A two-part Media Matters examinantion of the largest newspapers in CO, NH, NV, OH, PA and VA from July 1-August 15 and from August 16-October 31, 2012 revealed a variety of shortcomings in the way clean energy and regulatory issues are covered by those publications.
Over the weekend, The Oklahoman introduced the first installment of a two-part series on "energy independence" that overwhelmingly focused on the oil and gas industry while failing to note its harmful effects on both the environment and public health. The reliance on oil industry sources is unsurprising given that the paper is owned by billionaire oil and gas tycoon Philip Anschutz.
Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson opened his show Tuesday by concurring with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that homosexuality is an "ugly behavior" and accusing CNN's Piers Morgan of "moral, intellectual bankruptcy" for broaching the subject in an interview with the leader Monday night.
From WHO-AM 1040 (emphasis added):
[playing clip of CNN interview]
PIERS MORGAN: Shouldn't freedom and individuality in all those things also extend to people who just happen to be gay? Who were born gay. They weren't made gay. Wouldn't it be great for the president of Iran to say, 'you know something, everyone's entitled to be whatever sexuality they are born to be.' That would be a great symbol of freedom.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: Do you really believe that someone is born homosexual?
MORGAN: Yes. I absolutely believe that. Yes, I do.
AHMADINEJAD: I'm sorry, let me ask you this. Do you believe that anyone is given birth to through homosexuality? Homosexuality ceases procreation. Who has said that if you like or believe in doing something ugly and others do not accept your behavior, they are denying your freedom? Who says that? Who says that?
Perhaps in a country, they wish to legitimize stealing --
MORGAN: You are a father of three. You are a father of -- you have two sons and a daughter. What would you do if one of them was gay?
AHMADINEJAD: Ah, these things have different ways - the proper education must be given, proper -- the education system must be revamped, the political system must be revamped, and these must be also reformed and revamped along the way. But if you - if a group - recognizes an ugly behavior or ugly deed as legitimate, you must not expect other countries or other groups to give it the same recognition.
[end CNN clip]
JAN MICKELSON: Gee, we're still struggling with those same issues in almost exactly the same terms, but I think it is absolutely fascinating that a moment of international tension -- where literally nuclear exchanges could occur -- incendiary comments about the legitimacy of countries and the roots of the legitimacy of Israel have been challenged and they're going to be eliminated. What does CNN ask? 'Hey, what if your kids are gay?' That is a demonstration of the absolute moral, intellectual bankruptcy of Western, mainstream media and that particular journalist -- how values can be so topsy-turvy.
And the weird thing is, you know, on that exchange I've got to go with that Iranian fellow. Did I ever think I would be the position to actually agree with the potential-serial killing, nuclear-crazed [inaudible]. Talk about ironies. Anyway. Wow.
This was not Mickelson's first foray into anti-gay commentary. He has referred to the LGBT community as a "religious cult," and suggested that AIDS is God's "invention" to "punish" the "stupid behavior" of homosexuality, which forced Clear Channel Communications (which owns the 50kW WHO-AM 1040) to issue an on-air statement criticizing Mickelson.
Equality for the LGBT community is at the forefront of political discourse in Iowa, where conservatives are waging a campaign to oust Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, who "was among seven Iowa justices who voted unanimously in a 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa."
Nevada media outlets failed to disclose the Big Oil interests behind a group offering cheap gas in the state this week to mislead voters about Obama's energy policies, including the false claim that the administration's energy policies are responsible for high gas prices. The bizarre stunts -- involving a walking, talking, anthropomorphic gas can -- were funded by groups largely financed by the Koch brothers, major conservative political donors who have significant oil interests. These groups are pushing policies that will benefit the Koch empire, not American consumers.
From the Associated Press:
Dozens of people lined up at a Reno gas station Tuesday to buy gasoline for $1.84 a gallon as part of a political event.
The cheap gas was offered by the Gas Can Man, a group funded by a [PAC called] Morning in America, focusing on energy policy. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity also funded the event.
