UPDATE: I got hoaxed by at least a dozen e-mails (some from very credible sources) in the last 3-4 hours. Feeling REALLY REALLY stupid right now! I guess I wasn’t expecting an April Fool’s joke dated April 3. That doesn’t change the key points of (the non-Fox portions) of what I wrote, however.
While serving as communications director for the Badnarik presidential campaign, I was often contacted by reporters from major media outlets. They’d start a story and then I’d never hear from them again. On follow through, several junior level reporters and one very senior one (from one of the national television networks) told me off-the-record that their stories (or intended interview or television coverage) was squashed from the very top of their respective organizations. The closest I came to an on-the-record response was from Tom Hannon at CNN. In this case, we weren’t asking directly for media coverage, but for moderators for the first presidential debate of that election cycle. For the record, the Bush-Kerry debate that was promoted by the MSM as “the first presidential debate” wasn’t — and they all knew it, as we sent them e-mails, faxes and made personal phone calls to their news and political departments. I requested:
Dear Mr. Hannon,
While the final details have not been finalized between campaigns, we are completing arrangements for a third-party presidential debate in Manhattan during the Republican Convention.
As one of the coordinators for this event, I would like to extend an invitation for CNN to provide the one or two moderators necessary for this debate.
Please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience…
Thanks for the information. Please forward additional details on the event as they become available, but given the programming and editorial demands on our staff that week I think it’s unlikely we’ll be able to provide the one or two moderators you’re requesting.
Of course, I provided them with timely updates — but I never received any response from them. They not only didn’t provide a moderator, they didn’t provide any coverage, either. As this was on a slow night during the Republican National Convention, they had a significant amount of reporters and equipment available just a few blocks up the road. Somehow C-SPAN (with significantly fewer resources) managed to get a film crew there to carry the event on television.
Here’s an e-mail from a volunteer on our media team:
I was just on the phone with Bob Campbell of the Detroit Free Press – Bob is in charge of assigning political reporters, this was what he told me: Ã‚ÂI donÃ‚Â’t want to take away reporters from Bush and Kerry, that’s what people want to read about, people aren’t interested in the Libertarian candidate.Ã‚Â
Here’s a clip from an e-mail I received from someone of national political significance:
I am slightly acquainted with a NY Times reporter, Kit Seelye. She covers the presidential election from the NY Times office in Washington, DC. I asked her why the BBC covers Badnarik (in connection with the subpoena he tried to serve on the Commission on Pres. Debates and his arrest), and the NY Times doesn’t.
She said in an e-mail I just got, “I have never heard of this person” (meaning Badnarik!). I thanked her for responding and didn’t express my amazement, but I am truly amazed that she could say that she had never even heard the word “Badnarik”.
I also asked her why her article about Nader today says he is on in 30 states when he is on in 35. She said she wrote in her story that Nader is on in “3 dozen states”, but that someone with final authority changed it, without even notifying her. So that is interesting evidence of anti-Nader bias at the top levels of the NY Times.
Another interesting trend (I don’t have real numbers on this, but it would make an interesting study) is that in many cases, most of the newspapers in a region would provide at least reasonable coverage — except for the dominant paper in the state or large city. The New Mexico campaign and a comparison of Washington Post to Washington Times coverage serve as examples.
Some of my sources will not come forward for fear of losing their jobs or other forms of retribution. However, this story from Fox News may shed some light on the pressure from above to squelch Libertarian coverage in the main stream media.
In a disturbing turn of events for an administration already plagued by sagging poll numbers and waning support for the Iraq war, Friday’s revelation that the Bush Administration issued direct guidelines for programming to media outlets is troubling even die-hard conservatives.
Late Friday a series of memos between senior Bush Administration officials and management at Viacom, Inc. were leaked calling for the media giant to focus on stories and programming choices that “reinforce the Administration’s positions” and to “ignore and/or discredit points of view in opposition to the Bush Administration’s foreign policy objectives for the purposes of National Security.” [snip]
Debra L. Lee, president and CEO of Viacom’s Black Entertainment Television, agrees. “Even though our moniker is BET, our allegiance lies with our government and its directives, not the African-American community. Anyone who believes that we will endorse messages in contrast to our government’s wishes, or that express dissent, is sorely mistaken.”
Some entertainment industry insiders are becoming increasingly concerned, however. One longtime employee of Interscope Records, a leading record label and home to rap superstars 50 Cent and Eminem, stated recently under the condition of anonymity that the company “has a unique relationship with Viacom” and that it “deliberately focuses on marketing campaigns that depict black people in the worst possible light.” When told of Rev. Sharpton’s likening of the practice to ‘genocide’ on African-Americans, he agreed wholeheartedly, but expressed fears of reprisal should he publicly address his concerns.
“It’s beyond national security. That was the reason given at first, but now they just tell us what we have to endorse, and what we have to avoid.” He added, “these kids eat it up. They don’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s fake.”
If in any doubt about the fear of reprisal being reasonable, take a look at this quote from the same article:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist took a more defensive stance. “Of course it raises some concerns, but we can’t let this issue be blown out of proportion. Of course there have to be media guidelines. Hell, if we want to plant I.D. chips in people and torture their loved ones until they break, we will. I know the idea of governmental control over what the media can or cannot say during wartime may be an uncomfortable topic for some to digest, but it is a necessary fact of life when our enemies are trying to kill us.”
I’ll add the following to Frist’s quote: It was also governmental control over what the media can or cannot say during a presidential election.
I’ve left names and other identifying information off of the aforementioned correspondence for obvious reasons. However, I’m not too scared to stand up and tell my part of the story. Props to Aaron Russo for the lead on the Fox News article.