EXCLUSIVE: 'Bullies' Excerpt: Inside Obama's Media Matters Machine
In 2004, perverse former conservative David Brock, a highly paranoid alleged drug devotee, founded Media Matters for America. It was an offshoot of the John Podesta–run Center for American Progress (CAP). Podesta, of course, was the former chief of staff to President Clinton, and CAP was a liberal nonprofit designed to act as an outlet for leftist politicians and viewpoints. CAP originally granted office space to Media Matters; Hillary Clinton advised it, and one of her closest confidants received some $200,000 to help out. Clinton even explained, “I only wish that we had this active and fighting blogosphere about 15 years ago because we have certainly suffered over the last years from a real imbalance in the political world in our country. But we are righting that balance— or lefting that balance—not sure which, and we are certainly better prepared and more focused on taking our arguments and making them effective and disseminating them widely and really putting together a network in the blogosphere in a lot of the new progressive infrastructure—institutions that I helped to start and support like Media Matters and Center for American Progress. We’re be- ginning to match what I had said for years was the advantage of the other side.”
The goal of Media Matters was simple: play defense for liberal politicians. And do it by attacking mercilessly all right-wing points of view.
Media Matters’ bias is so obvious that even wild leftists like NBC’s Chuck Todd, who has a shrine to President Obama complete with lubricants and scented candles, can’t deal with them. Back in 2007, he pointed out that Media Matters was shilling for its erstwhile ally, Hillary, with a list of don’ts suggested for debate moderators. “Their ‘don’ts’ read more like facetious attacks on Edwards and Obama—right out of the oppo shop of either the RNC or, say, opponents of Edwards and Obama. By repeating these things, isn’t Media Matters doing Clinton or other opponents of Edwards and Obama a favor?” Or, as David Folkenflik of NPR put it, “They’re looking at every dangling participle, every dependent clause, every semicolon, every quotation—to see if there’s some way it unfairly frames a cause, a party, a candidate, that they may have some feelings for.”
It didn’t matter. The left loved it. As the New York Times reported, producers for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report coordinate regularly with Media Matters. James Carville, master Democrat strategist, says, “It was always kind of a dream, that we needed something like that.”
The funding flowed in, especially from leftist bullies like George Soros and the Tides Foundation. By November 2008, the organization—which, remember, provided no actual services other than Alinskyite distortion of conservative words—had grown to more than one hundred employees and $8 million in budget. While its longtime boss, Eric Burns, insisted that the organization had “leveled the playing field and maybe given Barack Obama a fair shake,” he said, “I’m not the Obama campaign. We’re an independent organization not beholden to anybody …. It’s bigger than any one candidate, it’s bigger than any one election.”
This is Media Matters’ favorite line. They constantly say they’re not coordinating with President Obama. That’s a lie.
As it turns out, Media Matters is in the back pocket of the Obama administration—and acts as their go-between for other media outlets. When Brock wasn’t too busy reportedly indulging in illicit substances, he raised $50,000 for Obama. What’s more shocking is that Brock’s organization coordinates on a weekly basis with the White House. They were planning to spend some $20 million in 2012 to help Obama. Anita Dunn, a high-ranking Obama administration member, used to visit the Media Matters headquarters regularly.
And they scored hit after hit against Obama enemy after Obama enemy. As the Daily Caller reported, they worked with other groups like ColorOfChange, Van Jones’s nonprofit, to organize astroturfed campaigns against figures like Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs.
But just as importantly, they were funneling White House talking points to media outlets, which were willingly taking them. “In ’08 it became pretty apparent MSNBC was going left,” one source told the Caller. “They were using our research to write their stories.” Media Matters staffers apparently called MSNBC president Phil Griffin regularly. They were also in touch with Greg Sargent of the Washington Post; Daily Kos; Sam Stein and Nico Pitney of Huffington Post; Jim Rainey at the Los Angeles Times; Eugene Robinson and E. J. Dionne at the Washington Post; and Brian Stelter at the New York Times. And, of course, Ben Smith. If a reporter didn’t work with Media Matters and published something Media Matters didn’t like, they’d get smacked by thousands of emails inundating them for bias.
How close was the coordination between Media Matters and the White House? So close that Alan Dershowitz, no ardent right-winger, suggested that he’d support President Obama only if he disassociated from Media Matters. Why? Media Matters’ senior foreign policy reporter, M. J. Rosenberg, was a massive anti-Semite who routinely used the white supremacist phrase “Israel Firsters” when describing pro-Israel Jews.
Within a few weeks, Rosenberg had stepped down at Media Matters. Rosenberg himself spelled out the rationale for his resignation: “The reason for this step is that it disturbed me greatly to see an organization to which I am devoted facing possible harm because of my critical writings about Israel. I have no doubt that the crowd that opposes any and all criticism of Israeli government policies will continue to turn its guns on Media Matters if I am associated with it. I could not live with myself if that happened— not only because I care deeply about the organization and my colleagues, but also because Media Matters does such important work confronting the lies that emanate from the far right and especially Fox News.”
In other words, President Obama told Media Matters to toss Rosenberg under the bus. Rosenberg would still be able to use Media Matters resources, of course.
Now, all of this would be fine and dandy, except for one small problem: Media Matters is a charitable nonprofit organization. One element of that status: organizations can’t “attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities” or “participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.” In particular, Media Matters is distinguished from its conservative counterparts by the fact that it actually engages in partisan training for Democratic campaigns—like the “Progressive Talent Initiative”—and the fact that it’s covertly coordinating with the White House regularly.
It’s entirely possible that Media Matters isn’t violating its non- profit status. But the 501(c)3 world has come to be dominated by liberal organizations that bully the living hell out of their opponents in a way no conservative organization does or would. Leading boycotts against Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Don Imus, and Lou Dobbs? Par for the course for Media Matters, Center for American Progress, and the myriad other leftist surrogates set up by Democratic Party hacks. The use of such organizations to bully conservatives into silence is just the latest tool in the liberal arsenal. They want fewer voices, not more. And they’ll work with their political allies to achieve their fascistic vision of politics.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).