A spokesman for the Gas Can Man told KOLO-TV that the event was supposed to remind voters that gas prices are high.
Spokesman Michael Findlay says that gas was $1.84 a gallon in the month of President Barack Obama's inauguration.
The Las Vegas Sun noted that as "people filled up their tanks, they stood in the shadow of AFP's campaign bus emblazoned with the slogan: Obama's Failing Agenda. One man registered voters." The paper quoted an Americans for Prosperity representative claiming the stunt was an exercise in "citizen education":
For the organizers of the event, the cheap gas offering wasn't a handout for those in need.
"It's citizen education," said Nick Vander Poel, of Americans for Prosperity. "This is issue awareness. We're educating them on the issues."
But the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun, and local television stations failed to disclose in their reports that the Gas Can Man and the cheap gas-campaign dubbed the "Million Can March" is funded by oil industry barons pushing policies that, if enacted, would line their own pockets but do nothing to lower the price of gas (the Sun disclosed the Koch ties, but neglected to mention their role in the oil industry).
The Charlotte Observer's reprint of an article on alleged dead registered voters in North Carolina omitted critical information about an activist group pushing voter fraud mythology that were included in the original story, including its ties to a national voter suppression organization.
The paper, which cut its full-time statehouse reporting staff earlier this year, relied on an article published a week earlier in Raleigh's News & Observer to inform its readers on the efforts of the Voter Integrity Project of NC (VIP-NC) to challenge the status of thousands of North Carolina voters. The Charlotte Observer did not print the Raleigh report in full, however, and omitted significant details about the group's faulty tactics and failed to provide broader context about the issue of voter fraud. On top of this, both papers have neglected to identify the connection between VIP-NC and True the Vote, a national Tea Party-affiliated organization formed to fear-monger about voter fraud.
Following are examples of News & Observer's reporting that The Charlotte Observer left out:
"The Voter Integrity Project has not brought forth any information to show that someone is voting in the name of another, and I think citizens of North Carolina need to be aware of that."
They began with last names, then a volunteer would look for potential matches - for example considering an "Elizabeth" and a "Liz" with the same age and address to be a match.
"It took intuition," DeLancy said. "We trained a lot of volunteers."
DeLancy said he's confident that at least 90 percent of the names he delivered should be removed from the rolls.
The nonprofit group used "fuzzy matching," Degraffenreid said. The death data from the Department of Health and Human Services includes age but not a date of birth, which is essential in making matches, she said.
"The Voter Integrity Project doesn't have really the necessary data to make a determination that a voter is deceased," Degraffenreid said.
Even a full match doesn't mean a registered voter has died. Degraffenreid recalled removing a man who matched on first, middle and last names, date of birth and county of residence who turned out to be a different voter. He showed up to the polls and voted a provisional ballot when he was told he had been removed, she said.
Meanwhile, cases of fraud remain rare. In 2009, the board referred 29 cases of double voting to county district attorneys, according to a board report. Since 2000, the board has referred one case of voter impersonation, the report states.
Allegations by a non-profit group that there are 30,000 dead people registered to vote in North Carolina have received play in local and national media (including Fox News) over the last week -- what isn't being reported, however, is the group's history of making false allegations of voter fraud or the larger pattern of finding no merit to "dead voter" accusations.
The group, led by recently retired Air Force officer and Tea Party darling Jay DeLancy, calls itself the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina (VIP-NC). In yet another Fox News attempt to fear-monger about post-mortem voter fraud, DeLancy was invited to appear on the September 5th edition of Fox & Friends to hype his group's findings. During the interview, he admitted that so far, his group has only found a handful of allegedly deceased individuals actually voting, and that they're not ready to release an exact number on their findings. To put that tentative "handful" in context, over 2.5 million votes were cast in the 2010 general election in North Carolina.
