When Don Imus was fired in the wake of his April 4th “nappy-headed ho’s” remarks about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, a great deal of attention was focused, appropriately, on the influence of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, each of whom expressed outrage over the broadcaster’s racial insensitivity and demanded that he be fired. The real guiding hand over Imus’ downfall, however, belonged neither to Sharpton nor Jackson, but to Hillary Rodham Clinton. This is not widely understood, because Mrs. Clinton’s pristine fingerprints were kept off her victim by the intercession of a velvet glove called Media Matters for America, the organization responsible for setting in motion the chain of events that eventually brought down Imus. The toppling of Imus was only a prelude to bigger things for Media Matters, which, because of its strong ties to Mrs. Clinton, is now aiming—just in time for the 2008 presidential election—to derail the careers of a select group of influential broadcasters who, like Imus, have been publicly critical of New York’s junior Senator.
Media Matters had been building a dossier on Imus for some time, lying in wait for an opportune moment to pounce on him. At 6:14 a.m. on April 4th, Imus gave the organization that opportunity when he made his ill-fated remarks, which were heard by a 26-year-old Washington, DC-based researcher named Ryan Chiachiere, who Media Matters had assigned to monitor Imus’ program on a daily basis. Chiachiere promptly posted a 775-word blog along with a video clip of the offending comments on the Media Matters website; in addition, a news release was sent to hundreds of reporters nationwide. Imus’ subsequent apology was casually dismissed by the self-righteous Sharpton and Jackson, and the broadcaster’s fate was sealed for certain when his program’s major sponsors began to pull their ads from the show, fearful that they would be subjected—by Media Matters and the likes of Sharpton and Jackson—to a withering campaign of negative publicity as sponsors of a “racist” program.
Established in May 2004, Media Matters identifies itself as “a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media”—particularly information “that forwards the conservative agenda.” The organization was founded by the conservative-turned-leftist journalist David Brock, who says he created Media Matters “to combat” what he characterizes as the largely successful effort of “the right wing in this country” to “mov[e] the media itself to the right” and to “mov[e] American politics to the right.” Along the same lines, Media Matters’ Managing Director Jamison Foser wrote in May 2006: “Time after time, the news media have covered progressives and conservatives in wildly different ways—and, time after time, they do so to the benefit of conservatives.”
Obviously, Media Matters makes no secret of its animus for political conservatives and its desire to publicly discredit them. That being said, it is difficult, at first blush, to see why such an organization should have wished to drive Don Imus, of all people, from the airwaves. After all, no one could possibly have mistaken Imus for a conservative. His liberal-left views were well known, and he had a well-established reputation for deriding his conservative radio and television counterparts—calling Rush Limbaugh “a fat, pill-popping loser” and “an undisciplined slob,” and calling Tucker Carlson “a bowtie-wearing pussy,” to cite just two examples. On another occasion he called a Jewish reporter a “boner-nosed, beanie-wearing Jewboy.” Not even the mean-spirited crudeness of comments like these—a crudeness that was standard operating procedure for Imus and his irreverent brand of humor—had ever previously jeopardized his career. What, then, made the “nappy-headed ho’s” case different?
To answer this, we must understand that the Rutgers basketball players were merely incidental to a larger, orchestrated campaign by Media Matters to destroy Imus. The athletes just happened to be, from Media Matters’ perspective, “in the right place at the right time,” as the saying goes. As such, they furnished Media Matters with a convenient pretext for striking hard at Imus.
To truly understand Media Matters’ motives, we must look at the organization’s special relationship with Hillary Clinton, who has deeply despised Don Imus for more than a decade. Hillary’s contempt for the broadcaster dates back to March 21, 1996, when Imus made a number of insulting, disparaging remarks about Mrs. Clinton and her husband, who was then U.S. President, at the Radio and TV Correspondents Association dinner in Washington, DC.
