Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

09/28/2009 (8:54 am)

Fox Ordered Not To Run Anti-Olympics Story?

That’s the headline on the top of the Drudge Report this morning. Drudge has never had to retract a story, but…

FOX-TV CHICAGO ORDERED NOT TO RUN ANTI-OLYMPICS STORY
Sun Sep 27 2009 21:56:11 ET

A local TV station that reported on Chicagoans NOT wanting the Olympics has been told NOT to run the report again, insiders tell the DRUDGE REPORT!

The Chicago Olympic Committee told FOX Chicago that its broadcast “would harm Chicago’s chances” to be awarded the games.

The station’s news director ordered staff to hold fire after the report aired once last Thursday morning, claims a source.

Chicago is making a bid for the 2016 Olympics. Apparently, this is very, very important to the President of the United States, so important that he has an Olympics office in the White House and is making a trip to Copenhagen to visit the Olympic Committee.

However, there is a group in Chicago that is openly supporting the competing bid from Rio de Janero, in Brazil. In fact, there are as many Chicagoans opposing Olympics in Chicago as defending them. They fear it will be a windfall for corrupt politicians and contractors, but a huge drag on the economy of the city, which is already nearly bankrupt. They created an ad, which you can see below, that highlights their opposition to the Olympic bid, and they aired it on Fox News Thursday morning.

According to Drudge, Fox has been ordered not to run the ad again by Chicago’s Olympic Committee.

This is an intriguing claim. I can’t imagine anybody other than the owners of Fox News that would have the authority to order the news organization to do anything. To say they were “ordered” to drop the ad suggests a claim of greater authority, and possibly a threat. The story has no explanation, though.

Bossing people around seems to be the Chicago way, and also seems to be becoming the American way under President Obama. This story is of a piece with last week’s under-reported story concerning Humana insurance, which was threatened by the White House with lawsuits if they continued to send their customers political ads explaining how Obama’s health care plans threatened their benefits. It’s also of a piece with the thuggery of the Obama campaign’s attempts to control stories about candidate Obama that they did not want the public to hear. It is no surprise to those of us who were keeping our eyes open during the campaign, but it is becoming increasingly clear that President Obama hates free speech, and, like any dictator attempting to control the minds of the people in order to retain power, is doing whatever he can to end it.

Orders Fox not to run an ad? Orders them?

I know the White House has approached news organizations on patriotic grounds in the past, asking their assistance regarding war efforts; there are times when national security might be compromised by a story, and for the sake of defending the nation or protecting the troops, the President needs to ask for the cooperation of private news organizations. This is sobering, but not unheard of.

However, what we’re seeing here is not about national security, it’s about a city’s power brokers gaining wealth by winning a bid for Olympic games. This is not even a proper topic over which to ask a news organization not to run stories.

Steve Bartin explained the appeal of the Olympics to the corrupt city bosses in Chicago in an article a couple of weeks ago; basically, the Olympics present a marvelous opportunity for graft, enriching those who are fortunate enough to have connections at city hall. For everyone else, though, Olympics have been financial disasters, resulting in enormous long-term debt and seldom paying off vendors and businesses with the level of business they’ve been promised. The Chicagoans for Rio site explains in some detail. So does the No Games Chicago site. Basically, members of the one party that rules Chicago want to enrich themselves by breaking the city financially. This is corrupt.

Corruption is the enemy; it is the thing that must be rooted out first, if the United States is ever to become a viable nation again. The current administration promised to do this, but they seem to be a more virulent strain of the disease rather than the cure. If the Tea Party movement does not have the effect of rooting out corruption in both parties, both in Washington and in state capitols across the nation, it will have been a failure. Government must be smaller, but it must also be honest.

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin, who was on top of this story from the beginning. Her article is eye-opening. And she adds more today, too.

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17 Comments »

September 28, 2009 @ 11:04 am #

The burning question is “Ordered by whom?”, as you said. If the headline is accurate, it would have to be someone outside Fox, which could only be the U.S. Government.

I hope that’s not the case, but wouldn’t put it past this administration. They’ve already ordered insurance companies to shut up and gotten away with it.

