The New York Times used the upcoming 2014 congressional elections to revive the lazy analysis that candidates who support stronger gun laws will be punished at the polls.
Since the 1994 election, the media -- often aided by flawed analysis from Democrats -- have baselessly claimed that an all-powerful National Rifle Association will motivate angry voters to defeat candidates who defy them.
This week the Times revived this tired claim when it suggested that the Democratic push for gun violence prevention is a political loser for the party:
Generally, however, the Democrats' Senate majority is at risk, which helps explain why the party has not tried to revive gun-safety legislation proposed after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. Few issues have hurt Democrats more among working-class white men over time.
While the Senate has not revived its gun-safety legislation after it failed to clear a procedural vote despite the support of 55 senators, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he plans to bring the bill back to the floor in 2014. Moreover, the Times' lazy analysis about the current political impact of stronger gun laws is simply unfounded.
Democratic Gun Policy Has Overwhelming Public Support. The policy that most Senate Democrats voted for in 2013 -- expanding the background check system to cover almost all gun sales - is incredibly popular with voters of all demographics, garnering support of up to 90 percent of respondents in several polls, even in deep red states. Even strong majorities of Republicans support the passage of the Senate bill.
Gun Safety Opponents Took A Political Hit After The Legislation Was Blocked. Senators of both parties who opposed the background check bill saw their political standing decline in the wake of their votes, including Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) -- who became "one of the most unpopular Senators in the country" after he told the mother of a victim of the Aurora theater shooting that he supported expanded background checks then voted against the bill -- along with Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). In each case, between 36 percent and 52 percent of voters said they'd be less likely to support their senator because of their vote.
Little Evidence Shows Guns Are An Electoral Loser For Democrats. While the myth that the NRA is capable of punishing Democrats who support stronger gun laws has been bandied about for two decades, a closer look at electoral results reveals that the group's impact is minimal. After reviewing the results of every House and Senate race in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, Paul Waldman determined that both the NRA's endorsement and its spending has virtually no impact on congressional election results. And despite spending more than it ever had before in 2012, the NRA's chosen candidates were devastated. The NRA failed to achieve its main goal, the defeat of President Obama, and also backed the losing Senate candidate in six out of its top seven targeted races. Over two-thirds of House incumbents who lost their seats were endorsed by the NRA. One study found that less than one percent of $10,536,106 spent by an NRA political group went to races where the NRA-backed candidate won.
A Pro-Gun Safety Candidate Won Virginia's Governorship in 2013. The 2013 gubernatorial elections provided an excellent test case for the theory that support for sensible gun laws damages Democratic candidates. In Virginia, a quintessential swing state in the South, Democrat Terry McAuliffe ran on his support of expanded background checks and defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who opposed that policy. Guns were a major issue in the campaign, to the surprise of media observers who considered it a loser for McAuliffe -- shortly before the election, The Washington Post wrote of him, "For once, a Democrat is talking tough about gun control, as if daring the National Rifle Association to take him on." McAuliffe wasn't the only Virginia Democrat to win statewide while championing stronger gun laws. After Mark Herring was elected Virginia's Attorney General, his campaign manager attributed the victory to ignoring the conventional wisdom and running on Herring's "strong record and advocacy for sensible gun legislation." Both Democrats withstood hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending from the NRA.
Fox News is helping New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) rehabilitate his political career even as investigations into the George Washington Bridge scandal continue, suggesting that Christie's appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) indicates a comeback for the governor.
While other conservative media figures have panned Christie's March 6 CPAC appearance, Fox celebrated the "standing ovation" he received and characterized the appearance as a "comeback." Fox Nation proclaimed,"The Comeback Has Begun!"
On the March 7 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha McCallum painted a sunny picture of Christie's reception at CPAC, saying, "Now, you know America loves a comeback kid, so is Chris Christie that comeback kid right now?" MacCallum went on to ponder Christie's 2016 presidential prospects: "And then you have Chris Christie, who says, 'Look, you know what? We have to win elections.' And he is seen as somebody who may have an easier time of it on a national stage."
Later in the segment, MacCallum asked guest Stephen Sigmund, "If you were advising him, Stephen, what would you tell him to do from here on in to sort of get past this Bridgegate thing and put himself back on track?"
"This Bridgegate thing" caused Christie's popularity to plummet after news broke that his aides played a central role in shutting down several lanes of the George Washington Bridge for four days in September, intentionally triggering disastrous traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee as a means of political retribution.
Christie's chances of getting past the scandal soon, as MacCallum suggests, seem thin -- it is still being investigated by both the New Jersey Legislature and the FBI as evidence linking Christie to the lane closures builds.
