Days after the 1996 Olympic Park bombing, media and federal investigators focused on their top suspect: Richard Jewell, the security guard who had first discovered the bomb which killed one and injured 111. It took more than a year for Jewell to clear his name; he would successfully sue several outlets for their coverage but remained haunted by the memory of the reporters who went after him "like piranha on a bleeding cow" for years.
In the 24 hours following yesterday's tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon, several right-wing media figures have attempted to create their own Jewell. Echoing the same piranha-like voraciousness seen in that case, they have published the name, home address, and what they claim are Facebook pictures of a 20-year-old Saudi national that police have since identified as a witness -- not a suspect -- to the Boston bombings.
Less than two hours after the bombing took place, The New York Post -- citing unnamed "law enforcement sources" -- claimed that a "Saudi Arabian national" was a "suspect" in the case and that he was "under guard at an undisclosed Boston hospital." Several right-wing outlets quickly trumpeted that report. But the claim quickly unraveled (as did the paper's similarly sourced claim that 12 had been killed in the explosions), with law enforcement telling reporters that no one had been arrested in the case and that the Saudi was a witness who was cooperating with authorities.
By the next afternoon, Fox News was reporting that "a federal law enforcement official is confirming... that Saudi man, the college student who was described as a person of interest in the Boston bombings, has now been ruled out as a suspect in this bombing."
But in the interim, the right-wing media -- led by popular conservative blogger Jim Hoft -- swallowed the initial Post report and began posting as much personal information about the man as they could discover.
As the nation mourned the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, media figures used the attacks to offer conspiracy theories, make Islamophobic comments, and push petty political and personal attacks.
Conspiracy Radio Host Alex Jones: U.S. Gov't Is "Prime Suspect" In Attack
Radio host and noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones responded to the bombings by suggesting that they may have been a "false flag" operation staged by the government:
In a special webcast on April 15, Jones expanded on the conspiracy, saying"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."
WND Columnist Erik Rush's Attempt At "Sarcasm": Kill All Muslims In Response To Attack
Shortly following the bombings, WND columnist and occasional Fox News guest Erik Rush tweeted:
Rush lashed out at critics of his tweet and claimed it was "sarcasm" intended to show that liberals' "precious Islamists say the same about us EVERY DAY."
The National Rifle Association has released a new video that attempts to rebut a TV ad calling for stronger gun laws by pushing a false claim about that ad that originated in the right-wing media.
In March, several conservative media outlets including Fox News highlighted Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller's claim that ads released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) to promote expanding the background check system featured a man using unsafe gun handling. In particular, Miller and the right-wing media falsely claimed that the man's finger was on the trigger of the firearm.
The NRA used the same claims to undermine the ad in their own web video released April 15. According to the ad's narrator, "every gun owner watching probably noticed... the finger dangerously close to the trigger." The narrator suggests that this is not "responsible firearms handling."
With the U.S. Senate having voted to take up legislation to strengthen gun laws, which will likely include a bipartisan proposal to expand federal firearms background checks, Media Matters reviews myths the media has promoted about the background check system.
Media Matters investigative reporter Joe Strupp has been named a finalist for the prestigious media industry reporting Mirror Award for Best Single Article - Digital Media for his 2012 story, "How A Right-Wing Group Is Infiltrating State News Coverage."
In a statement, Media Matters Founder and Chairman David Brock called Strupp "an invaluable addition to the Media Matters team" and said that the "well-deserved honor speaks to his incredible abilities as a journalist."
Strupp's reporting detailed the rise of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a conservative news outlet funded by major right-wing donors and staffed by veterans of groups affiliated with the Koch brothers that seeks to publish its ideological journalism in the pages of state and local newspapers.
According to the Mirror Awards website:
The Mirror Awards are the most important awards for recognizing excellence in media industry reporting. Established by Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, the awards honor the reporters, editors and teams of writers who hold a mirror to their own industry for the public's benefit.
This is the fourth time Strupp has been named a finalist for a Mirror Award, with the previous three coming for his reporting for Editor & Publisher. It is the first time a Media Matters reporter has been recognized by the Mirror Awards.
The New York Times covered up the extremism of the fringe gun lobby organization Gun Owners of America (GOA) in an article highlighting the group's influence with Republican politicians.
Notably, the Times reported only that the group's leader, Larry Pratt, "worked briefly for Patrick J. Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign." While it's true that he "worked briefly" for Buchanan's campaign, the Times left out the reason Pratt's role was short-lived: he stepped down as co-chair of the campaign in response to reports that he had attended meetings organized by right-wing militia leaders and white supremacists.
The article describes GOA as an "upstart group" that has a "rising profile" and is "increasingly potent" because of its "loud" advocacy tactics on positions that "tend to veer farther right than those of the" National Rifle Association. It includes praise for the group from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Dean Heller (R-NV) and reports that the organization has been successful in "freezing senators, particularly Republicans" from taking positions in support of gun violence prevention legislation.
But the Times ignored the extremism of the group's leadership and the bizarre conspiracies they have adopted. The article describes Pratt, the organization's executive director, as follows:
Mr. Pratt, 70, has long been active in Republican politics. He served in the Virginia legislature in the 1980s, and he worked briefly for Patrick J. Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign.
That description of Pratt's service with Buchanan is inadequate, as the Times' reporting from February 18, 1996, indicates (via Nexis, emphasis added):
Last week, Larry Pratt, a co-chairman of the Buchanan campaign, took a leave of absence after the disclosure that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements.
