Conservative media outlets promoted an anonymously sourced claim published by U.S. News & World Report that an aide to Hillary Clinton circulated an attack on former Senator Jim Webb. Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill flatly denied the report, telling Media Matters it was "pure fabrication."
In a story discussing Webb's possible run for the presidency, U.S. News & World Report's David Catanese claimed that "Clinton loyalists are keeping an eye" on Webb as a potential rival for the Democratic nomination. As evidence, Catanese wrote that "the week before Thanksgiving, staffers of Philippe Reines, Clinton's longtime communications guru, pitched talk radio producers on the racy, sexually charged writings in Webb's novels, according to a source."
In a comment to Media Matters, Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill flatly denied the claim: "There is nothing true about this, it's pure fabrication, and if the reporter who wrote the story would have bothered to ask before printing it, we would have told him that."
Catanese doubled down on his claim in a follow-up report, writing that "of course, the Clinton team is denying Reines' underlings floated the material in the first place" and publishing Merrill's statement that the claim was "an unmitigated lie," before adding, "Our source, granted anonymity, stands by the account."
Several conservative media outlets ran with the anonymous U.S. News report, using it to attack Clinton's character.
The Drudge Report's headline linking to the report said "Team Clinton Already Dishing Oppo on Jim Webb."
New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin called the report evidence that Hillary Clinton was "trying to dirty up Jim Webb," and added, "Mud first, that's Hillary."
National Review's Jim Geraghty asked, "Why on earth would the Hillary team go after Jim Webb this early?" adding, "What is this, some form of mudslinging pregame stretching?"
At HotAir, conservative blogger Ed Morrisey said the story was evidence of "Clintonistas using a kitchen-sink strategy" which "sends a message to other Democrats who might dare to intrude on Coronation II: Hillary's Boogaloo."
American Conservative's James Carden said that "Clinton's team is seemingly alive to the danger a Webb candidacy poses" because of the report that "longtime Clinton henchman Philippe Reines had been pitching talk radio producers unflattering stories about Webb." Carden wrote that the incident "should raise additional questions about the former Secretary's powers of discernment, particularly when it comes to the character of some of her closest advisers."
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
Conservative media figures have criticized President Obama's focus on immigration reform, saying that the top priority should be the economy and jobs. In fact, immigration reform is an economic issue: studies show that it would boost economic output and lower unemployment.
Right-wing media have inconsistently responded to House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) failed attempt to pass his proposed "Plan B" to resolve the so-called "fiscal cliff" standoff, including praising conservative Republicans who opposed the measure, expressing regret that the measure didn't pass, questioning the viability of Boehner's speakership, and blaming President Obama for the plan's failure, despite Obama's concessions to the GOP.
Right-wing media figures are heaping praise on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget plan, with one Fox host calling Ryan "Mr. Budget." In fact, Ryan's budget plan would harm many Americans: It increases taxes on the poor while cutting them for the wealthy, drastically cuts Medicaid and other needed safety net programs, and would cost millions of jobs by reducing federal spending during a still-weak economy.
Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and other conservative outlets are falsely claiming that President Obama, while discussing his own economic policies, said "we tried our plan -- and it worked." This quote has been taken out of context and distorted. Obama was referring to economic policies during the Clinton administration that taxed high income earners at a higher rate than they are currently charged. When Obama said "it worked," he was referring to low unemployment and strong economic growth when these rates were higher. Obama has advocated a return to Clinton-era tax rates for high income earners.
Slate's Dave Weigel, who described conservatives' editing of Obama's comments as "insanely misleading," points to Obama's full quote:
OBAMA: I'm running because I believe you can't reduce the deficit -- which is a serious problem, we've got to deal with it -- but we can't reduce it without asking folks like me who have been incredibly blessed to give up the tax cuts that we've been getting for a decade. (Applause.) I'll cut out government spending that's not working, that we can't afford, but I'm also going to ask anybody making over $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rates they were paying under Bill Clinton, back when our economy created 23 million new jobs -- (applause) -- the biggest budget surplus in history and everybody did well.
Just like we've tried their plan, we tried our plan -- and it worked. That's the difference. (Applause.) That's the choice in this election. That's why I'm running for a second term.
