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MSM starts throwing its ethics under the bus to cover for Gwen Ifill

Filed under: 2008 Election,Media Bias,Politics — Karl @ 11:34 am

[Posted by Karl]

The blogosphere is abuzz with the story that Vice-Presidential debate “moderator” Gwen Ifill has a book on “The Age of Obama” due for publication on Inauguration Day.  It is a story that goes beyond mere questions of bias, raising the issue of a financial conflict of interest.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics provides that journos should “[a]void conflicts of interest, real or perceived.” The Radio-Television News Directors Association Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct states that “Professional electronic journalists should present the news with integrity and decency, avoiding real or perceived conflicts of interest.” PBS, which employs Ms. Ifill, has in place Editorial Standards and Policies listing “real or perceived conflicts of interest” as unprofessional conduct.

In the MSM, a few talking heads discussed the issue on cable after it became the top headline on the Drudge Report. 

But Washington Post media crtitic Howard Kurtz had no criticism at all, going so far as to quote PBS flack Anne Bell declaring it “a non-issue” without any mention of PBS’s own policies. At the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette, Timothy McNulty dismisses it as a conservative talking point, adding that Ifill is “a terrific person and journalist.”  The Tribune Corp’s Frank James strikes the same tone, as though calling someone a professional excuses everyone from the obligation to look at whether Ifill is in this instance meeting the traditional standards of professionalism in journalism.  Newsday’s John Riley at least acknowledged the issue, as did The Hotline On Call,  but — like the others (including the New York Times Caucus blog)– as a question of objectivity; neither makes reference to the apparent financial conflict of interest.

At the L.A. Times, Don Frederick concedes that “[p]resumably, an Obama victory in November would improve the book’s marketability,” but then dismisses the concern because “it’s the rare political tome that even comes close to best-selling status.”  By the same logic, Frederick would be okay with a bribe-taking judge, so long as it was a small bribe.  Or an NFL referee betting on games he is overseeeing, so long as they are not big bets.

This not merely a question of bias.  It is not even a question of political self-interest, as the McCain campaign could benefit from a compromised debate moderator.  It is a question of ethics, and plenty of Ifill’s colleagues in the media seem determined to look the other way.

(h/t Memeorandum.)

Follow-up: Insta-lanche! Subsequently, the Perfesser asks, “Moderating a debate is something that is frequently done by journalists, but is it really journalism?” I would first answer that question with another: “Are presidential debates really debates, or more like joint press conferences?” Second, as a historical matter, the GOP signed onto the idea of a Commission on Presidential Debates primarily to be rid of involvement from the biased (then and now) League of Women Voters, thereby getting rid of questioners like Elizabeth Drew, former JFK speechwriter/Nixon enemy Joseph Kraft. syndicated columnist Daniel Greenberg, not to mention Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke. The Commission has always employed “non-opinion” journalists, precisely to avoid questions of neutrality. And as noted in the initial post, the problem here is not even the more subjective issue of political bias, but the more objective problem of having a financial stake in the outcome.

The Politico’s Michael Calderone wants to get it, but can’t help himself:

I think Malkin and other critics have a right to raise questions about whether Ifill should be moderating, but at the same time, it’s not as if the veteran PBS journalist has been keeping the book under wraps until now. It’s also a logical question to ask whether an Obama book would sell better or worse depending on the outcome of the election. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that if Obama’s sworn in on the Jan. 20 pub date, a book with “Obama” in the title will sell more copies.

Legitimate questions, indeed. So why is this coming up less than 36 hours before Palin and Biden hit the stage?

A: Because MSM folks like Calderone fell down on the job.

HotAir’s Ed Morrissey notes that Ifill did not disclose her financial interest to the Commission, and asks when “The Age of Edwards” ended.

Finally, Gwen Ifill’s reaction is to ignore the financial issue and play the race card, which is another interesting insight into her ethics.


111 Responses to “MSM starts throwing its ethics under the bus to cover for Gwen Ifill”

  1. The “or perceived” clause in those is the truly damning part. Even if you don’t think this is a conflict of interest, you can certainly see how it could be perceived as a conflict of interest…and, in fact, that it is being perceived as such. To claim otherwise is simply disingenuous.

    Chris (6733a5)

  2. Since they’ve been looking the other way regarding Obama’s past activities, this comes as a complete non – surprise. As usual – nothing to see here, just move along…

    Dmac (e639cc)

  3. Karl,

    What a link-rich post. Well done, and it raises so many issues.

    As Chris points out, this seems to be at least a perceived conflict of interest. For lawyers, the standard is a real or apparent conflict of interest, and if this were a lawyer acting as a mediator in a case, I think it would be both a real and an apparent conflict of interest. However, since journalists have convinced themselves it’s okay if virtually everyone they work with votes Democratic, why should this raise any red flags?

    DRJ (c953ab)

  4. Do you happen to know the answer to these questions:

    Was Ifill required/asked to disclose any potential financial conflict of interest to the debate commission, and would she have had to positively assert that she had none (or none that could be reasonably be construed as a potential conflict of interest?) Did she do so, asked or not – and did the commission then just decide in its estimation that she was not compromised in any significant way ?

    I understand the McCain camp was not specifically informed of any financial conflict of interest ( in this case, of a book which might be more profitable or be more likely to enhance career opportunities for Ifill if the election favored a specific candidate).
    But was the commission?

    Did she just not admit or did she actively deny her potential financial conflict of interest?

    SarahW (a6e80b)

  5. The MSM.

    They stand for nothing.

    I’m voting against them. I’m voting for McCain.

    Philip (3d695b)

  6. We are talking about Democrats here. That means dishonest, lying, elitists who could care less what the people think.

    PCD (1df2b5)

  7. This whole mischaracterization is worse than the “Obama called Palin a pig” baloney.

    The title is The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.

    Calling it “The Age of Obama” puts you right up there with any MSM distortions you criticize.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  8. I mean, will she just say “no one ever asked about my book?”
    Or did she fudge her paperwork? Or did she tell and the commission dismissed it’s importance?

