Free Markets, Free People


MSNBC and “Wawa-gate”

As anyone who follows politics knows, MSNBC “leans forward” or, has all but publically announced it is the liberal news network.

Fine.  I have no problem with that.  In fact, I’m comfortable with it because it allows me to put into context anything they say or report.

However, a disturbing trend has emerged with the network.  It’s one thing to have a particular bias to your reporting.  It is another thing to report things dishonestly.  And MSNBC has been caught red handed doing that at least twice here fairly recently.  Ed Shultz edited a tape of Rick Perry in such a way as to make what he said sound like a racial slur.   Then there was the edited George Zimmerman tape.

Now we have the “Wawa” tape.  In it, Mitt Romney is made to appear “amazed” by some technology in the store with the obvious intent of recreating the George H. W. Bush grocery store scanner moment.  The point, of course, was to make Romney look like Bush who, the left contended, was so out of touch that he hadn’t been in a grocery store in so long he was unaware they used scanners.

Of course, as with most things, context is key.  In the case of Bush, he indeed hadn’t been in a grocery store and was indeed amazed by the scanner.  The “out-of-touch” claim had some validity.  And, politically, it also hurt him.

That last sentence is key.  And the MSNBC logic seems elementary as well as obviously transparent.  If that hurt Bush, let’s gin this up to hurt Romney.

But there were multiple problems with MSNBC’s attempt to smear the presumptive GOP presidential candidate.  First and foremost, what they were trying to portray wasn’t true.   Secondly, they seem to have forgotten that there are an army of watchdogs in the new media that inspect everything they say or do.  Third, they seem unaware they aren’t the only organization with video of the event in question.  And finally, they’re arrogant and believe they can pull off crap like this despite one through three.

So how did it go down?  Well, in a short clip shown by MSNBC, Romney, who had visited a convenience store named Wawa, talked about ordering a sandwich:

“It’s amazing," Romney said, as the Pennsylvania crowd appeared to laugh. Then viewers saw Romney say, "You have a touchtone keypad, and you touch that, touch this, go pay the cashier, there’s your sandwich.”

It was presented as a Bush moment with both Andrea Mitchell and Chris Cillizza laughing at how out-of-touch Romney was.  And, as expected:

Mitchell invoked an old perceived campaign stumble by George Bush, who supposedly marveled at a supermarket scanner at a grocers’ convention during his failed 1992 re-election bid.

But that wasn’t at all the context for Romney’s remark.  Here’s what he said prior to that line:

What viewers didn’t see or hear was nearly three minutes of Romney discussing the nightmare of paperwork faced by an optometrist he’d talked to in trying to get the post office to change his address. He expressed mock amazement at Wawa’s efficiency to underscore how the private sector often runs circles around the clumsy bureaucracy.

"We went to Wawas and it was instructive to me, because I saw the difference between the private sector and the governmental sector. People who work in government are good people and I respect what they do, but you see, the challenge with government is that it doesn’t have competition,” Romney said in a portion edited out of the segment.

Wow … that sort of context seems pretty important to the story if you’re actually a reporter and not a hack.

And that’s sort of the point of all this.  MSNBC continues to damage itself (self- inflicted wounds) to the point that no one is going to take them as a credible news source anymore (many of us already dismiss what they say unless vetted by a more reliable source).  Instead, they’ll be considered a propaganda outlet.  What they did with the Romney and Perry tapes certainly seem to be attempts at propaganda vs. news.

By the way, it’s not like other cable networks don’t have their own credibility issues (the left views Fox as the right views MSNBC).  But MSNBC seems to be the worst of the lot, at least at this point.   But, as someone recently said, as their viewership shrinks in the wake of these scandals, the only demographic that may be increasing for them is conservative and GOP viewers.  MSNBC has become an entertainment channel for them.


Twitter: @McQandO

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 23 Jan 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the sudden end of Kieth Olberman’s “Countdown”, the Republicans’ proposals to cut government spending, state bankrupties, and much more.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


The obligatory Keith Olbermann post–quit or canned?

Actually who cares?  But it is an interesting question – perhaps the most interesting thing about the whole situation.  That Olbermann is off the air, at least temporarily, bothers me not one whit.  But we all know he’ll end up resurfacing somewhere.  Maybe CNN who he helped into third place by getting MSNBC to “lean forward”.  Heh …

So to the question at hand, you can find commentary which claims both – he quit, he was fired.  Howard Kurtz says he quit

Many are pointing to these words as an indication that he was fired:

Olbermann said he had been “told that this is the last edition of your show” and thanked his audience, saying: “My gratitude to you is boundless.”

