Friday, February 25, 2005

Talon News: Anatomy of a Kerry Smear Part 2

from grannyhelen. As I mentioned in Part 1, I am embedded-link challenged in blogger, so for all links please click on the title which will take you to the cross-post of this diary in Daily Kos.

This is an ongoing diary series wherein we explore the topic, "was Jeff Gannon/James Gucker's former employer, Talon News, a vehicle for the Bush/Cheney 04 campaign to conduct a whisper campaign against John Kerry, while birthing their own press releases as "news articles".

In order to evaluate this topic, I've laid out some key articles written by Talon News staff in a timeline. Part 1 covered the articles from June 16, 2003 through April 9, 2004. In Part 2 we explore Talon News articles written from May 21, 2004 (chronologically the next article in our timeline) through September 29, 2004.

Before we dive right in, let me address one issue that arose in the discussion of Part 1: the flow of propaganda from the White House to Talon News to the Consumer. I think in some instances there may be cases when this happened, but overall I don't believe this was the entire scope of Talon's role. Let me provide an excerpt from a radical right-wing blog I encountered when I was researching these articles (my emphasis added):

The Magruder claim of a cover-up was confirmed on May 4 at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth announced that 220 out of 229 Swift boat Vietnam veterans contacted (96%) had signed an open letter to Kerry challenging his fitness to serve as Commander-in-Chief. This is the unit Kerry served with in Vietnam. NBC, ABC, and the Associated Press, in a clear cover-up, all refused to report to the American people on the conference. Dan Rather mentioned it briefly on CBS Evening News but dismissed it as "allied with the Bush campaign." A second confirmation of the Magruder data came when Talon News out of Washington, D.C., in a press release titled, "Veterans Deserting Kerry," said, "Buried deep inside the internals of a CBS poll released Wednesday was a startling statistic: veterans prefer Bush over Kerry 54 to 41. Not surprisingly, coverage of the stunning poll result has been slim to none. `It's buried in every poll that I have seen,' said Bush-Cheney spokesman Scott Stanzel."

You see, I believe a part of Talon's role was to take a Kerry smear from the radical right-wing media and give it validity in the mainstream. Note the wording the blogger uses, "a second confirmation of Magruder data came from Talon News out of Washington, D.C. in a press release..." I think part of Talons' role was providing this "second confirmation" of salacious gossip and rumors so that the mainstream media would be more likely to cover it because a second "news organization" had verified the story.

Does this mean a link to either the White House or the Bush-Cheney 04 campaign is very difficult to prove? Yep. Does it mean the link doesn't exist? Nope, but if Talon was a front for either the White House or the campaign under this model it means a whole lot of digging is going to be required to find that link.

This diary follows the same game rules as before: I've excerpted some articles where there are parts that I have found important or egregious; for all articles I've provided links. And sometimes I'll introduce them if the mood strikes.!

May 21, 2004
Kerry Campaign Theme Taken From Poem About Black American Struggles By Jimmy Moore

I didn't feel the need to excerpt the following article. It is your standard, Bush-Cheney 04 campaign puff piece.

May 25, 2004
Veterans Support Bush Reelection Efforts With Online Chats By Jimmy Moore

Remember this name: Jonathan Stein of Hofstra University. Say it loud, say it proud: Jonathan Stein of Hofstra University. Why? Because this isn't the first time this law student's activities were covered by Talon News, and that's something I've found a little intriguing.

June 17, 2004
Kerry, Senate Secretary Facing Ethics Complaint by Jeff Gannon

WASHINGTON (Talon News) --Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) met with Secretary of the Senate Emily Reynolds Wednesday to discuss ethics complaints stemming from his prolonged absence from the legislative body while he campaigns for president. Kerry and Reynolds were spotted by Congressional staffers slipping into one of the many antechambers of the Capitol where the pair likely reviewed options for dealing with the complaints filed against both of them.

A complaint filed by Hofstra law student Jonathan Stein accuses Reynolds of willfully violating a federal statute that requires her to make deductions from Kerry's Senate paycheck for his absences. Kerry is also named in the complaint for knowingly accepting salary to which he is not entitled.

