Media Matters' Vapid Response to Air America's Crash

Last week, Air America announced its official closure and intention to file Chapter 7. For those who had been following news surrounding the weeping willow of talk radio, this was no surprise. While making a thin-kid splash with pseudo-celebrities back in 2004, the liberal network had a rocky history, replete with scandal, two bankruptcies and acquisitions.

Last week, Big Journalism’s James Hudnall reminded readers that Air America’s problems are not new. According to Hudnall, “After a scandal involving misappropriated funds from black school children it promptly filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy two years later. Franken, Rhodes and Garofalo abandoned ship.” (Come to think of it, perhaps that last part wasn’t so bad after all).

While Air America’s demise is surely a sad day for the precious few who enjoyed leftist radio programming, there’s no need for liberal lamentations. The left still dominates Hollywood, the university system and mainstream media, where adherents can find ongoing solace and a sympathetic informational stream – a triangular dominance of sorts.

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What is most interesting about Air America’s silence is the clamor coming from angry liberals, particularly those at the painstakingly partisan Media Matters for America. As can be expected, Media Matters’ Jamison Foser issued a statement that attacks conservative critics entitled, “The Right might want to hold off on gloating over Air America's demise.”

After reading the title, I was sure I would understand exactly why, from Foser’s perspective, conservatives should withhold celebratory commentary; I was sadly mistaken. In the brief posting, Foser attempts to offer two reasons why conservatives shouldn’t make the case that there is no viable market for “liberal news” – and fails miserably. According to Foser,
You can either claim that ABC/CBS/CNN/MSNBC/NBC/NPR/NYT/WAPO/ETC are "liberal media," or that there is no market for liberal media -- but not both. Please pick one. Thanks!

The Washington Times has been losing money for two decades. In the early days of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch paid cable companies $11 per subscriber to carry FNC (and Rudy Giuliani pressured Time Warner to carry the outlet in New York City.) Point being: conservative media outlets have succeeded not only because of market forces, as conservatives would have you believe, but because right-wing billionaires like Murdoch and Rev. Moon have been willing to subsidize them.

The simplicity present in this analysis is astounding. First and foremost, research backs up the notion that outlets like CBS News and the New York Times are biased, but even if there were no scholarship to corroborate this notion, Foser’s argument makes little sense. Most conservatives aren’t claiming that liberal media outlets can’t succeed (though the left has had a tough time pushing unabashedly liberal outlets to the top); they’re making the case that liberal radio, absent public monies, cannot stand on its own. Those are two very different ideals. Air America never picked up the steam needed to forge its way to victorious ratings. Last week, the L.A. Times said it best:
The New York-based Air America kicked off in March 2004, aiming to be the antithesis of Rush Limbaugh's and Sean Hannity's shows. In comparison to the staunch, multimillion followings of those commentators, Air America didn't quite hit the mark or even come close. An insufficient number of people tuned in.

Additionally, Foser’s statement that The Washington Times has lost money for decades is a silly corroborative comment. Tell me Mr. Foser, how many newspapers are posting record profits these days? Also, it’s curious that Foser would rail against Murdoch’s support for FOX News, a network the media mogul, himself, founded. I suppose use of his own monies to invest in FOX’s future was morally reprehensible in comparison to the $875,000 that was transferred to Air America from the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Clubs – a publicly-funded, non-profit organization that served children and seniors – back in 2004. After all, why filter the money to children in need when you can use it for political gain?

This loan arrangement was allegedly orchestrated by Evan Montvel-Cohen, Air America’s first chairman, while he was still the director of development for the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Clubs. Apparently, Foser sees a larger moral problem with using one’s own monies (otherwise known as entrepreneurship) for the betterment of one’s business activities than he does with alleged financial shenanigans. Interestingly, Cohen was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges. The New York Post has more:
Evan Montvel-Cohen was picked up by border-patrol officers at Guam International Airport on an outstanding warrant from Hawaii. He had been indicted there last month for money laundering and the theft of more than $60,000 from a Honolulu landscaping firm, prosecutors said.

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Of course, all of that failed to make its way into Foser’s drivel. Apparently, Americans are to believe that left-wing billionaires like George Soros do not exist and therefore cannot fund massive liberal think tanks and other related bastions of leftist garble. According to DiscovertheNetworks.org:
…Soros and his Open Society Institute pour millions of dollars into the coffers of MoveOn, the Center for American Progress, and Democracy Alliance. In turn, these organizations funnel some of that money to Media Matters.

The notion that FOX News has become popular merely because billionaires are behind it is insane at best. And just to be sure you caught the hypocrisy -- did I mention that Media Matters is also alleged to have major investors backing its work as well? Kettle or pot, Mr. Foser?

In recent times, Americans have come to trust FOX to break stories mainstream media simply refuse to touch; this carries over to special events, particularly those with partisanship at their core. This is exactly why the Huffington Post reported on Massachusetts’ special election coverage constituting the network’s “…biggest night since Election Night 2008, averaging a staggering 6.161 million total viewers in primetime. For comparison, that's almost double CNN (1.503 million total viewers), MSNBC (1.138 million total viewers), and HLN (668,000 total viewers) combined.” People trusted FOX News to give adequate and fair information about Scott Brown more than they did the other networks.

The FOX News business model has worked. Unfortunately, liberal talk radio has proven unsustainable – even in the New York City market. Air America’s failure should serve as a lesson to the left, not another vapid opportunity to defend tattered pride. If anything, FOX’s model has helped the left raise MSNBC’s insanely low ratings, as the network has added more leftist ideologues to its roster. It will certainly be interesting to see where the left goes from here.

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