The right-wing media are kicking off 2011 by reviving "death panel" claims -- which was PolitiFact's 2009 "Lie of the Year" -- by claiming that a recent change to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements was tantamount to the establishment of "death panels." In fact, the rule simply compensates doctors for providing voluntary end-of-life counseling.
In early 2010, right-wing fabulist Andrew Breitbart was at the height of his powers.
In September 2009, Breitbart launched his BigGovernment.com website with what remains his media empire's biggest coup: The ACORN videos secretly filmed by conservative activists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles.
Breitbart played a central role in the months-long release of the tapes, hosting the videos on his websites and heavily promoting them. After the videos led Congress to vote to deny federal funding to ACORN, Breitbart became the toast of the conservative movement.
Meanwhile, editors at The New York Times and The Washington Post expressed regret for not giving the ACORN story sufficient attention, and they promised to take such stories more seriously in the future.
Thanks to the ACORN videos, Breitbart was riding high; without them, he would be nothing more than a third-tier, unhinged version of Tucker Carlson, providing an Internet forum for ridiculous smears, wild accusations, and trumped-up scandals.
But it soon became clear that those ACORN videos themselves were not an exception to Breitbart's typical sludge. And so began Breitbart's big downfall.
A lesson for discredited conservative activist Andrew Breitbart: If you're going to cheat, don't show your cards. Even better yet: don't cheat.
Last week Breitbart released a 29-page report calling for a congressional investigation into what he claims is "widespread corruption" surrounding the 1999 USDA settlement in Pigford v. Glickman. The lawsuit was filed by black farmers who were denied loans and whose discrimination complaints were ignored by the USDA between 1981 and 1996. Breitbart asserts that most of the claims for payment under the settlement were filed by undeserving people and that then-Senator Obama pushed to extend the payments for those who missed the filing deadline in order to buy the rural black vote in 2007. (No explanation provided for why Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was such a willing accomplice.)
The allegations of massive fraud made in the report rely heavily on anecdotes apparently provided to Breitbart by what appear to be numerous unnamed USDA employees. But it turns out that Breitbart took portions of an interview with one person and presented them as though they came from several different people. How do we know that? Because after publishing his report, Breitbart posted interviews with his sources on BigGovernment.com in what I assume was an effort to draw more attention to his "Pigford investigation" (I guess the bright red headlines weren't working.)
In the following excerpt from Breitbart's report, each of the USDA sources referenced in bold is actually the same person, according to the interview posted on BigGovernment.com, but are presented in the report as several different people:
Some of the claims of discrimination didn't make sense. One employee reports that there were numerous claims of racial discrimination against the USDA offices in Jefferson County, Arkansas, for example, but the supervisors in that office were all black.
Another employee from Arkansas reports that there were literally hundreds of claims from black women stating they had been the victims of USDA discrimination but in his 15 years in Arkansas, he had only ever seen one black female applicant for a loan.
Still another USDA employee reports that he personally witnessed an example where eight Pigford applicants came from one single family, and they were accepted and granted by USDA. "Pigford was basically legalized extortion," reports this USDA employee, "it reached the point where they were just handing money to people."
For some reason, ever since Barack Obama became president of the United States, the right wing has been stumbling from one race-baiting claim to the next. But a blog post today pulls a number of those absurd strands together. J. Christian Adams - the ringleader of the right's phony New Black Panthers scandal - is linking that conspiracy to recent Pigford-Cobell settlements to black farmers and Native Americans as "controversial racialist policies of the Obama Administration."
And he's doing it at BigGovernment.com, the Andrew Breitbart website well-known for smearing former Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod as a racist.
Adam's link between the two is "leftist" Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli. According to Adams, Perelli is responsible for "a race-driven political payoff by the Obama Administration to a favored political constituency" in the form of "a $4.6 billion payout to American Indians and black farmers as part of a settlement of alleged race discrimination claims."
In reality, the bill recently passed by the Senate and the House funds settlements in the Pigford and Cobell cases. Pigford deals with well-documented discrimination against black farmers by the Agriculture Department. Cobell involves massive management malfeasance with regard to Indian trust accounts .
How "controversial" were those settlements? Their funding passed the Senate by voice vote. No senator was concerned enough about the settlements to even deny passage by unanimous consent. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley has been a longtime champion of the Pigford settlement; on passage of the bill, the Cobell plaintiffs thanked Republican Sens. Grassley, John Barrasso, and Jon Kyl for their action. But it involves President Obama and minorities, so for people like Adams and Breitbart, it must be, as Rush Limbaugh puts it, "reparations."
Adams also paints Perelli as being "behind the dismissal of the already won DOJ case against the New Black Panthers who organized and ran an armed voter intimidation effort the day Obama was elected." He suggests that this was due to "the New Black Panther's endorsement of candidate Obama during the primaries," because surely every presidential candidate dreams of the cachet that comes with the endorsement of a fringe hate group.
In reality, the Justice Department successfully obtained default judgment against a member of the New Black Panther Party who was carrying a nightstick outside the Philadelphia polling center, but dropped civil charges against other defendants. No voter has ever emerged to state they were intimidated at the time.
Adams' evidence that Perelli played a "central role" in the case is that there were "emails between Perrelli and his top political lieutenants supervising the lawsuit" about the case. Adams' previous writings on this issue reveal that the most damning email he's uncovered from Perelli states simply, "Where are we on the Black Panther case?" This seems consistent with testimony from Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who has said that "Whenever there is a decision involving a case that has attracted attention, we -- when the decision is made, we obviously communicate that up the chain." That seems pretty reasonable.
But as J. Christian Adams, GOP activist, knows well, you don't get booked on Fox News by making sense; you get booked by claiming that the Obama administration is racist.
Today, Big Follower Chris Muir upped the ante on race-baiting the Democratic House leadership race, calling Rep. Jim Clyburn a "House negro."
From a November 15 comic by BigGovernment's Chris Muir:
Following the release of former President George W. Bush's book Decision Points, right-wing media are promoting Bush's claim that waterboarding "saved lives." But this claim is disputed by intelligence experts, including former British officials who have "cast doubt" on Bush's waterboarding claims.
Did you know that America is "no different" from the Soviet Union? It's true! And I know it's true because I read it on Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com:
You see, the Soviets were the last "great power" to have their "vitality" drained in Afghanistan, and now BigGovernment -- which loves to attack President Obama for allegedly not believing in "American exceptionalism" -- says we're "no different" from them.
Why doesn't BigGovernment believe in "American exceptionalism"? Why does Andrew Breitbart hate America?
So it turns out it's BigGovernment.com's birthday, and the Breitbart-spawned website is celebrating in grand fashion with editor-in-chief Mike Flynn's look back at how BigGovernment has, in the past year, become the most powerful news outlet in all of human history. After all, Flynn credits his collection of third-rate bloggers with putting an end to the "time when news organizations like the Post and the Times could set the national agenda." Apparently that doesn't happen anymore -- who knew?
And as one would expect, Flynn singled out for meritorious recognition what he felt were the very best pieces of BigGovernment "journalism," starting (where else?) with the ACORN videos: "After the second day of our video release the U.S. Senate voted to defund ACORN and the Census Bureau severed all ties with the embattled organization." True enough! Conveniently omitted, of course, was any mention of the fact that those videos were "severely edited," that James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles routinely lied about their interactions with ACORN employees, and that subsequent investigations found that ACORN employees had not engaged in any criminal acts.
But what of the other stories Flynn claims BigGovernmnet has "broken"? He lauds "Jim Hoft's great expose on Kevin Jennings, Obama's 'Safe Schools Czar' " as a shining example of BigGovernment's peculiar brand of journalism. Hoft, of course, is a blogger with Gateway Pundit who can neither read dates nor count to two, and his "expose" on Jennings was actually little more than a rehash of homophobic smears cooked up by an anti-gay hate group.
The right-wing media have shamefully attempted to tie James Lee, who created a hostage situation in a Discovery Channel building, to former Vice President Al Gore, due to Lee's statement that he was "awakened" after reading Gore's book An Inconvenient Truth. In fact, Lee, who criticized Gore's book for not providing "solutions," holds a number of views Gore does not, including extreme opinions on population control and immigration.
