Looking for "another Solyndra," ABC News has run several reports about $1 billion in federal loans to advanced car companies Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors. ABC's big scoop last week -- that Fisker hired a company in Finland to assemble some if its cars -- was actually a recycled story pushed by Fox News more than two years ago.
ABC delivered another round of reports last night and got some of its facts wrong. Nightline host Terry Moran introduced the segment as a story about Obama's 2009 stimulus bill:
MORAN: Two and a half years ago President Obama pushed a $787 billion stimulus bill through Congress that he said would create millions of jobs, but now the president's under attack by critics who say that stimulus hasn't created a significant number of jobs and costs too much. Tonight ABC's Brian Ross looks at two companies that received a billion in government loans and asks, what did they do with it?
Actually, these loans don't have anything to do with the stimulus package (which, by the way, increased employment by 1 to 2.9 million as of August, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. If ABC thinks that isn't a "significant number," it should say so.)
The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program was established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which received broad bipartisan support. President Bush and Congress determined that investing in energy-efficient vehicles was worth risking $7.5 billion, which is how much they gave the program to cover the cost of any defaults or delinquencies.
Somehow, ABC managed to avoid mentioning any of this in its three reports on the loans yesterday.
When the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General published a September 2011 audit of conference expenses, the media focused on one finding in particular: the claim that the Justice Department had once paid $4,200 for 250 muffins at a conference in Washington -- or more than $16 per muffin. And as dubbed by ABC's Erica Hill, CBS, and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, "Muffin-gate" was born, reinforcing a common conservative narrative of wasteful government spending. As O'Reilly himself said on September 21: "But the $16 muffin now becomes a symbol of how wasteful the feds are with our tax dollars."
Within days, Hilton Worldwide, which hosted the 2009 conference in question, disputed the claim: "In Washington, the contracted breakfast included fresh fruit, coffee, juice, muffins, tax and gratuity for an inclusive price of $16 per person." And within a week of that, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the DOJ claimed "the actual price was $14.29 per person per day," and that "included breakfast and rental fees for the workshop space and conference rooms." Furthermore, Bloomberg reported that the IG's office subsequently "conceded that it might not have been in possession of all the facts." The IG's office told the magazine: "Since our report was issued, the Capital Hilton has stated that other food and beverage items, such as coffee, tea, and fruit, were included in the charged amount." The IG's link for the report now only states:
In September 2011, the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General issued audit report number 11-43, Audit of Department of Justice Conference Planning and Food and Beverage Costs. After our report was issued, the Office of the Inspector General received additional documents concerning the food and beverage costs at one conference that had not previously been provided during the audit. We have reviewed these documents and will issue a revised report in the near future.
Sam Stein of The Huffington Post investigated print coverage of the story and concluded that only 37 of the 223 articles that pushed the $16-muffin myth "offered an explanation for the cost of the muffins or attempted to correct the record." He added that Bill O'Reilly continued to push the falsehood (and even took credit for breaking the story) during a September 28 appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart -- after Hilton disputed the $16-muffin claim.
Media Matters reviewed the transcripts of broadcast and cable news and the articles of the top five national newspapers for coverage of this story. Contrary to the fervor with which the media reported the initial claim from the IG, few outlets followed up with the updates from Hilton or the IG's office, leaving their audiences in the dark about the truth of the $16 muffin.
A story touted as "an ABC News exclusive" actually rehashes a flawed narrative pushed by Fox News more than two years ago.
In collaboration with iWatch News, Brian Ross and ABC's "investigative unit" reported late last week that Fisker Automotive, a hybrid car maker that received a federal loan, "is assembling its first line of cars in Finland." The loan itself, however, can only be used to support operations based in the U.S.
ABC published the story, titled "Car Company Gets U.S. Loan, Builds Cars In Finland," on Thursday night and Ross reported the "ABC News exclusive" on Friday's edition of Good Morning America. Ross said that World News and Nightline would also feature the story on Friday, but ABC did not run those segments.
Instead, Ross appeared on the Fox Business Network Friday night, where he told host David Asman that those in the administration criticizing his reporting "just don't like the takeaway, which is that they got the loan and they're building the car in Finland."
But this news isn't new. In fact, it was explained by the Department of Energy (DOE) in a September 2009 press release announcing the conditional loan. According to the release, "final assembly" of the high-end Fisker Karma "will be done overseas." Indeed, Fisker had a contract to assemble the Karma in Finland before the company ever received funds from DOE. ABC failed to note this fact and the misunderstanding was compounded by other news outlets covering ABC's report.
The loan supports design work carried out in Michigan and California for the Karma, as well as the assembly of Fisker's lower-cost hybrid, Project Nina, which will take place at a former GM factory in Wilmington, Deleware. Fisker began hiring for the Delaware plant in June.
ABC News has published a lengthy article on its website that misleadingly suggests taxpayers are being ripped off because a car company that got a federal loan guarantee is assembling its vehicles in Finland. The story is headlined "Car Company Gets U.S. Loan, Builds Cars In Finland."
In fact, the article reports that the company, Fisker Automotive, has created 100 auto-plant jobs in Delaware in addition to 500 manufacturing jobs in Finland. Fisker's founder also told ABC that his company has spent the federal money it has received on marketing, engineering, and design work done in the United States, not on the Finnish jobs.
Here are the first four paragraphs of the article:
With the approval of the Obama administration, an electric car company that received a $529 million federal government loan guarantee is assembling its first line of cars in Finland, saying it could not find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work.
Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department's $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the job of assembling the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland.
"There was no contract manufacturer in the U.S. that could actually produce our vehicle," the car company's founder and namesake told ABC News. "They don't exist here."
Henrik Fisker said the U.S. money so far has been spent on engineering and design work that stayed in the U.S., not on the 500 manufacturing jobs that went to a rural Finnish firm, Valmet Automotive. [emphasis added]
Twenty-eight paragraphs later, readers learn that Fisker has indeed created auto-plant jobs in the U.S.:
The announcement that the plant would re-open followed a heavy lobbying push by Delaware politicians from both parties, who cited the news as a sign of industry's turnaround. In September 2009, Republican Rep. Mike Castle wrote directly to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, saying the Fisker proposal had "great merit," and urging Chu to give the company "careful consideration" for the loan.
The governor and state politicians took turns, along with Biden, to proclaim the project to cheering blue-collar workers clad in jeans, caps and jackets. They said it would produce thousands of jobs and have cars rolling off the line by next year. Fisker said he remains convinced those jobs will come. While he has hired marketing, design and engineering teams in the U.S., the auto plant jobs in Wilmington right now number about 100. [emphasis added]
Henrik Fisker explained that the Department of Energy told him that federal loan money could not be spent in Finland:
In a lengthy interview, Fisker said he apprised the Department of Energy of his decision to assemble the high-priced Karma in Finland after he could not find an American facility that could handle the work. They signed off, he said, so long as he did not spend the federal loan money in Finland -- something he says the company has taken care to avoid. He said the decision, ultimately, was to help prevent his company from following the path of Solyndra, which exhausted nearly all of its loan money on a high-tech solar manufacturing plant in Freemont, California.
"If you just start doing like what Solyndra did, making a factory in a place where it was too expensive to manufacture ... [you] obviously fail," he said. [emphasis added]
And the DOE confirmed this in a statement released Thursday night:
While the vehicles themselves are being assembled in Fisker's existing overseas facility, the Department's funding was only used for the U.S. operations. The money could not be, and was not, spent on overseas operations. The Karma also relies on an extensive network of hundreds of suppliers in more than a dozen U.S. states.
The article also suggests the Obama administration improperly loaned money to Fisker and Tesla Motors, another electric car company, because Obama donors are involved in the companies' financing:
An investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News that will air on "Good Morning America" found that the DOE's bet carries risks for taxpayers, has raised concern among industry observers and government auditors, and adds to questions about the way billions of dollars in loans for smart cars and green energy companies have been awarded. [emphasis added]
However, the article reported that both the administration and the companies denied impropriety in the awarding of the loans, and the article offered absolutely no evidence to contradict their statements:
In the rush to cover the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that received a loan guarantee from the federal government, many news media outlets have misrepresented or omitted key facts.
A couple of days ago, ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross was reportedly roughly handled by members of Rep. Michele Bachmann's security team as he tried to ask the Republican presidential candidate about reports that she suffers from migraine headaches.
The behavior of Bachmann's staff has drawn criticism from several quarters, including (not surprisingly) ABC. ABC News senior vice president Jeffrey Schneider told the Washington Post: "It's unfortunate when physicality is involved. [Ross] was just doing his job."
Bachmann, however, does have the support Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism. Blogger Warner Todd Huston wrote today that "what happened to Ross is fairly mild and all his fault," and then responded to Schneider's quote with perhaps the most ridiculously inexplicable Nazi reference the internet has ever seen:
If you listen to the silly hyperbole from the far left blogrags, the media is being treated like the Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square by Bachmann's campaign staff. Another lefty site says that Bachmann is indulging in "open conflict" with the press. Neither characterization is even close to the truth.
Jeffrey Schneider, a senior vice president for ABC news, denounced the incident saying, "He was certainly shoved around and pushed. It's unfortunate when physicality is involved. He was just doing his job."
I remember members of an army sometime in the mid 1940s saying that they were innocent because they were just doing their jobs, too.
Hah! Brian Ross is a Nazi war criminal! What?
Even better, Huston's absurd Godwinning is sandwiched between four separate condemnations of "hyperbole" from the media and progressives:
In a fit of wild hyperbole, Ross called his treatment by Bachmann similar to the treatment he's received "mostly by Mafia people"...
If you listen to the silly hyperbole from the far left blogrags...
With all this hyperbole and gnashing of teeth by the left...
In 2011 a reporter was simply blocked from getting to a candidate but not thrown to the ground. Result = outrage and hyperbole.
So Breitbart's Big Journalism wants us to get past all the overheated and outrageous rhetoric and focus on how ABC's Brian Ross is worse than Hitler. Perhaps then we can move on to the pressing matter of the crippling lack of self-awareness on right-wing blogs.
Today, Ann Coulter appeared on ABC's Good Morning America to promote her new book, Demonic. According to the Nexis database, Coulter was last interviewed on Good Morning America in 2009. And with her history of offensive and inflammatory rhetoric, it is disappointing to see that ABC chose to give her a platform to promote her book.
In 2007, Coulter's inflammatory commentary led CNN's Howard Kurtz, host of Reliable Sources, to question why news networks continue to host the conservative author. Kurtz stated: "[S]he can say whatever she wants, but there's no constitutional right to appear on a television show." At the time, Coulter had recently said: "we" Christians "just want Jews to be perfected, as they say."
And Coulter has not changed her tune since then. Here are some examples of what she has said since then:
- Just yesterday, Coulter described the Kent State massacre as "what you do with a mob." She also stated: "The whole country was embarrassed [about Kent State], well I'm not embarrassed."
- In February 2011, Coulter labeled current U.S. President Barack Obama "a crazy Muslim."
- In February 2011, Coulter also attacked the "INS" for choosing "illiterate Pakistanis" rather than "Swiss scientists" for immigration "because we need more New York City valets." In the same episode of Hannity, Coulter also stated that "liberals have been using one special interest group after another" like "the gays" "for their attacks on the family."
- In November 2009, Coulter advocated for racial profiling stating: "The one thing we won't look at is who is doing this." She then added, terrorists "all look alike. They're all foreign-born...they're all Muslim."
- In October 2009, the conservative author compared Jennings writing the forward of a book to Polanski "anally raping a 13-year-old."
- In August 2009, Coulter stated: "Zeke Emanuel is on my death list."
On Good Morning America today, Coulter did what she always does. She continued to say things that are inflammatory without in any way being informative or even interesting.
From the May 8 edition of ABC News' This Week:
Loading the player reg...
As part of an Easter edition of This Week that explored religion's influence on government, Christiane Amanpour hosted right-wing evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham, who took used the opportunity to promote the conspiracy theory that President Obama hasn't produced his birth certificate. He also cast doubt on Obama's religion and declared that "secularism is anti-Christ."
It's stunning that ABC would lead its Easter edition of This Week by hosting Graham. He was, after all, uninvited from a National Prayer Day ceremony at the Pentagon last year after calling Islam "evil" and counseling Muslims that "they don't have to die in a car bomb."
Amanpour seemed to make a brief reference to this during the interview, telling Graham: "You've made some very controversial comments about Islam, about Muslims, including on our program, when we had our town hall that you joined us on a few months ago. Do you still feel that there is a real divide between Islam and Christianity in this country?"
But that was it. Amanpour didn't press him any further on his history of anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Amanpour's most egregious error during the interview was failing to make clear the facts about Obama's birth certificate:
Has Donald Trump found a winning issue for the 2012 election cycle?
That's the premise for the report on how Donald Trump has launched a media tour resurrecting the debunked conspiracy theory about how the President of the United States was not born in America. At ABC News, this is seen as a potential "winning issue."
But why is peddling discredited nonsense like birtherism a possible "winning issue"? ABC never actually explains. It points to no polling, for instance, that suggests the conspiracy theory resonates with voters or that it has boosted Trump's fortunes as he (supposedly) weighs a presidential run.
ABC News doesn't point to a single thing that suggests going around on TV and claiming Obama was't born here is a "winning issue."
From the January 23 edition of ABC News' This Week:
Loading the player reg...
From the December 12 edition of ABC's This Week:
Loading the player reg...
The question for the mainstream press, as always, is how to deal with egregious falsehoods that take hold and quickly drive our political discourse. Sometimes I think the right-wing plan is to just drown everyone in so many lies that it becomes too time consuming for journalists to fact-check all the fabrications. And perhaps that's why so often the lies are not confronted.
Happily, the India trip lie is being forcefully knocked down from some mainstream media outlets such CNN and ABC News. And that's exactly the right way to confront a misinformation campaign -- call it out for what it is. Don't look away, or issue it's-just-Rush-being-Rush type of passes to powerful pundits who can't tell the truth. The correct thing to do is to say without apology, that these people are lying about the President of the United States, they don't seem to care that they're lying, and most likely they know they're lying. ($2 billion in security costs for a presidential visit? On what planet?)
And to his credit, that's essentially what Anderson Cooper did on last night's show:
And it's what ABC's Jake Tapper did on Good Morning America:
Meanwhile on her program last night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow also debunked the India trip idiocy. But Maddow went a bit further and explained the larger, disturbing trend in play, which is how the "alternative, self-contained, right-wing media world" fabricates and deceives on purpose; how it's designed to spread misinformation. Maddow notes the increasing trouble with that is that more and more Republican political leaders are taking that right-wing misinformation ($2 billion) and deploying it into the real world.
Maddow laments that because of its self-contained structure there's no longer an effective debunking process for right-wing lies because nobody inside that world acknowledges the outside world. True to a point. But I still think it's effective and important and necessary for independent journalists to call out this nonsense and let right-wing pundits know they cannot always lie with impunity.
ABC has made conflicting statements about discredited blogger Andrew Breitbart's role in its election night coverage and now says that it is "entirely possible" that it will include comments from Breitbart in its television broadcast. Here is a timeline of comments released by -- or attributed to -- ABC.
In launching his latest smear campaign against the press, this time targeting a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska, Andrew Breitbart has again convincingly advertised the fact that he has no idea what journalism is. Or he does, and simply has no interest in practicing it. Because again, the latest Breitbart/GOP Noise Machine press-hating creation illustrates that when faced with breaking some actual news, Breitbart and his band of irresponsible bloggers refuse to do the ethical thing and instead opt for the partisan cheap shot.
Here's the simple truth: If Breitbart and company were genuinely serious about reporting out the story of the voice mail that was mistakenly recorded on the phone of a Joe Miller's campaign aid and left by reporters at the CBS affiliate, Breitbart would have contacted KTVA prior to publication and asked for a comment. Breitbart would have given KTVA a chance to give its side of the story because that's what journalism means – being truthful and transparent.
But yet again, Breitbart's team couldn't summon the courage to actually practice journalism. Breitbart couldn't summon the courage to do the right thing. Why? Because, as with his summertime Shirley Sherrod debacle, Breitbart likely understood that if the other side was contacted and context was provided, the beloved gotcha would evaporate. i..e There would be no therethere.
In other words, Breitbart's more committed to the smear than he is to the truth.
So as with the Sherrod smear campaign, Breitbart didn't contact the central player of the right-wing attack. In fact, it appears that Breitbart's team specifically did not contact for comment, because they knew if they did, the attack would go poof! So just like Breitbart announced last summer that he wanted to talk to Shirley Sherrod after he posted his out-of-context smear that condemned her a racist, Breitbart's team apparently made no effort to talk to anyone at KTVA prior to posting the audio of the phone call and prior to announcing KTVA guilty of malpractice.
Instead, Breitbart's team posted the raw contents of a garbled phone message, refused to contact KTVA for comments, pretended they knew exactly what the garbled message meant (they didn't), and acted like they were practicing journalism all along.
Except that, of course, they're not.
BTW, Is anyone at ABC News paying attention to Breitbart's latest, press-hating debacle?