The PU-litzer Prizes for 2004




T

he
PU-litzer Prizes were established a dozen years ago to provide special
recognition for truly smelly media performances. Jeff Cohen, founder
of the media watch group FAIR, and I sifted through a large volume
of entries. And now, the 13th annual PU-litzer Prizes for the foulest
media performances of 2004 are: 




MANDATE MANIA 



Too many winners to name



 



I

t
became a media mantra. Two days after the election, the


Los
Angeles Times

reported that “Bush can claim a solid mandate
of 51 percent of the vote.” Cox columnist Tom Teepen referred
to Bush’s vote margin as an “unquestionable mandate.”
Right-wing pundit Bill Kristol argued that Bush’s “mandate”
went beyond the 49-states- to-one landslides of Nixon in 1972 and
Reagan in 1984.  Reality check: This was the narrowest win
for an incumbent president since 1916. As Greg Mitchell wrote in

Editor & Publisher

: “Where I come from, 51 percent
is considered a bare majority, not a comfortable margin. If only
51 percent of my family or my editorial staff think I am doing a
good job, I might look to moderate my behavior, not repeat or enlarge
it.” 




MEDIA BIGOT



 


MSNBC & radio host Don Imus



 



O

n
his November 12 show, the day after Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat
died, Imus said of Palestinians: “They’re eating dirt
and that fat pig wife of his is living in Paris.” After an
Imus colleague referred to Palestinians as “stinking animals”
and said “they ought to drop the bomb right there, kill ’em
all right now,” Imus responded: “Well, the problem is
we have (NBC reporter) Andrea (Mitchell) there; we don’t want
anything to happen to her.” In February, when a civilian Iranian
airliner crashed, killing 43 people, Imus reacted: “When I
hear stories like that, I think who cares.”  




NO APOLOGY FOR BEING GULLIBLE 



CBS anchor Dan Rather


 



A

sked
at a Harvard forum in July what network TV news could have done
better during the build-up to the Iraq war, Dan Rather said “more
questions should have been asked” and then declared: “Look,
when a president of the United States, any president, Republican
or Democrat, says these are the facts, there is heavy prejudice,
including my own, to give him the benefit of any doubt, and for
that I do not apologize.” 




TIMIDITY RULES 




Washington Post

columnist David Ignatius 



E

xplaining
why mainstream journalism failed to ask tough questions about the
Iraq war before it started, columnist Ignatius—a war supporter—wrote
in April, “In a sense, journalists were victims of their own
professionalism. Because there was little criticism of the war from
prominent Democrats and foreign policy analysts, journalistic rules
meant we shouldn’t create a debate on our own.” 


Create
a debate? Ignatius suggests it would have been unprofessional to
raise questions at a time when many experts, over a hundred Congress
members, and millions of others were already questioning the drive
to war. 




“ONLY RIGHT-WING POLITICS THIS YEAR” 



Disney’s Michael Eisner 



I

n
May, when Disney refused to distribute Michael Moore’s


Fahrenheit
9/11

movie, CEO Michael Eisner said that Disney “didn’t
want to be in the middle of a politically oriented film during an
election year.” But Disney was one of the 2004 election’s
leading broadcasters of political propaganda, almost all of it pro-Bush,
as its powerful talk radio stations served up hour after hour of
right- wing hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly,
Laura Ingraham, Matt Drudge, etc., etc. 




MEDIA MOGULS FOR BUSH 



Viacom CEO Redstone


 



S

even
weeks before the election, Sumner Redstone expressed support for
Bush on behalf of his company, which owns CBS, UPN, MTV, VH1, Infinity
radio, and dozens of other subsidiaries: “From a Viacom standpoint,
the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because
the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe
in, deregulation and so on.” Days later, Redstone added: “I
vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life and I do believe that a Republican
administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.”
Ironically, cultural conservatives often blame TV and radio sleaze
on “the liberal media”—not GOP-backing media owners
like Redstone and Rupert Murdoch.) 




MOUTHPIECE FOR POWER

 



The Washington Post



 



C

redit
for candor goes to Karen DeYoung, former assistant managing editor,
for this comment in an August report examining why the


Washington
Post

marginalized prewar doubts about White House claims about
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction: “We are inevitably the mouthpiece
for whatever Admin- istration is in power. If the president stands
up and says something, we report what the president said.”
If counter-arguments are put “in the eighth paragraph, where
they’re not on the front page, a lot of people don’t read
that far.” 




STENOGRAPHIC PRIDE

 


Judith Miller,

NYT



 



D

efending
her use of anonymous sources like Ahmed Chalabi, a highly unreliable
Iraqi exile, in prewar front-page stories on Iraq’s supposed
WMDs, reporter Miller explained: “My job isn’t to assess
the government’s information and be an independent intelligence
agency myself. My job is to tell readers of the


New
York Times

what the government thought about Iraq’s arsenal.”
Miller did not explain how her job differs from being a PR agent
for the U.S. 




WINNING HEARTS & LUNGS 



Thomas Friedman,

NYT 



I

n
a November 18 column datelined “Camp Fallujah, Iraq,”
columnist Friedman summed up the situation after the U.S. assault
had left much of Fallujah in rubble: “Bottom line? Iraq is
a country still on life support and U.S. troops are the artificial
lungs and heart.” Apparently, the U.S. military needed to deprive
the country of oxygen and blood in order to save it. 




ORWELLIAN FORCES 



Nic Robertson & others


 



U

.S.
military spokespersons describe those who attack U.S. soldiers in
Iraq as “anti-Iraqi forces”—even though, by all documented
accounts, the vast majority of those forces are Iraqis. Some U.S.
journalists have begun to make that newspeak their own, among them
CNN’s senior international correspondent Robertson. On November
25, Robertson reported from “Camp Freedom in Mosul, where the
troops go out in their Striker vehicles into the city of Mosul….
What they are doing has been conducting offensive operations to
disrupt the anti-Iraqi forces.” 




OUTFOXING FOX



Jack Cafferty, CNN


 



A

s
co-anchor of CNN’s morning program, Cafferty reported on March
31: “It’s a red-letter day here in America,” he said.
“Air America, that communist radio network, starts broadcasting
in a little while.” Cafferty was unyielding when CNN colleague
Soledad O’Brien responded by saying that the new talk-radio
network was not Communist but liberal. He replied: “Well. Aren’t
they synonymous?”





Norman Solomon
is co-author, with Reese Erlich, of



Target Iraq: What the
News Media Didn’t Tell You.