Dismissing evidence to the contrary, conservative media this week claimed the Obama administration is considering releasing Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as "the Blind Sheikh," who was convicted of planning terrorist attacks against the U.S. Even after administration officials denied accusations that Abdel-Rahman may be released, right-wing media continued to push the claim.
Right-wing media expressed outrage over the Obama campaign's use of flag imagery in a campaign poster. But this is not unique to the Obama campaign: a modified American flag was used as a banner for Abraham Lincoln's 1860 presidential campaign.
Right-wing media outlets are pushing dubious allegations to attack Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the violence that claimed the life of the U.S. ambassador to Libya. But the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has poured cold water on the attack.
[T]he US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and "lockdown", under which movement is severely restricted."
Breitbart.com editor Ben Shapiro even used the report to call for Clinton's resignation, saying: "The details are so explosive that they will result in a Congressional investigation. In fact, they're so explosive that they should result in the resignation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
The Drudge Report linked to the same Independent article under a picture of Clinton with the headline "Paper: U.S. warned of embassy attack, but did nothing."
Fox News also hyped the charge that Clinton had advanced warning of the attacks. Fox & Friends guest co-host Eric Bolling said: "You have to wonder. Hillary Clinton came on September 12 and she came on September 13 and she said, you know -- denouncing the attacks and whatnot. But why was she on twice saying the exact same thing? Maybe, maybe we did have advanced knowledge of these protests and attacks coming."
But later on Fox, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) showed why right-wing media should not have jumped on this one thinly-sourced report so quickly. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Rogers about the Independent report. Rogers responded: "As chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I have seen nothing yet that indicates that they had information that could have prevented the event." He added:
ROGERS: That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I just haven't seen it yet, and we should be cautious about that. There's a difference between having lots of information flowing in, which we've had over months about the trouble that was brewing, especially Al Qaeda in the Maghreb looking for Western targets to strike -- the Maghreb being the northern part of Africa. So we knew that there was at least an interest in violence. This is the same site in Benghazi that had been attacked by an IED a couple months prior to that event. So we knew that there should have been a heightened level of security just for those reasons.
Conservative media outlets are claiming that the military is purchasing more electric vehicles in an attempt to "prop up the Obama administration's green agenda." But military leaders across the political spectrum say that the Pentagon's green initiatives will enhance military effectiveness and strengthen national security.
Last month, Stars and Stripes reported that the Defense Department plans to add about 1,500 "road-capable" electric cars to its fleet over the next few years. So far, the military has purchased 168 plug-in electric vehicles -- including some Chevy Volts. Thomas Hicks, the Navy's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy, recently told Scientific American that the goal of the military's green initiatives is "improving our combat capability, improving our mission effectiveness, and reducing our vulnerabilities to foreign sources of fossil fuel."
But conservative media outlets have conjured up another motive, accusing the Obama administration of using taxpayer dollars to boost GM's sales numbers -- even though the military is buying several types of electric vehicles. A Breitbart post said: "The Obama administration is helping General Motors again by buying up its struggling line of electric cars." And a Washington Free Beacon article stated: "The Pentagon's massive car-buying scheme is the latest example of government trying to help GM raise its sales volumes."
Other conservative outlets are calling the purchases a "political statement," and an attempt to "prop up the Obama administration's green agenda." And Fox News, which never misses an opportunity to lambast the Volt, issued the self-fulfilling prophecy that the military's purchase will become "the latest controversy in the Volt's short life."
Several conservative outlets cited a Reuters report that GM is losing up to $49,000 on every Volt sold to suggest that electric vehicles are a waste of taxpayer money. But as the International Business Times pointed out, this figure does not take into account future Volt sales or the application of its technology to other products, which will lower per-vehicle costs. GM called the Reuters figure "grossly wrong," and said that it expects to break even by the time the second-generation Volt is introduced in a few years. Former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz wrote in Forbes that "[m]aybe the Volt, a first-generation technology masterpiece and the most-awarded car in automotive history, will never make a really decent profit. But succeeding generations of the same technology will."
International Business Times noted that the Volt is a forward-looking investment by GM, which "should be reassuring to investors and the market." Likewise, the military's investment in electric vehicles is part of a long-term strategy to reduce its dependence on oil, mitigate the risks of climate change and enhance national security.
With recent campaign polls showing noticeable movement towards President Obama in recent days, and with some news accounts reporting that Romney aides concede they're losing ground, National Review editor Rich Lowry reached out to a nameless Romney "adviser" for a comment.
The aide insisted the Boston-based campaign "feels good" about the electoral map and its chances of defeating Obama in key swing states in November.
Aside from that expected spin, what was most curious was the aide's attack on the supposedly Democrat-leaning press corps and how it's working in tandem with the Obama campaign. Romney himself has pressed this same campaign conspiracy, which flourishes online among fevered conservative bloggers: Journalists are de facto White House employees. (If so, they're doing an awful job.)
But note this whopper that followed [emphasis added]:
And the more Washington DC controls our economy, the more important inside-the-beltway publications are and the more money they make. The 202 area code is dominated by people who will make more money if Obama is reelected, so it's not just an ideological thumb they're putting on the scale for him, it's a business interest.
The aides' comments mirror the increasingly aggressive right-wing media's attacks on the press. This assault is driven by the conspiratorial claims that not only do journalists have a liberal bias, and therefore spin the news in that direction, but that reporters go to work each day determined to re-elect Obama. The all-consuming allegations paint the picture of a completely rigged system where the White House and press corps work seamlessly to advance a Democratic agenda.
"This is all about the media OPENLY coordinating with the Obama campaign to win reelection for a failed president," proclaimed Breitbart.com this summer. It's a declaration that has been repeated on an endless loop ever since, and with increasing frenzy.
Now the latest twist is the claim that the media want Obama to win because the press corps will enrich itself with Obama in the White House because. How? Because Obama wants the government to control the U.S. economy, therefore D.C. media becomes more important. (Does that even make sense?)
Polling is a tricky business. It's an inexact science predicated on extrapolating broad trends from small populations. The safest way to approach polls is to treat them as what they are: snapshots of a moment in time taken from a specific angle. The worst way to handle them is to do what Breitbart.com is doing with CNN's polls: treating them either as the unvarnished truth or a pernicious liberal conspiracy depending entirely on President Obama's numbers.
On June 1, CNN released a poll showing that the presidential race had tightened from the previous month, and Breitbart.com's John Sexton called it "bad news for the president."
More bad news for the President arrives today in the form of a new CNN poll. The poll, conducted May 29-31, shows the race for President has tightened significantly over the last month. If the election were held today, 49% would vote for Obama and 46% for Romney, which is within the poll's margin of error.
Last month CNN's poll showed the President with a 9-point advantage (52-43%). The high water mark for the President has been 54% in CNN's March poll.
On August 9, CNN released a poll showing Obama with a seven-point lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters, and Breitbart.com's Mike Flynn alleged "CNN Is Just Making Up Poll Numbers Now."
Okay, I'm not certain they are literally making up poll results, but the poll CNN and British market research firm ORC International released Thursday afternoon is so screwy and raises so many questions that they might as well be doing it intentionally. If CNN is already resorting to these kinds of tricks before the conventions have even started, it's going to be a very long campaign.
Some conservative media figures are praising Clint Eastwood's performance from the final night of the Republican National Convention, in which the actor spoke to an empty chair representing President Obama. Eastwood rambled on at length, engaging in an awkward, one-person back and forth with the imaginary president that was meant to critique Obama's policy record.
Politico reported that "the Romney family seemed less than thrilled when the camera panned to them" during Eastwood's "disjointed moment." The Washington Post said Eastwood's performance "looked bizarre on the television screen." The New York Times spoke to Romney aides, who anonymously described the performance as "strange, " "weird," and "theater of the absurd."
Right-wing media are stirring up outrage over a UCLA online learning program that will offer students, regardless of legal status, the chance to study immigrant and labor rights. The one-year program, which is open to any student who has graduated from a U.S. high school, will cost the same for all students. But Fox News claimed the program would be a "much better deal" if "you are an illegal alien" than a legal resident or American citizen.
UCLA recently launched the National Dream University as a joint effort with the National Labor College. The program is a one-year, accredited program which does not offer a degree, and is comparable to 18 academic credits that are "transferrable to other institutions of higher education." The program offers six courses to be completed in trimesters over the course of 2013 on topics related to labor and immigration policy.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said that if you are "illegal and qualify for this program, it will cost you $2,400. If you made the foolish mistake of becoming a resident and belong here, then you'll get punished and be paying $6,642." Fox & Friends aired the following on-screen graphic:
But Fox's numbers are wrong. The cost of the program, which is "open to everyone regardless of their immigration status," is the same. An extensive search of the UCLA website Fox cited as a source provided no tuition figures that match the "Legal Student" costs projected during the Fox & Friends segment. Further, in an email to Media Matters, Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center, confirmed that tuition for the program does not change based on the student's status:
Right-wing media have distorted efforts by President Obama's re-election campaign to restore early voting for all Ohio voters, claiming the campaign is suing to restrict voting for members of the military. In fact, the Obama campaign's lawsuit seeks to restore early voting for all Ohioans, including members of the military and their families.
Right-wing media are fearmongering over an Obama campaign smartphone app that makes it easier for any smartphone user and Obama supporter to get involved in the campaign without first having to visit a campaign office. Conservative media are claiming that it will allow users to "spy" on their neighbors and report that information back to the campaign.
In fact, the app is designed to simplify the process for getting involved in the 2012 campaign; it includes only information that is publicly available; and it has built-in privacy protections against abuse. Moreover, the Romney campaign also makes voter information freely available to anyone who registers on its website.
On July 30, the Obama for America campaign introduced an iPhone app that "will make it even easier to connect with the campaign and pitch in wherever you are." From the campaign:
This campaign's strength has always come from the millions of grassroots supporters who are organizing their communities, and the new Obama app puts the latest organizing tools right at your fingertips.
With the new app, you can easily find local volunteer events near you, get a list of voters to talk to in your neighborhood, and access all the information you need to spread the word: from President Obama's record to state-specific voting info. You can also stay up to date with breaking news, which you can instantly share with friends and family using Facebook, Twitter, email, and text messaging.
In an article on the app, Pro Publica noted: "All this is public information, which campaigns have long given to volunteers. But you no longer have to schedule a visit to a field office and wait for a staffer to hand you a clipboard and a printed-out list of addresses." Pro Publica went on to report:
It's unclear if the app displays all registered Democrats who live in a certain area, or only a subset of voters President Obama's campaign is trying to reach.
Asked about the privacy aspects of the new app, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign wrote that "anyone familiar with the political process in America knows this information about registered voters is available and easily accessible to the public."
The information included in the app has "traditionally been available to anyone who walks into a campaign field office," said the spokesperson, who declined to be named.
While the app makes voter information instantly available, it displays only a small cluster of addresses at a time. It has built-in mechanisms to detect when people are misusing the data, "such as people submitting way too many voter contacts in a short period of time," the spokesman said.
Republican politicians running for office and dinging the so-called liberal media for being unfair isn't considered news. In fact it's expected. But Romney's comments were noteworthy because of the larger conspiratorial dots he tried to connect. The Republican didn't simply portray the press as prejudiced, he suggested Beltway reporters and pundits are working in collusion to help the Obama administration during the campaign [emphasis added]:
And I realize that there will be some in the Fourth Estate, or whichever estate, who are far more interested in finding something to write about that is unrelated to the economy, to geopolitics, to the threat of war, to the reality of conflict in Afghanistan today, to a nuclearization of Iran. They'll instead try and find anything else to divert from the fact that these last four years have been tough years for our country.
That's significant because it indicates how deeply into the right-media bubble the Romney campaign has gone and how it operates alongside discredited far-right bloggers who insist reporters are really hired hit men obediently serving the Obama White House. Note that Romney clearly insinuates members of the press actively try to "divert" voters' attention from Obama's failures, and that's why they covered his stumbles in Europe.
It's as if confused Breitbart bloggers are now running the Romney campaign:
Conservative media are attempting to use a new paper by climate contrarian Anthony Watts to question the reliability of global temperature records. But the paper, which has not been peer-reviewed, only addresses surface temperature records in the continental U.S., which have been confirmed by satellite data.
Breitbart.com contributor Seton Motley is one of the right's loudest critics of net neutrality -- or, at least, what he thinks is net neutrality. He wrote a piece yesterday excoriating various and sundry "leftists" (the word "leftist" is used 16 times throughout) who want to use net neutrality to "make it as difficult as possible for continued private Internet investment" and "leave government as the nation's sole Internet provider."
That certainly sounds terrible. It also bears zero resemblance to the regulatory structure put in place by the FCC's Open Internet order, which established net neutrality policies for internet service providers. The regulations prevent ISPs from acting as gatekeepers, restricting consumer access to legal online content. They grant the government none of the draconian powers Motley envisions.
Instead of grappling with the actual regulatory policy, Motley's warnings of the net neutrality apocalypse are based on this 2009 quote from Free Press co-founder Robert McChesney:
At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.
Shadowboxing with a single three-years-stale quote from an academic is far, far easier than delving into complicated policy -- which is probably why Motley has made a habit of doing it. This quote from McChesney has served a long, distinguished career as Motley's net neutrality bop bag.
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."