Media Matters, Or Does It?
March 12, 2012
By Roger Aronoff
The news for Media Matters keeps getting worse and worse. After weeks of stonewalling the excellent Daily Caller series that broke on February 12, Media Matters founder David Brock and his co-author Ari Rabin-Havt of the new book The Fox Effect have selectively responded to some of the allegations made in the series. Media Matters for America is the far-left, George Soros-backed organization that claims its purpose is to monitor and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. But as characterized in The Daily Caller series, “Media Matters has in less than a decade become a powerful player in Democratic politics. The group operates in regular coordination with the highest levels of the Obama White House, as well as with members of Congress and progressive groups around the country. Brock, who collected over $250,000 in salary from Media Matters in 2010, has himself become a major fundraiser on the left. According to an internal memo obtained by TheDC, Media Matters intends to spend nearly $20 million in 2012 to influence news coverage.”
According to one of the sources who talked to The Daily Caller, “Every Tuesday evening, meanwhile, a representative from Media Matters attends the Common Purpose Project meeting at the Capitol Hilton on 16th Street in Washington, where dozens of progressive organizations formulate strategy, often with a representative from the Obama White House.”
While their tax exempt status with the IRS has been challenged in the past, it is coming under renewed scrutiny, says The Daily Caller, and some Republicans in Congress have expressed intentions to look into their activities to try to determine if they should be able to maintain their tax-exempt status. The issues include the fact that they are involved in “political training” of Democrats, and that their frequent calls and meetings with White House officials, according to C. Boyden Gray, former White House Counsel under President George H. W. Bush, “could prove problematic if the organization is privately sharing information with President Barack Obama’s staff.” Gray said that “If a section 501(c)(3) organization is privately providing to the Democratic Party information for their use in their political activities, that’s a contribution to the party,” and thus not allowed by the IRS code with their current status.
As AIM’s Cliff Kincaid reported in a column on February 7th, “the head of Media Matters has officially dropped the mask of media critic by creating a so-called Democratic ‘Super PAC’ devoted to re-electing President Obama, adding Democrats to the Senate Democratic majority, and taking back the House of Representatives from the Republicans.”
Brock heads up the Super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, as well as Media Matters, and the two are housed in the same Washington D.C. offices.
In other developments, Fox News has reported, and provided links to all of the legal documents that reveal that Brock paid $850,000 in what he characterized as a “blackmail” payment. According to the documents, Brock was being threatened by a former domestic partner with information on Media Matters’ donors and the IRS. This might provide useful information if Congress actually investigates.
In yet another potential financial controversy, Media Matters has collected $365,000 in ill gotten gains from three foundations that convicted Ponzi-scheme operator Bernie Madoff had “invested” in. They have not said if they would return the money to the court appointed trustee who represents the victims of Madoff’s fraud. In February the general counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), David M. Becker, disgorged more than a half-million dollars in his family’s ill gotten gains. Maybe that will serve as an example to Brock to do the right thing.
The Daily Caller also reported certain illegal and erratic behavior on the part of David Brock. TheDC wrote that “Brock’s personal assistant, a man named Haydn Price-Morris, was carrying a holstered and concealed Glock handgun when he accompanied Brock to events, including events in Washington, D.C., a city with famously restrictive gun laws. Price-Morris told others he carried the gun to protect Brock from threats.” They said that Brock feared being exposed for this since George Soros and other backers of Media Matters were very supportive of strict gun control laws, and wouldn’t approve. Later that same year, after other Media Matters employees learned about the bodyguard’s gun, he was fired based on their objections.
Another issue is Media Matters’ position on Israel. Alan Dershowitz, who was a supporter of Barack Obama in 2008, has observed some of the writings on Israel by Media Matters staff. One of their staffers, MJ Rosenberg, has been a harsh critic of Israel, and refers to “Israel firsters.” These are people, who in his view, are more loyal to Israel than they are to the U.S. It is viewed by many Jewish organizations, including the non-partisan Simon Wiesenthal Center, as a classic anti-Semitic slur. Rosenberg, for his part, says that by Israel-firsters, he means Netanyahu-firsters, referring to the current Israeli prime minister.
But Politico, a liberal Washington newspaper, wrote recently that “The Center for American Progress, the [Democratic] party’s key hub of ideas and strategy, and Media Matters, a central messaging organization, have emerged as vocal critics of their party’s staunchly pro-Israel congressional leadership and have been at odds, at times, with Barack Obama’s White House, which has acted as a reluctant ally to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government.”
This has raised the ire of Dershowitz, who has vowed to make an issue of this in the presidential campaign.
As reported by Alana Goodman, a former intern at Accuracy in Media’s American Journalism Center, now writing for Commentary: “Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who was a key supporter of Obama in 2008, told WOR710 today that he could not vote for President Obama’s re-election unless the president cuts ties with the controversial anti-Israel group Media Matters. He also warned that Obama’s association with Media Matters—which was raised by the Daily Caller in an investigative series this week—will lose him support in the pro-Israel community.”
