Media, politics and culture.
Unlike some of my commentariat peers, I do not have a particularly interesting John F. Kennedy assassination story to relate as the fiftieth anniversary approaches. I was in seventh grade at the time and experienced the immediate aftermath on TV, like so many others, and watched Jack Ruby slay Oswald live as it happened.
A few years later, in high school, I became an early “JFK conspiracy buff,” then outgrew it, although I’ve always enjoyed following the rise and fall of various theories. I’ve never met a Kennedy but I did have one remarkable second-hand experience involving John F. Kennedy, Jr.
You may recall his short-lived magazine George—an attempt at drawing more youngish people to politics and social issues via a glossy magazine with plenty of celebs and pizzazz. It died pretty much when he did, in that plane crash. But in one issue he accepted for publication—which I found surprising—an excerpt from my new book, Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady, on the notorious 1950 Senate contest in California between Representative Richard M. Nixon and Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas. Surprising, because his father played a minor but disreputable role in that race, which I outlined in the excerpt. Here’s the gist of it.
One summer day in 1950 a young congressman, who needed no introduction or invitation, visited the Capitol Hill office of another young representative in Washington, DC. Like Richard Nixon of California, John F. Kennedy had come to Congress three and a half years earlier and had served on the Education and Labor Committee. Their offices were not far apart in the back of the House Office Building, an area known as the attic, and they maintained cordial relations.
Each recognized that the other was a hot prospect in his party. Though both were ex-Navy men (the sinking of Kennedy’s PT boat in 1943 had occurred not far from where Nixon was stationed in the South Pacific), the two had little of substance in common socially or culturally. Nixon both envied and resented Kennedy’s wealth and connections.
Politically, however, they were not continents apart. They agreed, for example, on the threat of communism. Kennedy had voted to continue funding the House Un-American Activities Committee and favored the latest version of the Mundt-Nixon internal-security bill. Like Nixon, he strongly hinted that Truman’s policy of vacillation had led to “losing” China and inviting Communist advances in Korea. He favored aid to Franco’s Spain and vast increases in the Pentagon budget.
Both congressmen felt that organized labor had grown too powerful. Earlier that year, upon receiving an honorary degree at Notre Dame, Kennedy had warned of the “ever-expanding power of the federal government” and “putting all major problems” into the all-absorbing hands of the great Leviathan the state. Each man craved higher office, but Nixon’s ambition burned even brighter than Kennedy’s, if that was possible.
Like Nixon, Kennedy had ambivalent feelings about Joseph McCarthy. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, the former ambassador to Great Britain, had placed him in a difficult position by striking up a close relationship with the Roman Catholic senator from Wisconsin. Always more conservative than his son, Joe Kennedy had turned rabidly anti-Communist, donating money to McCarthy for his investigations and introducing the senator to such friends as Francis Cardinal Spellman. Shortly after the California primary, McCarthy flew to Cape Cod for a weekend at the Kennedy compound. Jack Kennedy knew McCarthy well; his sister Pat even dated him. Jack liked Joe personally but distrusted him politically.
On his visit to Nixon’s office, Kennedy presented his colleague with a personal check from his father for $1,000. It was for Nixon’s campaign to defeat Kennedy’s fellow Democratic congressmember Helen Gahagan Douglas of Los Angeles (a former stage and film actress, now strong liberal activist and pioneering woman in Congress), in a closely watched US Senate contest in California. Nixon and Douglas had recently easily won their June primaries out there and the race was then considered a toss-up.
A former movie executive, Joseph Kennedy was no stranger to California politics, and despised the brand of liberal activism embraced by Hollywood actors and writers. He had no use for Helen Douglas and a great deal of admiration for Richard Nixon. “Dick, I know you’re in for a pretty rough campaign,” Kennedy observed, “and my father wanted to help out.” But what did the young Kennedy think? “I obviously can’t endorse you,” he explained, “but it isn’t going to break my heart if you can turn the Senate’s loss [that is, Helen Douglas] into Hollywood’s gain.”
Describing the visit to friend and aide Pat Hillings, Nixon exclaimed, “Isn’t this something?” Of course, in that era, many men in Congress simply had a problem dealing with, even accepting, any female colleague, especially a crusading liberal like Helen Douglas. The far-left Democrat, Representative Vito Marcantonio, also backed Nixon over Douglas.
