From the May 17 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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Fox's Lou Dobbs and Megyn Kelly attacked President Obama as "Nixonian" and claimed that he revealed his "inner Nixon" over scrutiny that the IRS applied to tea party groups, despite the fact that the president labeled the IRS's actions "outrageous."
Obama addressed concerns at a press conference Monday over reports that the IRS applied extra scrutiny to tea party groups. He vowed to hold the agency "fully accountable" and called the alleged misdeeds "outrageous." Pointing to those comments, Kelly asked if Obama's condemnation was forceful enough, while Dobbs compared Obama with President Nixon, stating, "This is an agency with an enemies list. This is Nixonian. This is a president whose inner Nixon is being revealed."
But Carl Bernstein, one of The Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate scandal, deflated the idea that the IRS targeting was comparable to Watergate in an interview with Politico:
'In the Nixon White House, we heard the president of the United States on tape saying 'Use the IRS to get back on our enemies,' said Bernstein, whose reporting helped lead to Nixon's eventual resignation. 'We know a lot about President Obama, and I think the idea that he would want the IRS used for retribution -- we have no evidence of any such thing.'
A New York Times article directly refutes the claims of House Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, that State Department officials knew immediately that the attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 were connected to "Islamic terrorists." Fox News willingly repeated the attack on its evening programming May 9 -- but now that the Republican distortion has been exposed, will the network clarify its reports for viewers?
Boehner called for the release of a State Department e-mail sent in the wake of the Benghazi attacks that he claimed suggested the assault was perpetrated by "Islamic terrorists." At the House hearing on Benghazi on May 8, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), purporting to be reading from the email in question, quoted a State Department official as saying, "the group that conducted the attacks...is affiliated with Islamic terrorists." The phrase "Islamic terrorists" holds significance for Republicans who have suggested the administration knew from the outset that terrorists were behind the attacks but initially attempted to cover-up this knowledge for political reasons.
The May 9 editions of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox Business Channel's Lou Dobbs TONIGHT hyped the Republican line. According to a Nexis transcript search, Baier played clips of Boehner calling for the release of the e-mail, to which Fox guest and Fortune columnist Nina Easton responded, "I was happy to see Speaker Boehner call for the release of those internal e-mails. Anybody who thought that this was just a Republican hazing as the opposition party in power, I think those concerns were put to rest yesterday. I mean, there's so many unanswered questions."
Lou Dobbs also played Boehner's call for release of the e-mail, noting afterward that "somewhat predictably, no response from the Obama administration at this hour." Dobbs continued, claiming that Boehner's comments and the May 8 congressional hearings into the administration's response to the Benghazi attacks "open up new questions about the accuracy of the past testimony of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
The New York Times, however, obtained a copy of the e-mail in question and reported that the phrase conservatives are putting in the mouth of the State Department official -- "Islamic terrorists" - is in fact not used to describe the perpetrators of the attack. Rather, the official describes the perpetrators as having ties to "Islamic extremists" -- a distinction with a difference, according to the Times report:
[A] copy of the e-mail reviewed by The New York Times indicates that A. Elizabeth Jones, the senior State Department official who wrote it, referred to "Islamic extremists," not terrorists.
The distinction is important, administration officials said, because while the White House did not initially characterize the attack as terrorism, senior officials, including Ambassador Susan E. Rice, acknowledged the possibility that extremists had been involved in the assault.
Fox News is no stranger to carrying water for the Republican Party, and the network has led the charge to push Benghazi cover-up conspiracies. But now that the latest GOP line on Benghazi has been exposed, will Fox inform its viewers?
Fox Business' Lou Dobbs hosted Cody Wilson -- a self-described anarchist who was named one of Wired's top 15 Most Dangerous People In The World -- to promote his 3D-printed gun, which has come under intense scrutiny.
On March 5, Forbes reported that Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas, became the first person to fire a real bullet from a plastic gun made with a 3D-printer. The gun, named the "Liberator," is made almost entirely of plastic, with the exception of a single nail used as the firing pin and a six-ounce piece of steel to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act, which makes it illegal to manufacture or possess any firearm that is not detectable by a walk-through metal detector. However, this six-ounce piece of steel is non-essential to the functionality of the plastic firearm; the gun would be just as effective without it.
During a May 7 interview with Wilson, Dobbs gushed over the prospect of more of these guns, saying that they could potentially allow "every human being on the planet to go to a printer and come back and be an armed citizen or revolutionary, depending on your perspective."
