On Monday, neurosurgeon and Tea Party favorite Ben Carson officially threw his hat into the 2016 presidential race and after his announcement, Conan O’Brien mercilessly attacked his conservative ideology on his late night TBS program. Conan smeared Carson as “an African American and also a member of the Tea Party. Yeah. Making him the only African American who wants to go back to the way things were 200 years ago.”  

On December 18, in covering the aftermath of the official report on the terrorist raid on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya which killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the Associated Press reported in the first three paragraphs of its coverage that "Three State Department officials resigned under pressure," identifying those who had stepped down as "Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and Raymond Maxwell, the deputy assistant secretary of state who oversees the Maghreb nations of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco."

It wasn't until the fourth paragraph that readers who got that far -- clearly a tiny percentage compared to those who saw the headline ("State Department security chief, 2 deputies, resign after damning Benghazi attack report") or only heard headline-based reports on broadcast outlets -- learned that "Some of the three may have the option of being reassigned to other duties." In other words, they might not be losing their jobs or even receive cuts in pay. At the New York Post this morning, Josh Margolin is reporting that the three identified by the AP plus one other person aren't being meaningfully punished in any sense:

CBS anchor Gayle King, an admitted friend of Michelle Obama and a donor to Mr. Obama's reelection campaign, trumpeted the President's record during an interview with Nicholas Ballasy of The Daily Caller on Saturday: "President Obama has done everything that he said he was going to do, and I think people keep forgetting that....if you ask me, I think President Obama is doing a very good job."

Ballasy, an alumnus of the MRC's CNSNews.com, caught up with King after the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. The CBS This Morning anchor listed several areas where the chief executive apparently kept his promises: "He talked about health care. He talked about Osama bin Laden. He talked about 'don't ask, don't tell.' He's done everything that he said he was doing to do." Of course, the President also promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center for terror suspects during the 2008 campaign, but broke that pledge in 2011.

Debating the fallout of the Obama administration's attempt to squelch Arizona's popular immigration law before it goes into effect later this month, CNN's Campbell Brown on July 6 challenged a chief advocate of the law with a multi-pronged assault, only to see her attacks thwarted and her "misinformation" corrected.

In a blatant contradiction, Brown dismissed State Senator Russell Pearce's (R-Ariz.) "anecdote" about ranchers who are under siege because of the federal government's failure to secure the porous border, but highlighted anecdotal evidence of opposition to the new law.

"Well, I want to stay away from the anecdotal and stick with the figures as much as we can here," instructed Brown when confronted with evidence of the Obama administration's inability to stem the tide of illegal immigration.

Later in the interview, Brown peddled the minority opinion among law enforcement groups to rebuke Pearce's assertion that courts have upheld the right of states to enforce federal law:

After getting caught with their pants down on letter-to-the-editor pages, newspapers around the country apparently haven't embarrassed themselves enough yet.

Instead of admitting Ellie Light's submission should never have gotten published, editors have recently tried to save face by using remarkable spin: opinion pages are a "privilege" that people should be thankful for, even if they are full of partisan talking points.

On Tuesday, talk radio host Michael Smerconish expressed legitimate concern about astroturf showing up in hometown papers under false pretenses - a personal concern of his since he also writes columns for the Philadelphia Daily News.

The next morning, the News lashed out with some venom:

Managing Editor's Note: The following was originally published at Greyhawk's Mudville Gazette blog on January 25, 2010.

Wow - growing evidence that multiple identical letters appearing in multiple different newspapers under multiple names implies some sort of astroturf campaign. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, at this development.

The story of "Ellie Light" was exposed in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and Politico, but from there it has really taken off in the blogosphere and Facebook - with the numbers of "Ellie Light" sightings now above 60, and new examples of similar campaigns being identified fast and furiously.

Just wait 'til the even bigger news sites discover this story. I don't have to wonder what will happen - I know - and whoever launched these various letter-writing campaigns should be well aware of what's coming, too. After all, it's happened before, and not long ago... (screen wavers, fades out... and...)


As Austin Powers would say, "it's a man, baby!"

A male health care worker from California outed himself to the Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday as "Ellie Light," the pro-Obama letter writer who duped nearly 70 newspapers into publishing his letters.

The Plain Dealer's Stephen Koff has the story:

A man who identified himself as Winston Steward, 51, of Frazier Park, Calif., says he made up the name "Ellie Light" to protect himself from criticism and possible physical attacks, and used fake addresses across the country to get local newspapers to publish his letters.

"I am Winston Steward and have been sending the letters from Ellie Light," he told The Plain Dealer in an e-mail late Tuesday, following a phone interview in which he said the same. "I hope this ends any confusion and sets the record straight."

Three days ago, NewsBusters contributor Candance Moore wrote about pro-Obama letter-to-the-editor spammer "Ellie Light" who had duped some 40+ papers (the number stands at 68 now), into publishing nearly identical letters that praised the president. In each case, the writer claimed to hail from cities or towns served by the local newspaper's print circulation.

Today, Fox News Channel's "America's Newsroom" had Media Research Center President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell on for comment. 

Write-the-editor campaigns are a classic tactic of political campaigning, Bozell noted, saying he couldn't blame pro-Obama organizers for attempting it. The real problem is with sloppy newspapers that failed to verify the authenticity of the letter writer's identity and residence (audio available here). Said Bozell:

In January, an anonymous person supposedly named "Ellie Light" launched a massive PR campaign on behalf of President Barack Obama.

The goal appears to have been to infiltrate as many newspapers as possible to spread pro-Obama propaganda -- as if the press needed the help.

Light's plan was simple enough: write a compelling letter to the editor, pretend to be a concerned reader in the region, and persuade the paper to print her liberal blather.

For three weeks, editors of mainstream newspapers big and small allowed Light to spread Democrat talking points under the guise of small-town grassroots without anyone bothering to double check her story.

The content of her letter was also quite simple: