Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 has been missing since March 8, and the search for its whereabouts has consumed media attention worldwide. But to Fox News, the missing airliner is reminiscent of Benghazi.
Conservative media have repeatedly attempted to link the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, to a variety of unrelated events, often invoking the tragedy to attack President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or to deflect conservatives from scrutiny. Inside the right-wing bubble, the Chris Christie bridge scandal, Yom Kippur, Monday Night Football, and even openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam are all opportunities to invoke Benghazi.
It was only a matter of time before Fox brought the same mentality to its coverage of the missing plane:
Guinness announced that it will not participate in the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade due to the parade's exclusion of LGBT groups, prompting outrage and calls for boycott from right-wing media figures.
Right-wing media are newly outraged over the Affordable Care Act's "hardship" exemption, a provision of the original law that pardons qualifying persons from the individual mandate to purchase health insurance coverage.
One conspiracy theory, favored by the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal and conservative blogs like The Daily Caller, is that the Obama administration 'secretly' changed the ACA last week by "quietly" adding a hardship exemption. Others like FoxNews.com suggested that the administration added the hardship exemption -- "a mega-exemption" -- to the law just three months ago. But the one thing all right-wing media agree on is that the hardship exemption "might be the death knell" for the individual mandate, as Fox put it. According to the Journal:
[L]ast week the Administration quietly excused millions of people from the requirement to purchase health insurance or else pay a tax penalty.
This latest political reconstruction has received zero media notice, and the Health and Human Services Department didn't think the details were worth discussing in a conference call, press materials or fact sheet. Instead, the mandate suspension was buried in an unrelated rule that was meant to preserve some health plans that don't comply with ObamaCare benefit and redistribution mandates. Our sources only noticed the change this week.
That seven-page technical bulletin includes a paragraph and footnote that casually mention that a rule in a separate December 2013 bulletin would be extended for two more years, until 2016. Lo and behold, it turns out this second rule, which was supposed to last for only a year, allows Americans whose coverage was cancelled to opt out of the mandate altogether.
But what right-wing media are missing in their most recent set of attacks against the ACA is that the hardship exemption has been a part of the ACA from the law's inception, and their attacks against the law's "new," "mega-exemption" guidelines are actually based on three-month old HHS guidance that was laid out under routine rule-making authority. As Jason Linkis of Huffington Post and Brian Beutler of Salon detailed, not only is the original provision old news, so too is the new hardship category that right-wing media like the WSJ editorial board suddenly discovered even though multiple outlets covered the change in December.
The hardship exemption was written into the ACA at the law's outset, with the intention of exempting certain individuals from the shared responsibility payment -- the "individual mandate." As the law was written, exemptions and exclusions from this penalty would be granted to a range of groups in addition to those experiencing hardship and an inability to find an affordable plan, including undocumented immigrants, members of health care sharing ministries, and Native Americans. A 2010 report from the Urban Institute examining the impact of the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act noted at the time that the ACA allows "financial hardship exemptions to be granted. The requirements for these are left to the discretion of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services." A Congressional Research Service report called the ACA a "particularly noteworthy example of congressional delegation of rulemaking authority to federal agencies," and "indicates that PPACA gives federal agencies substantial responsibility and authority to 'fill in the details' of the legislation through subsequent regulations."
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) publicly admitted that his dogged investigation into the IRS may be at a "dead end" given a former IRS official's refusal to testify, but you won't hear that on Fox News.
The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee called on former IRS official Lois Lerner to testify on March 5 in yet another hearing on the IRS' inappropriate targeting of organizations seeking tax exempt status. For the second time, Lerner testified that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights and not answer the committee's questions.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Issa articulated that his investigation into the IRS could "dead end" given Lerner's refusal to testify. As Talking Points Memo reported:
Issa was asked how bad of a setback Wednesday's hearing was for the investigation.
"As you can see from our questioning today, we have continued to gather facts around Ms. Lerner's absence of testimony," Issa replied. "It would have allowed us to bring this investigation to a -- probably pretty quick close if she had been willing to answers those questions. Without it we will undoubtably [sic] have a few more questions to try to find out things that she could have answered quickly today."
A reporter than asked Issa if he was still "confident" the investigation would "get to the bottom of this."
"It may well be we have gotten to the bottom of it," Issa said. "At this point, roads lead to Ms. Lerner. The witness who to took the Fifth. That becomes -- she becomes one of the key characters at this point. Had she been willing to explain those emails which were provided through separate subpoenas, then we could have perhaps brought this to a close. Without that, it may dead end with Ms. Lerner."
Fox News was quick to hype Issa's hearing, but not nearly so quick to acknowledge the congressman's admission that his IRS investigation might be over.
Summarizing the House hearing that evening on Special Report, Fox correspondent Mike Emanuel concluded, "At this point, Issa seems prepared to move forward with the IRS investigation without hearing from Lerner":
Media are distorting Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state by fixating on her attempt to reset the U.S. relationship with Russian in order to make Russia's invasion of Crimea a political issue in the 2016 presidential election. But Clinton has long maintained that Russian President Vladimir Putin is untrustworthy and helped negotiate Russian cooperation on Iran sanctions and use of Russian airspace for the war in Afghanistan.
Several right-wing media figures reacted with outrage on Twitter after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have permitted businesses and individuals to refuse to serve gay couples and individuals.
Facing widespread denouncement for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," Ted Nugent is promising to stop calling people names -- but with his promise still hanging in the air, Nugent labeled Obama a "liar" and suggested that the president is a criminal.
The NRA board member's promise came during an appearance on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, where Nugent attempted to mitigate the firestorm surrounding his description of Obama as a "subhuman mongrel" and his subsequent (hollow) apology, which were criticized by politicians of both parties and some in the media. Nugent was originally scheduled to discuss this firestorm with Burnett last week, but, citing an illness, he canceled the appearance -- after comparing CNN to a Nazi propagandist.
On February 24, Burnett began the interview by asking Nugent to confirm that he apologized to the president for his remark. Nugent dodged the question, instead simply saying that he was sorry for "being part of that political discourse" with "street language." The interview went downhill from there.
Nugent claimed that "the president is intentionally disassembling the greatest quality of life in the history of the world" before concluding, "the president's a bad man."
According to Nugent, there was nothing racial about his "subhuman mongrel" attack. Nugent alleged that such an idea is "crap," as there is "not a racist bone in body." (For reference, Nugent previously argued that African-Americans could fix "the black problem" if they just put their "heart and soul into being honest, law-abiding, [and] delivering excellence at every move in your life." He's also written that "I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War" and that "black communities across America" have a "mindless tendency to violence.")
Fox News accused an MSNBC contributor of injecting racism into the failed union vote at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant, but the analogy that formed the basis of Fox's phony outrage actually originated with the anti-labor forces Fox was defending.
Last week workers at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, Volkswagen plant voted against organizing with the United Auto Workers union. The vote gained national attention for what some labor experts called the unusual nature of the campaign: While Volkswagen did not oppose unionization, interference was run by national conservative groups like Grover Norquist's Center for Worker Freedom, which, aided by Republican politicians, waged a dishonest publicity war against the union effort.
On February 17, MSNBC contributing writer Timothy Noah ruffled right-wing feathers after he said that the anti-union forces were portraying the UAW as "a union invasion, refighting of the Civil War," adding: "Apparently there are not a lot of black employees in this particular plant, and so that kind-of, waving of the Confederate flag was an effective strategy."
Fox News figures accused Noah of injecting the "tired, old, desperate" racism argument into the union vote. According to The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros, Noah's reference to the Civil War was "shameful" and "really pathetic."
The problem with Fox's indignation is that the Civil War analogy Noah referenced actually originated with the UAW opposition trying to convince workers to vote against organizing.
Talking about women's access to health care on Valentine's Day is akin to urging women to get a 'traditional' abortion for the holiday, according to conservative media.
This week Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards posted a Vine video on Twitter promoting access to basic women's health care, using the hashtag #WhatWomenNeed:
In the short video, Richards held placards detailing what women need this Valentine's Day: "birth control," "cancer screenings," "safe and legal abortions," "well woman visits," "breast exams," "maternity care," "preventive care," "Planned Parenthood," "To make our own decisions."
