Conservative media are reacting to a terrorist threat against Mall of America by calling for people to be allowed to carry concealed guns in more places even though no evidence exists that civilians with concealed carry permits stop mass attacks.
During a February 22 appearance on CNN, Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson told visitors to Minnesota's Mall of America to be "particularly careful," citing a video released by Somalia-based terror group Al-Shabaab that called for an attack on the shopping center. Local law enforcement say there is "no credible threat" to the mall, but that Mall of America has "implemented extra security precautions."
Shoppers visiting Mall of America are not allowed to carry firearms, although one local lawmaker is attempting to change that policy in light of Al-Shabaab's threat. As a reaction to the September 11 terror attacks, Mall of America created its own 150-member counterterrorism security force that is "modeled after similar units in Israel." Local police also have a unit dedicated to the mall.
Conservatives have used the threat to question the mall's no guns policy for shoppers and to push the myth that places where guns are not allowed are particularly dangerous.
On February 24, Outnumbered co-hosts Andrea Tantaros, Stacey Dash, and Kennedy along with guest and Fox News contributor Bo Dietl all endorsed carrying concealed guns in Mall of America. Kennedy suggested that Mall of America is a "gun-free zone" and argued that such an area "really is an invitation" for terrorists. Tantaros falsely suggested that the gunman in the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting was "taken down" with a firearm to advance the carrying of guns. In fact, the shooter in that incident committed suicide.
Fox News Host Sean Hannity is criticizing singer John Legend's Oscars speech, which invoked the civil rights movement and the ongoing fight for racial and social justice. In response to Legend's completely accurate statement that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is under attack today, Hannity disagreed and appeared to argue that the seminal civil rights law was irrelevant to strict voter ID laws.
On February 22, Legend and co-writer Common won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Glory," from the film Selma, a historical drama about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s fight for equal voting rights. In his acceptance speech, Legend noted that the civil rights struggle represented in the movie continues "right now": "We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now, in this country, today."
On the February 23 edition of his show, Hannity complained that Legend "decided to make all things political." Even though Legend didn't explicitly bring up voter ID laws in his speech, Hannity went on to suggest that it was inappropriate for Legend to "equate the Voting Rights Act with showing an ID to get to vote so we can keep honesty and integrity in our elections ... I like John Legend as a musician, but he doesn't know anything about politics":
Fox News rallied behind a Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, continuing the network's defense of the right to discriminate against gay customers.
On February 18, a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled that florist Barronelle Stutzman had illegally violated the state's Consumer Protection Act when she refused to provide flowers for a same-sex couple's wedding ceremony. Though Stutzman claimed her actions were religiously motivated, the judge made clear that religious belief did not create a blank check to violate the state's non-discrimination law, writing:
For over 135 years, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief. In trade and commerce, and more particularly when seeking to prevent discrimination in public accommodations, the Courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.
Following the ruling, Washington's attorney general offered Stutzman a settlement - stop discriminating, pay the law's $2000 penalty, and pay $1 to cover the cost of the case - but Stuztman refused the deal.
On the February 23 edition of The Kelly File, guest host Shannon Bream conducted the first ever television interview with Stutzman, along with an attorney from the extreme anti-gay group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing her. Bream has a history of championing the right to discriminate against gay customers, coming to the defense of business owners who violate non-discrimination laws and suggesting that gay customers should "just go down the street" and find someone who is willing to serve them.
Conservative media have been quick to rush to the defense of climate science denier Willie Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who has recently come under fire for accepting over $1.2 million from the fossil fuel industry without disclosing this conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. Among the most impassioned defenses of Soon was an article penned by a writer at the Daily Caller with connections to some of the organizations that funded Soon's research.
Documents obtained by Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center detail the extensive and problematic relationship between the fossil fuel industry and Soon, one of the contrarian scientists often cited by prominent climate science deniers like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). The documents reveal that Soon described many of his scientific papers, which largely focus on the claim that the sun is primarily responsible for recent global warming, as "deliverables" produced in exchange for money from fossil fuel interests. The revelations, which were recently covered by several media outlets, reveal a potentially serious breach of scientific ethics in at least eight of the papers Soon has published since 2008, and the Smithsonian Institution has directed the organization's Inspector General to investigate Soon's ethical conduct.
Several right-wing media outlets are already aggressively defending Soon. Shortly after the initial reports, the Daily Caller published an article criticizing the "attack campaign" against Soon by "firm believers in global warming." The article's author, PG Veer, dismissed the criticisms of Soon, claiming that opponents "are looking for conflicts of interest" rather than challenging Soon on "the facts."
Yet Veer himself is a former fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, which was created from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation -- one of the organizations that provided money for Soon's research. Veer currently works for the Franklin Center, which has received significant funding from Donors Trust, another organization that bankrolled Soon.
Breitbart has also carried Soon's water, defending him in at least five different articles so far. Columnist James Delingpole defended Soon for "telling the truth" about climate change, writing that the latest news is a "continuation of a vendetta which has been waged for years against an honest, decent, hardworking -- and incredibly brave -- scientist who refuses to toe the official (and increasingly discredited) line on man-made global warming."