More recently, Imus had been particularly critical of Mrs. Clinton and her presidential candidacy. According to Media Matters, the broadcaster had “repeatedly and unapologetically” referred to the Senator as “Satan,” Bill Clinton’s “fat ugly wife,” a “buck-toothed witch,” “the personification of evil,” and an individual who was “worse than” Osama bin Laden. Not surprisingly, Imus steadfastly refused to invite Mrs. Clinton to be a guest on his program. (It is noteworthy that in the wake of the “nappy-headed ho’s” incident, Mrs. Clinton disingenuously portrayed the fact that she had never appeared on Imus’ show as the result of a unilateral, righteous choice she had personally made: “I’ve never wanted to go on his show and I certainly don't ever intend to go on his show, and I felt that way before his latest outrageous, hateful, hurtful comments,” said Clinton.)
So far, then, we know for certain that Hillary Clinton loathes Don Imus, and that Media Matters was actively engaged in trying to topple the broadcaster’s career, as evidenced by the assignment of Mr. Chiachiere to monitor every minute of Imus’ program. But how do we know there is a connection between Hillary’s antipathy for Imus and the deadly blow that Media Matters dealt to his radio program?
We know because Media Matters’ links to Hillary are at once intimate and multitudinous, and the organization’s devotion to her is nothing short of profound. In 1996 (eight years before Media Matters’ creation), the then-conservative David Brock was commissioned (with a $1 million advance) by the Simon & Schuster subsidiary Free Press to write a hard-hitting expose of Hillary. But the book, completed in 1997, turned out to be nothing more than a tepid, distinctly sympathetic account of the former First Lady’s life. That same year (1997), Brock publicly announced his political epiphany, unequivocally recanting his previous negative writings about the Clintons and embracing the liberal/Left cause. During this period, Brock developed a close relationship with Neel Lattimore, Senator Clinton’s openly gay press secretary and close confidante. Brock would eventually hire Lattimore as a director of “special projects” for Media Matters.
Brock’s affinity for Mrs. Clinton grew over time, and vice versa. According to Glenn Thrush of Newsday, Hillary “advised Brock on creating” Media Matters in 2004, “encouraging the creation of a liberal equivalent of the Media Research Center, a conservative group that has aggravated Democrats for decades.” Thrush reports that Hillary still “chats with [Brock] occasionally and thinks he provides a valuable service . . .” “For her part,” Thrush adds, “Clinton’s extended family of contributors, consultants and friends has played a pivotal role in helping Media Matters grow from a $3.5 million start-up in 2004 to its current $8.5 million budget.”
Media Matters, Hillary, and the Center for American Progress
Media Matters and Hillary Clinton are further linked by their respective relationships with three of the most influential leftist operatives in the world—George Soros, Morton Halperin, and John Podesta. All three of these men are intimately involved with a vital think tank called the Center for American Progress (CAP)—which, according to Cybercast News Service’s research, “was instrumental in getting Brock’s media group off the ground”; which helped launch Media Matters on May 3, 2004; and which maintains a tight bond with Brock’s organization to this day.
Soros and Halperin first proposed CAP’s creation in 2002 to promote generally the cause of the Left and the Democratic Party. But CAP’s overarching objective is considerably more specific than that: As an inside source told reporter Christian Bourge of United Press International, CAP is in fact “the official Hillary Clinton think tank.” Not long after its formal founding in the summer of 2003, Mrs. Clinton told reporter Robert Dreyfuss of The Nation: “We’ve had the challenge of filling a void on our side of the ledger for a long time, while the other side created an infrastructure that has come to dominate political discourse. The Center [for American Progress] is a welcome effort to fill that void.”
According to Dreyfuss, CAP bears the distinct “imprint of the Clintons.” “It’s not completely wrong to see it as a shadow government,” he wrote in February 2004, “a kind of Clinton White-House-in-exile—or a White House staff in readiness for President Hillary Clinton. Among senior staff and fellows at the center are several former Clinton-era officials, including Robert Boorstin, who was Clinton’s national security speechwriter; Gene Sperling, who headed Clinton’s National Economic Council and who is now affiliated with the DLC; and Matt Miller, senior adviser to Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget. The center’s first director of domestic policy was Neera Tanden, an aide to Senator Clinton, who has since returned to work for Hillary. And the center’s kickoff conference on national security in October, co-organized with The American Prospect and the Century Foundation, looked like a Clinton reunion, featuring Robert Rubin, Clinton’s Treasury Secretary; William Perry, his Defense Secretary; Sandy Berger, his National Security Adviser; Richard Holbrooke and Susan Rice, both Clinton-era Assistant Secretaries of State; Rodney Slater, his Transportation Secretary; and Carol Browner, his EPA Administrator, who serves on the center’s board of directors. . . . Hillary Clinton . . . was also there . . .”
CAP is heavily funded by the aforementioned billionaire financier George Soros, and in turn works closely with Media Matters to remove potential roadblocks (like Don Imus) from Hillary Clinton’s path to the White House. According to Bill O’Reilly, some of the money Soros gives to CAP eventually finds its way into the coffers of Media Matters, though Media Matters disputes this.
Soros in 2004 spent some $26 million trying, unsuccessfully, to defeat President Bush’s reelection bid, a task Soros called “the central focus of my life” and “a matter of life and death.” He has likened Republicans generally, and the Bush administration in particular, to “the Nazi and communist regimes” in the sense that they are “all engaged in the politics of fear.” “Indeed,” he wrote in 2006, “the Bush administration has been able to improve on the techniques used by the Nazi and Communist propaganda machines by drawing on the innovations of the advertising and marketing industries.” Soros elaborated on this theme at the January 2007 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he told reporters: “America needs to . . . go through a certain de-Nazification process.”
Today Soros remains committed to ousting the Nazi-like Republicans from the White House. And because Hillary Clinton appears to be the person most capable of making his dream a reality, Soros is heavily invested in abetting her quest for the presidency. He does this in part by funding the Center for American Progress, with the knowledge that CAP will work synergistically with pro-Hillary organizations like Media Matters.
Soros and Hillary have long held each other in high regard, as demonstrated by Hillary’s declaration at a 2004 Take Back America Conference in Washington, DC: “Now, among the many people who have stood up and said, ‘I cannot sit by and let this happen to the country I love,’ is George Soros, and I have known George Soros for a long time now, and I first came across his work in the former Soviet Union, in Eastern Europe, when I was privileged to travel there, both on my own and with my husband on behalf of our country….[W]e need people like George Soros, who is fearless, and willing to step up when it counts.” (Cited in David Horowitz and Richard Poe, The Shadow Party, p. 53)
Morton Halperin is Senior Vice President of the Center for American Progress and Director of the Open Society Policy Center established by George Soros. On both counts, then, he is tied to Media Matters and its pro-Hillary agendas. He also has an extensive history in Democratic Party politics, most notably during the Clinton administration. President Bill Clinton appointed him to several key positions: Special Assistant to the President, Senior Director for Democracy at the National Security Council, consultant to the Secretary of Defense, and consultant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Halperin was given these appointments even though, as a May 2000 World Net Daily report revealed, he was, “according to a well-respected former State official, . . . ‘known . . . as a Soviet or communist agent’” in the Cold War era.
When laying the groundwork with Soros for CAP, Halperin sought the input of John Podesta, a former chief of staff in the Clinton administration who today is the official President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. Podesta, too, helped Brock develop Media Matters, going so far as to loan office space to Brock’s fledgling organization in Washington, DC.
Media Maters, Hillary, and Democracy Alliance
Media Matters has received additional assistance from another entity with close ties to Hillary Clinton, Democracy Alliance, a self-described “liberal organization” of at least 80 ultra-wealthy leftists—one of them being George Soros—whose long-term objective is to raise some $200 million for the political Left. As Newsday’s Glenn Thrush explains, Democracy Alliance members report that their organization, which “advises Democratic donors on where to spend their political contributions,” “steered more than $6 million to Brock’s group” between 2004 and 2006.
