In one of the most cynical displays in recent memory, following the lead of Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft, several conservative websites - including Fox Nation and MRC arm CNS News - suggested that President Obama lied last night when he said that Rep. Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time shortly after his Wednesday night visit to the hospital.
In a recently-completed press conference, Giffords' doctor Peter Rhee explained that what Obama said last night about Giffords opening her eyes was "true."
In response to a question from a reporter about previous statements that Giffords could open her eyes, Rhee and Dr. B Michael Lemole, Section Chief of Neurosurgery at University Medical Center in Tuscon, explained the important distinction. Namely, Giffords previously opened her eyes in response to "stimulus," and yesterday she opened them spontaneously, which represented a "major milestone" in her recovery.
Watch the full press conference:
While it's depressing to have to parse this -- rather than simply be happy about the good news -- such is the state of the conservative media, where absolutely everything Obama says is fodder for their attacks. Instead of chalking up any potential discrepancy between what Obama said and previous statements by doctors to the complex nature of medicine, conservatives went ahead and accused the president of lying. It's as despicable as it is predictable.
Expect Jim Hoft to accuse Giffords' doctors of being in on the conspiracy shortly.
Giffords' doctors explained today that what Obama said was "true" and that while Giffords had previously opened her eyes in response to stimulus, yesterday she opened them spontaneously, which represented a "major milestone" in her recovery.
Last night during his speech in Arizona, President Obama revealed that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords "opened her eyes for the first time" shortly after Obama's visit to her hospital room, in the presence of Giffords' husband, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and other friends. The Arizona Republic, which described Obama's speech as a "a stirring tribute to the fallen and the living," labeled the revelation that Giffords had opened her eyes "the most emotional moment" during Obama's address.
But Gateway Pundit and Breitbart blogger Jim Hoft had a different take.
This morning, showing his steadfast commitment to smearing the president based on flimsy or manufactured "evidence," Hoft announced that it "Looks Like Obama Fibbed About Giffords 'Opening Her Eyes for the First Time" in his speech last night. Hoft wrote that it was a "very emotional moment" but "unfortunately it was not true." His evidence?
A blog post by a website called The Sonoran Chronicle -- which even Hoft acknowledged had since been taken down (he's linking to the Google cache) -- that reported that at a press conference on Sunday, Giffords' doctor Peter Rhee said that she can open her eyes. Unfortunately for Hoft, this is a complete misquote of what Rhee actually said in his press conference (emphasis added):
QUESTION: Has she -- you said it has been simple commands. Has she verbalized at all? And we were also told that there was a reviewing of sorts with her husband last night? And she did recognize him. Can you talk about that?
RHEE: No, we can't get into too much more detail than what we already have. But I can tell you right now with the type of surgery, her eyes, she can't open her eyes at this point, mechanical standpoints, and she's also on the ventilator, so she can't speak at this time.
Now, perhaps it should have given Hoft pause that the website he is sourcing has since pulled down the post. It also might have occurred to anyone with an iota of journalistic responsibility to go back and check the transcript of Rhee's press conference, or look for a single other media outlet reporting this information other than a blog that has since deleted their post.
But Jim Hoft doesn't care about accuracy. He has shown, time and again, that he is far more committed to smearing liberals and Democrats than he is in conveying accurate information to his readers. He's the worst kind of partisan hack.
Earlier this week, Hoft embarrassed himself by falling for an obviously fake Facebook profile for Jared Loughner in order to claim he was a "typical leftist nut" that "idolized Obama." Hoft sourced this information to a random Examiner.com blog post, whose only source was a commenter on the fringe message board Free Republic. (He later pulled the post from his website and lamented that the "Soros-funded" Media Matters took screenshots.)
How many times does Hoft have to do something like this before he is no longer treated as a reliable source of information in the conservative blogosphere? We're still counting.
PS: Before you pull your post, Jim, I took screenshots again.
Birther Central WorldNetDaily is home to several of the most unhinged writers in online conservative media. As just one example, columnist Erik Rush has been peddling his nonsensical brand of fearmongering for years. He has:
Being a WND writer, Rush is always quick to concoct outlandish conspiracy theories. As documented by Media Matters' Terry Krepel at his ConWebWatch blog, while the tragic events unfolded in Tucson on Saturday, Rush suggested that the shooting may have been "orchestrated" to justify tighter security for Congress:
Two things: "cynical" is not the right word to describe this thought.
And perhaps Fox News should think twice before they host someone like Rush in the future. Despite the fact that he has revealed himself to be completely untethered from reality, Rush has appeared as a guest on both Fox & Friends and Hannity (several times). While the network is apparently unperturbed by his anti-Obama screeds, Rush's suggestion that the government orchestrated Saturday's shootings should (hopefully) give them pause before they give him a platform in the future.
In the wake of Saturday's tragic shooting in Arizona, Gateway Pundit and Breitbart blogger Jim Hoft has been on a one man mission to prove that the deranged shooter was a "typical leftist nut." This morning, Hoft posted what he seems to think is bulletproof evidence supporting this thesis, but, as is usually the case with him, it is merely evidence that someone as hackishly irresponsible as Hoft should have no role in our national political discourse.
Hoft headlines his latest post "Whoops! This Changes Things- Loughner's Hero Was Barack Obama," then proceeds to breathlessly exclaim that "Killer Jared Loughner idolized Barack Obama."
He sources this scoop to "The Examiner" "via Free Republic" and links to a blog post by Anthony Martin at Examiner.com. In the portion of his post excerpted by Hoft, Martin writes:
Even more curious are Loughner's 'heroes.' He mentions by name Venezuelan Communist Hugo Chavez, Latin American Communist mass-murderer Che Guevara, American Socialist revolutionary Saul Alinsky, and even Barack Obama.
The link takes you to the Free Republic message board, where a commenter by the name of "Scanian" writes:
From facebook for a Jared Laughner from Tuscon, Arizona, the man named as the shooter. People who inspire him include Barack Obama, Saul Alinsky, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Huo Chavez, Noam Chomsky, Mao Tse-tung, Joseph Stalin, and Yassir Arafat. He writes "Fight the Right! Obama and the Progressives will overcome the tyrrany of big business and the racist Tea Party.
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!
You'll notice a glaring problem with this assertion: namely, that the shooter's name was Jared LOughner, not "Laughner." (The spelling of his name was originally misreported by several media outlets.)
On Saturday, several people created fake profiles for the shooter, including this one, captured by Voices of Central Pennsylvania, a monthly community newspaper. Voices wrote that the Facebook page for "Jared Laughner" - since taken down - lists "People Who Inspire Jared" as including Obama and added: "With images of President Obama, various noted intellectuals and leftists, a statement indicating homosexuality preferences, and anti Tea Party and revolutionary slogans, it seems possible that it was a deliberate attempt to distribute disinformation."
That Hoft would reprint the outrageous assertion that Loughner idolized Obama - based on a random commenter on a fringe message board that provided no evidence for his assertion - says a lot about his complete lack of journalistic integrity. It's also completely in character for him.
Over the next three days, we'll be counting down the Most Embarrassing Failures of the Year by Conservative Websites.
As will become apparent, conservative sites regularly get themselves into trouble by having editorial standards that consist entirely of: "Does this story reflect poorly on Obama and/or liberals? Print it!"
For many prominent conservative online outlets, anything seen as reaffirming a conservative narrative is worth printing -- fact-checking is, at best, a minor annoyance to be handled after publication, if at all. This is the very definition of political hackery, yet many of these same conservative websites like to spend much of their time lecturing the "lamestream media" on how they are supposed to do their jobs.
No matter how many times conservative websites embarrass themselves by running completely false stories, they just can't help themselves.
This morning, Media Matters exposed a directive sent by Fox News Washington Managing editor Bill Sammon to the network's journalists questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering them to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question." Sammon added that "It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies."
Sammon's email was sent during crucial global climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, and came amid the network's relentless promotion of the manufactured "Climategate" scandal.
It's important to point out that what Sammon calls "notions" about climate change are anything but -- as far as the science is concerned, the fact that the planet is currently warming is well-established. As the National Climatic Data Center explains, the warming trend "is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change" and "is also confirmed by other independent observations."
In contrast to Sammon, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch has stated unequivocally that "climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats," and that "we certainly can't afford the risk of inaction."
In 2007, Murdoch announced an initiative to make News Corp. carbon neutral in the hopes that it would inspire their audience to also reduce their carbon footprint. In his words, "we can do something that's unique, different from just any other company. We can set an example, and we can reach our audiences. Our audience's carbon footprint is 10,000 times bigger than ours... That's the carbon footprint we want to conquer."
Murdoch is right. The carbon footprint of News Corp.'s audience is "10,000 times bigger than" the company's, which is why the benefits of his company's attempt to become carbon neutral pale in comparison to the damage done by the network's ongoing war on climate science.
For his part, Murdoch has repeatedly stressed the division between Fox's "news" and "opinion" programs in order to defend the network from criticism. But Sammon is firmly in the supposed "news" camp, and is using his position to order the network to poison the well of public opinion on an issue Murdoch thinks -- and the world's climate scientists agree -- poses "clear, catastrophic threats."
