Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 16, 2010

WHAT WAS CBS THINKING?.... Ben Domenech, fairly characterized as a "serial-plagiarist and right-wing blogger," hasn't stopped publishing embarrassing content. The question is why CBS News would endorse Domenech's more outrageous claims.

Yesterday, Domenech published un-sourced gossip about Solicitor General Elena Kagan's personal life on his website, stating without evidence of substantiation that Kagan is "openly gay." CBS nevertheless sought and received Domenech's permission to re-publish his piece on the news outlet's website.

CBS, hours later, added an "editor's note" explaining that "a White House spokesperson said that Domenech reference to Ms. Kagan as gay is innaccurate [sic]." For his part, Domenech updated his piece to say that Kagan is "apparently still closeted."

By late yesterday, Domenech issued a non-apology apology, saying he's sorry "if [Kagan] is offended" by his publishing of a "rumor" that he stated as fact.

The White House was unimpressed.

The White House ripped CBS News on Thursday for publishing an online column by a blogger who made assertions about the sexual orientation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan, widely viewed as a leading candidate for the Supreme Court. [...]

CBS initially refused to pull the posting, prompting Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy, to say: "The fact that they've chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010." She said the network was giving a platform to a blogger "with a history of plagiarism" who was "applying old stereotypes to single women with successful careers."

CBS initially defended Domenech's piece, but later deleted it from the network's site after Domenech conceded he was merely passing along un-sourced innuendo. Dan Farber, editor in chief of CBSNews.com, conceded that the piece "was nothing but pure and irresponsible speculation on the blogger's part."

As for the veracity of the Domenech's rumor, who cares? Kurtz talked to an administration official who said Kagan is not a lesbian, but what difference does it make?

The question is one of professional standards -- which in this case, CBS chose to ignore.

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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Comments

"The fact that they've chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010." -- Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy

Dear White House staff,

More of this, please.

Posted by: SteveT on April 16, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

I’d love to see CBS pay a price for their fecklessness in publishing the work of a known liar and right-wing ideologue. But I don’t expect that to happen. And if it does, it would be collateral damage compared to the main event, which is the slow death of the noise machine.

I think that the relentless lies, the separation from reality, the unpleasant facts about the actual policies that wingers support are all becoming apparent, even to people who aren’t paying much attention. This is the hopey-changey thing, I know-- but do I think it’s really happening.

Posted by: MattF on April 16, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Dan Farber, editor in chief of CBSNews.com, conceded that the piece "was nothing but pure and irresponsible speculation on the blogger's part."

On the BLOGGER'S part? Did Farber concede that it was reckless and irresponsible to CBS to publish it?

Posted by: kc on April 16, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

CBS was thinking that just as the Supreme Court has recently given corporations enormous powers to influence the democratic institutions of this country, it, too, can do any god damn thing it wants, trusting that if there is any prob it too will be granted semi-divine impunity like all other corporations.

Posted by: neill on April 16, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Just exhibit 124,356,912 that the vestigial media in this country is the biggest part of the problem. Regardless of slant or bias, if they only managed to get the facts straight, or somehow could be forced to get the facts straight, we would have at least 50% less of the ignoramuses in the teapartidiots.

Posted by: bubba on April 16, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

All together now (and with feeeeeeeeling):

WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA?

Sorry ... had to. :-)

Posted by: Mark D on April 16, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

There's lots of work for right-wing pundits and bloggers, it seems.Just as the major media focuses unwarranted attention on small groups of far-right Republicans (aka TeaPartiers)and their corporate-sponsored protests, these same outlets are generously taking on previously unemployed or underemployed conservative "thinkers." The problem is, of course, that many of their "thoughts" have about as much relation to the real world as do the cries of "Socialist, Nazi, Stalinist, Communist, unAmerican" emitted by Sarah Palin fans. Apparently this blogger is the one nicknamed by Atrios "Box Turtle Ben" since in a previous job as a speechwriter for, guess what, a Republican, he likened gay marriage to a human's liaison with a box turtle.