The notion was offensive to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who accused Planned Parenthood of "urging women to get abortions for Valentine's Day." According to Limbaugh, the tweet evidenced how Democrats "see women as basically walking vaginas looking to have sex every change they get":
LIMBAUGH: Democrats see women as basically just walking vaginas. Democrats see women as nothing but walking vaginas looking to have sex every chance they get, and then they go get an abortion whenever they need one, or they got to get them birth control pills or whatever. If you listen to your average liberal Democrat talk about women, that's it. That's what they think the only thing women are concerned about is, is making sure they can have sex whenever they want to have it, and then they're covered, either with contraception or an abortion. And anybody who opposes that is obviously engaged in a war on women. It's nonsense.
Limbaugh wasn't alone in his attacks. Drudge Report promoted a Breitbart.com article about Richards' tweet with the headline:
Breitbart.com's Robert Wilde alleged that Richards was advocating for an "abortion tradition" on Valentine's Day, writing:
In a global Internet search of the varied customs of Valentine's day expressions of love, there were zero mentions of other abortion traditions. It appears that Ms. Richards can safely claim that she is the seminal inspiration for the "avant-garde" concept that having an abortion is a value to be shared on Valentine's day.
Two major Tennessee newspapers are aiding opposition to unionization efforts at a Volkswagen plant in the state by hiding the facts about union support and outside conservative influences.
This week workers at the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee will vote on whether to become unionized under the United Automobile Workers (UAW) umbrella. A majority of the plant's workers have reportedly signed support cards backing a union, and while Volkswagen is not opposing the effort, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and outside conservative activist groups have mobilized a campaign to prevent the vote from succeeding.
Leading the charge is anti-tax activist Grover Norquist. The Center for Worker Freedom, a lobbying arm of Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, has rented at least 13 billboards around Chattanooga and booked commercials on local radio stations, publicly demonizing unions and the UAW.
And by omitting critical context in their coverage of the union vote, two prominent Tennessee newspapers are aiding these antiunion efforts.
This month the Chattanooga Times Free Press' devoted at least 25 posts to the looming unionization vote. But not one of those reports acknowledged that unionization enjoys majority support among the Volkswagen workers, including a February 9 article titled "UAW supporter sees victory in vote." The Times Free Press' only mention of Volkswagen worker support of unions was buried in the 13th paragraph of a broad February 2 report on unions in the South.
Similarly, The Knoxville News-Sentinel conspicuously avoided recognizing right-wing group's ties to the union opposition -- a feat, considering most of the paper's coverage this month leading up to the vote has focused on critics of the effort to unionize. In its one post acknowledging that the Center for Worker Freedom is behind recent anti-UAW ads, reprinted from the Times Free Press, the News-Sentinel chose not to include CWF's affiliation with Americans For Tax Reform or UAW's statement in response to critics, language included in the original post.
Such omissions are particularly notable given the crude nature of the conservative activist's advertisements. The Detroit Free Press wrote:
One shows Detroit's crumbling Packard Plant ruins that have been shuttered for 55 years. The copy reads: "Detroit. Brought to you by the UAW."
Another has a red X through the second word of United Auto Workers, with a crudely lettered Obama just beneath it. Beneath it in small print it reads: "The UAW spends millions to elect liberal politicans including Barack Obama." -- workerfreedom.org. (Note: Politicians is misspelled on the billboard.)
Labor experts have noted that it's unusual for a third party to be the main opposition to a private plant unionizing -- typically that role is played by the company itself, as The New York Times detailed:
'It's unusual how national groups have really gotten interested in this,' said Daniel B. Cornfield, a labor expert at Vanderbilt University. 'It seems that both the business community and labor are seeing what's happening at VW as a pivotal moment in the Southern automotive business and labor history.'
With Volkswagen taking a neutral stance on the effort, groups like CWF are picking up the baton for fear that if the UAW succeeds, other plants will follow suit. Thus "antiunion activists have been streaming into the city of 171,000 and organizing a campaign intent on keeping the UAW from gaining ground in the South," Wall Street Journal explained. But when local media hide that intent, it benefits only the lobbying groups, not local workers.