The issue was first raised in a March 2004 letter to Reynolds from American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene who requested that she enforce the statute concerning Kerry's salary. Reynolds responded to Keene's letter, refusing to enforce the statute because her predecessors had not done so in other cases...

...The Hofstra law student told Talon News that he decided to file the complaint in the interest of "preserving the rule of law."

Having recently completed coursework on constitutional law, he says that he is exercising his First Amendment right to "petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Stein says that the law in this matter is "absolutely clear" and lawmakers cannot consider themselves above it.

Kerry has voted only 14 times out of the Senate's 112 votes this year, a record Stein says is "egregious."

In fairness, the below piece was not listed as a news article, but it comes from one of Talon's "news reporters", Doug Patton. The reason why I think it's fair to bring up is there seems to be a fair amount of "thought policing" being done of mainstream journalists by the radical right wing, most recently in the case of Eason Jordan. Therefore, I think it's only fair to bring up the comments of one of Talon's "news people", even if it's outside of a "news piece".

July 13, 2004
Moore's Jihad Sets the Tone for Kerry Campaign by Doug Patton

Recent polls indicate that the politically ignorant among us, who apparently get their news from Entertainment Tonight ("Which ticket has better hair? Stay tuned to find out what America thinks!"), tend to look at Kerry and Edwards without regard to their liberal voting record in the United States Senate. These people seem to think Kerry is conservative because he is rich, boring and stuffy. They look at Edwards and believe he is a moderate because he has an easy smile and because he ran a positive primary campaign.

Some of these political ignoramuses are buying the propaganda being peddled in "Fahrenheit 9/11", a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Thank God most of them don't vote.

July 21, 2004
Kerry Receives Communist Endorsement by Jeff Gannon

The Associated Press reported Monday that the head of the communist movement in Nicaragua and Sandinista Leader Tomas Borge announced his support for Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) presidential bid...

...The Republican National Committee suggested that Borge must be one of the foreign leaders the Democratic presidential candidate says wants him to win in November.

"The cloud of mystery surrounding John Kerry's support by foreign leaders lifted a little over the weekend. Since Sen. Kerry won't tell us who they are we will continue to monitor New York's fine dining establishments hoping to glean some insight into the other still-mysterious foreign leaders supporting John Kerry," said RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke.

Okay, ready to exercise that irony muscle? This article is about the Kerry campaign scrubbing something from their website...and what does that mean? What did the scrubbed part of the website say?

Also, I thought the comments on Ambassador Wilson by Jeff Gannon were also interesting, as Gannon is stating for the record that Wilson has been "discredited".

July 22, 2004
Kerry Anti-Terror Plan Removed From Campaign Web Site After Berger Revelation by Jeff Gannon

McAuliffe has great cause for concern since two important Kerry advisors have been damaged in the past two weeks.

Former Ambassador Joe Wilson was discredited by a Senate Intelligence Committee report that contradicted Wilson's public statements about how he was selected for a sensitive mission to Niger in 2002 and the results of his report about Saddam Hussein's attempt to purchase uranium in Africa. Wilson represented his investigation as proof that President Bush misled the United States in making the case for the invasion of Iraq. An investigation into British intelligence confirms that Bush's claim was "well founded."

July 27, 2004
Senior Leaders Highlight Day One at Dem Convention by Steve Roeder

But wait, there's more! We haven't seen the last of law student Jonathan Stein of Hofstra University...

August 2, 2004
Kerry Won't Be Punished For Senate Absence by Jeff Gannon:

WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- The Senate Ethics Committee rejected a complaint filed against Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) for continuing to draw a paycheck despite having missed most of the legislative session this year while campaigning for president. At the time of the filing, Kerry had voted only 14 times out of the Senate's 112 votes this year.

Secretary of the Senate Emily Reynolds was also named in the complaint, citing her responsibility to enforce the federal statute that requires she make deductions from a senator's paycheck for absence. In a letter to American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene, Reynolds refused to enforce the statute because her predecessors had not done so in other cases.