Eh, not necessarily.  He had gotten a 4 year extension on his contract in 2008 and reports say he reached an agreement with management over the remaining part of that deal.  So it is possible he told them he was quitting and as soon as the agreement was reached, he was told, “we’re done – tonight’s the night”.

But it does point to something that was pretty well known – he was a pain in the ass employee who was constantly at war with management.  No matter how good you are, when you’re a PITA, you aren’t as untouchable as you think.  Olbermann may have found that out.

Anyway more of the story will come out over the next few weeks.  Suffice it say, much of the right won’t miss him at all, but the lefty blogs are pretty bummed by the whole deal.  I forget which one praised him as “an unapologetic liberal” who finally – FINALLY—brought the liberal perspective to air and showed it would pay (i.e. make money).

A little bit of opinion on that – what he did was provide good theater.  He was an angry guy spouting angry stuff and pushing the envelope in that regard.  There were many on the right who watched him specifically because he was outrageous and entertaining – a guilty pleasure.  Selling his nonsense?  Eh, not so much.  The echo chamber on the left nodded their head and those on the right who watched loved to lambast his talking points.  And interestingly, becoming the “Worst Person in the World” became a badge of honor and a competition on the right.  But was he persuasive?  Probably not.

Ah well, like I said, he’ll pop up again somewhere.  Dan Rather says there’s an opening at HD Net? 


Of course Iowahawk has heard that he was contacted by the North Korean News Agency about a little work there – apparently they’re looking for a personality that would help them tone-down their rhetoric.

Heh …



Is MSNBC just tired of Olbermann?

Just as I thought NPR was wrong for firing Juan Williams, I’m of the same opinion about suspending Olbermann, at least for the reasons stated.  If MSNBC thinks there is anyone anywhere that doesn’t know Olbermann is a liberal pundit then I’d have to wonder about them.  Pundits, no matter how vile, are expected to have a bias.  Those that report hard new aren’t (even if they do).  What Olbermann’s contributions have to do with anything is beyond me.   Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me, nor would I care, if he gave the legal limit in donations to every one of those on the Democratic side running for re-election.

On the other hand, if you know the employer you are going to work for prohibits this sort of thing, and you sign the contract with that understanding, then they have every right – despite my disagreement – to do whatever they choose to do.   It would be hard for me to believe that Olbermann didn’t know about that rule.

So while I don’t agree with the rule (it seems a bit anachronistic given MSNBC basic declaration of a liberal news outlet  – “lean forward”) it is their rule.  Whether or not it has been applied rigorously and consistently is unknown to me although I’ve read that others who’ve made similar contributions have been ignored.

If that’s the case then this enforcement on Olbermann is arbitrary and there is probably something more behind it. I think NPR was looking for an excuse to cut Williams loose and the same may be happening with Olbermann.  He’s nasty piece of work and certainly not a ratings bonanza for the network.  So there may be more to this than the donations.



32 percent of Tea Party candidates win

That’s the title an unbiased news organization would have used to describe the number of Tea Party backed candidates who won.  However, in their endeavor to “lean forward”, MSNBC has given up all claim to objectivity and their title to the story shows it.  “Just 32% of Tea Party candidates win”.

Really – “just” 32%?  So how does that compare to the Netroots effort?

And 32% means what in raw numbers?  Well it means 50% of their Senate candidates won (with one still undecided).  But for a brand new organization, 5 US Senators isn’t bad at all.  It is certainly enough to counter the Snowe/Collins contingent.

While 82 of their Congressional candidates lost, 40 won.  That’s a caucus in anyone’s world, to include the left.  The Blue Dog Caucus was 54. It is more than enough to keep the Tea Party agenda in the fore (assuming they aren’t co-opted as were the Blue Dogs who are now down to about 20 or so left).

So for a leaderless, grassroots organization which just recently emerged, I’d say 32% is pretty phenomenal.

But then, I’m not leaning forward properly I guess.



MSNBC – it can’t be the message

Yup, nothing like a new tag line, finally admitting your bias and a marketing campaign to boost your viewership.  Guaranteed, by gosh:

MSNBC, once the also-ran but now the No. 2 cable news channel, has a new tagline that embraces its progressive political identity.

The tagline, “Lean Forward,” will be publicly announced Tuesday, opening a planned two-year advertising campaign intended to raise awareness of the channel among viewers, advertisers and distributors.

The tagline “defines us and defines our competition,” said Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, his implication being that the Fox News Channel, which is No. 1 in cable news and a home for conservatives, is leaning backward.

Really?  That’s the best MSNBC could come up with?  Is it sending tingles up Chris Matthew’s leg?

Talk about lame.

Apparently the brainiacs at MSNBC think that saying “lean forward” and advertising it will make all the difference in the world.

Research, you see, told them they were the least known of the three cable networks (I could have told them that for free).  Obviously then, it’s a marketing problem, no?

Ms. [Sharon] Otterman’s [the chief marketing officer for MSNBC] lesson from that research: “All we have to do is tell our story to more people.”

She added in an interview, “It’s not that the look is changing. It’s not that the programming is changing. It’s that we’re going out and telling people about it now.”

Yesirree – because in reality:

“It’s not that the look is changing. It’s not that the programming is changing. It’s that we’re going out and telling people about it now.”

Uh, yeah.  It couldn’t be the message or the programming, could it?  It has to be that they’re just not getting the word out there effectively.

Lord – they sound like the Democrats.



Lefty rally falls short of Beck’s day

It appears the astroturfed "One Nation" rally – which was apparently organized by unions and socialist organizations – didn’t quite add up to the attendance hype despite claims to the contrary.

You did know that’s what this is all about didn’t you?

It was all about who could claim bragging rights as to who turned out the most.  If you don’t believe it, go read the links at memeorandum.  In fact, Nicole Belle at the aptly named “Crooks and Liars” lives up to the blog’s name. 

Dr. Blue has a cool animated gif that seems to settle the question of comparative crowd sizes. But just as interesting is the seeming attempts by some media outlets to make the crowd at least equal to the Beck rally.

AP had the story which included this paragraph:

Organizers claimed they had as many participants as Beck’s rally. But Saturday’s crowds were less dense and didn’t reach as far to the edges as they did during Beck’s rally. The National Park Service stopped providing official crowd estimates in the 1990s.

However, when MSNBC ran the AP’s story on it’s site, well, as Confederate Yankee points out, that paragraph didn’t make the cut.  Of course Ed Schultz, the lefty loudmouth who boasted he could turn out as many as Glen Beck, works at MSNBC.

And then there’s CSPAN’s choice of a crowd shot.  They either missed the fact that the picture they used to illustrate the “One Nation” rally had Gadsden flags all through it (i.e. the picture is that of the Beck rally), or they simply ignored them (or, I guess, thought no one would notice).

I offer all this up as a perfect case study in media complicity (some media) in carrying a narrative.  The narrative?  There is no enthusiasm gap, the left can turn out as many as the right.

Damn inconvenient that the crowd shots and other media reports don’t support the narrative, isn’t it?



Clueless conspiracy theory of the day – Chris Matthews edition

And an amazing one at that, although when you consider the source, perhaps not:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: You know, a great question, Charles, that wasn’t on my list to ask but I’m going to ask you because you seem like a sophisticated guy of many parts. You think business can sit on those billions and trillions of dollars for two more years after they screw Obama this time? Are they going to keep sitting on their money so they don’t invest and help the economy for two long years to get Mr. Excitement Mitt Romney elected president? Will they do that to the country?

Yes friends, he really said that. Businesses are, per Matthews, purposely sitting on their money in order to "screw Obama" without any thought or concern about what they’re doing to the country. And all to get "Mr. Excitement" elected.

Apparently Matthews thinks this is a "sophisticated" question to ask a "sophisticated" guest.

Listen to the non-answer answer. You can see "oh, thanks for that pile of crap question" written all over his face:

This, apparently, is what passes for journalism on the left. This is also why only 12% of cable viewers tune into MSNBC and the hosts there remain largely unknown.

They’ve earned their place.



Fox News Channel Dominates

I bring this story to your attention because of the questions it raises.  First the story by Steve Krakauer – then the questions:

Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year.

FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.

• FNC grew in double digits in both total viewers and the A25-54 demographic from January 2009. In prime time, it was up 22% in total viewers and 51% in the demo[graphic]. CNN was down 34% and 37% and MSNBC down 26% and 38%. In total day, FNC was up 16% and 28%. CNN was down 34% and 41% and MSNBC down 28% and 39%. Last January all networks performed while with the Inauguration coverage. This month, the big political event was Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, which FNC dominated in the ratings.

Fox News Channel has been a target of a concerted campaign by the White House to discredit it for a year. How well does that strategy seem to be working?

If, as the left likes to claim, FNC is simply a mouthpiece for the Republican party, what do these numbers tell us?

If, as the right contends, MSNBC is a shill for the left, what do its numbers tell us?

Why does FNC dominate the all important 25-54 demographic?

Last – do these numbers really portend anything of political significance, or does FNC just do a more entertaining (and dare I say it, more “fair and balanced”) job of presenting news and opinion?