Fox News Ad Draws Protests

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 2009 3:06 PM

A provocative full-page newspaper ad from Fox News drew heated reactions from its rivals today and one demand that The Washington Post apologize for running it.

Over photos of protesters gathering for an "anti-tax" rally in Washington last Saturday, the ad asked: "How Did ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN Miss This Story?"

The problem with the ad is that the other networks indeed covered the protest, which -- like similar demonstrations across the country -- were heavily promoted by Fox, especially talk show host Glenn Beck.

The ad appeared Friday in the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, both owned by Fox's parent company, and in The Washington Post.

ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider described the ad as "outrageous and false." NBC spokeswoman Lauren Kapp said that "the facts . . . prove it wrong." CNN spokeswoman Edie Emery called the ad "blatantly false."

Fox News provided more coverage than other news outlets in the run-up to what Beck branded the "9/12" protests, but the other networks hardly ignored the story. ABC, for instance, covered it Saturday and Sunday on "Good Morning America" and Sunday on "World News," along with extensive reports by ABC Radio and the network's Web site. NBC covered it Saturday on "Nightly News" and the next morning on "Today." CBS covered it on the "Evening News." CNN covered the Saturday protests during the 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. hours, as well as on other programs afterward. Correspondents such as NBC's Tom Costello, ABC's Kate Snow and CBS's Nancy Cordes were involved in the coverage.

Fox's view is that the ad refers to the other networks' missing the larger story, not failing to cover the demonstration itself -- although the photos suggest that the headline refers to the protest. "Generally speaking," Michael Tammero, Fox News's vice president of marketing, said in a statement, "it's fair to say that from the tea party movement . . . to ACORN . . . to the march on 9/12, the networks either ignored the story, marginalized it or misrepresented the significance of it altogether."

There is no evidence that The Post asked Fox for any substantiation. Ken Babby, Washington Post Media's vice president for advertising, declined to be interviewed.

In a statement, Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti said the paper "will not reject an advertisement based on its content or sponsor, unless the ad is illegal, false, advocates illegal actions, or is not in keeping with standards of taste. When we do not see anything in a particular ad that is contrary to these standards, we will not place limits on speech or content. That was our review and judgment in this case."

But wasn't this ad arguably false? "Fox News was expressing its opinion on how its competitors covered the story in an ad to promote itself," Coratti said.

ABC's Schneider, however, told the newspaper in a letter that The Post exercised "zero due diligence" in assessing the truth of the ad and that it "should have been rejected according to your professed standards. Now the Post should make it right by apologizing quickly and recognizing that it made a grave error that tarnishes the reputation of five other news organizations."

Beck's World

There is perhaps no greater status signifier, no clearer guidepost of having arrived than to be featured on the cover of Time.

Of course, the headline "Mad Man" may mitigate the honor a bit.

Glenn Beck is suddenly hotter than a pistol, his ratings are soaring, and he is being hailed by many on the right and savaged by much of the left.

He was the chief cheerleader for last weekend's 9/12 protests. He forced the resignation of White House aide Van Jones. He has been pounding the drum on ACORN and those devastating hidden-camera videos of workers advising two undercover conservative activists on how to conduct a prostitution ring without getting caught.

And if he seems a little loco in the process, well, that probably helps at the box office.

Beck loudly proclaims his disdain for both parties, but the man who called President Obama a racist certainly seems to siding with the inflammatory wing of the conservative movement.

I interviewed Beck two years ago, on "Reliable Sources," when he was with Headline News. I asked him about his own interview with Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress: "What I feel like saying is, sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies, and I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy. But that's the way I feel and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."

I told Beck I found that "horribly offensive."

"I can appreciate that," he said. "It was a poorly worded question. And I apologize for a poorly worded question. However, I think we're all living in denial if we are really saying to each other that a -- a world that we live in now, where we can't -- where we have to shut up because of political correctness and we can't say Muslim extremists are bad, 10 percent of Islam is extreme and want to kill us."

So how much of a cultural force is the Fox News host becoming? He didn't grant Time an interview, but here's the piece--"Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?"--by David Von Drehle:

"No one has a better feeling for this mood, and no one exploits it as well, as Beck. He is the hottest thing in the political-rant racket, left or right. A gifted entrepreneur of angst in a white-hot market. A man with his ear uniquely tuned to the precise frequency at which anger, suspicion and the fear that no one's listening all converge . . .

