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Politico’s Mike Allen slammed as Cheney ‘stenographer’

By Sahil Kapur
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 14:53 EDT
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WASHINGTON — Journalists are attacking Politico and reporter Mike Allen after an article Wednesday featuring former Vice President Dick Cheney accusing President Obama of insufficiently responding to the failed Christmas terror attempt.

A number of writers and bloggers say Politico failed to perform the fact-checking role expected of reporters, pointing to questionable assertions from Cheney that went unchecked in Allen’s story.

The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan labeled Allen “Cheney’s Chief Spokesman” and quipped that Cheney should “be paying him.”

“There he goes again,” Sullivan said of Allen, “the mouthpiece for Rove and Cheney, believing his ‘access’ as a stenographer makes him a journalist. It doesn’t. It makes him a stenographer.”

“Allen gussies up his source’s bile with a few fig leaf sentences and a gesture from a Democratic rebuttal,” Sullivan added.

Cheney’s scathing critiques of Obama have been a regular feature in Politico’s reporting in 2009. Allen and his colleagues have won several exclusive interviews with Cheney this year, and their ensuing reports tend to achieve significant media coverage.

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, who has long argued that Politico is too deferential to conservatives, accused Allen of “[f]aithfully serving as Cheney’s press secretary” on his Twitter feed Wednesday.

“Dick Cheney uses Politico like Sarah Palin uses Facebook: a venue to spout false statements to the press without being challenged,” Greenwald wrote, alleging that the article fails to scrutinize Cheney’s claims or apply them fairly based on the Bush administration’s actions.

Washington Independent’s Dave Weigel questioned the relationship between Cheney and Politico in a post arguing the former Vice President’s attack on Obama “doesn’t really make any sense.”

“One of the problems with Politico’s connection to former Vice President Dick Cheney is that the paper seems to get quotes from the former vice president without the opportunity to ask follow-up questions,” Weigel wrote.

Conservative watchdog Media Matters blasted Politico for failing to vet Cheney’s own possible culpability in his charges against Obama.

“[T]wo of the four people who allegedly plotted that attack were released from U.W. custody in 2007, while Dick Cheney was Vice President,” wrote Media Matters’ Jamison Foser.

“So to sum up: Dick Cheney sends Mike Allen a press release, which Mike Allen then copies-and-pastes it into a ‘news article’ without mentioning key facts that would undermine Cheney’s press release,” Foser continued. “Aren’t you glad Politico got a spot on the Pulitzer committee?”

Politico really is just a GOP bulletin board,” Foser posited.

Following Politico’s previous interview piece with Dick Cheney just weeks ago on December 1, Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen accused Allen and his organization of “stenography.”

“There’s no real journalism to be found,” Benen wrote of the story. “No fact-checking, no pushback, no scrutiny. Just an uninterrupted string of predictable, misguided nonsense.”

“Cheney could have just written a blog post/screed, and had Politico publish it,” Benen added. “This would have saved Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei the trouble of adding quote marks to their stenography.”

While most of the writers attacking Allen and Politico appear to hold different viewpoints from Cheney on national security and a variety of other issues, their criticisms have more to do with the proper role of journalism than ideology.

Greenwald has dubbed Allen “the single most obedient, right-wing-power-worshipping reporter in Washington, a distinction for which there is a crowded and heated competition.” Last year, he called Politico a right-wing “cesspool.”

Still, Cheney has no shortage of political foes – he ended his term this year with a measly approval rating of 13 percent, according to CBS News. Weeks before exiting his post, a combined 64 percent said he was the worst vice president in US history or performed poorly, CNN reported.

Update: Echoing her colleague Glenn Greenwald’s remarks, Salon‘s editor-in-chief Joan Walsh has joined the chorus of writers attacking Politico for failing to vet Cheney’s claims.

“I think [Cheney] needs to get Sarah Palin to show him how to use Facebook — then he wouldn’t have to go to Politico and use it as his personal billboard so that he gets his point across, and he gets his lies across,” Walsh said Wednesday on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.

FireDogLake‘s Spencer Ackerman made a racy joke on Wednesday about Allen and Cheney’s relationship while previewing a guest post by Adam Serwer. “One wonders if Cheney insists on being called Mr. Wipe-Me-Down during those, um, sessions with Mike Allen,” Ackerman wrote.

“Reading the Politico piece,” Serwer added, “you’d think Cheney was just like a security analyst at a think tank or something, not a culpable figure in the very act he’s criticizing.”

Update II: Andrew Sullivan noted on Friday that Mike Allen’s Wikipedia entry briefly designated him a “stenographer.” Sullivan quipped that “[s]omeone snuck in and wrote the truth.”

The opening line read: “Michael Allen (1964-) is a stenographer for the political establishment in Washington, D.C.”

“If there’s any justice in the world, this will never be changed,” remarked Glenn Greenwald on Twitter.

It has been changed back and now reads, “Michael Allen (1964-) is the chief political writer for The Politico.” The page has been temporarily locked.

 
 
 
 
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