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Brent Bozell: Media Critic And Fraud

Memo Pad Politics

Brent Bozell: Media Critic And Fraud


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.

Wrote Bozell:

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.

David Cay Johnston

David Cay Johnston won a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of taxes in The New York Times. The Washington Monthly calls him “one of America’s most important journalists” and the Portland Oregonian says is work is the equal of the great muckrakers Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens and Upton Sinclair.

At 19 he became a staff writer at the San Jose Mercury and then reported for the Detroit Free Press, Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and from 1995 to 2008 The New York Times.

Johnston is in his eighth year teaching the tax, property and regulatory law at Syracuse University College of Law and Whitman School of Management.

He also writes for USA Today, Newsweek and Tax Analysts.

Johnston is the immediate past president of the 5,700-member Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) and is board president of the nonprofit Investigative Post in Buffalo.

His latest book Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality an anthology he edited. He also wrote a trilogy on hidden aspects of the American economy -- Perfectly Legal, Free Lunch, and The Fine Print – and a casino industry exposé, Temples of Chance.

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