Are Politicians Still Working In Cahoots With The Press?
Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal gave the American people so much. It popularized the name “Deep Throat” well beyond the beaded annals of pornography. It inspired the 1999 comedy classic, Dick—a movie that stars Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as two ditzy girls caught in Nixon’s web of conspiracy. And, perhaps most importantly, it gave sensationalist media a trendy suffix to append to any scandal. Nipplegate, Fajitagate, Donglegate…the list goes on and on.
Amid all this -gate sensationalism, it’s easy to lose sight of real controversies. Have the press and politicians resolved their conflicts of interest in the 40 years since Nixon? The answer, as evidenced by two scandals this month involving Morning Joe and The Atlantic, is a resounding no. Here at Milk, we toiled during the 24-hour news cycle to highlight those scandals, as well as some of the biggest press scandals, present and past.
Morning Joe trumpets Trump
Just this week, radio DJ (and actor in the highly regarded 1999 film, Dick) Harry Shearer leaked suspicious off-air audio from the cleverly named morning show, Morning Joe. In the clip, co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski speak to guest Donald Trump with the nonchalance of parents watching their kids at soccer practice. The Republican frontrunner and Gucci slipper look-alike gives the show’s coverage his approval, saying, “You had me almost as a legendary figure.” Deifying presidential candidates isn’t a good look for news shows, even ones as softball as Morning Joe—especially when the show has been criticized for its sudden slant towards Trump. But judge for yourself—the incriminating audio in question can be found in the clip below at the 21:25 mark.
For first dibs, The Atlantic publishes Clinton’s pre-approved message
Also this month, more email scandals! This round of Hillary Clinton‘s emails doesn’t concern top secret matters of national security. Instead, it shows an exchange from 2009 in which Clinton’s spokesman, Philippe Reines, agreed to send The Atlantic a copy of HRC’s speech in exchange for some careful wording. Reines’ email, leaked by Gawker, set out three conditions: The Atlantic had to describe the speech as “muscular,” make note of the power players in the audience, and avoid any talk of “blackmail.” Because, as we all know, as long as you say you aren’t blackmailing someone, you’re a-okay. Later that day, The Atlantic‘s editor Marc Ambinder published an article that held up to each and every one of Reines’ demands. In the end, the publication got the scoop it wanted, but it may have compromised some of its journalistic integrity in the process.
That time Dubya used public funds to promote No Child Left Behind
In a move that a member of the House Education Committee called “probably illegal,” the 2004 Bush administration used tax dollars as a motivator for a radio host promoting Dubya’s anemic No Child Left Behind law. Every president wants to make their mark on history. Besides a war in Iraq motivated by the search for nonexistent weapons, No Child Left Behind was Bush Jr.’s legacy legislation. In an attempt to build support for the law in urban neighborhoods, Bush contractually paid radio host Armstrong Williams $240,000 in federal funds with the pretense that the host “regularly comment” on the law during his broadcasts. To be fair to Armstrong, the radio personality said he wanted to do it because it was something he “believes in.” Yes, we believe in a quarter million dollars too. The story just goes to show that oil wells full of money can buy anything—except, of course, a Jeb Bush presidency.
The Washington Post blows CIA’s cover
It’s not often we feel sorry for the CIA. But we did feel a pang of emotion for Valerie Plame, the CIA operative whose cover was blown in a 2003 Washington Post article casting doubt on Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction.” How did journalist Robert Novak and his informant, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, think endangering an active-duty CIA operative was a good idea? The resulting drama deliciously pit the CIA against White House officials.
Novak’s article was a brief profile of Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame’s husband, and discussed how he had reported in 2002 that Iraq was unlikely to have purchased uranium in the Republic of Niger. Needless to say, this news was not greeted kindly by the Bush Administration. In the ensuing investigation, the CIA alleged that Richard Armitage knowingly leaked Plame’s name in order to punish Wilson for his negative findings. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have a neat resolution, because the resultant lawsuit failed to make it to the courts. Now, why wouldn’t two federal agencies want to air out their highly-publicized dirty laundry in court?
News Corp hacks your phone, controls the media
Nowadays, it might actually be harder to find media that isn’t in someway manipulated by mogul Rupert Murdoch’s wrinkly hands. Wanna watch Hulu, Fox, or arctic foxes on National Geographic? That’s Murdoch telly. Forget that, let’s read the latest HarperCollins book. Or, fuck it, just grab any newspaper off the street in Sydney. Yup, Murdoch he wrote.
Murdoch’s News Corp is a mega-corporation that really works hard to earn its prefix. Stateside, his companies dictate the conservative newsfeed—Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. In Australia, his newspapers control 60% of circulation. That’s a whole lot of no-spin journalism coming from one man’s deep pockets.
But, wait. Huge corporations aren’t a new trend. What does it matter if he’s successful? Americans love success. Well, it matters when his concert of companies collude in order to hack the phones and voicemails of politicians, families of 9/11 victims, J.K. Rowling, and, in one case, a murdered school girl. Nothing says breaking news quite like literally breaking into private phones to get news. The uproar in 2011 shuttered Murdoch’s News of the World and drew widespread criticism from every angle–except, curiously, a somewhat sympathetic anonymous piece that ran in The Wall Street Journal. Investigations are still ongoing.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Scandalgate.
Images via Daily Wire and The Daily Beast.