"His fears are many -- which is lucky for him, because Beck is responsible for filling multiple hours each day on radio and TV and webcast, plus hundreds of pages each year in his books, his online magazine and his newsletter. What's this rich and talented man afraid of? He is afraid of one-world government, which will turn once proud America into another France. He is afraid that Obama 'has a deep-seated hatred for white people' -- which doesn't mean, he hastens to add, that he actually thinks 'Obama doesn't like white people.' He is afraid that both Democrats and Republicans in Washington are deeply corrupt and that their corruption is spreading like a plague. He used to be afraid that hypocritical Republicans in the Bush administration were killing capitalism and gutting liberty, but now he is afraid that all-too-sincere leftists in the Obama administration are plotting the same. On a slow news day, Beck fears that the Rockefeller family installed communist and fascist symbols in the public artwork of Rockefeller Center . . .

"Beck mines the timeless theme of the corrupt Them thwarting a virtuous Us. This flexible narrative often contains genuinely uncomfortable truths. Some days 'they' are the unconfirmed policy 'czars' whom Beck fears Obama is using to subvert constitutional government -- and he has some radical-sounding sound bites to back it up. Some days 'they' are the network of leftist community organizers known as ACORN -- and his indictment of the group is looking stronger every day. But he also spins yarns of less substance. He tells his viewers that Obama's volunteerism efforts are really an attempt to create a 'civilian national-security force that is just as strong, just as powerful as the military.' . . . In his recent instabook -- Glenn Beck's Common Sense, a huge best seller, with more than 1 million copies moved in less than four months -- he wrote, 'Most Americans remain convinced that the country is on the wrong track. They know that SOMETHING JUST DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT but they don't know how to describe it or, more importantly, how to stop it.' "

Oh, and this tidbit: Forbes estimates that Beck is making $23 million a year, "a ballpark figure confirmed by knowledgeable sources."

Wouldn't that tend to make you a little less mad?

I found the piece fair, though the advertiser boycott of Beck's program should have been mentioned. But Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell denounces it as "an apparent effort to woo the rightwing with a ludicrously 'balanced' treatment of equally dangerous and wacko 'ranting' coming from left and right.' "

The Time cover was batted around on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," as Mediaite reports.

"Scarborough summed up his thoughts. 'Glenn Beck's really taken off and despite the fact, maybe because of the fact, he said some very intemperate things,' he said. 'When you try to nail him down he'll go 'oh I'm just a rodeo clown.' Well this rodeo clown is making a lot of people very angry.'

"And Beck fans are sure to love this description from Mika Brzezinski. 'I will say that my reaction is one of real concern,' she said. 'I think it's because I feel like the conservative voice isn't being well-represented. That he's tapping into something that may not be so constructive in terms of raising the bar of the conversations and representing the conservative voice in an elegant way.' "

Oh, and Gawker has great behind-the-scenes footage of Beck looking weepy at a photo shoot.

A DNC ad about the "czars" issue is almost all footage of Beck. And CBN's David Brody debunks much of the indictment:

"The Obama administration is pushing back against conservative media outlets on the so called ' Obama Czars Controversy' and you know what? They have some legitimate points . . .

"Here's a simple fact: The Czar list compiled by Fox News and other outlets is just not fully accurate. They are listing people like Cass Sunstein, John Holdren and a few others as Czars but these folks have been confirmed by the Senate. That is significant because the main contention here is that these Czars run around unchecked and unaccountable to Congress. Their list shouldn't include them. If you want to make the argument that Sunstein and Holdren shouldn't be nominated by President Obama because of things they've either said or done in the past then fine but to add them to the Czar total is really misleading.

"Look, you can make the argument that the Obama administration has increased the number of so-called Czars and it has even concerned liberals like Senator Russ Feingold and Senator Robert Byrd. Still, if you want to bring credibility to your argument you need to get your facts straight. Conservative media outlets hurt themselves when the information they provide isn't the total picture. It may play well with Obama's staunch critics but doesn't the full truth matter?"

Secret Weapon?

Michelle Obama will soon be talking about more than her vegetable garden, Politico reports:

"Pushing for health care reform didn't turn out so well for the last first lady in a Democratic White House.

"But with a retooled staff, and an under-the-radar summer behind her, Michelle Obama plans a packed autumn that aides say will include a 'dedicated focus' on health insurance reform -- the same issue that brought such headaches to Hillary Clinton. 'She will do things that fit in with what she cares about, like health care reform and the implications it has for family and kids,' said Camille Johnston, Obama's director of communications. 'She will spend her time focusing on where policy and people intersect.'

"For the health care reform push . . . the aim is for the first lady's imprimatur to put a friendly face and a noncontroversial spin on a complex, highly partisan issue. She won't get into the weeds on health care, pushing specific details or plans as Clinton did. Instead, she'll make the soft, soccer-mom sell, highlighting the need to eat healthy, exercise and get preventive care."

Will Michelle be on five Sunday shows next week?

Obama and Race, Cont'd.

The New Republic's John McWhorter says that even if he's right that Joe Wilson's outburst "was motivated by dislike for blacks, I'm not entirely sure that I, or anyone else, should care. Consider a hypothetical: Wilson, we can presume, would have been pleased as punch if the new black president were a Republican and were up at the podium singing the praises of small government and sending immigrants back to where they came from. This thought experiment does not exonerate Wilson of the charge of racism; what it does mean is that we are talking about a racism more complicated than the bigotries of old, a racism intertwined with other brands of animus (against liberals, against Democrats, against elites) to an extent we can only speculate about . . .

"I think it's worth pausing and asking: Is racism this subsidiary and elusive really worth getting exercised about?"

At Right Wing Nuthouse, Rick Moran tees off on the former president:

"Carter has always had that magical ability to peer into the souls of men and glean their intent - as all liberals possess to some degree. It's why they can play the race card with impunity. They just KNOW that opposition to Obama is based solely and exclusively on the color of his skin. There simply is no other explanation because, how can you oppose a liberal? How can anyone oppose a BLACK MAN? . . .

"If Obama was truly concerned about being 'post racial,' he would condemn Carter in the strongest possible terms. But he won't. And the reason he won't is because Carter, Maureen Dowd, and other liberals who are accusing the right of being racist are helping him. Playing the race card - at the moment - is politically profitable for the president. It unites his base by giving those who support him the feeling that they are morally superior to the opposition.

"It is also the most damaging epithet one can hurl at the opposition and serves the purpose of putting doubts into the mind of more independent and moderate voters that if opposing the president is tantamount to being a racist, best keep their complaints to themselves. The left loves to intimidate people in this manner."

But the White House has disagreed with Carter and tried to tamp down the issue--prompting this point from Americablog's John Aravosis:

"Isn't it telling that President Obama has to avoid any mention of race, lest he come off as an 'angry black man.' Do I have to avoid coming off as an angry white man, or an angry Greek? I do try, however, to be a 'reasonable gay man' when I go on TV and talk about gay rights issues. And I do it because of the same societal constraints that make President Obama avoid talking about racism. Namely, there still is bigotry in America, and the president and I both watch what we say in order to avoid being on the receiving end of it."

Can ACORN Grow?

I wonder if this piece by Opinion Journal's James Taranto is the beginning of a drumbeat:

"Obama worked for Acorn and Acorn worked for Obama. That doesn't mean the president is implicated in any wrongdoing, but it suggests at least that the worse things get for Acorn, the more embarrassing it is for him. If the Justice Department fails to prosecute, it invariably would raise suspicions of political favoritism. This column does not care for special prosecutors, but the case for appointing one would seem to be stronger here than usual."

Meanwhile, even the liberal House sees ACORN as radioactive:

"The House voted Thursday to deny federal money to the community-organizing group Acorn after a video emerged in which employees of the group gave advice to two conservative activists posing as a prostitute and a pimp who said they wanted buy a house in Baltimore and start a brothel."

Rather vs. CBS

The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove has this important update on the acrimony between Dan Rather and his former employer, CBS:

"The latest contretemps involve such momentous issues as: whether the forced-out anchorman, who held the job for 24 years, would be welcomed at the recent funeral and memorial service for his legendary predecessor, Walter Cronkite; whether the 77-year-old Rather was sufficiently represented in a CBS News special celebrating Cronkite's life and times, or in photos displayed during the memorial service at Avery Fisher Hall; whether an independent filmmaker hoping to make a Rather documentary would be granted access to CBS News archival footage; and whether CBS, in Orwellian style, is trying to make Rather a non-person and erase him from the corporate memory . . .

"Was CBS, which supervised the guest lists, willing to provide Rather with tickets to the two Cronkite events? It's understandable that CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, a key defendant in the lawsuit along with Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone, had no wish to run into his antagonist at either venue. But after a thorough internal discussion, top executives reached the conclusion that it would look bad if they tried to bar Rather. So they hit upon a clever solution: If, and only if, Rather asked CBS for tickets--a circumstance about as likely as ice-fishing in Hell--he'd get them.

" 'Tickets were made available to Dan both to the Cronkite funeral and to the memorial,' a CBS spokesman told me, 'and he was seated in appropriate places in both events, although we can understand why he was disappointed with his position out of the spotlight.' "

The phrase no love lost comes to mind.

Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."

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