    SarahW (a6e80b)

  9. DRJ,

    A reasonable analysis is that it is a real conflict of interest. But a media that is often consumed with the appearance of impropriety in those it covers seems willfully blind to such appearances among their own.

    Karl (f07e38)

  10. Phil,

    Anyone other than a complete hack would be willing to admit that the book — which includes a chunk on Obama — due for release on inauguration day — raises a serious question. But that’s why you stoop to ad hominem from the outset.

    Karl (f07e38)

  11. Journalist have a code of ethics???? Next your going to tell me thieves have a code of conduct.

    Mr. Pink (eae12c)

  12. SarahW,

    Nice to see you. I don’t know those answers, but would like them. TVNewser contacted the Commission, but had received no response.

    Karl (f07e38)

  13. Phil #7,
    Are you kidding me? She has a book due out on January 20, 2009. Gee, I seem to recall something else happening that day. She stands to make money from an Obama win. Period.

    How can one presume that she is completely unbiased and ethical? As Karl rightly points out, even the slight appearance of COI is all it takes; this situation goes beyond appearance to outright fact.

    If this were a trial and she were a lawyer, it would have been declared a mistrial.

    Cankle (8aa31a)

  14. Phil…be that as it may, you’re changing the subject. Can you at least see how this can, at the very least, be a perceived conflict of interest? And, if so, then can you see that this is, according to PBS’s own standards, a real ethical problem?

    Chris (6733a5)

  15. Howso, Phil? In any case the sales are likely to increase if we do enter into an age of an Obama president vs. a failed Obama candidacy.

    And, honestly, considering the messianic tenor of some of his most ardent promoters, it’s likely the title the “age of Obama” is not an accidental reference to “the one we’ve been waiting for.” It seems designed to either represent Ifill’s fervor or those of hoped-for readers.

    SarahW (a6e80b)

  16. there’s no conflict as liberal journalists and reporters have been carefully trained to leave their political leanings at the door. Conservative-leaning journalists, on the other hand, are so tainted by their beliefs that they’re not even allowed to host a debate.

    steve sturm (369bc6)

  17. If Ifill were to be replaced one day out from the debate it would be much more damaging to McCain/Palin.

    The criticisms and complaints for such an action might not be fair, valid or right but the perception that somehow Palin couldn’t hack it would be cemented.
    Expect editorials such as “If she can’t handle a leftie moderator, should we have confidence she could handle Ahmadinejad”

    Some keep expressing the sentiment “let Sarah be Sarah”. Let her be Sarah with Ifill.

    voiceofreason2 (10af7e)

  18. Are the same journalist that are defending this the same ones that didn’t know anyone that voted for Reagan?

    Mr. Pink (eae12c)

  19. BTW, the title of the Hotline post is “PBS’ Ifill Writing Obama Book.”

    No doubt Phil considers the National Journal part of the VRWC as well.

    Karl (f07e38)

  20. SarahW, you’re known for your detective work…get busy on this and let us know.

    I think the McCain camp benefits by keeping her. Their prep work has undoubtedly been based on questions she’s asked and throwing Governor Palin a new moderator is only going to confuse the issue.

    timb (a83d56)

  21. By the way, her book, “The Breakthrough” profiles both Republicans and Democrats. It’s not a book about Obama.

    Again, not that it matters. I’m sure she’ll be a find moderator, and I’d also be fine if she stepped down and was replaced by someone else. Anything to get Republicans to start taking responsiblity for their own weaknesses, rather than blaming them on the media.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  22. A reasonable analysis is that it is a real conflict of interest.

    How dare you cast aspersions on one of the greatest and most professional journalists evah, Karl. How do I know this? Just ask Peter, he’ll tell you all about it. Peter knows that Ifill’s just writing the book out of her sense of patriotic duty – to all Americans. The fact that she might make some money on the deal is competely immaterial to this discussion. Biased? Conflicted? In the tank? Our perfect Ifill? Never.

    Dmac (e639cc)

  23. voiceofreason2,

    As I noted in the post, you may be right about the politics. It doesn’t make Ifill’s actions any more ethical.

    Karl (f07e38)

  24. And all the discussion about Ifill’s book misses the point that, even without the book, she is as biased as one gets. Replacing her with another liberal reporter/TV personality accomplishes nothing.

    steve sturm (369bc6)

  25. As I’ve said elsewhere, I fully agree that this will probably turn out as a net positive for Palin. However, just as Karl said above at 23, that still doesn’t make this ethically correct, using the standards outlined in the OP.

    Chris (6733a5)

  26. I think the MSM powers – that – be should be asked to replace Ifill – and that they’ll come up with the perfect and objective person from PBS that no doubt will past muster from all sides – Bill Moyers.

    Dmac (e639cc)

  27. Karl,
    In another thread I suggested that Palin could make lemonade out of lemons by simply saying

    I would bet even money that either in her opening or closing comments Palin will say a rehearsed statement along the lines of “Gwen, I understand your “Age of Obama” book is slated for release on inaguration day. I wish you the best with its sales but sincerely hope that I have persuaded you that a McCain/Palin adminstration offers the best solutions for our country.”
    Accomplishes the following:
    a. Forces the Networks to discuss
    b. Shows sense of grace/class
    c. Becomes a soundbite played endlessly

    voiceofreason2 (10af7e)

  28. In a sane world noone would be defending this. If the tables were reveresed I hope I wouldn’t be.

    Mr. Pink (eae12c)

  29. Dmac,

    Same goes for Phil also — the book is not about Obama; it’s just (as Amazon puts it) “shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.” And subtitled “Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.”

    And Phil is still viewing this solely as political — how the debate comes out — as opposed to whether Ifill should have accepted the gig in the first place as a matter of ethics. Not that I’m surprised by an ends over means mindset.

    Karl (f07e38)

  30. Somewhat off-topic. #26, Dmac, you may be interested to know it was Bill Moyers who instructed the Secret Service to remove the bubble top from JFK’s limo on November 22, 1963.

