Breitbart News contributor Jeremy Segal spoke at a conference promoting birtherism and other conspiracy theories on Thursday, July 19. Segal also received an award from event organizer Cliff Kincaid, inscribed "our nation gives thanks" for Segal's work in the conservative movement.
Roughly 40 people attended the conference, entitled "The Vetting: Obama, Radical Islam and the Soros Connection," which took place at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The conference, which Kincaid promoted through the website leninandsharia.com, purported to expose the supposed communist roots of President Obama and those around him, as well as communism's purported connection to radical Islam and the threat that conspiracy poses to American security.
Kincaid told attendees that he was working on an anti-Obama film, The Unvetted. Breitbart.com has frequently claimed that President Obama hasn't been properly scrutinized by the media and has devoted a series of posts branded "THE VETTING" to accomplish the job.
Right-wing media are amplifying attacks on President Obama over his recent dismissal of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez as a threat to the United States, while ignoring that experts are in agreement with Obama.
In an interview with a Miami television station on Wednesday, Obama said, "We're always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe." He added, "But overall, my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us."
In response, Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), attacked Obama for downplaying the threat of Chávez and suggested that he is weak on national security.
Experts, however, have offered assessments that support Obama's remarks. In a statement to The Miami Herald, Riordan Roett, the director of Western Hemisphere Studies and the Latin American Studies Program at John Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies, dismissed the criticism as "just pure electoral politics."
Did you know that American doctors are so incensed over Obamacare's big-government communist socialism that more than eight in ten are going to quit doctoring? It's true, according to a terribly conducted survey conducted by a shady right-wing group, reported credulously by the Daily Caller, and hyped by Matt Drudge and Fox News.
"Eighty-three percent of American physicians have considered leaving their practices over President Barack Obama's health care reform law, according to a survey released by the Doctor Patient Medical Association," reported the Daily Caller yesterday. What is the Doctor Patient Medical Association? The Daily Caller didn't seem too interested (beyond calling them "a non-partisan association of doctors and patients") so we'll have to fill in a few gaps.
The Doctor Patient Medical Association's founder, Kathryn Serkes, is a long-time veteran of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a collection of crackpot malcontents that opposes mandatory vaccinations, wrongly believes undocumented immigrants spread leprosy, and dabbled in Vince Foster conspiracy theorism. The group itself is solidly conservative in its politics: it boasts membership in the National Tea Party Federation; describes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as "Destruction Of Our Medicine," or DOOM; and published a sheet of talking points about the health law to help grassroots activists "beat back the White House spin machine!"
Right-wing media have praised the decision made by many Republican governors to not participate in the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid eligibility. But the provision being rejected by GOP governors would expand affordable health care coverage to millions of struggling Americans.
Breitbart.com loves to complain that the "mainstream media" is working as part of President Obama's re-election campaign. That's why it's a little strange to see Breitbart so eager to portray itself as an integral part of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
On June 29, Breitbart.com published an interview with Romney campaign officials describing how Breitbart and other right-wing websites "influence the way their campaign receives and delivers the news." Lenny Alcivar, the campaign's digital director, is quoted as saying:
Never before -- in a way that has taken Democrats off stride -- have we seen the confluence of an aggressive online community, led by Breitbart, and an aggressive campaign team not willing to cede an inch of ground to Democrats. This combination has created a new political reality. We no longer allow the mainstream media to define the political realities in America. The rise of Breitbart, Drudge and others, combined with an aggressive Romney campaign is a powerful tool in the arsenal of the conservative movement.
If I talk to Breitbart about an issue, thousands more will hear our message than if we give a quote to one of the hill rags.
Breitbart followed that up by demonstrating just how much the Romney campaign can count on it to get the message out. In a July 2 Breitbart article, Warner Todd Huston rushes to spin Romney's stance on an individual mandate in health insurance, mostly by sounding like he's quoting talking points from the Romney campaign:
Romney has said far more than just that it was "meant for Massachusetts only." He has in fact based his position on the 10th Amendment, a truly American principle.