Posted by: nancycadet on April 16, 2010 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Doesn't matter if CBS pulled the article, the damage is already done. See the link that discusses how difficult it is to destroy false statements in the political mind.

Posted by: Paul on April 16, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Here's the link: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bnyhan/nyhan-reifler.pdf

Posted by: Paul on April 16, 2010 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

But, Dan Rather had to go.

That's BULLSHIT!

Posted by: Winkandanod on April 16, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

I think the hidden part of this story is Fox News. CBS desperately wants that audience, and they're willing to bend or break rules of both journalism and common sense to get them. There was a time when the CBS News division had notable independence, and even the idea of hiring someone like Domenech would have been met with a blank, uncomprehending stare. That ended in the 1980s, when profitability of every network division was mandated.

Posted by: Rathskeller on April 16, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently somebody in CBS News management doesn't want Kagan to get the nod. What better way to torpedo her nomination than by publishing Domench's blog post and then pulling as soon as the damage was done. Well played CBS. No doubt you will get your wish. Well played.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 16, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

"There are exactly 57 card-carrying members of the Communist Party in the Defense Department!"

Posted by: chrenson on April 16, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Gay witch hunting

Let it be noted:

In the early 21st century America...
Gay witch hunting was still practiced with passion.

Posted by: koreyel on April 16, 2010 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Suggest to a conservative that a nominee is "gay" and two things will happen:

1] They will believe the nominee is gay and spend their time preventing them for gaining that office.

2] They will try desperately to get into to the airport bathroom stall next to the nominee and start tapping their foot.

Posted by: chrenson on April 16, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

There was a time when CBS News practiced a thing called journalism. No one talks like this on television anymore.

Actual footage of the death of broadcast journalism.

Posted by: Death Panel Truck on April 16, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

By late yesterday, Domenech issued a non-apology apology, saying he's sorry "if [Kagan] is offended" by his publishing of a "rumor" that he stated as fact.

I hope Obama nominates Kagan and I hope some Senator raises the question of sexuality. Rather than Kagan being "offended" as Domenech suggests, perhaps it could elevate to libel and damages proven, such as losing a lfe time appointment. Heads should roll for this. Yeah right!!

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 16, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Go to their facebook page and post a comment. They shouldn't get away with this kind of garbage without repercussions. I have more respect for the National Enquirer.

Posted by: cm on April 16, 2010 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Surely the correct reply from the White House should be "So what? An indivudual's sexuality is nobody's business but their own and their partner's"

Posted by: blowback on April 16, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

2] They will try desperately to get into to the airport bathroom stall next to the nominee and start tapping their foot.

That doesn't happen so much in the women's rooms.

Posted by: shortstop on April 16, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Edward R. Murrow must be spinning in his grave. So much for the lingering reputation of the Tiffany Network.

Posted by: biggerbox on April 16, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I think the problem here, though, is acting like calling her gay is such an outrageous insult that it's a horrible thing to do without sourcing. I think I'd rather say, who cares. Especially since she is almost certainly gay.

Posted by: anonymous on April 16, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Dear White House staff, More of this, please.

The White House has the only mouthpiece that can counter the "liberal" media.

Posted by: qwerty on April 16, 2010 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Rathskeller's argument on this is very persuasive - big networks that are willing to take a partisan line roll right over small pockets of integrity who believe the purpose of the news is to inform rather than influence. I've never been a FOX watcher - you couldn't even get it until recently where I live - but their tag line "We Report, YOU Decide" always turned my teeth sideways because it's such a lie. If it were accurate, it'd be, "We Report a Version of Events That Permits Only One Conclusion, and YOU Reach it".

Posted by: Mark on April 16, 2010 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen quoted Anita Dunn: "The fact that they've chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010."

In 2010?

With all due respect, where has Ms. Dunn been for the last 25 years?

The handful of giant corporations that own and control virtually all of the mass media in America have been "enabling" the lying liars of the so-called "right wing" media for a long time.