Fox has gone through extraordinary lengths to shield Christie, who is widely presumed to be running for president in 2016, from the scandal's fallout, even complaining that the media won't simply move on from the scandal. Indeed, Fox's history of cozy relationships with Republican presidential contenders is well-documented.
Just because Gov. Chris Christie, who was notably banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference last year, spoke at the event Thursday doesn't mean he is the conservative media's new darling.
While the New Jersey governor drew loud applause from the audience during his address, which focused on Republicans pushing for their ideas not against their opponents, right-wing media voices at the conference say that won't translate to support if he seeks the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
Some pointed to his well-known embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy in the lead-up to the 2012 election, which may have played a role in the decision by CPAC organizers not to invite him last year. Others declared him insufficiently opposed to gay marriage to garner their support.
"I don't think he will be the nominee anyway," said Tim Constantine, a conservative radio talk show host. "There are ups and downs, it's the nature of politics that he will be knocked down. Chris Christie is the right guy for Republicans in a Northeast state, but not nationally."
Tea Party News Network's Scottie Nell Hughes agreed. She said he is hurt by the George Washington Bridge scandal, but was not her choice even before that.
"It hurt him completely," she said of the bridge controversy. "He is not going to get the conservative vote. It wasn't a non-issue, it was politics."
Hughes said the media coverage of the scandal does give Christie some sympathy, but not enough to overcome opposition within the right-wing movement. "If I am going to put him up against [Wisconsin governor] Scott Walker, I am going to take Scott Walker," she said, adding that Christie "is not going to get the vote. The [GOP] establishment has left him."
Several media commentators said they were surprised that CPAC had invited Christie and found no difference in his electability or conservative credentials since last year.
"You would think it would be the other way around," said Jon Moseley, a conservative talk radio host at Philadelphia's WNJC-AM, suggesting that Christie should be less palatable to CPAC in the wake of the bridge scandal. "A lot of people perceive it as an endorsement, they should not."
Rusty Humphries, the veteran talk radio host and newly-minted columnist at The Washington Times, also said inviting Christie was a mystery. "Would I have invited him? No. He isn't conservative. He is an establishment guy."
Breitbart News' John Sexton called CPAC "a refuge for" Christie. "I think last year he was more electable," Sexton added. "I don't think right now anybody is supporting him."
From the March 6 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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James O'Keefe, a right-wing performance artist known for his undercover videos that supposedly "expose" progressive "fraud," has released a new video falsely accusing conservative Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) of "excluding whites" from protection under his new Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA), a distortion of this bipartisan bill that has already been repeated in the National Review Online.
O'Keefe's new video shows him mysteriously dressed in camouflage, dancing to New Order's "Round and Round," and ultimately "confronting" Sensenbrenner at a town hall meeting about supposedly alarming anti-white language in the VRAA. Sensenbrenner, as he has in the past, began working on both sides of the aisle on this new VRA legislation last year, after the Supreme Court gutted crucial voter suppression protections in Shelby County v. Holder.
In the video, O'Keefe lectures Sensenbrenner on his own bill, claiming that "[i]n the legislation, it seems to contain language that explicitly removes white people from the protections of the Voting Rights Act." Sensenbrenner interrupts O'Keefe to correctly point out that the law "does not do that. There is nothing targeting people by race in the Voting Rights Act." O'Keefe eventually accuses Sensenbrenner of "doing the work of [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder and the race-hustlers with this language in the bill."
New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore launched an evidence-free attack on Hillary Clinton, claiming that the former Secretary of State "strikes many voters as disingenuous and perhaps unethical," a completely uncorroborated claim that is nothing more than a warmed over rehash of stock Clinton smears.
"The apotheosis of Hillary Clinton is not inevitable," Lepore wrote on her New Yorker blog.
She is an accomplished diplomat, a seasoned campaigner, and a formidable fund-raiser. But she strikes many voters as disingenuous and perhaps unethical, concerns that will probably be aired again as some thirty thousand pages of documents from the Clinton presidential library are beginning to be made public--more than a year after legal restrictions on the release of Presidential records expired.
Note that Lepore offered no evidence to support her claim. It's a serious accusation. Who are the "many voters" who find Clinton "disingenuous and perhaps unethical"? Lepore, a historian, should have the goods to back up such a charge.
Ben Shapiro's new ebook How To Debate Leftists And Destroy Them: 10 Rules For Winning The Argument comes complete with eleven rules about how (and three more about when) conservatives should act like mean, nasty bullies, in order to help them defeat liberals, who have a tendency to make conservatives look like mean, nasty bullies.
Shapiro, the founder of TruthRevolt.com and editor-at-large for Breitbart.com, would rather be known as a debating champ than as the guy who fabricated a terror group to smear Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. He begins the book by claiming the real reason conservatives lost the 2012 election was that President Obama was "considered the more empathetic of the two candidates. Why? Because Romney was perceived as so darn mean." His solution is not for conservatives to follow Obama's lead and appear more empathetic in the future; his solution is to double down on looking mean. But how?
First, Shapiro offers a list of three rules for when to debate a leftist, including 1) you have to ("your grade depends on it, or your waiter threatens to spit in your food"); 2) you found the only leftist in the world ready to have a reasoned debate ("Then you ride off on your separate unicorns"), or 3) You have an audience, allowing you to publicly humiliate your opponent:
Third, you should debate a leftist if there is an audience. The goal of the debate will not be to win over the leftist, or to convince him or her, or to be friends with him or her. That person already disagrees with you, and they're not going to be convinced by your words of wisdom and your sparkling rhetorical flourishes. The goal will be to destroy the leftist in as public a way as is humanly possible. [emphasis added]
To be clear, one of Shapiro's primary rules for debating people with liberal values is to shame them in front of others, because President Obama won 2012 by looking too darn nice.
Next, Shapiro offers his list of "ten rules" for how to debate your leftist opponent, which includes eleven rules, because copy-editing your book before publication is not a rule.
Rule #1: "Walk Toward the Fire." According to Shapiro, conservatives must learn to "embrace the fight" and know that they will be attacked, because this is war. His advice is simple: "You have to take the punch, you have to brush it off. You have to be willing to take the punch."
Rule #2: "Hit First. Don't take the punch first." Rule number two is: ignore rule number one, if their punch is coming first. Hit first, then brush it off. Just like Gandhi always said.
Rule #3: "Frame Your Opponent." Your leftist opponent will, according to Shapiro, call you a racist and a sexist, so in response call them a "liar and a hater." This third rule is described as "the vital first step. It is the only first step." That's why it comes third.
Rule #3: "Frame the debate." This is the second Rule #3, but who's counting?
Rule #4: "Spot Inconsistencies in the Left's Arguments." See: Both Rule #3s.
Rule #5: "Force Leftists to Answer Questions. This is really just a corollary of Rule #4." According to Shapiro, forcing the left to answer questions is like "trying to pin pudding to the wall - messy and near-impossible." If Ben Shapiro can teach us how to pin pudding to a wall even some of the time, liberals have no hope.
Rule #6: "Do Not Get Distracted." Just one page after the pudding analogy, Shapiro tells us that "Arguing with the left is like attempting to nail jello to the wall. It's slippery and messy and a waste of resources." If only he hadn't gotten distracted.
Rule #7: "You Don't Have To Defend People on Your Side." Here, Shapiro comes out in defense of not always defending your allies when you don't agree with them on everything, or when they get something wrong. Shapiro's friends were no doubt grateful for this rule back when he reported on the imaginary group "Friends of Hamas" in order to smear Chuck Hagel.
Rule #8: "If You Don't Know Something, Admit It." Unfortunately, Shapiro doesn't seem to have taken his own advice here: he still refuses to admit he has zero evidence "Friends of Hamas" ever existed.
Rule #9: "Let The Other Side Have Meaningless Victories." This "parlor trick" involves making it look like you're giving the other side space, while forcing them to define their terms. Terms like 'bullying' (the premise of Shapiro's book) and 'the number ten' are not listed as examples.
Rule #10: "Body Language Matters." According to Shapiro, McCain lost one of his 2008 debates because he was "angry-looking," and "Whomever looks angriest in debate loses. Immediately."
So to recap, the only way conservatives can win debates is to not look angry, while publicly shaming their opponent, punching first, and calling their opponents liars and haters. And remember: all of this is equivalent to futilely pinning some kind of gelatinous dessert to a wall.
Conservatives should be soaring to victory any day now.
While journalists examined thousands of newly released documents from the Clinton White House in search of salacious details, Fox News' Shepard Smith mocked the coverage as "beat-up-the-Clintons day again" before concluding that the documents show "Hillary didn't do anything."
On the February 28 edition of Shepard Smith Reporting, host Smith mocked "revelations" in newly released internal memos that Clinton aides attempted to "humanize" the former first lady, joking of the Clintons' critics, "Oh, my God, they may think they need to impeach them again." Some conservative outlets have attempted to to claim that the documents show that the "Clinton administration's strategy rested on using veterans as political "pawns" to bolster support for healthcare reform."
