In a rush to sensationalize growing violence in Iraq at the hands of religious extremists, media have circulated dubiously sourced maps which purport to illustrate plans for a future Islamic caliphate that extends from Spain to the southern and easternmost reaches of India.
A Sunni Islamist militant group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) has torn through Iraq in recent weeks, violently capturing several cities and straining the Iraqi government's ability to respond. On June 29, according to the Wall Street Journal, ISIS "announced itself as a new Islamist 'caliphate' ... unilaterally declaring statehood and demanding allegiance from other Islamist groups."
In the wake of this news, media outlets from Fox News to ABC have issued reports on the militant group's future plans based on maps culled from Twitter to declare that ISIS is strategizing to take over swath of territory larger than the Roman Empire within the next five years -- a goal that would include, among other feats, conquering Spain, Portugal, Greece, and most or all of India. The maps resemble the geographic dominance of the historic caliphates that ended with the demise of the Ottoman Empire.
On June 3 ABC News published a map -- also cited by Breitbart.com -- which was "purportedly published" by ISIS and "widely shared on Twitter." According to ABC, the "terrifying" map was "published at the same time that ISIS announced the creation of a caliphate."
But ABC News didn't actually trace the image to ISIS, and instead relied on a tweet of the image from American Third Position (A3P). ABC didn't disclose that A3P is a white nationalist political party in the United States.
As iO9 pointed out, "This is one of those 'garbage in, garbage out' stories, since ABC News' source was Twitter." The outlet cited to analysis from Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who explained, "It's an old image put out by fans of the group ... There is nothing official about it nor is there some alleged 5-year plan."
Fox News reported the same day that a "chilling new map reveals the ISIS plan for world domination," displaying an expanded, translated map the network claimed was "released by ISIS" to lay out "its five-year plan." Several days ago the Daily Mail similarly highlighted the map as a "chilling five-year plan," as did The Blaze, the website of notorious caliphate fear monger Glenn Beck.
While Fox attributed the map to ISIS, the Daily Mail described it as having been "widely shared by ISIS supporters on social networks."
Despite the serious tone of their reports, neither the Daily Mail nor Fox News cited any experts to discuss how realistic it would be for ISIS to conquer a swath of land that envelops half of Africa and India and includes territory protected by NATO (Spain, Portugal).
Newly published documents have poked holes in the Washington Free Beacon's claim that it has been victimized by a pro-Hillary Clinton conspiracy aiming to restrict the site's access to information about the former secretary of state. In fact, the site's access has been restricted because it violated the University of Arkansas' rules regarding the use of intellectual property from its archives.
On June 15, the Free Beacon published an article on Clinton using recordings of unpublished interviews conducted in the 1980s. Tapes of the interviews were archived at the University of Arkansas (UA).
UA subsequently revoked the Free Beacon's research privileges, asserting that publication of the interviews required authorization from the university library and, having failed to obtain such permission, the Free Beacon violated UA's intellectual property rights.
The Free Beacon claimed that it obtained the materials in question "without having to fill out any forms and without being provided a copy of any university 'policy.'" It also suggested that the decision to revoke its access was a pro-Clinton conspiracy, noting, "A Hillary Clinton donor who serves as dean of the University of Arkansas libraries has banned the Washington Free Beacon from the school's special collections archives, after the news outlet published revealing stories about Hillary Clinton based on documents available at the university library."
Business Insider, however, obtained documents from UA that contradict the Beacon's claims, writing that "documents provided to Business Insider ... indicate there were several conditions surrounding the release of tapes from the library to the Free Beacon" (emphasis added):
On June 20, Business Insider requested documentation relating to the Free Beacon's acquisition of the tapes used for the story about Clinton and the rape case from the University of Arkansas. Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations Laura Jacobs subsequently provided us with several documents including a request to copy the Clinton tapes made by a man named Shawn Reinschmiedt on March 10. That request was made on a form that included a "WARNING CONCERNING COPYRIGHT RESTRICTIONS" noting the library provided materials from its archives "under certain conditions." The warning specifically mentioned those conditions did not allow materials to be used "for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." The warning also said library patrons could be found "liable for copyright infringement" if they request or use materials from the archives "in excess of 'fair use.'" Reinschmiedt's signature appeared under this form under a note indicating he read the copyright warning.