September 28, 2009 @ 4:53 pm #

Phil,

Once again, is there any actual evidence that the Obama administration ordered Fox not to run the story? As you say, the Obama administration, strictly speaking, cannot “order” Fox not to run a story.
Is there any actual evidence that the Obama administration threatened FOX? How did they do so? What was the threat?

If this were true, don’t you think that Fox would immediately report this in order to (1) pre-empt the ability of the Obama administration to punish them; (2) increase their ratings; and (3) further cement viewer loyalty? Hell, Phil, if this actually happened, Fox would have grounds for a U.S.C. 1983 suit that would serves as a wonderful platform for antagonizing the Obama administration – what with discovery and all that.

I am amazed at your ability to uncritically believe anything negative about the Obama administration, no matter how thin the evidence, or how tenuous the logic. I know, I know; you didn’t actually confirm that an order or threat was issued by the Obama Administration. But your comments indicate pretty clearly that you think one did.

I’m not saying that it didn’t happen. I’m saying that there are obvious reasons for being skeptical of the claim. To sum up those reasons, if the Obama Administration threatened FOX in order to keep them from running a negative report about Chicago’s bid for the Olympics, they are the stupidest people in the world.

Joe

September 28, 2009 @ 5:30 pm #

Huster,

I made it a QUESTION because I DO NOT HAVE DISPOSITIVE EVIDENCE!!!!!!!!

I listed events in recent history that might suggest that this is a pattern.

How the f**k do I have to word things for you NOT to accuse me of believing the worst??

I think I could say “gesundheit” and you’d accuse me of saying that Obama made me sneeze. I’m not the guy who’s making outlandish claims, here.

September 28, 2009 @ 7:16 pm #

Phil said:

“Corruption is the enemy; it is the thing that must be rooted out first, if the United States is ever to become a viable nation again. The current administration promised to do this, but they seem to be a more virulent strain of the disease rather than the cure.”

Phil, Aren’t you implying that the behavior you’re discussing in this post(the alleged “Order” or “threat”) is an example of the kind of corruption that you say the administration is “a more virulent strain” of? Are you genuinely denying that you meant to conflate the “order” allegation with the Obama administration’s corruption?

Please Phil, don’t do the plausible deniability thing with me. We’re gentlemen.

John Cooper got your implication. He knew what you were suggesting.

For the record, passing on unproven allegations without regards to their truth or falsity is called “slander.”

Joe

September 28, 2009 @ 8:39 pm #

It is quite plausible that such an order could have come from some of the corrupt politicians in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois. But that does not completely clear the White House because the White House is very tightly tied to the corrupt Chicago machine. They are all in bed together.

If Manny sent the word, “Don’t run dat ad again because our friend in Washington don’ like it”, that may not have come literally from the White House, but it would tend to implicate them.

September 29, 2009 @ 6:13 am #

…. Drudge has never had to retract a story…

Off the top of my head, Drudge famously retracted a story about Sidney Blumenthal having a history of, IIRC, domestic abuse toward the end of the Clinton impeachment hearings and, of course, he had to retract the McCain volunteer face mutilation story.

September 29, 2009 @ 8:44 am #

“Gentlemen” is an artifact from another age, but I do get your drift, Joe.

I’m not being coy; my intent was along these lines: “SOMEBODY apparently ordered Fox to shut up. The President is deeply involved in the Olympic bid. Might he have been involved?” I do not know the answer to that question, but I’ve seen enough of the “Shut up” message from Obama (referenced in the article) that I find that explanation plausible. It’s also plausible that “Shut up” is part of the character of the Chicago machine, and it was local folks doing the ordering, although, as I said, I can’t imagine Fox accepting an order from local politicians without an accompanying threat. If the uncertainty of the inference did not come across clearly, chalk it up to bad writing. I’m good, but I’m far from perfect.

John Cooper got your implication. He knew what you were suggesting.

Yes, he did… and it was “The burning question is “Ordered by whom?”, as you said.” I don’t regard asking the question, accompanied by the supporting evidence raising the possibility that the White House was involved, as “accepting uncritically” anything. I consider it plausible but unproved. That’s called “responsible journalism.”

