Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 5, 2010

HECKUVA CONSPIRACY THEORY, FOX NEWS.... It was, alas, a rather routine interview by Fox News standards. Disgraced former FEMA chief and Arabian horse judge Michael Brown appeared on the Republican network Monday, telling Neil Cavuto that the Obama White House chose to let the BP oil spill disaster deteriorate so the president would have "an excuse" to curtail additional coastal drilling.

To bolster his crazy argument, Brown pointed to ... nothing. He simply stated it as fact. Cavuto, the media professional airing Brown's nonsense, offered no pushback, and asked for no substantiation.

The West Wing noticed. And when Fox News' White House correspondent asked press secretary Robert Gibbs to respond to "critics" who refer to the BP spill as "President Obama's Katrina," Gibbs made no effort to hide his frustration, referring to "the very special and unique interview with Michael Brown."

"What is his attribution?" Mr. Gibbs asked Mr. Goler. "I can only wish that the network that you work for had asked that prior to interviewing him yesterday."

"You should call headquarters, my friend," he continued, adding that nothing he could say "is going to change the notion that your network put out the former FEMA director to make an accusation that the well had been purposely set off in order to change an offshore drilling decision." [...]

Mr. Gibbs, in a brief interview later, said of Mr. Brown: "Leaving aside whether he's qualified to render an educated opinion on anything related to a disaster, the opinion should be substantiated by something. And I think the host should question an unsubstantiated opinion."

And if Fox News had professional standards, that might have happened.

For what it's worth, Brown was also on MSNBC yesterday, arguing on "Hardball" that the White House wanted the oil spill to happen to advance a political agenda. Host Chris Matthews responded by noting that viewers might conclude that Brown is "sounding insane."

When Brown added that terrorists may have been responsible for the explosion on the rig, Matthews asked if he could support the claim. "No, not yet," Brown replied.

It was good to see Brown get some pushback for his nonsense -- Neil Cavuto should have taken some notes -- but ideally responsible news programs would simply stop providing a platform for Michael Brown altogether. It's not like he has anything of value to add to the discourse.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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They have no shame.

Posted by: cheflovesbeer on May 5, 2010 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

9/11 was an inside job so we could invade Iraq? That's crazy talk!

BP Oil spill was an inside job so we could stop off shore drilling? Well, now, let's consider this very valid topic.

Posted by: victory on May 5, 2010 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

brownie is so discredited, he can't even judge international horse competitions anymore.

we should just apply the george costanza rule and take the opposite of what he is saying to be true.

Posted by: ahoy polloi on May 5, 2010 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

There are many words to describe Cavuto, but "professional" isn't one of them. Cavuto is a propagandist, and he would no more push back against anything negative said about Obama or Democrats, no matter how preposterous, than he would refrain from lying through his teeth in his own editorial nonsense.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on May 5, 2010 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, I once attended a horse show (AND slept in a Holiday Inn), so I'm qualified to be on the TeeVee, 'cause I too can talk some crazy shit. . .

Posted by: DAY on May 5, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Giving Brown any platform, other than a scaffold with a hangman, is ridiculous, but he is there for propaganda purposes. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet another distraction for the punditocracy and blogosphere to share some group masturbation.

Posted by: rrk1 on May 5, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

"but ideally responsible news programs would simply stop providing a platform for Michael Brown altogether. It's not like he has anything of value to add to the discourse."

The problem is that Brown and his ilk are the discourse. It started with talk radio, rolled into cable news and infected all of our news media from network news, to newspapers to news magazines. It's all reality tv now. The people, the personalities (no matter how disgraced, discredited, unprepared, out of touch or just plain weird) ARE the news. You can't pic up a serious newspaper or news magazine and read anything that isn't filtered through the agenda of the person writing it. We have no real outlets for true information anymore. Its reality tv...it's all a game now.