    Ropelight (1be620)

  31. The bus won’t notice the ethics, they’re thinner than a dollar bill, and crumble.

    htom (412a17)

  32. At the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette, Timothy McNulty dismisses it as a conservative talking point, adding that Ifill is “a terrific person and journalist.”

    Wow. Just wow. There are so many things wrong with this statement one doesn’t know where to begin. Suffice it to say if this is what passes as journalism, then yes, it is officially dead.

    Dana (b4a26c)

  33. I have said that somebody — perhaps Brent Bozell — should write a book about how America’s MSM slaughtered journalism to get Obama elected. Forget that. Someone should do a documentary. Seriously.

    L.N. Smithee (e1f2bf)

  34. I could add that Ifill is on old friend of Condoleezza Rice, and tossed her softball questions when her competence was in question, but that wouldn’t help I guess. And no response here to Broder’s bending over for Johnny Mac. “the Alpha Male.”

    Still the fact of all the press helps your cause more than it hurts it.
    You’re here swinging away aren’t you? And everyone will be watching vehweee cahfuwweeeee won’t they?

    Readnek (105b91)

  35. Readnek writes:

    I could add that Ifill is on old friend of Condoleezza Rice, and tossed her softball questions when her competence was in question, but that wouldn’t help I guess.

    Inasmuch as it has nothing to do with a financial conflict of interest, you’re right — it’s irrelevant. But if you want to argue that the Rice case shows that Ifill has already displayed a bias toward the sorts of political figures interviewed in her forthcoming book, be my guest.

    Karl (f07e38)

  36. A cardinal rule of “journalism”, as taught to me in a course I took at a renowned j-school, was that one can NEVER become a part of the story. Once that happens, that person simply must not report on the story. One must withdraw.

    It is an incontrovertible fact that Ifill is now a part of the story. Either she withdraws, or she is forevermore branded a hack. Period. Either PBS demands she withdraw, or they are forever similarly stained.

    Don’t get me started on the self-important debate commissions.

    There is absolutely no other interpretation.

    FWIW – Brit Hume just fell over backwards in praising Ifill’s ability and that she would be fair. But he did say there was a direct financial conflict of interest. He did not call on her to withdraw.

    Ed (385e88)

  37. Great post as always, Karl.

    doubleplusundead (e147f5)

  38. Chris makes it clear in #1. Whether Ifill will be able to rise above a conflict of interest is beside the point. The appearance of conflict of interest is the standard, and by “any reasonable person” this meets that standard.

    I agree with the rational consensus. We all know this is ridiculous; we all know if Ifill gets replaced it will be by somebody just as partisan, or worse, but they will not have the paper trail to point at.

    Let it be, and may Sarah find a way, gracious or not so gracious, to use it to her advantage (ssshhhhh…. don’t let the dems or PBS know).

    Oh, gang, Phil proved on the previous thread on this topic that he doesn’t even believe there is a perceived conflict of interest. Take that inbto account in choosing who you want to reply to and how.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  39. I could add that Ifill is on old friend of Condoleezza Rice, and tossed her softball questions when her competence was in question, but that wouldn’t help I guess.

    Of course it helps. It helps proove the point that Ifill obviously plays favorites.

    Kurt (5a6552)

  40. Thanks, ++undead.


    Like Hume, Juan Williams acknowledges at least a perceived conflict. I’m not mentioning FNC here, as I presume the Left dismisses them.

    Karl (f07e38)

  41. Phil wrote:

    Again, not that it matters. I’m sure she’ll be a find moderator, and I’d also be fine if she stepped down and was replaced by someone else. Anything to get Republicans to start taking responsiblity for their own weaknesses, rather than blaming them on the media.

    Oh, yeah, that’s what you’re alllll about, Phil. Getting people to take “responsibility for their own weaknesses.”

    Hmmm…that must have been another Phil that on this thread who wrote some crap about how the video showing black Dems insisting in 2004 there was nothing wrong with Fannie and Freddie had “racial undertones” and is “a race-baiting set-up” and “a veiled, cynical pandering to racism.”

    L.N. Smithee (a0b21b)

  42. At the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette, Timothy McNulty dismisses it as a conservative talking point, adding that Ifill is “a terrific person and journalist.”

    Wow. Just wow. There are so many things wrong with this statement one doesn’t know where to begin. Suffice it to say, the collective arrogance and insipidness of this statement does journalism no favors.

    Dana (b4a26c)

  43. Anything to get Republicans to start taking responsiblity for their own weaknesses,

    Phil. Why isn’t the onus on Democrats to make sure there is no conflict of interest – nor the appearance of one? Because if they were ethical and knew something was not straight-up and transparent and still did nothing then their credibility is tarnished and they are complicit in something that is less than honest. Lies of omission and all that….

    Dana (b4a26c)

  44. So what if Ifill lobbed softball queries at Rice? She wasn’t running for office, asshat.

    Dmac (e639cc)

  45. Dick Morris says that if Obama wins Gwen Ifill stands to make a minimum of $350,000 on the first printing. It could go 3 or 4 times that, easily. Plus, her fee for speaking takes a big jump and the phone starts ringing off the hook.

    An Obama victory is worth quite a lot to Ifill. That’s a conflict of interest, big time. We’re way beyond appearance now, this is a naked financial interest in the results.

    Ropelight (1be620)

  46. No, it can’t be – not their precious. )(Gollum voice)

    Dmac (e639cc)

  47. Just saw Schieffer on the local PBS station here, defending Ifill all the way down the line – what’s the big deal, says Bob. Gag me.

    Dmac (e639cc)

  48. MSM starts throwing its ethics under the bus to cover for Gwen Ifill

    What are these “ethics” you speak of?

    A triple ax murderin’ child molester has more “ethics” then the MSM does.

    Nahanni (ec2b56)

  49. This whole issue is ridiculous.

    If you think the judge is biased before the trial, you file a motion for recusal. If you think the NFL ref is bribed before the game, you file an official protest before playing.

