The Associated Press purported to fact-check Hillary Clinton's statement that "nearly 3,000 people have been killed by guns" over the past month but did so by erroneously citing a source that only counts about one-third of total gun deaths. According to the federal government, around 33,000 Americans die in gun-related incidents each year, meaning Clinton's statement aligns with the available data.
During the November 14 Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Clinton said, "Since we last debated in Las Vegas, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by guns. Two hundred children have been killed. This is an emergency." The Las Vegas debate took place on October 13.
In a November 15 article, the AP falsely wrote that Clinton's "claim appears to be unsupported on all counts," and claimed Clinton's statistic was "highly exaggerated." To support its conclusion, the AP cited the Gun Violence Archive, which counted "an average of just under 1,000" gun deaths "per month" in 2015:
THE FACTS: The claim appears to be unsupported on all counts.
The Gun Violence Archive has recorded 11,485 gun deaths in the U.S. so far this year, an average of just under 1,000 per month, making Clinton's figure appear to be highly exaggerated. The archive had more detailed data for children and teenagers, showing 70 from those age groups killed by firearms since the Democratic candidates debated Oct. 13 - not 200 as she claimed.
The AP erred by citing the Gun Violence Archive as a source for the total number of gun deaths. While the Gun Violence Archive is a valuable resource for a number of reasons -- especially because it aggregates detailed information about individual shootings -- it's not a comprehensive count of the total number of gun deaths in the United States because its methodology does not capture every shooting.
Researchers on the issue of gun violence have known that for years the gold standard for a total count of gun deaths in the United States comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS).
WISQARS found that in 2013, the most recent year in which complete data is available, there were 33,636 gun deaths in America. This figure is consistent with the number of gun deaths over the past 10 years - although the death toll is steadily climbing - and indicates that Clinton's figure aligns with the best available data:
In its article, the AP also wrote, "The archive had more detailed data for children and teenagers, showing 70 from those age groups killed by firearms since the Democratic candidates debated Oct. 13 - not 200 as [Clinton] claimed."
Again, this criticism of Clinton is erroneous because it treats the Gun Violence Archive as a comprehensive source.
The botched AP fact check was subsequently touted by the National Rifle Association.
Chart by Oliver Willis.
Right-wing media seized on the November 13 terror attacks in Paris to make at least five false or misleading claims about Syrian refugees, past statements from Hillary Clinton, President Obama's strategy against ISIS, the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and how guns in civilian hands could have supposedly changed the outcome of the attacks.
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.
In recent months, media investigations have revealed that Exxon Mobil peddled climate science denial for years after its scientists recognized that burning fossil fuels causes global warming, prompting New York's Attorney General to issue a subpoena to Exxon and all three Democratic presidential candidates to call for a federal probe of the company. But despite these developments, the nightly news programs of all three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have failed to air a single segment addressing the evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived its shareholders and the public about climate change.
Moderators of Republican presidential debates have repeatedly used the slur "illegal immigrants" to refer to the undocumented immigrant population living in the United States, despite recommendations of Hispanic journalists' advocacy organizations to the contrary and the growing trend among news organizations moving away from use of the term.
During the November 10 Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox Business Network in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, moderator Maria Bartiromo asked candidate Donald Trump what he would do about "the effect that illegal immigrants are having on our economy," using a term that "many in the Latino community regard as a racial slur" to refer to a significant portion of the nation's population.
Despite recommendations from the Associated Press Stylebook which advises the term "illegal" only be used in reference to an action and not to people, and calls from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) for the media to stop the use of "illegal immigrants" and similar smear terms like "illegal alien" or "illegals," the slur has been used by moderators in three out of the four Republican presidential debates to this date. According to Mekahlo Medina, president of NAHJ, "Using the word in this way is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed."
During the first debate, hosted by Fox News Channel, host Chris Wallace repeatedly used the term "illegal" in reference to immigrants, including when he pressed candidate Jeb Bush on a statement about "illegal immigrants," and later asked candidate Marco Rubio whether "all of these illegals coming over are criminals."
In the second debate, hosted by CNN, moderator Jake Tapper referred to undocumented immigrants as "illegal immigrants" while questioning candidate Ben Carson. Tapper's use of the term followed CNN Vice President of Diversity Geraldine Morida's statement -- made in response to the NAHJ petition -- that "the word illegal alone should never be used as a standalone noun to refer to individuals with documented or undocumented immigration status."
Jorge Ramos set the gold standard for media figures when he pushed back on candidate Donald Trump's use of the word during an August 25 press conference, stating "no human being is illegal." When moderators introduce the slur, they can effectively close the window of opportunity to pushback on candidates' use of disparaging language.
While many media outlets are moving away from or have banned altogether the use of the "illegal immigrant" slur and substituting it with the more humane term "undocumented immigrant," Fox has a history of clinging to the disparaging term and praising its use. Neil Cavuto, one of the moderators of the fourth Republican debate, has previously ridiculed concerns that disparaging language could be dehumanizing to immigrants, saying "what's dehumanizing" is "all these people being here illegally."
Media fact-checkers dismantled Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) claim during the fourth Republican presidential debate that "welders earn more money than philosophers" while conservative media championed the false assertion as part of Rubio's so-called mixture of "substance with soaring rhetoric."
In coverage of GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio's newly released energy plan, which calls for expanding oil production and rolling back environmental safeguards against pollution, media are failing to mention that Rubio has received campaign funding from the oil billionaire Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests, and is reportedly a leading contender to benefit from hundreds of millions more in support from the Kochs.
The extreme anti-gay legal organization representing Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis is criticizing the Associated Press after a report accurately noted that the group has been listed as an anti-gay "hate group."
In an October 4 article, Associated Press correspondent Claire Galofaro accurately reported that Liberty Counsel -- the group representing Kim Davis -- has been labeled an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) due to its peddling of damaging falsehoods about the LGBT community. Other media outlets have failed to similarly identify Liberty as a "hate group" in their reporting on the controversy surrounding Davis.
In response to the report, Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver delivered a letter to AP's Assistant General Counsel Brian Barrett demanding that the article be permanently deleted, accusing AP of putting Davis and Liberty Counsel at risk for being targeted for "death threats." From Breitbart:
In a blistering letter, signed by Liberty Counsel president Mathew Staver and delivered on Monday to Brian Barrett, AP's Assistant General Counsel, the group charges an October 4 story is "defamatory and presents Liberty Counsel and me in a false light. The words and the way the article is written as a whole present a clear and unmistakable message to a reasonable person -- Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel are liars and haters, and the organization is a 'hate group.' These assertions are very damaging and place lives in danger."
The AP article relies heavily on the claim by the Southern Poverty Law Center that the positions taken by Liberty Counsel on homosexuality amount to hatred no different from that of the KKK and the Nazi Party. The AP story was headlined "Law firm labeled as hate group leading Kim Davis' crusade."
Staver's letter charges that [AP correspondent Claire] Galofaro knew of the dangers he and Davis were in but published the SPLC charges anyway. He says Galofaro "...knew that Kim Davis had received death threats. She knew that people threatened to kill her and her husband and burn down their house after raping her. She knew that people had threatened to kill her and her staff at the Clerk's office. She knew that I had received death threats and that our staff hat [sic] Liberty Counsel received death threats."
Liberty Counsel is not asking AP for a "minor edit here and there..." Staver writes, "At a minimum, AP should permanently remove the link and the cache."
Staver said today that AP's General Counsel has acknowledged the letter but not yet responded.
An October 8 Associated Press report, titled "Clinton Server Hack Attempts Came From China, Korea, Germany" outlined how "at least five cyberattack tries were apparently blocked by a 'threat monitoring' product that was connected to her network in October 2013." Fox News immediately began using the AP report to support spurious claims regarding Hillary Clinton's email server, but a Washington Post reporter recently explained that failed hacking attempts such as these are a routine occurrence online.
The Associated Press properly identified Liberty Counsel -- the legal group defending Kentucky's Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis -- as an anti-LGBT hate group, in an all-too-rare example of a major news outlet accurately informing its audience about Liberty's extreme views.
Liberty Counsel's defense of Davis has put it at the center of a months-long media firestorm over the clerk's refusal to follow the law and issue same-sex marriage licenses. Yet major news outlets have repeatedly failed to note that Liberty Counsel has been labeled an anti-LGBT "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, often only referring to the group as a "Christian" or "conservative" legal organization.
From the Associated Press (emphasis added):
Kim Davis' lawyer stood onstage in a Washington D.C. hotel and pointed to a photo on the screen. It showed 100,000 people packed into a Peruvian soccer stadium, Mat Staver told the crowd, all there to pray for the Kentucky clerk battling against gay marriage.
The crowd erupted.
It wasn't true.
Staver's firm, the Liberty Counsel, which revealed Davis' secret meeting with Pope Francis, has been accused by advocacy groups of peddling misrepresentations in the past. Yet it has become the main source of details about the controversial pope meeting.
Online sleuths quickly debunked the Peru story Staver told at the Values Voter Summit, a conference for the conservative Family Research Council. The photo was from a year-old gathering unrelated to Davis, who spent five days in jail for defying a court order and refusing to license gay marriages. Staver could provide no evidence of a massive Davis rally. On Monday, he called it a mistake and blamed miscommunication with the Peruvian authorities who gave him the photo.
The next day, the firm dropped a bombshell. It said Pope Francis, on his celebrated visit to America, secretly met with Davis. The pope hugged her, thanked her for her courage and told her to "stay strong," Liberty Counsel said. The Vatican on Friday said the pope had a brief meeting with Davis that should not be seen as support for her stance.
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Liberty Counsel as an anti-gay hate groups for spreading false information.
"A group that regularly portrays gay people as perverse, diseased pedophiles putting Western civilization at risk are way, way over the line," said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center.
The Liberty Counsel has connected homosexuality to higher rates of promiscuity and incest, Potok said, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. The firm opposes laws banning hate crimes and supports discredited conversion therapies that purport to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals. Staver once declared that the Boy Scouts would become a "playground for pedophiles" once it allowed gay troop leaders.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed falsely claimed that there is no gender-based pay-inequality in the United States and therefore no need for California's Fair Pay Act, which Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign this month. However, California media outlets that have covered the wage issue stand behind the new law because research shows that the gender pay gap does exist, and hurts both women and the economy as a whole.
From the September 25 edition of NPR and WNYC's On the Media:
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The Associated Press recently updated its Stylebook by instructing AP writers to avoid using the term "denier" to describe those who reject the firmly-held scientific consensus on climate change. The AP's Stylebook change was celebrated by several well-known climate science deniers, but criticized by prominent scientists and journalists who say the new AP-approved term "climate change doubters" grants undeserved legitimacy to those who refuse to acknowledge the consensus.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nation's nuclear energy arm, asserted that it is "fully confident that the process and the result so far" of Iran's probe into their Parchin military complex has been "fully in line with safeguards practices" -- contradicting conservative media's fearmongering about this aspect of the recently signed nuclear agreement.
On August 19 the Associated Press published a flawed article claiming that an agreement between the IAEA and Iran allowed the country to use its own inspectors to take samples at the Parchin military base and that IAEA inspectors would be "barred from physically visiting the site." Conservative media ran with the story, claiming that the deal with the IAEA would prevent international inspectors from accessing all nuclear sites, despite the fact that it only refers to past activity at one site and still requires confirmation that Iran is meeting the promises it made in the nuclear agreement.
