On September 30, California became the first state to ban the use of plastic bags in stores, leading to a barrage of misinformation from various media outlets claiming the ban would actually hurt the environment. However, these contrarian claims are undermined by research showing that previous bans and taxes have reduced energy use and litter, while doing no harm to the economy.
Conservative media are attacking actor Ben Affleck for comments he made objecting to disparaging generalizations about Islam during a heated exchange with HBO host Bill Maher, using their dialogue as ammunition to continue claiming that the religion has a unique connection to extremism and that Muslims have not done enough to root out religious zealotry.
From the October 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News personalities claimed that President Obama's efforts to roll back the advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was prompted by the brutal murder of American journalist James Foley. In fact, President Obama authorized limited airstrikes several days before Foley's killing, and worked to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces months before the strikes.
Fox News' Martha MacCallum falsely suggested the White House has failed to acknowledge the connection between the Khorasan group, the terrorist organization recently targeted along with the Islamic State (ISIS) by U.S. airstrikes, and Al Qaeda -- ignoring a statement from President Obama doing just that.
During the September 30 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and contributor Stephen Hayes discussed whether the White House had "misunderstood the evolution of Al Qaeda" with respect to ISIS and the Khorasan group. Speculating as to why many people had not previously heard of the Khorasan group, MacCallum asked why "the White House doesn't want to call" the Khorasan group Al Qaeda:
But in a September 23 statement on the U.S. airstrikes in Syria, Obama specifically referenced the Khorasan group's affiliation with the terrorist organization, noting that it consisted of "seasoned al Qaeda operatives" (emphasis added):
OBAMA: Last night, we also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the United States and our allies by seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorasan Group. And once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.
After President Obama repeated the assessment of James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, of the intelligence community's initial view on the threat posed by the Islamic State, media are accusing Obama of "throwing the intelligence community under the bus."
From the September 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News ran a misleading segment highlighting Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's investigation into fraud allegations against a nonpartisan voter education and registration group, failing to note key facts about the accusations.
The segment, on the September 19 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, highlighted "allegations of voter registration fraud by Georgia Democrats linked to Senate candidate Michelle Nunn." Reporter John Roberts went on to discuss the ongoing "scandal," which he said involves "complaints about potential voter registration fraud." Roberts highlighted Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's investigation into allegations that 25 voter registration applications and three canvassing sheets turned in by the nonpartisan New Georgia Project contained some type of inaccurate information, while another 26 were flagged as "suspicious":
What Fox News failed to note is that Georgia law requires all applications -- even those the New Georgia Project thought were incomplete or inaccurate -- to be turned in by the organization. As Stacey Abrams, head of the New Georgia Project, told The Washington Post, her organization flagged the forms before submitting them to the secretary of state:
Of the more than 85,000 registration forms the group has turned in so far, about 11 percent were incomplete, Abrams said, but state law requires they turn in all forms they receive, regardless of whether or not they are complete. "We don't get to decide if something is good or bad," she said. Those incomplete forms were flagged, however, by the group before being turned in.
From the September 17 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News' coverage of an evidence-free "bombshell" from Benghazi hoaxster Sharyl Attkisson took just hours to morph from a reiteration of her claim that a disgruntled former State Department employee "couldn't help but wonder" if Hillary Clinton's staff had turned over "scrubbed" Benghazi documents to investigators into full-blown allegations that documents had been "destroyed" -- allegations that remain baseless.
Fox News' live coverage of the Senate Armed Services hearing on U.S. strategy against the Islamic State repeatedly cut away when Senate Democrats held the floor.
On September 16, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the U.S. campaign to counter the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Fox News' America's Newsroom aired live coverage of the hearing for nearly 40 minutes without interruption. After opening remarks from Dempsey and Hagel, Fox aired questions from Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking majority and minority members, respectively. Yet when Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) was given the floor, Fox cut away, only rejoining footage once Republican Sen. John McCain (AZ) began questioning.
After airing more than six minutes of McCain's questions, Fox once again cut away during Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson (FL)'s time so that America's Newsroom co-host Martha McCallum could praise McCain for "obviously a very strong line of questioning."
An hour later, the network resumed coverage of the hearing only to highlight "heated" questions from another Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC).
In all, the network aired more than 16 minutes of GOP questions, while showing just over 8 minutes of Democratic questioning, according to a Media Matters count.
A new report from discredited investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson baselessly suggested State Department staff removed damaging documents on Benghazi instead of turning them over to the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for investigation. But Attkisson's claims have been denied by the State Department and are based solely on speculations from a disgruntled employee after he was disciplined for his "lack of leadership" and engagement by the ARB.