Neither the hosts of Fox & Friends nor the myriad straight news sources reporting on the '30,000 dead voter' claims mentioned the history of these types of allegations collapsing or the fact that voter fraud is extremely rare. In fact, Fox News has tried to gin up fears about dead people voting before. An hour-long special that aired in April, Fox News Reporting: Stealing Your Vote, reported on an already-debunked claim that 953 ballots were cast by "dead" voters in South Carolina. However, an investigation by the state's Election Commission found no evidence of fraud.
Nor did Fox mention in this week's segment that DeLancy's project has failed previous attempts to expose voter fraud in the state. Earlier this year, the group submitted the names of over 500 registered voters they claimed were non-citizens, alleging that half of those may have actually voted illegally or committed some other related crime. A subsequent investigation flagged only 11 registrants for closer inspection.* From the Raleigh News & Observer:
Earlier this summer, the organization sued to have 528 Wake County residents it claimed were not U.S. citizens removed from the voter registration. The county elections board investigated the complaint and removed 11 names from its registry and referred the names to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Cherie Poucher, director of the Wake County Board of Elections.
After months of berating the Associated Press over its investigation of the New York Police Department's Muslim surveillance program, the New York Post is suddenly tongue-tied. Following an article by the Associated Press which found that the six-year NYPD program has not yielded a single terrorism investigation, the paper hasn't published a single piece of coverage of the AP story.
The Associated Press uncovered the admission on August 21st:
In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday
The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames. [...]
But in a June 28 deposition as part of a longstanding federal civil rights case, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati said none of the conversations the officers overheard ever led to a case.
"Related to Demographics," Galati testified that information that has come in "has not commenced an investigation."
It's not surprising that the NY Post is not covering the issue, given that it goes against the pro-surveillance narrative the paper has been trying to push for over a year. For example, in an editorial on November 22, 2011, the NY Post declared, "New Yorkers should be thankful that its police department has been collecting information and conducting surveillance of Muslim communities." After all, they noted on December 26, "there is very good reason why anti-terror investigations often lead to the Muslim-American community." The Post's editorial board penned pieces defending the program on February 13, March 14, March 22, March 30, and April 17.
In June, a Post editorial baselessly alleged that the Muslim surveillance program "led to the arrests of several would-be terrorists." In July, the editorial board got more specific, claiming that, "the NYPD's Intel Unit has had a sterling record since it was established in the wake of 9/11, helping disrupt 14 terrorist plots against the city in the last decade."
The commanding officer of the NYPD "Intel Unit" would seem to disagree that the Muslim surveillance tactic played a role:
"I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I'm here since 2006," he said. "I don't recall other ones prior to my arrival. Again, that's always a possibility. I am not aware of any."
While the Post editorial board has never really been one for facts, failing to report a news piece that goes against your narrative takes pushing misinformation one step further.
UPDATE: The New York Post editorial board finally weighed in on August 26, largely utilizing semantic arguments against the Associated Press and failing entirely to rebut Galati's admissions that the surveillance program is ineffective. Many Post readers, however, were left with only one side of the story. As of August 28, a full week after the story broke, the paper's straight news sections had still not reported on Galati's testimony.
In their new book, Who's Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky attempt to gin up fears about stolen elections and widespread voter fraud by making use of cherry-picked story-telling, falsehoods, and baseless allegations.
Now that Mitt Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) -- made infamous by his extreme budget proposal -- as his running mate, some at Fox News are pretending President Obama's plan to reduce the deficit doesn't exist. But President Obama has a plan to reduce the deficit. It's been laid out in significant detail for nearly a year and was widely reported in the media.
On the August 11 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, host Dave Briggs asked, "will the pressure be on [the Obama campaign] to come up with some sort of deficit reduction plan that they have punted on?"
Later on Fox & Friends Saturday, conservative radio host Michael Graham also claimed that the Obama administration doesn't have a plan, saying, "I refuse to debate anyone on the Paul Ryan plan until they tell me the Obama plan. ... there is no plan from the White House."