In an email, Free Beacon founder Michael Goldfarb said Reinschmiedt "runs a firm that has been working with the Beacon since we launched."
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, a contributor for Fox and ABC News, used a sound bite from a Taco Bell commercial to mock the plight of hundreds of migrant children fleeing violence in Central America who are being held in a makeshift shelter in southern Arizona.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children who will make the dangerous trip from Central America over the next year fleeing violence will require care. In Nogales, Arizona, the Department of Homeland Security made available a warehouse to house thousands of children, but according to local media outlets, it has not been without problems. CBS Houston reported that some of the children have complained to the consul of Honduras that the food provided by the shelter is making them sick.
On the June 10 edition of her radio show, Ingraham responded to this news by dismissing the children's plight, saying, "I bet there are a lot of American kids who would like free food before they go to bed at night." She followed her comments with a sound clip from a Taco Bell advertising campaign of the 1990s, in which a chihuahua says repeatedly, "Yo quiero Taco Bell."
Ingraham is no stranger to controversial sound effects. On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream Speech", the radio host used the sound of a gunshot to cut off a sound bite of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a man whose skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965.
She also repeatedly engages in smearing and denigrating immigrants.
Many Fox News hosts and pundits rushed to brand recently released Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as a deserter and a traitor, but Shepard Smith took a different line by saying he was "disgusted" by the rush to judgment, cautioning that Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty.
On May 31, the White House announced it had secured the release of Bergdahl from the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Right-wing critics of President Obama began reporting as fact that Bergdahl had been a deserter and collaborated with the enemy, despite the fact that an investigation into the matter has not yet taken place.
On the June 3 edition of Shepard Smith Reporting, host Smith took umbrage at the reporting, saying, "If you desert or commit treason, you have to be proved to have done so. We can't just decide because some people come on television and yakety yak, and we've got a report of this and a report of that and that's what happened. As the Army said, as the Pentagon said, you bring them home. You bring them home first, and then you investigate."
Fox News broadcast a story on immigration with on-screen text that read "Illegal Dumping," evoking a connection between immigrants and garbage.
On the June 4 edition of Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy teased an upcoming segment about undocumented immigrants, apprehended in Texas and awaiting deportation proceedings, being dropped off at a Phoenix bus station by the Department of Homeland Security. Images of children disembarking from buses were displayed on screen with text that read "Illegal Dumping," a phrase commonly used to describe the unlawful disposal of garbage or other unwanted items.
Fox has a history blanketing its immigration reporting with controversial terms and text. Last year, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists condemned the network for smearing the children of undocumented immigrants as "Children of the Corn." And Fox frequently draws connections between undocumented immigrants and violent criminals.
Fox News wasted no time tying the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American captive held by the Taliban, to the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
Bergdahl, an American captive held by the Taliban since 2009, was released on May 31, pursuant to an agreement between the White House, the government of Qatar (acting as an intermediary), and the Taliban. Right-wing media responded to the exchange of five Guantanamo detainees for Bergdahl with attacks and misinformation.
Fox News quickly linked the prisoner exchange to the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi. Appearing on Fox host Sean Hannity's radio program, Fox correspondent Catherine Herridge speculated on the timing of Bergdahl's release, suggesting it was "interesting" because the deal was struck just as excerpts from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's forthcoming memoir appeared in the news.
HERRIDGE: What I do find significant, and I don't know if you would agree with me or not, is how the talking point coming out of the White House is clearly that they are determined not to leave our service men and women behind. I don't know if this is a coincidence, or whether I'm in effect reading too much into it, but I find it interesting or noteworthy that that is the message out of the White House at the same time that the whole Benghazi controversy is going to be resurrected with Hillary Clinton's book and one of the main allegations is that the administration left our people behind to fend for themselves in Benghazi.