And who is the official leader of Democracy Alliance? None other than Rob Stein, a former chief of staff at the Washington office of the Clinton-Gore Transition, and thereafter an official in Bill Clinton’s Treasury Department. According to author Joseph Klein, Democracy Alliance has also “received significant support from some of Hillary Clinton’s most important backers including Susie Tompkins Buell and her husband, Mark Buell, and financier Alan Patricof.” Moreover, Democracy Alliance reports that one of its officials, Jonathan Adler, “served as Regional Campaign Coordinator for Senator Hillary Clinton’s successful 2006 Senate re-election campaign.”
The current Managing Director of Democracy Alliance, Kelly Craighead, is, according to Glenn Thrush, “one of the Clintons’ closest friends.” In the 1990s Craighead worked as an assistant to President Clinton and as director of the advance team for Hillary, who was then the First Lady. The depth of the friendship between Craighead and Mrs. Clinton is evidenced by the fact that Hillary, acting as a justice of the peace, performed Craighead’s 2001 marriage ceremony to political consultant Erick Mullen, a former aide to Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York and a former informal advisor to Mrs. Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign. Thrush reports that Craighead also “served as one of Brock’s top advisers during Media Matters’ formation in 2004,” a service for which “[s]he was paid as part of a $202,781 contract with … Erick Mullen’s consulting company…”
Media Matters, Hillary, and the Democratic Party
Hillary’s ties to Brock’s organization are further cemented by the largesse of such donors to Media Matters as Susie Tompkins Buell (Hillary’s close ally and a co-founder of the fashion company Esprit) and James Hormel (a San Francisco philanthropist who narrowly missed being named ambassador to Luxembourg during the Clinton administration in the 1990s).
While Hillary is Media Matters’ sacred cow, Brock’s group also has many ties to the Democratic Party generally. This only serves to increase Media Matters’ devotion to Hillary, because she clearly represents the Democrats’ best hope for recapturing the White House in 2008. Among Media Matters’ 58 staffers and advisors are the following noteworthy individuals:
· Benjamin J. Armbruster, a member of Media Matters’ Research Department, has held research positions at the Center for American Progress, whose ties to Media Matters and the Democratic Party are, by now, obvious.
· Darrin Bodner, Media Matters’ Chief Operating Officer, was an adviser to former New York City Democratic Council Speaker Peter Vallone, and chief fundraiser for Vallone’s 2001 mayoral campaign.
· Joseph Brown of Media Matters’ Research Department conducted donor research for Maine Democrat Chellie Pingree’s 2002 U.S. Senate campaign.
· Eric Burns, Media Matters’ Chief Communications Strategist, was the Communications Director for the House Rules Committee and its ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-New York), a friend of Hillary Clinton. Before that, Burns was a senior adviser to Texas Democratic Congressman Chris Bell.
· Scott Collins, Media Matters’ Director of Human Resources, worked for the Clinton-Gore 1996 Committee.
· Rachel Evans, Media Matters’ Deputy Director for Media Relations, worked as an intern for Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut).
· Ben Fishel, a Media Relations Associate for Media Matters, has worked as an intern for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York).
· Jamison Foser, Media Matters’ Managing Director, was the Research Director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2002 election cycle.
· Karl Frisch, Media Matters’ Director of Media Relations, was a Multimedia Communications Director for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. In 2005 Frisch was a press secretary for New York Democrat Louise Slaughter, and thereafter he served as press secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
· Matthew Gertz of Media Matters’ Research Department served as deputy campaign manager of Connecticut Democrat Diane Farrell’s 2006 congressional bid, and as an intern for Senator Charles Schumer.
· Kathleen Henehan of Media Matters’ Research Department interned for Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey).
· Josh Kalven, Media Matters’ Deputy Editorial Director, previously worked for the Chicago-based Gragert Research company during the 2002 and 2004 election cycles, “providing strategic research to Democratic campaigns and progressive interest groups nationwide.”
· Erikka Knuti, Media Matters’ Deputy Director of External Affairs, worked on the 2006 congressional campaign of Pennsylvania Democrat Joe Sestak. She was also a campaign coordinator for Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wisconsin).
· Marcia Kuntz, Media Matters’ Editorial Director, served as legislative counsel to Massachusetts Democratic Representative Barney Frank. She also headed the Judicial Selection Project of Alliance for Justice, whose raison d’etre is to oppose Republican judicial nominees.
· Brian Levy of Media Matters’ Research Department was the deputy finance director of New Hampshire Democrat Justin Nadeau’s 2004 congressional campaign. He also worked as an intern for the 2006 gubernatorial campaign of New Jersey Democrat Jon Corzine and the 2004 presidential campaign of Missouri Democrat Richard Gephardt.
· Susan Lin, Media Matters’ Operations Manager, worked for Senator Robert Torricelli (D-New Jersey).
· Julie Millican of Media Matters’ Research Department worked for Democrat John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, and for a number of local Democratic parties.
· Phil Mione, Media Matters’ Public Affairs Assistant, worked as an intern for New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg and for the 2006 New Jersey gubernatorial campaign of Jon Corzine.
· Sarah Pavlus, a Senior Researcher for Media Matters, previously worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
· Jeremy Schulman, Media Matters’ Research Director, was the Deputy Communications Director for Colorado Democrat Dave Thomas’ 2004 congressional campaign. (Schulman’s predecessor at Media Matters, Katie Barge, went on to become Research Director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.)
· Raphael Schweber-Koren of Media Matters’ Research Department previously worked as a researcher for the Thunder Road Group, a political consultancy that assisted the Democratic Party with strategic planning, polling, opposition research, and public relations.
· Mandy Vlasz, Media Matters’ Assistant to the President, worked in the finance department of the 2000 Gore/Lieberman campaign’s national headquarters. She also worked for a Washington, DC-based Democratic polling firm, and on the 2004 U.S. Senate campaign of Illinois Democrat Gery Chico.
· C.R. Wooters, Media Matters’ Senior Adviser and Director of Public Affairs, led the Democratic National Committee’s political efforts in six targeted states in 2004. In 2000 he worked for Al Gore’s presidential campaign in four states.
· Dennis Yedwab, a Senior Advisor for Media Matters, was the Director of Strategic Resources at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He was also the Research Director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Such are Media Matters’ deep ties to the Democratic Party and, by extension, to the political fortunes of Hillary Clinton.
Media Matters, Hillary, and the Stifling of Free Speech
Media Matters’ desire to eliminate voices critical of Hillary dovetails perfectly with its support of the so-called Fairness Doctrine, a policy (repealed by Congress in 1987) whose re-establishment Hillary Clinton likewise advocates, just as she did during her years as First Lady.
The Fairness Doctrine was originally instituted in the early days of the Federal Communications Commission “to ensure that all coverage of controversial issues by a broadcast station be balanced and fair.” At that time, however, the American public had few broadcasting channels from which to select, and each of those conceivably could have held identical positions on various issues of import—thereby precluding people from having access to a spectrum of different viewpoints. But in the current era of the Internet and the proliferation of radio and cable television stations, the Doctrine is a pointless anachronism. Nevertheless, the political Left seeks to restore it because talk radio is dominated by conservative voices, whereas liberal/Left enterprises like Air America Radio have failed to draw much of an audience. In other words, the Left wants government control over the airwaves to do for its cause what the free market would not do—that is, turn down the volume of influential conservative voices and, consequently, affect the thinking and the voting decisions of the American people.
