Monday, October 11, 2004

Leaked ABC Memo Shows Someone's Keeping Score

ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin has apparently had enough.

An internal memo, dated Oct. 8, has been leaked. Assuming the memo is authentic, it shows a rare instance of someone in the media having the cahones to keep score of who's lying about what in this year's presidential campaign.

The memo reads:

It goes without saying that the stakes are getting very high for the country and the campaigns - and our responsibilities become quite grave.

I do not want to set off (sp?) and endless colloquy that none of us have time for today - nor do I want to stifle one. Please respond if you feel you can advance the discussion.

The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that.

I'm sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.

It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.


The immediate reaction from the left: about time.
The immediate reaction from the right: Kerry is a liar!!!


I agree with Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly: "It's fake 'objectivity' to pretend that ten big lies are the same thing as a couple of minor distortions. The media should be reporting what's really going on, not inventing a false balance that doesn't exist."

To be clear, Halperin isn't saying the media shouldn't point out mis-statements or half-truths from the Kerry camp. Instead, it's just asking that the media play fair, instead of trying to equate minor factual errors from Kerry with massive whoppers from Bush/Cheney.

Bush supporters will likely disagree with the premise of Halperin's memo. But Kerry advocates -- who have been keeping score of all the false statements, half-truths, exaggerations and disingenuous comments from Bush-Cheney '04 -- think the Halperin memo is a much-needed breath of fresh air.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Utter bullshit. The memo does not urge scoring objectively. No one could argue with it if it did. What it says is that we should not score objectively, but according to the writer's prejudice about how the score is going to turn out.

The bit about "whoppers" as opposed to "minor" fibs is telling. BOTH campaigns use this distorted slide rule to their advantage. In fact, since the Republican convention, i have not seen a clip of a Kerry campaign appearence thqwt did not contain a whopper, for instance, "The administrations policy is to raise the medicare premium 17%."

What the memo should have said is simple, and should not have to be stated: "It is our jpoob to be objective. Please do not fall into a false objectivity of trying to balance each side if they are in fact not balanced. If one side tells 7 falsehoods while the other tells 4, report it that way. If one side tells a falsehood that is more serious than others, report it that way."

The memo does not say that. It says quite pointedly that reporters should report that Bush is more of a liar than Kerry in a future event.The notions that kerry also does the same thing but these are not central to his effort to win is stupid beyond belif and can only be attributed to blindness caused by prejudice. In fact, speaking of cajones, I once weorked for a socialist periodical who issued such memos all the time, but had the cajones to call it what it was, pushing their own ideology.

The memo says:

"The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done."

Exactly right. He is referring to opinion pieces. What he is saying is that the reporters should filter their reporting of the facts of a future event through these particular opinion pieces (because, one can guess, he shares their opinion)without regard to the facts.

There are several ways to make even this disgusting memo legitimate. The writer, for instance, could have stated directly that he agrees with the opinions cited, and that his memo is based on that.

But if the writer had any cajones at all, he would have urged honesty. He would have directed that in line with this memo, all reporters state in their stories that ABC was backing kerry's candidacy, and that any stories would advqance that candidacy. They would register as a 527. They would be honest.

Such a memo is perfectly legitimate in an organization which wishes to ensure that its writers stay close to the ideological line. NO memo which urges reporters to report future events in a certain way before they occur can be legitiamate for a news organization which claims objectivity. You must realize that after reading this memo, the reporters could write their story before the debate in a general way. If specificity were not necessary, they could actually file it before the event.

You would probably say that that would show cajones.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...the conservative stranglehold on the media..." That's comical. What do you call the CBS-NBC-ABC-CNN-NY TIMES-LA TIMES-WASHINGTON POST-BOSTON GLOBE etc.axis?

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simple fact is there is no conservative stranglehold on the media. Except for radio-which really doesnt matter since they all preach to the converted on radio. A liberal listens to NPR, not Rush LImbaugh.

I do not see why there needs to be a discussion about this on all of these networks and newspapers. Op/Ed or TV journalism can choose to report slanted views. However, the news needs to report things as they are. Simple. Report all distortions or innacuracies and indicate how much of a whopper it is. This is ridiculous and not worthy of discussion. Anyone who thinks the news should be reported in any other fashion is just letting partisan views outweigh true reporting. Pathetic. First CBS, now this.

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ABC should be commended for bringing to light an obvious problem even to half-concious followers of the mainstream news.
Let's look at one example. Bush's attack-of-the-week against Kerry is "his liberal voting record" while in the Senate.
Karen Hughes, the real Wicked Witch this Halloween, was all over AM news reports yesterday morning accusing Kerry of being a "liberal" and "completely outside of what the average American thinks."
Never mind that half the country thinks the U.S. is headed down the wrong track.
I have not heard these Bushie comments challenged. Why?
To do so would rob Bush of equal space and time against Kerry's justified criticisms of the president's handling of Iraq and the economy.

Kerry is forced to work harder to address the liberal distortion, in much the same way he deflated much of the flip flopping charge in the first debate. The problem is, this time he doesn't have three months to do it.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Bush Administration and Republicans are unfairly twisting the truth about Kerry and his record and statements, it is not only the media's obligation to point this out, it is its' duty. Pure and simple.
The alternative is to allow the government to spew out whatever propaganda it wants to remain in power and we might as well live in a communist state.
Contrary to the belief of the above blogger, I think this is a very critical discussion.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I no longer even understand the point here. Are we concerned that Karen Hughes calls Kerry a liberal or speaks in a slanted way about his senate record? Are we surprised-she is a Bush operative. I thought everyone knew that. Calling Kerry a liberal is not an issue as he probably is one. I havent heard him say he isnt one-just that he doesnt like labels. Is liberal a bad word? These are all cliches. Wrong war, wrong place wrong time....out of touch with the american public, compassionate conservative, liberal......weapons of mass deception...are we expecting news shows to debate or dispute such generalities? Please. Again, a so called whopper-a complete factual distortion should be reported. But not generalities. I also have to say that Kerry has chosen not to run on nor defend his record in the senate and he therefore has allowed the republicans to try to define him. His bed, mostly his problem. Same goes for Bush as he never admits mistakes. HIs bed, his problem when he gets called on it.

The basis for this discussion makes no sense to me other than the overall fact that news shows need to report news, not create it. End of story. I am amazed how this blog has much to say about this ABC issue (or Fox News-Cameron) and had virtually nothing to say when the CBS fiasco first hit. The intelligent points this blog makes are often subsumed by blatantly partisan and ignorant statements.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog is focused on conservative slant, not perceived liberal slant. David has said several times -- and I agree -- that "liberal media bias" is just a conservative myth.

The choice is clear: believe stereostypes and pre-conceived notions, or actually look at the examples being presented on this blog from the so-called "liberal press."

For those conservatives reading this posting, I have one thing to say: It's ok to acknowledge the truth of a particular item, without resorting to conservative spin.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree completely with last paragraph of previous comment. And I am not a conservative, nor a liberal. However, I would suggest the same applies in reverse. There is conservative spin and liberal spin. Somewhere in between lies the truth. And if you dont see the truth to that, you are proving my point in the first place about this blog.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. This is a liberal blog. There are obviously conservative blogs. There are also sites like that try to counter all spin.

The thing that's good about this site -- agree with it or not, but at least it has a consistent viewpoint. I don't think this blog's point is that there isn't any liberal spin, but that conservative spin too often guides reporting by lazy journalists.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the point of this particular argument was that the conservative spinners have been going way too far -- outside the realm of acceptable, fact-based criticism -- in distorting Kerry's record and statements.
The Republicans will say anything to get elected. I won't even get into the apparant lies from Cheney and others. They've gone too far.
I'm sorry. As a close follower of both sides of the fence, I just haven't been seeing the same degree of liberal spin this election season. For some proof, look to the findings of the fact checkers following the three debates.
The reason could be two-fold. Without resorting to spin, it's not a stretch for the Kerry camp to objectively qualify Bush's record in office as a failure.
The Republicans, lacking any real ammunition, have on top of all the dishonest distortions of Kerry taken on such tactics as calling anyone who rightfully questions Bush policies as a wild-eyed liberal, unpatriotic, scary, a friend to terrorists, etc. etc.
It appears that the mainstream media has been contributing to the left's extreme spinning rather than acting as an appropriate watchdog.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that when it comes to the two campaigns, Bushs people have been exagerating the truth a bit more than Kerrys (although they both spin - e.g. the 1.6 million job lost spouted out by Kerry without mentioning the increase in government sector jobs). That said, the entire campaign on both sides has been marred by untruths, accusations, disgusting negativity. It may have begun with the dems not disavowing Michael Moore, moved to the Swift Boat junk, the Texans for truth, and other 527s.....just chock full of misleading ads throughout. It is hard to separate the campaigns from these distortions put out by people "outside" the campaigns.

In addition, Kerry clearly has a better target. Any president has a record people know and care about. And since this president's policies have its weaknesses (nice way of putting it i admit), the target is that much bigger. The challenger can promise the universe and does not need to back it up. Bush is left to challenge Kerry's senate record, which people dont care as much about and is hard to explain in soundbites since legislation is complicated. Either that, or charge he is indecisive, which Kerry opened himself up to when he had to move from center to left and back to win the primary and then run for pres. This is where Kerry is weakest-you have to go after him on these issues because he has no record to speak of. I think it is reasonable to expect that.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was going to comment, but after reading the posts above, I realized that is is practically impossible to say anything more accurate or eloquent than the words written in the first posting on here. To the author, much kudos.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to clear up a certain factual item. Calling kerry a liberal is not some blanket labeling. Please go to the ADA website and see what they say. You will find that this liberal organization, well respected for 50 years, is urging a vote for kerry BECAUSE he is the liberal candidate. In their ratings, kerry has a higher lifetime liberal rating than Kennedy. In the last year scored, he is lower than kennedy simply because he missed three votes, which ADA counts against him. On each of ADA's critical votes, he voted the liberal way. One would think that Kerry would simply say, "Yes, mr, President, i am liberal, and my record reflects it. For instance, i have voted for...., and for...., and against...., and against...., etc. We liberals believe in [note the language here]such-and-such and so-and-so." I think that if he would so speak, he would sew up the election.

Secondly, i would like to comment Mr. Marks on his site. he is totally honest.

Some years ago, as i mentioned, i worked for a Socialist periodical, and we took a feed from TASS for some of our stories. They told them the roght way. i was once talking to a representative from, TASS who had come to speak to us. He told us that American publications have biases, but that they hide them. TASS, he said, says tight on their letterhead that they are the news agency of the Communist Party. "Everyone knows where we stand."

I asked him in mock ignorance whether the other Russian news agencies were just as up front with their allegiences. With a straight face (and these people were very good with strait=ght faces) he said, "The Russiahn people have not seen the need for any other news agency other than TASS."

Anyone coming to this site cans see Mr. mark's bias displayed. the front page says immediately, "If you came looking for the truth, you have come to the wrong place. I offer ideology and such facts as may comport with that ideology."

And i truly commend Mr. Marks for this honesty.

Thirdly, i wish to thank the previous responder for his kind words on my comment, the first in the thread.


6:15 PM  

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