With a new poll out showing that an astounding 18 percent of Americans incorrectly believe that President Obama is Muslim, many in the media wonder who is to blame for generating the rumor. Unsurprisingly, right-wing pundits are quick to shirk responsibility for propagating such a notion, and instead, absurdly, place blame on the President himself. Tonight, the conservative members of Special Report's All Star Panel concluded that they can understand why Americans think Obama is a Muslim given his "affinity for Muslim culture."
Fox News contributors Steve Hayes and Charles Krauthammer, and even Special Report host Bret Baier assign blame for the misconception to President Obama. Krauthammer claimed that "the emphasis Obama placed on Muslim outreach might incline people to conclude that he's not a Christian," while Hayes agreed "absolutely" with host Bret Baier's suggestion that the fact that Obama "has talked openly about his -- the Muslim heritage in his family" has contributed to misconceptions about his religion.
The fact that these right-wing pundits are blaming Obama is astoundingly egregious. If they truly wanted to discover who is to blame for such conspiratorial rumors, the right-wing media need look no further than themselves. In fact, Fox News is in part responsible for launching the notion from fodder in the conservative blogosphere to the mainstream. Had Special Report's All Star Panel turned back the clock a year, they would have discovered that the show aired a segment in June of 2009 which asked of the President, "Islam or Isn't He?"
In addition, blogger and frequent Fox News guest Pamela Geller has tagged 267 blog posts with the phrase "Muslim in the White House." Other conservative figures, including Fox's own Glenn Beck, frequently call Obama's Christianity into question, even claiming that he has "contempt for the Scriptures."
The right-wing media has been pushing the idea that Obama is a Muslim for years. Any attempt by the right-wing media to whitewash their involvement in forwarding the rumor by blaming Obama is simply dishonest.
The right-wing media is predictably hyperventilating over comments Speaker Nancy Pelosi made in which she questioned the funding of organized Park51 opponents. Most have taken her comments to the extreme, suggesting or outright claiming that she was calling for some sort of government investigation into "those who stand in opposition of the Ground Zero mosque." Of course, Pelosi did no such thing, as she made clear she was simply calling for transparency both in the funding of the Park51 project and for transparency in the funding of groups that are opposed to the mosque.
During an interview with San Francisco's KCBS radio, Pelosi was repeatedly asked about her position on Park51. Pelosi, who was speaking outside of an event to transfer the San Francisco Bay area man-made island Treasure Island from the Navy to the city of San Francisco, marveled that what is "a zoning issue in New York City" had become such national issue that "two of the first three questions" she's asked after inking the Treasure Island deal, which took decades to accomplish, are on this topic. She said, "There is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some. And I join those who have called for looking into how ... this opposition to the mosque is being funded." As Greg Sargeant noted, "it was a bit unclear what she was referring to," (perhaps because KCBS only provided a short audio clip of her comments), but Pelosi's office quickly clarified "what she meant":
"The freedom of religion is a Constitutional right. Where a place of worship is located is a local decision.
"I support the statement made by the Interfaith Alliance that 'We agree with the ADL that there is a need for transparency about who is funding the effort to build this Islamic center. At the same time, we should also ask who is funding the attacks against the construction of the center.'
"For all of those expressing concern about the 9/11 families, we call upon them to join us in support of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act when Congress returns in September."
Clearly, as Sargent noted, "Pelosi doesn't seem to be calling for some kind of government investigation into the mosque's critics, as thrilling as that would be to some on the right." She's simply calling for transparency in who is funding Park51 and who is funding the attacks against it. Many conservatives have taken issue with that element in particular by suggesting that there is no organized opposition to Park51, just a bunch of concerned citizens, like themselves. This conveniently ignores groups like Liz Cheney's "Keep America Safe," Center for Security Policy, and Pam Geller's "Stop Islamization of America" who have been at the forefront of the opposition to Park51, creating ads, hosting rallies, and initiating bus banner campaigns against the project-- initiatives that have been widely celebrated across the right-wing media.
Of course, Pelosi's clarification and the obvious fact that there is at least some element of organized opposition to Park51 isn't going to get in the way of a full scale right-wing media freak out.
Right-wing media have responded to President Obama's comments that he "believe[s] that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country" by falsely claiming that opponents of the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan have not talked about restricting Muslims' religious freedom. In fact, opponents have advocated using government intervention to restrict construction of the center or have asserted that the planners don't have a right to build it at the proposed location.
Charles Krauthammer claimed that the Obama administration's policies, including the decision to halt funding for the "virtual fence," indicate that the administration doesn't prioritize "serious border enforcement." However, the Government Accountability Office said the virtual fence was defective, and the Obama administration's budget has committed more funding to Customs and Border Protection than the previous administration.
Politico's Jonathan Martin writes up the Right's fear-mongering about a potential lame-duck session of Congress this fall, and does a good enough job of noting that it is unlikely that Democrats would "come up with a 60-vote majority in the Senate on the sort of hot-button bills now being used to galvanize conservative constituencies" during such a session.
But Martin didn't so much as hint at the fact that many of the conservatives currently insisting that it is wildly inappropriate to take up controversial measures during a lame-duck session are more than a little hypocritical. For example, Martin prominently quotes a spokesperson for House Minority Leader John Boehner insisting Democrats should rule out a "a 'sour grapes' lame-duck session." But Martin didn't mention that John Boehner voted to impeach a sitting Democratic president during a lame-duck session following an election in which the Republicans lost seats in part because of public disgust over GOP efforts to impeach the president. (Nor did Martin note that Boehner's spokesperson apparently doesn't know what "sour grapes" means.)
That's kind of a big one, don't you think? The Republican leader currently running around denouncing Democrats for (theoretically) using a lame-duck session to pursue controversial goals himself cast a deeply controversial vote to impeach President Clinton during a GOP-controlled lame duck session. You don't get much more hypocritical than that -- but Martin didn't mention it. Nor did he mention that Charles Krauthammer, who Martin noted has "sounded the alarm" about a lame duck session, urged the lame-duck House to impeach Clinton in 1998.
UPDATE: Here's a USA Today article from November 13, 2006, just days after Democrats won control of both houses of Congress:
A lame-duck Congress, including the so-called "living dead" who were defeated for re-election, opened today with an ambitious agenda that includes a showdown over President Bush's nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Although the Democrats take charge of both houses of the new Congress starting in January, the Republicans maintain control of the Senate and the House of Representatives until the lame-duck session expires in December.
This year's session could run well into December as Congress takes up a long list of unfinished business: nine spending bills; extending already-expired tax breaks; approving trade pacts with Vietnam and Peru; bioterrorism legislation; and a measure giving doctors a reprieve from a scheduled cut in Medicare payments.
But a critical test of wills between the Democrats' rising power and the White House will come over the Bolton nomination.
Bush last week also called on the lame-duck Congress to pass a controversial warrantless domestic wiretapping bill known as the Terrorists Surveillance Act. But that appears dead because of strong opposition by Democrats.
And a December 6, 2006 Associated Press article:
House Republicans abruptly pulled from floor action Tuesday a bill to open a large area of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling after it became clear the legislation lacked the two-thirds vote needed for passage.
"The House will revisit the offshore drilling legislation again at some point before the end of this week, though details on the mechanics of how the measure will be considered have yet to be decided," Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner, said in a statement.
The drilling bill is one of a string of measures House GOP leaders have readied for this week's "lame-duck" session under an expedited procedure that bars amendments, but also requires a two-thirds vote for approval.
Why would any journalist report conservatives' anti-lame-duck-session stance without checking to see what they did in 2006?
Charles Krauthammer, July 23, 2010:
Beware the Lame Duck
Democrats should pledge now to refrain from approving controversial legislation during the lame-duck session.
How then to prevent a runaway lame-duck Congress? Bring the issue up now — applying the check-and-balance of the people's will before it disappears the morning after Election Day. Every current member should be publicly asked: In the event you lose in November — a remote and deeply deplorable eventuality, but still not inconceivable — do you pledge to adhere to the will of the electorate and, in any lame-duck session of Congress, refuse to approve anything but the most routine legislation required to keep the government functioning?
Charles Krauthammer, November 6, 1998:
Lessons of an election in which a president (facing impeachment!) scores the first off-year gains since 1934.
Lesson 1. The dead can rise, with Republican help. The real story of this election is the resurrection of Bill Clinton. Eight weeks ago, the Democrats were demoralized and frantically running away from the president. On Tuesday, Clinton's comeback lifted many Democratic boats.
Credit for this lies mainly with the House Republicans, who fumbled away one of the easiest open field touchdowns in history. Over Democratic objections, they first released the Clinton grand jury testimony, then forced through an open-ended impeachment inquiry -- in both cases spurning an opportunity for unanimity and magnanimity. They handed the Democrats the "partisanship" charge and the "unfairness" issue. In the end, these not only neutralized but trumped the Clinton scandal.
Having written that Democrats gained seats in the November 1998 elections in large part because the public rejected the GOP's push to impeach Clinton, surely Krauthammer then insisted that the House Republicans not impeach Clinton in a lame-duck session, right? Er … not quite.
Charles Krauthammer, November 27, 1998:
The House should therefore vote on two simple articles of impeachment. … Republicans are running scared on impeachment for fear of the stain it will leave on them. This is the perfect opportunity for the turning of the tables on their opponents. Let these be the articles and let the Democrats vote against them, as they surely will. Up or down, yes or no, nothing less.
And yet now Krauthammer, who cheered on as a lame-duck Republican House of Representatives impeached a Democratic president after an election in which -- according to Krauthammer himself -- the American public rejected the GOP's impeachment efforts, insists that Democrats must pledge not to enact "controversial" legislation in a lame-duck session this fall.