She then quoted Dershowitz as saying, “Let’s have a full and open debate on this, but to the extent that the Obama administration associates with these bigots [at Media Matters], they’re going to lose a lot of support among Christians, Jews and others who think that American support for Israel is in the best interest of the United States…So don’t confuse these bigots with liberals. They’re not. They’re extremists, they’re way, way beyond the pale. And any association with the Obama administration is going to hurt the Obama administration. There is not enough room under the big tent for people like me…and the bigots of Media Matters. The Obama administration is going to have to choose.…I could not vote for anyone who has anything to do with Media Matters, that’s clear. That’s just clear as can be. I will take an oath here that I will not vote for a candidate that has any direct association with Media Matters. That’s like asking me to vote for Hezbollah or asking me to vote for Hamas or asking me to vote for the Fascist Party. I won’t do it…That association has to stop. Just in the same way that President Obama totally terminated his association with the Reverend Wright, he has to terminate any association with Media Matters and with the intellectual thugs who are behind it.”
Media Matters normally has a lot to say in response to their critics, but their silence speaks volumes about these latest accusations from The Daily Caller, Fox News, and Alan Dershowitz. The Obama White House has been directly challenged, and implicated by these revelations, though the mainstream media is adopting its usual position. Pretend there is nothing there, and maybe it will all go away.
On February 27th, there was an authors’ night at Politics and Prose, a Washington D.C. bookstore that holds many such events. It was Brock’s first public appearance since The Daily Caller series broke, and since Dershowitz had made his comments. The first question of the evening, following comments and readings by Brock and his co-author, Ari Rabin-Havt, was whether or not they stand by the rhetoric of senior staffer MJ Rosenberg.
Rabin-Havt gave an indirect, rambling answer, saying that he is personally a Zionist and that “Israel is an issue that has a deep and heartfelt meaning to me. It’s an issue I’ve thought a lot about through the years. It’s one that’s had an impact on my family and an impact on my ancestors.” He said that what disappoints him about this debate, and the topic of Israel and disputes in the Middle East and Iran, is that this is the most important thing we’re dealing with. It involves potentially going to war with Iran, and shouldn’t in essence be trivialized by making it about some Twitter comments sent out by a Media Matters staffer. He then pushed back, saying, “I don’t feed trolls,” referring to The Daily Caller, which he repeated when he didn’t want to directly answer questions.
Brock and Rabin-Havt were also asked that night whether or not it was true that they had hired private investigators to look into the personal lives of Fox News executives and staff. They didn’t actually deny it, but said they had no interest in the personal lives or business of these people.
When asked to respond to the series in general, Rabin-Havt said, “I’m not going to respond to an article that’s basically filled up with just crap. There’s no point getting into a match back and forth with The Daily Caller, and that’s why we chose not to respond.”
The question about the private investigators was based on more findings in The Daily Caller series, in this case a memo from someone named Karl Frisch that had been emailed to Brock and Media Matters president Eric Burns, recommending a “Fox Fund” to attack the Fox News Channel.
“Simply put,” wrote Frisch, “the progressive movement is in need of an enemy. George W. Bush is gone. We really don’t have John McCain to kick around anymore. Filling the lack of leadership on the right, Fox News has emerged as the central enemy and antagonist of the Obama administration, our Congressional majorities and the progressive movement as a whole.”
“We must take Fox News head-on in a well funded, presidential-style campaign to discredit and embarrass the network, making it illegitimate in the eyes of news consumers.” Frisch wrote, “We should hire private investigators to look into the personal lives of Fox News anchors, hosts, reporters, prominent contributors, senior network and corporate staff.” In addition, he argued that they should engage a “major law firm” and explore various legal actions against Fox, including class action and defamation claims for those who said they were wronged by the network.
While Media Matters was holding regular meetings and phone calls with White House staff, they were also coordinating with various journalists, including at MSNBC and The Washington Post, who they identified as being willing to work with them in exposing their opposition research.
In a very damning series of quotes based on these memos as well as individuals who had worked there and become disillusioned, The Daily Caller named names of journalists who they could count on at Media Matters. This is from The Daily Caller story:
“‘The entire progressive blogosphere picked up our stuff,’ says a Media Matters source, ‘from Daily Kos to Salon. Greg Sargent [of the Washington Post] will write anything you give him. He was the go-to guy to leak stuff.” Another source added that “If you can’t get it anywhere else, Greg Sargent’s always game.” Sargent declined to comment for the series.
“The people at Huffington Post were always eager to cooperate, which is no surprise given David’s long history with Arianna [Huffington],” said another source.
“Jim Rainey at the LA Times took a lot of our stuff,” a staffer continued. “So did Joe Garofoli at the San Francisco Chronicle. We’ve pushed stories to Eugene Robinson and E.J. Dionne [at the Washington Post]. Brian Stelter at the New York Times was helpful.”
“Ben Smith [formerly of Politico, now at BuzzFeed.com] will take stories and write what you want him to write.”
The relationship between Media Matters and the White House makes it very unlikely that any sort of meaningful investigation from the executive branch, including the IRS, will occur. Thus, it is incumbent upon Congress to take the lead. But unfortunately, the mainstream media have shown no interest in even acknowledging that this scandal exists, much less applying pressure for such hearings. The reasons for this reluctance are obvious. This groundbreaking series by Tucker Carlson’s “Daily Caller” has done much to expose the corruption and collaboration taking place today within the liberal media, and among the politicians who are the beneficiaries of their brand of advocacy journalism.