Certainly, the behavior of the Republicans and their supporters in no way suggests that they should or could make big gains in the November elections, but you know what? they probably will make spectacular gains. Why? because the American public has become as bad as the broken Fourth Estate. THe GOP and their vile, stupid tea baggers will probably succeed in the Fall simply because a lot of Americans going to the pols will think it will be fun to see what happens. Sad, but true, I hate to say.

Posted by: SaintZak on May 5, 2010 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

Do we have evidence of Brownie's perverted acts with horses? No, not yet. But still.

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on May 5, 2010 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

This disaster is just getting started.

I don't think sentient beings are going to buy the notion that their POTUS had anything to do with this spill.

Maybe McCain and Brown should campaign together and appear weekly on the Sundane news shows.

I'm waiting for Pat Robertson to blame the spill on homosexuality.

This was not an act of god, it's a human-induced accident.

It happened off Australia last year.

No, Brown, you are a fool.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on May 5, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Guess who will be on Larry King tonight to criticize the Obama administration about the Times Square terrorist. You guessed it, Rudy Guilliani. They are calling it a prime time exclusive. The thought of Guilliani making skid marks to the cameras is just disgusting.

Whenever there is an incident, former Bush administration officials spring up like rabbits all over cable and network television. In every case, the goal is the criticize the Obama administration. Seeing Brownie on Fox was just another confirmation of the agenda at Fox.

Posted by: Ladyhawke on May 5, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Folks Brownie has been trotted out to remind us of Katrina. This spill is Obama's Katrina after all.

That Hardball booked him shortly after his Fox News spot is disheartening. It seems to indicate that MSNBC is trying to push the Obama's Katrina meme just as hard as Faulks News.

Conspiracy theories generally are advanced to explain unexplainable facts. In this case Brownie's conspiracy theory is totally fact free.

We expect little from Fox News and they deliver. But we expect more from MSNBC. Shame on them.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 5, 2010 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK
There are many words to describe Cavuto, but "professional" isn't one of them. Cavuto is a propagandist...

Now, now... He's a professional propagandist.

Posted by: Jim H on May 5, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

The rationale for these scarcely-disguised attacks posing as "journalism" is that "you did it to Bush". By that they mean liberals were so unrelenting in their criticism of Bush that it justifies anything the right does now. It certainly helps if the consumers of this product are clueless about real journalism, or for that matter, recent history. The Katrina meme is built on this whiny if cynical effort at false equivalencies. Modern American conservatism: "you started it!"

Posted by: walt on May 5, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

@ Ladyhawke ;
I'm sure one of the questions Larry will ask Mr. Rudy Guilliani Please tell me Mr. Guilliani, why did you locate the emergency ops center in the World Trade Center that had previously been bombed? So you would have a convenient place to meet your mistress ? Oh I see. And how did that work out for ya?

What a piece of shit he is. Thank god he is old and may if we are lucky may eventually fade into the susnset

Posted by: John R on May 5, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Dinging him for what he says is good. What would be better, for shows like Hardball, and Sunday AM kiss-ass fest to stop paying attention to him FOREVER. He has nothing valuable to add to the conversation so why bother. They would be better asking my opinion.

Everyone knows he was going to spout some true dreck if for no other reason that someone asked him to speak. Add in the fact that he is trying to rehabilitate his image by trying to make someone else look worse and it was a guaranteed embarrassment. Of course that could be the point - at least for Matthews.

Posted by: ET on May 5, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

My wife and I both said the same thing when Chrissie Poo announced Brownie would be on. "Why is he being given air time?". Then, Chris made his insane comment. However, my wife said it best, when she commented that, once again, Chris is trying to play as though he is on the left. At the end of his show, he did put down Brownie as being incompetent, along with Shrub, in the handling of Katrina. But, why didn't he have the guts to say this directly to Brown, when he had him face to face? His saying that "some might think you are insane" lacked the needed force. But, giving Brownie air time to spew his nonsense, in the first place, was a low point, even for Chrissie Poo.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 5, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

The category of "responsible news programs" excludes Hardball and anything on FoxNews.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on May 5, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

I think the "Stop providing a platform for lunatic hacks" meme needs to be repeated relentlessly. It's really getting stupid and depressing. "Idiocracy" was supposed to be a funny movie. Not a right wing manifesto on their world view. They don't get it. I don't think they ever will.


