2011 P.U.-litzers: Journalism That Doesn't Pass the Smell Test

For Immediate Release

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Steve Rendall
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2011 P.U.-litzers: Journalism That Doesn't Pass the Smell Test

WASHINGTON - It's that time of year again--when FAIR goes through the year's archives to collect a sampling of the worst moments of corporate media spin and malfeasance.

The competition was, as always, fierce. And in special recognition of the media's befuddled approach to the Occupy Wall Street movement, next week will see the release of a second round of OWS-related P.U.-litzers.

--Wacky Conspiracy Award: CBS's Steve Kroft

Kroft (60 Minutes, 1/30/11) explained the apparently demented worldview of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange:

Julian Assange is not your average journalist or publisher, and some have argued that he is not really a journalist at all. He is an anti-establishment ideologue with conspiratorial views. He believes large government institutions use secrecy to suppress the truth and he distrusts the mainstream media for playing along.

--Paul's Not Newt Award: Washington Post's Sarah Kaufman

Kaufman (12/15/11) puzzled over the lack of interest in Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul:

 

So why, with his long-held views and an enthusiastic base of support, does Paul get so little attention? It's not only his anti-establishment message. Part of his acceptance issue is the way he presents himself. As much as he is a refreshing departure from the mold, he also comes across as a gadfly. Consider if Paul had the heftier, more serious bearing of a Romney or a Gingrich. Would he be so easy to dismiss?

--Blind Faith in Precision Weapons Award: CNN's Chris Lawrence

The Pentagon correspondent (3/20/11) was confident from the start of the Libya War that civilians could not possibly be killed:

 

American Tomahawk missiles can be reprogrammed in flight. If there was a risk of civilian casualties, operators could change the target after launch. But the Navy did not use that ability, confident it was aiming at military targets. Moammar Gadhafi says the strikes killed civilians. But a defense official told us if you don't have to reprogram your missile, you're very confident in what you're hitting.

--That's Our Newt Award: Washington Post's Dan Balz; New York Times' Trip Gabriel

Gabriel wrote (New York Times, 11/29/11): "In an election season rife with factual misstatements, deliberate and otherwise, Mr. Gingrich sometimes seems to stand out for exhibiting an excess of knowledge."

Balz (5/12/11) called the former House speaker "an idea-spewing machine"and a "one-man think tank." The reporter warned of one pitfall: "A keen intellect can also translate into the appearance of intellectual superiority."

--Exceptionally Clueless Columnist Award: Washington Post's Kathleen Parker

Parker wrote a column (1/30/11) about how the president "seems afraid" of the word "exceptionalism"--a favorite anti-Obama conservative talking point. Parker claimed that during the State of the Union address, Obama spoke of America's "uniqueness," but he "studiously avoided using the word." One problem: according to a review of presidential papers going back to 1929 (USNews.com, 1/31/11), only one president has ever uttered the phrase "American exceptionalism"...and that's Barack Obama.

--The Bosses' Taxes Are None of Your Business Award: NBC News

The news that General Electric paid no taxes to the U.S. government in 2010 on worldwide profits of $14 billion wasn't news at all at NBC, which is 49 percent owned by GE. After questions were raised about NBC's non-coverage (Washington Post, 3/30/11), NBC Nightly News (3/31/11) finally took a look at the story--in a report that mainly provided an opportunity for GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to rebut criticism: "Immelt says that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes, including GE, and that the corporate tax code needs to be reformed to make it more competitive and eliminate loopholes."

--False Balance Award: ABC's Jonathan Karl

After noting that some Tea Party activists are demanding larger government spending cuts, Karl (This Week, 4/3/11) provided "balance" with this observation: "Democrats have their hotheads, too. One Obama administration official said the Republican bill, which cuts $5 billion from the Agency for International Development would kill kids. That's right. Kill kids." His "proof" was a soundbite from USAID director Rajiv Shah, a "hothead" who pointed out that cutting funds for preventing diseases like malaria in poor countries will mean more kids will die from malaria.

--SEALS: Superheroes, or Better!? Award: ABC's Chris Cuomo

After a team of Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, reporters jumped to lionize the warriors. But no one jumped quite like Cuomo, who explained in one report (5/3/11) that "that taking out bin Laden was just another day at the office," "a superhero has nothing on these guys," and "the only thing missing seems to be the ability to leap a building in a single bound."

--The Training Wheels of War Award: NBC's Richard Engel

On NBC Nightly News (10/21/11), speaking about the end of the Iraq War: "The training wheels off, Iraq will have to succeed or fail without American troops on the ground to guide the way." By "training wheels," of course, Engel means eight years of invasion and occupation by the United States.

--'Leeches on Society' Award: CNN's Carol Costello

When radio hosts Tavis Smiley and Cornel West appeared on CNN's American Morning (8/8/11) to call attention to the problem of poverty, the CNN host cited discredited studies from the right-wing Heritage Foundation (Extra!, 1-2/99; Center for American Progress, 8/5/11) to make the point that "most of the poor in America live in a decent house. They have TVs. They have microwave ovens and they even have a refrigerator. What are they complaining about?" Costello even interrupted West to falsely claim that "the poor don't pay any" taxes.

Costello later remarked to a co-host: "Frankly, I think to an extent the poor have been demonized because many people in America think they're leeches on society. They're just, you know, sucking everything out of us."

--Newt Not Far Enough Award: Time's Joe Klein

If you thought Newt Gingrich's plan to to have kids work as janitors cleaning their schools sounded weird, Klein agreed. Sort of. He thinks the problem is that the idea doesn't go far enough.Complaining that Gingrich faced "a shrill, silly gust of liberal ire," Klein explained (12/19/11):

 

It's a good idea, which would be much better if it were expanded to all public middle and high schools, with the work seen as an unpaid form of public service, a way to build community spirit and teach civic responsibility.

--Ask a Billionaire About Class War Award: NBC's David Gregory

At the top of Meet the Press (9/25/11), the anchor announced one of the topics to come-- Barack Obama's tax plan. Gregory asked:  "Is the president's plan basic fairness or class warfare?" Who better to answer that question than Gregory's guest: Billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

--Job-Creating Cowboy Award: USA Today's Susan Page; Time

Page (9/19/11) explained the secret to Texas governor Rick Perry's presidential appeal: "He can cite job-creation statistics in Texas that are the envy of the nation's other 49 governors." Actually, the "secret" is that Texas has a higher unemployment rate than 26 other states.

Time magazine (9/26/11) went a totally different route with its Perry puffery:

 

When you look at Perry, it's easy to picture him in an old Western. His late arrival in the primary field in August certainly felt like that moment when the big stranger steps through the swinging saloon doors and all heads pivot and the plinky-plunk piano dies away.

--Tortured Headline Award: New York Times

The Justice Department's decision to drop almost all of its investigations into CIA torture was headlined like this on Democracy Now!: "Justice Dept Drops 99 of 101 Cases Against CIA."

At the New York Times (7/1/11), though, the glass was 2 percent full: "U.S. Widens Inquiries Into 2 Jail Deaths."

-- Peculiar Foreign Culture Award: Wall Street Journal

The end of a Wall Street Journal article (7/14/11) on a new report on Afghan deaths says this about night raids: "The raids are sensitive in Afghanistan, because foreign soldiers burst into civilian homes, where strangers are unwelcome in the country's conservative Islamic traditions."

Perhaps in a more civilized society, heavily armed foreign soldiers who burst into your home in the middle of night are offered dinner.

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FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.

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