An Argentine historian has discredited Bill O'Reilly's claim that the riot he covered in 1982 as a CBS News correspondent was a combat situation, where "many were killed." In fact, according to the historian -- an expert on the Falklands war -- "there were no people killed at the protests."
As Mother Jones and many of his CBS News colleagues have casted doubt on his claims, O'Reilly has continued to defend his accounts of covering the Falklands War as a reporter for CBS News, which repeatedly created the impression he was in a combat zone.
In his book The No Spin Zone, O'Reilly claimed the 1982 Buenos Aires protest he covered was "a major riot" where "many were killed." In a September 27, 2008, interview on CNN's The Kalb Report, O'Reilly described the protest, saying, "the Argentine troops shoot the people down in the street. They shoot them down. It's not like rubber bullets or gas, people are dying ... it's unbelievable, I mean, people just falling, like bing, bing, bing, bing, bing." And on the March 25, 2008, edition of his show The Radio Factor, he said:
O'REILLY: When I got shot at I was covering the Falklands war and I was based in Argentina in Buenos Aires [...] And when the Argentines surrendered to the British there was a huge riot in Buenos Aires. I was in the middle of that riot when Argentine soldiers came out of the barracks and got into the streets and actually shot people dead in the street, because people were rioting. And it wasn't like warning shots or rubber bullets or teargas. They were shooting people dead.
But an Argentine historian told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple that "there were no people killed at the protests":
A new study finds that the "education experts" often cited in print and online news stories may have little expertise in education policy.
In the most recent issue of the journal Education Policy Analysis Archives, authors Joel R. Malin and Christopher Lubienski at the University of Illinois published a study in which they "hypothesize that media impact is loosely coupled with educational expertise." The study, titled "Educational Expertise, Advocacy, and Media Influence," analyzed print and online media outlets, including some that focus exclusively on education, between January 1 and December 31, 2013. According to a February 20 post from ScienceDaily, the results found that the "people most often cited as 'education experts' in blogs and news stories may have the backing of influential organizations -- but have little background in education and education policy." The post continued (emphasis added):
The findings are cause for concern because some prominent interest groups are promoting reform agendas and striving to influence policymakers and public opinion using individuals who have substantial media relations skills but little or no expertise in education research, say the authors of the study, Joel R. Malin and Christopher Lubienski, both at the University of Illinois.
"Our findings suggest that individuals with less expertise can often have greater success in media penetration," said Malin, a curriculum specialist with the Pathways Resource Center and a doctoral candidate in educational administration and leadership at the university. "Although some individuals might not have formal training in research methods for analyzing the issues about which they are speaking, they possess skills and orientations that make them accessible and appealing to the media. And when these people are affiliated with organizations that have strong media arms or outreach efforts, they have the support and the incentive to engage broader and policy audiences."
"Newer forms of media offer particularly useful opportunities for directly engaging audiences, while bypassing traditional forms of quality checks on expertise," said Lubienski, a professor of education policy and director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education at the university. "We believe caution and consideration of individuals' expertise are warranted when reporters and bloggers are researching topics and seeking insights -- and when policymakers and laypersons are consuming media."
Similarly, a Media Matters report in November 2014 found that only 9 percent of guests discussing education on evening cable news were educators. Media Matters conducted an analysis of weeknight cable-news education segments from January 1 through October 31, 2014, and found that educators comprised 4 percent of education guests on CNN, 5 percent on Fox News, and 14 percent on MSNBC.
While discussing Oregon's recent political scandal, conservative media are reviving their favorite renewable energy bogeyman - the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra -- to push the false narrative that the clean energy industry is an economic failure that is widely infected with "crony capitalism." Contrary to these claims, Solyndra was never a scandal, and renewable energy sources are increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels -- despite historically receiving far less in government subsidies.
When former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced he would resign due to the controversy surrounding undisclosed consulting fees his fiancée received while advising him on energy policies, conservative media were quick to compare the controversy to the government loan guarantee and bankruptcy of solar firm Solyndra. As Politico recently explained, the conservative strategy is to use the Kitzhaber scandal as "ammunition" against Democrats and environmentalists who they claim "have propped up failed clean-energy projects" and provided government aid that "ends up financially benefiting only the politically connected companies lobbying for it." Bloomberg News similarly stated that whether or not it is accurate, "[t]he argument being made is that clean energy lobbying is a way for Democrats to get rich."
That's exactly what we've seen in the conservative media. The Washington Times claimed the Oregon scandal once again brings to light "the failures of taxpayer-funded green energy companies such as Solyndra that had political ties to party bigwigs." The National Review Online linked the situation in Oregon to Solyndra and what it claimed were other "green-energy scandals that piled up during [the Obama administration's] first term." The Daily Caller alleged that in the case of both the Kitzhaber scandal and Solyndra, "government supported green energy programs based on political connections." And Fox News also highlighted Solyndra while discussing the Oregon controversy -- twice.
