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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Editors Stand by Ideologue's Polemic on Obama

Columnist Cal Thomas Calls for Denying Entry to Muslims

Paper Apologizes for Photo of Muslims Praying

Locker Room Incident a Reminder of "Boys' Club Mentality"

Fenty Loss in D.C. Interrupts "Post-Racial" Narrative

Withers Revelation "Leaves a Very, Very, Very Heavy Mark"

. . . Withers' Sons Say Their Father Was Threatened

Jamaican News Media Urged to Hire Public Editors

Short Takes

"How did that kooky, insidious, false Dinesh D'Souza piece end up on the cover of Forbes? Take a look at the boss man," Ryan Chittum wrote of Steve Forbes, above, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine and former GOP presidential candidate. (Credit: Flickr/World Economic Forum)

Editors Stand by Ideologue's Polemic on Obama

"Dinesh D'Souza has drawn a torrent of criticism with a Forbes cover story that accuses President Obama of adopting 'the cause of anti-colonialism' from his Kenyan father," Howard Kurtz wrote Friday in the Washington Post.

Forbes cover story has drawn a torrent of criticism."But while most detractors focus on the author - and Newt Gingrich, who embraced the critique - the White House is aiming its ammunition at the business magazine.

" 'It's a stunning thing, to see a publication you would see in a dentist's office, so lacking in truth and fact,' White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says in an interview. 'I think it represents a new low. . . . Did they not fact-check this at all, or did they fact-check it and just willfully ignore it?' "

On her National Public Radio show on Friday, host Diane Rehm said, "nothing has turned my stomach in recent years as reading that piece."

"In the article, D'Souza, a conservative pundit, says that in his policies Obama is essentially channeling the soul of his late Kenyan-born father, an African 'tribesman of the 1950s,' " Christopher Weber wrote for Politics Daily.

" 'This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anti-colonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son,' D'Souza writes of Obama's father, Barack Obama Sr., who abandoned the family when the younger was 2."

Kurtz wrote that in an interview, the Reagan-era polemicist acknowledged one error. D'Souza "wrote that Obama 'is a man who spent his formative years - the first 17 years of his life - off the American mainland, in Hawaii, Indonesia and Pakistan, with multiple subsequent journeys to Africa.'

"Obama visited Pakistan once, as a college student, when he was older than 17. (Hawaii, of course, may be off the American mainland, but it is hardly out of the American mainstream.)"

Gibbs, Kurtz wrote, "detailed his objections Thursday in a meeting with Forbes's Washington bureau chief, Brian Wingfield. Gibbs says he asked him to 'convey to New York my question of what their plan is to correct the many factual errors that I and others have pointed out about the cover story.' "

Media Matters for America also raised questions about Forbes' judgment.

"The point is that for whatever reason, Forbes as an institution, made a calculated decision to publish what is perhaps the most vicious and mean-spirited attack on Obama as a man and a son. And now nobody has the nerve to take ownership," Eric Boehlert wrote Friday. "Nobody at Forbes has the guts to answer questions about the piece, such as:

  • "Who assigned it?

  • "Who edited it?

  • "Did Steve Forbes see the final version before it was published?

  • "Did any senior editors object to the tone/content while it was in editing process?

  • "Was the article actually fact-checked?

  • "If so, who oversaw the fact-checking process?

"I think the Obama cover story has done extraordinary damage to the Forbes brand. But I'd actually respect the magazine if someone - anyone - on staff in a position of power had the courage to come forward and be held accountable for, or even try to argue on behalf of, the D'Souza train wreck.

"Instead, we get cowardly silence."

Commentator Cal Thomas' website says he is syndicated in more than 550 newspapers and heard on more than 300 radio stations. He also appears on Fox News Channel. (Credit: Newseum)

Columnist Cal Thomas Calls for Denying Entry to Muslims

Cal Thomas, the widely syndicated columnist who was a spokesman for the Moral Majority during the '80s heyday of the Christian right, wrote this week:

"We are doing a poor job of fighting the terrorists at home if we continue to allow Muslim immigrants, especially from Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, into America. We won’t win this war if we permit the uncontrolled construction of mosques, as well as Islamic schools, some of which already have sown the seeds from which future terrorists will be cultivated. We won’t win this war if we continue to permit the large-scale conversion to Islam of prison inmates, many of whom become radicalized and upon release enlist in al-Qaida’s army."