In order to argue that Obama is out of touch on economic issues -- a message that is nearly identical to the one pushed by Romney's campaign -- conservative media figures have spent the week removing all of the context from Obama's comments and juxtaposing them with the current high unemployment rate.
CNN contributor Erick Erickson and other conservative media are claiming that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood praised Chinese authoritarianism because he said that the Chinese have been successful in building infrastructure. But these outlets cropped LaHood's comments to exclude his explicit praise of U.S. democracy.
In an interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, LaHood said that the "Chinese are more successful" at building infrastructure "because in their country, only three people make the decision. In our country, 3,000 people do, 3 million."
Erickson used those remarks to claim in a post at RedState that LaHood "has come out in favor of the Chicoms over Americans," and that the Obama administration is "rooting against us and for a murderous regime of despots." But Erickson ignored that LaHood added that the U.S. has "the best system of government anywhere on the planet," as Foreign Policy Magazine reported:
LaHood said that despite this, democracy is still preferable. "We have the best system of government anywhere on the planet. It is the best. Because the people have their say," he said.
Right-wing media are touting a Washington Post Fact Checker article alleging that the Obama campaign "failed to make its case" in a new ad claiming that Romney "shipped jobs" overseas. But a different Post article pointing to data from the Securities and Exchange Commission has affirmed that Bain Capital, with Romney as head, "owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas."
During the June 13 broadcast of Cam & Company on NRA News, conservative blogger Ed Morrissey relied onblatant falsehoods to draw a distinction between the failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious and its Bush-era analogue, Operation Wide Receiver.
Morrissey claimed that during Wide Receiver ATF "coordinated" with Mexican law enforcement officials and that firearms involved in the operation were "accounted for." In reality, no such coordination occurred and many of firearms involved in Wide Receiver were lost after being allowed to "walk" across the U.S. border with Mexico.
Morrissey's claims came during an exchange with host Cam Edwards where the men mocked Attorney General Eric Holder's June 12 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee:
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: And again, you know Ed, what we got was, "I am cooperating, and I'm an awesome attorney general, why my goodness gracious I put a stop to these tactics in Fast and Furious. That's more than any other attorney general has ever done."
ED MORRISSEY: And he tried to say, "Well, I'm sure that the attorney general that you think was more qualified than me, you know, he didn't bother to stop it when it was done under Operation Wide Receiver." But what Eric Holder had to admit the last time he tried to make that statement was that there were some significant differences in Operation Wide Receiver. Which is one, they actually tracked the guns after they were released, and two, that was that Operation Wide Receiver was done in coordination with the Mexican government. There was law enforcement on both sides of the border tracking those guns. They accounted for those guns. And that's the reason why that operation didn't result in two dead American law enforcement officers and hundreds of dead Mexicans. I mean that's, that's I mean, there is a huge gulf between those two things.
Far from being "accounted for," the vast majority of the 450 guns involved in Wide Receiver were never recovered by the United States. This may have been because the ATF agents involved in Wide Receiver did not actually coordinate with the Mexican authorities as Morrissey claimed.
Right-wing media have attacked a contract between the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and a public relations firm to raise awareness of health and preventive care opportunities as a "propaganda piece" for the health care law that "violates many of the procurement laws." But PR campaigns like this are nothing new; in fact, the Bush administration spent $1.6 billion dollars over a 30-month span promoting its policies.
Who knew vetting could be so confusing?
In the wake of the Washington Post's unflattering article yesterday about how five of Mitt Romney's high school classmates recalled the Republican candidate leading an assault against a presumed gay schoolmate, pinning him down, and cutting his long hair while tears filled up in the boy's eyes, conservative bloggers were indignant the Post would bother with such trivial pursuits.
-"Is a decades old high school story really 'news'?" (Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin.)
-"Cutting-edge reporting from WaPo: Let's take an in-depth look at ... Romney's cruel high-school pranks." (Ed Morrissey)
-"It's a waste of time and energy and effort." (Fox News' Karl Rove.)