As CEO of News Corp., Murdoch can either profess to care about them setting an "example" for their audience on climate change, or he can employ a Washington managing editor that directs his staff to push phony stories to cast doubt on the science behind it.
He can't do both.
In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering the network's journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."
The directive, sent by Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, was issued less than 15 minutes after Fox correspondent Wendell Goler accurately reported on-air that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record."
This latest revelation comes after Media Matters uncovered an email sent by Sammon to Fox journalists at the peak of the health care reform debate, ordering them to avoid using the term "public option" and instead use variations of "government option." That email echoed advice from a prominent Republican pollster on how to help turn public opinion against health care reform.
Sources familiar with the situation in Fox's Washington bureau have expressed concern about Sammon using his position to "slant" Fox's supposedly neutral news coverage to the right.
Sammon's orders for Fox journalists to cast doubt on climate science came amid the network's relentless promotion of the fabricated "Climategate" scandal, which revolved around misrepresentations of emails sent to and from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit.
At the time of Sammon's directive, it was clear the "scandal" did not undermine the scientific basis for global warming and that the emails were being grossly distorted by conservative media and politicians. Scientists, independent fact-checkers, and several investigations have since confirmed that the CRU emails do not undermine the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet.
Contrary to Sammon's email, the increase in global temperatures over the last half-century is an established fact. As the National Climatic Data Center explains, the warming trend "is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change" and "is also confirmed by other independent observations."
* * *
On the December 8 edition of Happening Now, one of Fox News' daytime straight news shows, Fox White House correspondent Wendell Goler delivered a live report from Copenhagen and was asked by host Jon Scott about "U.N. scientists issuing a new report today saying this decade is on track to be the warmest on record."
Goler accurately reported that, indeed, 2000-2009 was "expected to turn out to be the warmest decade on record," following a "trend that has scientists concerned because 2000-2009 [was] warmer than the 1990s, which were warmer than the 1980s." Goler went on to explain that "ironically 2009 was a cooler than average year in the U.S. and Canada," which, he said, was "politically troubling because Americans are among the most skeptical about global warming."
When Scott brought up the "Climategate" emails, Goler explained that although people had raised questions about the CRU data, "the data also comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and from NASA. And scientists say the data of course across all three sources is pretty consistent." Watch:
Less than 15 minutes after the segment, Sammon sent the following email to the staffs of Special Report, Fox News Sunday, and FoxNews.com, as well as to other reporters, producers, and network executives, instructing them to "IMMEDIATELY" include objections of "critics" when reporting on climate data:
From: Sammon, Bill
To: 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 036 -FOX.WHU; 054 -FNSunday; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers; 069 -Politics; 005 -Washington
Cc: Clemente, Michael; Stack, John; Wallace, Jay; Smith, Sean
Sent: Tue Dec 08 12:49:51 2009
Subject: Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data...
...we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.
This morning, Media Matters released a leaked email sent by Fox News' Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon during the height of the health care reform debate instructing Fox's journalists not to use the phrase "public option." As we detailed, Sammon's directive echoed advice from a Republican pollster on how to turn public opinion against reform.
Responding to The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz about the leaked email, Sammon reportedly defended his directive, and also objected to being characterized as conservative:
Sammon said in the interview that he was a newspaper reporter for 25 years and his record demonstrates that he hasn't favored either side. "Have I said things where I take a conservative view? Give me specifics," he said.
Kurtz lists several examples from Sammon's appearances on Fox since he became managing editor:
In his Fox appearances since his promotion last year, Sammon has been notably unsympathetic to the Obama administration. "The mainstream media hates the Tea Party movement almost as much as it hates Sarah Palin," he said this year. "And the reason is simple. That's because both are a threat." Less than a month after the president took office, Sammon said of the stimulus bill: "I think this has turned into a public-relations disaster for Obama. People look at this thing and see, you know, some mouses being protected in Pelosi's district, some rail lines being built in Harry Reid's state... I think as we get deeper into the details of this bill, it's going to get uglier and uglier. So yes, Obama won, but he won ugly."
Sammon has also accused Obama of making decisions that "take America off its war footing... the opposite of what the Bush and Cheney folks did in the wake of 9/11." And during a discussion of Iraq last year, he said: "That's the difference between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives have the intellectual honesty like Bill Kristol here to support both surges, whereas a lot of Democrats reflexively opposed George Bush's surge because--it wasn't so much because they were antiwar. It's because they wanted to destroy the Bush presidency."