For the record, passing on unproven allegations without regards to their truth or falsity is called “slander.”

For better or for worse, asking these sorts of questions is the most useful function of newspapers, magazines, and blogs. I care very much about their truth or falsehood, which is why I present the evidence as it stands, and try to be clear about which inferences are supported and which are not.

I think your mentioning “slander” in an instance like this is a cheap shot, and yet another articulation of the progressives’ favorite argument, which is “Shut up.”

September 29, 2009 @ 9:08 am #

I checked, and Drudge did publish a retraction after the Blumenthal story; Drudge admitted to having “been had” by somebody’s attempt to get Blumenthal. So I was wrong; he only ever had to retract one story, that I know about.

As near as I can tell, Drudge did not retract the Ashley Todd “face multilation” story, nor did he have to. He reported it as it was reported to the police, and then, when it became apparent that the police report had been a false one, he reported “She made it up!” immediately. That’s not a retraction, that’s reporting a developing story.

September 29, 2009 @ 5:14 pm #

You are in good company, I guess. Ann Coulter uses that line about Drudge never “having” to issue a retraction now and then and no one calls her on it.

Drudge did report the Ashley Todd tale via the police report but only after a day or so of running “SHOCK: McCAIN VOLUNTEER ATTACKED AND MUTILATED IN PITTSBURGH – “B” carved into 20 yr old Woman’s Face” as an “exclusive” with no story attached to the screaming red headline.

This is just an aside–I think Drudge’s retraction of the Blumenthal story is pretty well established–but Judge Friedman’s 1998 report/opinion on part of the Drudge v. Blumenthal civil suit (basically, the judge is turning down motions by Drudge and AOL to dismiss the case) is funny, for a court document:

“…To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, as far as the Internet is concerned, not only is there perhaps “no there there,” the “there” is everywhere where there is Internet access…”

and

Footnote 18: “Drudge is not a reporter, a journalist or a newsgatherer. He is, as he himself admits, simply a purvevor of gossip….His argument that he should benefit from the “news gathering exception” … of the long-arm statute merits no serious consideration. ”

http://epic.org/free_speech/blumenthal_v_drudge.html

Just a judge’s opinion, of course, but his source is, well, the horse’s mouth.

***

I think Joe’s read of this Drudge story is correct. I just clicked through all the Malkin and Breitbart links and, as far as I can tell, there’s no there there. Even the references to supposed examples of the administration violating first amendment rights in the past look weak, at best. Sure, the Obama campaign tried to stop some dodgy ads during the campaign but, well, it looks to me like they had a case, the ads and their funding arguably did run afoul of election funding/ad rules. And, yes, Obama supporters e-mailed and called various radio/TV stations but, as far as I can tell, the actions were, perhaps, unusual but not improper. And the Humana “gag order” example? Well, there are some pretty good reasons why there are rules about what and how Medicaid providers can communicate with their clients about political issues affecting Medicaid and health care and it looks to me like The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services acted properly in this case. In short, Humana was sending out what looked like official correspondence about Medicaid benefits when in fact the material was a lobbying effort. There are ways that Humana can try to influence the debate but their efforts in this case seem to run afoul of various Medicaid regulations that they agreed to when they took on the Medicaid contracts.

Retractions aside, I glance at Drudge once in a while but since he doesn’t do much reporting I seldom bother clicking on his links.

September 29, 2009 @ 5:38 pm #

>>In short, Humana was sending out what looked like official correspondence about Medicaid benefits when in fact the material was a lobbying effort.>>

They were lobbying their customers? I understood the letters went out to their clients – did I misunderstand? Can you lobby “down”? I thought you lobbied “up”…

>>There are ways that Humana can try to influence the debate but their efforts in this case seem to run afoul of various Medicaid regulations that they agreed to when they took on the Medicaid contracts.>>

Do you have a source for this info? I’d like to look into it more…

September 29, 2009 @ 10:00 pm #

…lobbying…

I think I used lobby there to mean “an attempt at political influence” more or less as my dictionary defines it. (I sometimes say “I lobbied my cat to…”) Regardless, Humana sent out letters to their Medicare Advantage clients.