But the simple truth is that the Solyndra episode was never a scandal, a fact that has been proven time and time again. The solar energy firm, which received a federal loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, filed for bankruptcy as a result of plummeting prices for solar panels, as detailed by Greenwire, among others. Conservative media responded by pushing baseless claims that Solyndra used unethical influence in the Obama administration to receive its loan, but an extensive investigation by House Republicans turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
In addition to pushing the cronyism charge, conservative media have also used the Oregon scandal as an opportunity to broadly claim that renewable energy is not economically viable in the marketplace. For example, National Review Online purported that these sources of energy can't "survive in the marketplace without giant subsidies or special tax favors." During an interview on WSJ Live, Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell similarly claimed that "wind and solar and ethanol really cannot survive without handouts from government."
But the reality is that wind and solar power have become increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels -- and are actually cheaper than coal and natural gas in some markets -- despite having received far less in government subsidies over the years.
A former New York Times editor is accusing Bill O'Reilly of misrepresenting his reporting to defend himself.
Under fire for allegedly exaggerating his experiences covering the 1982 Falklands War, Bill O'Reilly cited a New York Times article to supposedly corroborate his version of events. But the author of that article points out that O'Reilly "cut out an important phrase" in his retelling.
Another one of Bill O'Reilly's former colleagues at CBS News is casting doubt on his claims that he reported from a "combat situation" in Buenos Aires during the Falklands War.
Charles Krause, a CBS News correspondent from 1980 to 1983 who reported from Buenos Aires during the same period as O'Reilly, is the latest to contradict the Fox News host. In an interview with Media Matters, Krause called O'Reilly's descriptions of his reporting "absurd."
He also recalls O'Reilly being there for a short period of time and not having "any significant role in our coverage of the war."
"I don't recall him doing any major story that anybody remembers and he was there a very short time, then he was recalled, I don't know why," Krause said. "He wasn't a team player and people thought he was grandstanding, basically."
O'Reilly's past claims about his 1982 reporting from the region have come under scrutiny following a Mother Jones investigation that found while O'Reilly has suggested that he actually reported from the Falklands during the war, no CBS reporter had done so.
O'Reilly responded with claims he had never said he was in the Falklands, but stood by his assertions that he had been in Buenos Aires and covered what he termed a "war zone" and "combat situation."
CNN's Brian Stelter on Sunday reported that seven of O'Reilly's former colleagues who reported from Buenos Aires refuted his claims. Media Matters has identified several additional instances in which O'Reilly suggested his reporting had been from a combat zone.
Krause, a former Washington Post reporter who had lived in Buenos Aires for three years prior to the war, said O'Reilly's claims are wrong.
"That's absurd because Buenos Aires was Buenos Aires," Krause said about the war zone claim in an interview Sunday. "It was just like it always was, there was very little evidence of the war in Buenos Aires. The war was being fought thousands of miles away."
Krause joined several of the journalists quoted by Stelter in casting doubt on O'Reilly's claim that he had witnessed a violent protest in which several demonstrators had been killed. "There's a difference between demonstrations and rioting," Krause said. "I don't recall there being rioting, there could have been scuffling."
Krause said he was one of the first reporters there covering the conflict and stayed through the end of hostilities.
As controversy surrounding Bill O'Reilly and his previous claims of harrowing "combat" journalism escalates, and as more than half-a-dozen former CBS News colleagues raise doubts about his storytelling, this would be the moment when most news organizations would step in and announce that an internal review was underway to ascertain the truth. Nervous about having its credibility diminished and committed to being accurate and fair, most major news organizations would take steps to stop the bleeding via a thorough review of the facts.
But not Fox News.
Ignoring the conscience blueprint recently set down by under-siege news outlets such as NBC News, CBS News and Rolling Stone, Fox instead has hunkered down and allowed O'Reilly to mount his own public, and increasingly erratic, defense that's built around obfuscation and name-calling. The result is that rather than containing the controversy, first sparked by David Corn's and Daniel Schulman's report in Mother Jones, Fox and its most famous host have allowed questions to multiply on a daily bases.
Now, the unanswered questions not only center around allegations that O'Reilly misled people for years by claiming he reported from the "war zone" during the Falklands War. (He did not.) New questions persist about the street protest O'Reilly covered soon after the end of the war; a street protest in Argentina's capital, 1,200 miles away from the fighting on the Falkland Islands. O'Reilly's former CBS colleague Eric Engberg, who was in Buenos Aires at the time with O'Reilly, claims virtually everything the Fox host has said about his Argentina work is erroneous.
"Bill O'Reilly's account of a 1982 riot in Argentina is being sharply contradicted by seven other journalists who were his colleagues and were also there at the time," reported CNN's Brian Stelter. One former CBS cameraman called O'Reilly's description of the events as "outrageous."
In other words, it's seven vs. one, so far. And in four days O'Reilly hasn't been able to produce one person who can corroborate his version of the Argentina story. Given those damning circumstances, most news organization in America would be anxious to get to the truth via an internal or even independent review.
But not Fox News.