Monday, June 1, 2009

The political evolution and "legitimization" of HuffPost

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Many political observers have noted (some, with great alarm) HuffPost's rapidly-growing access to, and influence over top government officials in the U.S., and throughout the world. This phenomenon reached its climax in 2009, when the White House twice allowed HuffPost to attend, and ask questions in press conferences --- a first for any blogsite.

This article provides the facts and context of how HuffPost's political evolution and "legitimization" occurred --- in just its four years of existence --- and some of the reasons why its critics find it so troublesome.

For background data on HuffPost's astonishing growth in user traffic, advertisers, media partnerships, etc., please see: Fast facts about HuffPost


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CONTENTS:
(1) HuffPost's repeated claims of being nonpartisan in its news coverage and comment moderation policies

(2) 2007: HuffPost begins its shift --- to reflecting the views of, attracting and catering to radical leftists, in both its "news" coverage and its comment moderation procedures

(3) During this period HuffPost was also transforming itself in another way --- in favoring and protecting radical leftist users who engage in hate speech... and worse

(4) 2009: HuffPost is invited to presidential news conferences (and even given preferred access); user traffic and political access grows, as its "news" coverage continues to cater to radical leftists

ADDENDUM items


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(1) HuffPost's repeated claims of being nonpartisan in its news coverage and comment moderation policies

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To review these claims, and the context in which they were made, see:
Section (A)(1) at Articles about & statements by HuffPost re its journalistic and business standards & practices

Sections (1) and (2) at Fast facts about HuffPost

HuffPost policies & statements re user conduct and moderation

During its first two years of operation, HuffPost largely lived up to these claims. It presented news, primarily from other sources, and had a balanced body of blog articles. It welcomed users from across the political perspectives to comment on its news stories and blogs, and applied its Comment Policy and Terms of Service on a fairly consistent and nonpartisan basis.

At some point in
late 2006/early 2007, however, HuffPost began undergoing a profound change --- which it neither announced, nor even acknowledged. In fact, to the present day, it has continued to insist that it is nonpartisan in its news coverage and comment moderation policies.



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(2) 2007: HuffPost begins its shift --- to reflecting the views of, attracting and catering to radical leftists, in both its "news" coverage and its comment moderation procedures

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The first public indication of this shift was in February 2007, when HuffPost offered demonstrably illegtimate excuses as to how so many of its radical leftists could have been permitted to express their disappointment that Vice President Cheney had survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, and how much better the world would be if he were murdered. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Michelle Malkin and others documented and exposed this outrage.

Others noted and documented the fact that HuffPost was publishing more and more leftist hate speech from its official bloggers --- even though it has repeatedly claimed that it has "a zero-tolerance policy" for hate speech of any kind
. In September 2007, the conservative Media Research Center published a report with many examples of what HuffPost was doing --- in violation of its stated policies:
"Huffington's House Of Horrors: A Compendium of Far-Left Flame-Throwing, Name-Calling, and Attack-Dogging"

In October 2007, one of HuffPost's official bloggers, "super-lawyer" and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, was so incensed by what HuffPost was doing that he was quoted in Fortune magazine as claiming (emphasis added):
[HuffPost's] editors started vetting his posts and then refused to run a column he submitted recently because it conflicted with the site's hard-left editorial line on Israel.

In the same article, Dershowitz claimed that the hard-leftism that HuffPost was descending into was also being reflected in its comment moderation practices (emphasis added):
"I have read dozens of ad hominem attacks against right wingers on your blog. Methinks thou has a double standard! I will post it elswhere [sic] where a real marketplace of ideas exists."

Ironically, a "marketplace of ideas" is almost precisely how Andrew Breitbart, HuffPost's original News Editor, described the site's mission at its opening, in May 2005 (emphasis added):
"Bringing my former boss and longtime friend Arianna's intriguing friends to the blogosphere, the ultimate level playing field makes perfect sense to me, and I am thrilled to be committed to such a groundbreaking project. Will my pals on the right have a place to offer their two cents at the Huffington Post? Absolutely. Will I agree with everyone's written word? Of course not. But that's precisely the point. May the best ideas win."

