Far-right media critic L. Brent Bozell III is a fraud, the Romenesko blog for journalists revealed after some deft reporting last week. This unmasking should interest every centrist and progressive.
Those of us who have been reading Bozell for years were deceived because, as Jim Romenesko revealed, Bozell did not write the columns bearing his byline.
Citing emails and interviews, Romenesko reported that Tim Graham, a Bozell subordinate, wrote the columns and that Graham’s wife has told others how unhappy her husband is about this uncredited role. Not to mention how hypocritical this is for a man who accuses journalists of laziness.
One word accurately describes what Romenesko revealed: fraud.
The URL and title at his own Media Research Center page show that Bozell is a fraud: “Bozell’s column.”
Bozell’s distributor disputes this, but only in detail, not substance — and with only faith to support his views, as we shall see.
But before we get to that, why should you care about the latest example of the mendacity permeating America’s far right?
Because, as I have shown in National Memo columns here, here and here, the wild and often crazy assertions thrown around by lightweight, fact-ignoring and intellectually corrupt radicals posing as conservatives hurt us all.
Time spent knocking down silly claims and invented scandals spread by the far right diverts centrists and progressives from dealing with the nation’s problems, weakening the fabric of our Republic.
America needs thoughtful conservatism. Those who actually care about the liberties of the people, about the America that is and what it could be need to foster ethical, honest and serious conservatism. Without it, they cannot achieve their goals.
Conservatism grounded in the Enlightenment ideals of fact, intellectual inquiry and reason would defend that which works well and would vigorously resist change. It would also demand change be preceded by pilot projects with robustly funded evaluations so that only proposals that have been thoroughly examined and shown to actually improve society will be adopted.
Such serious and rigorous conservatism would force centrists and progressives to hone their arguments for an America that is more free, fair and prosperous.
Without an intellectual crucible fired by actual conservatism we will continue to get weak solutions to our festering problems.
And so we get Bozell’s shtick — accusing all journalists of mendacity unless they share his perspective. To Bozell there is no competitive marketplace of journalism, only a monolith of monstrous liars. As it turns out, there is a paid liar in the news media – Bozell.
Accepting accolades and a byline for work you did not do is dishonest. There’s no moral relativism here. It is wrong.
A solid example of Bozell’s hypocrisy came in a 2010 column headlined “The ‘Ellie Light’ Scandal.” Bozell railed about 68 local newspapers running identical letters to the editor praising the Obama administration without considering why editors would know what runs in other papers far outside their circulation area.
Is this an official White House or Organizing for America campaign? Is it simply a dirty trick? Is this brass-knuckles (and dishonest) politics from the DNC? Or an unauthorized Obama groupie? Some investigating conservative bloggers have found several candidates for the mysterious “Light” writer that could be connected to Obama.
But the liberal pro-Obama media won’t address this. This story hurts Obama, so they’ll spike it. Count on that.
Thing is, the story was broken by Sabrina Eaton of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a paper Bozell did at least credit. And four days later Ellie was unmasked as a male California health care worker by none other than that same liberal newspaper, the Plain Dealer.
And the letter writer’s ties to the White House? None. But his estranged wife said “Ellie” had a reason to use a fake name – fear of attack from rightists in his Central California town.
Corrective columns by Bozell? None. So, no, you can’t count on Bozell to correct the record when he makes false charges.
Creators Syndicate founder Rick Newcombe defended Bozell. “It is absolutely false to say that Brent Bozell does not write his column,” Newcombe told Romenesko.
But when I spoke to Newcombe he tried to deflect the interview from Bozell’s lying to attacking Romenesko’s integrity, citing absolutely no facts while accusing Romenesko of being “out to get” Bozell.
Newcombe said he was sure that Bozell “worked closely with Tim” in writing the columns.
He also told me there would be no inquiry to determine where the columns ranged, between 1 percent and 99 percent Bozell. “There is a trust factor,” he explained.
So at Creators, as at Bozell’s enterprises, faith trumps empiricism. Our empiricist Founders explicitly rejected faith over reason (see U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Clause 3.)
Bozell not only deals in smears, innuendos, and trumped up charges, he is also a masterful cherry-picker, too, grabbing random facts and ignoring piles of inconvenient evidence to the contrary, as with his Jan. 28 column “Obama, The Media’s Favorite Autocrat.”
Bozell wrote, “the partisan media think it’s high time for the executive branch to go completely around the legislative branch.” Bozell quoted Senator Ted Cruz favorably on “abuse of power” by the Obama administration. Yet Bozell does not cite a single example of abuse.
Actual reporters have told us about that form of presidential edict known as an Executive Order, which Bozell wrote about without using that term. Obama has issued just 167 in his first five years in office, fewer than any president since Eisenhower — including the only unelected president, Gerald Ford, who served for only 29 months.
In columns appearing under Bozell’s name, facts range from nonexistent to mere props around which to attack. There is no balance, no call for finding common ground so that the Republic can prosper, because that is hardly the point.
To Bozell, anyone he disagrees with is a partisan, while he holds himself, and his websites, as beacons of truth.
As Pontius Pilate supposedly asked, “What is truth?” There are many kinds of truth, not all of which depend on fact, logic or reason, including Bozellian truth, a pre-Enlightenment form of assertion.
Bozell comes by his my-way-or-denunciation views ancestrally.
Père Bozell, a convert to Catholicism, believed America should have been set up as a Catholic nation. In 1970, he and young Bozell’s mother Patricia (the sister of William F. Buckley Jr.), led the first “operation rescue” to halt an abortion, conjuring up a right to impose their beliefs on someone they did not even know.
The father’s Catholicism was neither the turn to acknowledge your neighbors in the pew mass of today nor the teaching of Jesus that a condition of entering the kingdom of heaven is caring for the poor so completely that the rich man must give away “all that thou hast.”
Père Bozell was a Falangist fascist, his teachings as far from the preaching of Pope Francis today as they were close to the ideals of Tomás de Torquemada, the original Grand Inquisitor who believed ensuring faith required the Iron Maiden and the auto-da-fé.
The father co-wrote a book with William F. Buckley, Jr. defending Joseph McCarthy, published after the Wisconsin senator had been exposed as a fraud who did not have any lists of communists in the federal agencies and the Army.
Sidenote: The term “McCarthyism” started out as an encomium and only later morphed into a derisive term for those who make baseless accusations, smearing others for political gain.
In this tradition, baseless accusations are Bozell’s stock in trade as he relentlessly accuses honest journalists, Democrats and even moderate Republicans of lying and deception and attacking those with views he dislikes just because, well, he dislikes those views.
Just last week Bozell’s Media Research Center ran this headline:
“Where is the Mainstream Media on Obama’s Lawlessness?”
Mainstream news coverage of the administration’s illegal surveillance activities? Extensive — and denounced by Bozell, making this column’s key assertion of no coverage absurd.
Illegal conduct specified in the article at Bozell’s website? None.
Indictments of “lawless” Obama administration appointees for corruption? None.
Indictments of appointees in Bozell’s beloved Reagan administration? 138.
America needs better than that. It needs actual conservatives, not frauds like Bozell, so we get a reasoned debate in America about actual issues, just as the Founders intended.
Editor’s note: National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason’s weekly column is syndicated by Creators. The views expressed in this column are David Cay Johnston’s, and do not necessarily reflect those of The National Memo.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr