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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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  1. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh February 18, 2014

    Not just Bozell. I have never seen any conservative columnist ever print a retraction for any claim proved to be false. Actually, the opposite is true. Even though the claim has been proven false, they still maintain it as “truth” and the actual exposed facts as “spin”.

    1. johninPCFL February 18, 2014

      Think of the Koch brothers, whose money filters through multiple levels of organizations, who never have to admit their shady connections to these nutjobs. Maddow has (on several occasions) linked the Kochs to ALEC and other far-far-far-right organizations, and each time their attorney fires off a legal threat to retract the report. When the documentation is presented on-air, does the Koch lawyer EVER say “oops, sorry”? Not a chance.

    2. dave April 14, 2014

      Listen to faux news parrot the same b.s. time after time after time. Even when its something somebody heard from somebody else its reported as coming from a ‘source’ and treated as ‘real’ news.

  2. ORAXX February 18, 2014

    Amazing Bozell would attempt to equate ‘the enlightenment’ with conservatism. Enlightenment era conservatives were solidly committed to the divine right of kings. Conservatives are the last people to ‘get it’. What ever ‘it’ happens to be, and Bozell is just as far behind the curve as were his eighteenth century ancestors.

    1. davidcayjohnston February 18, 2014

      Columnist here…
      You misread my piece,ORAXX. Bozell made no such comparison, but I wrote that his perspective would be recognizable to those living pre-Enlightenment.

      1. ORAXX February 18, 2014

        You are correct. I apologize.

  3. jointerjohn February 18, 2014

    Today’s version of American political conservatism requires its practitioners to deny facts and evidence. Facts prove that supply-side economics doesn’t work, yet that is their foundational tenet. Modern American conservatism is never-never-land, and those who choose to dwell there are never going to consider the truth valuable. This is why it has been so easy for them to get other groups not persuaded by facts to join in with them, the NRA, Christian Fundamentalists, science deniers, white supremacists, etc. A giant delusional, rationalizing, liars club; today’s GOP.

    1. alwaysthink February 18, 2014

      So true, today a Conservative is a fearful and scared Fox news viewer whose emotional hot buttons have been pushed by various sexual or racial issues. They are incapable of understanding economic issues and vote based upon fear.

      But since the failure of Trickle Down or Reaganomics is well accepted what would a Conservative economic policy be? The status quo? Or is there really a serious discussion to be had? Or has the Conservative movement just be filled to the brim with those who want utter economic chaos for most of us with a plutocrat class enjoying the good life behind their wall comminities?

  4. Lou Alexander February 18, 2014

    A fine piece of writing that sent me to the online dictionary twice.

  5. davidcayjohnston February 18, 2014

    Columnist here

    Oh do I wish people would focus on the point of this and my three previous columns, which is not to rant about the unreliable work of people who claim to be conservatives, but the reasons that America would benefit from a thoughtful, informed and honest conservative movement and why centrists and progressives should put some time into encouraging honest conservatism. The reasoning is in all four columns (the three earlier ones are linked high up in my Bozell column).

    1. Independent1 February 19, 2014

      Being retired and living in rural Maine, true conservatives are rare and hard to come by – virtually all the ones I’ve encountered have been brainwashed by the constant negative rhetoric from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the Tea Party, Faux News and/or other conservative extremists. Such that it’s my feeling that it would be very difficult to find a “true conservative” today that would be willing to risk entering politics.
      When a candidate for president like Mitt Romney, can stand up in front of national television during the pre-election GOP debates and when challenged by Newt Gringich about the lies that super Pac ads supporting Romney were broadcasting about him and then say with a straight face, that it’s okay to lie when you’re trying win votes; and then actually got applause from the crowd for that comment, it seems to me that any “true conservative movement” is going to be a long time in coming.
      I agree completely with you about there’s a real need for America to get back into “honest politics”, but I just don’t see that happening any time soon, which is very unfortunate. The GOP has become the most outright corrupt organization in America.

  6. Daniel Jones February 18, 2014

    Why is it any surprise?

    The wacko birds so frequently end up guilty of what they accuse everyone ELSE of that Bozell’s case is par for the course.

  7. irishtap February 18, 2014

    Not one actual conservative I’ve known in my life has ever behaved so callously. They own a conscience and are open to debate by using rational and fact based argument. What passes for ‘conservative’ today is full blown anti government and of course the economic destruction of the common citizen – by association. These people are dangerous to society and certainly have zero patriotism. They are zealots and sociopaths and care nothing about whether the blistering words they cough up hold the slightest measure of truth.

  8. piniella March 2, 2014

    Père Bozell, a convert to Catholicism, believed America should have been set up as a Catholic nation. He also was a big admirer of Spain’s Gen. Franco.


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