The Sept.14 column, "Purging Evil," was distributed by Tribune Media Services and prompted discussion on the listserve of the National Conference of Editorial Writers.

One member said he was conflicted. "It shows that a prominent voice on the right has no compunction about saying this really is all about a religion, as so many politicians have been insisting it is not, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. He at least makes this discussion honest.

"On the other hand, giving Thomas a platform to spew this risks giving it an air of legitimacy; it could break the ice for those who have only danced on the edge of this kind of bigotry, especially political candidates, empowering them to even more brazenly incite the mob just to score points. And it pushes the envelope that much more. What’s next?"

Thomas' website calls him "America's No. 1 nationally syndicated columnist," adding that he appears in more than 550 newspapers and is heard on more than 300 radio stations. He also appears on Fox News Channel.

Paper Apologizes for Photo of Muslims Praying

"The Portland Press Herald featured a front-page photo of people praying at the end of the Muslim holy month on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S.," Britain's Daily Mail reported on Wednesday, referring to the Maine newspaper.

"The paper's editor and publisher was forced to issue an apology to readers who complained saying they were offended by the coverage.

"The newspaper covered the end of Ramadan last Saturday and published its coverage of events around the country marking the anniversary of the terrorist attacks the following day.

"In his apology, Richard [Connor], the editor of the paper, said the Ramadan celebration at the Portland Expo at the weekend warranted coverage but said the paper 'should have shown sensitivity towards the painful memories stirred by the anniversary of 9/11'."

On CBS-TV's "The Early Show," Ines Sainz of TV Azteca describes her fateful day in the New York Jets locker room. (Video)

Locker Room Incident a Reminder of "Boys' Club Mentality"

"The N.F.L. did the right thing in addressing the inappropriate behavior by some Jets toward a female television reporter," sports columnist William C. Rhoden wrote Friday for the New York Times. "The league sent a memo to all 32 teams, reminding them that women should be treated in a professional manner, that players should conduct themselves in a professional manner and that teams should see to it that they do.

"This is all well and good, but the N.F.L. has a blind spot when it comes to women working in its teams’ media relations departments. Some teams limit the locker room access of their female staff members, some allow male and female employees equal access, and others prohibit access altogether.

"The Jets limit the locker room access of their only full-time female media relations staff member. She is allowed in the locker room only during the time when reporters are inside to conduct interviews. In the event an errand needs to be run, only male members of the staff are allowed inside the locker room. There is an expectation among the players that there will be no members of the news media and no women in the locker room after the interviews are done. . . .

"Some N.F.L. executives rationalize that the exclusion or limitation of women inside a locker room is a way to avoid possible conflicts: romantic liaisons or players making advances that could result in jealous wives and girlfriends.

"Of course, this assumes a lack of professionalism — especially on the part of the female employees. In the aftermath of the Ines Sainz episode there was a lot of blame-the-victim that attempted to justify the players' behavior.

"Limitations that some teams place on female employees — and the absence of women in executive positions within media departments — reinforce the boys' club mentality that was on display at the Jets facility."

District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty lost by 4-to-1 ratios in black areas but won by 4-to-1 in white ones. (Credit: Fenty campaign)

Fenty Loss in D.C. Interrupts "Post-Racial" Narrative

It was becoming a running narrative among many black political commentators that today's successful black politicians were technocrats who had "moved beyond" the racial dynamics of their civil rights-era predecessors. They pointed to Mayors Cory Booker of Newark and Dennis Archer of Detroit, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, President Obama — and Mayor Adrian Fenty of the District of Columbia.

Fenty's loss in D.C.'s Democratic primary this week should punch a hole in that theory.

"Political observers say that some African-American leaders elected in the era of President Obama have misinterpreted his election and have miscalculated the black electorate," Nikita Stewart and Jeff Mays wrote for on Sept. 14, the day of the D.C. primary. "These recent elections demonstrate that certain African-American politicians may have abandoned too soon the social-justice platforms that defined the wave of mayors in the 1970s and 1980s.