Today's release of 4,000 documents is the first in a series of releases of more than 30,000 pages from the Clinton White House, but Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace stated that "there's really no there there," predicting that "unless we see something a lot more incriminating than what we have seen so far, this will all be forgotten by the end of the weekend, maybe by the end of today":
Wallace attempted to equate the conservative reaction to the Clinton documents with reaction to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's recent scandal, but Smith was quick to point out that Christie, unlike Clinton, is involved in a real scandal, and the documents thus far show nothing more than how "she used the Internet to talk to women."
The Daily Caller currently has a "2016 Bombshell" splashed across its front page -- the conservative website claims that while the "chattering class" is certain that Hillary Clinton is planning to run for president in 2016, "whispers persist" that she will decline a run for office. Caller political reporter Alex Pappas amasses an array of slipshod claims from even less credible sources to string together his case.
The Caller often runs poorly-sourced hit-jobs aimed at damaging progressives and garnering traffic. Here's the evidence on which the Caller is basing its story, which puts a Clinton spokesman's statement that she is "100%" up against four uses of the word "rumors" and three uses of "skeptics" or "skeptical."
In the story's third graph, Pappas unveils what is apparently his most compelling evidence that Clinton's health is in jeopardy -- two supermarket tabloids have reported it:
These ubiquitous rumors of her health have been fueled in part by the supermarket tabloids. The National Enquirer wrote in 2012 that Clinton had brain cancer, something a spokesman dismissed then as "absolute nonsense." In January of this year, the Globe claimed that Clinton secretly had a brain tumor.
That Globe story cites a "close source" saying that Bill Clinton has been telling Hillary that "they need to think long and hard about" her doctors' supposed warnings that she would not survive a presidential campaign. Which is weird, because back in September The Globe was reporting that Hillary was going to divorce Bill -- who, according to the story, is "dying" -- after he recently tried to "hook up" with Gennifer Flowers. And because in August, The Globe was reporting that Hillary's presidential plans were doomed after video emerged of her "steamy romps -- with another woman!"
In any case, the supermarket tabloids are old news -- they came out one month and fourteen months ago. So why is the Caller running the story now? The closest thing Pappas has to a news hook -- the only data point in the story from within the last month -- is a February 24 tweet from Roger Stone, identified as a "GOP consultant," claiming that Clinton is "not running for health reasons." Stone, who has been called a "professional dirty trickster and high priest of political hijinks" by the conservative Weekly Standard, is not someone to be taken seriously where Clinton is concerned -- in 2008 he founded the anti-Hillary Clinton 527 group Citizens United Not Timid, which emphasized its acronym on its website and on T-shirts.
The balance of the story goes back over Clinton's health scare in December 2012, when she suffered a concussion and doctors subsequently found a blood clot in her head, from which they said she made a "full recovery." At the time, conservatives claimed that she had fabricated her "immaculate concussion" as a means of avoiding scheduled congressional hearings on Benghazi. Since then, Clinton has stepped down as Secretary of State, begun a campaign to accelerate global progress for women and girls at the foundation her husband founded, and embarked on a vigorous series of speeches around the world.
The phony concussion "rumor" has faded away, so the Caller has made up a new one. And Pappas apparently did the job his employer is looking for - his story got a Drudge Report link, and Caller reporters are paid in part based on traffic. This brand of conservative rumormongering is shoddy, but apparently it pays.
This post has been updated for clarity.
Fox News distorted comments by Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink about the need for immigration reform, completely misinterpreting the meaning of her remarks to cast them as outrageous and beyond the pale. In fact, as the Miami Herald noted, Republican lawmakers have made similar comments in the past without the hint of the conservative outrage Sink's comments have received. Moreover, the comments broadcast by Fox were not Sink's full remarks on the topic.
During a candidate forum in Florida hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, Sink addressed the need for immigration reform by stressing the fact that coastal communities rely heavily on immigrant labor and that without reform, employers are put "in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers":
SINK: Immigration reform is important in our country. It's one of the main agenda items of the beaches' Chamber Of Commerce for obvious reasons. Because we have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers, and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping? And we don't need to put those employers in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers.
Discussing those comments on Fox & Friends, guest host Clayton Morris twisted the meaning of those words, claiming what Sink really said was "we need immigration reform so we can have illegal immigrants doing landscaping and cleaning hotels." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck added: "Because what would we do without that, she's saying." Morris continued: "How would our hotels be cleaned?"
Co-host Brian Kilmeade also stated: "She was winning by 2 points prior to those remarks. I don't know if this is going to send her numbers south."
In fact, Sink was making the opposite point: We need immigration reform so that employers, particularly those in high-growth areas like coastal communities, don't resort to hiring unauthorized labor. For a network that has been stridently opposed to immigration reform because of the impact such labor has on the workforce, Sink's comments should have been greeted favorably.