He stands firm on the point that he employed the truly American idea of 10th Amendment experimentation. He stands on the concept that the states are the laboratory of freedom, that the states should have as much leeway as possible to come up with their own solutions and plans for their own problems. He gave it a try to solve the healthcare problem in Massachusetts. But those solutions he tried, he says, he does not want the federal government to try. That is his position.
Further he has committed 100 percent to repealing Obamacare.
Of course, Romney has a long history of claiming that the reforms he passed in Massachusetts should serve as a model for the nation.
The Breitbart crew's willingness to shill for Romney -- and to be so proud of it -- undercuts its attacks on the "mainstream media" for purportedly doing the same thing.
Drudge, Fox Nation and Breitbart distorted comments made by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to claim she "trashed the uninsured" by calling them "free riders." Pelosi's comments were not directed toward all uninsured Americans, but were specifically referring to health care consumers who remain uninsured until they have a health care need, overburdening the market and increasing health care costs. This is a claim almost identical to policy recommendations made by Mitt Romney in a 2009 op-ed.
In a recent interview with San Francisco's KQED radio, Pelosi pointed out that Thursday's Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act in its entirety meant "goodbye to the free riders." In the comments that followed, Pelosi made it clear that she was referring to people who "just decide you're not going to apply for health insurance" and then when "[y]ou get sick or in an accident, your health care costs are a burden to everybody else."
Breitbart's Joel Pollak acknowledged that Pelosi defended the penalty as " necessary because some (many?) of the uninsured actively choose not to buy health insurance, even though they can afford it." But these were the very people Pelosi was talking about when she discussed free riders - not everybody without insurance. That fact is obscured by the Breitbart headline, which was highlighted by Drudge and Fox Nation.
The difference between Pelosi's comments and Pollak's suggested interpretation is significant. Pelosi was not referring to people who currently have no ability to access or afford health care coverage, but to those who have the resources to purchase insurance but choose not to, making their eventual care a liability for themselves and to taxpayers. Because the low-income premium subsidies in the Affordable Care Act make health insurance affordable for millions more people, and the group previously labeled "free riders" will largely consist of those who refuse to pay for health care instead of being simply uninsured due to a lack of affordability.
Right-wing media have reacted to the Supreme Court's ruling upholding President Obama's health care law by claiming it is "a dark day for freedom" and "the end of America as we know it." But the decision allows the health care law to implement reforms that will protect and extend affordable insurance coverage to millions of Americans.
Right-wing media figures are heaping harsh criticism on Chief Justice John Roberts for his opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. These critics ignore Roberts' record as Chief Justice, which is very conservative. But even this conservative justice recognized that the Constitution gives Congress the power to address the nation's health care crisis with the Affordable Care Act.
Breitbart.com editor-at-large Ben Shapiro blasted the Chief Justice:
I knew that Roberts was a bad pick because he didn't have a proven track record of adherence to the Constitution. He was picked by President Bush because Bush knew he didn't have a track record - and he knew that Roberts would sail through the confirmation process without a hitch.
That should have been an indicator that Roberts was a rotten pick. Nobody doubted Robert Bork's originalist credentials. Nobody doubted Clarence Thomas'. Nobody doubts Judge Janice Rogers Brown's. But nobody had any reason to buy into Roberts as an originalist. Yet they did.
Dan Gainor, Media Research Center's vice president for Business and Culture called the decision to nominate Roberts "awful."
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes applied the "L word" to Roberts.
This attempt to paint Chief Justice Roberts as a closet liberal is absurd. Experts have called the Supreme Court under Roberts the "most conservative in modern history." As the leader of a five justice conservative majority, Roberts has played a leading role in decisions like Citizens United (empowering corporations and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited money in political campaigns); Wal-Mart (preventing women alleging sex discrimination from joining together to seek justice); Concepcion (allowing corporations to manipulate fine print in contracts to keep ripped off consumers from joining together in court); and Ledbetter (preventing a woman who was paid less than men from going to court).
Also, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce enjoyed a perfect year with the Roberts Court this term, winning every case in which the Court ruled on the position the Chamber took, according to a study by the Constitutional Accountability Center. (The Chamber took no position on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, but merely argued that if the mandate were struck down, the entire Act should be invalidated). According to the study, the Chamber has not won every case in a term since at least 1994.
Rather than calling John Roberts names or trying to make the absurd case that he is a closet liberal, the right should simply acknowledge that their crusade to kill the Affordable Care Act failed because they lost the vote of the deeply conservative, Republican-appointed Chief Justice who heads one of the most conservative and pro-corporate courts in history.
An Associated Press article about President Obama speaking at a June 14 fundraiser in New York omitted key context to portray Obama as having said that the celebrities in attendance are the "ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes." In fact, Obama said that the attendees and "the American people" are the "tie-breaker" and the "ultimate arbiter" of the country's direction.
Right-wing blogs and Fox News ran wild with the AP's distortion of Obama's comments.
From the AP article:
President Barack Obama soaked in the support, and the campaign cash, of Manhattan's elite entertainers Thursday as his re-election team sought to fill its fundraising coffers.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama made a rare joint fundraising appearance when they visited the home of actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. The intimate dinner banked about $2 million, with 50 people paying $40,000 each.
The dinner was the Obama campaign's latest attempt to bank on celebrities for fundraising help in countering the growing donor enthusiasm from Republicans supporting Mitt Romney's presidential bid.
Speaking in a dimly lighted, art-filled room, Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation's future.
"You're the tie-breaker," he said. "You're the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes."
Among the celebrities on hand to hear Obama's remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who moderated a private question-and-answer session between the president and the guests. Broderick, who was starring in a Broadway musical, was absent. [emphasis added]
From the White House website's transcript of the event:
In some ways, this election is more important than 2008 -- because in 2008, as much as I disagreed with Mr. McCain, he believed in climate change. He believed in campaign finance reform. He believed in immigration reform. And now what we have is a Republican nominee and a Republican Party that has moved fundamentally away from what used to be a bipartisan consensus about how you build an economy; that has said our entire agenda is based on cutting taxes even more for people who don't need them and weren't asking for them; slashing our commitment to things like education or science or infrastructure or a basic social safety net for seniors and the disabled and the infirm; that wants to gut regulations for polluters or those who are taking advantage of consumers.
So they've got a very specific theory about how you grow the economy. It's not very different from the one that actually got us into this mess in the first place. And what we're going to have to do is to present very clearly to the American people that choice. Because ultimately you guys and the American people, you're the tie-breaker. You're the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes in. Do we go in a direction where we're all in this together and we share in prosperity, or do we believe that everybody is on their own and we'll see how it plays out? [emphasis added]
Donald Trump recently declared on CNBC that "Saudi Arabia is doing Obama a big fat favor" by increasing oil production in order to bring gasoline prices down, and that if Obama is re-elected the "favor will be repaid many times over." Fox Nation took this conspiracy even further, calling it a "SECRET SAUDI OIL DEAL TO WIN REELECTION"; Real Clear Politics, Breitbart.com, and Newsmax also promoted Trump's comments.
This has put conservatives in the bizarre position of claiming that Obama is nefariously lowering gasoline prices in order to help the economy and win re-election, after previously claiming that Obama was trying to raise gas prices.
And the claim that there is a "SECRET" "DEAL" is ridiculous: it is public knowledge that the U.S. has pressured Saudi Arabia to boost its oil output. The administration's apparent success in doing so undercuts Trump's previous attack that the Saudis were not ramping up production because Obama was a poor "messenger" or was too busy on "his basketball court" or something.
The Saudis have no incentive to do "Obama a big fat favor" unless it is in their own self-interest. As the Washington Post reported, energy economist Phillip Vergeler believes that Saudi Arabia is trying to "stay in the good graces of United States and Europe" by providing "economic stimulus," but they are also acting in order to slow down shale production in North America and put pressure on Iran.
A recent Federal Reserve study found that the wealth gap increased during the recent recession with the median net worth of the wealthiest Americans increasing between 2007 and 2010, while the median net worth for all Americans decreased. But right-wing media have ignored or misrepresented this aspect of the report in order to attack President Obama.
Right-wing media are attacking President Obama over a recent Federal Reserve report that found that the median net worth of American families contracted between 2007 and 2010. However, right-wing media are ignoring the effects of the burst of the housing bubble and its central role in causing the decrease in the median wealth of families.
Right-wing media have used recent votes by California cities to change the pensions public workers will receive to attack all such pensions. In fact pensions for police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other public workers are not bankrupting states, and public pensions shortfalls at best need minor reforms to ensure their solvency.
On Tuesday, facing budget shortfalls, voters in San Jose and San Diego approved plans to reshape the pensions for public workers in those cities, including cuts in benefits and a move from traditional pensions to 401(k) programs.
Republicans have signaled that, emboldened by the election results in California as well as by the Wisconsin recall, they will fight more battles against public sector workers this election cycle. And the right-wing media stands ready to do its part.
During the June 7 edition of Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto, host Neil Cavuto responded to the San Jose and San Diego votes by promoting cuts in public pensions:
CAVUTO: I'm not saying your target those people entirely, but you've got to target what is right now the biggest and most ballooning part of public cost across the country, and that tends to be pensions, benefits. It's unfair, but it's the reality of the times, I guess.
A June 7 Breitbart.com post claimed, "obscene pensions ... threaten to bankrupt to the country just like Greece, Italy or Spain" and that pensions and other benefits are "bankrupting America and all 50 of our states."
However, public pensions are not the cause of state and local governments' budget woes, and radical restructuring of those pensions is generally not necessary to make them healthy.
In a May 2011 report, the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP) found that "[s]tate economies and budgets continue to struggle because of shrunken revenues and higher needs" and that: "long-term pension shortfalls are not the cause of current state fiscal problems."
Right-wing media are arguing that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's victory in the Wisconsin recall election was a victory for the grassroots over unions and progressives. But, due to Citizens United and a loophole in Wisconsin campaign finance laws, the progressive message was swamped by conservative special interest money.
Conservative media outlets are credulously reporting House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's claim that wiretap applications signed by senior Justice Department officials "prove" they "approved" of dangerous gunwalking tactics in the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious, contradicting prior DOJ statements. In doing so, they ignore that the DOJ has repeatedly stated that senior officials do not necessarily review wiretap applications themselves, but rather largely rely on summaries of those applications produced by line attorneys.
"Documents prove senior Justice officials approved Fast and Furious, Issa says," reads the headline of Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's latest foray into reporting on the ATF's fatally flawed gunwalking operation.
Leaning heavily on Issa's just-released letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Boyle reports that Issa has obtained wiretap applications for that operation that were signed by senior DOJ officials. Boyle notes that Issa claims those documents "show that immense details about questionable investigative tactics were available" to those officials via those applications, supposedly disproving numerous DOJ statements that senior officials there were not privy to the details of gunwalking.
But there's one question that this sort of credulous recitation of Issa's claims does not address: Did those officials actually review the wiretap applications that Issa says contained that information? According to prior DOJ statements dating back to at least last year, the answer is no.
This is not the first time Issa has claimed that wiretap applications supposedly proved knowledge of gunwalking techniques on the part of senior DOJ officials. In February, his committee made similar allegations, claiming in a staff report that "Congressional investigators have learned about the information contained in one Wiretap Authorization and Wiretap Affidavit from Fast and Furious that Jason Weinstein signed. The Wiretap Affidavit presented Weinstein with the details of at least two instances in which ATF agents had witnessed illegal straw purchasing and the subsequent transfer of the purchased weapons to other individuals."
But Politico reported at the time that "Weinstein told investigators that it was his 'general practice' not to read the underlying affidavits in such cases but to rely on a so-called cover memo prepared by another Justice Department office." This was consistent with Politico's report last November in response to similar claims that the wiretap applications could have bearing on what senior DOJ officials knew of Fast and Furious:
The Justice official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said wiretap applications are reviewed by another DOJ office which writes a detailed cover memo that is usually the focus of review by Breuer's staff.
"What gets pulled out for their review is therough the lens of those two questions: necessity and probably cause," the official said.
In a letter that the committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), released in response to Issa's letter today, he reiterated these points in even greater detail.