Conservative media defended Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's recent claim -- that President Obama's negotiated agreement with Iran over its nuclear program will take Israelis "to the door of the oven" -- by praising the Holocaust comparison as "absolutely true" and "an accurate description."
This act is getting tired.
In recent years, conservative activists, under the guise of renegade journalism, have been churning out undercover "sting" videos supposedly capturing reprehensible behavior by their mostly liberal targets. Those targets have included low-level workers at ACORN, a fundraiser at National Public Radio, and now officials at Planned Parenthood, among others.
The activists release a series of videos in an effort to build a big takedown story, and the press usually plays along. Meanwhile, activists coordinate with right-wing media players and members of Congress to generate simultaneous outrage over the clips.
The problem for the activists, and the problem for journalists who excitedly treat the clips as news, is that the videos invariably turn out to be doctored, filled with deceptive edits, and missing context in an effort to manufacture scandal.
The whole cycle has become a media cliché, but it's one that conservative partisans cheer. And they're cheering again this month as the Center for Medical Progress releases edited clips to claim Planned Parenthood officials have been caught discussing how the organization "sells the body parts of aborted fetuses" and "haggling" over prices for "baby parts."
Both incendiary videos have been proven to omit crucial context undermining their central claims.
While some outlets have done a good job calling out the deceptive nature of the campaign against Planned Parenthood, too many veer into a he said, she said construction while writing up the allegations. (See the front page of yesterday's New York Times, for example.)
Commentary's John Podhoretz was impressed by the roll-out:
This Planned Parenthood video drip-drip-drip is the first time anyone has properly followed the Andrew Breitbart playbook since his death.-- John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) July 21, 2015
Podhoretz was likely referring to the ACORN sting videos that Andrew Breitbart's site helped roll out in 2009, as the conservative media waged war on a nonprofit group that helped poor people -- a war waged via dishonest undercover clips that captured James O'Keefe and his sidekick, Hannah Giles, famously getting advice from ACORN workers in various field offices on how prostitutes could skirt tax laws. The ACORN videos that the press went bonkers for were built around the fundamental lie that O'Keefe entered the ACORN offices dressed like a cartoonish pimp and workers still counseled him. They were also bolstered by deceptive editing.
California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr. pointed out that the videotapes were "severely edited by O'Keefe." According to a 2010 New York Daily News article about an investigation into O'Keefe's sting at a Brooklyn office, "a law enforcement source" said the conservative activists had "edited the tape to meet their agenda."
In 2011, O'Keefe released a set of sting videos to expose NPR's supposed liberal bias. It featured fundraiser Ron Schiller having lunch with two potential (albeit fake) Muslim donors and Schiller making disparaging comments about Republicans and Tea Party members. It was soon revealed that the tapes had been highly edited and done so in a way to make the Schiller comments seem more damning than originally believed. (In the short term, the videos worked -- NPR's CEO was forced to resign.)
The anti-choice group Live Action rolled out a series of undercover videos in 2013 claiming to catch Planned Parenthood conducting "illegal and inhuman practices." Like the others, the Live Action videos were dishonestly edited to improve the story activists wanted to tell.
Let's put it this way, when conservative activists release an undercover sting video that doesn't rely on dishonest editing to manufacture its point, it will be their first.
But the dismaying part is the formula works in the short term because too much of the media, drawn to the heat and the light of agitated conservative outrage, almost immediately types up the tapes as news despite the fact that for six years running, the established record shows that these types of tapes are regularly debunked. (Joining some other outlets that have called out the spin, a New York Times editorial this week cut through the ambiguities and declared the clips to be part of a larger, deeply dishonest smear campaign.)
Does the press honestly believe these tape releases aren't carefully choreographed by conservatives? Meaning, the press seems to treat as news that the tapes generate outrage within the conservative media and the Republican Party.
From the New York Times last week: "The video spread rapidly over social media and was discussed on talk radio."
But there are clear indications that the outrage was planned in advance, so why is the ire considered newsworthy?
