The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘Media

Happy Hump Day Widdershins!

We are approaching middle of March – and it’s hard to believe the insurrection was this year. So were Jewish Space Lasers. It’s remarkable how time can both fly and drag at the same time. Is there a word for that phenomenon?

Meanwhile the biggest story around is Major Biden. The poor rescue German Shepherd was in the news all day Tuesday. It was the lead story everywhere, journalists kept tweeting, several questions were asked of WH Press Secretary Jen Psaki who remarked at one point “Another dog question.” Although to be fair to the White House press corps, they also asked when the Bidens would be getting a cat. That’s hard-hitting journalism, it’s why we should be grateful to have the first amendment! At the end of the day the vicious mauling perpetrated by Major was a nip that did not break skin and the agent involved carried on with their duties without pause. But a Washington Post reporter, Annie Linskey, did ask Jen Psaki if Major would be euthanized. The answer was “Are you insane?” No that’s not what Jen Psaki said, but it’s what I would have said if I was WH Press Secretary.

The press is also really mad that Biden has not yet held a press conference since becoming POTUS. Remember they were obsessed with Hillary not having press conferences either. The fact is that Biden (as did Hillary) speaks to the press all the time and has given multiple sit-down interviews, plus a town hall on CNN. But the press doesn’t think the public asks important questions, like “Will Major be euthanized?” The press has their finger on the pulse of America and America must know about euthanizing Major. Also note that CNN and MSNBC have stopped carrying WH Press Briefings live. (Not enough lying by the Press Secretary, I guess. They carried every He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named’s WH briefing live.)

Everyone widely agrees that the HBO series “Veep” was a remarkable accurate representation of an administration and DC. And I always remember that one of its least likable and most scummy characters was a reporter.

This is an open thread.

You know the old Chinese proverb: “What a year this week has been!” Actually, I don’t think it’s a Chinese proverb, but whoever coined that term should be famous. Kanye West has gone full MAGA (again. It should be noted he went MAGA before the election, then partially defrosted, then visited Dump in the Inferno Tower right after the election.)  Dump had a bizarre meltdown on Fox and Friends show, yelling things that Michael Avenatti probably found very useful. Even the drones who host that show were staring at the camera with stunned expressions.

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They were stunned

But nothing could compare to the bizarre media meltdown caused by Amy Chozick’s new book, “Chasing Hillary.” Chozick has been following Clinton for two campaigns, 2008 and 2016. From what observers say about their relationship – and indeed that’s how it comes across in her book – Chozick has a pathological need to be loved by Hillary. Hillary seems puzzled by this desperate creature with mommy issues. When Hillary does not deliver the love Chozick seeks – Amy lashes out. Chozick spent months pouring over stolen WikiLeaks emails. She poured over “Bannon Cash” too, the first person at the Times to get her hands on that Nazi-funded propaganda. And Chozick wrote, article after article, about Hillary, Clinton Foundation, Uranium, you name it. That is how Amy Chozick made her career; she is in a long and proud history of media people who have made their careers exploiting – chasing – the Clintons.


Hillary Clinton with Amy Chozick in 2008

There is one Clinton, however, Amy isn’t going to be able to catch: Chelsea. Perhaps freed by the knowledge that her mom is no longer running for officer, Chelsea has been a bit freer the before to speak up. It starts with what Chozick wrote about Chelsea in her book, including the very first sentence which describes how Chelsea popped open a bottle of champagne on election night. That didn’t happen and Chelsea decided to tell Chozick so. It seems that, in fact, Chelsea was alone with her husband pumping breast milk when Chozick claims she was popping open champagne. Chelsea tweeted at Chozick, pointing out the mistake and expressing disappointment that Chozick never reached out to her to fact-check. That seems to be standard practice: either the author of the book or the hired fact-checker should check facts, which includes reaching out to the people being discussed. Chelsea claimed that Chozick never did this. Though Chozick did not respond to Chelsea’s message, in the NY Times excerpt of the book they updated the text to say that sources told Chozick that Chelsea was popping open a bottle of champagne. Chelsea repeated that her sources are wrong and reiterated that she was never contacted by anyone to confirm such details. Chelsea wrote all this in the most polite way possible: hello, please, thank you and have a nice day! Chozick remained silent. But she didn’t need to say anything. Her colleagues rode into action. Katy Tur jumped in:

The man fact checking @amychozick’s book is the same one who fact checked mine. The same one who is so nit picky that he called Delta to confirm flight times. I would bet on Chozick here, not @ChelseaClinton.

It’s unclear why Tur placed her bet on Chozick and all but call Chelsea a liar. Tur wouldn’t be familiar with Chozick’s actions and the fact that the fact-checker was so meticulous (she thinks) with her book doesn’t mean he was that meticulous with someone else’s. Chelsea wasn’t having it and she answered Tur. “Hi Katy! Neither Amy nor her fact checker reached out to me or my office at any point, about anything. I care about facts as I believe you do too.” Tur backed off: “Fair point. I can only vouch for my own experience.” Except, of course, she didn’t – she bet on Chozick.

Heer Jeet, writer at The New Republic, called the situation Chelsea’s “quarrel” with Amy and pointed out these “feuds get handed down from one generation to the next. Clintons & Times have been fighting since early 1990s.” Chelsea responded: “Hi Jeet! I don’t think asking someone in a work purporting to be nonfiction and fact checked, to not tell fictions and to factcheck is a ‘quarrel.’ How would you correct someone who told falsehoods about you? Thanks for any & all advice!” Jeet, like Tur, backed off. “I think you are absolutely justified to ask for factual corrections…”

It wasn’t just the champagne. Chozick also claims that Chelsea got her straightened with keratin. Chelsea said she’s never used keratin and this was another mistake in the book she’d like fixed. A Yahoo White House correspondent, Hunter Walker, blasted Clinton supporters for getting out of control, blasted Chelsea for “impugning” Amy Chozick, that it was really a matter of she said/she said, that why would people believe Chelsea over Chozick and he capped his twitter storm with:

And, as we point out Trump’s assaults on the fourth estate, it must be said that, albeit to a lesser degree, the Clintons have also tried to undermine the press when it suited them. Sad!

There’s a lot to unpack there. Surely Chelsea knows her hair routine better than Chozick. And Chozick – who has still not engaged with Chelsea in conversation – has also not denied not contacting Chelsea to factcheck. Chelsea addressed Hunter:

Hi again Hunter! Amy isn’t disputing that neither she nor her fact checker ever contacted me or my office. I think facts are important and hope you do too.

Hunter, like Heer and Tur before him, changed his tone. “I think it would be a pretty bad breach of standard practice if she made no attempt to reach out to you.” Yah, no shit Sherlock. That has been the point the whole time. And yet, how they love to attack the Clintons. It’s reflexive, it’s pathological, it’s a disease. There’s also a great deal of reporters forming a wall around one of their own, like cops protect dirty cops. Heer, Tur, Walker – and there were many others (CNN’s Brian Stelter was “Liking” tweets that blasted Chelsea) – have no facts and no horse in this race. And yet, they can’t help but attack a Clinton. Chozick appeared with Andrea Mitchell who called Chelsea a troll. Chozick then went on NPR and Brian Lehrer laughed at the controversy. Chozick then went on to read an excerpt from the book: the hair excerpt. Chozick then said she knows Chelsea’s hair dresser very well, which suggests she’s digging in and the hair-dresser is her source.

But Chelsea isn’t surrendering. It’s time the Clintons stopped giving a fuck and hopefully Chelsea’s insistence that her questions be answered is a sign of that. When a minor reporter attacked Chelsea and then blocked her, Chelsea wrote that she has not blocked anyone on Twitter. Christine Teigen respond: “Wait YOU HAVE NO ONE BLOCKED??? HOW ON EARTH? I have over….10,000 I’d say. Maybe 50,000. Lol.” Chelsea wrote the following response – it’s heartbreaking:

As a kid, I paid attention to what Rush Limbaugh said (he called me a dog when I was 12) & read tabloid headlines in line at the grocery store (apparently I threw myself off a roof? also at 12). I’ve always preferred knowing what’s being said, even with my alien sibling (at 13)

Teigen kindly responded: “[…] there are no words for how amazing you are and how much I (and so many others) love and respect you!!”

All this madness reminded me of a tweet from a year ago I have not been able to forget. It has festered:

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Politico writer Annie Karni didn’t even want Chelsea to smile on the cover of a magazine. That’s how deranged these people are. And if you follow the responses Chelsea received for her answer – well, never read the comments.



Good morning Widdershins.

It’s Wednesday morning, so it must be “let’s pile on Hillary” day. As excerpts from her book are starting to leak, they are mobilizing the usual suspects within the media to tell us how much they detest her. At the center of the latest are, naturally, the Times Twins: super star political reporters Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman. Thrush recently went on a massive twitter storm listing all the things Hillary did wrong to lose the election. Conspicuously absent from his list was an acknowledgement of multiple Harvard studies showing the media “gorged” on Clinton e-mails.

Back in December of 2016 the Shorenstein Center from Harvard studied the coverage of the television networks and major newspapers.

