Accuracy in Media
Accuracy in Media (AIM) is an ultraconservative media watchdog group that refers to itself as a “grassroots citizens watchdog of the news media that … sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage” because “most journalism school graduates have not been properly educated about the importance of telling the truth…” AIM “publishes a twice-monthly newsletter, broadcasts a daily radio commentary, promotes a speaker’s bureau and syndicates a weekly newspaper column … [AIM] also attend[s] the shareholders’ meetings of large media organizations and encourage[s] our members to bombard newsrooms.”
Once a relatively influential force that convinced major news outlets to issue corrections and screened its films at the White House, AIM now operates as a shell of its former self, relegated to the extreme margins of the conservative activist landscape. A steady stream of articles such as “Grand Theft Obama,” “The Point of Impeachment,” and “Amnesty and Impeachment” seek to influence the conservative agenda, but get little play outside the far-right echo chamber. Even these articles are a step back from AIM’s more infamous exploits in the 1990s when it furiously advanced a pair of conspiracy theories against President Clinton. The first claimed that the Clintons played a role in the death of White House staffer Vincent Foster death and the second argued that the explosion of TWA Flight 800, ruled an accident, was caused by an Iranian missile, which President Clinton supposedly covered up to win re-election.
The group was founded in 1969 by Reed Irvine, an economist at the Federal Reserve, who was dismayed by media coverage of the Vietnam War that he perceived as hostile and anti-American. Perhaps due to Irvine’s prominent position in the conservative establishment, AIM achieved early success: “In 1972, ABC issued five corrections to a documentary about the arms race after Irvine’s steady and pointed complaints. The following year, AIM and its leaders were featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.” The New York Times later concluded that AIM “paved the way for the tide of conservative talk shows, Web sites, and news programming that would follow decades later.” Former Columbia Journalism Review executive editor Michael Hoyt credited Irvine as the “pioneer of the liberal bias argument.” Irvine’s son, Don, now heads the organization.
The group’s heyday in terms of impact and legitimacy was during Reagan administration, when it regularly defended the president’s policies and sought to discredit reports that portrayed the administration in a negative light. For instance, AIM reacted harshly to New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner’s reporting of a massacre of several hundred civilians committed by the Reagan-backed El Salvadorian government. Saying that Bonner was “worth a division to the communists in Central America,” Irvine succeeded in pressuring the Times to pull Bonner from his assignment. (Bonner’s reporting was later validated; the El Salvadorian government apologized for the slaughter of “more than 1,000 people… nearly half of them children…”)
In 1985, Reed Irvine founded a sister organization, Accuracy in Academia, which “focuses on the use of classroom and/or university resources to indoctrinate students; discrimination against students, faculty, or administrators based on political or academic beliefs; and campus violations of free speech.” AIA sponsors “Conservative U” which is a collection of free online courses “promoting conservative principles.” The trailer for the first course, “Sex, Lies, & Women’s Studies” features an instructor saying, apparently with no sense of irony, “Scholarship is compromised when it serves a preconceived point of view and political agenda.” AIA faced significant early controversy when it was revealed that the organization had students at over 100 colleges “monitor ‘inaccuracy’ and ‘liberal bias’” in the classroom. The American Association of University Professors denounced AIA as a “threat to academic freedom.”
AIM operates the American Journalism Center, “an internship training program for aspiring conservative student journalists.” Additional projects include a “Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi” which claims to report “the truth about Benghazi that even Republicans on the Hill won’t touch.”
Additionally, in 2010, Accuracy in Media launched the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, headed by Cliff Kincaid. Kincaid is notable for his homophobia, including an AIM column claiming that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would turn “our once-feared military into a global laughingstock” and “thousands of straight and healthy soldiers will probably leave in disgust and dismay” while “male homosexuals already there and in command positions… will demand sexual favors to rise in the ranks.” AIM has also defended a Ugandan law that criminalized homosexuality, and claimed critics of the law were behind a “determined effort to prevent the media from reporting a natural reaction of revulsion to this kind of perversion.” The Southern Poverty Law Center refers to Kincaid as “one of the American far right’s most energetic and obsessive propagandists.”