Conservative media focused their Earth Day coverage on the crime and trial of environmental activist Ira Einhorn -- convicted of murdering his girlfriend -- while pushing the unsubstantiated smear that he founded the holiday. Sensationalizing Einhorn's murder conviction distracted from the holiday's purpose and the true founder of Earth Day -- former Wisconsin governor and United States senator Gaylord Nelson (D), a passionate environmental advocate who was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award for his work.
Celebrated on April 22, 1970, the original Earth Day marked the beginning of the environmental movement and, as CBS noted, came "at a time when pollution was rampant and regulation was not commonplace." The popular support Earth Day helped engender led to the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
The conservative smear machine used Earth Day 2013 to push articles claiming the holiday was established by Einhorn, an environmental activist who later became known as the "Unicorn Killer," after being found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Holly Maddux.
The Daily Caller headlined its Earth Day recognition piece, "Earth Day co-founder killed, 'composted' his ex-girlfriend." Buried in the Caller's last paragraph of the article was Earth Day's purpose and that "most activists credit Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson" as the holiday's progenitor. Michelle Malkin referred to Einhorn as an "Earth Day co-founder" in a column she re-published from 2001, labeling him "[a] grisly Earth Day reminder." And Limbaugh weighed in as well, acknowledging Earth Day by saying, "Ira Einhorn, co-founder, Earth Day, convicted murderer" was being "celebrated today by environmental wackos because this is Earth Day."
In the immediate wake of deadly explosions at the Boston marathon, Alex Jones and his website InfoWars.com have breathlessly preached conspiracy theories about the as-yet-unknown perpetrators of the attack, claiming the blast was set off or staged by the U.S. government in what Jones called a "false flag operation." The theorizing culminated in an InfoWars correspondent asking a visibly angry Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, "Is this another false flag staged attack to take our civil liberties and promote Homeland Security while sticking their hands down our pants on the streets?"
Two explosions detonated at the finish line of the Boston marathon on the afternoon of April 15, reportedly killing three people and injuring over a hundred. Law enforcement and the White House are currently investigating who may have been behind the attack, and President Obama promised that though "[w]e still do not know who did this or why ... [M]ake no mistake -- we will get to the bottom of this."
Jones used the tragedy to push his conspiracy theory that recent domestic attacks -- including the mass shootings in Newtown, CT and Aurora, CO -- are "false flag" attacks staged by the federal government. Jones tweeted his theory within minutes of the Boston Marathon explosions.
Jones then followed up on his tweet and expanded on his theories in a special webcast dedicated to the false flag conspiracy, claiming, "You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that's why I'm so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody's got to tell you the truth."
His theorizing culminated in an InfoWars correspondent, Dan Bidondi, questioning Gov. Patrick about the conspiracy directly.
In an effort to oppose federal drug sentencing reform, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly attacked a group of Hollywood celebrities by taking them out of context and ignoring the racial realities behind federal incarceration rates.
On the April 10 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly belittled musicians and movie actors Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey and others for penning a letter to the White House suggesting President Obama take further steps to alleviate inefficiencies and inequalities in the federal criminal justice system. O'Reilly cherry picked quotes from the letter to misrepresent their message and ignored any discussion of their actual recommendations. Instead, the Fox News host transitioned into a tirade of insults and out-of-context statistics in an attempt to distort the true picture of America's prison structure.
O'Reilly devoted much of the segment to disparaging guest Bob Beckel and to the semantic task of crafting his own definition of "violent crime" - a definition federal criminal law does not recognize. He completely ignored the celebrities' substantive recommendations for prison and sentencing reform and avoided a balanced discussion of federal penal policy.
Wahlberg and company pointed to racial inequalities in drug sentencing that persist despite the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (FSA). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agreed in November 2012 that more had to be done, writing that despite the passage of the FSA, "selling a small quantity of crack cocaine (28 grams) carries the same mandatory minimum sentence - five years - as selling 500 grams of powder cocaine." From a racial justice standpoint, this matters because crack cocaine is disproportionately found in African-American communities, while powder cocaine turns up more frequently in white communities. O'Reilly ignored the problem altogether.
