It's Earth Day, a day on which people around the world put "environmental concerns front and center" to help build "a clean, healthy, diverse world for generations to come." But for the right-wing media, Earth Day signifies something else entirely: The opportunity to engage in another round of conspiracy theories, anti-science claims, and unwarranted attacks. Here's how they are celebrating this year:
Rush Limbaugh celebrated Earth Day by inventing a new and extremely bizarre conspiracy theory: Earth Day has prompted the government to tell people to ignore food expiration dates, which will lead them to "ration" health care and eventually lead to "death panels."
On the April 22 edition of his show, Limbaugh berated the U.S. Department of Agriculture for trying to limit food waste by providing consumers with a tool educating them on the types of foods that have incorrect or overly cautious expiration dates. Limbaugh went on to claim that the government will eventually use expiration dates to ration medicine and health care, and that "there are going to be death panels." He concluded: "All of this has as its root, Earth Day."
Right-wing websites National Review and Townhall thought it was important to "remind" their audiences about the story of Ira Einhorn, who claimed that he was the co-founder of Earth Day and was convicted for murder several years later. Both outlets stated that Einhorn "composted" his girlfriend. Though Einhorm participated in the first Earth Day, leaders and organizers of the original 1970 Earth Week Committee of Philadelphia have made clear that Einhorn inappropriately disrupted the event and played no role in organizing it.
Discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson will host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings for Sinclair Broadcast Group across its 62 stations, the group announced April 22.
TV Technology reported that the show will be able to reach 37.5 percent of U.S. TV households and will air "on Sinclair's Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates nationwide." The magazine added, "the 30-minute program, which will be based in Washington, D.C., will be a blend of investigative and political journalism, with a focus on accountability, according to Sinclair. Attkisson will join Sinclair in June, and the show is expected to launch in the fall of 2015."
Media Matters has documented Attkisson's long history of sloppy and inaccurate reporting, including her confused allegation that someone in the government broke into her computers. After leaving CBS, Attkisson has been producing reports for the conservative Daily Signal, which continue to be plagued by her inaccurate reporting.
Sinclair Broadcasting has often injected conservative messages into their news broadcasts. A few days before the 2004 election, Sinclair reportedly ordered its stations to pre-empt regular programming in order to air a film leveling several false allegations against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
One of conservative media's favorite myths in their campaign against reproductive choice -- that certain forms of contraception are equivalent to abortion -- is being parroted by Republicans and anti-abortion groups in Colorado to advocate against extending an expiring state program that provides contraceptive implants to Colorado women at low costs, and has been called "America's most effective anti-teen-pregnancy program."
The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, a program that provides long-term contraceptive options for women and teens such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants at reduced costs may end after the private donation that originally funded it expires June 30, unless a bipartisan Colorado House bill appropriating funding from the state's budget passes in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Wall Street Journal explained on April 22 that some of Colorado's lawmakers are advocating against "spend[ing] state money to extend the program." The Journal pointed to a statement from the anti-abortion group Personhood USA, explaining that the organization "opposed efforts to extend the program because it considered IUDs to be the equivalent of abortion." In March, NPR wrote that Republican Senator Kevin Lundberg, chairman of the Senate Health Committee in Colorado, claimed that the program "'crosses a line'" because "in Lundberg's view, an IUD can count as an abortion, and this makes it impossible for a program that funds IUDs to receive state funding."
The claim that IUDs and other forms of contraception cause abortion mimics a long championed conservative media myth. Despite the fact that experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have repeatedly explained that IUDs and emergency contraception "do not cause abortions," right-wing media baselessly claimed that the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate - which includes coverage of IUDS -- covered abortifacients.
Now the conservative media myth has found its way into arguments against Colorado's Family Planning Initiative, which has been called one of "America's most effective anti-teen-pregnancy" programs. The program has provided IUDs and contraceptive implants to "more than 30,000 Colorado women, most of them low income," and is credited with reducing the state's teen pregnancy rate "faster than the nationwide average, allowing it to leapfrog 11 spots in the national rankings." The program has also significantly lowered Colorado's abortion rate and saved the state millions of dollars, according to Mother Jones:
Between 2010 and 2012, the state estimates, 4,300 to 9,700 births to women on the state's Medicaid program that would have otherwise occurred did not--saving Medicaid between $49 million and $111 million. The state's abortion rate has also cratered, falling 42 percent among women ages 15 to 19 and 18 percent among women ages 20 to 24 between 2009 and 2012.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi reportedly plans to release the findings of its redundant investigation into the terror attacks just in time for the 2016 general election. Fox News fought hard to establish the committee, and has devoted significant airtime attempting to link Benghazi to Hillary Clinton's presidential ambitions.
According to an April 22 Bloomberg report, the Republican-led House Select Committee will release a report "just months before the 2016 presidential election"detailing its ongoing investigation into the September 11, 2012, attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) claimed in a statement that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's "decision to seek the presidency of the United States does not and will not impact the work of the committee." A spokesperson for the Benghazi Committee cited "factors beyond the committee's control," including alleged obstruction by the White House, for delaying the release of the inquiry.
Ranking Democrat on the committee Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) responded, accusing House Republicans of targeting Clinton and noting that with the delays, "this investigation is on track to last longer than the investigations of Iran-Contra, the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, and 9/11, and it will squander more than $6 million in taxpayer funds in the process."
The Benghazi Select Committee is the product of a sustained campaign by Fox News and its affiliates to scandalize an American tragedy for political gain. The network's Benghazi Hoax, which Republican Mitt Romney tried and failed to capitalize on during the 2012 election, seems primed to be deployed against Hillary Clinton should she win the Democratic presidential nomination 2016.
From September 2012 to May 2014, a period of 20 months, Fox aired an astounding 1,098 evening and primetime segments dedicated to Benghazi, including several segments calling for the establishment of a special panel or committee to investigate the attacks and their aftermath. 105 of those segments raised the specter of Benghazi as a supposed factor against Hillary Clinton's presidential ambitions.
By November and December of 2014, when a separate GOP-controlled investigation exonerated both Clinton and Obama of culpability for the attacks and their aftermath, Fox News began blasting Republicans on that committee for being "soft on the Obama administration," and called on the newly-formed Benghazi Select Committee to take a stronger stance. And in March 2015, Fox capitalized on a botched Times report on Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email account while serving as secretary of state to revive its Benghazi witch hunt. The network even adopted Benghazi committee Chairman Gowdy's unsubstantiated claim that Clinton may have obscured relevant emails from previous inquiries to hype the need for further investigations.
As Bloomberg notes, the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi have been subject to numerous congressional inquiries by at least seven different committees, as well as an independent review by the State Department. None uncovered any wrong-doing on the part of then-Secretary Clinton, her State Department staff, or members of the Obama administration.
In the lead up to next week's landmark Supreme Court hearings on the constitutionality of marriage equality, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly is amplifying a fringe -- and absurd -- right-wing campaign calling on Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elana Kagan to recuse themselves because they have officiated same-sex marriages. But these actions, along with Ginsburg's comments noting the American public is rapidly turning against anti-LGBT discrimination, are not grounds for legitimate recusal.
In January, the American Family Association (AFA) -- a notorious anti-gay hate group -- announced a campaign titled, "Kagan and Ginsburg: Recuse Yourselves!" In a statement, the AFA, best known for its infamous anti-gay spokesman Bryan Fischer, called on the justices to recuse themselves ahead of next week's oral arguments before the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage. The group argued that Kagan and Ginsburg "should recuse themselves from making any same-sex marriage decisions because they have both conducted same-sex marriage ceremonies."
On April 20, Fox legal correspondent Shannon Bream twice reported on "public calls, petition drives, and appeals directly to Justices Ginsburg and Kagan to recuse themselves from hearing next week's case on same-sex marriage." During Fox News' Special Report, Bream pointed to the justices' past history officiating same-sex weddings and a February 2015 interview during which Ginsburg said that it "would not take a large adjustment" for Americans to get used to nationwide marriage equality. On April 21, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly picked up the argument in his "Is It Legal" segment on The O'Reilly Factor, declaring "these ladies have to recuse themselves," because "[t]he Supreme Court is supposed to be an incorruptible institution, but reports say Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has herself performed three gay marriages, and Justice Elena Kagan, one":
On the five-year anniversary of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, television reporters detailed the devastating environmental and economic impacts still facing the Gulf Coast region today, and directly rebutted BP's misleading spin. But they should not lose sight of another equally-important part of the story: how increasingly risky and expansive offshore drilling practices, along with insufficient oversight, could lead to another major spill.