" 'As is often the case, politicians ... derive the wrong conclusion from the outcome," says Vincent Hutchings, a political science professor at the University of Michigan. 'The appeal of the post-racial platform is mostly to non-blacks.' . . .

"Booker's and Fenty's struggles to win over black voters resemble those of Artur Davis in Alabama. In seeking the nod for governor earlier this year, Davis eschewed the support of blacks and civil rights organizations, saying that times had changed. Davis lost."

Fenty's defeat in his reelection bid was decisive. City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, who is also African American, won by 4-to-1 ratios in black areas while Fenty won by 4-to-1 in white areas. Though the percentage is shrinking, the city is still majority black.

"Fenty's early hires — and the fact that he chose a city administrator, police chief, fire chief, attorney general and schools head who are not black — contributed to his downfall, leading some African Americans to consider him out of touch with the city's majority population," Tim Craig and Ann E. Marimow reported Thursday in the Washington Post.

On, Editor Erik Wemple reported that the news media were Fenty's "last, lost constituency":

" 'Adrian Fenty treated the media pretty much like he treated everybody else,' says NBC4 reporter Tom Sherwood.

"No translation necessary there. It's all on the collective record — Fenty scowling at a news anchor, snapping at a group of print reporters, ducking questions about foreign travel. Generally being a difficult guy to interview.

"Yet the local media's troubles with Fenty go well beyond personal interactions and extend into the systematic. . . . It became predictable really fast: Ask the D.C. police department for something on a pending case, and they’d tell you to check with the mayor’s PR team. Ask a social services agency for a routine bit of information, same thing.

"All of a sudden, the District beat acquired a new hurdle, one that kept reporters from making their deadlines."

The Post editorial page backed Fenty, just as the New York Times endorsed Joyce Johnson, a former chief executive and educator, over Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who is facing ethics charges that resulted in part from the Times' reporting. Both lost.

Withers Revelation "Leaves a Very, Very, Very Heavy Mark"

The revelation that famed civil rights photographer Ernest C. Withers was also an FBI informant strikes at "the trust that the black journalists made many years ago with the black community," veteran journalist Earl Caldwell, a co-founder and board member of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, said this week.

Caldwell, who teaches at Hampton University, said Tuesday on NPR's "All Things Considered that "for the black journalist, this has been the core issue and that's true for almost a half century. Indeed, in 1970, I have a copy of it here. In February of 1970, we took full-page ads in black newspapers and the headline says, 'A Message to the Black Community from Black Journalists: We will not be used as spies, informants or under-cover agents by anybody; we will protect our confidential sources using every means of our disposal. . . .'

He said the episode leaves "a very, very, very heavy, heavy mark not just on him and his work but on the trust that the black journalists made many years ago with the black community. For they gave us access. They let us go. When they were saying 'white reporters out,' the black reporter had total access and we tried to live up to that trust. And what they're telling us now is that Ernest Withers didn't do that."

On PBS "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" on Wednesday, Caldwell added, "The work will endure. But there will be another side. And that is, is that people will say to this next generation, they see people coming in, how can we trust you? How do we know? How can we be sure? How do we know that you`re not another Ernest Withers?"

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some civil rights leaders weren't as worried about Withers' FBI contacts.

"Former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, now 78, said he wasn't bothered by the revelation," a Journal-Constitution story said.

" 'I always liked him because he was a good photographer,' Young is quoted as saying by The Commercial Appeal" in Memphis. "The movement had nothing to hide anyway, he said. 'I don't think Dr. King would have minded him making a little money on the side.'

"Young couldn't be reached for comment by the AJC.

"The Rev. Joseph Lowery, another Atlanta-based civil rights icon, told the AJC on Monday that Withers' spying might have bothered people several decades ago, but not now.

"Withers might have been seen as a traitor, Lowery said, until people reflected on how harmless the information-peddling would have been.