In a September 15 report for The Daily Signal, a publication of the conservative Heritage Foundation, Attkisson reported that a former State Department diplomat alleges that "Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to 'separate' damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya." The Daily Signal described this as a "Benghazi Bombshell."
Attkisson reported that the diplomat, Raymond Maxwell, a former deputy assistant secretary responsible for North Africa, says that in late 2012 he observed an "after-hours session" at which a State Department office director "close to Clinton's top advisers" directed staff to separate out Benghazi documents "that might put anybody in the Near Eastern Affairs front office or the seventh floor in a bad light" from "boxes and stacks of documents." Attkisson notes that "'seventh floor' was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisors." Maxwell told Attkisson that while he was present, Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan "appeared to check in on the operation and soon left."
Speculating that potentially missing, possibly damaging documents made it impossible for the ARB's investigation to be thorough, Attkisson reported that Maxwell said "he couldn't help but wonder if the ARB--perhaps unknowingly--had received from his bureau a scrubbed set of documents with the most damaging material missing."
Fox News' America's Newsroom quickly reported Attkisson's claims, calling them a "bombshell development" and a "smoking gun of a potential cover-up":
Fox News' months-long effort to criticize President Obama's response to the Islamic State extremist group while ignoring the steps he's taken to combat the group culminated in a confused segment claiming that the U.S. has both taken and not taken military action against ISIS.
On the September 15 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth pushed for American ground troops to be sent to the Middle East to combat Islamic State forces there. Hegseth criticized Obama's response thus far, saying that allies are seeing "American ambivalence."
A more striking ambiguity took place on screen, where Fox News' text suggested simultaneously that:
The disjointed segment is representative of Fox's overall coverage of the president's response. On September 9, the hosts of Fox & Friends criticized Obama for doing too little to fight the Islamic State before pivoting to attacks on Obama for requesting funding to continue airstrikes against the group.
Conservative media are claiming that unemployed Americans are "lazy" because they supposedly spend too much time "shopping" and not enough time working or looking for work. But the data they cite includes the activities of stay-at-home parents, students, people with disabilities, and retirees who are "not employed."
On September 8, fringe conservative website CNS News published an article claiming "an unemployed American is more likely to be shopping ... than to be looking for a new job. " The article ostensibly cited data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), an annual survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). CNS claimed that "only 18.9 percent of Americans who were unemployed" engaged in job searches or job interviews on "an average day." Meanwhile, according to CNS, 22.5 percent of the "unemployed" engaged in shopping "for items other than groceries" on "an average day."
Unfortunately, CNS did not link to its internal data or provide methodology for its reporting, leaving readers to take the website's claims at face value.
Digging into the technical notes of the ATUS reveals that the BLS does not categorize individuals as "unemployed," but rather as "not employed." This distinction is important, as it includes individuals who fit the classification of being unemployed -- not working but actively looking for work -- as well as individuals who are "not in the labor force" for other reasons, including retirement, educational pursuit, and disability. So-called "discouraged workers," the small percentage of the population who involuntarily leave the labor force due to a lack of opportunity, would also count as "not employed" by ATUS classification.
CNS' insinuation that the so-called "unemployed" spend too much time engaged in non-work activities like "shopping" is based on a fatally skewed statistical error. But that fact has not stopped right-wing media outlets from using CNS' assumptions to fuel their campaign against the unemployed.
Fox News offered Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) a platform to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, raising questions about the network's willingness to be manipulated using unverified quotes in order to harm a potential presidential candidate.
During the September 3 edition of Hannity, Paul joined host Sean Hannity to discuss the threat of the Islamic State to the U.S. After Hannity asked him if IS "has declared war on us," Paul blamed Clinton for the Islamic State's rise, asserting that "in the past, you know, Hillary Clinton has said ISIS is not a threat to the United States."
Fox's Bill Hemmer later hosted Paul on the September 5 edition of America's Newsroom, where Paul again claimed Clinton has "been out there saying that ISIS is not a threat, and so not a threat to America. Those I think were her exact words." After Hemmer asked Paul whether Clinton actually said the terror group was not a threat, Paul was unable to pin down where the alleged quote was from, but responded that it was his "belief" that "a couple of months ago there was a quote saying ISIS was not a threat to America." Hemmer subsequently failed to follow up on Paul's lack of specifics.
Hemmer's question was a critical one for any journalist to ask, but his failure to demand the specific quote and Hannity's total acceptance of Paul's claim is troubling. By not pushing for proof of Paul's claim, Fox News is letting itself be used as a conduit for misinformation from one potential presidential candidate to another.