The hosts of Fox's The Five made a more explicit connection. Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle set up a segment on the purported Bergdahl-Benghazi connection by noting that the Obama administration "says it's committed to leaving no man behind. That's why it's spent so much time trying to rescue former POW Bowe Bergdahl. But what about the four Americans killed in Benghazi?" Co-host Eric Bolling followed up by saying that, in contrast to the Bergdahl release, the Obama administration expressed no "sense of alarm" at the fact that Americans died in Benghazi.
Both hosts repeated the tired smear that the Obama administration didn't do everything it could to rescue the Americans under attack. The absurd and baseless implication that President Obama negotiated the release of an American captive in order to secure some kind of political gain demonstrates the lengths to which Fox News and right-wing media will go to politicize the tragedy. From missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 to the Chris Christie bridge scandal, Yom Kippur, and Monday Night Football, right-wing media and Fox News appear to see everything that happens through a Benghazi lens.
For more on the right-wing media's misinformation campaign on Benghazi, click here.
Fox News adoringly highlighted the story of a 92-year-old Texas woman after she started "raising a stink" about her struggle to vote under the state's new draconian voter ID law, treating her story as an isolated case and ignoring thousands of Americans disenfranchised by similar laws.
A stringent new voter ID law enacted June of 2013 in Texas obstructed the ability of 92-year-old resident Ruby Barber to cast a ballot. From the New York Daily News:
Ruby Barber, a senior citizen in the small town of Bellmead, Texas, had been unable to vote because she could not find her nearly century-old birth certificate that she'd need to obtain a voter ID under a new state law.
"I'm sure (my birth) was never reported because I was born in a farmhouse with a coal oil lamp," Barber, 92, told the Waco (Texas) Tribune. "Didn't have a doctor, just a neighbor woman come in and (delivered) me."
The host of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Martha MacCallum and reporter Casey Stegall offered glowing support for Barber and her struggle to vote, praising her plucky persistence to get back her right to vote. But Fox treated Barber's case as an isolated one -- a hiccup in an otherwise necessary policy to combat voter fraud.
The reality is that Barber represents a much larger group of Americans disenfranchised by Texas' new voter ID law where - up to 800,000 Texas voters, according to the League of Women Voters of Texas.
Dinesh D'Souza, the right-wing media darling who conservatives had claimed was targeted for prosecution because he is a critic of the Obama administration, has pleaded guilty to charges of campaign finance fraud.
D'Souza, famous for producing an anti-Barack Obama film rife with lies and outlandish claims, was indicted by the FBI in January and accused of violating campaign finance laws by "arranging excessive campaign contributions to a candidate for the U.S. Senate," and allegedly reimbursing "people who he had directed to contribute $20,000" to the unnamed candidate. On May 20 D'Souza pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws and making false statements. He will be sentenced in September and likely faces imprisonment of ten to 16 months.
Right-wing media figures -- many of whom went to bat for D'Souza's flawed film -- rallied to the filmmaker's defense following his initial indictment, claiming he was being prosecuted for his political beliefs. Fox News host Sean Hannity labeled D'Souza "the latest victim to be targeted by the Obama White House." Matt Drudge accused Attorney General Eric Holder of "unleashing the dog" on "Obama critics," and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones responded to the charges, saying, "This is like Nazi Germany ... once they're done with these guys, they're coming after you and I." Radio host Laura Ingraham characterized the indictment as being "more about stifling political dissent" than any serious allegations of wrongdoing, and Rush Limbaugh described it as an effort to "criminalize" conservatives.
During one such interview in February, Fox host Megyn Kelly said the charges "raised red flags for some because D'Souza, who has pleaded not guilty, is behind the box office hit 2016: Obama's America, a film that is very critical of the president." D'Souza responded that he couldn't speak about the case specifically, but that he knows "for a fact" that Obama was personally unnerved by his film and said, "I am a public critic of the president, and I do recognize this has made me, to some degree, vulnerable to some forms of counter-attack."