Clinton’s controversies got more attention than Trump’s (19 percent versus 15 percent) and were more focused,” noted study author Thomas E. Patterson. “Trump wallowed in a cascade of separate controversies. Clinton’s badgering had a laser-like focus. She was alleged to be scandal-prone. Clinton’s alleged scandals accounted for 16 percent of her coverage—four times the amount of press attention paid to Trump’s treatment of women and sixteen times the amount of news coverage given to Clinton’s most heavily covered policy position.

The recent Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard studied online coverage of the campaign and reached same conclusions.

“I think the fact that we get the same results as Shorenstein using significantly different methodologies yields a high degree of confidence,” Robert Faris, the center’s research director, tells the Erik Wemple Blog.

I would come to Haberman, Thrush and the rest’s defense on this particular issue though. The real fault in this lies with the editors of the newspapers. In the case of New York Times it’s executive editor Dean Baquet. Baquet is the one who decides what his reporters will investigate and what the headlines will read. So it’s Baquet who decided in 2016 that Hillary’s e-mails were the single most important story his paper would pursue. (Eric Lichtblau’s disastrous “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI sees no direct link to Russia” headline remains un-retracted and uncorrected.”) Baquet is a disgrace and he controls what topics Haberman and Thrush will pursue. But he does not control what Thrush and Haberman tweet.

Which brings me back to Clinton’s book. Hillary writes:

Jake Sullivan, my top policy advisor, told me it reminded him of a scene from the 1998 movie There’s Something About Mary. A deranged hitchhiker says he’s come up with a brilliant plan. Instead of the famous “eight-minute abs” exercise routine, he’s going to market “seven-minute abs.” It’s the same, just quicker. Then the driver, played by Ben Stiller, says, “Well, why not six-minute abs?” That’s what it was like in policy debates with Bernie. We would propose a bold infrastructure investment plan or an ambitious new apprenticeship program for young people, and then Bernie would announce basically the same thing, but bigger. On issue after issue, it was like he kept proposing four-minute abs, or even no-minute abs. Magic abs!”

This passage brought out perhaps the most deranged tweet I have ever seen Maggie Haberman write.

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Note that Haberman is re-tweeting a Republican Bernie Bro, who worked on Jeb Bush’s campaign. Miller’s feed is filled with anti-Clinton sentiments.

The ethical and moral corruption of Haberman’s vision expressed in this tweet is breathtaking. I have never seen a tweet from Haberman about Donald Trump that approaches this level of insanity. I have been thinking about the media and their coverage of Clinton for a long time. And I’ve concluded that if one assumes true lack of politics (let’s pretend for a minute that Haberman, Thrush, Chris Cillizza and their ilk aren’t right-wing Republicans) – what is it that drives their Clinton Derangement Syndrome? I think it’s amorality. Not immorality, but amorality. There is a school of thought that journalists are supposed to tell a story, but not be a story. And that their stories should be impartial.

We long ago lost sight of “tell the story, don’t be the story” mantra. Perhaps it was the post-Watergate effect, where Woodward and Bernstein became superstars. This is what every reporter today craves: attention. Few of them seek the truth for truth’s own sake. Most of them seek invitations to cable news shows where they can dazzle us with their self-serving insight and wit. Their hunger for twitter followers devours their journalistic integrity.

And then there’s impartiality. Impartiality sounds great on paper, but it can not be achieved, like Utopia. It can not exist if you have morals. It does not exist in judges, it does not exist in politicians and it does not exist in journalists. Morals and ethics drive everything that we are because we are human. But lack of impartiality should never be confused with lack of honesty in the story, however. As Christiane Amanpour said in an important speech in November 2016:

I learned long ago, covering the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia, never to equate victim with aggressor, never to create a false moral or factual equivalence, because then you are an accomplice to the most unspeakable crimes and consequences.

I believe in being truthful, not neutral.

This is where people like Haberman and Thrush and all the rest fail, and fail so painfully because it is the rest of humanity that pays the price. Supposed impartiality in their work actually demonstrates the absence of morals.

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What’s on your mind Widdershins? This is an open thread.

Please forgive me for slapping you across the computer screen with that title without first offering a courteous good morning.  So, good morning Widdershins and a happy Friday to you.hillary-on-the-plane

For quite some time there has been a cavalier attitude in the media of, “The press is treating Hillary differently.”  Such an acknowledgement is followed by examples of their sins, a limp mea culpa, a yawn, and the enduring repartee first learned in the schoolyard of, “Yeah, so what?”

That bothered me something fierce since just calling it out again and again does nothing to get to the “why” of it.  To write these mea culpa articles saying that Hillary’s relationship with the media is irretrievably broken is to stand by and watch the offensive behavior, yawn, and in essence say, “Yeah, that’s bad.”

It’s not like this treatment started with this campaign.  It has been going on since the 1970s.  Here’s one of the very first interviews Hillary ever granted.

