tea-bagger’s wet dream intellectually stunted — it’s dangerous and threatening, devised out of anger and a lack of any rational ideas. And for those whooping about the sanctity of the Constitution, could there be anything less democratic than a military coup?

But far more egregious than the article’s ridiculous premise is its sly removal without so much as a statement. Doesn’t Newsmax realize the internet is forever? When Mediaite called the Newsmax office for comment about the sudden deletion, we were told by a receptionist that we could “comment on the website.” After asking to speak with an editor we were told that everyone was at lunch and that editors “usually don’t talk on the phone” but that she would take our information and pass along our request. We will update this space with any comment from Perry or Newsmax.

UPDATE: MediaMatters has the following statement from Newsmax:

In a blog posting to Newsmax John Perry wrote about a coup scenario involving the U.S. military. He clearly stated that he was not advocating such a scenario but simply describing one.

After several reader complaints, Newsmax wanted to insure that this article was not misinterpreted. It was removed after a short period after being posted.

Newsmax strongly believes in the principles of Constitutional government and would never advocate or insinuate any suggestion of an activity that would undermine our democracy or democratic institutions.

Mr. Perry served as a political appointee in the Carter administration in HUD and FEMA. He has no official relationship with Newsmax other than as an unpaid blogger.