    The campaign accepted Ifill as the moderater some months ago. If the McCain-Palin campaign truly did not know Ifill was writing this book when they agreed to have her moderate (which is hard to believe, as the book had been announced), they have a perfectly valid argument that Ifill should step down and let someone else moderate. If the campaign truly just found out about this, they could object and of course Ifill would step down and some other mutually agreeable person could take over so the debate could proceed as scheduled. Palin and Biden are preparing on the assumption that Ifill will be asking questions, but if someone else does it they will be both under the same handicap in terms of debate prep so that’s fair.

    The McCain campaign isn’t asking her to step down at all. McCain himself just today stated he thinks Ifill will be balanced and objective after this “controversy” broke.

    You can whine and moan about it, but confront the basic fact that the McCain-Palin campaign isn’t complaining about it, and are proceeding with the debate. Whatever tactics, strategy and gambling is going into it, the campaign is going for it. If you criticize that this debate is happening at all with Ifill as the moderator, you are criticizing the judgment of the campaign more than you are Ifill, who is by all reports a boring but competent moderator based on her 2004 VP moderation performance.

    If the plan is, blame any Palin missteps and weak answers on the supposedly unobjective moderator, I think the campaign waives that objection by letting it go forward in the first place. If it’s really an issue, demand another moderator or pull Palin from the debate based on Ifill’s supposed disqualification. If you decide to go through with it, any complaints after the fact that it was clear it was a set-up from the get go sound weak, desperate, lame, and pathetic.

    Either way, where the campaign stands now, Ifill is an acceptable moderator, or she isn’t. The campaign who should know better than any couch quarterbacks out there thinks Ifill is acceptable. That you second guessers think the McCain-Palin campaign is making a huge mistake here shouldn’t be focusing on Ifill, you should be focusing on the huge mistake the campaign is making, if you really believe what you are saying.

    Aplomb (b6fba6)

  50. Hey, look! Surprise, surprise, Ifill insinuates “racism!” –

    Wow, she’s really a fantastic, reputable, completely trustworthy HACK journalist, wouldn’t you say?

    How dare you crticize or question my motives, you racist Republicans! What, you’re out to do another lynching of a poor black woman again? RACISTS! RACISTS! RACISTS!

    What a pathetic and disgusting piece of victimology by our girl Gwen.

    Dmac (e639cc)

  51. Aplomb,

    If the judge has a financial stake in the outcome of a case, she should recuse herself, rather than putting counsel in the position of questioning the judge’s ethics and having to live with her if she disagrees.

    Karl (1b4668)

  52. Karl: A judge decides the case, or at least frames the case that constrains the way a jury can decide and passes judgment that the final verdict passes muster. Huge potential for corruption there.

    A debate moderator decides nothing, just asks questions. The audience decides who “wins” by watching the answers or passively accepting the spin from the blogs and media, and of course that judgment is always a split decision. Part of the decision by the voters is how biased and unfair they thought the questions were. A moderator can’t throw a debate.

    The ethics are entirely different.

    Let’s agree that Ifill has a financial stake in this case (although I am not sure that’s true based on the book description as opposed to title, I am conceding that for now).

    If so, why would McCain-Palin proceed with the debate? Palin can refuse to show up until the moderator is replaced with someone acceptable to the campaign who isn’t under this black cloud of bias and financial corruption you see as self evident. Ifill I am almost certain would step down if either of the campaigns said they won’t proceed until she does so, and there are any number of others who would leap at the chance to take her place and both campaigns could agree to even at last minute.

    Only answer is, the campaign decided whatever bias or financial stake Ifill has she is still acceptable as a moderator.

    If you disagree, how do you explain the lack of objection from the campaign? And knowing that your preferred candidate is willingly going into the debate based on a campaign decision to do so, how can there be any complaint by campaign supporters about Ifill concerning this supposedly damning book when the campaign itself didn’t find it disqualifying?

    Aplomb (b6fba6)

  53. Hussein O has flushed the racist out of their holes and they’re all black. Over 90% of blacks voting for Hussein because he claims to be black (he isn’t, he’s half white-half Arab and has admitted his Muslem, Islamic, faith) proves over 90% of the blacks in this country are outright racist and have lost the right to call any other race racist.

    Scrapiron (d671ab)

  54. One other thought about how this may all play out.

    Ifill has been called out that she may be biased. She now has a choice:

    1) Prove that she’s biased and give different treatment to Biden and Palin, or

    2) Treat both candidates equally tough (i.e., fairly), and demonstrate she has no (obvious) bias that could be seen to taint the debate.

    I wonder how she will play it?

    Dr. K (15994c)

  55. Aplomb,

    Don’t play dumb. First, the moderator selects the topics, adjudicates time for responses, decides when to move off a topic, etc.

    Second, McCain has caught all sorts of grief for taking on the MSM, does not want to be accused of racism or sexism, and probably figures there might even be advantage to Palin now.

    That last bit, btw, is why I am not jamming this into the partsan pigeonhole you seem stuck in. The point of my post is not who benefits politically, but the ethics of a debate moderator who has a financial stake in the outcome of the election (which you doubt, in which case the publication date is just the luckiest coincidence evah).

    Karl (1b4668)

  56. Hmmmmm.
    — July 23: AP story announces Ifill’s book.
    — Amazon et al. had it out there, too.
    — In early August, Time Magazine wrote about the book.
    — On Sept. 3 Howie Kurtz, whose work pisses off liberals a lot more and more profoundly than it does conservatives, profiled Ifill in the Washington Post. The story prominently mentioned both the book and her role as debate moderator.

    But now, on the eve of the debate, as in one and a half days prior, a bunch of folks go wild and viral about it.
    Let’s ask the Church Lady about this:
    “How conveeeeeeenyunt!”

    What does that say about the ethics and motivations of those pushing this NOW and not sooner? Don’t bother your little heads on that one. (BTW, do you really think McCain’s Meandering Gibberish Bus was unaware of the book? If so, I’m selling bridges in Alaska.)