A second article from the Associated Press, on September 21, further undermined conservative media's attempts to stoke fears about the agreement, quoting IAEA officials who said that Iran's sampling procedures at Parchin meet "strict agency criteria that ensure 'the integrity of the sampling process and the authenticity of the samples.'" IAEA Deputy Director General Tero Varjoranta also noted that there "have been over 40 instances of letting a country being inspected use their own nationals to do their own sampling" and that the agency "feel[s] fully confident that the process and the result so far are fully in line with our safeguards practices":
Deputy IAEA Director General Tero Varjoranta said that there have been over 40 instances of letting a country being inspected use their own nationals to do their own sampling and that the process is only a small part of a rigid regimen established by the agency to make sure there is no cheating.
He said the criteria at Parchin included: invasive monitoring by video and still cameras while the sampling took place; GPS tracking of the sampling process; IAEA agreement on where the samples were to be taken; review by unspecified peers of the inspection process; risk assessment and strict observance to make sure that procedures were followed step by step.
"We feel fully confident that the process and the result so far are fully in line with our safeguards practices," he said, standing next to Amano at a Vienna news conference.
The Iran arrangement was first revealed in a confidential draft agreement between the sides seen last month by The Associated Press. The draft said that Iranian experts, monitored by video and still cameras, would gather environmental samples at the site and hand them over to the agency for analysis.
Iran's atomic energy agency spokesman, Behrouz Kalmandi, said IAEA experts were not physically present during the sampling. But Amano said the procedure meets strict agency criteria that ensure "the integrity of the sampling process and the authenticity of the samples."
The Associated Press called out Republican presidential candidates who engage in populist campaign talk but present tax proposals that would "overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest" -- a trap media often fall into in their reporting on economic policy.
On September 8, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush debuted his tax plan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, attacking what he called an "anemic economy" under the Obama administration and claiming that the only way to guarantee "accelerating [economic] growth" is a complete overhaul of the U.S. tax code." Bush's so-called "overhaul" includes reducing the top marginal income tax rate to 28 percent, reducing corporate tax rates to just 20 percent, and eliminating what he called "lobbyist-created loopholes" in the tax code that advantage high-income filers. Following the release of Bush's plan, media jumped to paint the proposal as a "populist" approach to taxes, despite experts noting that it will mostly privilege the rich.
In a September 14 article, the Associated Press highlighted the problem with labeling GOP candidates' proposals as "populist," explaining that in reality, the plans presented by Jeb Bush, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) all "overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest." Focusing on Bush's proposed tax plan, the article noted that even conservative organizations such as the Tax Foundation concluded that "his plan would initially help the top 1 percent of earners 10 times as much as it would those in the bottom 10 percent":
Jeb Bush went to Detroit and talked about leveling the playing field. Marco Rubio wrote a book about helping the working class. Rand Paul is promising to expand the Republican Party beyond its traditional base.
Yet all three Republican presidential candidates have offered tax proposals that would, for reasons such as nomination politics and tax rate realities, overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest.
In doing so, they have drawn criticism from Democrats who call it proof that the GOP's eventual nominee will mainly try to help the rich.
Even some conservatives expressed concerns after Bush released his proposed tax cut last week. Then there was the analysis Thursday from the Washington-based Tax Foundation that concluded his plan would initially help the top 1 percent of earners 10 times as much as it would those in the bottom 10 percent.
"Republicans should be countering the caricature of themselves as slavishly devoted to the interests of rich people and corporations, not playing into it," according to an editorial in the conservative National Review. The magazine nonetheless praised Bush's effort to reduce income and business tax rates.
The trio's tax plans do contain elements aimed directly at middle- and working-class voters. Rubio proposes to expand the child tax credit and Bush wants to double the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is designed to help the working poor.
But experts note that any broad income tax cut inevitably will benefit the rich more than anyone else, because they pay much more in federal income taxes than the middle class or poor.