As national media begin to focus their political coverage on campaigning by Republican presidential candidates in the lead-up to the New Hampshire primary, it's incumbent upon journalists to disclose the history of misinformation and conservative bias of the state's top newspaper, the New Hampshire Union Leader, as well as the ties between the Koch brothers and oft-quoted state political expert Charles Arlinghaus.
A June 30 report by Politico highlighted how the crowded field of GOP contenders are viewing next January's first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire as "do or die" and already jostling for position. The piece said, "Never before have so many White House hopefuls bet so much on a single primary," and included quotes from Charles Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Institute, and Drew Cline, editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. But Politico failed to mention Arlinghaus' ties to the Koch brothers and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), or the Union Leader's long history of publishing conservative misinformation.
As other New Hampshire newspapers have been closing their state house bureaus because of budget cuts, the Union Leader's voice in statewide politics has gained prominence. Fox News is co-hosting a debate in August with the paper and presidential candidates are lining up to be interviewed by the Union Leader's publisher via live streaming. With so much access to candidates, and hardly any competition, the Union Leader's outsized influence could push candidates further to the right.
Publisher Joe McQuaid enjoys a prominent role as a must-visit member of the media for presidential primary candidates. In addition to his publishing duties, McQuaid has written sensationalist editorials for the paper, including one that called for a travel ban during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa -- a move most experts agreed would only exacerbate the spread of the virus. As the Daily Beast pointed out in the run-up to the 2012 election, McQuaid "is one of the more influential voices in American politics." McQuaid himself "figures that the Union Leader 'may be able to sway a few percentage points in close elections,'" much of that due to the editorial stance of the paper, which is written by only two people: McQuaid and editor Cline, who also runs the editorial page.
Although the 2012 Union Leader-endorsed candidate, Newt Gingrich, failed to win the primary, Gingrich's polling numbers spiked following the endorsement. However, as Politico explained, because of the way the Union Leader operates, the endorsement the paper gives is more than just a "one-time front-page feature," because the paper "tends to interweave its endorsement with its news coverage, bolstering its pick and attacking the other candidates ... most likely in addition to the opinion columns that tend to run in the paper echoing the official choice."
The two-man editorial board of McQuaid and Cline often echoes national conservative media talking points. The board has fabricated a need for harmful voter ID laws, attacked successful Head Start programs -- which help provide a pre-K education for New Hampshire's children - and even downplayed the impact of sequestration's steep budget cuts.
The Union Leader's editorial board has been attacking President Obama and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since 2010 and published a massive amount of misinformation on the law. The board warned of spiking insurance premium prices that never came to pass, criticized cost-saving measures in the law, and said initial glitches in the rollout of the online exchanges meant the entire law was a failure. The board also attacked Medicaid expansion and promoted a misguided voucher program to privatize the program.
On foreign policy issues, the Union Leader has demonstrated reckless bias by calling opponents of the release of the Senate report on CIA torture "wusses," and pushed a false narrative that blamed Hillary Clinton for the kidnapping of hundreds of African girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Outside of its opinion pages, the Union Leader has also at times blatantly misinformed its readers. In 2013, the paper published a lightly-edited press release authored by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) -- the Koch brothers-funded conservative advocacy group -- attacking the ACA. The article gave free publicity to AFP while helping to fulfill its larger mission, which, according to The Washington Post, is to "spread as much confusion and dishonesty about the [health care] law as possible."
The conservative slant to the Union Leader's news section is also apparent in what the paper chooses not to cover. A 2012 Media Matters study found that it failed to report on the "environmental, health, and economic benefits" of new government regulations in stories that emphasized how they would hurt the economy.
The Union Leader also publishes a regular op-ed by Charles Arlinghaus, the president of the Josiah Bartlett Institute, a think tank with strong connections to the American Legislative Exchange Council's conservative model-legislation mill (ALEC). In 2012, Arlinghaus and ALEC representatives co-hosted an event to denounce the Affordable Care Act.
The Josiah Bartlett Institute is part of the Koch brothers-funded State Policy Network -- state-based think tanks that incubate and legitimize conservative policy ideas that often benefit corporate sponsors. A representative for the Center for Media and Democracy told the Nashua Telegraph that Koch donations associated with Arlinghaus and the institute show that Arlinghaus is "working on a national conservative agenda, not a local, New Hampshire-based agenda."
Simon Conway, one of most influential voices in Iowa talk radio, missed an opportunity June 24 to press Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on his support for the Duggar family in the wake of its child molestation scandal -- something he promised to do just two weeks ago. On his June 25 show, Conway had another opportunity to press a GOP candidate on a divisive issue -- this time, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has defended the right of states to fly the Confederate battle flag, which Conway has equated with Nazi imagery. He again failed to do so.
On his June 4 show, Conway responded to Mike Huckabee's public vow to stand by and continue to support, and receive support from, the Duggar family despite the revelation that Jim Bob Dugger covered up his son Josh's molestation of several children. Conway initially posited that part of the reason Huckabee wouldn't come on his show was because he knew Conway would bring it up, and he vowed that the next time he interviewed Huckabee, he would, promising, "This is not something I want to see swept under the carpet."
Conway had that chance on his June 24 show, but despite having Huckabee on for three full segments - almost the entire first hour of his show -- Conway did not press him on the Duggar controversy.
Radio host Michael Berry criticized the decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina's Statehouse grounds by positing that if the gunman were Muslim, no one would be calling to "outlaw the Koran" or mosques in response.
On his June 23 show, Berry, who is an outspoken proponent of the Confederate battle flag, criticized the calls to remove the flag from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds in response to the fatal shootings of nine black church members on June 17. Dylann Storm Roof, who has been charged with the attack, told law enforcement officials he was influenced by white supremacists, who see the Confederate flag as a symbol of their beliefs. Berry said taking down the flag made no sense because when a Muslim commits a terrorist attack -- something he falsely claimed is more likely than an attack by a non-Muslim -- there aren't any calls to "outlaw the Koran" or to "outlaw mosques."
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, attacks on Muslims after 9/11 "skyrocketed some 1,600%," and as recently as 2010, some 160 anti-Muslim hate crimes were committed. North Carolina and Florida have passed "anti-sharia" laws, and as The New York Times reported, towns in Tennessee, California, and Wisconsin have tried to stop the construction or expansion of mosques.
Texas-based radio host Michael Berry criticized a Twitter user who, in the wake of the June 17 killing of nine black worshippers at an historic black church in Charlestown, South Carolina, tweeted that the state's governor had defended the Confederate "Stars and Bars" flag over the state capitol last October. Berry claimed the flag merely represents "the heritage of the state" and accused critics of wanting to "revise the history."
Berry spent a large portion of his June 18 morning show downplaying the racist motivations behind Dylann Storm Roof's attack on a prayer group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. While condemning those he said have rushed to judgement about the white shooter's motivations, Berry responded to a tweet by a former official at the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development that pointed out that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) had defended flying the Confederate flag outside the statehouse in October 2014. Berry said it was silly to blame the capitol's display of the "Stars and Bars" flag of the former Confederate States for encouraging the attack because it merely "represents the heritage of the state." He added that opponents want to "revise the history and take the flag away." Listen:
Berry, who called black teens at a pool party in McKinney, Texas "jungle animals" and told black UCLA students who were trying to improve diversity on campus to "get the F over themselves," has caused more than a few controversies with his racially insensitive remarks. His defense of the Confederate flag epitomizes what Philip Klein, managing editor of the conservative Washington Examiner, criticized in a recent column that said, "Conservatives who try to defend the flag (or who are afraid to criticize it) are only reinforcing the perception that supporters of limited government don't really care about the historical or modern day struggles of black Americans." But considering the fact that Berry's promotional material for his show features a picture of him wearing a Confederate flag hat, (see above), it seems unlikely he cares.
Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson, the state's self-appointed vetter of GOP presidential candidates, recently told members of the League of Women Voters that it should be harder for people to vote, suggesting it be limited to state property owners or people who pass a civics test -- both of which were used to disenfranchise black voters and others in colonial America and the Jim Crow era.
On the June 4 broadcast of Mickelson in the Morning, Mickelson hosted two representatives of the League of Women Voters. During the discussion, Mickelson declared that unlike his guests, whose group works to register more Americans to vote, he is in "the voter repression business" and doesn't want people to vote "unless they agree" with him. He also suggested that in order to vote, Americans should have to pass a "civics test" to prove they're smart enough.
Iowa radio host and Washington Times columnist Steve Deace strongly criticized Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) after Pence agreed in a press conference to amend Indiana's recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which would give businesses the right to discriminate against LGBT Americans, calling Pence "gutless" and comparing him and other state Republicans to "eunuchs."
Deace, who is notoriously anti-gay, initially supported Pence on his March 30 radio show, instead blaming the "rainbow jihad" and "religious bigots" for causing an unnecessary issue with a law he incorrectly claimed was the same as in 19 other states.
Despite the backing of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates, Pence held a press conference announcing he would revisit the law and ensure there were protections for LGBT Americans. On his March 31 show, Deace called Pence a "gutless hack," and said that any chance he had at the Republican presidential nomination is gone. Deace added of Republicans: "When you look between their legs, there's no there, there. Eunuchs all. Well, almost all. GOP leadership is rapidly removing any reasons for a conservative to vote Republican, let alone remain one."
