Conservatives Mess With Code Pink at Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Toward the end of Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on Saturday, I ran into several conservative friends of mine. I pointed out the nearby Code Pink sign, and Redstate’s Ben Howe said, “We should citizen’s arrest them,” a reference to the group’s chosen method of harassing Bush administration officials. I offered to film them as they did. This is the video of Howe and and Newsbusters’ Steve Gutowski chickening out.

Click here to see the video.

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Busted by Daily Show, Hannity Apologizes for ‘Inadvertant’ Use of 9/12 Crowd Footage – 1st draft

This is a first draft of an article I posted at Mediaite. Here’s the final version.

As we reported yesterday, the eagle eyes of The Daily Show noticed that Sean Hannity substituted news footage from the 9/12 rally for last week’s much-lower-attended Super Bowl of Freedom. The effect was to make the latter event seem like a much bigger deal than it was.

Last night, Hannity apologized. Let’s see if his explanation washes, and try to figure out which is the legitimate news organization.

Here’s what Hannity had to say:

(video 1)

“And finally tonight, although it pains me to say this, Jon Stewart? Comedy Central? He was right. Now on his program last night, he mentioned that we had played some incorrect video on this program last week while talking about the Republican healthcare rally on Capitol Hill. He was correct, we screwed up, we aired some video of a rally in September, along with a video from the actual event. It was an inadvertant mistake, but a mistake nonetheless, so Mr. Stewart. you were right, we apologize. But by the way, I wanna thank you, and all your writers, for watching. (Laughter)”

Hannity says they “played some incorrect video,” but that’s not really accurate. The video they played was a pre-edited clip package. This wasn’t a case where the technical director hit a wrong button, this was edited together in advance. Someone had to seek out that older footage to add it in with the footage from that day. Who would do such a thing? Here’s the original segment. Pay close attention to the opening seconds:

(video 2)

Griff Jenkins, hmmm, where have we heard that name before? Wasn’t it also his crew that was “reprimanded” for whipping up a 9/12 crowd for the cameras?

While the White House took some lumps over their treatment of Fox News, incidents like this certainly seem to underscore their overall point. One of the linchpins of Fox News’ defense is the idea that there’s a wall between their news and opinion programming. Problems with their news programming notwithstanding, this defense is leaky at best.

The “opinion show” defense is only really operative when it comes to opinions. When it comes to news content on opinion shows, they retain some duty to present facts accurately and fairly. When I asked Fox to clarify those standards in the past, they refused.

Aside from that, the bleed-through of Fox’s opinion programming to their news desk extends beyond driving their news editors to cover certain stories. Fox’s news personnel are frequent guests on these opinion programs, blurring the line and attaching their credibility to the likes of Hannity or Bill O’Reilly.

But in this case, there was no-one from the newsroom to act as ombudsman for Hannity. His show’s producers edited Fox News footage together in a false way, and they played the package twice. It is legitimate, then, to ask whether the news desk is convinced by Hannity’s explanation. It is their credibility at stake.

The recent dustup over the Treasury Department’s attempt at excluding Fox News’s Major Garrett from a round-robin interview revealed apparent walls-within-walls within Fox’s news operation, too. Their original report, which stated that the Obama administration was behind an attempt to freeze Fox out of the interviews with Feinberg, contained no documentation or direct quotes from any of the principles. Why didn’t they interview Major Garrett for that spot? When Garrett finally did tell his story, only after Fox News had capitalized on the story, it turned out that Fox’s original report was incomplete and misleading.

This was underscored by the fact that Fox News’ Senior Vice President for News Michael Clemente had just spent the weekend filling in the gaps in that original report.

It would appear, then, that apart from their opinion arm, there are actually 3 distinct chambers of the Fox news operation: The news desk, the reporters, and the executives. It seems they would like us to judge the credibility of each separately.

We asked Fox News if their news operation satisfied with Hannity’s explanation of the misuse of their footage by an opinion show, if we could get an explanation from the video editor and/or the technical director explaining how this accident occurred, and if we could get Fox News Channel’s editorial standards with regard to presentation of news content during opinion programs. We await their response.

Bill O’Reilly Doesn’t Mention Stealing From Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher

My Mediaite colleague, Colby Hall, chronicles the current round of navel-gazing by Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart, Howard Kurtz, and Mediaite over at Mediaite.  He fails, however, to point out how this story is actually all about me.

The current kerfufflet has to do with O’Reilly’s accusation that Jon Stewart (whose network erroneously but jokingly accused me of stealing from him) took an O’Reilly quote out of context, and Mediaite’s correction of O’Reilly’s assertion.  Somewhere in the mix, O’Reilly gave a shout-out to Mediaite, but he didn’t bring up his prior connection with the site’s talent.

Months before this, and before I ever wrote my first Mediaite column, O’Reilly stole a story from me and aired it out of context.  (I like to think that, even then, I was “Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher,” but just didn’t know it.)

The content in question was this video that I shot of Helen Thomas, explaining her use of the term “so-called terrorists.”

O’Reilly played the clip on the Factor without crediting me, and butchered it to omit Helen’s answer to my followup question.  To be fair, O’Reilly also steals from conservatives.

Still, the takeaway for me is that, if I’m ever in a restroom with O’Reilly, I’m leaving at least a 3-stall buffer.

Justice Department Turns to Cheney’s-An-Embarrassment Defense

Earlier today Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Smith argued that a D.C. District Court should not unseal the transcript of an interview the FBI conducted with Dick Cheney during their investigation of the Valerie Plame case. Smith implied that Cheney’s responses were so stupid that future vice presidents would likely balk at cooperating with future investigations for fear of looking that stupid themselves. Smith went on to argue that if Cheney’s idiotic words were unleashed on the unsuspecting populous they would be used by smart asses everywhere, causing Cheney massive political embarrassment.
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Comedy Central and Tommy Christopher in Feud

I already wrote this up at AOL, but I did it in “serious voice,” complete with Doogie Howser end-phrase, because I take DADT so seriously.  I thought I’d give the inside scoop here.

You all know I asked about Don’t ask/Don’t tell at Friday’s briefing, and the clip got a lot of attention.

What’s really funny is that two of the people who embedded that clip, Jason Linkins at HuffPo and Dennis DiClaudio at Indecision Forever, are web-friends of mine, and neither of them knew it was me in the clip!  Insert Rodney Dangerfield line here. Continue reading