Mr. Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said in an interview that he did not know the other speakers. He also said he did not harbor anti-Semitic or racist views, although his articles on gun ownership often appear in The Jubilee, a tabloid published in California by leaders of the Christian Identity movement, a white supremacist organization.
Bill Donohue, the virulently homophobic head of the Catholic League who has blamed that church's sexual abuse scandals on the presence of gays among the clergy and criticized the "gay death style," is the latest right-wing figure to come to the aid of Dr. Ben Carson in the wake of Carson's anti-gay comments.
Carson, a recent favorite of the right-wing media, has been at the center of a firestorm since he compared gay supporters of marriage equality to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality during a Fox News interview. Conservatives including Rush Limbaugh, Fox's Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity have come to his support.
Donohue joined that chorus, saying Carson's comments were a "perfectly legitimate line of inquiry" and calling him "a good man who was framed" in an April 2 press release:
Princeton professor Peter Singer wants us to keep an open mind about Fred having sex with Fido. He says, "sex with animals does not always involve cruelty," and that "mutually satisfying activities" of a sexual nature should be respected. Last month, Yale hosted a "sensitivity training" exercise where Dr. Jill McDevitt touted the merits of bestiality. Her goal is to "increase compassion for people who may engage in activities that are not what you would personally consider normal."
Dr. Carson is a good man who was framed. It's the sexologists and the Ivy Leaguers who need to explain themselves.
It's unsurprising that Donohue would speak out in support of anti-gay comments; he has a long history of inflammatory rhetoric, particularly concerning the LGBT community.
Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center, reacted to MSNBC's announcement of Karen Finney as host of a new program by suggesting that Finney's skin is not dark enough for the "average viewer" to guess that she is African-American.
According to MSNBC's press release, "Finney, who served as the first African-American spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, has been an MSNBC political analyst and guest host on the network since 2009."
Graham responded with the following tweet:
UPDATE: Graham adds:
Dr. Ben Carson has pivoted from apologizing "if anybody was offended" by his anti-gay comments to attacking his critics, some of whom he says are "racist[s]" who are trying to smear him as a bigot in order to silence him.
Carson, who has been lauded by the conservative media and treated to dozens of Fox News appearances over the past few months, lashed out at his critics during an April 1 interview on The Mark Levin Show.
The noted surgeon and Johns Hopkins University neurosurgery professor has been subject to harsh criticism, including from students and staff at Johns Hopkins Medical School, since he compared gays who support marriage equality to pedophiles and practitioners of bestiality during a March 27 interview on Fox News' Hannity.
During that appearance, Carson said, "Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition. So, it's not something against gays. It's against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications."
Carson had previously written in his 2012 book that marriage equality could destroy America like the "fall of the Roman Empire."
After LGBT medical students called for Carson's replacement as the commencement speaker for the class of 2013, he attempted to claim that he hadn't been "equating" gays with pedophiles or those who engage in bestiality, while apologizing "if anybody was offended." He also said he would be willing to step down as commencement speaker.
But on Levin's show, Carson went on the offensive, saying that the criticism he has received proves that he's right that "political correctness is threatening to destroy our nation because it puts a muzzle over honest conversation." He added that "the attacks against me have been so vicious because I represent an existential threat" to his critics, who he says "take my words, misinterpret them, and try to make it seem that I'm a bigot."
After Levin claimed that Carson has been "attacked also, in many respects, because of your race" because "a lot of white liberals" don't like black conservatives, Carson replied, "Well, they're the most racist people there are. Because you know, they put you in a little category, a little box, 'you have to think this way, how could you dare come off the plantation?'"
A group of students from the graduating class at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine are calling for the replacement of Dr. Ben Carson as commencement speaker for the class of 2013 following his "deeply offensive" comments on marriage equality and other issues.
In a letter obtained by Media Matters, eight members of the school's class of 2013, including a co-chair of the school's LGBT organization, ask their fellow students to sign a petition describing Carson, a neurosurgery professor at the university, as "an inappropriate choice of speaker at a ceremony intended to celebrate the achievements of our class."
The letter has been circulated across Hopkins School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Public Health, and other institutions, according to a signatory.
Carson, who has become a celebrity in recent months among the right-wing media, has come under fire in the media and from members of the Hopkins community since comparing gay relationships with pedophilia and bestiality during a Fox News appearance earlier this week.
His comments were condemned as "nasty," "petty," "ill-informed," "rancid" and "reactionary" by Professor Todd Shepard, the co-director of the university's sexuality studies program. Current and former leaders of the organization representing the LGBT members of the Johns Hopkins medical institutions told Media Matters they found the comments "hurtful" and "extremely discouraging."
One of those leaders, Carl Streed, is among the letter's signatories. Streed represents the School of Medicine among the leadership of the Gertrude Stein Society (GSS), a group of more than 300 students, faculty, staff and alumni of the Hopkins Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health who work to promote LGBT issues on campus.
Media Matters is withholding the names of the other students who signed the letter to protect their privacy.
The signatories say that at the time of Carson's nomination as the class commencement speaker, the professor "was known to most of us as a world-class neurosurgeon and passionate advocate for education" and that many students "looked up to him as a role model in our careers."
But they write Carson's recent comments about marriage equality, his past statements rejecting evolution, and his use of his National Prayer Breakfast platform to issue a speech denouncing Obamacare, "have cast serious doubt on the appropriateness of having Dr. Carson speak at our graduation." While they acknowledge Carson has the right to publicly voice his political views, they write that those views are "incongruous with the values of Johns Hopkins and deeply offensive to a large proportion our student body."