The complaint was filed by Hofstra law student Jonathan Stein, who accused Reynolds of willfully violating a federal statute and criticized Kerry for knowingly accepting salary to which he is not entitled.

A letter from Ethics Committee Chief Counsel Robert Walker said that Stein's complaint "lacks substantial merit." He noted that no deductions have been made in over 100 years, and "reasonable uncertainty over the continued viability" of the statute Stein says has been violated.

Yep, that Jonathan Stein of Hofstra University sure does make headlines, don't he?

August 11, 2004
New York Times' Objectivity Challenged in FTC Complaint by Jeff Gannon

A Hofstra law student has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against the New York Times alleging the publication's use of the slogan, "All the news that's fit to print" is false advertising and constitutes a deceptive practice. He claims that the Times' use of "push-polling" is a violation of the FTC Act.

Jonathan Stein said he filed the complaint because he believes the NYT has abused its power and abdicated its responsibility to be objective.

He told Talon News, "The New York Times has enormous power to shape public opinion and the FTC must review the paper's claim that it is an objective news source."

He accused the NYT of using "push-polling" to obtain results that support a particular position or affect public opinion with the wording of the questions. Stein claimed that the paper has been "weighting" poll numbers so that the results slant in favor of liberals and Democrats. He said that multipliers are applied to the samples that unfairly skew the outcome, consistently giving Democratic responses more weight, and Republicans less weight.

Stein asserts that news articles generated using the tainted results mislead its vast reader base. Besides its daily circulation of 1.13 million, NYT Company also publishes The Boston Globe and 16 other newspapers; owns eight network-affiliated television stations and two New York radio stations; and has more than 40 web sites, including and Columns appearing in the NYT are syndicated throughout this extensive media network.

August 19, 2004
Former Kerry Lover Reveals Intimate Thoughts, Photos On Web Site By Jimmy Moore

Now, you'd think this would cover "mixed reviews" from Democrats and Republicans. But it doesn't.

August 27, 2004
GOP Platform Receiving Mixed Reviews By Bobby Eberle

NEW YORK (Talon News) -- As the 2004 GOP platform is being finalized in preparation for Monday's opening of the Republican National Convention, conservatives have mixed feelings on the document which is supposed to be a statement of Republican principles and beliefs.

The Christian Coalition stated on Thursday that it "applauds the Republican Party National Convention platform for being a pro-family conservative document and protecting the strong right-to-life position which has been in the Republican Party platform since President Ronald Reagan's first term."...

...However, other conservatives such as Richard Lessner, the Executive Director of the American Conservative Union, see the new GOP platform as short on core conservative principles. Lessner, in an e-mail to conservative activists, describes the platform as not a "pretty picture...

...Lessner said that the most controversial plank in the draft platform was on immigration, "specifically President Bush's proposal for a guest worker program for illegal aliens, a plan that also would put those who entered America unlawfully on the path to U.S. citizenship."...

September 1, 2004
Bush Spokesman Sizes Up Campaign By Bobby Eberle

Holt noted that the message from Kerry and the Democrats has been "far more angrier, far more out of the main stream, and the president has remained a very durable figure."

"The American people know him," Holt explained. "They feel more comfortable with him. Ultimately it's going to be about who makes a better commander-in-chief and who connects better with the American people."

September 8, 2004
Campaigns Duel on Outsourcing Issue By Bobby Eberle Talon News

Bush-Cheney Campaign Spokesman Steve Schmidt said that Kerry's own list of business supporters includes "outsourcers and a sweatshop owner."

"He has even said he would 'support' companies taking jobs overseas 'in the normal course of business,'" Schmidt added. "Kerry's shifting positions on outsourcing are another reason that he faces a credibility problem with the American people."...

...The U.S Chamber of Commerce also came out earlier this year against Kerry's plan.

"Raising taxes on U.S. companies that do business abroad will only make these companies less competitive, less profitable, and less likely to create new jobs at home or abroad," the Chamber said in a press release.

In April, the Institute for International Economics issued a report which said Kerry's plan would make U.S. companies less competitive.