At some point in 2007, Breitbart left HuffPost, and became one of the most vocal critics (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) of its acting as a vehicle for leftist hatred. (In early 2009, and in addition to operating Breitbart.com, Breitbart opened his own blogsite, BigHollywood (1, 2), to lure Hollywood conservatives and libertarians out of "the closet," and give them a public voice. Most recently, Breitbart created BigGovernment, which has been breaking the ACORN corruption stories.)

Here are some key facts that indicate the extent of HuffPost's shocking, profound shift away from being a "nonpartisan" site:


  • According to an October 2008 article on Gawker, HuffPost's biased "news" coverage and support of Barack Obama was not exactly a secret. In the one instance in which a HuffPost blogger exposed a non-favorable aspect of Obama's campaign statements, Gawker revealed (emphasis added):
    Was HuffPo biased toward Obama? After the site reported that Obama said "bitter" working-class Americans "cling to guns or religion," HuffPo co-founder Ken Lerer, who himself said to be unhappy about the story, rushed to talk with angry Obama campaign operatives. That would be the same Lerer who convened a fundraiser for Obama at his apartment the year prior, when he was still CEO of Huffington Post. It's worth at least asking whether the Clinton campaign's accusation that the site was a "conveyor belt" for pro-Obama propaganda was more than mere campaign flackery.

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  • It was only after the election, on November 21, 2008, that Arianna Huffington publicly acknowledged for the first time how close she is with Obama:
    “I only text (message) three people - my two teenage children and Barack Obama.”

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(3) During this period HuffPost was also transforming itself in another way --- in favoring and protecting radical leftist users who engage in hate speech... and worse.

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  • HuffPost began allowing a growing "gang" of radical leftists to essentially begin "living" on its "news" story comment threads, posting 100-500 comments over 18 or more straight hours, every day. HuffPost knowingly enabled and protected these radical leftists to violate its Comment Policies and Terms of Service, 24-7.

    In the most extreme cases, HuffPost has knowingly protected the worst-of-the-worst radical leftists --- including those who threatened or urged violence against other users, and even protectees of the U.S. Secret Service. HuffPost has allowed these users to post tens of thousands of comments over one to four years, while at the same time censoring and rapidly banning non-violating users who dare to dissent, or speak out against them.

    See detailed documentation of these allegations at:
    HuffPost's protection of the most egregious violators of its "policies" --- and its banning of non-violators, often on a minute-to-minute basis)

  • In March 2008, HuffPost was again publicly exposed for the radical leftist hate comments that were proliferating on its news threads.
    (See Section 5,
    here)
    Ms. Huffington again falsely claimed that such incidents are caused by "a miniscule number of anonymous, trouble-making trolls," whom it dealt with promptly, but that it would not start shutting down its comment threads because of them. The falseness of Ms. Huffington's statements is documented in detail at:
    (1) HuffPost's protection of the most egregious violators of its "policies" --- and its banning of non-violators, often on a minute-to-minute basis

    (2) HuffPost's false statement re shutting down its comment threads

  • HuffPost's revenue is derived from advertising --- which is based on user traffic. Huff-Watch estimates (conservatively) that eight of the most obsessive radical leftists that HuffPost has allowed to "live" on the site and egregiously violate its Comment Policy and Terms of Service at will, for one to four years, have collectively posted nearly 300,000 comments.

    It is therefore legitimate to ask: Is there a correlation between HuffPost's decision to enable and protect these and similar users, and its economic self-interest?

    Perhaps one day, someone in a position of influence will ask HuffPost about this.


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(4) 2009: HuffPost was invited to, called on in presidential news conferences (and even given preferred access); its user traffic and political access grows, as its "news" coverage continues to cater to radical leftists

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February 9, 2009 was the watershed moment in HuffPost's political "legitimization." For it was on that date that President Obama, after taking a few questions from (legitimate) news organizations at the end of his first prime-time press conference, decided to pass over the remaining assembled domestic and international journalists -- and instead, picked HuffPost's Sam Stein to ask a question.

It's worthwhile to note that the topic of this press conference was America's economic crisis.