Again, Obama does have a plan to reduce the deficit. It's a plan that's been lauded for its specifics and includes a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, with an emphasis on near-term stimulus and middle-term deficit reduction -- a hierarchy of priorities that coincides with the advice of economists, who note that unemployment is still the most immediate need to address.
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein bookmarked the deficit provisions for anyone having trouble finding them:
On deficit reduction, Romney's plan "requires spending cuts of approximately $500 billion per year in 2016." He has not released spending cuts that come anywhere close to that goal. He does have some nice words to say about the Ryan budget, but Romney advisers have told the media that their candidate disagrees with large parts of it, including the Medicare cuts.
The comparison to Obama is, again, instructive. Pages 23 through 37 of Obama's budget detail dozens of spending cuts and tell you how much money they'll save. You might not like those spending cuts, or you might want to see more. But at least you know the specifics of the president's plan.
ABC News highlighted some of the provisions in September 2011:
The bulk of the savings in the president's plan come from $1.5 trillion in deficit-reduction through new taxes for high-end earners and $580 billion in cuts to entitlement programs, including $248 billion to Medicare and $72 billion to Medicaid.
Obama also proposed other means to raise taxes, including more than $800 billion by allowing the Bush tax cuts for upper income earners to expire and $300 billion by closing loopholes and eliminating special-interest tax breaks.
In total, the president's plan will claim more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction through entitlement cuts, tax increases and war savings, in particular. The proposal includes $1.2 trillion in savings from the Budget Control Act and $1.1 trillion from drawing down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, conservatives are certainly aware of Obama's budget and its deficit priorities. But if they acknowledge its existence, they'll be forced to compare it to a Romney plan that "defies the rules of math," or a Ryan plan dubbed "the most fraudulent budget in American history."
On the eve of the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer relied on notorious voter fraud huckster Hans von Spakovsky and other dubious sources to continue to distort the debate over voter ID laws. Specifically, Von Spakovsky argued that voter ID laws do not affect minority turnout and suggested that, in fact, the opposite is true. From the article:
Von Spakofsky [sic], a senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, says voting in both Georgia and Indiana increased dramatically in the states' presidential primaries and general presidential elections after photo ID laws went into place.
"In Indiana, which the U.S. Supreme Court said has the strictest voter ID law in the country, turnout in the Democratic presidential primary in 2008 quadrupled from the 2004 election when the photo ID law was not in effect," von Spakofsky last year told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "According to Census Bureau surveys, 59.2 percent of the black voting-age population voted in the 2008 election compared to only 53.8 percent in 2004, an increase of over 5 percentage points."
In reality, as Colorlines.com has reported, such a conclusion cannot be drawn:
Von Spakovsky noted that "Georgia had the largest turnout of minority voters in its history," and then drew the conclusion, "As shown by these data ... voter ID requirements can be easily met by almost all voters and do not have a discriminatory or disparate impact on racial minorities." The message sent: Georgia 2008 voter turnout was good; therefore voter ID laws are good.
These are specious conclusions to draw at best because it relies on a non-existent causation or correlation between the implementation of the state's voter ID law and voter turnout without controlling for other factors such as the growth in voting age population and the growth in the number of people registered to vote during the same period.
I spoke with Charles S. Bullock III, the Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia who said that the state's voter ID law "is not a cause" for the increase in minority voter turnout and "that you can't build a case for a causal link" between the implementation of the voter ID law and the increase in minority voter turnout. In fact, voter turnout would have increased in Georgia in the 2008 presidential election with or without the voter ID law for a number of other factors, says Lubbock, including a "gradual increase" in the voting-age population of African Americans, and also the excitement around the possible election of the nation's first black president. But this does not mean that everyone was able to "easily" get an ID card. [...]
The Increase in Georgia's minority voter turnout was due to large increases in voter registration and the excitement around the Obama campaign, despite the voter ID law, but not because of it.