"Our analysis indicates that the proposed reforms would do more to benefit foreign-based ... [multinational companies] than to prompt US-based MNCs to relocate operations in the United States," the report stated.

"Sen. Kerry's prescription to level the tax field by ending deferral is wrong," the report added. "It would actually tilt the tax field more steeply in favor of foreign MNCs, [and it would] damage the U.S. competitive position in world markets."

I haven't found any of the below Talon News "articles" yet. The link to the headlines is here:

I've provided these headlines because the timing of at least one of them - the speculation of CBS's "60 Minutes" documents being forged - could be relevant.

September 12, 2004
Kerry Anti-War Ally Recants 1971 Claims of War Crimes

White House Blasts Paper For Parroting Kerry Attack on Bush Service Record

CBS "60 Minutes" Documents on Bush May Be Forged

September 17, 2004
Heinz Kerry: Hurricane Victims Should Just 'Go Naked' By Jimmy Moore

Tens of thousands of families were completely devastated by Hurricane Ivan as it came through the Caribbean islands last week, including leaving 60 percent of the population of Granada homeless and without food or water.

Responding to this, Heinz Kerry shared her opinion that the Caribbean needs water and food more than they need clothing.

"Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids," Heinz Kerry exclaimed. "Water is necessary, and then generators, and then food, and then clothes."

September 23, 2004
MoveOn: Bush to Blame For 'Extreme' Hurricane Season By Jimmy Moore

SPARTANBURG, SC (Talon News) -- Attempting to take political advantage of the devastating hurricanes that have hit Florida and the southeastern section of the United States in the past few weeks, liberal political action group is saying that President George W. Bush is to blame for "making extreme weather stronger."

September 24, 2004
Heinz Kerry 'Not Surprised' If Bin Laden Captured Before Election By Jimmy Moore

Still workin' that irony muscle? Good.

September 27, 2004
CBS, Kerry Campaign Hit With FEC Complaint By Jeff Gannon

WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- The Center for Individual Freedom, a Virginia-based, constitutional advocacy group filed a complaint last week with the Federal Election Commission charging that CBS and Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc. illegally coordinated election communications. The complaint charges that CBS and the Kerry campaign violated federal campaign finance laws when they colluded to attack President George W. Bush based on claims and documents now believed to be fake.

Jeffrey Mazzella, the Center's Executive Director, said in a press release, "It's obvious that CBS and the Kerry campaign acted improperly. That much is clear to anyone with a pulse."

Mazzella added, "But what's been lost is that CBS and its executives blatantly violated federal election laws when they overtly ignored basic journalistic ethical standards and coordinated with the Kerry campaign in order to run an attack story in an effort to affect the outcome of the November presidential election. Our complaint makes this very clear."...

... Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, media organizations are exempt from provisions barring corporations from engaging in "electioneering communications" within 60 days of a general election. But the Center argued that CBS forfeited its exemption by illegally coordinating a partisan attack on the president only 55 days before an election.

And when there's nothing else to talk about...

September 29, 2004
Kerry Attacks College Republicans Over Convention Vendor's T-shirts By Jeff Gannon

Democrat presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) issued a condemnation of the College Republican National Committee along with an appeal for contributions last week over some T-shirts sold by a vendor at their convention in July. Kerry says the T-shirt slogans, creations of a Florida company, are racist and anti-gay.

Several T-shirt images appear on Kerry's campaign website. One has a photo of filmmaker Spike Lee and the message "Bring back the blacklist." Another says, "No Muslims No Terrorism." Rosie O'Donnell and her lesbian partner appear on another questioning which one is "Mr." in the relationship. A fourth shirt shows the World Trade Center after a plane crashed into it with the caption, "The Clinton Legacy."

The Massachusetts Democrat's appeal pleaded, "I need you to join me in showing we reject the divisive politics some in the GOP are passing on to a new generation of Republicans."...

...Having been stung over the past several months over criticism of his positions and claiming infringement of free speech, the candidate wrote, "I support the First Amendment, and I am using my right to free speech to protest their politics of division. But our protest must come in actions not words. Click here to contribute now."

Part 3 coming soon.

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