It is uncertain whether this gift marked the elder Kennedy’s only contribution to the Nixon cause. Nixon aide Bill Arnold deposited the thousand-dollar check into the campaign account, but neither it nor any further Joseph P. Kennedy donation would be listed in financial records of the campaign. These records show, however—as I discovered in researching my book—that another of Joe’s sons, Robert F. Kennedy, then attending law school at the University of Virginia, contributed an unspecified sum.
Decades later, in his memoirs, longtime Massachusetts congressman Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill claimed that Joe Kennedy once told him that he had contributed $150,000 to Nixon’s campaign in 1950, “because he believed she [Douglas] was a Communist.” In the same conversation, Kennedy reportedly said he donated nearly the same amount not much earlier to George Smathers’ crusade to defeat Claude Pepper in a notorious Florida race for the Senate.
Speaking to a group of students at Harvard three days after the election that autumn, Congressman Kennedy remarked that he was “personally very happy” that Nixon had defeated Helen Douglas. He reportedly explained that Douglas was “not the sort of person I like working with on committees,” but he did not make clear whether this was because of her manner, her politics, or her gender. On November 14, Kennedy wrote his friend Paul Fay, “I was glad to…see Nixon win by a big vote,” and he predicted that the winner would go far in national GOP politics, for he was “an outstanding guy.”
In 1956, on a visit to California—and looking ahead to a presidential race—Senator John F. Kennedy admitted to Paul Ziffren, now one of the state’s Democratic leaders, that he had supported Nixon in the 1950 race. He apparently wanted to “come clean” and “clear the decks,” according to Ziffren’s wife, Mickey.
Then, in 1960, Helen Douglas went to Wisconsin to campaign in the presidential primary on behalf of Hubert Humphrey (who had stumped for her in 1950). He was facing John F. Kennedy. That fall, Kennedy’s opponent was Richard Nixon, and Douglas felt compelled to endorse the Democrat. Kennedy again admitted that he had supported Nixon against Douglas, calling it “the biggest damnfool mistake I ever made.”
Greg Mitchell’s Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady was recently published in a new print edition and for the first time as an ebook. His other books on great American campaigns include ebooks on the 2008 and 2012 campaigns for president and The Campaign of the Century (Upton Sinclair’s epic race in 1934).
Bill Moyers, for his national public TV show this weekend (just posted online), explores the amazing political and cultural influence of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and his “Ode to Joy” around the world, past and present. It was inspired by the new film that I’ve co-produced, directed by Kerry Candaele, Following the Ninth, and the book we wrote, Journeys With Beethoven.
Remarkably, Moyers presents almost the entire seven-minute trailer for the film, which takes you from China (and Tiananmen Square) to Chile (under Pinochet) to England to Japan and elsewhere, with a special guest appearance by Billy Bragg. Before and after the trailer, Bill offers context and some very moving words of wisdom on the meaning of the Ninth, and Beethoven’s hope-despite-struggles, for our “dark” time.
His site also includes links to one of my articles reprinted from The Nation (on China) and a collection of “Ode to Joy” flash mobs from around the globe. In other Moyers news: He announced today that his show would not end in January but continue in a half-hour version.
For much more on the film, where it's showing, reviews, and the book go here. Here’s the full segment from Moyers on The Ninth:
There was a wonderful public “memorial” for Lou Reed Thursday afternoon outdoors at Lincoln Center in NYC, amid the opera, philharmonic, dance and theater shrines, with just his music blaring over speakers and people gathering and dancing and playing air guitar for several hours. No speeches. No tribute songs by the famous. Just Lou himself.
And yes, he did hang out at Lincoln Center a lot, even gave a ringing endorsement of Occupy there, captured on video.
Here are three vids. First, a little “Rock and Roll.” Then, the great Sandi Bachom’s footage of what happened when they played “Walk on the Wild Side.” And, yes, the seventeen-minute “Sister Ray,” complete with, ahem, off-color lyrics. Proud to say, I helped her ID “Sister Ray.”
John Nichols reminds us of Lou Reed’s radical politics.
While nearly everyone has focused on the Dylan Davies fakery in CBS’s bogus Benghazi report, McClatchy veteran Middle East correspondent Nancy Youssef late yesterday presented a long list of other factual problems, or at least very dubious assertions, in the segment. Taken together, they further the notion that Lara Logan had an agenda and cooked, or accepted weak, evidence to make her “case.” Read the entire piece here.