Fox News used a dishonest graph to distort the Obama administration's record on border enforcement and claim that the border is less secure. Fox's chart painted a misleading picture of Southwest border apprehensions by using an arbitrary time period and an improper scale -- even as illegal border crossings under President Obama are at historic lows.
In several segments on Fox News, correspondent William La Jeunesse highlighted the graph to claim that the Southwest border "is actually less secure," pointing to what he called the "double-digit surge" in border apprehensions from 2011 to 2013 to make his point:
La Jeunesse reported that the numbers for October-April 2013 were released exclusively to Fox News from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In a report on Happening Now, La Jeunesse touted the graph and highlighted the fact that apprehensions of Central American nationals have risen 13 percent -- leading him to claim that by this standard more people are getting into the United States illegally.
La Jeunesse gave a similar report on Your World using the same graph.
However, the graph La Jeunesse used suffers from several misleading characteristics. First, it depicts an arbitrary time period: October through April, though we're only a few days into the month, for the years 2011 to 2013 -- which takes into account only half of Obama's first term. Moreover, the graph has a skewed scale -- making the 27,000 jump from 2011 to 2013 seem more dramatic than it actually is.
Fox News' Eric Bolling doubled down on his praise of former Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice, who was fired for physically and verbally abusing players, saying, "The best coaches are coaches like that."
Appearing on the April 4 edition of Fox News' America Live, Bolling claimed that Rice's dismissal is symptomatic of the "wussification" of American men, echoing a similar statement he made while co-hosting The Five the previous day.
Rice was fired after ESPN's Outside The Lines broadcast a video of a Rutgers basketball practice in which Rice is seen throwing basketballs at his players' heads, kicking players, and shouting homophobic slurs, among other abuses. Rice's behavior was sharply criticized by everyone from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to NBA stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Rice was critical of his own behavior, saying, "There's no explanation for what's on those films. Because there is no excuse for it. I was wrong."
Some of Fox News' most prominent personalities have taken a different approach to evaluating Rice's coaching tactics. Sean Hannity joined Bolling's defense of Rice, claiming the coach was just "trying to bring the best out of" his team.
Fox News fearmongered about the costs of proposed federal food safety regulations without informing viewers that foodborne illnesses sicken millions of Americans annually and lead to the deaths of 3,000 people per year.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed two food safety regulations -- not yet finalized and still subject to public input -- which, among other safeguards, would require "science- and risk-based standards at fruit and vegetable farms and packing facilities."
On the April 2 edition of Happening Now, Fox News host Jon Scott and correspondent Shannon Bream reported in detail what one conservative policy group estimated the rules, if adopted, would cost the agriculture industry. While the Fox figures paid brief lip service to the issue of public health -- Bream said that "it's a worthy goal, of course, keeping the food supply safe" -- they omitted any other discussion of consumer safety and the problem of foodborne illness outbreaks.
Specifically, Scott and Bream failed to inform viewers that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illness every year, and contaminated food is responsible for 3,000 deaths annually.
While Bream cited "critics" who claim the new regulations "may be completely unnecessary," a rash of E. coli, salmonella and listeria outbreaks made national headlines in 2012 as the proposed rules were being crafted. Here are a few food safety stories Fox News ignored while questioning the need for stronger food safety rules:
The Daily Caller published a sexist cartoon attacking Meghan McCain in response to reports that McCain will soon be hosting her own television show. Jim Treacher, the nom de plume of Daily Caller contributor Sean Medlock, used the cartoon as a vehicle to claim that Meghan McCain's physical appearance is "the only reason anybody ever pays attention to her."
The March 28 column, titled, "Meghan McCain to host TV show that will require her to talk," featured a cartoon using a photograph of McCain with speech bubbles emerging from McCain's breasts. The cartoon, which was published at Treacher/Medlock's personal website in 2009, appears to be his creation.
Due to the offensive nature of the cartoon, Media Matters has not republished it. The sexist content of the image, originally described by Treacher/Medlock as "a few words from Meghan McCain's funbags," speaks for itself.
