Friday, September 16, 2011

San Diego’s Fox News

Cross posted from Two Cathedrals

On Wednesday, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council called on KUSI to acknowledge their broadcast of the station-sponsored special report, “Pension Reform: The Fight to Get it on the Ballot,” as a campaign contribution. The Labor Council’s claim is based on the fact that the “special report” was explicitly produced for the purpose of advocating for qualification of a ballot measure. For anyone who watched the hour and a half long CPR commercial (and I did), it would be impossible to draw any other conclusion.

Regardless, last night, KUSI threw moon-sized softball questions to Mayor Sanders, San Diego City Councilmen Carl DeMaio and Kevin Faulconer, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, San Diego County Taxpayers Association chief Lani Lutar, and failed San Diego City Council candidate April Boling. KUSI also carried water for the Comprehensive Pension Reform campaign by pointing out the specific locations of signature-gathering sites.

That KUSI acts as a mouthpiece for the SDGOP and Republican politicians and candidates across the region is no earth-shattering conclusion. No pearls shall be clutched. Appearances by Republican elected officials on the morning and evening news are almost a daily occurrence. And then there’s John Coleman. The daily right-leaning bias would be nothing but funny if folks didn’t accidentally arrive at their evening broadcast, if only because it airs before TMZ on TV.

If the pension reform infomercial meets the legal definition of a campaign contribution is a matter better left to the lawyers, but KUSI’s role as the free advertising network and media attack dog for the Republican Party is as brazen as it is unethical.

Over the last year, we’ve seen KUSI pride itself on its hard-hitting investigations into the personal lives and relationships of appointed public servants and city employees who share nothing but similar space within the crosshairs of Tony Krvaric.

So with the aid of a private investigator named Google, we decided to find out a little bit more about KUSI. What you’re about to read may shock you, but likely not.

KUSI is owned and operated by Channel 51 of San Diego, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of McKinnon Broadcasting. McKinnon Broadcasting is owned by the McKinnon family, which is made up of Dan, Michael, Clinton, and Michael Jr. The McKinnon’s aren’t passive, disengaged owners of the station. Michael McKinnon currently serves as Station Manager.

The McKinnon family, including their spouses, has donated over $150,000 to Republican candidates and committees, over half of which into the pockets of San Diego congressmen and the SDGOP. Here is a breakdown of the most popular recipients of KUSI family money.

  • 24 donations totaling $17,020 to disgraced, pay-for-play Republican former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham.
  • $18,650 to Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray, who makes regular visits to KUSI when he returns from Washington, DC.
  • $21,000 in contribution to now-retired Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter ($26,000 if you count a $5,000 contribution to Hunter’s “Peace Through Strength” PAC) and an additional $11,450 to his son, current Congressman Duncan D. Hunter. Hunter Sr. was also a frequent guest on KUSI.
  • $8300 has been contributed to the San Diego County Republican Central Committee under the tenure of Tony Krvaric.
  • $52,500 in contributions to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Clearly, supporting Republicans candidates and policies isn’t just an editorial priority of KUSI as a television station, it is a long-term financing project of its owners and its station manager. More accurately, the telethon was an example of KUSIs increasing level of comfort in blurring the lines between journalism and advocacy on behalf of its owner’s long-standing political agenda.

The station, more than ever, exists as part of a larger funding strategy to defeat Democrats and impose conservative ideology on San Diegans and that is the reason that Democratic politicians and left-leaning organizations are hesitant about appearing on KUSI.

The option presented to liberals is often to appear pre-taped and subject to editorialized bookends from the stations anchors, as was the option presented to Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Lorena Gonzalez for the pension telethon. Gonzalez offered to do it live, but that would have ruined the KUSI’s pre-determined script. KUSI declined.

Here is case in point from last nights program.

Congressman Bob Filner appeared in a pre-recorded interview and fielded these questions:

“Obviously the unions are vehemently opposed to this ballot measure that Carl DeMaio is pushing, why not let the voters decided? Isn’t that the way Democracy works?”

“Why are they (the unions) so afraid of this (television) program? And why will they not come out and say why they’re afraid of the ballot measure itself?”

“The DeMaio plan… proposes to save $1.2 billion by 2040, will your plan do that?”

These were the only questions. The first two questions raised the issue of unions and even alleged that the Filner pension plan and Filner’s candidacy were union-sanctioned. The last question effectively grants a claim about potential savings made by DeMaio and the CPR campaign, even though that claim has been described as false and misleading. Immediately after the interview, the two anchors took shots at the Congressman’s pension plan before kicking it to DeMaio, then Lutar, then Boling, etc, for additional spin and counterpoints.

KUSI is a fix, a set-up, an argument where the only thing written is the conclusion. It’s a game that Democrats are not intended to win. It’s not journalism. The idea that the pension telethon was either an isolated incident or a mere overextension of an existing ideological preference at the station tragically shorts the McKinnon family’s long history of conservative political action and financial support. It’s time that we start calling KUSI what it is, San Diego’s Fox News.

- By Jason Everitt

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