“Logan’s mea culpa said nothing about other weaknesses in the report that a line-by-line review of the broadcast’s transcript shows,” Youssef reports.
This arrived as a CBS spokesman revealed that a “journalistic” review of their segment is ongoing, which is vague and may mean little. Of course, they had to “review” the segment after The Washington Post, The New York Times and Media Matters destroyed it. They are still not promising a full probe or naming an independent panel (à la Rathergate).
And there’s this good reminder in the piece:
Logan claimed that “it’s now well established that the Americans were attacked by al Qaida in a well-planned assault.” But al Qaida has never claimed responsibility for the attack, and the FBI, which is leading the U.S. investigation, has never named al Qaida as the sole perpetrator. Rather it is believed a number of groups were part of the assault, including members and supporters of al Qaida and Ansar al Shariah as well as attackers angered by a video made by an American that insulted Prophet Muhammad. The video spurred angry protests outside Cairo hours beforehand.
Still, many media writers/critics remain oddly passive, raising the chances that CBS fulfills its goal of turning the page on this scandal quickly.
And nothing peeves me more than prominent media writers/critics crediting CBS with offering a belated apology/correction, of giving them “points” for it, even if they think it didn’t go far enough. I’ve seen this time and again in the past few days.
For example, Alicia Shepard, who has done great work in the past as media writer, editor, and ombud, in a piece at Columbia Journalism Review, called Lara Logan’s apology last Friday “brave.” Last Friday, Erik Wemple at the Washington Post, wrote: “Lara Logan this morning delivered a clinic on how a media organization should correct the record on faulty reporting…. And with those words, about 10 tons of pressure drained from the Manhattan offices of ‘60 Minutes.’ ” (Really?) Tom Rosenstiel, longtime director of the American Press Institute, has called the “60 Minutes” correction highly unusual and so he deserves credit for that.
Here’s Rosenstiel on PBS NewsHour this week: “CBS deserves credit for admitting that they made a mistake. That’s unusual in broadcast. We don’t see corrections on television in the course of normal activity. And mistakes are made all the time.”
True, mistakes are often made. But (1) not normally on the level of a completely false interview that forms the major part of a full segment on a hot political subject via the top-rated network news show and (2) now completely debunked, in a humiliating and high-profile way, by the two leading US newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
For veteran media critics to give CBS any credit whatsoever for pulling the story is disgraceful. What other choice did “brave” Lara Logan and team have? It is unfathomable to imagine them not offering at least the very brief apologies that did come. So they deserve credit for that? Saying so only blunts the strong criticism of what 60 Minutes aired and the questions left unanswered.
Again, Rosenstiel, when asked what CBS needs to do now: “[W]hat they owe us, what they owe the public is assurances that there—that there isn’t something that—in their processes that will allow this to happen again. They need to reassure the public, look, we understand what we did wrong, and it’s not—and—and we have learned from this and it’s not going to happen again. You can trust us in the future.”
Of course, that does nothing. That’s the easiest thing to say: It won’t happen again (even though we won’t tell you why it happened this time). You can trust (but why?). We’ve learned a lesson (such as?) In fact, Lara Logan has already essentially done this in her ninety-second statement on Sunday, assuring viewers that “truth” is still her show’s highest goal. The views of the Rosenstiels will only bolster the chances that, in fact, this sort of thing will happen again, and again.
And for the larger picture, let me recommend Amy Davidson’s post at The New Yorker.
Greg Mitchell surveys major criticisms of the “60 Minutes” Benghazi story.
WikiLeaks has been promising a potential bombshell today, and now it’s here, a very recent draft chapter from the already much-criticized Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty (which involves nations all the way from the US and Peru to Australia and Japan). The Verge summarizes, as it digs deeper into the doc:
The leaked chapter focuses on intellectual property rights, and is part of a broader agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that has been in the works for several years now between the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and several other countries. Though the draft is being written in secret, it’s rumored to be moving toward a fast track through Congress. Some details of the agreement have been leaked in the past, but today’s come from a quite recent draft, dated August 30, 2013—it’s also the only one to detail which countries are in support of which proposals.
The Sydney Morning Herald received an early look at the leaked draft, and notes that it focuses on the United States’ federal and corporate interests, while largely ignoring the rights and interests of consumers. “One could see the TPP as a Christmas wish-list for major corporations, and the copyright parts of the text support such a view,” Matthew Rimmer, an expert in intellectual property law, tells the Herald. “Hollywood, the music industry, big IT companies such as Microsoft and the pharmaceutical sector would all be very happy with this.”
The TPP has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning because the Obama administration knows that the more people know about it, the more they will oppose the agreement. The release of the full Intellectual Property chapter today by Wiikileaks confims what had been suspected, the Obama administration has been an advocate for transnational corporate interests in the negotiations even though they run counter to the needs and desires of the public.
This is not surprising since we already knew that 600 corporate advisers were working with the US Trade Representative to draft the TPP. This means that for nearly four years some of the top corporate lawyers have been inserting phrases, paragraphs and whole sections so the agreement suits the needs of corporate power, while undermining the interests of people and the planet.
Now from these documents we see that the US is isolated in its aggressive advocacy for transnational interests and that there are scores of areas still unresolved between the US and Pacific nations. The conclusion: the TPP cannot be saved. It has been destroyed by secret corporate advocacy. It needs to be rejected.
“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”
Zoe Carpenter discusses Congress’s limited role in green-lighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
UPDATE Much-maligned (justly) Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt defends the column, saying he would just edit one Cohen sentence differently. Almost worse, here's verified tweet a few hours ago by the paper's publisher, Katharine Weymouth: "Brilliant: richard Cohen on why Cruz beats Christie in iowa: http://wapo.st/1bwCzT7. " Also, if you don't know, the publisher is the niece of Talking Heads great Tina Weymouth.
Earlier: I’ve been on Richard Cohen, longtime alleged “liberal columnist” (well, everything’s relative) at The Washington Post, for many years, dating back to his supremely hawkish pieces promoting the US attack on Iraq in March 2003. But he has offended so many for so long with his views on certain social issues as well.
Today he topped even himself, and the calls for his firing are sounding louder than ever (see petition). Perhaps he can convince Lara Logan to declare on his behalf, “We’re very sorry.”
His column is ostensibly about the upcoming (if you consider upcoming to mean three years off) 2016 race for president and candidates’, such as Governor Chris Christie, once again needing to trek to Iowa and appeal to those fine and, in his view, very conservative folks (I guess Tom Harkin is just a hologram). But along the way we get this:
Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled—about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts—but not all—of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.
Where to begin? “Conventional views”? Yes, perhaps in 1957. Today’s polls show tremendous acceptance of biracial marriage; at least eight in ten Americans say it’s okay. And probably most of the rest no longer “gag” over it. Need we point out that Barack Obama has been elected president, twice? That right-wingers love Clarence Thomas and family? And as noted: Iowa is far from the most conservative state in the USA.
Cohen’s contempt for de Blasio and his marital outrage shines through again in the parenthetical reference to his wife. I had to laugh when I first read it, thinking this was just a copy-editing mistake—Cohen was actually addressing this to his editor…”should we mention”? But it’s far worse than that, of course.
Here I must re-tweet my colleague George Zornick: “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when reading Richard Cohen.”
On a minor note, one also has to wonder what the hell Cohen means by “the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde.”
Go here for an accounting of some of Cohen’s other “illiberal” views—on torture, on the Plame case, and on and on. Well, today’s notorious Cohen paragraph at least may bump from the top of the list of his worst ever this one following Colin Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations on Iraq’s alleged WMD:
The evidence he presented to the United Nations—some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail—had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool—or possibly a Frenchman—could conclude otherwise.
Leslie Savan explores how the New York City mayoral elections reflected on identity politics.
After last night’s ninety-second “apology” by Lara Logan on 60 Minutes—the show spent more time on photos of the Beatles with their wives in 1964—it’s certain that CBS wants to turn the page. An insider even confirmed this was the case, according to the New York Times: No internal or independent probe, no disciplining of reporter or producer.
Clearly CBS is terrified of where a probe might lead—for example, revealing why they did this story in the first place and didn’t vet their source. (See my piece on The Nation.com yesterday on the CBS News chief’s background as a honcho at Fox News throughout the Bush years—and Lara Logan revealing her own bias last year. And then there’s the Mary Matalin book connection.)
Only a strong push from other journalists will force CBS to launch such an investigation. I’ll log below what key journalists are saying. Many are making strong statements, although some are still giving CBS points for making any sort of limited apology—as if it could not do that after their source was thoroughly discredited. Others are presuming—with no evidence that I’ve seen—that CBS will make a much longer statement later.
Mike Calderone, who has been on this since beginning, offers a list of unanswered questions at the Huffington Post. For starters:
“Sunday’s brief acknowledgment didn’t resemble a news program seriously trying to get to the bottom of how it got duped. Logan didn’t address during the show how Davies came to be a source for ‘60 Minutes,’ the vetting process of his account, whether the FBI was contacted during the original reporting or after doubts were raised, and the connection between the television booking on Oct. 27 and publication by a CBS subsidiary on Oct. 29.”
Brian Stelter of The New York Times on TV today raises the question I have asked: Did Lara Logan come in with “an agenda”? And why did it take so long to react and will they probe? This may be “in some ways worse” than the Dan Rather affair, but those charging “liberal bias” are louder than critics on the left.
Jay Rosen at his blog:
“Attention now turns to Jeff Fager, as the person at CBS (executive producer of ‘60 Minutes’) who approved the final cut of a deeply flawed report starring a source CBS knew to have lied to his employer, and the executive at CBS, boss of the news division, who decided that it was time to move on from that mistake. Can that conflict of interest stand? So far it looks like it will.”
Frank Rich: “Failure of @CBSNews to report how Lara Logan was duped for ‘a year’ (her claim) by a Benghazi hoax guarantees others will do it for them.” Dan Kennedy: “Pathetically inadequate.” Mike Signorile: “60 Minutes ‘apology’—or ‘mistake,’ as Logan put it— is pathetic. Needs full investigation, ramifications.” Gabriel Sherman: “A show w/ reporting legacy of 60 Minutes should have turned its reporting muscle back on itself to explain to viewers what happened, and why.” Roger Simon of Politico: “60 Minutes needs to do an ‘Anatomy of a Mistake’ piece on its Benghazi story, not just a ‘gee, we’re sorry’ mini-apology.” Marvin Kalb, also at Politico: An apology not enough. “CBS News remains an immensely important resource, but it has now suffered an avoidable setback at a time when all of the media is under a cloud of doubt and suspicion. The network must regain the credibility it lost in Benghazi.”
Terence Smith, the former CBS and PBS correspondent, told the Washington Post that CBS needs “to do a thorough reconstruction of their reporting . . . and assure us that this was not done to help sell books for Simon & Schuster." Logan, he said, “has major egg on her face.”
David Folkenflik of NPR: “CBS gets points for a) apology b) not using own airwaves vs critics, as Rather did amid Bush memo fiasco. But concerns remain. CBS needs to offer transparent account of how the process went off the rails. Has not happened yet.” Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo: “I just watched the 60 Minutes correction’/apology tonight and thought was pretty amazing for its brevity, lack of substance and general obfuscation.… If you’d come to this 90 seconds without knowing anything that had happened over the last couple weeks, you would probably think that one person interviewed in a 60 Minutes segment may have been misleading in some of the things he said.” Michael Moore: “You can tell the media is liberal by the way CBS fired Lara Logan but never did anything to Dan Rather.” David Corn: “60 Minutes also notes its report that Barack Obama was the Umbrella Man in Dallas on 11/22/63 was a mistake.”
Eric Boehlert: “fact CBS won’t open up shop to independent review just proves how terrified execs R of truth behind Benghazi fiasco coming out.” (More from him here.) Will Bunch: “So ‘60 Minutes’ apology totally inadequate—now what? We know CBS is terrified of right wingers…they need to be terrified of rest of us.” David Brock of Media Matters: “This evening’s ‘60 Minutes’ response was wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving. The network must come clean” and appoint independent panel to probe. Jeff Greenfield: “Will CBS investigate and make results public, as it and other nets did in past? So far this is a ‘modified limited hangout.’” Blake Hounshell: “mistakes were made….” Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones: “apology is weak. Not covered: promoting source pubbed by CBS imprint run by Mary Matalin. Or failure to check w/ FBI sources.” John McQuaid, a Forbes blogger: “At this point, more shoes would have to drop to force any further accounting from CBS. They must think that’s not going to happen.”
Craig Silverman of Regret the Error commented for The New York Times:
“Aside from the fact that it struck a very passive tone and pushed the responsibility onto the source, Dylan Davies, it said nothing about how the show failed to properly vet the story of an admitted liar. There are basic questions left unanswered about how the program checked out what Davies told them, and where this process failed. In the short term, this will confirm the worst suspicions of people who don’t trust CBS News. In the long term, a lot will depend on how tough and transparent CBS can be in finding out how this happened—especially when there were not the kind of tight deadline pressures that sometimes result in errors.”
He also produced a valuable comparison of Dan Rather and Lara Logan 60 Minutes scandals.
Kevin Drum lists unanswered questions and adds:
I'm afraid that CBS no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. Someone there needs to demonstrate that they actually care about accuracy these days, rather than treating a huge fraud as a minor issue requiring only a short correction. And Lara Logan, who reported the story, and Jeff Fager, who is both CBS News chairman and the executive producer of 60 Minutes, really need to be held more accountable for both the story itself and their response to its obvious problems after it aired.
Greg Mitchell explores a possible Fox News connection with the 60 Minutes Benghazi report.
UPDATE: Two days after their “apology” Friday morning, 60 Minutes covered their bogus reporting on the Benghazi scandal in their regular show tonight. It came after Jeff Fager, the executive producer, told Michael Calderone of Huff Post that, yes, Dylan Davies had told them he lied to his boss about where he was on the fateful night. And yet they went ahead with their report, without seemingly tough vetting, after that.
Here’s a write-up on tonight’s “apology” by Lara Logan, which last all of ninety seconds and added nothing to their earlier statements. Now they are “very sorry” but she calls it simply “a mistake.” Pathetic. Clearly they will try to tough it out and not even do a major probe, so it’s up to other journalists to push them. See other important updates today at the bottom of my piece below. And go to my Pressing Issues blog for reactions by other media writers to tonight’s stonewalling, and other updates.
Earlier: Tonight’s the night 60 Minutes promises to come clean(er) about its bogus Benghazi report two weeks back. After stonewalling for so long, claiming that their source only told “one story,” and suggesting critics were mere “partisans,” CBS pulled the segment from its site and Lara Logan and the gang offered a hasty “apology” Friday morning—but only after The New York Times blew their “source” out of the water.
Jay Rosen in an important post last night offered his own assessment on what 60 Minutes should and must say tonight, including apologizing for that length of time it took for it to admit its source—the clearly duplicitous contractor Davies a k a Jones—had told two stories and needed to be probed.
But Rosen goes further in calling for a full probe of the incident, perhaps on the scale of the CBS investigation of Dan Rather and Mary Mapes in the Bush National Guard fiasco. I certainly agree, but CBS chiefs have given no indication that they are considering this, and have not—as I have advised—suspended Lara Logan and her producer in the meantime.
Rosen, as I have done previously, also raises the issue of the story’s link to Mary Matalin’s right-wing imprint at Simon & Schuster, which just pulled the book co-authored by the same “source.” Did the whole segment come from that Matalin valley of wackiness? If so, you might say 60 Minutes got “Breitbarted.” Or as the saying goes, if you lie down with dogs, don’t complain if you get fleas.
But here’s another angle that’s gotten little attention so far, and I’ll do more on it later: Few seem to realize that a former Fox News exec became the head of the CBS News in February 2011. He is David Rhodes. His bio at CBS declares:
He directs network newsgathering for all CBS News platforms including television, CBSNews.com, and CBS News Radio.
With CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, Rhodes has led a division-wide rejuvenation of the storied CBS News brand, emphasizing the Original Reporting of top broadcast journalists around the world. A rededication to the news division’s hard-news roots runs through every broadcast.
Pardon my chuckle over that last sentence.
The bio also reveals:
Rhodes began his career as a Production Assistant at the newly-launched Fox News Channel in 1996, where he later became Vice President of News. At the network he managed coverage of three presidential elections, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, hurricanes including Katrina, and was the channel’s Assignment Manager on the news desk the morning of September 11, 2001.
So, imagine: This was the guy who worked hand-in-glove on the biased, often propagandistic, Fox “coverage” of the run-up to the Iraq war, the 2000/2004/2008 elections, the Plame affair, the worst years in Iraq, and all other things Bush and Cheney, and so on.
What are his own political views? In a Crain’s mini-profile not long ago he cited his “eclectic” voting record. His brother Ben Rhodes famously works for President Obama as his oft-criticized national security adviser, and David Rhodes has said “no one in that house” growing up “agreed on anything.” Brit Hume actually visited Twitter earlier this year to point out that while David’s brother was serving Obama, David “was hardly thought a liberal” while helping to run Fox News during its key years.
Just one month ago, 60 Minutes aired what I called “a hatchet job” on alleged disability fraud.
