Conspiracy to Commit Journalism: The Media’s Attacks on the Scaife Foundations

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Executive Summary

When Hillary Rodham Clinton urged the media to investigate the "vast right-wing conspiracy" against her husband, the donations of Richard M. Scaife became the subject of unusual media scrutiny. Scaife drew controversy not by funding conservative policy analysis, but by funding investigative journalism which reflected badly on the President. Investigative journalism on the the President was considered an essential civic duty in the Reagan years. Current reporting suggests it’s just the opposite. Is there a double standard? A Media Research Center analysis by Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham reviewed TV news coverage of the Scaife controversy and then focused on what reporters didn’t ask:

  1. How can this be a conspiracy? The Scaife foundations’ donations are hardly secret, with their IRS forms posted on the Internet. In the many stories connecting Scaife to The American Spectator magazine, few noticed Scaife is no longer funding the magazine over policy differences.

  2. Who are the real powerhouses in public policy giving? Several large liberal foundations give hundreds of millions of dollars more to public policy groups than the Scaife foundations do, yet only Scaife’s comparatively smaller donations seem newsworthy.

  3. Where was the vast left-wing media conspiracy in the Reagan years? While the networks focused on journalistic conspiracies against Clinton, liberal groups who drove media coverage of terrible-sounding Reagan-Bush conspiracies were not lumped into a "vast left-wing conspiracy" by national media outlets. 

  4. If foundation money and journalism are a toxic mix, how do media outlets explain their own foundation receipts? Millions of liberal foundation dollars are currently being spent in the news rooms of "objective" national media outlets for projects including support for Clinton policy initiatives and attacks against press coverage of Clinton. Where is the media coverage of these practices.