Announcing the P.U.-litzer Prizes for 2008

Now in their seventeenth year, the P.U.-litzer Prizes recognize some of the nation’s stinkiest media performances. As the judges for these annual awards, we do our best to identify the most deserving recipients of this unwelcome plaudit.

And now, the P.U.-litzers Prizes for 2008:

This award sparked fierce competition, but the cinch came on the day Obama swept the Potomac Primary in February — when Chris Matthews spoke of “the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama’s speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don’t have that too often.”

In August, a teaser for the O’Reilly Factor program said: “Obama bombarded by personal attacks. Are they legit? Ann Coulter comments.”

UPSIDE DOWN “ELITIST” AWARD — New York Times columnist David Brooks
For months, high-paid Beltway journalists competed with each other in advising candidate Obama on how to mingle with working class folks. Ubiquitous pundit Brooks won the prize for his wisdom on reaching “less educated people, downscale people,” offered on MSNBC in June: “Obama’s problem is he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who could go into an Applebee’s salad bar and people think he fits in naturally there. And so he’s had to change to try to be more like that Applebee’s guy.” It would indeed be hard for Obama to fit in naturally at an Applebee’s salad bar. Applebee’s restaurants don’t have salad bars.

GUTTER BALL PUNDITRY AWARD — Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball
In program after program during the spring, Matthews repeatedly questioned whether Obama could connect with “regular” voters — “regular” meaning voters who are white or “who actually do know how to bowl.” He once said of Obama: “This gets very ethnic, but the fact that he’s good at basketball doesn’t surprise anybody. But the fact that he’s that terrible at bowling does make you wonder.”

STRAIGHT SKINNY PRIZE — Wall Street Journal reporter Amy Chozick
In August, the Journal’s Chozick went beyond the standard elitist charge to offer yet another reason that average voters might be wary of Obama. Below the headline “Too Fit to Be President?” she wrote of Obama: “Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.” Chozick asked: “In a nation in which 66 percent of the voting-age population is overweight and 32 percent is obese, could Sen. Obama’s skinniness be a liability?” To support her argument, she quoted Hillary Clinton supporters. One said: “He needs to put some meat on his bones.” Another, prodded by Chozick, wrote on a Yahoo bulletin board: “I won’t vote for any beanpole guy.”

“OUR CENTER-RIGHT NATION” AWARD — Newsweek editor Jon Meacham
With Democrats in the process of winning big in 2008 as they had in 2006, a media chorus erupted warning Democratic politicians away from their promises of change. Behind the warnings was the repeated claim that America is essentially a conservative country. In an election-eve Newsweek cover story with the sub-headline “America remains a center-right nation — a fact that a President Obama would forget at his peril,” Meacham argued that the liberalism of even repeatedly re-elected FDR offended voters. And the editor claimed that a leftward trend in election results and issues polling means little — as would Obama’s victory after months of charges that he stood for radical change. Evidence seemed to lose out to journalists’ fears that campaign promises might actually be kept.

On Sept. 30, just after the House defeated the $700 billion Wall Street bailout measure, Brooks’ column in the New York Times denounced the balking House members for their failure to heed “the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed.” But a week later, after the House approved a bailout — and with the credit crunch unabated and stock market still plunging — Brooks wrote: “At these moments, central bankers and Treasury officials leap in to try to make the traders feel better. Officials pretend they’re coming up with policy responses, but much of what they do is political theater.” Now he tells us.

In late November, corporate media outlets began to credit Barack Obama with making supposedly non-ideological Cabinet picks. The New York Times front page reported that his choices “suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.” Conservative Times columnist David Brooks praised the picks as “not ideological” and the economic nominees as “moderate and thoughtful Democrats.” USA Today reported that Obama’s selections had “records that display more pragmatism than ideology.” In mediaspeak, if you thought invading Iraq and signing the NAFTA trade pact were good ideas, you’re a pragmatist. If not, you’re an ideologue.