…Do you have a source for this info? I’d like to look into it more…

Be careful what you wish for…we’re talking Medicare paperwork here. (Before I start, to avoid more confusion, please note that I should have said “Medicare Advantage” instead of “Medicaid” at the end of my comment above. I get them confused and I’m not even old enough to use them.)

In the introduction of the 2009 Medicare Marketing Guidelines Manual (http://www.cms.hhs.gov/ManagedCareMarketing/Downloads/R91MCM.pdf) it’s pretty clear that the letter that Humana sent out falls under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines.

…The scope of the term marketing, as used in the Medicare statute and CMS regulations extends beyond the public’s general concept of advertising materials. Pursuant to 422.2260 and 423.2260 of Chapter 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations, marketing materials include any informational materials targeted to Medicare beneficiaries which are defined…

Section 40.5 (and a few other sections) of the guidelines discuss misleading marketing materials.

…To ensure accurate and fair marketing by all plan sponsors, CMS prohibits the distribution of marketing materials that are materially inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise make material misrepresentations…

Sections 90 and 91 discusses the review/revision process. In short, most materials sent to plan members (and/or prospective plan members) has to be reviewed by the CMS. (The review process seems a bit fluid–there are some existing checklists to speed up the process, some checklists are, apparently, in process, etc. From other related documents, it looks like the CMS asks for a 45 day lead time but, in most cases, speeds that up significantly.)

…Organizations…agree to retract and revise any materials (without cost to the government) that are determined by CMS to be misleading or inaccurate or that do not follow established Marketing Guidelines…

The CMS’s intervention in the Humana letter case is, from what I can tell, based on: 1. It was not submitted for review even though it clearly falls under the CMS marketing guidelines, 2. Regardless of any review, it may be inappropriate and/or misleading. Since Humana stopped sending the letter, if they acted in good faith, presumably the CMS will review it and either suggest revisions, or simply rule it as an inappropriate part of the program. (As far as I can tell Humana can send a similar letter as long as it’s clearly not part of their Medicare Advantage program. There might be some privacy issues with their use of their Medicare Advantage mailing list but I suspect they could work around that. It’s also worth noting that the original letter was, probably, sent using Medicare Advantage funds. The details are a little unclear but, presumably, they will have to pay that money back if the letter is ruled inappropriate. They would, of course, have to self-fund any new letter.)

Yup, it’s all ridiculous government bureaucracy, an evil byproduct of socialism and all. However, complaints about Medicare (and, apparently, esp. Medicare Advantage) marketing have been fielded by both parties for years. The Bush administration made a bit of noise about the last serious round of revisions to the marketing guidelines in 2007/08 and promoted the changes a bit. (See, for example, http://www.californiahealthline.org/Articles/2008/5/9/Bush-Administration-Proposes-New-Marketing-Rules-for-Medicare-Plans.aspx) Medicare marketing isn’t exactly a big ticket item but a surprising amount of attention has been paid to it. From what I can tell, the Humana letter and mailer, as it stands, clearly falls outside the current guidelines. It’s a judgement call the CMS will have to make but I can see where they are coming from. The information in the flyer, regardless of the truth of it–and I think it’s a bit dodgy–is not relevant to the client’s current plan, or even planned future changes to the plan, which, in the context of the usual communications between Humana and the their clients, makes it misleading, at best.

September 30, 2009 @ 6:06 am #

The part I’m wondering about, n2p, is why a brochure concerning possible dangers to benefits of proposed legislation, constitutes “Medicare marketing.”

Answer: if it falls under the act at all, it’s because the act is unconstitutionally overbroad.

Spin all you like, this was an attempt by the government to prevent legitimate political speech by way of bullying.

September 30, 2009 @ 12:47 pm #

So the question seems to be twofold? (it needed review, and it was misleading)

So…who says it was misleading? Isn’t that the critical issue? The other issue is the review – and that seems reasonable from an accuracy standpoint, but what if there’s disagreement? who gets to decide? If the article is _not_ misleading – can the CMS still silence it?

