For two years, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been peddling the theory that the IRS intentionally leaked its donor list to a gay rights organization as part of an Obama administration conspiracy. Two separate investigations and a ruling by a Reagan-appointed judge have debunked that theory. But right-wing media, which have widely touted NOM's initial accusations, have largely ignored or denied the conspiracy theory's demise.
In the spring of 2012, an IRS employee inadvertently leaked an unredacted list of NOM's donors in response to a public records request. The pro-equality group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) got its hands on the list, highlighting past contributions to NOM by prominent conservatives like then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Noting that key HRC officials were prominent supporters of President Obama's re-election campaign, NOM alleged a conspiracy between the organization and the Obama administration aimed at embarrassing NOM and its supporters.
In April 2012, NOM filed a formal letter of complaint to the IRS. Conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and The Weekly Standard touted the complaint, focusing particularly on the revelation that Romney was one of the group's donors. For most of the next year, however, media interest in the story was scant.
That changed in the spring of 2013. In May, U.S. Attorney General Eric holder ordered the FBI to begin a criminal probe into allegations that the agency had targeted tax-exempt conservative political groups. While the IRS actually scrutinized progressive groups more extensively than conservative ones, the IRS "scandal" became a rallying cry for right-wing media. The controversy also meant newfound interest in NOM's allegations against the agency.
Mainstream and conservative media outlets were quick to pick up on NOM's call for an investigation into the IRS's activities.
The Wall Street Journal 's James Taranto spotlighted NOM's claims in a column on the IRS controversy, asking "How pervasive is the Obama IRS scandal?":
There's a stark difference in the way Fox News and Fox News Latino covered reports of hundreds of migrant children crossing the U.S. border to flee violence in Central America.
Hundreds of migrant children crossing the U.S. border to flee violence in Central America are being held in a makeshift shelter in southern Arizona. The New York Times reported that federal officials predict at least 60,000 unaccompanied minors will attempt to cross into the U.S. by the end of this fiscal year.
In Nogales, Arizona, the Department of Homeland Security made available a warehouse to house thousands of children, but according to local media outlets, it has not been without problems. CBS Houston reported that some of the children have complained to the consul of Honduras that the food provided by the shelter is making them sick.
Fox News Latino reported on the "alarming conditions" in which the "undocumented immigrants" were being held, describing images of the shelters as "shocking" and "overcrowded," and quoting Arizona Governor Jan Brewer condemning the conditions as "dangerous and unconscionable":
Fox News brushed aside the value of Environmental Protection Agency research grants for clean cooking and heating technologies, saying that the dangerous indoor pollution from dirty stoves is only "a mere contribution" to 4.3 million deaths, and fearmongered that the EPA would soon come after American stoves. However, even Fox News' "favorite" environmental pundit has said that the fact that millions are dying from dirty cooking stoves -- more deaths than from AIDS and malaria combined -- is an "immediate problem."
Conservative media ran dishonest headlines suggesting that the Obama administration is attempting to reduce minority births when it is actually trying to reduce teenage pregnancies.
In an April 16 post, the Daily Caller selectively pulled language from a CDC program in order to suggest that the Obama administration was trying to reduce births among minorities. In a post with the headline "Obama program aims to reduce 'births' among blacks, Latinos," the Daily Caller claimed that "President Barack Obama is attempting to lower the rate of 'births' - and separately pregnancies - among blacks and Latinos."
Fox Nation used the same misleading language while hyping the Daily Caller's post, posting an excerpt under the headline "Obama Program Aims To Reduce 'Births' Among Blacks, Latinos":
Both headlines, and the Daily Caller's description, are incredibly dishonest. The Obama administration is not trying to reduce minority births, but the rate of teen pregnancies in minority communities. In fact, the CDC material that the Daily Caller links to is titled "Teen Pregnancy Prevention 2010-2015." The CDC page makes it clear that the program is intended to reduce the rate of pregnancy among minorities between the ages of 15 and 19:
The purpose of this program is to demonstrate the effectiveness of innovative, multicomponent, communitywide initiatives in reducing rates of teen pregnancy and births in communities with the highest rates, with a focus on reaching African American and Latino/Hispanic youth aged 15-19 years. A communitywide model is an intervention implemented in defined communities (specified geographic area) applying a common approach with different strategies. Communitywide approaches will be tailored to the specified community, and will include broad-based strategies that reach a majority of youth in the community (i.e., through communication strategies and media campaigns); and intensive strategies reaching youth most in need of prevention programming (i.e., through implementation of evidence-based programs and improved links to services).
The Daily Caller also attacked the CDC by manufacturing outrage over the fact that the organization does not differentiate between "births" and "pregnancies." But using both terms when discussing teen pregnancy is a common practice widely used across their own literature outside of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative in order to analyze and discuss teen pregnancy rates and outcomes, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' literature on teen pregnancy.
Right-wing media outlets are trying to gin up outrage over a change in how the U.S. Census Bureau reports insurance status, claiming the agency is making an adjustment to deliberately hide the effects of the Affordable Care Act. But the change will still measure the impact of the ACA's first year, and the new system will provide better tools for tracking insurance status.
In the five years since President Obama's health care reform plan -- which became the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- was first introduced, the right-wing media has waged a continuous campaign to attack the law through misinformation, deception, and outright lies.
Five years ago, Fox News expanded its online presence with "Fox Nation." Early promos for the site told viewers that it's "time to say 'no' to biased media and 'yes' to fair play and free speech," while promising that Fox fans had finally found "a place to call home." Similarly, the "Statement of Purpose" on the site announces that it is dedicated to "the core principles of tolerance, open debate, civil discourse, and fair and balanced coverage of the news."
But after its launch, the site quickly turned into -- in the words of former Fox News producer Joe Muto -- the "seedy underbelly of the Fox News online empire." Fox Nation has for years openly cheered Republican politicians and policies, actively organized for the tea party, smeared Democrats and progressives, engaged in blatant race-baiting on a near-daily basis, and routinely elevated nonsense from the conservative fringe.
So while Fox Nation is celebrating its fifth birthday and its self-proclaimed role as a "defender of the Constitution and the home of hot debates," Media Matters looks back at some (but nowhere near all) of the lowlights from the site's first five years.
Referring to gay people as "homosexual" is a practice that's quickly falling out of favor with major news outlets due the term's often pejorative connotation and frequent use by opponents of LGBT equality. But Fox News has yet to update its language when referring to gay and lesbian people.
On March 23, The New York Times published a piece exploring the often derogatory connotation of the term "homosexual." Writing for the Sunday Styles section, the Times' Jeremy Peters noted that experts increasingly view "homosexual" as an offensive and stigmatizing term, even if many people still see the term as relatively "innocuous" (emphasis added):
To most ears, it probably sounds inoffensive. A little outdated and clinical, perhaps, but innocuous enough: homosexual.
But that five-syllable word has never been more loaded, more deliberately used and, to the ears of many gays and lesbians, more pejorative.
" 'Homosexual' has the ring of 'colored' now, in the way your grandmother might have used that term, except that it hasn't been recuperated in the same way," said George Chauncey, a Yale professor of history and an author who studies gay and lesbian culture.
Consider the following phrases: homosexual community, homosexual activist, homosexual marriage. Substitute the word "gay" in any of those cases, and the terms suddenly become far less loaded, so that the ring of disapproval and judgment evaporates.
Some gay rights advocates have declared the term off limits. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or Glaad, has put "homosexual" on its list of offensive terms and in 2006 persuaded The Associated Press, whose stylebook is the widely used by many news organizations, to restrict use of the word.
George P. Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, has looked at the way the term is used by those who try to portray gays and lesbians as deviant. What is most telling about substituting it for gay or lesbian are the images that homosexual tends to activate in the brain, he said.
"Gay doesn't use the word sex," he said. "Lesbian doesn't use the word sex. Homosexual does."
Peters highlighted use of the term by anti-gay figures like Rush Limbaugh, whose comments on the "homosexual" NFL prospect Michael Sam and the efforts of the "homosexual lobby" to defeat Arizona's anti-gay discrimination bill smack of contempt.
Use of the term is also pervasive at Fox News - and not just from the likes of the network's hate group mouthpiece Todd Starnes, who recently warned that "Christians are trading places with homosexuals" in the military. Just as the network insists on misgendering transgender subjects, Fox also has no qualms about regularly referring to gay men and lesbians by a term many of them shun.
Fox employees from Megyn Kelly to Sarah Palin continue to use the word "homosexual" to describe gays and lesbians. Fox Supreme Court reporter and pro-discrimination champion Shannon Bream teased a forthcoming segment on "homosexual adoption":
Fox's "Medical A-Team" member and anti-LGBT pop psychologist Keith Ablow uses the term "homosexual sex" while criticizing pro-gay advertisements.
And Fox's Bill O'Reilly was recently mocked for a segment in which he attacked the Girl Scouts for "leaning left," seizing in particular on the organization's employment of a spokesman who participated "in a punk rock band with homosexual overtones":
Right-wing media outlets have seized on an anonymously sourced and highly speculative article in The Hill that dubiously proclaimed health care premiums are going to "skyrocket" under the Affordable Care Act.
In a March 19 post on The Hill's Healthwatch blog with the headline "O-care premiums to skyrocket," Elise Viebeck quoted anonymous health insurance industry officials to claim that "ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration."
The article and its claim about rising premiums was hyped across the right-wing media. National Review Online claimed "there's only so much massaging of the truth and flat-out lying that one can do before the headlines catch up with the deceit." Hot Air's Ed Morrissey cited The Hill, writing, "ObamaCare has bent the cost curve all right, but sharply upward -- and in 2015, expect them to not just bend but absolutely 'skyrocket.'" Fox Nation highlighted the post under the headline "300%: Insurance Industry Predicts Skyrocketing ObamaCare Premiums":
Despite the certainty implied by the post's headline, the reality is far more complicated. While Viebeck chose to play up the claims made by her anonymous insurance industry sources, the article also cites health policy experts who pointed out that it's far too early to make predictions about "expected rate hikes":
Fox News falsely claimed that a plan in place since 1998 to govern control of Internet domain names means President Obama is giving away the Internet.
As Russian president Vladimir Putin flexes his military muscles by invading Ukraine in violation of multiple international treaties, right-wing pundits are fawning over the "macho" leader's strength while complaining that President Obama wears "mom jeans" and is weak on foreign policy.
In the wake of Russia's apparent invasion of the Crimean Peninsula -- an area within the sovereign territory of Ukraine -- right-wing media have renewed their crush on the Russian leader, praising his strength and equestrian skills after TIME's Michael Crowley tweeted a photo of Obama on a bicycle and Putin on a horse, saying the juxtaposition "does kind of capture the moment."
Fox Nation made the photo its "Pic of the Day" and published a "highlight reel of Putin doing macho things" like "performing karate," riding a horse and a motorcycle (though disappointingly not at the same time), and tranquilizing a tiger.
Fox host Bill O'Reilly discussed the photo on his primetime show March 3rd, saying the photo depicted the "contrasting styles" of Putin and Obama. "Putin sees himself as a macho man who's going to do pretty much what he wants," O'Reilly said. "The president sees himself as a renaissance man who wants to accommodate."
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity, contributor Sarah Palin questioned the "potency" of President Obama saying, "People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates."
Other Fox pundits have followed the same theme. Foreign policy expert KT McFarland tweeted, "Putin seizes countries, Obama threatens maybe to kick Russia out of the G-8 club. Bet Putin's sorry now! Winners write history, not whiners". Frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani lavished Putin with praise, saying that in contrast with Obama, Putin is "what you call a leader."
Of course, no one praising Putin's leadership mentions his penchant for repressing dissent and stymieing the freedoms of his people. But at least he can fend off a wild animal without his shirt on.
The Drudge Report and Fox Nation are promoting an outlandish report from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' website Infowars that suggests a sinister purpose behind a Department of Homeland Security procurement request for 141,160 rounds of .308 rifle ammunition.
Jones and his website have long fearmongered about the government's bulk purchase of ammunition. Conservative media outlets and Republican politicians have followed Jones' lead and run wild with the conspiracy, suggesting that the government was preparing for widespread civil unrest, attempting to limit the civilian ammo supply, or even planning to wage war against Americans. The conspiracy even inspired a Republican-led House Oversight Committee hearing and Republican-backed legislation to limit government ammunition purchases.
An inflammatory Fox Nation headline declared that "A Ton of ObamaCare Navigators Are Criminals," even though there is no clear evidence that the small number of navigators in question have been convicted of any crimes.
A January 16 post on Fox Nation attacked the Affordable Care Act's navigators, officials hired and trained to guide consumers through health care options and the application process, by posting a National Review Online article under the headline "A Ton of ObamaCare Navigators Are Criminals":
But Fox Nation's inflammatory headline is not supported by the NRO article, which only identifies a small number of navigators in New Mexico who may or may not have criminal backgrounds. After a review of public records, NRO found that 38 of the certified counselors "had a match in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database." The post went on to explain that being matched in the NCIC is not evidence that the individual committed a crime:
Way back in November 2008, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that bore the headline: "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." At the time, the economy was crashing and the Bush White House was considering a multi-billion dollar bailout of the auto industry to prevent its collapse and the resulting wholesale economic devastation. Romney argued against the bailout, pushing instead for a "managed bankruptcy" for the troubled automakers, which he referred to collectively as "Detroit."
Four years later, Romney was the Republican presidential candidate, and that op-ed became the subject of repeated attacks from Barack Obama, who supported the auto bailout and wanted to remind voters that the automobile industry had been saved by timely government intervention. "We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt. We bet on American workers and American ingenuity, and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way," Obama said at the time, also referring to the automobile industry by its well-known nickname, "Detroit."
Jump forward to the present day, and the city of Detroit (not the automobile industry both Romney and Obama referred to as "Detroit," which has flourished) is declaring bankruptcy. It's an unfortunate state of affairs for a great American city. What's also unfortunate is how many conservatives are using Detroit's bankruptcy to claim that Mitt Romney was right and Obama broke his promise when he said he "refused to let Detroit go bankrupt" -- knowingly and deliberately confusing "Detroit" as it refers to the auto industry with Detroit the city.
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.