In fact, we now know at least two key Republican congressmen who expressed outrage at Planned Parenthood last week were shown the first sting video weeks earlier -- and did nothing with the information. Apparently not wanting to step on the media roll-out, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) -- a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee -- and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) both sat on the information contained in the video and only sprang into action after it was released to the press.
After the right-wing's NPR video was proven to be misleading in 2011, some reporters conceded that activists releasing bogus clips have the advantage because the press doesn't want to slow down and ask questions about whether the clips are dishonest or not.
But how many times does the same script have to play out before journalists refuse to star as actors in orchestrated, far-right attack campaigns?
Conservative media appear to be drafting Donald Trump's talking points.
It's been one month since the real estate mogul officially entered the Republican primary, after years of using regular Fox News appearances to promote previously-elusive presidential ambitions and push absurd conspiracies. In that time, Trump has already managed to prominently trumpet at least four right-wing media myths to explain his positions on the economy, immigration, gun safety, and the presidency, launching the long-debunked claims back into the spotlight.
Trump exaggerated the nation's unemployment rate by nearly 800 percent during a Fox News appearance on July 15, telling Sean Hannity that unemployed, impoverished Americans are "very important," and declaring: "Somebody actually last week said we have a 40 percentunemployment, so I've been saying 19 - 21 percent, but somebody actually came out last week and said we have a 40 percent, and they might very well be right."
Just a couple weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh repeatedly claimed that "the actual unemployment rate in the United States of America is not 5.5 percent ... It is 42.9 percent," citing a blog written by former Reagan official David Stockman.
According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, notably, June's unemployment rate stood at 5.3 percent.
Last week, Trump tripled the U.S.' undocumented immigrant population during a July 8 interview on CNN's The Lead, claiming, "We have 34 million [undocumented immigrants] in the country. I used to hear 11, now I hear it's 34 million." The real number of undocumented immigrants is nearly 20 million less -- experts confirm that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. actually hovers around 11 million, according to a Washington Post analysis that compared Census, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Pew Research Center data.
Trump appears to have relied on a year-old, long-debunked report from conservative website Breitbart.com. In 2014, Breitbart.com misrepresented a contracting bid the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for card stock to print a maximum of 34 million green cards and work authorization cards over a five year period, spinning the listing to claim the Obama administration was preparing a massive "executive amnesty." Neither of these cards are specific to undocumented immigrants. And as The Hill explained at the time, not only is such a contracting bid "typical," these cards are for use by immigrants who have been legally granted permanent residency and "a single recipient could receive up to five work permits over the life of the contract." Because this is not, in fact, an estimate of the undocumented population, both the White House and USCIS called suggestions that it was a "precursor" to the president's executive action on immigration "crazy" and "too clever."
Discussing his views on gun safety regulations in a July 7 interview with Ammoland.com, Trump revived conservative media's false claim that former President Bill Clinton banned guns on military bases. He asserted that "President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases."
Trump's misinformation originated from conservative media's attempt to blame Clinton for the 2013 mass shooting at Washington D.C.'s Navy Yard facility, seizing on a March 1993 Army regulation they claimed banned the carrying of guns on military bases. In fact, the 1993 regulation came from a 1992 directive issued under former President George H.W. Bush -- which actually allows guns to be carried on military bases under a substantial number of circumstances. Military experts have said more permissive gun carrying rules are a bad idea.
Trump is even still pushing perhaps the most infamous conservative media myth of the Obama presidency -- birtherism. "I really don't know" where President Obama was born, Trump declared in a July 9 interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, an accusation that follows years of the candidate teaming up with Fox News to push the absurd conspiracy theories that Obama had not released a valid birth certificate and may have been hiding the fact that he was not born in America.
