Guest post by Kristinn Taylor
David Brock, founder and chairman of the Democratic Party front group Media Matters for America appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources for a somewhat revealing interview with host Brian Stelter Sunday morning.
The reason for Brock’s appearance was to comment on former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s speculation that Media Matters was paid by donors to attack her reporting after she started reporting critically on the Obama administration. Attkisson also said that Media Matters helped her produce news reports at CBS News.
In a display of shoddy chairmanship, Brock claimed ignorance about whether Media Matters indeed worked with Attkisson on stories, though he said it was possible. One would think the chairman would know this. Unless he was dodging the question and didn’t want to get in to specifics:
BROCK: “As I said, she did not say we got anything wrong in the critiques we made. She seemed comfortable coming out here and saying that we worked with her previously. We worked with her on stories. I don’t know any specifics about that. But we do work with reporters. We’re a media watchdog group. I have no reason to doubt that.”
(Interview transcript by CNN.)
It is important for the public to know which CBS News stories reported by Attkisson were tainted by the involvement of the Democratic Party hit group Media Matters. Media Matters, CBS News and Attkisson all need to come clean on the subject.
Stelter did a good job eliciting information from Brock, but he could have pressed Brock on a couple subjects. One being the selectively edited video released by Media Matters of the controversial speech by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy that made him out to be a racist but excluded his remarks before and after that would have shown he was not a racist, just inarticulate on race relations. Media Matters’ editing mirrored the original report by the New York Times that likewise edited out the context of Bundy’s statement. So much for Media Matters claiming to be a media watchdog.
Another subject touched on but not explored was Brock and Media Matters’ involvement in politics:
STELTER: “So, you’re saying that you have a diverse number of donors, but they all have the same interests, don’t they, same liberal politics at heart?”
BROCK: “Sure. I mean, I think their interest is in honest journalism and a fair debate. And I think we think and I think our donors believe that, in the vast majority of cases, if people get accurate information, rather than misinformation, that’s going to serve the progressive cause, sure.
“And we’re open about the fact that we are a liberal organization. That doesn’t mean our facts are wrong.”
Stelter should have pressed Brock on his conflict of being a self-proclaimed “Democratic political activist” who promotes Media Matters at Democratic Party fundraisers while Media Matters engages in partisan attacks against Republican candidates like was done to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the month before the 2012 presidential election.
But Stelter did get Brock to expound on Media Matters working with reporters on stories even if he let Brock soft peddle Media Matters’ influence on the mainstream media. Media Matters involvement with a complicit mainstream media far exceeds that of its conservative counterparts like Accuracy in Media and the Media Research Center. The mainstream media mocks and/or ignores AIM and MRC while Media Matters works hand in hand with the mainstream media. A good example of the cozy relationship is the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple’s appearance on Media Matter’s SiriusXM radio show Saturday where much of the interview was spent literally laughing at Sharyl Attkisson.
STELTER: “Let’s talk about what kinds of assistance Media Matters does and doesn’t provide.
“I’m on the e-mail list that so many other reporters are on. I see your all’s e-mails when you notice conservative outrage, for example, something that Rush Limbaugh says that is out of line. Tell me about the kinds of assistance that you provide.”
BROCK: “We are sometimes a source of news ourselves.
“In this past week, the story of the racist rancher from Nevada, we watch FOX News, so you don’t have to. And so we were seeing what was going on in the buildup of this fellow as some sort of patriot. And then, when it all unraveled in an interview with “The New York Times,” the racist rancher claimed he was misquoted.
“We were the first organization to find the videotape that showed the actual quote. And that got played all over television in the last few days, and that was obviously helpful to “The New York Times.” And so we can also have a constructive relationship with the press.
“And I guess the third way would be, we do work to get retractions or apologies from and redress of situations where we feel that something’s been said that’s false or wrong.”
STELTER: “So, what you’re saying is, it’s perfectly normal, and that viewers, readers, they should be aware that groups like yours do provide basically raw material to reporters, but it’s ultimately the reporters who are the ones producing the content?”
BROCK: “That’s right.
“And there are conservative groups that are out there also trying to influence and shape media coverage. There’s nothing unusual about that. They seem to be particularly incensed about Media Matters’ relationship with the media. Maybe we’re doing a better job than they are. I don’t know what the frustration comes from.
“But, yes, I mean, these sorts of groups have existed for a long time. And I think it’s an important part of journalism. And I think it’s an important part of keeping democracy strong, that all sides are being watched.”
Another question Stelter could have asked Brock is whether Media Matters intimidates mainstream media reporters to toe the Democratic Party line by attacking reporters who don’t do that like Sharyl Attkisson. Also Brock specifically denied getting donations to target individuals. However in another interview (with the aforementioned Post toady Erik Wemple) Media Matters President Bradley Beychok demurred when asked if the group gets donations to target Fox News or other entities, something Stelter should have brought up:
“As to the specific allegation that Media Matters had endowed a secret anti-Attkisson chair, Beychok replied, “We’ve never taken contributions to target her or any other reporter.” When asked whether donors had ever requested that Media Matters focus on a larger entity such as Fox News, Beychok replied, “I don’t want to get into it” but noted that the site is driven by the news cycle and the claims that conservative media organizations churn out.”
Maybe next time.