Fox News host Jon Scott looped the opposition to marriage equality into the fight against gun violence, claiming that conservatives are lined up in front of the Supreme Court "trying to defend traditional marriage" in part because gun violence is exacerbated by the institution's decline.
On the March 27 edition of Happening Now, Scott hosted Fox News contributor Juan Williams to discuss the nexus between race, gun violence, and the family unit. Scott then tied the discussion to the debate over the Defense Of Marriage Act, saying that a rise in gun and gang violence and drug use was "why so many hundreds of conservatives are lined up outside the Supreme Court right now trying to defend traditional marriage, because they say marriage is an important building block to the society."
According to the Los Angeles Times, the vast majority of protestors outside of the Supreme Court were supporters of marriage equality. The Times described the conservative DOMA protestors Scott cited, noting they "waved signs reading 'Kids do best with a mom and dad' and 'Appeal to Heaven'."
But science contradicts Scott's implication that children raised in same-sex parent households are prone to violence or drug addiction. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a 25-year study in 2004 that concluded there is no link between parents' sexual orientation and the emotional health of their children, and the American Psychological Association came to a similar conclusion in a 2004 compilation of research concerning same-sex parenting:
Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.
Fox News chose not to air live coverage of press events immediately following the Supreme Court's consideration of a historic marriage equality case, while MSNBC and CNN both covered the event live.
The Supreme Court was hearing arguments for and against California's Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage. The landmark case, Hollingsworth vs. Perry, examines whether Prop 8 "unconstitutionally discriminates against gays and lesbians." After oral arguments wrapped up, a press conference took place on the steps of the Supreme Court during which attorneys and plaintiffs in the case spoke to the media.
Here's what Fox News aired instead of the live press conference (11:45 AM):
During the same minutes, MSNBC and CNN aired the following:
CNN (11:45 AM)
MSNBC (11:42 AM)
The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin interviewed Tim Miller, executive director of a new conservative political action committee centered on opposition research, who reminisced about how conservative operatives successfully used blogger Matt Drudge to push debunked or thinly-researched smears against Democrats in 2004, describing it as a "great model" that needs to be updated.
In a March 24 post at Rubin's "Right Turn" blog, Miller described his organization, America Rising, as being dedicated to the "collection, dissemination and deployment of opposition research against Democrats," and uses Drudge's DrudgeReport.com circa 2004 as a model to return to (emphasis added):
Last week former Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and two young Republican sharpshooters, Tim Miller and Joe Pounder, announced they would set up a new organization, America Rising, devoted to the collection, dissemination and deployment of opposition research against Democrats and a counterpart to the hugely successful American Bridge on the left. On Friday I sat down with Miller and Pounder at a Capitol Hill Starbucks to talk about their new venture.
They plan on instigating nothing less than a revolution in the way the right does and uses oppo research. They are keen on connecting research to communication and every other aspect of campaigns. Pounder tells me, "It must be responsive to the news cycle and polling." Miller jokes that "research has been people sitting in a dungeon or going through trash cans" and then funneling the information up to a press person to send out in a mass e-mail. Miller says, "Now you have to drive the news cycle."
The Romney campaign was certainly hobbled by the Democrats' opposition machine, which cranked out information on everything from Bain to Cayman bank accounts, funneled it to friendly press outlets and the Obama super PAC, and kept the Romney team on perpetual defense. But the problem is not specific to the Romney campaign. Miller recalls, "We had a great model in 2004 -- research guys who fed to Drudge. Drudge drove the mainstream media." But, he says, "in a lot of ways we haven't done a good job of updating [that model]. Over time we rested on our laurels."
In 2006, ABC News highlighted Drudge's influence on media, particularly in the 2004 election cycle, saying, "Republican operatives keep an open line to Drudge, often using him to attack their opponents...And then the mainstream media often picks it up."
Drudge did help drive stories to Fox News, right-wing radio and other outlets during the 2004 presidential election, but much of the blogger's content -- which included discredited attacks on John Kerry's military service -- was thinly-researched, deceptively edited, or flat-out wrong.