The publication last week of an excerpt from a forthcoming Barack Obama biography sparked an especially frenzied response from conservative bloggers who view the president's distant personal past with an unhealthy fascination.
The book's new revelation about the identity of a girlfriend Obama had soon after he graduated college nearly 30 years ago, along with the other biographical nuggets, were deemed to be crucial pieces of information that had gone missing during the 2008 campaign season. Washington Examiner columnist Byron York bemoaned the fact that the Vanity Fair excerpt revealed "a portrait of Obama that might have enriched the voters' understanding of him in the 2008 campaign."
Indeed, for conservatives, previously unearthed details about Obama post-college girlfriend represented the latest piece of evidence that reporters hadn't done enough digging during the previous campaign. That they never grilled the candidate; that they ignored the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story! (Fact: They covered it. Exhaustively.)
But this time around, it's going to be different. Obama's (supposedly mysterious) life story is going to be fleshed out during the 2012 campaign.
Under the headline, "Re-Vetting Wars: Obama's Girlfriends Speak," American Thinker blogger Thomas Lifson noted "One of the foremost concerns of the Obama re-election effort is the promised re-vetting of Obama, playing off the widespread perception that the media utterly failed to investigate the reality beneath the highly manufactured identity peddled in 2008."
That vow to "vet" the president has become a mantra this year. Addressing CPAC this winter, Andrew Breitbart declared "[T]his election we're going to vet him," and specifically promised to "vet" Obama's "college days." (Days after Breitbart died in March, his site unveiled the "college days" vetting he had promised; it did not go well for Team Breitbart.)
That same month, Sean Hannity announced it was clear that Obama's "friends" in the press made sure "that his past remains un-vetted," while Hannity's angry guest Michelle Malkin reported it was time to "vet the prez."
The vetting obsession however, doesn't spring from a natural affinity for fact checking. Instead, it's used to bolster the broader conservative argument that the real reason Obama won an electoral landslide victory in 2008 was because the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is. And, by extension, if Obama wins re-election in November, the only reason will be because for his four years in office, the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is.
The conspiracy theory serves as a convenient catchall excuse for why Obama succeeds electorally despite the conservative press' depiction of him as a monster determined to destroy the American economy and ruin our way of life. That's all accurate, the bloggers insists. It's just that the liberal media hasn't properly conveyed all the crucial information to voters.
Michelle Malkin and the team at Twitchy.com, a website she founded, are attacking Meghan McCain and Sandra Fluke for showing solidarity with each other over the sexist attacks both have endured.
Yesterday, McCain tweeted a picture of herself and Fluke at an after-party following the White House Correspondents Dinner. McCain said "My fav meeting of the night" and referred to Fluke as "very brave and badass."
McCain later tweeted: "Everyone calm down. I'm a proud pro-life republican but standing up to publicly being called a slut is brave. I've been through it." Fluke tweeted a response to McCain: "thanx 4 support/advice re: public attacks! We girls have each others' backs despite polit differences."
McCain and Fluke have indeed been subjected to sexist attacks for speaking out publicly: Fluke was infamously called a "slut" and a "prostitute" and subjected to a barrage of other sexist attacks by Rush Limbaugh after speaking out about insurance coverage for contraception, and McCain has been subjected to repeated sexist comments after speaking publicly.
Malkin's Twitchy.com was outraged that McCain and Fluke would compare notes on sexism. The website collected some of the tweets on the subject by McCain, Fluke, and others under the headline "Groan: When Meggie Met Fluke-y" and called McCain a "GOP embarrassment" and referred to Fluke as a "Democratic embarrassment."
This week, Fox News host Sean Hannity scoffed at the idea that women face discriminatory practices from the health insurance industry, arguing that it is "disinformation" to claim that repeal of the health care reform law, which bans such practices, will again subject women to unfair and discriminatory treatment by insurers. In fact, the law bans insurance companies from its current practice of charging women higher premiums for the same coverage as men, and forbids insurers from listing pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, which was often used by some providers as an excuse to deny coverage.