So what did Stein ask Obama?
If he's going to consider prosecuting President Bush:
“Today, Senator Patrick Leahy announced that he wants to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate the misdeeds of the Bush administration. He said that before you turn the page, you have to read the page first. Do you agree with such a proposal, and are you willing to rule out right here and now any prosecution of Bush administration officials?”

Even Time magazine pointed out at the time, that HuffPost is "unapologetically unobjective" in its "journalism."

On March 19, 2009, after HuffPost was hit with charges of misappropriating and profiting from content generated by others without compensation, a Time reporter claimed that Arianna Huffington told her that she...
"...(i)s offended and bewildered by the suggestion that other news outlets think she's getting a free ride. She sees herself as the future of journalism, not the end of it."
(Note: Keep that phrasing, "The future of journalism," in mind, and relate it to another event that occurred less than two months later, before the U.S. Senate; see below.)

Another important moment in the political "legitimization" of HuffPost occurred on April 21, 2009, when its splash headline was a blog article by U.S. Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. The article concerned a report he was issuing that day on America's treatment of terror-detainees. This continues a pattern of top Washington politicians relying on HuffPost to give prominent coverage to their blogs, including:
July 17, 2008: Sen. Levin wrote a blog (part of a continuing series) that appeared on HuffPost concerning a hearing he was to hold that day into potential crimes by U.S. banks.

2008-2009: Sen. Chris Dodd (another official HuffPost blogger) wrote a regular stream of blog articles for HuffPost. Ironically, many of Dodd's blogs described his prescriptions for solving the economic crisis that credible reports claim he was one of the individuals most responsible for creating (more here and elsewhere).

The next watershed moment in the political "legitimization" of HuffPost occurred on May 6, 2009, when Ms. Huffington was invited to "testify" before the U.S. Senate on... "the future of journalism."

Some interesting notes:

The most ironic moment in the political "legitimization" of HuffPost occurred on May 22, 2009, when Politico ran an article, entitled Republicans Flock To The Huffington Post. Excerpt (emphasis added):
When Tom Coburn (Ed.: R-OK) wanted to pitch his criticism of the Democrats’ health care plan last month, the senator’s office considered sympathetic media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and the conservative blog RedState.

Instead, the Oklahoma Republican went with The Huffington Post.

Despite its liberal leanings, Republican member and aides have begun heading to The Huffington Post to talk up their views.

Arianna Huffington, who co-founded the eponymous site four years ago this month, said that increased Republican engagement “is a reflection of our traffic, our brand, and the fact that we are increasingly seen ... as an Internet newspaper, not positioned ideologically in terms of how we cover the news.”

That's not exactly how the Republicans see it. While GOP aides say they're treated fairly by Huffington Post reporters, they know that their views are likely to take a beating from the site’s bloggers, commenters and headline writers.

Coburn's concerns were well-founded, given the long history of HuffPost's use of false/misleading headlines and "journalism" to smear conservative individuals and organizations --- and the level of policy-violating hate speech it was permitting its radical leftist users to engage in. Examples:
7/12/08: Users unleash hatred for, libels against Tony Snow --- on the day he died (HuffPost: "Approved!!!")

5/17/08: False headline re NRA convention foments user hatred (HuffPost: "Approved!!!")


HuffPo Writer Alex Leo Used Doctored Video to Attack FNC's John Gibson

6/12/09: "Neocons Root For Ahmadinejad" --- NOT; users espouse hate based on lie (HuffPost: "Approved!!!")

8/23/09: Grossly misleading headline about Sen. Lieberman, incites user hate comments (HuffPost: "Approved!!!")

10/27/09: HuffPost publishes false, inflammatory story about Justice Scalia; user hate-fest erupts (HuffPost: "Approved!!!")

The most recent watershed moment in the political "legitimization" of HuffPost occurred on June 23, 2009. In a reportedly pre-coordinated stunt (more here) --- the White House arranged for another HuffPost "reporter," Nico Pitney, to receive preferred seating in a press conference, and to be called on by President Obama, in regards to the Iranian crisis.
(Note: Aside from his position as "National Editor" at HuffPost, according to Pitney's bio --- which lists no journalistic education --- his only working experience has been at the Soros-funded leftist organization Center for American Progress, and its Web-propaganda arm, ThinkProgress.)