It would be easier to take Krauthammer seriously if he added that he was wrong to push for lame-duck impeachment in 1998.
In his Washington Post column, Charles Krauthammer compared Presidents Reagan and Obama by claiming that Reagan, "cut taxes to starve the federal government and prevent massive growth in spending," whereas, "Obama's wild spending... will necessitate huge tax increases." In fact, after 1981, Reagan repeatedly increased both taxes and spending.
During a recent appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Charles Krauthammer criticized Obama's worksite immigration enforcement strategy and proceeded to solve the illegal immigration problem, which, he explained, is "not rocket science":
KRAUTHAMMER: We know what to do. You build a fence.
O'REILLY: All right.
KRAUTHAMMER: You build a fence; you stop new immigrants. If you don't do that you're not serious. It's not rocket science. It's real simple.
O'REILLY: OK. Charles Krauthammer, everyone.
Indeed, as Krauthammer's own network has repeatedly shown, when migrants who have travelled miles upon miles on foot through the desert come to a fence, they cut their losses and go home:
At Fox News, and other cable networks, incessant b-roll footage of migrants scaling fences is a fundamental element of the immigration coverage. (They evidently don't have any video of the other 45% of undocumented immigrants who entered the states with visas and overstayed.)
If Krauthammer truly believes that a fence will "stop new immigrants" in the absence of broader reform of an immigration system that is almost universally recognized as broken, then he should really sit out any public discussions of immigration policy. As economist Gordon Hanson has explained:
Not only do unauthorized immigrants provide an important source of low-skilled labor, they also respond to market conditions in ways that legal immigration presently cannot, making them particularly appealing to US employers. Illegal inflows broadly track economic performance, rising during periods of expansion and stalling during downturns (including the present one). By contrast, legal flows for low-skilled workers are both very small and relatively unresponsive to economic conditions.
And as noted policy wonk George W. Bush stated:
BUSH: I would remind people that you cannot fully enforce the border so long as people are trying to sneak into this country to do jobs Americans aren't doing. You can try, but doesn't it make sense to help the Border Patrol do their job by saying, "If you're going to come and do a job, there is a legal way to do it so you don't have to sneak across in the first place?"
From the July 13 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Howard Kurtz, tonight:
Howard Kurtz, January 29, 2005:
Columnist Charles Krauthammer heaped praise on President Bush's inaugural address. But, he says, he had nothing to do with shaping the speech.
Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol also lauded the speech. He says he did not consult on the speech itself but discussed with two White House officials "themes for the second term and included in that, themes for the inaugural."
Both conservatives are unapologetic about having privately offered advice to top White House aides, saying that is perfectly proper for commentators.
Krauthammer and Kristol have drawn some criticism since a Jan. 22 Post article described them as among those consulting on the inaugural address.
Liz Spayd, the paper's assistant managing editor for national news, said: "We stand by the story we wrote. We have a firsthand source who says it was crystal clear a primary purpose of the meeting was to seek advice on both Bush's inaugural and State of the Union speeches."
So, when Howard Kurtz writes about a media figure helping write a speech for a Democratic president, he portrays it as evidence that the media is liberal -- but when two media figures, one of them employed by his own newspaper, help a Republican president write a speech, he doesn't give any indication that he thinks it has anything to do with the question of media bias.
This is a key reason why the myth of the liberal media has taken hold: People like Kurtz -- and Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander -- are more likely to frame discussions of questionable media performance as evidence of bias when the performance in question could suggest liberal bias than when it could suggest the opposite.
From the July 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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During a recent interview on Al Jazeera, NASA administrator Charles Bolden discussed President Obama's efforts to improve Muslim outreach and said that Obama "wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering." Bolden said that this wasn't "a diplomatic anything. What it is is that [Obama is] trying to expand our outreach, so that we can get more people to contribute to the things that we do." Bolden then discussed examples of other countries' valuable contributions to the International Space Station and added: "So it is a matter of trying to reach out to get the best of all worlds, if you will. And there is much to be gained from drawing the contributions that are possible from Muslim nations."
Of course, since an Obama official made completely noncontroversial comments about reaching out to the Muslim world in order to gain contributions to the fields of science and technology, the right-wing media freaked out.
Media conservatives have criticized the Obama administration for placing "the burden of the deadline" for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, falsely claiming that President Bush "never spoke about a date of withdrawal." In fact, Bush signed off on a specific timeline of withdrawal from Iraq, and Obama's timeline has been endorsed by Gen. David Petraeus, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
From the June 23 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Right-wing media have vouched for Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-AZ) "integrity" in the wake of a video in which Kyl accused President Obama of refusing to "secure the border" in order to force the GOP to support immigration reform, a claim the White House has flatly denied. However, these media have ignored Kyl's history of making false claims.