Following reports that a panel of cancer experts recommended that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider revoking approval of the drug Avastin for advanced breast cancer, right-wing blogs have attempted to portray the debate as cost-driven rationing of health care. However, the FDA does not consider cost in its decisions, and studies have shown that Avastin -- which was given "accelerated approval" in 2008 with the requirement that further studies confirm its benefits -- has serious side effects without significantly prolonging life.
Conservative media have falsely warned that a provision in the Wall Street regulatory reform law institutes racial quotas for hiring and used that claim to revisit the smear that lending to minorities caused the economic crisis. In fact, the law sets no racial or gender quotas for hiring or lending.
A frequent contributor to Andrew Breitbart's websites said he believes that the September 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing were inside jobs, and suggested he'll feel "comfort" when President Obama is killed.
Appearing on the radio program Deadline Live in February 2007, Michael Moriarty, who played assistant district attorney Ben Stone on Law and Order, was asked by host Jack Blood if he believes "that 9-11 had fingerprints of [an] inside job." Moriarty responded with his "theory" that before 9-11, President "Bush talked to the Bin Laden family in Riyadh" and said he needed "probable cause" to invade Iraq; the "Bin Ladens," in turn, told Bush that "we'll give you probable cause." When asked if he had any doubt that the Oklahoma City bombing was an "inside job," Moriarty replied: "None! There were two seismic reports of explosions, there were no federal -- there were no children of federal employees in the building at the time in the daycare center, and the ATF were nowhere to be found."
Moriarty's 9-11 and Oklahoma City views aren't the Breitbart contributor's only controversial remarks. On Deadline Live, Moriarty said he believes as "fact" that Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush were running illegal guns and drugs, and laundering money out of Arkansas. Moriarty has also castigated Islam as "evil" and a "Gestapo."
Writing for Breitbart, Moriarty likened Obama to "Robespierre" and added, "The only comfort is that Robespierre eventually had to face his own favorite solution: the guillotine." Discussing politicians and abortion, Moriarty wrote that Roe v. Wade "is worldwide suicide. Legalizing murder ultimately means legalizing your own assassination." Moriarty has also written that a "Spirit of Evil" "owns" Obama -- who "dwarfs the endless lies of Hitler, Stalin and Mao" -- and that "Red Islam" has "invaded" the country through the president.
Despite housing Moriarty as a contributor, Breitbart and his websites have castigated 9-11 Truthers and those who associate with them. Media Matters has documented Breitbart's apparently non-existent vetting of its contributors.
In two posts on Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment website, Dr. Kevin Pezzi smears Shirley Sherrod as a racist, claiming that "if someone deserves to be put on a pedestal for overcoming racism, it isn't Sherrod." The racism criticism is ironic coming from Pezzi, who has repeatedly used racial epithets like "Japs" and "Chinks," and claimed Native and African Americans should have been grateful for their subjugation by whites.
Pezzi, who says that "Breitbart asked me to write for BigGovernment.com," has a peculiar self-described history. Pezzi claims to be responsible for "over 850 inventions" and schemes such as a "magic bullet" for cancer, a "robotic chef," and sexual inventions like "penile enlargement techniques" and "ways to tighten the vagina" (because "men like women with tight vaginas"). Pezzi has started multiple websites, from term paper helpers to a sexual help site that answers "your questions about sexual attraction, pleasure, performance, and libido" (Pezzi is qualified to do so because "No doctor in the world knows more about sexual pleasure than I do").
Pezzi also claims to have "beaten Bill Gates" on a math aptitude test, turned down a blind date with Katie Couric, and says he's "bigger than some porno stars."
Conservative media falsely claimed that the state of Missouri overwhelmingly rejected "Obamacare" because 71 percent of those who voted in the August 3 election supported a ballot measure rejecting the individual mandate in health care reform. In fact, the results were skewed "by a heavily Republican turnout in a relatively low-turnout primary."
Attacking the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero on Fox & Friends, BigGovernment.com's Brad Thor asserted that the "Founding Fathers did not intend for the First Amendment to protect" the Islamic center, because Thomas Jefferson "went to war with Islam, the Barbary pirates." In fact, the treaty ending that war specifically stated that the United States has "no character of enmity" against Islam.