Rhodes chief associate is Chris Licht, vp of programming, who was executive producer of Joe Scarborough’s conservative show at MSNBC and then ran the Morning Joe operation.
UPDATE: Jay Rosen points us to a Comment following his latest from a veteran of thirty-four years at CBS, who contrasts the Dan Rather and Lara Logan scandals. Especially good to remind us of how Dan was at the sinking 60 Minutes 2 while Logan was a regular at the still-a-cash-cow 60 Minutes. All very good, but I disagree with his conclusion that there’s no need for CBS to fully probe the latest affair.
UPDATE #2: Great post here by Digby on a Lara Logan speech one year ago (and see video) where she exposed herself as a raging, biased hawk on exacting revenge for the Benghazi attack. Digby, the longtime ace blogger, also looks at other Logan statements about Libya and Afghanistan, showing that likely her own bias led to not asking right questions on her star “source.” Logan even admits that her boss had to remind her that she was seek the truth and not merely trying to prove her own views.
Needless to say, the fact that she fell for such a clearly ridiculous hoax was due to her biases. She shows in that speech that she had already made up her mind about what happened. And 60 Minutes should have been professionally skeptical of her story because of that. Logan’s agenda blinded her to the fact that she was being played.
Friday Update: CBS and Lara Logan apologize. Just a mistake. No word on any firings, which must follow. Looks like they want it just over and done with. Gross journalist malfeasance. Remember, Logan boasted about her intimate involvement with the story for a full year. Unlike, say, Dan Rather, who got called in and was more of a host, not chief reporter. And here, Charles P. Pierce notes that just this week it emerged that Rather was getting shunned by CBS in its upcoming JFK assassination 50th anniversary coverage.
And let us also recall Logan trashing Michael Hastings' reporting.
Erik Wemple at Washington Post seems to think Lara Logan and CBS apology is enough. Far from it. Yet many media writers today appear to feel that the apology is enough, if CBS expands on it and provides more of a tick-tock.
Simon & Schuster has now pulled the Jones "memoir."
Greg Mitchell is the author of more than dozen books on media, politics, and history.
Late Thursday: After days of criticism, and its stout defense yesterday, tonight comes word that CBS and 60 Minutes now (finally) have doubts about their star witness in the recent Benghazi report.
“We are currently looking into this serious matter to determine if he misled us,” CBS related in a statement on its 60 Minutes website. Politico’s Mike Allen tweeted: “SIREN: ‘60 MINUTES has learned of new information that undercuts the account…by Morgan Jones of his actions’ on night of Benghazi attack.”
The New York Times had just reported that contrary to the claims of contractor Dylan Davies (alias Morgan Jones), he gave the FBI the same story he gave his boss after the Benghazi attack—which directly contradicts what CBS fell for (thanks to him) and what he wrote in the book he is flacking.
Correspondent Lara Logan just yesterday backed his claim that he gave the FBI and her the same claims and chain of events. Wrong. We predicted all this days ago. And Logan and her producer, if this implosion continues, must go, promptly, a la Dan Rather.
The 60 Minutes website just removed all the links to its Benghazi segment including the Morgan Jones interview. More soon.
Greg Mitchell explores the inconsistencies in the original "60 Minutes" report.
What he published, even in attempting to spark a debate, was pretty weak tea, but for gun nuts of America it amounted to “heresy.” And so Jim Bequette, the editor of Guns & Ammo, a leading magazine for their element, was forced out of his job today, even after he apologized for this gross infraction.
Here’s the offensive section in a column by a prominent gun writer, Dick Metcalf, under the headline “Let’s Talk Limits”:
Way too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement. The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.
Freedom of speech is regulated. You cannot falsely and deliberately shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. Freedom of religion is regulated. A church cannot practice human sacrifice. Many argue that any regulation at all is, by definition, an infringement. If that were true, then the authors of the Second Amendment themselves should not have specified ‘well-regulated.’ The question is, when does regulation become infringement?”
Yikes. Truly radical, lef-twing, gun-confiscation stuff. Metcalf had even ended his column with, “But that’s just me.”
As it turned out in that crowd: obviously.
Metcalf had quickly been banished from any future assignments but that wasn’t enough for the gun enthusiasts who kept calling for Bequette’s head, until they got it.
I made a mistake by publishing the column. I thought it would generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights. I miscalculated, pure and simple. I was wrong, and I ask your forgiveness.