    You know the end game on all this. If Ifill asks Palin anything tougher than “So, at what age did you realize you were a political whiz?” then you all get to hoot and holler and slobber and stuff.
    The actual Palin and Biden answers to the questions, though, will have a longer and more impactful shelf life. Any politician worth a damn can handle tough or twisted questions, not that such is expected from Ifill, never mind Palin and her glittering generalities and appeals to Joe Six-Pack’s, uh, numbness from the aforesaid beer. I expect that in this tiny room a lot of folks probably believe that even Hugh Hewitt just beat up on Palin, giving her concussions with those Nerf balls. So the bar is pretty low for measuring the roughness of Ifill’s questions.

    Larry Reilly (d11f9a)

  57. Racists

    JD (5f0e11)

  58. First, I cannot take seriously someone who uses the non-word “impactful”. What is the quality of being “impactful”?


    Second, Ifill herself has admitted that she did not tell the Debate Comission. Ya think they might have told her “NO” if she disclosed this because it would appear to be a conflict of interest?

    Dr. K (15994c)

  59. Dr. K, I assume that means you’re gonna buy the bridge. I have derivative financing packages available, so you don’t have to worry. Our socialistic solons — that way by pragmatism and necessity — will bail you out…..comrade.
    Impact that. Fully.

    And speakin’ of not tellin’, just wait’ll you see what Palin didn’t tell Culvahouse.

    Larry Reilly (d11f9a)

  60. Karl, my position is simple. I’m not playing dumb.

    If Ifill is not an acceptable moderator for whatever reason, it’s up to McCain-Palin to object. The fact that they haven’t objected to me settles the question: the campaign finds Ifill acceptable.

    Ethics or financial benefit to Ifill are great reasons to object, if they are reasons taken seriously. “Palin pulls out of debate because of moderator’s pro-Obama book” is a headline that should be fully understandable by voters.

    I’m just saying, either there is a valid objection, in which case the debate should be cancelled or a new moderator agreed to, or there isn’t a valid objection, which means post-debate complaints about how unfair it was even before it took place are lame and in fact say more about the decisions of the campaign than the supposed bias of the moderator.

    Just ask Ifill to step down and get Brokaw or whoever the hell else to do it if there is a real problem here. Otherwise, trust your own campaign and don’t whine about a process when your own campaign agreed to go through it.

    Aplomb (b6fba6)

  61. Aplomb, where is it written that the McCain/Palin campaign decides for me who is an acceptable moderator? I don’t find her acceptable regardless of whether or not the campaign does.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  62. Larry,

    Tell me, does the Kool-Aid taste good?

    Ifill has not been an honest broker since before she took over on Washington Week in Review, which I stopped watching shortly after she got the top slot.

    And how the hell did you ever confuse me for a socialist?

    Dr. K (15994c)

  63. SPQR:

    OK, but any journalist would take the moderating job, if asked and agreed to by both parties. It’s either a huge career boost or a confirmation about their importance and “objectivity”.

    Simply being agreed to by both parties would settle any qualms the journalist might have about being or appearing objective. Both parties agreed, so they must be doing something right, you know?

    If you strongly disagree with the selection of Ifill, it’s not her fault. Most journalists would like to believe they are objective despite their biases, and would accept the moderating position as an honor and affirmation.

    There is a reason Bill O’Reilly or Keith Olbermann aren’t moderating this debate, one side or the other would object. Although both of those guys, as biased as we know they are and as biased as they both know they are, would do it in a second. And both would think they would be great at it and even objective at it, so great is the effect of bias and ego on a high profile journalist or commentator.

    Neither side has objected to Ifill. That’s not her fault, she thinks she will do a good job.

    So if she will in fact be biased and corrupted by the vision of money come publication day, you can’t really blame her for accepting. No one considers themselves biased, corrupt, or willing to sell themselves out for a paycheck. She probably thinks she is honestly doing the right thing.

    Any complaint should come from the party who suspects they will suffer from her bias.

    If you think this debate is unfair and a travesty because Ifill is biased, don’t blame her, she has no say in who moderates the debate she just agreed to do so when she was asked to do so.

    Blame McCain-Palin for letting it go forward if you have a complaint.

    Aplomb (b6fba6)

  64. The perfidy of the media, and the hypocrisy of Teh Left knows no bounds.

    JD (5f0e11)


    JD (5f0e11)

  66. “impactful”.

    Hey, Mawy used a big word, but what she doesn’t realize is that’s it’s a big made – up word, one used in marketing pitches by doofuses like Mawy:

    Mawy, you’re so intelligent – do you know any other “big” words? How about douchebag, Mawy? Do you what that big word means? Look in the mirror, Mawy.

    Dmac (e639cc)

  67. Whether or not McCain/Palin raise objections to Ifill’s moderating, she herself knew as a professional journalist that by accepting the job she would be doing something that could easily be construed as unethical. Her acceptance of this does not inspire respect for her.

    Dana (973491)

  68. Dana, you’re a racist!

    Dmac (e639cc)

  69. Sigh. I denounce myself, Dmac. And I will attempt to refrain from pointing out that honesty and self-responsibility is colorblind.


    Dana (973491)

  70. Apparently doctors are required to live on a higher standard than journalists. If I was moderating a discussion between two experts on different options for treatment of disease X, and I had stock in the company that makes one of the treatments, I don’t think it would wash. If I was lined up for the event and did not tell those putting it on (as Ifill says she didn’t below) I would probably be kicked out from the medical center I was at and made a pariah, trying to find a job in some small town where there are no doctors that even know how to treat disease X. It’s just not done, no one in their right mind would even think about it.

    If all of the journalists think it’s not an issue, then they either need to change their code of ethics or admit they don’t follow it (if they know it). That’s not hard to do (sarcasm alert), the medical profession has done it quite readily in scrapping the parts in the Hippocratic oath that were anti-abortion.

    From the articles on Ifill:
    Ifill said Wednesday that she hasn’t even written her chapter on Obama for the book “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” which is to be published by Doubleday on Jan. 20, 2009, the day a new president is inaugurated.
    In its online description of the book, Doubleday says that Ifill “surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.”
    Ifill questions why people assume that her book will be favorable toward Obama.

