Sunday, July 25, 2010

Serving under Richard Nixon, Chris Hayes (Ava and C.I.)


Illustration Isaiah's "From the kitchen of the Peace Resister."

"I am not a crook," Tricky Dick Richard Nixon infamously declared November 17, 1973. Nearly thirty-five years later the editor and publisher of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel, got off her own little howler as she declared that her magazine had not worked to do in Hillary Clinton's presidential run, "The women of The Nation are the first to deplore the sexism in media commentary this primary season, but a 'cover up'?"

Oh, Katrina, you dirty, little scamp. Someday, people will nose around the Obama Facebook-Roosevelt Institute axis. It won't be pretty for you but few things ever are.

Your claim that there was no cover up at The Nation was laughable in May of 2008. It's only more laughable today as your 'independent' magazine is revealed as a hotbed of group think.

The Journolist scandal features many Nation names including Katha Pollitt, Richard Kim and Chris Hayes. Were Nation readers supposed to know that what they read in the pages of the magazine and online at the magazine's website were talking points that were hatched on a list-serv by 400 or so 'journalists'?

We're going to zoom in on only one person: Chris Hayes.

A few years back, we were regularly tackling Chris Hayes and then we stopped. We stopped because of Winter Soldier. C.I. contacted (either herself or through an intermediary) a number of reporters to ask them to please cover Iraq Veterans Against the War as it was taking place. A number of Little Media ('independent') journalists promised they would. In the end, only Chris Hayes did. (C.I.: "To his credit, he did cover it. He kept his word. Many others didn't. Ask me someday why I ridicule Jeff Cohen, just ask me.") This was followed by his being promoted from reporter to the magazine's DC editor. It was a big promotion and -- as noted here and Mike's site many times -- we decided to back off our criticism of Hayes due to his honoring his word and now having a very difficult job to get used to. (David Corn's abrupt departure left the magazine scrambling.) So we've avoided Chris Hayes. We've not cut him apart, we've not praised him. We've left him alone.

We had hoped to continue doing so. Journolist makes that impossible.

So we'll start by noting Chris has a conflict of interest and needs to be removed as DC editor. His wife is an assistant attorney in the Office of Special Council. She works for the White House. Yes, Chris did one disclosure on that. That's not enough. He can't cover the beat if he's married to the beat. The left lodged enough complaints about Andrea Mitchell when her husband was the chair of the Federal Reserve, they need to get their own house in order. Chris Hayes should be given a new beat, he should not be allowed to cover the administration. There is the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Not only should he be reassigned at The Nation (and at In These Times), but he should not be brought on programs to discuss the administration. His wife works for it, he may strive to be impartial but few will believe he is. It gives the appareance of a conflict of interest and that should be avoided at all costs.

We don't need to hear that Chris criticized Obama here or there or somewhere. It doesn't matter. You do not let someone whose spouse is in the administration also cover the administration. That's not how it works, that's not how it plays.

Jonathan Strong (Daily Caller) reports of Hayes

Chris Hayes of the Nation posted on April 29, 2008, urging his colleagues to ignore Wright. Hayes directed his message to "particularly those in the ostensible mainstream media" who were members of the list.
The Wright controversy, Hayes argued, was not about Wright at all. Instead, "It has everything to do with the attempts of the right to maintain control of the country."
Hayes castigated his fellow liberals for criticizing Wright. "All this hand wringing about just how awful and odious Rev. Wright remarks are just keeps the hustle going."
"Our country disappears people. It tortures people. It has the blood of as many as one million Iraqi civilians -- men, women, children, the infirmed -- on its hands. You'll forgive me if I just can't quite dredge up the requisite amount of outrage over Barack Obama's pastor," Hayes wrote.
Hayes urged his colleagues -- especially the straight news reporters who were charged with covering the campaign in a neutral way – to bury the Wright scandal. "I'm not saying we should all rush en masse to defend Wright. If you don't think he's worthy of defense, don't defend him! What I'm saying is that there is no earthly reason to use our various platforms to discuss what about Wright we find objectionable," Hayes said.
(Reached by phone Monday, Hayes argued his words then fell on deaf ears. "I can say 'hey I don't think you guys should cover this,' but no one listened to me.")

We're confused -- in part because we read Joan Walsh -- something we never recommend and curse ourselves for doing. Joan insists that it was just lefties at lefties outlets and Chris is telling us that no one listened to him. Chris isn't just a reporter. He's an editor at The Nation and In These Times. Just take The Nation, for example, in the spring of 2008, it's very difficult to open an issue without encountering Hayes' viewpoint expressed . . . by John Nichols, by Eudora Smith, by Gary Younge, by . . .

It was an echo chamber. And Chris really wants to pretend that, as one of the editors of the magazine, he had no influence over it?

That's less than honest.

Jeremiah Wright preached homophobia. We called it out. Why didn't The Nation? For that matter, when Barack put homophobes on stage in South Carolina at an official campaign event in November of 2007, why didn't The Nation call it out?

Chris, you're the DC editor, why didn't you call any of that out?

As the general election loomed, Barack yet again deployed homophobes as campaign strategy -- for his 'swing state tours' -- and The Nation remained silent.

What exactly will you fight for, Chris Hayes?

You declared on the list-serv, "Our country disappears people. It tortures people. It has the blood of as many as one million Iraqi civilians -- men, women, children, the infirmed -- on its hands." You're no prophet, Chris, torture continues under Obama. Disappearances continue under Obama. And the Iraqi people? Not only does the illegal war continue but it will continue past 2012 even if the US withdraws the US military because Samantha Power's plan for the militarization of the State Department -- a plan your magazine never found time to report on during the campaign -- is being implemented.

You wouldn't fight against sexism and homophobia in real time because you felt those were the little-ticket items. But you did nothing to fight against the problems you considered "real" ones. Chris, Jeremiah Wright was the problem. His hatred of gay people was the problem and went directly towards the attitudes that keep the US involved in wars. His sexism was the problem.

You dismissed these as minor strands, tiny issues, but these issues are the ones that allow for demonization, are the ones that allow for the creation of "the other," are the ones that spur and grow destruction.

You can say that the above is just our opinion but, here's the thing, we expressed our opinion and did so publicly. We didn't take it to a list-serv and come up with talking points and spin plans and then implement those as if we were operating on our own.

Do you really not get why Journolist is offensive, Chris?

In a smarmy reply to Joan Walsh
(which, granted, may be the only way to reply to her), you wrote, "I'm not quite sure what in my emails makes me a 'combative Obama zealot,' nor do I think I engaged in 'Obama worship' but, OK, fair enough: I wanted Obama to win, and I wrote as much [Ava and C.I.: on list-serv]. If you think my devotion to him was particularly slavish, then there's little I can do to disabuse you of that sentiment. (I'll note that I more or less entirely avoided, in my public writing, food fights with Hillary Clinton supporters, or even going after Clinton.)"

In your "public writing," Chris?

You need to review your "public writing." You need to note your smackdown of Hillary and Latino voters following Nevada. But, Chris, your honesty about wanting "Obama to win" that you "wrote as much" about? That wasn't your public writing and there's the problem.

Chris, travel back with us to election night 2000. Sandra Day O'Connor served on the Supreme Court then, remember? She was appointed by a Republican (Ronald Reagan). And when Gore was announced as the winner, she exploded leaving her husband to explain that if a Republican had been elected, O'Connor planned to retire but Gore would mean she'd have to stay on the Court. Remember all that?

A lot of people thought she should have recused herself from Gore v. Bush. She didn't.

Do you think she should have?

We do. And we argue the same point with regards to her that we do with regards to you. You had motives you never revealed to Nation readers. You had motives you concealed from your audience. You betrayed a trust. That's no small issue.

To Joan, you write, "That apostrophe at the end of my name creates a claim that I suggested people accuse those who raise the Wright issue of being racist. I didn't. Not in the thread or anywhere else, so far as I can tell. It's not really my style. If I had, I'd be happy to be whacked for it."

Drop your pants and bend over, Chris.

You didn't call anyone racists, it's not your style, not on the thread or anywhere else? Is that the story you plan to stick to?

Yet, on the controversial Jeremiah Wright, someone wrote this, "Ultimately, though, this controversy, like so many in American life, is about race." You wrote it. And you continued, "It's telling that the issue of Wright's views have percolated among the right-wing fringes for months, but it was only with the discovery of a video, and the images and sounds of an angry black man decrying racial oppression in the cadences of the black church that the media staged a collective freakout." You're calling them racists. That's what you're doing. Don't pretend otherwise.

On a list-serv which you thought was private and no one but the members would ever know of, you strategized and plotted. It says a great deal about your character, Chris, and none of it is flattering. It was, at the very least, a huge misjudgment on your part to participate.

It was an unethical and there is no code of journalism which will embrace your actions or give you a thumbs up.

The Society of Professional Journalists adopted their Code of Ethics in 1926 (it has evolved since then). Look over this section and tell us how your actions matched up:

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.
Journalists should:

--Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
-- Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
-- Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
-- Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
-- Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
-- Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
-- Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

We realize The Nation isn't too high on ethics but we also realize you desire to work in the real world, to move up the food chain. It's going to be hard to do that if you can't learn from mistakes. Instead of making jokes about what took place ("crypto-lefty"), you should have had the grace and good sense to immediately issue an apology at The Nation for your actions realizing that some might find your participation (and strategizing) on the list-serv to be a conflict of interest. That's what you should have done, that's what you should do now. People are watching. Editors and publishers and producers and network executives are watching. The smart thing for you to do would be to issue the needed apology.

You're young enough that it can be chalked up as a mistake. You're new enough in your career that it can be an early stumble and nothing more. Provided you apologize. If you don't, don't blame anyone but yourself for the fate that awaits you.
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