She was a month into her spell as first lady of Arkansas and was being interviewed on local television.

“You don’t really fit the image we have created for the governor’s wife in Arkansas,” says her inquisitor, a man with a brutal hair parting and disconcerting tie.

“You’re not a native. You’ve been educated in liberal eastern universities. You’re less than 40. You don’t have any children. You don’t use your husband’s name. You practice law. Does it concern you that maybe other people feel that you don’t fit the image that we’ve created for the governor’s wife in Arkansas?”

Hillary answered, “I think that each person should be assessed and judged on that person’s own merits. I’m not 40 but that hopefully will be cured by age, eventually I will be,” she quipped.

Just because this behavior has been going on for nearly 40 years doesn’t answer the “why” either.  If anything the behavior has gotten worse.  Just look at these two charts cataloging campaign coverage:



This explanation is advanced:

There are two possible explanations for the bias against Hillary Clinton in the media. The first is that the media is punishing her for the scandals that occurred during her husband’s presidency, but the most likely explanations are related to gender bias. Individuals who hold executive positions in media companies are overwhelmingly white and male.

These are not the only theories being advanced.  There is the theory based in basic jealousy that goes something like this, “The Clintons have had their turn, now it’s someone else’s turn,” —  another ethical tenet right out of the elementary schoolyard.

Here are three more theories, one picking up on the sexism:

Sexism is one: Clinton is still struggling to fight the perception that she is not “presidential,” or that she lacks charisma, something that is rooted in the many ways in which being a female candidate makes her, for some people, uncomfortable and confusing to deal with.

Donald Trump’s personality is another: With a rival who is so flippant and resistant to any accountability, Clinton remains as the only candidate who can legitimately interact with the press. The media is increasingly numb to Trump’s outrageous, incendiary, and dangerous statements, due to the frequency and regularity with which he recites them.

But there may be another reason Clinton is held to a higher standard: the press essentially thinks she will win. Therefore, they pay more attention to her and take her more seriously than they do Trump.

hillary-at-u-nThese last two are quite entertaining.  Trump gets a pass because he’s crazy and Hillary gets lambasted sixteen ways from Sunday because she is sane; therefore, she’s going to win so she should be happy with the maltreatment.

I’ve read other reasons, like the fact that $120 million has been spent investigating her so the American public is entitled to know every last detail of her life.  There’s the “what do you expect” theory that so many investigations have left too many threads upon which to pull so you naturally get possible corruption stories.  Then there’s the “they can’t be innocent” theory since the Clintons have been in politics for forty years.

Let’s not forget the ever popular conservative dogma that Hillary is being held accountable for Bill’s sexual transgressions, i.e. blame the wife for the husband’s philandering.  If that were the case, Mrs. Roger Ailes would never be seen outside a confessional.

There are more theories, there are even rules about the brutal differences in covering Hillary, but nothing I have read encapsulates the theories better than a study conducted by Harvard investigating the stereotypical-based social costs that women face as political candidates.  These are the most relevant findings:

  • When participants saw male politicians as power-seeking, they also saw them as having greater agency (i.e., being more assertive, stronger, and tougher) and greater competence, while this was not true for their perceptions of power-seeking female politicians.
  • When participants saw female politicians as power-seeking, they also saw them as having less communality (i.e., being unsupportive and uncaring), while this was not true for their perceptions of power-seeking male politicians.
  • When female politicians were described as power-seeking, participants experienced feelings of moral outrage (i.e., contempt, anger, and/or disgust) towards them.
  • Participant gender had no impact on any of the study outcomes – that is, women were just as likely as men to have negative reactions to power-seeking female politicians.

These last two findings are “slap your mama” eye-popping and jaw-dropping.  Women seeking office are seen with moral outrage, feelings of contempt, anger, and disgust.  The last finding is Madeline Albright saying, “There is a special place in hell for women who do not help each other.”  Women are just as likely as men to have negative reactions to female politicians.  Someone please read this to Mrs. Greenspan, Susan Sarandon, and Cruella van den Huevel.

Let that sink in for a moment.  No matter whether the reporter is a man or woman, Hillary is behind the 8-ball, at least at some level, before she utters the first word or advances the first policy.hillary-flag-2

So on top of the garden variety sexism, Hillary is seen as contemptibly disgusting by virtue of merely being a female politician.  Doesn’t matter if she is married to Bill or Homer Simpson.  Doesn’t matter if she is a Democrat, Republican, or Druid.  Doesn’t matter if she is running against a trained gibbon or a less trained Trumpanzee.  It is all the same because she is a woman.

Why?  The vilifying vagina is not treated the same as the palliative penis or so says this Harvard study.  This election is our chance to start changing that tired, sorry rule.

What’s on your mind today?

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