Posted by: Ronald on May 5, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Brown got run over pretty well by Anderson Cooper last night, too. Was good to see.

Posted by: sue on May 5, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Heck of a manure load Brownie!

Posted by: Ted76 on May 5, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

This is all part of the Republicans "full court press" on the Obama administration.They lie and they know it. I am extremely frustrated with it all. Unfortunately most of the MSM is in on it too.

Posted by: EDR on May 5, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Quick question: Why the fuck isn't this disaster "Big Oil's Katrina?"

Posted by: chrenson on May 5, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Quick question: Why the fuck isn't this disaster "Big Oil's Katrina?"

That's a damn good question. And, here in America the answer is as depressing as it is simple.

Posted by: oh my on May 5, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

The only thing I want to see Michael "Brownie" Brown doing on the TeeVee is apologizing for his otherworldy stupidity and incompetence in dealing with the Katrina aftermath.

Putting Brownie on TeeVee to critique the Obama administration's response to a crisis is like having the Octomom come on Oprah to critique Michele Obama's parenting.

I was glad Matthews pushed back (weak tea) but Howard Dean asked the right question. Why is Michael Brown even on?

Posted by: Winkandanod on May 5, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Diluting the Message

Gibbs, bless his heart, gave a surprisingly ineffective response. He used too many big words and complex sentence constructions. Not one good punchy sound byte in there. Gibbs should have held forth with somthing more like:

"Your network consulted with someone like Michael Brown on how to handle a disaster? Don't you have any records of his almost criminally bad performance during Hurricane Katrina, when he was the head of FEMA during the George Bush administration? Guys, it was just a few years ago!

"Your network let Mr. Brown make a serious allegation that this Administration deliberately sabotaged that drilling rig for cheap political points. Did anyone check to see what evidence Mr. Brown had? Obviously not - because there is no evidence. It never happened. The allegation is false, and letting Mr. Brown make it on national television is irresponsible. It's beyond irresponsible.

Perhaps it's time the Federal Communication Commission looked into Fox's license to broadcast. This kind of gross negligence and irresponsibility should not go unpunished."

Well, maybe that last paragraph is too over the top. But the assertion by Brown/Fox, I think, demands a hard push-back, not weasel wording about "going to change the notion" and "calling headquarters."

Posted by: Zandru on May 5, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

I had always thought Brownie got something of a bad rap over Katrina. I remember video footage of him actually arguing for buses and federal help with M. Chertoff (sic?) Granted, he came off as a total incompetent in his eMails, but don't we all at one time or another?

But, this is low even for the GOP and FOX. This a theory so out there as to be totally batsh*t insane. MSU journalism needs to DEMAND evidence . A case could be made for VP Cheney being one of the undead, but he seems to be able to see himself in a mirror.

Posted by: Darsan 54 on May 5, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

I would again point out that anyone who spouts off that the Gulf oil disaster is Obama's Katrina is full of crap and should be told so.

This was Obama's 9/11!

Just as the Bush administration should have been aware of the probability of attacks by the Al Qaeda Islamic terrorist organizations and planned accordingly, the Obama administration should have bee aware of the probability of attacks by the Al Cheney Corporate terrorist organizations and should have planned accordingly.

Posted by: SadOldVet on May 5, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

I dont expect more from MSNBC or any media deliverer, except Rachel (always) and Keith (usually). Other than that, it's just a bunch of republican talking points.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on May 5, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Brownie was also on Anderson Cooper 360 last night to shill his novel conspiracy theory, thus completing the cable n00z trifecta.

Not that anyone watches AC360 any more (obviously).

Posted by: matttbastard on May 5, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

The Times piece you quote misattributed the question, "What is his attribution." Goler asked that of Gibbs.

The Fox News reporter was asking Gibbs what Fox News should have asked Brown. That's an important distinction to make, because that single question brings to the fore so many of the problems with Fox News and its reporters.