And evidence that Sammon pushes a conservative viewpoint goes back much farther.
As we documented earlier this year, Sammon wrote numerous fawning books about the Bush administration, most of which were published by the Regnery Company, which describes itself as "central to the conservative movement" and "the nation's preeminent conservative publisher."
Sammon's books didn't really try to hide his viewpoint, and in fact were identified by reviewers as "conservative polemic" that show his "admiration" of President Bush:
But you don't have to take our word for it about Sammon's conservative bona fides, just ask two of Fox News' most prominent on-air personalities.
In a June 2001 interview on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly introduced Sammon by saying: "Mr. Sammon obviously is a conservative and coming from that point of view." Sammon did not object to O'Reilly designation.
More recently, on the August 2009 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co's Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace told Sammon that "I think it's fair to say you tilt conservative in your views." Once again, Sammon did not reject Wallace's characterization.
Is that "specific" enough, Mr. Sammon?
At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News' controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network's journalists not to use the phrase "public option."
Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox's reporters should use "government option" and similar phrases -- wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts.
Journalists on the network's flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier, appear to have followed Sammon's directive in reporting on health care reform that evening.
Sources familiar with the situation in Fox's Washington bureau have told Media Matters that Sammon uses his position as managing editor to "slant" Fox's supposedly neutral news coverage to the right. Sammon's "government option" email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox's reporting to the right -- in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.
As far back as March 2009, Fox personalities had sporadically referred to the "government option."
Two months prior to Sammon's 2009 memo, Republican pollster Frank Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity's August 18 Fox News program. Luntz scolded Hannity for referring to the "public option" and encouraged Hannity to use "government option" instead.
Luntz argued that "if you call it a 'public option,' the American people are split," but that "if you call it the 'government option,' the public is overwhelmingly against it." Luntz explained that the program would be "sponsored by the government" and falsely claimed that it would also be "paid for by the government."
"You know what," Hannity replied, "it's a great point, and from now on, I'm going to call it the government option."
On October 26, 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the inclusion of a public insurance option that states could opt out of in the Senate's health care bill.
That night, Special Report used "public" and "government" interchangeably when describing the public option provision.
Anchor Bret Baier referred to "a so-called public option"; the "public option"; "government-provided insurance coverage"; "this government-run insurance option"; the "healthcare public option"; and "the government-run option, the public option." Correspondent Shannon Bream referred to "a government-run public option"; "a public option"; "a government-run option"; and "the public option."
The next morning, October 27, Sammon sent an email to the staffs of Special Report, Fox News Sunday, and FoxNews.com, as well as to other reporters and producers at the network. The subject line read: "friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the 'public option.' "
Sammon instructed staff to refer on air to "government-run health insurance," the "government option," "the public option, which is the government-run plan," or -- when "necessary" -- "the so-called public option":
From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the "public option"
1) Please use the term "government-run health insurance" or, when brevity is a concern, "government option," whenever possible.
2) When it is necessary to use the term "public option" (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation's lexicon), use the qualifier "so-called," as in "the so-called public option."
3) Here's another way to phrase it: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."
4) When newsmakers and sources use the term "public option" in our stories, there's not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.
Fox's senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, soon replied. He thanked Sammon for his email and said that he preferred Fox staffers use Sammon's third phrasing: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."
This morning on Fox & Friends, The Daily Caller's Tucker Carlson discussed the potential repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell with host Brian Kilmeade and former DNC finance chair Robert Zimmerman. When Zimmerman asked Carlson what his excuse was for "not moving" on a repeal of DADT, Carlson explained that he is not opposed to repeal, but views it as "totally a sideshow issue" and a "stupid issue." Carlson also mocked the idea that it was "central to American national security."
Zimmerman explained that the US has a "shortage of Arabic translators," and that many have been dismissed under DADT, prompting Carlson to say "spare me."
Kilmeade, confused as always, chimed in with the question "if we repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, we'll have more Arabic translators? Most of them are gay?"
"Most translators are gay," Carlson joked, "and flamboyantly so." Watch:
Contrary to the smug dismissiveness of Carlson and Kilmeade, dozens of Arabic linguists have reportedly been dismissed from the military under DADT, in addition to more than 13,500 other service members. So, to answer Kilmeade's question: Yes, if we repeal DADT, we will have more Arabic translators.
Based on his website's editorial standards, Carlson's treatment of the issue on Fox this morning isn't much of a surprise. Last week, The Daily Caller published an odious column from Joe Rehyansky that included the "sarcastic comment" (since removed) that the military should allow lesbians - but not gay men - to serve in the military in order to give "straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream."