Fox News is burying Republican policy positions that exacerbate income inequality in order to help the GOP rebrand itself as a party for the middle class. This effort follows years of Fox figures blasting Democratic policies designed to alleviate income inequality as "class warfare."
The Islamophobic rhetoric spewed by right-wing media in response to the deadly attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris is just the most recent in a long history of conservative anti-Islam vitriol.
Conservative media are criticizing the Minnesota State High School League for adopting a policy that will allow transgender student athletes to play on the sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, warning that the policy will cause gender confusion, inappropriate behavior in locker rooms, and unfairness for female athletes. But officials from athletic leagues across the country haven't reported problems since enacting similar trans-inclusive policies.
On December 4, the Minnesota State High School League voted overwhelmingly to adopt a policy that would allow transgender students to participate on the athletic teams that correspond to their gender identity.
The policy was approved despite a right-wing misinformation campaign which tried to derail the measure by stoking fears about female locker rooms and student privacy. That campaign was led by the extreme Minnesota Child Protection League, which produced ads warning that trans-inclusive athletic teams would cause the "END OF GIRLS' SPORTS" and allow boys to take showers with girls. Those talking points were echoed by conservative media outlets including Fox News, Townhall, and WorldNetDaily. An unhinged article in The Federalist warned that the policy would be "psychologically destabilizing" and "encourage children to reject their bodies." The policy's adoption has only fanned the flames of conservative media outrage.
But Minnesota is hardly the first state to allow transgender student athletes to play on the teams they feel comfortable with. School athletic leagues across the country have had similar policies for transgender students in place for years without experiencing the problems predicted by conservative activists.
Fox News contributor Dr. Keith Ablow wrote that "it's time for an American jihad" to, forcibly if need be, convert every nation's government into a reflection of the U.S. government.
In an October 28 FoxNews.com op-ed, Ablow wrote that America's history "proves our manifest destiny not only to preserve our borders and safety and national character at home, but to spread around the world our love of individual freedom and insist on its reflection in every government." Ablow's "jihad" consisted of a series of extreme and controversial proposals including having retired U.S. lawmakers seek dual citizenship to influence other nations into adopting American laws, intervening militarily around the world, and making "every tax dollar a tithing and the squandering of those dollars a sin":
An American jihad would embrace the correct belief that if every nation on earth were governed by freely elected leaders and by our Constitution, the world would be a far better place. And an American jihad would not only hope for this outcome, but work toward it.
We would urge our leaders, after their service in the U.S. Senate and Congress, to seek dual citizenship in other nations, like France and Italy and Sweden and Argentina and Brazil and Germany, and work to influence those nations to adopt laws very much like our own. We might even fund our leaders' campaigns for office in these other nations.
We would accept the fact that an American jihad could mean boots on the ground in many places in the world where human rights are being denigrated and horrors are unfolding. Because wherever leaders and movements appear that seek to trample upon the human spirit, we have a God-given right to intervene -- because we have been to the mountaintop of freedom, and we have seen the Promised Land spanning the globe.
An American jihad would make every tax dollar a tithing and the squandering of those dollars a sin. An American jihad would make every hour spent working in an American company -- or founding one -- an offering. An American jihad would make every teacher of American history not only a public servant, but a servant of the Truth.
We the People of the United States are good and we are right. And we need the spirit of an American jihad to properly invite, intensify and focus our intentions to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution here at home, and to seek to spread its principles abroad.
Ablow is no stranger to extreme and controversial statements. He recently accused President Obama of welcoming Ebola into the U.S. because his "affinities" are with Africa. He later defended this comment, saying the president won't "fully defend" the country because "he has it in" for America.
Mainstream media figures, following in the footsteps of conservative media, are trying to manufacture a scandal out of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent argument against trickle-down economics by stripping her comments of context to falsely cast them as a controversial gaffe or a flip-flop on previous statements about trade.
Conservative media outlets rushed to vilify Clinton's stance after she pushed for a minimum wage increase and warned against the myth that businesses create jobs through trickle-down economics at an October 24 campaign event for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley (D). Breitbart.com complained, "Clinton told the crowd ... not to listen to anybody who says that 'businesses create jobs,'" conservative radio host Howie Carr said the comments showed Clinton's "true moonbat colors," while FoxNews.com promoted the Washington Free Beacon's accusation that she said "businesses and corporations are not the job creators of America."
Mainstream media soon jumped on the bandwagon.
CNN host John King presented Clinton's comments as a fumble "a little reminiscent there of Mitt Romney saying corporations are people, too," and USA Today called the comments "An odd moment from Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail Friday - and one she may regret." In an article egregiously headlined, "Hillary Clinton No Longer Believes That Companies Create Jobs," Bloomberg's Jonathan Allen stripped away any context from Clinton's words in order to accuse her of having "flip-flopped on whether companies create jobs," because she has previously discussed the need to keep American companies competitive abroad.
Taken in context, Clinton's comments are almost entirely unremarkable -- and certainly don't conflict with the philosophy that trade can contribute to job growth, as Allen suggests. The full transcript of her remarks shows she was making the established observation that minimum wage increases can boost a sluggish economy by generating demand, and that tax breaks for the rich don't necessarily move companies to create jobs:
CLINTON: Don't let anybody tell you that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs. They always say that. I've been through this. My husband gave working families a raise in the 1990s. I voted to raise the minimum wage and guess what? Millions of jobs were created or paid better and more families were more secure. That's what we want to see here, and that's what we want to see across the country.
And don't let anybody tell you, that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know, that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried. That has failed. That has failed rather spectacularly.
One of the things my husband says, when people say, what did you bring to Washington? He says, well I brought arithmetic. And part of it was he demonstrated why trickle down should be consigned to the trash bin of history. More tax cuts for the top and for companies that ship jobs over seas while taxpayers and voters are stuck paying the freight just doesn't add up. Now that kind of thinking might win you an award for outsourcing excellence, but Massachusetts can do better than that. Martha understands it. She knows you have to create jobs from everyone working together and taking the advantages of this great state and putting them to work.
Economic experts agree that job growth is tied to the economic security of the middle class.
U.S. economic growth has historically relied on consumer spending, and middle class consumers are "the true job creators," Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz points out. Right now, the U.S. economy is "demand-starved," as Economic Policy Institute's (EPI) Joshua Smith puts it. Steiglitz says that, of all the problems facing the U.S. economy, "The most immediate is that our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth."
In a testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, economist Heather Boushey noted that "It is demand for goods and services, backed up by an ability to pay for them, which drives economic growth" and "The hollowing out of our middle class limits our nation's capacity to grow unless firms can find new customers."
UC Berkeley economist Robert Reich agrees that the problem in the U.S. economy is demand. "Businesses are reluctant to spend more and create more jobs because there aren't enough consumers out there able and willing to buy what businesses have to sell," he writes, and places the blame on low paychecks and growing inequality: "The reason consumers aren't buying is because consumers' paychecks are dropping... Consumers can't and won't buy more." He says the key to job growth is "reigniting demand" by "putting more money in consumers' pockets." From The Huffington Post:
Can we get real for a moment? Businesses don't need more financial incentives. They're already sitting on a vast cash horde estimated to be upwards of $1.6 trillion. Besides, large and middle-sized companies are having no difficulty getting loans at bargain-basement rates, courtesy of the Fed.
In consequence, businesses are already spending as much as they can justify economically. Almost two-thirds of the measly growth in the economy so far this year has come from businesses rebuilding their inventories. But without more consumer spending, there's they won't spend more. A robust economy can't be built on inventory replacements.
The problem isn't on the supply side. It's on the demand side. Businesses are reluctant to spend more and create more jobs because there aren't enough consumers out there able and willing to buy what businesses have to sell.
The reason consumers aren't buying is because consumers' paychecks are dropping, adjusted for inflation.
Clinton's emphasis on the minimum wage is supported by economic experts as well. Reich says that raising the minimum wage is an effective way to generate the consumer demand that would spur job growth. It "would put money in the pockets of millions of low-wage workers who will spend it -- thereby giving working families and the overall economy a boost, and creating jobs." He also rejected critics' claims that giving low income-earners a raise hurts job growth: "When I was Labor Secretary in 1996 and we raised the minimum wage, business predicted millions of job losses; in fact, we had more job gains over the next four years than in any comparable period in American history."
EPI called the minimum wage a "critically important issue" that "would provide a modest stimulus to the entire economy, as increased wages would lead to increased consumer spending, which would contribute to GDP growth and modest employment gains" (emphasis added):
The immediate benefits of a minimum-wage increase are in the boosted earnings of the lowest-paid workers, but its positive effects would far exceed this extra income. Recent research reveals that, despite skeptics' claims, raising the minimum wage does not cause job loss. In fact, throughout the nation, a minimum-wage increase under current labor market conditions would create jobs. Like unemployment insurance benefits or tax breaks for low- and middle-income workers, raising the minimum wage puts more money in the pockets of working families when they need it most, thereby augmenting their spending power. Economists generally recognize that low-wage workers are more likely than any other income group to spend any extra earnings immediately on previously unaffordable basic needs or services.
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by July 1, 2015, would give an additional $51.5 billion over the phase-in period to directly and indirectly affected workers, who would, in turn, spend those extra earnings. Indirectly affected workers--those earning close to, but still above, the proposed new minimum wage--would likely receive a boost in earnings due to the "spillover" effect (Shierholz 2009), giving them more to spend on necessities.
This projected rise in consumer spending is critical to any recovery, especially when weak consumer demand is one of the most significant factors holding back new hiring (Izzo 2011). Though the stimulus from a minimum-wage increase is smaller than the boost created by, for example, unemployment insurance benefits, it has the crucial advantage of not imposing costs on the public sector.
The economic benefits of a minimum wage increase are widely accepted. Over 600 economists signed a recent letter supporting an increase, arguing, "Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front."
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz echoed his colleague Shepard Smith's admonishment of media for irresponsible Ebola coverage, highlighting his own network's reporting failures.
Kurtz called out media figures like Fox host Bill O'Reilly, who has demanded the resignation of CDC director Tom Frieden, for reducing their response to Ebola "to a question of which heads should roll."
He contrasted coverage like O'Reilly's to that of Fox's Shepard Smith, who made headlines this week for blasting media's "irresponsible" and "hysterical" Ebola coverage. Smith "challenged his own profession to stop scaring people," Kurtz explained, asking, "Will the media listen?"
From Kurtz's October 17 column:
There's a growing media drumbeat on how to fix the Ebola crisis.
Tom Frieden should resign!
[D]oes anyone really believe that turning CDC over to an acting director will quickly boost the agency's performance?
Bill O'Reilly has demanded that Frieden be fired, calling him the "chief propagandist" for the "dumb and dangerous" approach of expecting airport screening to be able to keep infected people out of the United States.
Another doctor, Fox contributor Manny Alvarez, says:
"I am more convinced than ever that CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden is not the right person for the job. And I say this because this latest press conference consisted of him telling a room of reporters what anyone who has ever dealt with Ebola in the past should have known...
"Frieden showed up late to the game again on Ebola, which is not acceptable when lives are at stake."
Right-wing media outlets have turned to serial misinformer Betsy McCaughey as their go-to expert on the Ebola outbreak. But McCaughey has a history of hyping false health care myths and was the chief architect behind the myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) included so-called "death panels," a discredited claim that McCaughey pushed even after being dubbed PolitiFact's Lie of the Year in 2009.
Fox News host Eric Bolling warned America that "liberalism is a dangerous virus," echoing the kind of dangerous rhetoric that right-wing media figures like Glenn Beck have spread for years.
In an October 6 FoxNews.com opinion piece, Bolling wrote that while people are concerned about Ebola, the virus of liberalism is already here:
Wake up, America!
While everyone is up in arms about Ebola, and we must remain vigilant and fight it with all we have, there is another virus that has already taken hold of Americans in every state: liberalism.
Truth, transparency, freedom and liberty. The flag, "Under God" patriotism have all been tossed out the window.
They are being replaced by "everybody gets a trophy," "share the wealth," "government knows what's best for your business," your family and even what should go on in your bedroom.
Be careful, America. Liberalism is a dangerous virus.
Wake up, America. Liberalism is a virus, too.
Try not to catch it. And if you do, for goodness sake, don't spread it!!
Bolling's eliminationist rhetoric -- the belief that the liberals are a disease weakening America -- has been echoed by far right-wing media figures for years. In 2009, actor turned WND columnist Pat Boone compared liberalism to "A deadly virus ... loosed throughout our system." Throughout 2010, on his radio show, on Fox News, and even at his CPAC keynote speech, former Fox News host Glenn Beck called progressivism "the poison that's killing our Constitution" that "we've got to irradiate;" a "disease in the republic;" and "the cancer in America." And in 2012, right-wing columnist David Limbaugh likened liberalism to "a metastatic cancer."
Bolling wasn't the only conservative media figure to compare liberals to a disease on Monday. Right-wing author, filmmaker, and conservative media darling Dinesh D'Souza compared President Obama's father to Ebola, asking "which is a more dangerous infection?"
Media personalities rushed to scandalize President Obama for saluting Marines while simultaneously holding a coffee cup, criticizing the move as disrespectful -- forgetting former President George W. Bush's habit of saluting service members while holding his dog.
Several media outlets ignored the opening of the country's largest advanced biofuel plant -- which produces a fuel with a far lesser climate impact than gasoline that can help reduce our dependence on oil -- even though they previously claimed that such a biofuel "does not exist."
The New York Times brazenly claimed in 2012 that cellulosic ethanol, a type of fuel made from agricultural waste such as corn stalks, "does not exist" -- and many other news outlets also adopted this misleading framing. Industry journal Platts published a blog titled: "Puzzling over the US mandate for a fuel that doesn't exist yet," later clarifying that the fuel simply did not exist "in the US at commercial volumes" at the time. The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that "Congress subsidized a product that didn't exist" and "is punishing oil companies for not buying the product that doesn't exist." FoxNews.com called the fuel "merely hypothetical." National Review Online contributing editor Deroy Murdock stated "EPA might as well mandate that Exxon hire leprechauns."
However, since a new facility started producing cellulosic ethanol on a commercial-scale on September 3, these outlets have remained silent.* Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels opened the biggest cellulosic ethanol facility in the country for production, which will "convert 570 million pounds of crop waste into 25 million gallons of ethanol each year." The Iowa facility is being heralded as "a major step in the shift from the fossil fuel age to a biofuels revolution."
Cellulosic ethanol and other "advanced biofuels" are included in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires oil companies to mix fuel made renewable sources into their product. This standard was part of a bill that passed during the Bush Administration with bipartisan support -- a fact that several right-wing news outlets failed to mention in their coverage.
A lifecycle analysis from Argonne National Laboratory estimated that the type of fuel produced at the new Poet-DSM facility emits up to 96 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional gasoline. The Poet-DSM facility is the first of three cellulosic ethanol plants scheduled to start production this year, which will together produce an estimated 17 million gallons per year. Jeremy Martin, an expert from the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the plant opening "an important milestone on the road to clean transportation." Martin added: "With efficient vehicles and clean fuels like cellulosic biofuel we can cut our projected oil use in half in 20 years."
*Based on a search of publicly available content from September 1 - September 7.
Photo at top of cellulosic biofuel crop from Flickr user KBS with a Creative Commons license.
Right-wing media seized on a poorly sourced new report from Judicial Watch that claims the Islamic State poses an imminent threat to the U.S. homeland from the U.S.-Mexico border. However, homeland security officials and law enforcement officers have repeatedly stated that there is no credible threat to the homeland from the Islamic State.
