During the Sunday news shows on November 22, Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and John Kasich were all challenged by hosts over the fact that under current federal law, people who are on the FBI's consolidated terror watch list are not legally prohibited from buying guns. The questions over what is known as the "terror gap" followed widespread media discussion of legislation in Congress -- opposed by the National Rifle Association -- that would prohibit people on terror watch lists from buying guns.
From the November 22 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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From the November 22 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
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From the November 22 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is touting the endorsement of Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue and a board member for The Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Newman is one of the country's most notorious anti-choice activists. He was a "driving force" behind CMP's series of misleading videos smearing Planned Parenthood and has a long history of incendiary remarks that include "praising the killing of abortion doctors and calling women who have abortions 'murderers.'"
From the November 20 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox Business host Lou Dobbs reported a baseless claim that someone from Hillary Clinton's campaign demanded that the Laugh Factory comedy club founder take down a video compilation of Clinton jokes from his website. The claim was based on an anonymous phone call from an unidentified caller, but reported as fact by conservative media outlets.
In a November 19 piece, Slate's Michelle Goldberg debunked the right-wing claim that a Clinton staffer contacted Jamie Masada, founder of the Laugh Factory Comedy clubs, and demanded he take the videos insulting Clinton down from the club's website. Goldberg called the founder of the Laugh Factory comedy clubs, who admitted that he could not identify the caller, adding "maybe it was a prank, I have no idea."
Goldberg also explained how Clinton smears spread in right-wing media, noting that the stories get "reported in one outlet and amplified on Twitter ... Maybe Fox News follows. Eventually the story achieves a sort of ubiquity in the right-wing media ecosystem, which makes it seem like it's been confirmed."
Even after Masada walked back his accusations against Clinton's campaign, Fox Business' Lou Dobbs repeated the dubious claim on the November 19 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight:
LOU DOBBS (HOST): This is the video the Clinton campaign took issue with demanding it be scrubbed from the internet by the Laugh Factory in Hollywood.
DOBBS: Are you offended? Hurt?
JUAN WILLIAMS: No! I was amused. But I just -- I tell you what offends me is, why would you say shut up to anybody? A comedy? I mean, alright, so we're all going to be mocked. She went on Saturday Night Live and she made fun of herself and her husband. I think she should have some sense of humor. What's going on here?
DOBBS: Yeah, it's peculiar.
TOM SHILLUE: It's a little shadowy. I don't want to doubt Jamie Masada, the owner of the Laugh Factory. It's a great club, but he does have a flair for self-promotion. I will say that.
DOBBS: Well he's done pretty well here. Now although even Salon noted is they tried to rationalize what was happening here, perhaps correctly -- I don't know. They tried to point out that he, you know, he does not have an ideological ax in all of this. I like the way I sort of clashed those clichés together. Keeps me fresh. The idea that the left is now becoming though, I mean it really is becoming oppressive in language.
Slate columnist Michelle Goldberg explained how an unfounded accusation spread throughout conservative media, claiming that Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign team tried to force Laugh Factory to take down a video about her.
According to the right-wing organization Judicial Watch, "Hillary Clinton's campaign is going after five comedians who made fun of the former Secretary of State in standup skits at a popular Hollywood comedy club." Judicial Watch claimed that a Clinton staffer called Jamie Masada, the comedy club's founder, asking for the names of the actors and for the video to be taken down.
In her November 19 Slate post, Goldberg explained that the threat to Masada came from an anonymous call that was not confirmed to be from Clinton's campaign and detailed how the unfounded accusation spread through right-wing media, despite the fact that Masada could not verify that anyone from Clinton's campaign had actually contacted him:
In short order, right-leaning sites including NewsBusters, NewsMax, Mediaite, the Daily Caller, and the Daily Mail aggregated the accusation.
This seemed bizarre. Even if you buy the most grotesque right-wing caricatures about Clinton's humorlessness and authoritarianism, it's hard to believe that the campaign would be so clumsy, especially at a time when it's going out of its way to make the candidate seem fun. Such a demand would only reinforce the worst stereotypes about Clinton while ensuring that the offending video went viral. Besides, there's nothing in the video itself to attract the campaign's notice: It's less than three minutes long and is mostly stale cracks about Hillary's clothes and age, along with familiar insinuations that she's a lesbian. One of those insinuations is even admiring: "I would love if you become president, divorce Bill, and then you marry a bitch," says Tiffany Haddish.
Yet there was Masada--a man who has won awards from the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, and has no discernable right-wing agenda--quoted as saying, "They threatened me. I have received complains before but never a call like this, threatening to put me out of business if I don't cut the video."
