Over the next three days, we'll be counting down the Most Embarrassing Failures of the Year by Conservative Websites.
As will become apparent, conservative sites regularly get themselves into trouble by having editorial standards that consist entirely of: "Does this story reflect poorly on Obama and/or liberals? Print it!"
For many prominent conservative online outlets, anything seen as reaffirming a conservative narrative is worth printing -- fact-checking is, at best, a minor annoyance to be handled after publication, if at all. This is the very definition of political hackery, yet many of these same conservative websites like to spend much of their time lecturing the "lamestream media" on how they are supposed to do their jobs.
No matter how many times conservative websites embarrass themselves by running completely false stories, they just can't help themselves.
10. Israeli delegation "skips" Obama speech to observe religious holiday
"Do you remember when Jesse Jackson said that under Obama Jews would lose all of their clout? He was right." - Jim Hoft
In the first entry on our list: Conservative websites cheered on the Israeli United Nations delegation supposedly "skip[ping]" Obama's speech at the UN General Assembly in September.
On the morning of September 23, Real Clear Politics posted video pointing out that the "Israeli assembly does not attend Obama's UN address." Rather than try to determine why this may have been the case, numerous prominent conservative sites just went ahead and made up their own answer: "They skipped it because they hate Obama as much as we do!"
Fox Nation, Jawa Report, and Breitbart TV all declared the delegation was a "no-show." Jim Hoft, as he often does, took things a step further by declaring that "Israeli delegation skips Obama's UN speech." Hoft then labeled this "another historic shift" and decided that "Israel didn't want to hear" Obama's speech.
As reported by Reuters, Israel explained that it "was not a boycott" and their delegation was absent due to the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (an absence they had alerted the Obama administration to ahead of time.)
Most of the aforementioned sites added embarrassing updates to their original posts, but Hoft took the cake with his:
Update: The Israelis admitted later that it wasn't a boycott- They just skipped it.
That's not what "skipped" means, Jim.
9. Conservatives outsource Obama attack to openly anti-Semitic website
"President Sarkozy called [Obama] "a madman," "a lunatic." Perhaps, I don't know -- but one thing is for sure: Hussein is a muhammadan." -- Pam Geller
Oftentimes, conservative websites' eagerness to get confirmation from international leaders that Obama is, in fact, the Worst President Ever Ever ™ can get them into hot water.
In April, numerous conservative blogs, including Fox Nation, NewsBusters, Atlas Shrugs, Jammie Wearing Fool (who later pulled his post without explanation) and, as always, Jim Hoft, picked up an absurdly sketchy report "circulating the Kremlin" that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had called Obama "insane."
They all sourced a website called the European Union Times, which I suppose sounds vaguely credible, but, based on the content at the site, a more apt name might be the Protocols of the Elders of Zion Weekly.
As we quickly learned -- thanks to an assist from The Village Voice's Roy Edroso -- the European Union Times' site is not only openly anti-Semitic, but, according to the SPLC, "is registered to the wife of a racist skinhead gang member who was involved in a bizarre stabbing incident" in November 2009.
The site is filled with red flags that would lead any responsible person to question using it as a source (perhaps least of which is the fact that it was apparently infested with spyware).
As we documented, in 2009 the EU Times reprinted a story by Ynetnews that was headlined "Anti-Semitism makes it to China?" and discussed a "bestselling book in China" that blames Jewish people for the global financial crisis. The EU Times changed that headline to "China finally Learns the Truth about the Jews." They attached to it this charming image:
And, for safe measure, the EU Times mixed their anti-Semitism with some 9-11 trutherism. Their homepage featured a graphic called "9-11 Missing Links" that linked to a website blaming Jewish people for the September 11 terror attacks.
For conservative bloggers, this incident apparently established a new axiom: The enemy of my enemy is my friend, even when he's an anti-Semitic 9-11 Truther.
8. Global Warming Activist Freezes in Antarctica
"God looks out for drunks and fools, but not, apparently, retards." -- Ace of Spades
Due to the fact that conservatives don't have actual science to buttress their belief that the planet is not warming, every winter they resort to pointing out that it is cold outside in December as proof that climate change isn't real.
The flimsy basis for climate science skepticism also leads them to promote overblown "scandals" like Climategate, ignore actual temperature records, and, apparently, run with stories from satirical websites as if they were actual news items.
Back in March, Fox Nation, Jim Hoft, Jammie Wearing Fool, and Ace of Spades all picked up a story about a "famed global warming activist freezing to death" in Antartica.
They were apparently too busy laughing at what they believed was another person's untimely death and relishing the "irony" of the situation to notice the many indications that the "story" might not have been accurate. Specifically, that the website responsible for the story, EcoEnquirer.com, is quite clearly a satirical site, featuring at the time "Breaking News" about the "successful" Bali 2027 Global Warming Conference.
But if poking around an unfamiliar website before running with one of their stories is too much work for the leading lights of the conservative blogosphere, several passages in the story itself should have stood out as being of questionable validity. Here's my favorite, which was excerpted in full, and in complete seriousness, by Jammie Wearing Fool, Fox Nation and Hoft:
"He kept talking about when they 'get down to chili', and I thought they were talking about the order in which they would consume their food supplies", Mrs. Schneider recounted. "I had no idea they were talking about Chile, the country from which you usually fly or sail in order to reach Antarctica."
Sounds real to me.
7. Obama spends $200 million/day to go to India
In November, the President went to India. According to an online report at the Press Trust of India, the trip was going to cost "$200 million per day" and use "34 warships" for Obama's protection.
If you're thinking that sounds ridiculous, then you have more common sense than conservative bloggers, radio hosts, elected officials, and Fox News.
On November 2, Matt Drudge hyped the article from the Press Trust of India. Conservative websites like Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, WorldNetDaily, MichelleMalkin.com, and many, many others quickly ran with it as well.
Of course, there was no way a story this absurd could stay within the confines of the conservative blogosphere, and it was picked up by, among others, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity.
Once again, conservative media outlets let their commitment to a narrative -- in this case "Obama is an arrogant, free-spending fancy man" -- trump even rudimentary attempts at fact-checking.
The White House said the numbers have "no basis in reality"; the Secret Service called them "significantly exaggerated"; and the Pentagon called the claim about the 34 warships "absolutely absurd" and "comical," pointing out that such a fleet would constitute 10 percent of the Navy.
You might think a story like this would give them pause the next time Drudge hypes a sketchy report from the foreign press, but it won't.
6. What Hawaiian Earthquake? Oh, that one.
"Either Obama's completely making up stuff now or we all missed some horrible devastating earthquake in Hawaii..." -- Jim Hoft
In March, Obama was interviewed by Fox News' Bret Baier about health care reform legislation and defended a provision in the bill that would, in his words, stipulate that "if a state has been affected by a natural catastrophe, that has created a special health care emergency in that state, they should get help." Obama added that the provision "also affects Hawaii, which went through an earthquake."
Jim Hoft, who has never met a story he couldn't botch horribly, proceeded to mock the president, asking in a headline "Um...What Earthquake in Hawaii?"
Hoft claimed that the president was either "completely making stuff up now or we all missed some horrible devastating earthquake in Hawaii." It will not surprise you to find out that it was the latter.
Though Hoft was confident that there had not been an earthquake in Hawaii since 1975, the U.S. Geological Survey disagreed, noting that there was a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Hawaii in October 2006.
While Hoft probably thinks the US Geological Survey is part of the liberal media conspiracy, President Bush himself declared that "a major disaster exists in the state of Hawaii" due to "an earthquake that occurred on October 15, 2006, and related aftershocks."
Breitbart TV, Matt Drudge, Hot Air, and Michelle Malkin all quickly picked up Hoft's attempted gotcha, as usual without bothering to see if it was right. The falsehood was even repeated by the hosts of Fox & Friends, who had actually covered the earthquake when it happened.
How many times does Hoft have to embarrass himself before conservatives learn to check his work before reprinting it? We're still waiting to find out.
5. Obama Bans Sport Fishing
"Forget about the frickin' fish! People are losing their rights." -- Glenn Beck
Back in March, an ESPNOutdoors.com opinion writer took a gander at the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force's interim report on coastal and marine planning and decided that hidden within it was evidence of a federal strategy that "could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing." He provided absolutely no evidence for why this might happen (ESPN eventually acknowledged the column had "errors" and a lack of "balance") but that minor detail didn't slow down the conservative perpetual outrage machine.
Jim Hoft labeled the story "Obama's latest assault on your rights" and decided that Obama "Will Ban Sport Fishing." Fox Nation ran with Hoft's story at the top of their website, but, responsible journalists that they are, went ahead and added a question mark to the end of their headline.
Among others, Red State and Michelle Malkin also used the story as evidence of Obama's steadfast commitment to infringing on the rights of the American people.
The "story" quickly made the leap to Fox Business, where Eric Bolling claimed that Obama was going to "prohibit fishing."
Then, on March 10, Glenn Beck got a hold of it. And while this story might seem like just another drop in the bucket that is the conservative media's complete lack editorial standards, it provides a nice illustration of the absurd theater that is Glenn Beck's nightly Fox News program.
Have a look at his performance that night, keeping in mind that you are still free to go fishing.
4. Conservative Magic Eye: Islam Edition
"Hard to imagine that's a coincidence. A certain implicit triumphalism involved?" - Mark Finkelstein
Conservatives bloggers' Islamophobia is so powerful that it regularly causes them to find Islamic symbols and messages hidden in buildings, landscapes, and logos.
In April, Pam Geller (of course), Jim Hoft, Fox & Friends, and the New York Post all discovered a startling fact: that, in the words of Hoft, "Obama's nuclear summit logo is an Islamic Crest." Of course, it wasn't an "Islamic Crest." It was, as pointed out by Jon Stewart, modeled on the "the Rutherford-Bohr Model of the atom that we all learned about in high school."
Apparently, conservative bloggers have short memories about these things, because two months prior to embarrassing themselves over the Nuclear Summit Logo, they caused a similarly inane kerfuffle over the Missile Defense Agency Logo. Depending on which unhinged conservative writer you were reading that week, the Missile Defense Logo either looked like an Islamic crescent, the Iranian Space Agency's logo, the Obama campaign logo, the Pepsi logo, or some unholy combination of them all.
For her part, Pam Geller has probably set the record for discovering secret messages from Islam in the world around her. In addition to finding crescents in government logos, this year she also saw an Islamic crescent in the design for the Flight 93 memorial and uncovered imaginary "Tumbling Star of Davids" in the design of the Park51 community center.
Speaking of the Park51 center, according to conservative bloggers, not only were they sending messages with the shapes on their walls, but the very fact that they shaped it like a building was a slap in America's face.
As we covered back in August, when NewsBusters' Mark Finkelstein announced that startling discovery:
Finkelstein then announced that the "ad was illuminating for another, chilling, reason," which I'll let him explain. Take it away, Mark:
"Have a look at the screencap below showing the mosque's proposed design [note that the anti-mosque group wasn't misrepresenting the design. See mosque architect's rendering here]. Sure looks a lot like the WTC towers themselves, doesn't it? Hard to imagine that's a coincidence. A certain implicit triumphalism involved?"
To save you the click, here's the artist's rendering that Finkelstein links to:
Shocking, right? Look at it just standing there, mocking us with its four sides and rectangular shape - almost like a building.
It's been a particularly embarrassing year for the crew at NewsBusters.
That being said, I'm confident that no other "media criticism" from that crew encapsulated the inanity of their entire operation better than Finkelstein parsing the "certain implicit triumphalism" inherent in shaping the Park51 center like a building.
3. When Mexicans invaded Texas, even after we gave them Arizona
"Word is coming in that Los Zetas, the highly trained killers formerly with the Gulf Cartel, have crossed into the United States and taken over at least two ranches in the Laredo, Texas area." - Dan Amato
Worrying about the impending - or, depending on who you ask, ongoing - invasion of America by Mexico is practically a national pastime for online conservative outlets. This year brought us two unrelated, but equally absurd, classics of the genre.
In July, at his "Diggers Realm" blog, Dan Amato claimed that "word is coming in that Los Zetas, the highly trained killers formerly with the Gulf Cartel, have crossed into the United States and taken over at least two ranches in the Laredo, Texas area." Amato claimed that San Diego Minutemen founder Jeff Schwilk had "tipped me off to this story."
In an Examiner.com blog post, Kimberly Dvorak echoed Amato's claims and added that "two sources inside the Laredo Police Department confirmed the incident is unfolding."
Completing the feedback loop for the fabricated story, Amato then updated his post to claim that Dvorak's post meant his scoop was "now 100% confirmed."
Though stories don't get much more thinly sourced than this one, that didn't stop Breitbart's Big Peace, Michelle Malkin, Weasel Zippers, and Jawa Report from picking it up.
Shortly thereafter, both the Laredo Morning Times - quoting actual law enforcement officials with the Laredo police department -- and conservative blogger Bob Owens thoroughly debunked the story, leading to yet another round of embarrassing updates to supposedly reputable conservative blogs.
It's a sad year for conservatives online when this story may not have been the most embarrassing in the "scary Mexicans" genre. In June, Fox News picked up a report - possibly from fringe website "U.S. Border Fire Report," though it's impossible to know where they come up with this stuff - about the U.S. supposedly "giving a major strip of the Southwest back to Mexico."
Seizing on the Fox segment, Fox Nation, Jim Hoft and several other conservative blogs alerted their readers to the story.
After contacting the Fish and Wildlife Service, we were told that the story was "ludicrous," and that not only hasn't the land been "given back to Mexico," but that it was first closed in 2006 during Bush's presidency. Oh, and that it is only five square miles, not a "major" swath of land.
But other than that, this Fox Nation headline was pretty accurate:
2. Obama skips daughter's soccer game to buy drugs or something
Reading the story about President Obama breaking tradition and ditching the presidential press pool over the weekend to watch one of his daughter's soccer games, it appears harmless, right? Not so. It is rather disturbing when you dissect it. -- Cat Corben
Depending on the results of the 2012 election, there are either two or six years left in the Obama presidency. But even with all that time remaining, I think we can safely say that we won't encounter many conspiracy theories about the president that are more insane than this one.
Back in April, Obama went to his daughter's soccer game in Northwest Washington, D.C. without first alerting the White House press pool. To reasonable people, this was barely worth passing mention.
To conservative bloggers, it was nefarious evidence of...something.
In her first and only post at American Thinker, Cat Corben explained that while this press snub "appears harmless," it is "rather disturbing when you dissect it."
Apparently, by "dissect it," Corben meant "make laughably false and unsubstantiated claims about it."
In order to insinuate that Obama was not actually watching his daughter play soccer but was instead purchasing drugs or kicking puppies or criminally loitering or some other unspecified and unsavory act, Corben made three assertions -- all of them false or completely misleading:
- Corben: "[T]he area reported that the game was played at appears to be one of high crime." It isn't.
- Corben: Nobody in the press pool was able to "document his whereabouts." They did.
- Corben: "[T]here were no scheduled soccer games for Sidwell Friends April 10." True! And this would have been interesting, but several club leagues had games at the same field. Corben just decided it was a Sidwell game, then pointed out there were no Sidwell games.
Corben also did some highly scientific Mapquesting to try to prove that the times given for Obama's whereabouts didn't make sense -- a move that Rush Limbaugh later referred to as a "timeline analysis" when he ran with the conspiracy theory on his radio show.
Yes, despite the fact that this was perhaps the most on-its-face-ridiculous piece of investigative reporting in internet history, Rush Limbaugh and conservative bloggers actually found it compelling.
Setting the bar considerably lower was Big Journalism's Ron Furtrell, who picked the story up several days after it had been completely debunked and used it as evidence that the press needs to "grow some and stand up to [Obama]." In his post, the article Furtrell linked to as evidence that Obama ditched the media for "what he said was his daughter's soccer game" was actually an extensive rebuttal of the very "conspiracy theories" Furtrell was pushing.
Nevertheless, as a writer at Breitbart's Big Journalism, Furtrell continues to give the media advice on how to practice journalism.
1. Breitbart hires racist sex wizard to write about Shirley Sherrod
"No doctor in the world knows more about sexual pleasure than I do." -- Dr. Kevin Pezzi
Near the end of July, Andrew Breitbart and his "Big" websites were the recipients of well-deserved national criticism and ridicule for posting a deceptively edited video and using it to smear former USDA official Shirley Sherrod as "racist."
Breitbart and his cohorts spent weeks scrambling, unsuccessfully, to find a workable defense -- they parsed the word "editing," accused CNN of putting on imposters to attack Breitbart, and lectured the administration for naively trusting Breitbart's reporting.
When all else failed, they resorted to outsourcing their dirty work to someone they had found online: the esteemed Dr. Kevin Pezzi.
Who is Dr. Kevin Pezzi? Apparently Big Government was too enamored with his attacks on Sherrod as racist to attempt to answer that question.
Had they bothered to do the bare minimum of research -- or simply read the bio he posted on their website -- they would have seen that Pezzi has claimed to have built, among other things, a "robotic chef that will enable people to prepare meals using a touch screen on the device."
This bizarre detail compelled us to run a quick Google search on the good doctor, and what we found was... interesting.
In addition to being overtly racist -- having repeatedly used ethnic slurs like "Japs" and "Chinks" to denounce Asians and claimed African-Americans should be grateful for their subjugation by whites -- Pezzi is, by his own description, perhaps the most interesting man in the world.
Some highlights from his self-described history:
- "A government official once claimed that Dr. Pezzi achieved the highest score ever attained on an IQ test administered nationwide, although Pezzi dismisses this as disingenuous pandering." [Link]
- He has "information about a new cure" for cancer, which he "stumbled upon while reading an editorial and article in one of the many journals I read. The editor said there is good evidence that this new treatment works, and that it truly cures cancer -- not just temporarily treating it, as so many cancer therapies do. However, he lamented that the cure is being overlooked, which he felt stemmed from the fact that there isn't any way for pharmaceutical companies to profit from it." [Link]
- Thanks to his "advanced enlargement techniques" -- apparently gleaned from his discovery of the "second puberty" -- his "penis size went from embarrassingly small (at least to me) to bigger than some porno stars." [Link]
- He "declined an offer to go on a blind date with Katie Couric," because, in part, "my political beliefs would clash with Katie's well-known liberal bias," and "Katie's career will keep her in New York (or some similar megalopolis) for the indefinite future. I can't stand cities." [Link]
Pezzi has also authored numerous books and launched several websites designed to get you to pay him money for things like "Cranberry Freshness Sorting Machines," "several ways to tighten the vagina," and burglary prevention systems that consist entirely of compact discs with construction noises on them.
Pezzi also apparently created numerous fake MySpace and Twitter accounts of women that were enamored with his work, often altering (read: increasing the breast size) stock photos of female models to use as their profile pictures.
A few hours after we posted our Pezzi material, his posts vanished from the Big Government website and were replaced by an "editor's note" explaining that they pulled his writings after being "made aware of other writings from this author which do not reflect the principles and values of this site."
While this entire incident was bizarre -- and, of course, hilarious -- it did demonstrate that Breitbart and his merry band of hacks are comfortably at home in the conservative online media, where "publish, then (time permitting) verify" is the standard operating procedure.
But on the upside, if he ever needs a "shed shaped like a lighthouse," now he knows a guy.