Posted by: Phleehome on May 5, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Seriously, Michael Brown evaluating anyone else's disaster response? Next thing you know, Rudy Giuliani will be on Fox News commenting on John Edwards' infidelity.

Oh, wait ...

Posted by: DZ on May 5, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

The right wing is good at putting out diversions and the timid, couch potato capitalist press predictably eats it up and regurgitates it.

But, isnt the real story here the fact that BP is a corporate criminal with a long rap sheet; that it's been enabled by its ability to capture regulatory agencies; that it's willing to forgo safety for profits; and that it has a history of vigorously fighting attempts to get it to pay for its disasters.

Of course the press drones will wait for their daily program of anti-gubmint memes from Politico.

Posted by: John Henry on May 5, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Gibbs should do seminars on how to be an effective Democrat. He was terrific.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 5, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Neil Cavuto is the one who informed us that anyone in the audience who didn't think Sadam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was, I can't remember this part, either an idiot or insane. There was also something in there about taking bets.

That was the last day I watched his fake news show.
Neil Cavuto is not now nor ever has been a journalist. He is a paid propagandist.

Posted by: thebewilderness on May 5, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

It occurred to me that all these efforts to find Obama's Katrina implicitly acknowledge that Katrina was Bush's Katrina. I mean, I know all sane people realize that Bush fucked up on a massive scale, but I wouldn't have expected Fox to take that as a given.

Posted by: Stephen Stralka on May 5, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

For the Republicans to even make that claim, they would have to show or assume collaboration of the WH with one or all of the following, BP, Transoceans, and probably Halliburton, which seems wildly unlikely.
Those companies are greedy but not stupid and this disaster is going to cost them all a lot of time and money as well as the lost profit for all the oil they are losing into the Gulf, as it is.
It also posits a conspiracy with so many participants that it would be unlikely to remain secret for very long.
So Brownie's premise is wildly improbable to start off with and is easy for any interviewer to counter.

There is the interesting fact that Brownie is in effect accusing the Obama administration of being willing to murder all of the employees on the platform. Which is also easy to counter as it is absurd on its face since there will be extensive Federal investigation by FBI and CIA among many other state and federal entities. As a result, any governmental planning of the disaster would realize that and probably not go there.
But what is interesting is that Brownie, and so far no one else has made that accusation even though it is implicit in his conspiracy fairy tail.

I am surprised Gibbs did not address that and push it in the Fox reporters face, if for no other reason than to start letting the air out of that balloon.

I suspect some of the wackier elements of the RepoBaggers will make this accusation and at that point I am guessing the villainousness and absurdity of the accusation in all its parts and possibilities will deflate pretty quickly. I can’t imagine the RNC and Congressional Caucus backing that kind of accusation.

Accept for people like Sarah and the Michelles who will ride that stick horse as far as it will carry them. And then say they didn’t really mean it.

Posted by: Marnie on May 5, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

"The rationale for these scarcely-disguised attacks posing as "journalism" is that "you did it to Bush". By that they mean liberals were so unrelenting in their criticism of Bush that it justifies anything the right does now."

Good point, Walt. The only difference is Bush actually earned his criticism. But the GOP would never admit that.

There was a lot of initial criticism on Bush after the "election", but Al Gore pretty much quelled that with his "move on" policy. Then 9/11 happened and everybody was behind Bush. He had no criticism at all until it became apparent that there were no WMDs in Iraq. It began to unravel with the Valerie Plame case, and totally fell apart with Katrina.

Posted by: Marko on May 5, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately there are some who will listen to this kind of nonsense and all the other just made up stuff that Fox News considers serious journalism but, really, I think it only makes sane people, even if they voted for Bush both times, realize how seriously messed up the previous administration was and their FOX enablers still are.

Posted by: Karen Bidwell on May 5, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Is it true that Neil Cavuto was a used car sales man before he was a tee-vee gas bag? I seem to remember reading that somewhere.

Posted by: Sammy on May 5, 2010 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK



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