I agree with Phil…it was an attempt by the government to prevent legitimate political speech by way of bullying.

September 30, 2009 @ 2:46 pm #

Humana is not being “silenced”. They are free to communicate all manner of things about health care and Medicare Advantage reform. However, as a Medicare Advantage provider, most of their communications with clients must be approved by CMS and generally conform to CMS guidelines. On the face of it, it looks like Humana tried to slip this by the CMS and boost their lobbying effort by scaring their clients. It seems appropriate, to me, for CMS to stop the mailings, review the materials carefully, and go from there. Humana, apparently, also feels that their case is iffy since they stopped the mailing and said they intend to comply with CMS guidelines.

I don’t have a problem with Medicare marketing being a somewhat controlled zone of speech. There are, of course, lots of areas were speech is regulated, usually for pretty good reasons. Again, the companies and people involved in Medicare are free to say what they want–outside of official Medicare communications.

As I mentioned, the Medicare marketing guidelines were extended/revised under the last administration and they are still being sorted out. As long as the rules about provider-client communications are applied fairly, they seem like a small improvement to Medicare’s anti-fraud efforts. If, for example, pro-reform providers start sending out dodgy materials similar to Humana’s and the CMS board lets it slip, a case might be made for this being an unfair political move but, so far, that’s not the case.

September 30, 2009 @ 4:28 pm #

On the face of it, it looks like Humana tried to slip this by the CMS and boost their lobbying effort by scaring their clients. It seems appropriate, to me, for CMS to stop the mailings, review the materials carefully, and go from there.

A couple of quick translations:

Lobbying ==> political advocacy.

Scaring their clients ==> advocating a position with which the government disagrees.

Stop the mailings, review the materials ==> government censorship.

I’m not stretching anything that I can see, and I’m not one of those who calls any restriction on speech “censorship.” This situation, however, does fit the precise definition of censorship; the government is insisting on the right to control what a private company says in advocacy of a political position.

“Lobbying,” as you call it, is protected speech under the first amendment.

Again, you may spin this any way you like, but at the end of the day, you’re saying that the government has a right to prevent Humana from advocating a political position with which the government disagrees.

Humana, apparently, also feels that their case is iffy since they stopped the mailing and said they intend to comply with CMS guidelines.

So, if the citizen can be intimidated into silence by a powerful government, that proves that it’s completely appropriate for the government to do it. Is that your argument?

September 30, 2009 @ 4:36 pm #

Ah the sweet smell of nitpicking in the morning…

From Dictionary.com:
“Lobbying…–verb (used without object)
4. to solicit or try to influence the votes of members of a legislative body.”

The people Humana sent the letter to may or may not have been a legislative body. I would think that, for the most part, not.

Language is about splitting hairs- word choice reveals intent. If the mailing had been for the President’s proposal it would have been called “Educational” or “Informative.” However, since it was against it, it is “Lobbying” (a word that has been loaded with negative connotation, regardless of lack of intent being in the definition.) Or perhaps “Misleading.”

I feel like I am being Lobbied.

Besides, n2p, don’t you know the mere act of us poor dumb schlubs using a dictionary means we do not know what we are talking about? The President said so.

September 30, 2009 @ 5:38 pm #

…This situation, however, does fit the precise definition of censorship; the government is insisting on the right to control what a private company says in advocacy of a political position…

It’s a very limited form of control/censorship. Again, outside of the context of official Medicare-related communications with their clients, Humana’s speech is generally not restricted.

Even political speech is sometimes curtailed–near polling booths and in some 501c businesses, for example. Given that Humana can continue their political efforts in the usual ways, I’m fine with keeping politics out of the rather limited sphere of official Medicare Advantage correspondence. (As awful as that Medicare marketing guide was to read, it seemed basically sensible to me.) Views about the range and scope of speech restrictions vary but if you want to be a Medicare Advantage provider, you have have to agree to some oversight and restrictions.

…“Lobbying,” as you call it, is protected speech under the first amendment…

Lobbying is also subject to all manner of rules and regulations.

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