In an interview with the Washington Post and on his show, Deace said RFRA is "the first litmus test of the race" and that for him, if a candidate did not align themselves with anti-gay laws, they would be a non-starter in his eyes.
Deace, who has frequently appeared on cable television to discuss how national stories will play out in Iowa, was recently called one of the "most powerful Republicans you've never heard of" by Bloomberg Politics because of his influence in the key primary state of Iowa.
Full segment below:
Four major broadcast television stations in New York City have continued to give disproportionate coverage to crime stories involving African-American suspects, a Media Matters analysis found. Between August 18 and December 31, 2014, the stations' late-night news broadcasts on weeknights still covered murder, theft, and assault cases in which African-Americans were suspects at a notably higher rate than the rate at which African-Americans have historically been arrested for those crimes in New York City.
Syndicated radio host Michael Berry commented on the beating of a teenage girl at a New York City restaurant by saying, "You know why white lives matter? Because that's what white people believe. The dirty little secret is, black people don't believe that black lives matter."
On the March 12 edition of his Houston-based show, Berry described video footage of the beating, in which four girls attacked a 15-year-old girl at a McDonald's in Brooklyn. At first, Berry claimed, "I'm not going to tell y'all the skin color because it's not relevant." After delivering his description of the brutal attack, Berry asserted that "you can blame this problem on anything other than the root cause. But the reality -- and this is what makes people so uncomfortable with our show -- is this one fact that we are about to state. We have people living in our country who are savages. Absolutely, positively savages. To engage in this kind of behavior."
Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson misrepresented the constitutional law that requires states to provide public school education to undocumented children in the United States. In fact, the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly mandates that states and local educational agencies are obligated to provide these children with equal access to public education if other children in that state are receiving a similar benefit.
On Mickelson's Feb 19 radio show, Mickelson criticized the Iowa Farm Bureau for wanting to raise the gas tax, alleging instead that the state could save money by not funding undocumented students to go to public schools. Mickelson rationalized this attack on "the children of Mexico" by dismissing as "magical thinking" the long-standing Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe, which found that not providing public education to undocumented children in a school district was unconstitutional discrimination prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and called providing education to these children a "scam" while claiming that there is no "mandate" requiring school districts to spend money educating undocumented children (see transcript below):
But Mickelson completely botched the Supreme Court's decision and relevant constitutional law.
Contrary to his explanation, the Court did not set an independent "spending mandate" on behalf of undocumented students. Rather, the Court concluded that if a state or local jurisdiction chooses to offer public education, it cannot constitutionally withhold this benefit based on immigration status, just as it cannot on account of race. In other words, the Court held that if a state chooses to offer public education to its residents, the Equal Protection Clause prohibits it from irrationally discriminating among its beneficiaries.
The Chicago Tribune published an op-ed by the CEO of Caterpillar, a manufacturer of large construction equipment, which advocated for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline but failed to disclose Caterpillar's significant financial stake in the pipeline's construction.
The January 7 op-ed in the Tribune by Caterpillar chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman advocated for the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline that would connect the Alberta tar sands in Canada to an existing pipeline in the United States. Oberhelman's op-ed touted the perceived benefits of the pipeline:
Think how manufacturers will help grow the U.S. economy if after more than six years of examination, review and debate, this pipeline is finally approved. Manufacturers can hire tens of thousands of workers to build a modern, state-of-the-art pipeline, delivering a project that will increase U.S. energy supplies.
Let the construction begin and manufacturers will hire laborers, welders, mechanics, clerks, engineers and office managers. Although some argue that the bulk of hiring will be insufficient -- only 42,000 temporary construction-related jobs and far fewer permanent ones -- think about it this way: Putting 42,000 people to work is like employing every undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Creating more than 42,000 jobs -- even temporary jobs -- is no small matter, especially when the United States faces historically low labor participation rates like we do now.
Let the construction begin, and see the benefits to local communities as they absorb the more than $2 billion in worker payments from Keystone XL jobs.
However, while the paper did disclose the fact that Oberhelman is the CEO of Caterpillar, it left out the significant financial benefit the construction of the pipeline would have for Caterpillar. A Forbes article from March 2013 quoted the then-Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, as saying that, "the oil sands are the largest market in the world for Caterpillar mining trucks." Indeed, even the Keystone XL pipeline website highlights Caterpillar as one of the companies that would benefit from the pipeline's construction.
In addition, a letter from the Vice President of Caterpillar, Kathryn D. Karol, to Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) in support of the Keystone XL pipeline explains that Caterpillar has a "keen interest in the approval" of the pipeline as "the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbine, and locomotives ... With energy related products and services accounting for over one-fourth of [Caterpillar's] business."