Later in the segment, Wilson said he is "sympathetic with the traditional school of anarchist thought," to which Dobbs replied: "In that view, which is to assert really individual freedom ... it's not entirely, well, dissident with American exaltation of self-reliance and independence."
The weapon, which Wilson calls the "Liberator," is being both hailed and denounced as a major blow to gun control. Wilson's nonprofit, Defense Distributed, has already put the design plans for the gun online for anyone to download. That means people could start printing out working firearms in their living rooms today. Of even greater concern to lawmakers, criminals could theoretically thwart security measures by carrying the all-plastic guns into secure buildings without setting off metal detectors.
In reality, though, we aren't quite there yet. For one thing, this fully 3-D printed gun isn't fully fully 3-D printed, Wilson explained to me in a phone interview. Because federal law bans firearms that aren't detectable by metal detectors, Wilson added a six-ounce, non-functional metal component to his version. Of course, anyone 3-D printing the gun at home could skip that step. But again, that would be against the law. And there's one other part that actually can't yet be 3-D printed: the firing pin. "We tried a lot of plastic pins," Wilson said. "They were a little too soft," so they deformed when they hit the primer.
New York Congressman Steve Israel has announced legislation to renew a ban on plastic guns. New York Senator Charles Schumer has called for legislation that would ban 3D-printed guns that fire real bullets, noting that this technology makes it possible for anyone to "essentially open a gun factory in their garage."
Even Wilson has acknowledged the dangers of his project. In an interview with Forbes, Wilson said, "You can print a lethal device ... It's kind of scary, but that's what we're aiming to show."
These potential consequences seemed lost on Dobbs, who praised the invention as "amazing" and asked Wilson to direct viewers on where they could go to download the design plans for the gun. Dobbs also said that he would post a link to the plans on his own website.
It should be noted that Wilson's manufacturing of the firearm was done legally. According to The New Yorker, he has received a federal firearms license, and has been in contact with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to ensure compliance.
Republican congressmen are giving credibility to Alex Jones and his conservative fringe website Infowars.com, which popularized a conspiracy theory that DHS is stockpiling ammunition for nefarious purposes. The conspiracy theory has now inspired legislation known as the AMMO Act of 2013, which seeks to limit the ammunition purchasing power of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), even though the underlying theory was based on flawed math and a mischaracterization of the facts.
Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs dismissed the discovery of errant data points in a recently dismantled Harvard economics study that had formed the cornerstone for arguments supporting U.S. and European austerity as merely "a small mistake."
On the April 30 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, Dobbs discussed with former Reagan administration economic adviser Arthur Laffer a "contretemps" between New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and historian Niall Ferguson over national debt and the economy. Dobbs stated that Krugman and Ferguson were referring to a recent Harvard study that contained "a small mistake," then asserting that the study's errors "doesn't change the fact," as advocated by Ferguson, that "high debt constrains opportunity for growth."
Laffer responded by saying he'd rather talk about taxes and spending. Dobbs added: "I'd rather they all start talking about both the creation of jobs and how to spur economic growth and be done with the bunch of nonsense and the debt. It's so dreary."
In fact, the Reinhart-Rogoff study -- which asserted that nations with public debt of more than 90 percent of GDP faced a tipping point of economic decline, an idea embraced by right-wing politicians and media alike, including Fox News -- suffered from much more than "a small mistake." The study was dismantled by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who found that Reinhart and Rogoff's data includes calculation errors and selective exclusions that biased the results and invalidates the 90 percent tipping point finding. Rogoff and Reinhart conceded the calculation error but "adamantly deny the other accusations," which has been criticized as a weak rebuttal.
Dobbs' stance of finding discussions of debt to be "dreary" is a shift from how he led his program as recently as March 29, when he called for reduced government spending in response to President Obama's proposed improvements to infrastructure. "It shouldn't be a partisan issue because neither political party should be calling for higher spending when the federal government is running almost trillion-dollar deficits and the national debt amounts to almost $17 trillion," Dobbs said. "That doesn't seem to me to be a partisan issue at all, just one of common sense and good judgment and responsibility."
The right wing media's promotion of a widely-debunked Alex Jones conspiracy theory about the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) ammunition acquisitions prompted House Republicans to hold a hearing to investigate. The theory, which assigns some sinister motivation behind the recent ammo purchases, first gained traction on the websites of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones before finding its way to Fox News and Fox Business and finally to the halls of Congress.
On April 25, Republican Reps. Jim Jordan (OH) and Jason Chaffetz (UT) held a joint hearing "to examine the procurement of ammunition by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General." The hearing followed right wing media reports speculating about the reasons for the acquisitions.