On July 10, 2009, a Politico article claimed that the publisher of the venerable Washington Post recently claimed it could "learn" from HuffPost:
Appearing at a recent technology conference with [Arianna] Huffington, Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth said her paper could learn from the Huffington Post model. [...]

It is interesting to note that Weymouth was
reportedly blasted by the Post's own ombudsman, one day later, on July 11, 2009, for grossly violating basic journalistic ethics, as well as the paper's. Her offense? Offering to "sell off-the-record access to the Post’s journalists and government officials for lobbyists."

Perhaps Ms. Weymouth was onto something, though; in September 2009, HuffPost surpassed the Washington Post in monthly user traffic.

9/30/09: A video of Eric Hippeau, HuffPost's new CEO, posted at CrunchBase, indicating how seriously it is taking its (self-described) role as a "news" source:


We're assuming Mr. Hippeau is unaware of what actually occurs with HP's "news," and particularly its comment moderation practices.



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These facts provide an introductory insight into HuffPost's political evolution --- and some of the reasons why its critics, and reporters from traditional news organizations, have been scoffing at HuffPost's political
"legitimization."

This insight, coupled with other content here at Huff-Watch --- particularly
The top five myths about HuffPost --- versus the reality --- should give the reader a starting point from which to evaluate HuffPost in a sober, objective light.


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ADDENDUM 1, Sept. 2009: Arianna Huffington gets one-on-one interviews with top Israeli government officials


Given HuffPost's long history of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic bias, and its tolerance of comments containing hatred, libels and conspiracy theores against both Israel and Jews (here), people concerned about these issues find it shocking that Ms. Huffington was able to interview two of the Jewish state's top public figures:
Israel Diary: Shimon Peres on Peace, Obama's Tough Love, and Working in the Shadows

Israel Diary: Hyper-Alert Security Guards, Hyper-Creative Tech Geeks, and an Upcoming Interview with President Peres

It is unknown whether these men know of the hatred that HuffPost incites and tolerates regarding Israel and Jews --- or whether they chose to ignore it, and grant Ms. Huffington these interviews anyway.

What is known is that by participating in these interviews, they have knowingly or unknowingly given HuffPost even more "legitimacy."


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ADDENDUM 2, Dec. 1, 2009: Arianna Huffington is invited to speak at FTC conference on... "the future of journalism."


Fresh off the heels of her May 6, 2009 "testimony" before the U.S. Senate, here is Ms. Huffington's full screed against other publishers from today.

The first AP story from the conference is here.
According to the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Jon Leibowitz:
"News is a public good. We should be willing to take action if necessary to preserve the news that is vital to democracy."

Orwellian takeaway quotes:
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, saying quality journalism was essential to U.S. democracy, said eventually government would have to help resolve the problems caused by a failing business model. [...]

Free Press, a public interest group, said the search for solutions to the crisis in journalism should be premised on the idea that news-gathering is a public service, not a commodity. Waxman's "indication that government has a role to play is both bold and soberly sensible," said Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott on the sidelines of the FTC conference.

A radical leftist authoritarian government official like Henry Waxman talks about the federal government flexing its muscle over American "journalism," and hobnobs with Arianna Huffington?

What could go wrong?


(Ellsworth Touhy meets Wesley Mouch, perhaps?)


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ADDENDUM 3, APR. 13, 2010: Arianna Huffington is reportedly upset that HuffPost will "only" have seating at one table at the White House Correspondent's Dinner (after requesting three)


For those who keep saying, "But HuffPost is not a 'news' organization!!!," well, the White House and the "journalistic" establishment feels differently.

And now, according to the Washington Examiner, Ms. Huffington is reportedly very upset that at her "newspaper's" debut appearance at the WHCD, she didn't get the three tables she requested:
Arianna huffs about overbooked celebs at WHCD


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Send tips, inquiries and (polite) feedback to huffwatcher1 (at) gmail.com



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