National Review editor Rich Lowry equated Kentucky senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes' refusal to disclose which presidential candidate she voted for in 2012 with former Republican Rep. Todd Akin's (MO) stunning claim that it is "really rare" for a woman to become pregnant as a result of "a legitimate rape." Lowry suggested the two positions were politically equivalent "gaffes," whitewashing the fact that Akin's statement was not only absurdly disconnected from scientific reality -- it also happened to reflect actual policy priorities of the Republican Party.
During an October 10 interview with the editorial board of The Louisville Courier-Journal, Grimes said she "respect[ed] the sanctity of the ballot box" when asked if she voted for President Obama in past elections. During an October 13 candidate debate, Grimes reiterated her stance on voter privacy:
GRIMES: This is a matter of principle. Our constitution grants, here in Kentucky, the constitutional right to privacy at the ballot box, for a secret ballot. You have that right, Senator McConnell has that right, every Kentuckian has that right.
GRIMES: I am not going to compromise a constitutional right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or other side or for members of the media.
In an October 15 column published by Politico Magazine, Lowry exclaimed that "Alison Lundergan Grimes is the Todd Akin of 2014," and argued that Grimes' stated position defending the secret ballot was "a defining political gaffe" for this election. He likened her comments to then-Rep. Todd Akin's infamous statements about rape and pregnancy, in which Akin stated that pregnancies resulting from rape are rare because, "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Lowry argued that the two candidates represented similar levels of political ineptitude, writing that each was "telegenic, mockable and universally condemned."
Grimes' decision to stand on principle with regard to voter privacy has been labeled a "gaffe" by some, but, as MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out, it is "an issue the media has deemed extremely important, but which actually affects no one."
By comparison, Akin's alarming comments on rape and pregnancy were reflected to varying degrees in actual policy decisions favored by Republican elected officials and candidates. Akin would later attempt to clarify his remarks amid a "firestorm" of controversy, but maintained his opposition to legal abortion access for women -- a constitutional right codified by the Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In 2012, many prominent Republican candidates and conservative media figures supported banning safe and legal abortion, making the issue a central part of campaign rhetoric.
In October 2012, Indiana Republican senate candidate Richard Mourdock voiced his opposition to abortion "even when life begins in that terrible situation of rape," stating that "it is something that God intended to happen." Around the same time, Republican Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois supported a ban on all abortion, including cases that would threaten the life of the mother. Walsh falsley claimed that "modern technology and science" had solved the problem of potentially life-threatening pregnancies. During a 2007 Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney said "we don't want to have abortion in this country at all, period." He went on to state that it would be "terrific" if Congress passed a bill outlawing abortion, which he would be "delighted" to sign. Romney dodged abortion questions throughout his 2012 campaign, but promised to eliminate federal funding for women's health organizations like Planned Parenthood and vowed to be "a pro-life president."
Outlawing access to abortion remains a lightning rod for conservative media, with some right-wing outlets going so far as to tie debates about legal abortion to the crimes of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. Right-wing media figures like Karl Rove have pushed the myth that some forms of contraception are actually forms of abortion, while others such as Bill O'Reilly advanced extremist views on fetal "personhood" that would criminalize most abortions.
There is no appropriate comparison between Akin's extreme rhetoric and false scientific claims, and Grimes' personal defense of privacy at the ballot box.
Fox News ramped up its attempted character assassination of CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden with direct calls for his resignation, suggestions that he is uninformed on the spread of infectious disease, and a comparison of the public servant to Saddam Hussein's one-time propaganda minister.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, contributor Laura Ingraham attacked Dr. Thomas Frieden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for his handling of public relations in the wake of the first confirmed case of Ebola contraction in the United States. Ingraham assailed Director Frieden, claiming that he "is on the verge of becoming the Baghdad Bob of the health care community," and claimed that he seems less like a health care professional and more like a member of "the Obama spin room." Co-host Brian Kilmeade joined the attack, claiming the Frieden talks to the public "like children" before promoting the idea of appointing former Republican Senator Bill Frist to run the United States' Ebola response:
Ingraham's use of "Baghdad Bob" is an allusion to former Ba'ath Party spokesperson and Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf, who gained international notoriety in 2003 for repeated and obviously false claims that American troops were being rolled back by the defensive forces of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Fox News Sunday hosted Karl Rove to analyze Senate midterm elections without disclosing his role with political organizations that have spent millions of dollars supporting Republican candidates in those races.
On the October 12 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace was joined by Rove and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi to discuss "the hottest races" in 2014. While Rove was introduced as "the architect of George W. Bush's two presidential victories" and described in on-screen text as a "former Bush White House advisor," no mention was made of his current political activities or affiliations. Rove commented on three Senate races in which his political groups have made a significant financial investment. Rove said he believed Republican Joni Ernst would win in Iowa because she had "united the party," claimed that voters in North Carolina would reject Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan because it's the only way to "send a message to Obama," and praised Alaska Republican candidate Dan Sullivan's energy policy.