The conspiracy theory picked up steam in March 2012 after a series of reports were posted to Alex Jones' InfoWars.com, including one that claimed "it's not outlandish" to conclude that the government, "is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest." An opinion piece at The Daily Caller cited the reports to suggest that the Obama administration is planning to kill thousands of American citizens. The DHS purchases were brought up on Fox News, prompting Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade to ask, "why they need all those bullets." And while covering the story, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs wondered why the government was "arming up" while trying to "disarm American citizens."
Forbes contributor Ralph Benko wrote that "It's Time For A National Conversation," and called for Congressional action:
If Obama doesn't show any leadership on this matter it's an opportunity for Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, to summon Secretary Napolitano over for a little national conversation. Madame Secretary? Buying 1.6 billion rounds of ammo and deploying armored personnel carriers runs contrary, in every way, to what "homeland security" really means.
Reps. Jordan and Chaffetz answered that call.
As Media Matters has previously noted, the claim that DHS is stockpiling ammunition for some ominous purpose is simply wrong. In reality, the Associated Press reported that while DHS did buy 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition, the government bought the bullets in bulk to save money on ammunition used in training and in the field. As the AP noted, "More than 90 federal agencies and 70,000 agents and officers used the department's training center last year." On a separate occasion, Media Matters reported that DHS responded that ammunition purchases are lower than in previous years and that while the law allows DHS to set purchase contracts of billions of rounds in order to reduce prices and save money, the government hasn't actually purchased nearly that many rounds.
Alex Jones, who has called President Obama the "global head of Al Qaeda," and claimed that the terrorist attacks in Boston, New York City, and Oklahoma City were carried out or sponsored by the government, has gained influence with the right wing media. Recently, Drudge Report's Matt Drudge promised that 2013 would be "year of Alex Jones."
UPDATE: The hearing on Alex Jones' conspiracy theory inspired new legislation that's now before Congress. On April 26, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced bills in both chambers of Congress in order to limit federal agencies from stockpiling ammunition. From Inhofe's statement (emphasis added):
"President Obama has been adamant about curbing law-abiding Americans' access and opportunities to exercise their Second Amendment rights," said Inhofe. "One way the Obama Administration is able to do this is by limiting what's available in the market with federal agencies purchasing unnecessary stockpiles of ammunition. As the public learned in a House committee hearing this week, the Department of Homeland Security has two years worth of ammo on hand and allots nearly 1,000 more rounds of ammunition for DHS officers than is used on average by our Army officers. The AMMO Act of 2013 will enforce transparency and accountability of federal agencies' ammunition supply while also protecting law-abiding citizens access to these resources."
Lou Dobbs asked a series of questions about immigrants in America, claiming the answers didn't exist. In fact, many of his questions are not only easily answered, but highlight the contributions of immigrants of all kinds.
On his Fox Business program, Dobbs used his "chalk talk" segment to claim that immigration reform was being rushed through the Senate. As evidence, Dobbs asked a series of questions about undocumented immigrants, such as their education levels, employment status and economic contributions. In each case, Dobbs insisted that "we don't know" the answer:
Dobb's ignorance on basic immigration facts is surprising considering immigration has been one of his primary targets for years. Not only are the answers to many of his questions readily available, they point to both the accomplishments and contributions of immigrants and the need for comprehensive reform.
A 2009 report by the Fiscal Policy Institute found that between 1990 and 2006, "the metropolitan areas with the fastest economic growth were also the areas with the greatest increase in immigrant share of the labor force." A Bush-era study found that immigration as a whole adds $37 billion to the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) every year. The New York Times reported on the various economic benefits of immigrants, concluding, "Nearly all economists, of all political persuasions, agree that immigrants -- those here legally or not -- benefit the overall economy.
The economic contributions of immigrants would be even greater with immigration reform. UCLA professor and immigration expert Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda estimated that passing comprehensive immigration reform would add at least $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy over 10 years. By comparison, Hinojosa-Ojeda found that expelling immigrants would decrease GDP by $2.6 trillion over 10 years.
Immigrants also pay taxes. The New York Times article pointed out that "undocumented workers contribute about $15 billion a year to Social Security through payroll taxes. They only take out $1 billion (very few undocumented workers are eligible to receive benefits). Over the years, undocumented workers have contributed up to $300 billion, or nearly 10 percent, of the $2.7 trillion Social Security Trust Fund." The Immigration Policy Center estimated that households with undocumented immigrants "paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes. That included $1.2 billion in personal income taxes, $1.6 billion in property taxes, and $8.4 billion in sales taxes."