BP is trying very hard to convince the world that the Gulf of Mexico has recovered from the oil well explosion that killed 11 workers and devastated the region's ecosystem and economy -- but television reporters spent the five-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster picking apart BP's claims. MSNBC's Chris Hayes asserted: "As much as BP wants you to think it's all better, it's really not." NBC's Kerry Sanders called out BP's misleading advertisements on Today, rebutting BP's claim that "seafood catches are back to pre-spill levels" by reporting that Louisiana oyster harvest levels have actually decreased by nearly 25 percent. Fox News' Shepard Smith lambasted BP's public relations campaign -- recalling his past criticism of BP, which stood in stark contrast to the rest of the network's BP-friendly coverage in the aftermath of the spill. Smith teased a segment on his show by asking rhetorically: "Five years later you see the BP commercials, everything is great. Right?" He then answered his own question, detailing the tourism and wildlife damages that still exist, and concluding: "Five years later, this ain't over."
It's encouraging to see media figures debunk BP's misleading public relations campaign, which comes as the company seeks to reduce the up to $13.7 billion in Clean Water Act fines it faces if a federal judge r efuses to reconsider a ruling that BP was "grossly negligent" in its handling of the disaster.
But the media should continue to explore the many reasons that offshore drilling still poses immense, inherent risks.
Fox News attacked the Obama administration by reviving the false claim that in 2012 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) began asking gun purchasers about their race and ethnicity on background check forms. In fact, ethnicity questions have been on the background check form for more than a decade.
On the April 21 edition of Fox News' The Real Story, guest host Martha MacCallum and Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano trumpeted the efforts of GOP lawmakers to stop the ATF from asking gun buyers about race. Napolitano argued, "I can only think that insisting upon knowing the race of the person, is perhaps so this Obama administration, so decidedly anti-gun, could say, oh by the way, such and such a percentage of whites buy -- and the amount of non-whites that buy is a smaller percentage, and we don't like that."
During the segment, an on-screen "Fox Facts" graphic wrongly claimed that ATF began "requiring gun buyers to answer questions about race & ethnicity on firearm applications" in 2012.
Contrary to the "Fox Facts" assertion, a question about race and ethnicity has been on the firearm background check form since at least 2001.
Peter Schweizer's Clinton Cash reportedly does not prove its speculative attacks on the Clintons and even relies on a hoax press release to support a claim, according to ThinkProgress.
Clinton Cash will be released on May 5, and media reports have already hyped the book's supposed revelations about connections between Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state, donations to the Clinton Foundation, and paid speeches given by the Clintons.
According to ThinkProgress, which obtained an advance copy of the book, "Schweizer makes clear that he does not intend to present a smoking gun":
Schweizer makes clear that he does not intend to present a smoking gun, despite the media speculation. The book relies heavily on timing, stitching together the dates of donations to the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton's speaking fees with actions by the State Department.
Schweizer explains he cannot prove the allegations, leaving that up to investigative journalists and possibly law enforcement. "Short of someone involved coming forward to give sworn testimony, we don't know what might or might not have been said in private conversations, the exact nature of the transition, or why people in power make the decision they do," he writes. Later, he concludes, "We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately provide the links between the money they took and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates."
ThinkProgress details several of Schweizer's claims, and highlights one major error already found in the book. According to the site, Schweizer at one point uses a press release to bolster one of his many speculative claims, citing it to suggest there may have been a link between a private company that was paying Bill Clinton for speeches (and which supposedly issued the press release) and a State Department report released when Hillary Clinton was secretary. However, ThinkProgress notes, the press release Schweizer cites was revealed as a hoax back in 2013.
This apparently sloppy sourcing from Schweizer is nothing new. As Media Matters extensively documented, Schweizer's career as a Republican activist and researcher is riddled with errors, retractions, and investigations that find his facts "do not check out" and his sources "do not exist." Our analysis found at least 10 separate incidents in which journalists called out Schweizer for his botched reporting.
Univision aired an hour-long special about the stories of four Latino transgender individuals on their weekly news show Aquí y Ahora, doing a praiseworthy job of normalizing the life experiences of transgender people to a Spanish-speaking audience.
On April 19, Aquí y Ahora aired a one-hour special titled "En Cuerpo Ajeno" (In Another Body), following the lives of four transgender individuals. For over a year, the program followed the stories of transgender women Vinna and Natalia; Christian, a transgender 10 year-old boy; and Shane, a 60 year-old transgender man. Aquí y Ahora reporter Teresa Rodríguez conducted interviews with family members, significant others, mental health experts, transgender activists and medical professionals in order to provide audiences with a thorough look at the lives of the segment's subjects.
The segment's portrayals went beyond the physiological aspects of transitions to highlight the subjects' day-to-day life experiences, including their jobs and relationships, accurately normalizing their life stories for audiences.
The segment also included the voice of transgender activist Cristina Herrera, president of the TransLatina Network, who described the types of discrimination frequently experienced by transgender individuals and underscored the positive work her organization does to benefit the transgender community.
Discredited Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a conservative group with close ties to a billionaire family funding Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential run. GAI has also received substantial support from groups backed by Charles and David Koch.
Schweizer's upcoming anti-Clinton book has garnered widespread media attention, despite the author's long history of criticism from reporters for blatant errors, retractions, and reliance on sources that "do not exist."
Schweizer's GAI, which was behind one of the "bogus" reports Schweizer has been excoriated for, bills itself as a nonprofit devoted to investigating "cronyism and government corruption" and protecting "free markets."
But as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow explained on her show, "[W]hen you take a closer look at Mr. Schweizer's organization and who is backing him, it is a who's who of big right-wing funders, including one of the guys behind the right-wing media site Breitbart.com, for which Mr. Schweizer has previously written -- also the billionaire family that is currently bankrolling Ted Cruz's presidential run."
Indeed, as Crooks and Liars also noted, IRS tax forms reveal GAI is funded by some of the top donors on the right, including the billionaire Mercer family.
Robert Mercer was described by Bloomberg News as the "ultimate behind-the-scenes kingmaker" during the 2014 midterm elections. His daughter, Rebekah Mercer, runs the Mercer Family Foundation, which "has also supported a slew of conservative causes."
According to IRS filings, the Mercer Foundation donated $1 million to GAI in 2013 alone. (Rebekah Mercer was listed on the GAI's board of directors in its 2013 tax documents, but is not currently listed among board members on the group's website.)
Rebekah Mercer has close ties to potential Clinton opponent Ted Cruz. The same day Cruz announced his bid for the presidency, Mercer reportedly threw him a cocktail party at her New York City apartment to launch his fundraising tour.
Schweizer's GAI has also benefited from substantial donations from other Koch-linked groups. Donors Trust, described by Mother Jones as the "dark-money ATM of the right," gave $1,500,000 to GAI in 2013. Donors Trust provides individuals and organizations a way to hide their donations to various right-leaning causes and media outlets, and as Mother Jones noted, they are a key funnel for Koch funds.
Donors Trust has also heavily funded the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, which itself has donated substantial sums to GAI, including $2 million in 2012.
As Media Matters has noted, Schweizer gave a February 2014 address to the Charles Koch Institute. He also spoke at an undergraduate Koch Leadership program at Regent University, and according to documents originally obtained by The Nation, he spoke at the Koch's brothers "secret billionaire summit" in June 2014. At the conference, attendees reportedly "discussed strategy on campaign finance, climate change, healthcare, higher education and opportunities for taking control of the Senate." Schweizer previously served as a speechwriter for the Bush White House, as an adviser to Sarah Palin, and as a headliner for multiple Republican Party fundraisers.