This right-wing media defense was reportedly part of a deliberate plan by D'Souza. The New York Times reported in April that, in a conversation with one of his alleged straw donors, D'Souza said that if he were charged "he might plead guilty, but would initially plead not guilty because that 'gives him a window of opportunity to get his story out there.'"
Conservative pundits were more than happy to oblige this desire. Now will those who championed D'Souza's virtuousness finally condemn his crimes?
For her part, Ingraham will not. She responded immediately to news of the plea by downplaying the seriousness of the crime and doubling down on her claim that D'Souza was prosecuted for political reasons.
The Media Research Center (MRC) drew an ugly and factually inaccurate comparison between billionaire Warren Buffett's charitable donations to women's health organizations and felon Kermit Gosnell, a convicted murderer who performed botched, illegal abortions.
A May 13 post from the Media Research Center (MRC) labeled Buffett the "billion-dollar king of abortion," alleging that the Berkshire Hathaway CEO financed "abortion groups" to the tune of $1.2 billion via the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. The MRC piece, as well as a FoxNews.com op-ed written by MRC's Dan Gainor, tried to make the case that Buffett and convicted murderer Gosnell are two sides of the same abortionist coin:
May 13, 2014, marks one year since Philadelphia abortion Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted of first-degree murder "in the deaths of three babies who were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his grimy, 'house of horrors' clinic," according to the Associated Press. Gosnell instantly became the face of abortion in the prolife community.
But there's another, more recognizable face pushing abortion in the U.S. - liberal billionaire Warren Buffett. The so-called "Oracle of Omaha" has donated more than $1.2 billion to abortion organizations from 2001 to 2012.
That's equal to the cost of roughly 2.7 million first-trimester abortions - more than twice the number of abortions that occur in an entire year in the United States. Unlike Gosnell, however, everything Buffett has done has been entirely legal. But Buffett does share something else in common with the abortionist. Both their stories have been largely unreported.
Conservative outlets like FreeBeacon.com and The Drudge Report echoed MRC's accusations.
The conservative media figures who lionized racist Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy made a feeble attempt at saving face by claiming this entire saga was never about Bundy, it was always about "land grabs" that are depriving hard-working Americans of their property rights. Yet some of these same figures have turned a blind eye to the actual land grabs taking place across the heartland of America at the hands of fossil fuel interests and the Republican state legislators that have supported their cause.
Fox News abandoned the rancher, and some of his most vocal cheerleaders in right-wing media distanced themselves from his racist remarks, while remaining loyal to his cause. "The ranch standoff," remarked Fox News host Sean Hannity, "was not about a man named Cliven Bundy." Instead, he argued, it was about average Americans being "victimized by eminent domain."
Bundy's standoff had nothing whatsoever to do with eminent domain, as he did not own the land that he was grazing his cattle on without payment. But the oil and gas industry, wielding the power of state eminent domain statutes, has actually snatched away land from ranchers in middle America.
If we take Hannity at his word that he believes himself to be the champion of average Americans whose homes have been threatened by land grabs, then one would imagine he's used his prominent public profile to help folks like Julia Trigg Crawford, a north Texas property owner whose land was unceremoniously stripped away from her control by TransCanada, the oil company pushing for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite Crawford's objections, TransCanada went forward with the construction and subsequent operation of the southern portions of the pipeline on her property thanks to a Texas statute that "grants eminent domain authority to pipeline companies that simply check a box on a one-page form." Her case is currently in court.
One would also imagine that Hannity has championed the cause of Raymond Hill, who had part of his land seized after he refused TransCanada's offers to buy his part of his land in east Texas because he wanted to preserve the peace and quiet his property offered. Crawford and Hill are just two of dozens of landowners in Texas whose property has been seized by TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Instead, Hannity and others in right-wing media have been highlighting another bogus dispute in Texas over federal land that has been settled law for decades -- trying to frame it as the Bureau of Land Management trampling the rights of law-abiding Americans.