Further, educational levels of immigrants have been studied. According to a Brookings Institution report, the "share of working-age immigrants in the United States who have a bachelor's degree has risen considerably since 1980, and now exceeds the share without a high school diploma." A 2011 article in The Washington Post reported that "Highly skilled temporary and permanent immigrants in the United States now outnumber lower-skilled ones, marking a dramatic shift in the foreign-born workforce." According to Pew Hispanic Center, 52 percent of adult undocumented immigrants have a high school degree or greater.
From the April 18 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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From the April 17 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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Right-wing media have a long history of leveling charges of anti-white bias at President Obama's nominees and appointees of color, smears that have now formed the basis of Republican attacks on Labor Secretary nominee Thomas E. Perez.
The research consistently cited by media figures to support cutting government spending has recently been invalidated, raising questions about how mainstream coverage of economic policy promoted incorrect data.
In January 2010, economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff released a study that suggested when countries reach debt levels of 90 percent relative to GDP, economic growth would be compromised. Conservatives in politics and media alike repeatedly cited the figure in discussions about the economy.
A study released on April 16, however, found that the conclusions reached by Reinhart and Rogoff were based on data that was riddled with errors. Reinhart and Rogoff's response to the critique -- in which they maintain they never implied that rising debt caused lower growth, just that the two were associated -- shows that media's handling of the figure was wrong all along.
These new developments show that media consistently used an apparently incorrect figure for the past few years to call for austerity measures. Here's a look back at how major cable networks cited the figure in its coverage of the budget and economic policy:
Video by Alan Pyke.
Following the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, radio host Alex Jones was quick to suggest the attacks may have been a "false flag" operation staged by the U.S. government. Jones' reaction is far from surprising; he has made a career out of pushing outlandish conspiracy theories.
Among other conspiracies, Jones has blamed the U.S. government for perpetrating, coordinating, or otherwise being involved in the 9-11 attacks, the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. But despite Jones' well-known history, he is regularly validated by conservative media figures, politicians, and prominent activists that frequent his program, as well as by right-wing websites that promote his work and mainstream outlets that host him on their networks.
In recent years, former Rep. Ron Paul and current Sen. Rand Paul; Fox News figures Lou Dobbs and Andrew Napolitano; gun activists Ted Nugent and Larry Pratt; and climate misinformer Marc Morano have all repeatedly appeared on Jones' show. His immensely popular website Infowars is also frequently promoted by conservative websites like The Drudge Report.
Shortly following the April 15 Boston attacks, Jones tweeted that "our hearts go out to those that are hurt or killed," but added that "this thing stinks to high heaven" and suggested it was a "false flag" operation.
On a special webcast of his show that aired the night of April 15, Jones elaborated on his suggestion, saying, "You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that's why I'm so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody's got to tell you the truth."
As Jones uses yet another national tragedy to push baseless, absurd conspiracy theories, it's worth asking whether there's anything he can say or do to lead media figures, politicians and activists to stop validating him.
In this report:
From the April 15 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Fox News is now acknowledging that Tesla Motors is a "success story," but only a year ago the network declared the company "failed." This distortion played into its attempts to boost then-presidential nominee Mitt Romney's claim that President Barack Obama only "pick[s] the losers."
Discussing the Obama administration's investments in green technology, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett recently stated that Tesla is a "success story," and Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs acknowledged on Monday night that it is one of the "winners." Tesla recently announced that it made a profit in the first quarter of 2013 after exceeding sales goals for its electric sedan, and the company plans on paying back its Department of Energy loan guarantee five years early.
But an oft-aired Fox News graphic previously listed Tesla as "failed," a claim that Romney later echoed. In fact, several of the companies that Fox News declared "failed" are still successfully operating (circled in green), and contributing to technological advances that could help us transition to a clean energy economy, as can be seen in this interactive graphic created with ThingLink:
The companies circled in yellow did not actually receive any funds from the loan guarantee programs, instead receiving either grants, tax credits, or no federal funds at all. Nevada Geothermal Power's project, at far left and not circled in the graphic above, is still operating and part of the 87 percent of loan guarantee funds under the 1705 program awarded to projects that experts say pose almost no risk to the taxpayer. By lumping all of these programs together from the more than 1,460 companies that have received such awards, Fox News was able to paint a distorted picture of the Obama administration's energy policies.