-"BREAKING NEWS: Mitt Romney Went to High School. Seriously." (Erick Erickson)
Suddenly the far-right press thinks it's pointless to delve deep into a candidate's past in search of clues about his personality and clues to what shaped him into an adult. Suddenly they mock efforts by the press to paint a detailed personal portrait of would-be presidents by combing over their biographies.
In short, suddenly right-wing bloggers are strongly opposed to vetting.
This represents a curious turn, because as we've been noting this week, the established mantra from Obama's media critics is that the press has repeatedly refused to delve into Obama's past in search of clues about his true self, and has refused to paint a detailed portrait of Obama's history.
Those allegations are false. Nonetheless, it's baffling that critics are attacking the Post for doing to Romney what they want the Post, (and the press) to do to Obama; report out detailed articles about his past.
Keep in mind Romney does not question any of the facts in the Post article, which features multiple, on-the-record sources. Instead, the loud cries of protest from the right have focused on the claim that the Post never should have wasted its time writing about Romney's youth (i.e. who cares?), and that by reporting about his personal past, by vetting him, the Post was guilty of liberal bias.
This is getting nutty, and really just highlights the tangled "vetting" knot conservatives have tied themselves in during recent years: Vetting Democrats is good. Vetting Republicans is very bad.
Right-wing media are touting a study claiming the health care reform law will not lower the deficit, but rather increase it by more than $300 billion. In fact, economic experts dismissed the study by conservative analyst Charles Blahous, saying it uses "discredited arguments."
Once again, the right-wing media are working hard to create a controversy where none exists. This time, they're attacking President Obama for telling Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" to negotiate on the issue of missile defense after the November election. In the opinion of these media conservatives, Obama's comments are further evidence that he is "surrendering America." In fact, according to Obama, he was referring to the fact that anything he could do on missile defense would require bipartisan buy-in, which is not very likely during an election year.
Following a meeting on Monday with Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea, Obama told the Russian president, "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it's important for him to give me space," adding: "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." Medvedev responded: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin]." The comments were intended to be private, but were picked up by a hot microphone.
Cue the outrage. Conservative blogger Doug Powers, writing at MichelleMalkin.com, accused Obama of "capitulation." Hot Air's Ed Morrissey blasted the incident as proof that American voters "need to fear an Obama second term." The headline of a post by Breitbart.com's editor in chief, Joel Pollak, read: "Obama to Putin: I'll Surrender America After Re-Election." Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft wrote that Obama "explained his secret plans to sell out America and her allies" and "told Medvedev to wait until after his reelection to sell out American security." Fox News contributor Palin wrote of the incident: "Let this exchange be a warning to voters: President Obama will have 'more flexibility' to weaken us if he's re-elected in November." Fox News contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton called Obama's comments "a fire bell in the night" and accused the president of "giving way on American missile defense, defending our homeland."
But Obama explained today that he was talking about the difficulty in an election year of getting the bipartisan agreement necessary to negotiate on important foreign policy issues. Obama said: "This is not a matter of hiding the ball." He added: "The only way I get this stuff done is if I'm consulting with the Pentagon, if I'm consulting with Congress, if I've got bipartisan support, and the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations."
And bipartisan buy-in is important. In 2010, the right-wing media claimed that Obama was "compromising our missile defense capabilities" by negotiating the New START treaty with Russia. In fact, military leaders strongly supported New START. At the time, 13 Republicans were willing to ignore the right-wing media freak-out and vote for New START, allowing the treaty to attain the support of two-thirds of the Senate needed for ratification. But instructively, that vote did not happen until a lame-duck session after the midterm elections were concluded. Does anyone believe Obama would get so much Republican support on a controversial issue during an election year?
President Obama recently outlined his proposal that would give millions of homeowners a chance to save thousands of dollars annually by refinancing their mortgages at a lower interest rate even if their homes are currently underwater. The right-wing media immediately went on the attack, claiming that Obama's mortgage relief plan is a political stunt being used to "pander" to voters during an election year.
The right-wing media have attacked President Obama for commenting at a conference that "we've been a little bit lazy" about attracting foreign investment in America, claiming that he is "attacking Americans." However, several independent analysts have said that this line of attack takes Obama's comments out of context and that the president "wasn't calling Americans lazy."