Is the White House manipulating the media through Media Matters?
posted at 9:15 am on February 13, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
The Daily Caller has a multipart exposé on David Brock and Media Matters which will surprise … well, probably no one who reads this site. Speaking with former and current employees, Tucker Carlson, Vince Coglianese, Alex Pappas, and Will Rahn paint a picture of Brock as paranoid and out of control, but still supremely effective at getting his message out through the mainstream media:
Extensive interviews with a number of Brock’s current and former colleagues at Media Matters, as well as with leaders from across the spectrum of Democratic politics, reveal an organization roiled by its leader’s volatile and erratic behavior and struggles with mental illness, and an office where Brock’s executive assistant carried a handgun to public events in order to defend his boss from unseen threats.
Yet those same interviews, as well as a detailed organizational planning memo obtained by The Daily Caller, also suggest that Media Matters has to a great extent achieved its central goal of influencing the national media.
Well, in the interests of full disclosure, I often carry a handgun to public events — where it is legal to do so — thanks to threats that turned out to be real enough to prosecute. Then again, I’m not funded by gun-grabbers like George Soros, either. Given the personal attacks that Media Matters is given to making, I have no doubt that at least a few of their threats are not “unseen” as in “unreal,” but it’s more than a little hypocritical to carry around a concealed weapon (presumably illegally, especially in Washington DC) while supporting tougher gun-control regulations.
The DC has plenty of juicy and salacious anecdotes about Brock, but the real story is how successful Brock has become in shaping the narrative of the national media. MSNBC is a given, but it’s also become a hard-Left backwater. Media Matters has done better than MSNBC in setting the table:
But MSNBC executives weren’t the only ones talking regularly to Media Matters.
“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.”
“If you can’t get it anywhere else, Greg Sargent’s always game,” agreed another source with firsthand knowledge.
Reached by phone, Sargent declined to comment.
“The HuffPo guys were good, Sam Stein and Nico [Pitney],” remembered one former staffer. “The people at Huffington Post were always eager to cooperate, which is no surprise given David’s long history with Arianna [Huffington].”
“Jim Rainey at the LA Times took a lot of our stuff,” the 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,” explained the former employee, whose account was confirmed by other sources. Staffers at Media Matters “knew they could dump stuff to Ben Smith, they knew they could dump it at Plum Line [Greg Sargent’s Washington Post blog], so that’s where they sent it.”
Smith, who refused to comment on the substance of these claims, later took to Twitter to say that he has been critical of Media Matters.
However, their real success has been accessing the halls of power, especially the Obama White House:
A group with the ability to shape news coverage is of incalculable value to the politicians it supports, so it’s no surprise that Media Matters has been in regular contact with political operatives in the Obama administration. According to visitor logs, on June 16, 2010, Brock and then-Media Matters president Eric Burns traveled to the White House for a meeting with Valerie Jarrett, arguably the president’s closest adviser. Recently departed Obama communications director Anita Dunn returned to the White House for the meeting as well.
It’s not clear what the four spoke about — no one in the meeting returned repeated calls for comment — but the apparent coordination continued. “Anita Dunn became a regular presence at the office,” says someone who worked there. Then-president of Media Matters, Eric Burns, “lunched with her, met with her and chatted with her frequently on any number of matters.”
Media Matters also began a weekly strategy call with the White House, which continues, joined by the liberal Center for American Progress think tank. Jen Psaki, Obama’s deputy communications director, was a frequent participant before she left for the private sector in October 2011.
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.
The actual story here might be the reverse of how Carlson et al frame it here. This sounds as though the White House uses Brock and Media Matters to conduct a proxy war against its perceived enemies in the news media and to push its propaganda out through the MSM. The DC’s descriptions of attacks on reporters and media outlets who don’t fall in line would make MMFA a very valuable pitbull for Jarrett and Obama, and one with some plausible deniability, at least until now. This should really be the screaming red flag in the article, rather than some of the salacious tidbits about Brock.
Interestingly, just a few days ago someone else connected the White House to Media Matters, along with a warning that their relationship could cost Obama the next election. The name of that right-wing nut? Alan Dershowitz:
Much more newsworthy than the silly spitballs Blumenthal threw with his screaming article was Dershowitz’s conviction that Blumenthal and his buddies at Media Matters (a media watchdog organization affiliated with the Democratic party and which has recently been widely accused of engaging in anti-Semitism) were going to cost this president the election.
Asked at the pre-event press conference whether he had seen Blumenthal’s article, Dershowitz’s immediate and angry response was: “I have, and let me tell you, Max Blumenthal and Media Matters will be singlehandedly responsible for [Obama] losing this election. They [the Democrats] cannot win the election and keep this affiliation with them [Media Matters].”
When shown this statement, all Blumenthal could muster (via Twitter) was that “I haven’t been at mmfa [Media Matters] since 2007.” It was pointed out that Blumenthal’s then-current Facebook page listed him as working for the “progressive organization Media Matters for America.” Blumenthal did not respond, but he has since altered his Facebook page so that only those “lucky” enough to be his FB friends can see it (although you can still look at the dozens of pictures he posts of himself there).
Dershowitz could be wrong, though. It might be that the only thing keeping Obama competitive for a re-election bid is Media Matters.