Media outlets are overlooking President Obama's consistent emphasis on eliminating the threat posed by the extremist group the Islamic State -- and the U.S. airstrikes against it -- to fixate on Obama's recent reference to shrinking the group's influence to a "manageable problem."
Conservative media are suggesting that the Obama administration is "working with foreigners to subvert the Constitution" by seeking a climate agreement with other nations without Senate approval, but legal experts agree that because it is not expected to be legally binding, the accord does not require Senate ratification.
Fox News medical contributor Keith Ablow wrote that there is something wrong in the minds of Ferguson residents who reacted to the shooting death of 18 year-old Michael Brown by a police officer with protests.
In an August 20 opinion piece posted on FoxNews.com, Ablow opined that the psyche of Ferguson needs to be investigated following the unrest that erupted after Brown's killing. Ablow suggested that the community's reactions were racially motivated; accusing the residents of presuming "the moral depravity of whites," which they would not have done if the teen was raped or killed by a black police officer:
The psychology of those who rioted and committed other lawless acts in Ferguson is as suspect at this moment as the psychology of Darren Wilson, because their psychology presumes the moral depravity of whites - at least those in authority.
If a black officer had shot and killed Michael Brown, chances are there would be no protests at all. Perhaps there would be a civil suit. Perhaps there would be criminal charges against the officer involved. But there would be no unrest.
When a woman is raped even if by a police officer, the community does not erupt in violence, with throngs of women breaking windows and threatening to storm the police command station.
Whether or not Officer Darren Wilson is guilty of anything, something is deeply wrong with the psyche of the community in Ferguson, Mo. And understanding and addressing that pathology should be the first order of business of community leaders - even as the work of investigating the Michael Brown shooting is unfolding.
Community leaders and residents in Ferguson have worked to keep demonstrations peaceful, and media reports indicate that many of the people arrested for violence in Ferguson have come from outside the community to confront police. Some Ferguson residents have also worked to protect local businesses from looters.
Ablow continues to use his Fox News platform to make inflammatory claims and attack the Obama administration, most recently coming under fire for his comments calling Michelle Obama too fat to be a credible voice on school nutrition.
John Dean, former aide and counsel to President Richard Nixon, denounced right-wing media for "rewriting" the history of Watergate in order to attack President Obama, calling comparisons of current events to the historic scandal "nonsense" and "absolutely silliness."
August marks the 40th anniversary of Nixon's resignation in the wake of Watergate, a vast scandal that The New York Times explained included, "wiretapping, money laundering, destruction of documents, payment of hush money, character assassination, disinformation and deception -- all perpetrated by people at the highest levels of Government."
Dean served as Nixon's White House counsel during Watergate and is promoting a new book on the subject. In an interview with Media Matters, he slammed Republican officials and right-wing commentators who have compared Watergate's historic criminality to various supposed Obama administration scandals, with some going so far as to call for the president's removal from office.
"It's absolutely silliness," Dean said. "The conservative media just doesn't seem to understand the impeachment clause. It is not designed to ... besmirch a president with, and that's all they're doing with it."
"They don't understand it, they don't have a clue what happened during Watergate, do not have a clue," he added. "They want to distort that history, rewriting it, ignore it and then use it. That's the conservative media."
Dean's book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It (Viking 2014), is based on hours of tapes from Nixon's years at the White House, many of which were never catalogued, he said. It attempts to set the record straight on the scandal and Nixon's involvement, arguing the president's actions had broader implications than previously understood.
Today, however, Dean noted that conservative media "know" an Obama impeachment "can't prevail in a trial," and that "even talking about it is nonsense and there's no high crime. For them it's a high crime to be a Democrat and serve as president."
Citing conservative media's attempts to compare Watergate to a never-ending litany of supposed "scandals," including the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi terrorist attacks and the IRS targeting investigation, Dean said, "I told my publisher that they should send a copy of my new book to every Republican in the House so they can understand what impeachable behavior looks like." Dean later declared: "It does not work at all, in fact they don't even raise to the level of scandal ... both Benghazi and IRS."