The P.U.-litzer Prizes were established a dozen years ago to provide special recognition for truly smelly media performances. As usual, Iâ€™ve conferred with Jeff Cohen, founder of the media watch group FAIR, to sift through the large volume of entries.
And now, the thirteenth annual P.U.-litzer Prizes, for the foulest media performances of 2004:
MANDATE MANIA — Too many winners to name
It became a media mantra. Two days after the election, the Los Angeles Times reported that â€œBush can claim a solid mandate of 51 percent of the vote.â€ Cox columnist Tom Teepen referred to Bushâ€™s vote margin as an â€œunquestionable mandate.â€ Right-wing pundit Bill Kristol argued that Bushâ€™s â€œmandateâ€ 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: â€œWhere 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.â€
MEDIA BIGOT OF THE YEAR — MSNBC and radio host Don Imus
On his Nov. 12 show, the day after Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat died, Imus said of Palestinians: â€œTheyâ€™re eating dirt and that fat pig wife of his is living in
NO APOLOGY FOR BEING GULLIBLE AWARD — CBS anchor Dan Rather
Asked 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 â€œmore questions should have been askedâ€ and then declared: â€œLook, 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.â€
TIMIDITY RULES PRIZE — Washington Post columnist David Ignatius
Explaining why mainstream journalism failed to ask tough questions about the
â€œONLY RIGHT-WING POLITICS THIS ELECTION YEARâ€ AWARD — Disneyâ€™s Michael Eisner
In May, when Disney refused to distribute Michael Mooreâ€™s â€œFahrenheit 9/11â€ movie, CEO Michael Eisner said that Disney â€œdidn’t want to be in the middle of a politically oriented film during an election year.â€ But Disney was one of the 2004 election yearâ€™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 Oâ€™Reilly, Laura Ingraham, Matt Drudge, etc., etc.
MEDIA MOGULS FOR BUSH PRIZE — Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone
Seven 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: â€œFrom 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.â€ Days later, Redstone added: â€œI vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.â€ (Ironically, cultural conservatives often blame TV and radio sleaze on â€œThe Liberal Mediaâ€ — not GOP-backing media owners like Redstone and Rupert Murdoch.)
MOUTHPIECE FOR POWER AWARD —
Give credit for candor 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 on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction: â€œWe are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power. If the president stands up and says something, we report what the president said.â€ If counter-arguments are put â€œin the eighth paragraph, where theyâ€™re not on the front page, a lot of people donâ€™t read that far.â€
STENOGRAPHIC PRIDE AWARD — Judith Miller, New York Times
Defending her use of anonymous sources like Ahmed Chalabi, a highly unreliable Iraqi exile, in prewar front-page stories on
WINNING HEARTS AND LUNGS AWARD — Thomas Friedman of The New York Times
In a Nov. 18 column datelined â€œ
rubble: â€œBottom line?
ORWELLIAN FORCES AWARD — Nic Robertson and others
OUTFOXING FOX PRIZE — Jack Cafferty, CNN
As co-anchor of CNNâ€™s morning program, Cafferty had something to report on March 31: â€œItâ€™s a red-letter day here in