    Let’s see, we know she has written articles praising Obama (previous thread) and we know by the title and the description by the publisher that it is going to be complimentary of Obama at the very least,… but obviously none of that can be it, because we need to raise the possibility of racism…

    “Do you think they made the same assumptions about Lou Cannon (who is white) when he wrote his book about Reagan?” said Ifill, who is black. Asked if there were racial motives at play, she said, “I don’t know what it is. I find it curious.”

    I find her response incredibly tone-deaf and insulting (if she is being represented accurately). Can a moderator make one participant look bad? Well, we’re not even in the same room and she’s raised the issue of my being racist. She ought to know I stopped being racist the week before I stopped beating my wife (sarcasm to make a point, Pat, no need to contact the local jurisdiction).

    Why didn’t McCain object?
    A. he didn’t know.
    B. he’s being a fool
    C. he knows saying anything will be played out as his problem, not Ifill’s or the MSM.
    D. He is setting a trap
    E. Who knows.

    I’ll tell you one thing, I thought Ifill was a reasonable partisan journalist and had respect for her. Not any more.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  71. 1. Ifill’s book is a potential conflict of interest.

    This is not something that is open for discussion; whether or not it is an actual conflict of interest is debatable (personally, I think it is,) the mere appearance is a cause for concern and needed to be brought into the open from the start.

    2. Ifill failed to disclose this potential conflict of interest.

    Again, this is not open for discussion, she really should have known better. Regardless of the why the ‘what’ (lack of disclosure) was a failure of judgment. That alone should exclude her from the position.

    ThomasD (211bbb)

  72. ThomasD-

    The problem with people like you is that you point out the obvious facts and expect people to believe them! 😉

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  73. MD in Philly…I think that C is the correct answer. It’s been made abundantly clear thus far that McCain and Palin are being spun against madly by the MSM; objecting at this late date to Ifill would, almost certainly, have been played by the media as sour grapes/scared of Palin’s inexperience/God only knows what, but it almost certainly wouldn’t have been reported in any positive light.

    Chris (95a123)

  74. she really should have known better.

    That’s the point, Thomas D – she did and does know better.

    Dana (973491)

  75. Chris, let’s hope it’s “F”, C+D.

    Hewitt played a discussion he had with some MSM person today concerning the MSM attacks on Palin (“What unfair questions?”) I think it’s available at his blog. When he pointed out, “Come on, you know if Sarah Palin had said FDR addressed the people on television in 1929 they would have been leading with it for days!” At that the other fellow had no retort.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  76. Today’s Ifill meme in the nutroots (read: tomorrow’s MSM meme) is that the book was not a secret!!. The absurd implication is that instead of putting a burden of disclosing a conflict of interest on the person who has the conflict, we should put a burden of ferreting out the conflict on the person who may be disadvantaged by it.

    Also, the people who are calling rightwingers crybabies for objecting to a blatantly biased moderator are saying that unequal treatment of the two candidates will be apparent to everyone watching the debate. What may not be apparent though, to the crucial independent and undecided voters is that the entire debate will be on comfortable ground for Biden: the topics will be geared to his areas of interest and expertise, and the questions will be loaded with the implicit premises and assumptions of the progressive woldview, forcing Palin to take valuable time clarifying instead of having the luxury of answering in short declarative sentences.

    Aldo (121b3f)

  77. Dana,

    I don’t know if she knows better or not. Most of the time I can’t decide if people are being just plain dishonest and know it, or if their perspective is so warped they just can’t see things that are as plain as day.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  78. answering in short declarative sentences.

    See, though, that’s the rub, and why I’m still extremely optimistic…Biden is chronically incapable of answering anything in short declarative sentences. This possible advantage will be gone. Biden will babble on, as he always does, and Palin, who has a history of being excellent in debates, will slice him seven ways from Tuesday. I truly believe that’ll happen. Might be misplaced optimism…but I really don’t think so.

    Chris (95a123)

  79. @27 voiceofreason2

    Gee, I love that kind of talk…

    Great essay post, as usual Karl…

    Lots of meaty links…

    Bob (99fc1b)

  80. She knows better in your minds, but still the McCain-Palin campaign doesn’t know enough to ask for her withdrawal.

    Again, there is nothing stopping the campaign from saying they will not present Palin with Ifill as a moderator, if they think Ifill is biased or financially corrupt.

    If you really think the reason McCain-Palin isn’t calling for another moderator is because they think that decision will reflect badly on the campaign, you are just admitting that this excuse is likely to appear contrived and lame to the majority of voters who might be influenced by that decision and excuse.

    Which, put another way, means it is a lame and unconvincing excuse that won’t sway most voters.

    Which, put in the most pertinent way, means why the hell are you harping on it if you think it will make the campaign look bad for bringing up? Either the campaign should raise the point because it has a good reason to, or it shouldn’t because most people will view that as petty and lame.

    I think you have two choices here: One, accept the campaign’s decision that Ifill is going to be the moderator without objection, or two criticize the decision of the campaign for not objecting.

    Don’t see how you are criticizing Ifill, who agreed to moderate a debate when a bipartisan debate committee asked her to, she did the same thing four years ago without much controversy, and neither campaign objected.

    What do you expect her to say, “despite the judgment of the independent debate committee and the judgment of both parties in this heated contest, I must tell you I am too biased to be fair?” Unlike all the other journalists out there who are robots and have no opinions about anything, Ifill alone is going to give up the plum honor of moderating a debate even though neither side asked her to?

    Get reasonable people.

    Aplomb (b6fba6)

  81. As a Democrat, if I was in charge, I would let her be switched. For once in her life, Michelle Malkin has a valid point.

    On the other hand, Karl freak

    glasnost (a51fd8)

  82. You cannot blame the media for being dishonest anymore than you can blame a scorpion for stinging things.

    JD (5f0e11)

  83. “First, I cannot take seriously someone who uses the non-word “impactful”. ”

    Oops. I’ve read a/o seen Palin use this non-word at least once.

    Knemon (33aca4)

  84. With the media sooo fully in the tank for Obama – I think MccCain-Palin are just happy they were INVITED to the debates

    EricPWJohnson (c00a5d)

  85. Let me try this one more time, Aplomb. If there is no objection from either side, no, there’s no real reason for Ifill to step down, though, as a matter of ethics, I believe she should. Which is not to say that I want her to step down…as I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t want her to. But as a strict matter of ethics…well, to use your own words:

    What do you expect her to say, “despite the judgment of the independent debate committee and the judgment of both parties in this heated contest, I must tell you I am too biased to be fair?”

    Yes. Precisely. That is the definition of ethics: what you do when no one is looking. It’s why baseball players are applauded as “playing the game the right way” when they are known not to be steroid users, like Ken Griffey, Jr., and Frank Thomas. It’s why golfers call penalties on themselves when they are the only ones who see the ball move. If there is a “real or perceived” conflict of interest, according to Ifill’s own organizational standards, she has the duty to extricate herself from that, even if the affected parties do not object.

    Chris (95a123)

  86. What’s fair? Fire Gwen Iifl.

    What will solve the problem? Give PBS to a bunch of conservative writers. The mission of Public Broadcasting was to give varying opinion, IIRC.

    Cincinnatus (187fa7)

  87. If Obama loses, HRC instantly becomes the favorite for the Dem nomination in 2012. So how does Ifill plan on selling a book about the Age of Obama when the Age is over?

    Bel Aire (e59286)

  88. Exactly, Chris. As far as Ifill is concerned, its superfluous whether Palin or McCain complain. If she herself were of strong character, she would step down to intentionally avoid any potential tarnishing of journalism’s reputation or breach of ethics.

    MD in Philly, I believe she did know better. But giving her the benefit of the doubt and assuming she didn’t, she absolutely does now. The more we want something, the more we can’t let go of something, the more readily we deceive ourselves.

    Its telling that given she is now acutely aware of the uproar, she still plans to attend.

    Dana (973491)

  89. I’m loving the fact that Ifill’s nondisclosed conflict to the commission is similar to that which the frothing nutroot AGW alarmists always claim when confronting a global warming skeptic – they are being paid by big oil. It’s usually not true, but they love to claim it. Of course Ifill has no financial conflit in this case. Heh! But conflicts need to be disclosed for people to consider bias.

    The intellectual dishonesty of the left never ceases to amaze.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  90. Aplomb – Bill Keller believes the New York Times is unbiased. Do you think rational people really believe him?

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  91. Well, if 20 Jan 09 marks the beginning of the “Age of Obama”,
    I guess that means that the “Age of Aquarius” is finally over?

    Who would have thought that it would have lasted 40-years.

    AOracle (ec995e)

  92. “she really should have known better.”

    That’s the point, Thomas D – she did and does know better.

    Naw, I believe her: she didn’t and she doesn’t know better. However, it’s nothing a few Faux Liberal AA points won’t “cure”, I’d wager – that, along with a loud chorus of projectional cries of ‘racism’, of course.

    J. Peden (66982f)

  93. “I think that Gwen Ifill is a professional, and I think she will do a totally objective job, because she is a highly-respected professional,” McCain said.

    The McCain campaign has apparently been saying they didn’t know about Ifill’s book. But as Michael Calderone notes, the book has been public for quite some time now.

    At bottom, though, debating whether there’s any merit in the attack on Ifill is beside the point, because as this is really just a transparent game, of course. The criticism is about trying to spook the moderators into going easy on Palin — a “time-honored form of pre-debate spin,” as Ben Smith put it.

    What’s more, as a Republican operative points out to me in a moment of candor, the existence of the book is potentially helpful to McCain, because it gives McCain supporters a way of retroactively cushioning the blow for Palin, should she pull yet another homina homina homina in response to any Ifill question, as is her wont.

    “If I were an Obama supporter, i would see this as a bigger problem for me than for Palin,” the GOP operative tells me. “Now any line of questioning can be dismissed as the product of an obviously biased moderator.”

    Get it?

    GET IT?

    Readnek (105b91)

  94. Chris 85: What standard of ethics applies here?

    You apply sports analogies, which don’t apply. Sports have rules clearly stated to the competitors, you dope or cheat you are breaking the rules of ethics and contracts.

    There are no rules of being a moderator of a presidential or VP debate. No law applies, it is completely up to the campaigns involved as to what happens, and they can and do make up all the rules and conditions before one takes place before they agree to it.

    Here are the only rules of fairplay, equity, ethics, integrity, and professionalism that go into selecting a moderator:

    A bipartisan committee suggests a debate format and a moderator. Both sides haggle and eventually agree to the format and moderator.

    That’s it. There are no rules binding the moderator once chosen by mutual consent by both parties. It’s not a legal case or a sanctioned sports match. It would never be agreed to unless both sides were convinced it will be fair or better yet unfair to their advantage. If it isn’t fair, the side to whom it isn’t fair is run by idiots and have no reason to complain.

    Note that there is no drug testing, sworn statements, binding professional ethical codes, FBI investigations, lie detector tests, IQ exams, or vetting by the NYT and FOX News for the moderator. The moderator never agrees to anything, except to ask questions within the agreed format. (The moderator is understood to be part of the free press, in short.)

    The only selection criteria for the moderator is, both sides agreed after the bipartisan committee recommendation that yeah, that would be an acceptable moderator! Said moderator could be on crack, a Ron Paul disciple, a racist, an embezzler, Dennis Kucinich’s bag man, a serial rapist, or what have you.

    There are no rules for moderating a debate, except these: you have to be nominated by the committee, and you have to be approved by both sides.

    Ifill met both rules, the bipartisan committee thought she’d be a good moderator (based in part on past experience in 2004 with Cheney and Edwards, of all unpleasant people to have to deal with by the way) and BOTH PARTIES AGREED. Ifill was under no duty to provide due diligence or otherwise interview for the job as moderator by exposing her biases or beliefs or current book projects. They chose her to be an independent actor in the drama without her applying for the role; she was under no ethical or even rational obligation to satisfy either party after they chose her or even in the process of choosing her. It was never up to her, it was always up to them, to make sure she was acceptable for both parties.

    And there are no rules for backing out of a debate if you get new information leading you to believe the debate would not be to your benefit, not limited to and including the fact that the moderator wrote a book that seems to favor one side over another. If you really believe that, pull the trigger and do it. Don’t blame her because you approved her as moderator and then changed your mind because you later discovered readily available information.

    Point is, Ifill is doing nothing unethical or against the rules, because there are really no rules here at this point, where she has not asked a single question and thus hasn’t even herself had a chance to break an ethical or journalistic rule. All she has done is say, “well if both of you want me to ask questions, sure I’ll be happy to.” That’s all either side can ask of her until they change their mind and ask someone else to do it instead. She is under no duty of disclosure to either side.

    Aplomb (b6fba6)

  95. Awful failed to inform he commission that selected her.

    Alta Bob (e70400)

  96. One rule I have that NEVER fails: “When someone starts bringing their particular victim status into a discussion, they are invariably up to no good.”

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  97. Aplomb incredulously wrote:

    Ifill met both rules, the bipartisan committee thought she’d be a good moderator (based in part on past experience in 2004 with Cheney and Edwards, of all unpleasant people to have to deal with by the way) and BOTH PARTIES AGREED. Ifill was under no duty to provide due diligence or otherwise interview for the job as moderator by exposing her biases or beliefs or current book projects.

    You’ve. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

    L.N. Smithee (fb4c08)

  98. Aplomb – How do you know both parties agreed? The moderators for the gebates were announced on August 5, before the conventions and running mates were announced. Can you verify your assertion in any way?

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  99. Aplomb:

    A deal made under false pretenses is not a deal; it’s a one sided suicide pact.

    And we all know which side you are on.

    Dr. K (15994c)

  100. Aplomb is spinning, Obamafuscating, and outright lying far more than normal.

    It is McCain’s fault that Ifill is dishonest, dammit. Can’t you see that ?!

    JD (f7900a)

  101. That’s the point, Thomas D – she did and does know better.

    Maybe, if so that would make her actions nefarious. Unfortunately that is an assertion that we cannot prove (but one that I too highly suspect.)

    The other option is that she didn’t know better, and lacked sufficient self awareness to be mindful of the appearance of conflict of interest (yes Okham’s Razor sure seems to make that a stretch.)

    There really are no other options; nefarious or clueless, either way she’s unfit for the role.

    ThomasD (211bbb)

  102. Aplomb…

    (The moderator is understood to be part of the free press, in short.)

    And that’s precisely the point here, once again. Ifill is a member of the free press, of the society of journalists. That society has set forth a code of ethics, entailed in the original post. That code makes it absolutely clear that journalists must take themselves out of “real or perceived” conflicts of interest. That is clearly what this is (whether or not it is real or simply perceived can certainly be up for debate, but it is unquestionably one of the two). It’s not a matter of breaking the rules of debate, here. It’s a matter of journalistic ethics.

    Chris (6733a5)

  103. That code makes it absolutely clear that journalists must take themselves out of “real or perceived” conflicts of interest.

    As Aplomb and others have shown, there is no real or perceived conflict so long as the journalist in question is advancing Teh Narrative.

    JD (f7900a)

  104. Yesterday on CNN’s Situation Room, Howard Kurtz called any criticism of Gwen Ifill a “smear” (or a “slur”. I forget), since no “white” journalist writing about a “white” politician would have his or her objectivity questioned (uh, yeah, Howie they would, if the journo had a clear finiacial interest in the subject’s election).
    In his column in today’s Washington Post Kurtz wisely drops that ridiculous claim.

    Chris B. (ce6cb7)

  105. Ifill has made a career out of writing about Obama and his family. In addition to the most recent article in Essence magazine, she wrote two others in 2007. Here’s what a Nexis search revealed:

    “Beside Barrack,” Essence, September 2007
    BYLINE: Gwen Ifill.
    Gwen Ifill is the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.
    LENGTH: 2410 words
    HIGHLIGHT: As her husband’s political star ascends and the race for the White House heats up, MICHELLE OBAMA, an accomplished woman in her own right, keeps Barack Obama grounded and her finger on the pulse of what women are thinking. Journalist Gwen Ifill joins her on the campaign trail.

    “The Candidate,” Essence, October 2007
    BYLINE: Gwen Ifill.
    LENGTH: 3032 words
    HIGHLIGHT: With a fund-raising machine in overdrive, a rock-star image, a message of unity and inclusion, and powerful friends like Oprah Winfrey, Illinois Senator Barack Obama continues his bid to become America’s first Black president. Journalist GWEN IFILL joins him on the campaign trail

    Brutarius (99f230)

  106. Ah, you gotta love modern-day journaljism, with it’s extremely pliable, not to mention nebulous, code of so-called ethics.

    Hit her with your best shot, Governor. Fire away!

    RickZ (06fa85)

  107. #s 102 & 104, Chrisx2, you’ve both got it right, right on the ethics and right on the logic. Only the willfully blind could fail to see the glaring necessity of removing Gwen Ifill.

    This is a textbook case, and if race wasn’t involved, even a blind partisan could not fail but to agree. Affirmative action has now advanced so deeply into the life of our Republic that it trumps not only our customs and traditions, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but AA also trumps reason itself.

    Ropelight (1be620)

  108. Did Aplomb come back to verify his assertions?

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  109. To follow up on Ropelight, we’re in danger of having an AA President.

    I don’t think this is what Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X were willing to die for. That “content of character and not color of skin” stuff seems not to be in style at the moment.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  110. So, fellow partisans, how did she do? Wasn’t it so obvious Ifill was in the tank…oh, of course not, she played it straight, which is what every smart person from Howard Kurtz to timb said would happen. I’d think Karl would be embarrassed, but, then again, I’m not the expert in ethics he is.

    timb (a83d56)

  111. I wanted to come back to this, because the knee-jerking was so wrong here.

    As it turns out, Ifill was fantastic and wasn’t biased at all. She was a good moderator, so all of you here were getting your rear end all drawed up for nothing. Weren’tcha?

    Psyberian (37b2ae)

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