On her MSNBC show last night, the left-wing Air America host Rachel Maddow took a swipe at the conservative Shirley & Banister Public Affairs firm, specifically President and CEO Craig Shirley. Maddow accused Shirley of being behind a grassroots Web site funded by the group Grassfire.org, based on a research provided by the “independent watchdog group Public Citizen,” and she showed still images from an incendiary “Obama=Hitler” video that’s posted on the Grassfire’s ResistNet.com Web site.
But Maddow was wrong. The Public Citizen web page she cited is several years old. Shirley & Banister hasn’t represented Grassfire.org since 2004. And Diana Banister, a partner and Vice President at Shirley & Banister, told NewsBusters that Maddow’s false report has led to hate mail and even death threats to the public relations firm. (Let’s see if the left-wing thuggery gets any attention from the MSM.)
Craig Shirley and Diana Banister are demanding a retraction and apology from Maddow. They have sent a letter to Maddow that reads, in part:
Shirley & Banister Public Affairs has had no affiliation with grassfire.org or any of its affiliates since 2004. We DO NOT represent them in any way.
Your apparent source for this information is Public Citizen, a left-wing website, not a "watchdog" group. One phone call from a producer or researcher to our office would have set the record straight. However, your lack of research and your statements prove you are not interested in facts.
If a retraction is not forthcoming today we will pursue legal action against you, MSNBC, NBC Universal and General Electric.
The false report originated in a story by Adele M. Stan on the far-left Alternet Web site. Stan cited the Nader-ite Public Citizen page as his evidence of a link between Grassfire.org and Shirley & Banister. The left-wing Salon.com picked up the story on Wednesday, and Maddow repeated it as her own (citing only Public Citizen as evidence).
Maddow reminded her audience that Shirley helped create the 1988 “Willie Horton” ad, which liberals have been waving around like a bloody shirt for more than 20 years:
According to independent watchdog group Public Citizen, Grassfire.org is represented by the Washington, D.C.-based P.R. firm Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. The “Shirley” in Shirley & Banister Public Affairs is a man named Craig Shirley. Craig Shirley is a very long-time Republican PR operative whose resume includes the famous race-baiting Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential campaign....The Willie Horton ad-making Republican PR activist guy is the same guy that reps the anti-health care reform “Obama = Hitler” Web site.
As for the video Maddow found on Grassfire’s “ResistNet.com” Web site, it had a grand total of 114 views as of Friday afternoon, even after the promotion by Maddow on TV Thursday night. It’s obviously content posted by a user, not some corporate message from ResistNet’s masters. If you go to their home page and click on “All Videos,” you get 20 per page on 184 pages, which suggests more than 3,600 videos, so the Left has done some serious cherry-picking here. There’s also a disclaimer in big red letters: The Views of the Bloggers do not necessarily represent ResistNet.com’s views.
They certainly don’t represent the views of a publicist who hasn’t worked with Grassfire.org for five years.
And, before the Left gets it wrong, Shirley & Banister Public Affairs does not represent the Media Research Center, but did represent Crown Publishing in promotional efforts for MRC President Brent Bozell's last two books. And they did a good job.
Here’s the relevant excerpt of Maddow’s fact-challenged and incredibly convoluted rant, from her August 13 MSNBC show:
RACHEL MADDOW: One of the places where scary information is coming from, one of the places where town hall protests are being promoted and town hall protesters are getting their marching orders before they go, is a place called ResistNet.com. If you surf over to ResistNet.com, you will see that they bill themselves as, quote, "The online community for patriotic citizens who are opposing the Obama-led socialist agenda." Right there on the front page, right at the top is the message, "WE NEED YOUR HELP," all caps, "August Recess Health Care Blitz."
So, what sort of information is available at ResistNet.com for people who might want to “blitz” something in the August recess? Well, there's this video which is titled “Obama equals Hitler,” the contents of which you can probably figure out based on the not-at-all ambiguous name and these nice shots.
You want to know specifically about what they say about health care? Well, there's this helpful post, quote, “Waiting lines will be long. Others will die. Why is this being done? Back door reparations. I pray that God will strike Obama dead and all who stand with him, they are evil.”
So who runs ResistNet.com? Well, if you scroll way down to the bottom of this Web site, you will see that it is run by something called Grassfire.org. In fact, on their "about us" page, you will find that Grassfire is funding ResistNet as part of, quote, "our overall patriotic resistance efforts"-which is an awfully nice thing for Grassfire.org to do, I mean, to completely fund this Web site that's calling President Obama "Hitler" and organizing against health care reform and posting death threats against the president. I mean, you know, kind of makes me want to know more about Grassfire.org.
Well, according to independent watchdog group Public Citizen, Grassfire.org is represented by the Washington, D.C.-based P.R. firm Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. The “Shirley” in Shirley & Banister Public Affairs is a man named Craig Shirley. Craig Shirley is a very long-time Republican PR operative whose resume includes the famous race-baiting Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential campaign.
So, the next time you hear Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele say something like this.
CLIP OF MICHAEL STEELE ON FOX NEWS: And anyone out there who says that the Republican Party or state parties or Republican activists are out there doing that are flat-out lying. They are wrong.
MADDOW: Flat-out lying, they are wrong. Actually, they are not wrong. The Willie Horton ad-making Republican PR activist guy is the same guy that reps the anti-health care reform Obama equals Hitler Web site. No wonder people are afraid.
Maddow’s MSNBC page promises her show is a “smart look at politics and the day’s top stories. It’s mind over chatter!” So much for “smart” -- more like “lazy and hateful.”
A programming note for masochists: the accuracy-impaired Ms. Maddow will be one of the panelists on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.