Comedian Stephen Colbert lambasted right-wing media for asking whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "too old" to run for president in 2016, observing that John McCain and Ronald Reagan were each older when they ran for president than Clinton will be if she decides to enter the 2016 race.
On the February 26 edition of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert highlighted the recent attacks on Hillary Clinton's age by outlets like Fox News. He stated, "That's right. Fox news is ready to project that in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton will be two years older. I mean, come on! ... I mean 69? That is old. Like old old. Way too old to be president. I mean she's gonna be almost as old as Reagan was."
Colbert ended his report suggesting that discussing a woman's age to smear her as a political candidate amounts to questionable journalism, quipping,"I know it's rude to talk about a woman's age, but that's not what I am doing. I am talking about other people talking about people talking about other people talking about a women's age. That's called journalism":
Nine Fox News hosts and contributors are headlining 2014 fundraisers for Republican organizations across the country. The network employees are participating in Lincoln Day Dinners, annual fundraisers usually held near the beginning of the year that provide significant support for local party groups.
The Fox fundraisers include hosts Mike Huckabee, Oliver North, and Andrea Tantaros; and contributors John Bolton, Deneen Borelli, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and Allen West.
The Republican events can bring in big money for local Republicans. A Huckabee event in 2011 "grossed over $100,000" for Texas' Harris County GOP, while Ben Carson and Laura Ingraham have spoken at Palm Beach GOP's (FL) Lincoln Day events, which reportedly "typically takes in around $100,000" each year. Event tickets often reach into the $100s, and can increase with private reception opportunities, photos, and book signings. The events also often sell sponsorships ranging in the thousands.
Lincoln Dinners can also mean big money for the speakers. In prior years, Oregon's Lane County Republican Party paid Tucker Carlson $23,500 to keynote its 2011 dinner and John Bolton $28,330 to keynote its 2012 dinner, according to Oregon Secretary of State data and confirmed by Media Matters with a party official. Laura Ingraham was paid $12,500 for speaking in Palm Beach in 2013, according to local records. Then-Fox contributor Dick Morris received $10,000 to speak at a 2012 Lake County (FL) dinner. (Data for 2014 events isn't currently available through local campaign finance records, and even accessing older records can be difficult since some local governments do a poor job putting data online.)
The Lincoln Day speeches aren't much different from what's heard on Fox. In Sarasota, FL, Allen West reportedly "said that Democrats have repeatedly failed the black community." In Naples, FL, John Bolton took to "[c]alling the Obama administration's foreign policy weak, ineffective or nonexistent." In Sangamon County, IL, Ben Carson suggested the country has gone "from a free society to a communist or socialist society" because of the Affordable Care Act.
Dinner promotions have touted the speakers' affiliation with Fox News -- a regular practice with Republican events. The chair of the Sangamon County GOP told a local newspaper that they picked Carson because, "He's a conservative and (is) currently visible on TV, which makes him a celebrity draw."
Media Matters previously documented how over 30 Fox News hosts and contributors campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
The following is a list of nine Fox Newsers, and the Republican Party apparatuses they're helping so far in 2014:
From the February 21 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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From the February 21 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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In his first appearance after signing a new contract with Fox News, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown again suggested that he may run for Senate later this year, raising more questions about the journalistic ethics of Fox keeping him on the payroll.
In a February 20 appearance on Fox & Friends, Brown discussed several Senate races currently underway. Co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck then asked him, "When are we going to see your name on one of these races in the future? Coming up? For Senate?" Brown replied, "I'm obviously taking things into consideration, I'm going to make some decisions and we'll see what happens."
For the past year, Brown has used his role at Fox News to keep himself in the spotlight in this fashion while he ponders a run for the Senate in New Hampshire. Brown has repeatedly stoked such speculation, relocating to New Hampshire, speaking at GOP events in the state, and teasing a new website with a campaign-ready slogan. Brown also made two appearances in Iowa last year and has a third planned for April, driving speculation that he may run for president in 2016.
Fox News has reportedly said Brown's contract would be terminated if he "authorized an exploratory committee to be formed for a run." According to Politico media reporter Dylan Byers, until that step is taken, Brown will continue to "use the Fox News platform to prove his conservative bonafides to Granite State voters." On February 19, Fox announced that they had signed Brown to a new contract, allowing him to retain that platform.
Fox has been a big booster for Brown, both during his successful 2010 Senate run and as he considers a 2016 race. During his February 20 appearance, Fox aired video of Brown singing with the band Cheap Trick at a recent concert and asked the former senator to comment.