And there's no reason to single out CBS. Sure, maybe they are pushing the envelope a bit in this case, but turn on NPR's "Morning Edition" on any given morning of the week and you will hear a steady stream of phony-baloney "conservative" propaganda reported as "news", or offered as "analysis" by the likes of Juan Williams, who in his real job working for Rupert Murdoch goes on Fox News and calls Michelle Obama "Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress", which is at least as offensive as anything Domenech wrote.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 16, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

The link from the Media Matters site is still active: it leads to the original article.

What does it mean to say that the article has been pulled?

Posted by: gregor on April 16, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

You know, Lindsey Graham sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and would be voting on her nomination.

Has CBS repeated any of those rumors?

Posted by: biggerbox on April 16, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Although Kagan wasn't my favorite from the short list before, if she is gay I hope Obama nominates her.

Posted by: CJColucci on April 16, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

But the kerning! Will no one think of the kerning?

Posted by: DocAmazing on April 16, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

"WHAT WAS CBS THINKING?"

They were thinking that they need to appeal to conservatives, and that liberals won't care. Prove them wrong.

They certainly weren't thinking about journalistic standards when they hired Big Ben.

Posted by: danimal on April 16, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Easy to remember:
passing along un-sourced innuendo = CBSNews.com

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on April 16, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

running the risk of getting yelled at for pulling out the over-used "overton window," this is yet another example that the mere existance of faux has been pulling all the media into their famous "alternative reality." npr has recently been running soundbites from erick erickson and ed morrisory..and endless teabagger profiles...just heard one last night covering an event in florida...

Posted by: dj spellchecka on April 16, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of rumors, a friend of my neighbor's cousin says that Ben Domenech has sex with farm animals. Apparently, there are pictures of him in a compromising position with a goat...

Apologies to Mr. Domenech if he's offended by these revelations.

Posted by: josef on April 16, 2010 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

If we really believes there's nothing wrong with being gay then why act like it's an insult to say that someone is gay?

Stating that someone is gay (when it turns out they're not) should be no more offensive than if I wrote "Steve lives in Dallas, TX" when he actually lives somewhere else.


Posted by: Laura on April 16, 2010 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

If we really believes there's nothing wrong with being gay then why act like it's an insult to say that someone is gay?

We shouldn't. But in this case the complaint from the WH seems to be based on the fact that Ms. Kagan has always chosen to keep her sexual orientation to herself. It appears that the administration is respecting that (and, unfortunately, validating prejudice as a side effect).

Posted by: shortstop on April 16, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

What is CBS afraid of that would lead it to torpedo Kagan?

It's a shame how they're using poor Ben.

Posted by: Boolaboola on April 16, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Pure and irresponsible speculation on the blogger's part," who will continue to pull down a salary from CBS.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on April 16, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Riddle me this: Is there anything codified in Federal Law requiring the WH to issue press credentials to CBS? If these outmoded hacks want to remain outmoded hacks, then maybe they should simply be put out to pasture---along with the gaslight wall sconces, the manual typewriters, and the rotary telephones.

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 16, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Josef beat me to it, but I had "diaper enthusiast" as my unsubstantiated rumor of choice.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 16, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

is acting like calling her gay is such an outrageous insult that it's a horrible thing to do without sourcing.

Compare, the rumor that John Kerry was having an affair with a woman, uncorked in time for the '04 election. Publishing rumors and innuendo about anyone's sex life is repugnant, and according to law, defamatory.

Posted by: rea on April 16, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

In an ideal world being called gay would not carry any stigma. But,we've got tea baggers, death panelers, birthers, hate groups, states' righters, militias, religious pedofiles, textbooks revised to Confederate history, Holocaust deniers,etc...hardly an ideal world. Once insinuated, the stigma attaches. Deplorable as it is, it's done because it works. At times labels such as Communist, Liberal, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslin,etc have all been used pejoratively to stigmatize and disempower. It's fear-mongering and it's used because it's effective in achieving its purpose, sad as that may be.
We should all be afraid- very afraid- of the power of unethical 'journalism'; few things threaten our liberty, truth and democracy more.
Congrats to Ms.Dunn for calling it what it is...
a transparent,cowardly & oft used way to disempower a successful woman.

Posted by: Clos on April 17, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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