Thursday, March 22, 2012

Media Matters wants a fight, but can’t take a punch

After facing down more than a month of tough reporting, David Brock’s Media Matters for America still has nothing to say for itself. The progressive messaging group has all but clammed up about its internal turmoil under a constant barrage of scrutiny from conservatives and liberals alike.

It’s been a little over a month since The Daily Caller published the beginning of an investigative series examining the inner workings of Media Matters. The reporting, bolstered by first-hand knowledge from sources familiar with day-to-day activities in the group’s Washington, D.C. offices, revealed close coordination with the Obama White House, a slew of favored — and receptive — mainstream journalists, intense erratic behavior by Brock, a Glock pistol illegally carried by Brock’s assistant and consequence-free sex in the office’s media war room.

TheDC also revealed an extensive list of left-wing foundations that bankroll the group’s operations. Those findings showed the organization’s use of Bernie Madoff-exposed assets, the receipt of a donation specifically earmarked for targeting religious media, and a laundry list of big-name progressive foundations, including the Tides Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and, among many others.

In that same time frame, Fox News reported that Brock had to sell his Rehoboth Beach, Del. home to pay his former domestic partner  $850,000 in what Brock called “blackmail” to keep him silent about details purportedly devastating to Media Matters.

Additionally, Media Matters’ foreign policy department has risen to become the group’s greatest public liability, with senior fellow MJ Rosenberg  under fire across the political spectrum — and in the pages of The New York Times — for being “virulently anti-Israel,” according to liberal Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz.

A report published Monday by TheDC showed that Media Matters’ foreign policy associations include a tangled relationship with Al-Jazeera, a Qatar government-operated television network with an anti-Israel — and arguably anti-American — editorial posture.

Amid all this fallout are serious questions about Media Matters’ ability to maintain its tax-exempt charitable status with the IRS, with the White House and senior Democrats aligning themselves closely with the organization.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has even promised his voice — regardless of the consequences of political ties for Media Matters’ favored tax status — in helping to promote the organization’s latest anti-Fox News book, “The Fox Effect.”

That tax status, TheDC learned, began  to face scrutiny from Republican members of Congress in mid-February.

Through all this, Media Matters has been extraordinarily quiet, publicly answering only a single question regarding a 2009 Media Matters internal memo suggesting the group hire private investigators “to look into the personal lives” of Fox News employees.

“I could not care if a Fox News person was cheating on their wife. That doesn’t matter,” Media Matters’ Executive Vice President Ari Rabin-Havt replied to TheDC  during a book event. “We don’t dig into people’s personal lives, no.”

Beyond that claim, Rabin-Havt dismissed a Daily Caller reporter as a “troll.”

“I generally make a policy not to respond to trolls, basically,” he said. “I’m not going to respond to an article that’s basically filled up with just crap. There’s no point getting into a match back and forth with The Daily Caller, and that’s why we chose not to respond.”

Neither Brock nor his group’s spokeswoman, Jess Levin, has returned a single request for comment from TheDC.

Additionally, Brock has avoided nearly all national media outlets while promoting his book, “The Fox Effect,” giving him ample cover from facing tough questions.

The lone exception came late Tuesday night in the form of an op-ed appearing prominently on the home page of the news website Politico.

In an opinion column, Brock went back on the offensive against conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh, complaining about his treatment of a Georgetown Law School student and contraception activist on Feb. 29. Limbaugh referred to Sandra Fluke as a “slut” on his show that day, and later apologized for his choice of words.

Brock’s Politico op-ed came 20 days later — and long after countless other liberal commentators had tired of attacking Limbaugh and his advertisers — in what amounted to a safe toe in the water that gave Media Matters a higher profile without addressing the widespread charges against it.

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