As the conservative political blogger Ed Morrissey writes, the original Fairness Doctrine “did not require broadcasters to present issues in a ‘fair and honest manner’; it required them to turn their stations into ping-ponging punditry if they allowed opinion to appear on the air at all. It created such a complicated formula that most broadcasters simply refused to air any political programming, as it created a liability for station owners for being held hostage to all manner of complaints about lack of balance.” The Left is fully aware of this, and always has been. One former Kennedy administration official candidly acknowledged several decades ago: “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass the right-wing broadcasters, and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too costly to continue.” Today Hillary Clinton and Media Matters seek to do precisely the same thing.
During her years as First Lady, Mrs. Clinton witnessed how conservative talk radio helped to educate the public—in a way that the major news networks did not—on the details of her plan to socialize the American health care system by stealth. Similarly, in 2004 she observed how talk radio helped derail John Kerry’s presidential bid by bringing to light—again, in a way that the major networks did not—the Swift Boat veterans’ revelations about Kerry. As Joseph Klein points out, “Kerry himself blamed his defeat on the ‘profound and negative change in the relationship of America’s media with America’s people’ which ‘began, incidentally, when the Fairness Doctrine ended.’”
In October 2004, Media Matters announced its campaign to “restore the Fairness Doctrine” as a means of rectifying the “imbalanced political discourse on our airwaves.” David Brock in 2005 supported a bill introduced by Hillary’s friend, Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, to give the Fairness Doctrine a new incarnation. In Slaughter’s view, conservative radio amounts to nothing more than “a waste of good broadcast time, and a waste of our airwaves.” Said Brock: “By restoring a diversity of fact and opinion to programming, Fairness Doctrine legislation restores a concept that has been lost since the 1980s—that because the public owns the airwaves, the public is entitled to be adequately informed by the broadcasters of news and opinion.”
In the spirit of its proposed Fairness Doctrine, Media Matters, fresh off its victory over Hillary’s critic Don Imus, is now candidly preparing to challenge the broadcast rights of a number of notable conservative talk radio personalities for their alleged use of “bigotry and hate speech targeting, among other characteristics, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity.” (And, oh yes, these broadcasters just happen to be vocal critics of Hillary Clinton.) Just as Media Matters assigned Ryan Chiachiere to monitor Don Imus’ every utterance, for instance, so does it assign two researchers to monitor Rush Limbaugh’s program, transcribe his words, and catalogue his alleged transgressions. Such assignments are made possible by Media Matters’ $8.5 million budget, which is, by way of comparison, more than ten times as large as the budget of a website like FrontPage.
In a 6,181-word report titled “It’s Not Just Imus,” Media Matters documents what it perceives to be the case against not only Limbaugh, but also Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly, Glen Beck, Neal Boortz, Michael Smerconish, and John Gibson. By eliminating such conservative voices from the airwaves, Media Matters could effectively insulate much of the American public from ever hearing about the negative traits and hidden agendas of Hillary Clinton, and thereby, in essence, ensure her ascendancy to the Oval Office.
Media Matters frames its motives in the rhetoric of pure-hearted concern about a lack of civility in the media. But the politically rooted double standard that actually underlies the organization’s activities are obvious when we consider the fact that Media Matters’ very own Eric Alterman—its leading luminary (he is also a Senior Fellow for the Hillary think tank, Center for American Progress) who pens the blog titled “Altercation”—is by no means above authoring sentiments that are at least as crude, offensive, and incendiary as anything that was ever uttered by the conservatives who Media Matters impugns. For example, in the Nov. 9, 2000, issue of The Nation, Alterman wrote: “I got a call one day from a Republican Party functionary telling me that Hillary Clinton supported a Palestinian state and took money from groups that supported terrorist organizations ‘like the one that just blew up the USS Cole.’ I told the sorry sonofabitch that like Israel’s Prime Minister, I, too, support a Palestinian state. And, if there was any justice in the world, Hillary’s ‘terrorist’ friends would blow up Republican headquarters while we were still on the phone, so I could enjoy hearing the explosion.”
That is incivility by any definition. But in the eyes of Media Matters, it is entirely permissible because the author is a supporter of Hillary Clinton.