Rove co-founded and advises two political organizations, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, that have spent nearly $8 million dollars against Democratic candidates in the Alaska, Iowa, and North Carolina races, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Rove's political network poured more than $4.5 million in additional spending into those races in support of the Republican candidates.
American Crossroads has also received $300,000 from Dan Sullivan's parents. Sullivan's father reportedly "doesn't know with certainty that the funds will be spent on his son's race," telling Bloomberg News, "That will be up to the discretion of Karl Rove."
This is the second time in four weeks that the program has allowed Rove to provide election analysis without noting his role in attempting to influence those same races.
Later in the broadcast, Fox contributor Carly Fiorina predicted that Ernst and Cory Gardner, the Republican candidate for Senate in Colorado, would win, praising the candidates for "very clear platforms about what they think the priorities of this nation should be." Neither Fiorina nor Wallace noted that Fiorina heads the Unlocking Potential PAC, which has spent nearly $150,000 in support of the Ernst and Gardner campaigns.
Here is the full segment featuring Rove:
Conservative media are attacking actor Ben Affleck for comments he made objecting to disparaging generalizations about Islam during a heated exchange with HBO host Bill Maher, using their dialogue as ammunition to continue claiming that the religion has a unique connection to extremism and that Muslims have not done enough to root out religious zealotry.
Fox News personalities claimed that President Obama's efforts to roll back the advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was prompted by the brutal murder of American journalist James Foley. In fact, President Obama authorized limited airstrikes several days before Foley's killing, and worked to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces months before the strikes.
Fox News misled viewers about trends in household income, job creation, and the use of food stamps while claiming that President Obama's policies are to blame for a supposedly stagnant economy.
During an interview that aired on the September 28 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, Obama argued that the United States "is definitely better off" economically than it was when he took office in 2009. The president said he would compare the success of his response to the "terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis" that he inherited to the response by "any leader around the world."
On the September 30 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney attempted to refute Obama's claim of economic achievement over the past six years, citing three major indicators -- household income, part-time job creation, and food stamp participation -- to make their case.
In each instance, Fox cherry-picked data to obscure positive trends in the overall economy:
National Review Online contributing editor Jim Geraghty suggested that President Obama "set the tone" for high profile leadership scandals including disgraced NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and embattled General Motors CEO Mary Barra who he claimed were influenced by Obama's alleged lack of "accountability."
Geraghty's September 22 National Review Online blog highlighted a number of recent scandals involving "leaders of large organizations" and compared their missteps to the purported example set by Obama, "the unaccountable leader." Geraghty asked, "Does our president just reflect a broad cultural trend in the behavior of leaders, or does he set the tone from the top?" He continued:
Consider some recent examples of leaders of large organizations with important responsibilities, once they find themselves in the public eye:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told CBS This Morning he never saw the second tape of Rice striking his wife before Monday. He said, "when we make a decision we want to have all the information that's available. When we met with Ray Rice and his representatives it was ambiguous about what actually happened." Friday afternoon, he announced the league would be making a new effort in dealing with unacceptable player conduct... by forming a special committee.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra, whose company has recalled of 2.6 million cars with defective ignition switches. The faulty parts have been linked to at least 13 deaths and 54 accidents since 2009 and have led to numerous lawsuits. She said, "I don't really think there was a cover up. I think what we had, and it was covered in the report, there were silos of information, so people had bits and pieces and didn't come forward with the information or didn't act with a sense of urgency, and it simply was unacceptable."
These are all private sector scandals, of course. Every administration and every era has its scandals. What our current moment seems to feature is a bumper crop of (alleged) leaders insisting they can wait out he storm, often displaying a glimpse of indignation at suggestions that they resign because something terrible happened on their watch. Somehow tapes of criminal behavior never reach the folks at the top, nor reports of a defect in ignition switches.
Everybody's got rogue low-level staffers in Cincinnati, it seems.
The message has been sent, far and wide: Accountability is for suckers.
Right-wing media figures continue to misleadingly link Obama to unrelated scandals in order to attack his presidency. Not only have conservatives falsely accused Obama of attempting to help GM cover-up its ignition defect, they have baselessly linked the NFL domestic abuse scandal with the terror attacks in Benghazi, falsely suggesting the Obama administration was insufficiently transparent about the September 2012 attacks.
Conservative media are claiming that unemployed Americans are "lazy" because they supposedly spend too much time "shopping" and not enough time working or looking for work. But the data they cite includes the activities of stay-at-home parents, students, people with disabilities, and retirees who are "not employed."
On September 8, fringe conservative website CNS News published an article claiming "an unemployed American is more likely to be shopping ... than to be looking for a new job. " The article ostensibly cited data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), an annual survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). CNS claimed that "only 18.9 percent of Americans who were unemployed" engaged in job searches or job interviews on "an average day." Meanwhile, according to CNS, 22.5 percent of the "unemployed" engaged in shopping "for items other than groceries" on "an average day."
Unfortunately, CNS did not link to its internal data or provide methodology for its reporting, leaving readers to take the website's claims at face value.
Digging into the technical notes of the ATUS reveals that the BLS does not categorize individuals as "unemployed," but rather as "not employed." This distinction is important, as it includes individuals who fit the classification of being unemployed -- not working but actively looking for work -- as well as individuals who are "not in the labor force" for other reasons, including retirement, educational pursuit, and disability. So-called "discouraged workers," the small percentage of the population who involuntarily leave the labor force due to a lack of opportunity, would also count as "not employed" by ATUS classification.
CNS' insinuation that the so-called "unemployed" spend too much time engaged in non-work activities like "shopping" is based on a fatally skewed statistical error. But that fact has not stopped right-wing media outlets from using CNS' assumptions to fuel their campaign against the unemployed.
Fox News turned to misleading statistics and sensational rhetoric in a renewed attack on government anti-poverty relief programs, federal workers, and public pensions.
On the August 21 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott invited Fox Business contributor Charles Gasparino to discuss concerns regarding the scope and sustainability of government benefit programs. The two falsely portrayed government employment as a "growth industry" and made a confusing comparison between the total number of Americans receiving so-called "welfare" and the population of Russia. Gasparino lamented that more "stigma" is not attached to receiving federal aid or "living in a housing project," before falsely concluding that public pensions face a "huge looming crisis" and are, in essence, "Ponzi schemes":
GASPARINO: I don't think Americans are against handing people a check if they really need it, if they're starving, if they need welfare, if they need a helping hand. But we have a cultural situation in this country where it is more than that, where it is almost acceptable. The stigma is gone about accepting that check.
GASPARINO: We've become the old Soviet Union! If you threw in the state numbers, it would even be bigger. The pension issue that I brought up is one of the huge looming crisis out there. It's essentially a Ponzi scheme.
Scott's initial claim that "nearly 110 million Americans live in households on welfare," is misleading. According to the United States Census Bureau, in the fourth quarter of 2012 roughly 109.6 million Americans resided in a household receiving "one or more means-tested programs." These include housing assistance, disability and survivor benefits, numerous nutritional assistance programs, Medicaid, and forms of "cash assistance." Only 5.4 million individuals lived in homes receiving from the benefit program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly referred to as "welfare."
The portrayal of government employment as a "growth industry" is also false. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, total government employment across local, state, and federal agencies has declined significantly during the Obama administration and over the past seven years. Total government employment was roughly 22.6 million when President Obama took office in 2009, declining to 21.9 million today:
Gasparino's final claim that public employee pensions are "a Ponzi scheme," is incorrect. A February 2011 report by economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) demonstrated that most of the long-term funding shortfall in public pensions is a result of the 2007-2009 economic crisis and the accompanying stock market downturn. Baker concluded that the debate on pensions had been "seriously misrepresented" and that most public pensions appeared "easily manageable" over the long term.
Fox News and Gasparino have a long history of misappropriating terms like "welfare" and relying on sensational comparisons of pensions to "Ponzi schemes," in addition to unsubstantiated correlations between the number of recipients of a government program with completely unrelated population statistics.
Heritage Foundation chief economist Stephen Moore grossly exaggerated the cost of providing unaccompanied minors access to American public education to stoke fears that the costs might hurt local communities.
On the August 7 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto invited conservative economist Stephen Moore to discuss the purportedly high cost of allowing roughly 50,000 unaccompanied minors access to public schools around the country. Citing his own calculations, Moore claimed that the cost of educating these immigrant children could reach $1 billion annually, adding that "it's unfair to put these costs on the backs of local residents ":
Moore's calculation is problematic for a number of reasons.
According to research from the Heritage Foundation, Moore's current employer, the cost of educating a single undocumented immigrant child is roughly $12,300 per year. Therefore, the cost of educating the roughly 50,000 recent undocumented minors in the U.S. would actually be roughly $615 million per year, according to Heritage's estimates.
Furthermore, Moore's fear mongering over the purported $1 billion price tag ignores the size and scope of the American economy. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the current dollar value of the American economy in the second quarter of 2014 was $17.3 trillion. In other words, the cost to educate these children would be less than 0.006 percent of the value of the economy as a whole. Hardly cause for alarm.
Moore's sloppy calculations have gotten him into trouble in the past, as he employs a façade of "economics" to disguise his conservative political agenda.