" 'It would have been an act of betrayal,' Lowery said. But he also noted that he and the other leaders 'never had any information that was sensitive. We never did anything that was covert. We didn't plan ambushes. . . . He was just playing the FBI for a sucker. What was he going to give them that would be useful?' "

. . . Withers' Sons Say Their Father Was Threatened

"On Tuesday morning (Sept. 14), the Tri-State Defender’s conference room served as the setting for a discussion that featured two of the late renowned photographer Ernest C. Withers’ sons — Andrew 'Rome' Withers and his older brother, Billy Withers. Also present were Minister Suhkara A. Yahweh and Jibril Shabazz — two men who were members of the Invaders, a group that the late Ernest Withers informed on to the FBI, according to a newspaper account that has grabbed headlines and interest throughout the nation," Dr. Karanja A. Ajanaku, executive editor of the Memphis black weekly, reports in Thursday's edition.

“These two agents come in — and we had spent an hour (on) these photos — and they came in in a brutal way, knocked the pictures all off in a threatening way,' Withers recalled. 'We began approaching them and daddy pushed us back to say, "hey, just calm down. Go in the other room, go in the other room." '

"Directly confronting a recent, high profile newspaper account that paints a picture of Ernest Withers as a prolific informant for the FBI, Billy Withers said, 'If there was any involvement, it was a threatening, harassing thing.'

"The next weekend or a few days later, said Withers, there was a second confrontation with one of the men who came into the studio.

“'He drove up — daddy and I were walking — and said, ‘you going on a story down in Mississippi. You better watch your back. I got a lot of folks down there, I got a lot of them sheriffs down there,' " said Withers.

"Given the isolation of Mississippi back roads and what African-American journalists had to do for their own protection, the implication was clear, said Withers. 'This was to me a threat.' "

The conversation turned to a second son, Andrew "Rome" Withers:

" 'I just hope that the community understands that this is only an attempt to really demonize his (Ernest) Withers’ (photography) collection or even to devalue his collection because we have been on an uphill fight to try and maintain and keep his collection in tact.'

"Since the elder Withers died in 2007 at 85, there have been 'forces,' said the Withers brothers, trying to wrest control of Withers’ extensive and unique collection of photographs from his heirs.

"Directly confronting a recent, high profile newspaper account that paints a picture of Ernest Withers as a prolific informant for the FBI, Billy Withers said, 'If there was any involvement, it was a threatening, harassing thing.' ”

Jamaican News Media Urged to Hire Public Editors

Richard Prince urges Jamaican journalists and media owners to hold themselves and their organizations accountable. (Credit: Jamaica Broilers Group)"American journalist Richard Prince is recommending Jamaican media organisations to hire public editors or ombudsmen to help police the various companies, in an effort to help ensure a higher level of ethical standards," the Jamaica Observer reported on Friday.

"Prince, of the Maynard Institute of Journalism Education in the state of California, made the recommendation in his address to the 10th Jamaica Broilers Fair Play Awards at the Terra Nova All Suites Hotel in Kingston."

While Prince did not recommend the creation of media councils, which exist on other Caribbean islands, the article noted that "the concept has for years been debated in the local media landscape where the establishment of a Media Complaints Council has been recommended. The five-member body of the council would, if a reporter or media house is at fault, after a probe, recommend that a public apology be offered to the offended party, in relation to an article or broadcast. The body would also probe other allegation of impropriety."

Referring to the Press Association of Jamaica, the article continued, "The recommendation will be ratified at the PAJ's annual general meeting on September 26, President Byron Buckley told the Observer."

Jamaica's Gleaner newspaper reported, "Prince also took aim at Jamaica's stringent libel laws, asserting that they have not kept pace with world standards and could be a 'ticking time bomb'.

"Using the more relaxed US libel laws as an example, Prince warned that the increase in US and British broadcasts in Jamaica could cause problems.

" 'What might not be libellous in the States could be libellous here, even though Jamaica has no control over what the Americans are broadcasting,' he said."

Prince also discussed the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica's ban from the airwaves of songs with violent and explicit sexual lyrics, which "seems to have stalled reggae music's 20-year slide into what has been dubbed 'murder music,' " in the words of Zadie Neufville, writing Friday for

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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