The pervasiveness of right-wing media talking points in Trump's positions is not surprising given that he's been a Fox News fixture for years. He reportedly met with Fox president Roger Ailes before announcing his presidential candidacy, and since then, the network has only increased his exposure. In Media Matters' most recent study of appearances by likely and declared Republican presidential candidates on the network, Trump topped the entire field in airtime. During the month of June, Trump appeared on Fox 10 times, racking up 1 hour and 48 minutes of airtime, 23 minutes more than his nearest competitor, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Since the beginning of May, Trump has the most airtime of any of the candidates.
Right-wing media outlets are hyping disclosures that health insurance premium rates could "skyrocket" for some plans in 2016 as proof of the Affordable Care Act's failure as a national policy, ignoring the fact that these reported rates are skewed and not final, and that previous "rate shock" predictions have fallen flat.
Conservative media's false claim that Bill Clinton banned guns on military bases is back in the news after being repeated by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Following the mass shooting at Washington, D.C.'s Navy Yard facility in 2013, conservative media sought to pin blame on President Clinton by seizing on a March 1993 Army regulation that they claimed banned the carrying of guns on military bases. In fact, the 1993 regulation came from a 1992 directive issued under George H.W. Bush that became "effective immediately" in February of that year. (The Bush directive actually allows guns to be carried on military bases under a substantial number of circumstances and military experts have said more permissive gun carrying rules are a bad idea.)
Although this falsehood led to the National Rifle Association's news show issuing a rare correction, it's been given new life after being repeated by Trump and subsequently trumpeted by the right-wing media echo chamber.
In a July 7 interview with Ammoland.com, Trump was asked (emphasis original), "Would you have a problem allowing our military bases to set their own polices with regard to personal weapons and do away with the 'Gun Free Zones' death trap?"
In his response, Trump said, "President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases" (emphasis and brackets original):
"[gun free zones] No, not optional. As Commander-in-Chief, I would mandate that soldiers remain armed and on alert at our military bases.
President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases. America's Armed Forces will be armed.
They will be able to defend themselves against terrorists. Our brave soldiers should not be at risk because of policy created by civilian leadership. Political correctness has no place in this debate."
Trump's false claim about Clinton was then repeated in conservative media. The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reported,"Pistol-packing GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump ripped a policy implemented by former President Bill Clinton making military bases 'gun free zones,' declaring that as president bases would no longer be defenseless against terror attacks."
The NRA's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, praised Trump's vow that he would change military base policies in a July 14 post that excised Trump's false claim about Clinton.
This is not the first time that Trump has campaigned on falsehoods invented by conservative media. During a July CNN appearance, Trump falsely claimed that there are 34 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, a vastly overstated and false figure that had previously circulated in conservative media.
Right-wing media darling Scott Walker has announced he is running for president. Conservative pundits have lionized Walker as a "charismatic," "sexy," "genuine hero."
A debunked right-wing media talking point appears to have made its way to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who recently repeated the dubious claim that as many as 34 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States. In fact, the real number is likely more than 20 million less -- the 34 million figure seems to originate from right-wing media misrepresenting a federal contracting bid.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign launch speech viciously denigrated Mexican immigrants and strongly split conservative media figures on his candidacy. While some argue Trump is a "rodeo clown," others think he is "saying things that need to be said." Several conservatives disagree with Trump's rhetoric but claim he's raising important issues.
Right-wing media outlets are pushing Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy's deceptive claim that Hillary Clinton inaccurately told CNN in an interview that she had never been subpoenaed about the private email system she used as secretary of state. In fact, Clinton refuted a suggestion that she deleted personal emails unrelated to her work while she was under subpoena.
In their coverage of gun violence in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend, conservative media outlets advanced their longstanding narrative that Chicago's strict gun laws are not effective. But that view ignores what's happening in cities that have weak gun laws and astronomical rates of gun violence like New Orleans, as well as cities with strong gun laws and low rates of violence, like New York City.
Breitbart.com inaccurately attributed a fake quote from a facetious tweet to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes in an attempt to smear the Obama administration for negotiating with Iran.
Rhodes sat down with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg on June 29 at the Aspen Ideas Festival to discuss the U.S.' nuclear talks with Iran. When asked whether President Obama believes negotiations will lead to a change in Iran's behavior, Rhodes responded affirmatively and added, "We believe that an agreement is necessary and has to be good enough to be worth doing even if Iran doesn't change. If 10 or 15 years from now Iran is the same as it is today, in terms of its government, the deal has to be good enough that it can exist on those merits."
Brookings Institute senior fellow Mike Doran ridiculed Rhodes' response in a June 30 tweet, summarizing it as an effort to "turn the Iranian frog into a handsome prince":
Ben Rhodes: "We believe that the kiss of the nuke deal will turn the Iranian frog into a handsome prince" | https://t.co/F7SkdslCJw-- Mike Doran (@Doranimated) June 30, 2015
In a rush to attack Rhodes and Obama, Breitbart.com reported the mocking tweet as an actual quote from the interview, apparently neglecting to watch the discussion between Rhodes and Goldberg. Breitbart.com editor Joel Pollak claimed in a July 1 post that the phrase came from Rhodes' "own words," accusing him of telling "fairy tales to the American public" (emphasis added):
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes-who lacks any prior qualifications for the post-has explained to the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg at the Aspen Ideas Festivalon Monday that the administration believes that a bad Iran deal is worth doing because political reform inside the Iranian regime is more likely with the deal than without. Or, to use Rhodes's own words: "We believe that the kiss of the nuke deal will turn the Iranian frog into a handsome prince."
A "fairy tale" analogy is appropriate indeed.
Goldberg called out Breitbart for "totally manufacturing quotes" on Twitter, and later Doran explained how he was merely "ridicul[ing]" Rhodes and it "did not occur to me that anybody would think he actually used those words":
@jvmadden I ridiculed him. It did not occur to me that anybody would think he actually used those words.-- Mike Doran (@Doranimated) July 7, 2015
Last year, Breitbart.com's Pollak similarly attacked the wrong Loretta Lynch in an attempt to smear the attorney general nominee, misidentifying a California based attorney for the president's pick for AG.
As of this posting, Breitbart.com has yet to correct their inaccurate report.
Right-wing media are seizing on a New York Times report that misleadingly stated that Paul Begala sought "talking points" from the State Department before a CNN appearance to discuss Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state to attack the CNN contributor as biased. But in the email in question, Begala actually requested a "briefing," not talking points.
Toxic air pollution from power plants has been linked to serious health problems including cancer, heart attacks, and premature death, and mercury in particular is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous for young children and pregnant women. But that hasn't stopped conservative media from joyfully celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision that jeopardizes the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to rein in this harmful pollution.
Conservative media used the Supreme Court decision affirming that marriage is a fundamental right of all Americans to argue that the Constitution also requires states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by other states. But the Supreme Court has never held that carrying a gun in public is a fundamental right.
Conservative media and the National Rifle Association (NRA) quickly seized on the decision to draw a parallel with concealed carry reciprocity, a top federal legislative priority of the NRA. Reciprocity legislation, also known as federally mandated concealed carry, would force states to recognize permits to carry concealed guns issued by other states, regardless of what the issuing state's standards are for issuing permits.
Reciprocity legislation has been introduced in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, but conservative media and the NRA view Obergefell as an opportunity to argue that the Constitution extends at least some right to reciprocal permit recognition regardless of whether Congress acts. The problem with that argument, however, is that the 2008 landmark Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller limited the scope of the Second Amendment right to gun possession to people's homes.
Despite this, on the June 26 broadcast of the NRA's news show Cam & Company, host Cam Edwards made the argument that the marriage ruling "might present an additional argument to make at the legal level for extending reciprocity nationwide," remarking, "Since we're talking about licenses, a lot of gun owners are wondering, ok, does this, could this have an impact on the debate for instance over right-to-carry reciprocity?"
Right-wing media responded in disbelief and outrage to the Supreme Court's decision holding that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.