The Times op-ed page marked the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion in March by choosing “nine experts on military and foreign affairs” to write on “the one aspect of the war that most surprised them or that they wish they had considered in the prewar debate.” None of the experts selected had opposed the invasion. That kind of exclusion made possible a bizarre claim by Times correspondent John Burns in the same day’s paper: “Only the most prescient could have guessed … that the toll would include tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, as well as nearly 4,000 American troops; or that
America’s financial costs by some recent estimates, would rise above $650 billion by 2008.” Those who’d warned of such disastrous results were not only prescient, but were routinely excluded from mainstream coverage.

Described as “the longest-serving foreign correspondent in New York Times history,” Burns seemed less a skeptical reporter than a channeler of Henry Kissinger when he offered his world view to PBS’ Charlie Rose in April: “The United States and its predominant economic, political and military power in the world have been the single greatest force for stability in the world, such as it is now, certainly since the Second World War. If the outcome in Iraq were to destroy the credibility of American power, to destroy America’s willingness to use its power in the world to achieve good, to fight back against totalitarianism, authoritarianism, gross human rights abuses, it would be a very dark day.”

Jeff Cohen, author of Cable News Confidential, is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and the founder of the media watch group FAIR. Norman Solomon, author of War Made Easy, is a columnist on media and politics. Read other articles by Jeff, or visit Jeff's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 18th, 2008 at 11:28am #

    not surprised. they r well paid and have at least 50mn rabid supporters.
    city police, fbi, cia, army, the 3 houses; much of clergy and middle class revere them.
    so, who cares ab hobos, housemen/women, indigenes think or say?thnx

  2. BILL LAWRENCE said on December 18th, 2008 at 12:17pm #

    My favorite Chris Matthews phrase was ” culturally conservative” which was subsequently repeated by David Gregory and others. This is just a very subtle way of speaking about the racism in this country. Why not refer to this segment of society as ignorant racists and, while we’re at it, who cares how Obamas election is going to play with these morons?

  3. lichen said on December 18th, 2008 at 3:18pm #

    I nominate Norman Solomon for the award himself for being a morally bankrupt, propagandizing Obama delegate.

  4. MrCynic3 said on December 18th, 2008 at 5:21pm #

    To lichen,

    I agree with you 100%.

  5. Eddie said on December 18th, 2008 at 5:42pm #

    Linchen and MrCynic3, support. I read all the way through waiting for Norman Solomon to claim his award. Maybe he was being modest but I can think of several columns and KPFA moments that earned him a P.U.

  6. Jim said on December 19th, 2008 at 11:08am #

    I would award a P.U.-lizer to all progressive websites that lusted for an Obama presidency, and are now pretending to be shocked by all the reactionaries he’s appointed to his cabinet. A special award should go to Project Censored, which noted the coverup of 1.2 million Iraqi deaths since 2003, but couldn’t seem to notice the higher toll between 1991-2002.

  7. kalidas said on December 19th, 2008 at 11:48pm #

    Why settle for a Pulitzer when you might buy a big fat Nobel?

  8. Hue Longer said on December 20th, 2008 at 3:15am #

    lol on the Soloman blasts! I love the readers on this site… Bravo!

    As far as Jeff Cohen goes, I listen to counterspin from FAIR every week and it was a little annoying that concerning Obama, everything they said was right concerning the media’s propaganda against his invisible stances, but at times it still smelled like the Nation Magazine’s love affair with a Democratic Party dream

    (bozh, I noticed your switch from “housewives” to “housemen/women”. Funny stuff– I’d love to drink beer or port with you, mate)

  9. bozh said on December 20th, 2008 at 5:42am #

    hue, thnx,
    i switched from housewife to houseman because some people get upset by the word “housewife”.
    the word “housewife” had been imbued w. belittlement. but not by me but by mostly the miseducators.
    there is nothing wrong w. staying home and doing housework. but as usual some people don’t take into account the massive miseducation that goes on just ab everywhere.
    the culprits r usually the members of the ruling class. but it’s not just the housewives who are demeaned but also all workers.
    butwho’s gonna argue w. funni uncle if he says, Look, bozh, they r free in the land of the free and brave and they love me amd their subservience. also sprach Samuel! thnx