Masada doesn't actually know that the call came from the Clinton camp.
How does Masada know that John was actually from the Clinton camp? He doesn't. "I'm glad I'm not in politics or any of that stuff; you might know more than I do," he says. "Maybe it was a prank, I have no idea. Was it real? Not real? I have no idea. He didn't call back, that's all I can say." Nor is Masada sure how Judicial Watch even heard about the call. "The way I understand it, it's because one of the [Laugh Factory] employees told a couple of people," he says.
What we have here is a small-scale demonstration of how the Hillary smear sausage gets made. It starts with a claim that's ambiguous at best, fabricated at worst, and then interpreted in the most invidious possible light. The claim is reported in one outlet and amplified on Twitter. Other outlets then report on the report, repeating the claim over and over again. Talk radio picks it up. Maybe Fox News follows. Eventually the story achieves a sort of ubiquity in the right-wing media ecosystem, which makes it seem like it's been confirmed. Soon it becomes received truth among conservatives, and sometimes it even crosses into the mainstream media. If you watched the way the Clintons were covered in the 1990s, you know the basics of this process. If you didn't, you're going to spend the next year--and maybe the next nine years--learning all about it.
Conservative media figures are attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's plan to revitalize coal communities by deceptively claiming Obama administration environmental policies that Clinton supports are responsible for "destroying" and "crippling" coal country in the first place. But these media figures are downplaying -- or outright ignoring -- more significant factors that have led to the coal industry's decades of decline, such as competition from natural gas and renewables, depletion of easily recoverable coal reserves, and advances in mining technology.
From the November 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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On November 16, PolitiFact ruled that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' remark that "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism" is "mostly false." But while Sanders arguably overstated how "direct" the connection is between climate change and terrorism, his broader point that the two are linked is well substantiated, as PolitiFact itself noted when it rated a similar statement from fellow Democrat Martin O'Malley. Nonetheless, PolitiFact gave Sanders the same "mostly false" rating it has given to Republican politicians and fossil fuel industry allies who deny that man-made climate change is even occurring.
Foreign policy and military experts agree with Sanders' assessment that climate change helps create the conditions for terrorism to thrive, and major studies and reports have detailed how global warming played an important role in the rise of ISIS. In particular, climate change likely worsened drought conditions in Syria, which in turn helped spark that country's civil war, allowing ISIS to seize territory and establish a base of operations. PolitiFact noted many of these same facts when it assessed a remark by O'Malley and ruled that it was "mostly true" that "the cascading effects" of climate change contributed to the rise of ISIS.
However, PolitiFact took issue with Sanders' use of the word "directly" when he said at a November 14 Democratic presidential debate that "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism":
SANDERS: [C]limate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say you're gonna see countries all over the world-- this is what the C.I.A. says, they're gonna be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops. And you're gonna see all kinds of international conflict.
PolitiFact rated Sanders' comment as "mostly false," writing: "While there is a body of literature backing his broader point that climate change contributes to the growth of terrorism, Sanders is overstating the 'direct' connection. ... We couldn't find any evidence of a 'direct' relationship between climate change and terrorism, though many reports have noted an indirect link."
Maybe so. But when it comes to accuracy, Sanders' remark is light years ahead of Republican politicians and fossil fuel allies who deny the clearly-established scientific consensus that climate change is happening and human activities are the primary cause of it. PolitiFact gave all four of these blatantly false claims the same "mostly false" rating as Sanders' purported "overstatement":
Image at top via Flickr user Michael Vadon using a Creative Commons license.
In the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks, Republicans rushed with their conservative media allies to call for a halt to the admission of Syrian refugees into America, claiming that they would pose a significant threat to the United States. Major editorial boards slammed Republicans for "def[ying] what the nation stands for" and pushing divisive rhetoric that could "provide propaganda benefits to the Islamic State."
Right-wing media figures are bolstering calls from Republican presidential candidates following the attacks in Paris to limit Syrian refugees entering the United States to Christians only, claiming it will stop terrorists from entering the U.S.
Media should be careful about aiding Jeb Bush's criticism of Democrats for not using the phrase "radical Islam" by failing to note that President George W. Bush's administration followed the same practice.
Right-wing media mocked Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for linking climate change to terrorism during the November 14 CBS Democratic presidential debate. Sanders explained that if climate change continues to go largely unaddressed, "you're going to see all kinds of international conflict." Right-wing media called Sanders "insane" and "someone who doesn't understand what the real subject is." However, major studies and reports from foreign policy and defense experts support Sanders' assessment that climate change was a significant factor contributing to the rise of ISIL (or ISIS).