Several media outlets have distorted comments by an EPA official, falsely suggesting that he said "oil companies should be crucified." In fact, the official was using an analogy, which he has since apologized for, to describe a common approach to regulatory enforcement: making examples out of those who break the law.
Fox News and other conservative media have promoted a video that suggests environmental regulations will cause "America to fail." But the video, created by a conservative group with a history of ethical problems, makes many misleading claims including denying global warming.
From the April 26 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the April 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Right-wing media are claiming that a Republican "war on women" is "phony" and "invented" by the left to distract attention from issues such as the economy and gas prices. But Republicans throughout the country have indeed pushed a plethora of legislation during the past few years that would result in limiting women's reproductive rights, access to health care access, and access to equal pay; moreover, right-wing media themselves launched a bullying campaign against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke after she testified in favor of expanded contraception coverage.
Right-wing media figures are exalting Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith for his demand that the Department of Justice explain comments President Obama made about the Supreme Court's review of the health care reform law. However, legal scholars argue that the judge's request was "highly inappropriate" and "uncommonly silly."
From the April 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Person-who-is-employed-by-CNN Dana Loesch seems to think she's discovered evidence of "voter fraud" and caught Media Matters in a "FAIL," per the online parlance.
Pointing to reports four Democratic officials in Indiana have been charged with "forging of Democratic presidential primary petitions in the 2008 election," Loesch writes that this October 2011 Media Matters blog post explaining how those allegations of petition fraud were not "voter fraud" was somehow incorrect -- the "fail" declaimed by the headline. Our reasoning at the time for claiming that "petition fraud" and "voter fraud" are two different things was that they're actually two different things, much in the same way an apple is not an orange, nor a bicycle a sledgehammer.
Here's what we said at the time: "The alleged crimes are serious and should be investigated and any perpetrators punished. But the alleged crimes are not voter fraud, no matter how much Fox wants them to be."
As of yesterday, those Democrats have been charged with petition fraud, which is still not voter fraud.
This is getting confusing.
In the wake of Rush's Limbaugh's nasty, sustained attack on Sandra Fluke, one of the responses from the right-wing media was to engage in a game of equivalence. Rather than unequivocally condemn Limbaugh's ugly behavior, conservatives insisted that liberals were even worse in terms of their sexist behavior and that there was a so-called War on Conservative Women that the press was ignoring.
Setting aside the insanely offensive and debasing right-wing comments that have been made about prominent Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama, conservatives produced long lists of previous insults directed at prominent conservatives and claimed they were the same as Limbaugh spending three days on his nationally syndicated radio show insulting a law student nearly 50 times.
They were not.
Now however, the so-called War On Conservative Women seems to have expanded to encompass any comments that are critical of Sarah Palin. At least according to top cop Michelle Malkin, who recently ticketed right-wing columnist Ann Coulter.
Coulter had the nerve to referr to Palin as a "novelty candidate" and insisted she would do damage to the Republican Party if she somehow ended up on the November ticket. Coulter's comments ran afoul of the conservative PC police.
Sometimes, the war on conservative women isn't just being waged by the Left. This is a form of political fragging. Shame.
So attention far-right commentators, including women. If you dare criticize Sarah Palin you will be called out for waging War on Conservative Women.
Right-wing media have attacked President Obama for his recent comments about shooting victim Trayvon Martin and his family, accusing Obama of "inject[ing]" himself into the debate using "racial code" and claiming that his statement is evidence that "he's got it in for this country."
Addressing the unfolding story of an unarmed, 17-year-old Florida teen recently killed by a neighborhood watch activist who has not been charged with a crime, Fox News host Jon Scott recently wondered out loud whether the Trayvon Martin case really deserved the national media attention it was receiving. While Fox colleague Jim Pinkerton explained that the coverage stemmed from the fact that the press is "always interested in the cute child that gets murdered" and the "black victim of racism," Scott's query captured the larger Fox News feeling about the mushrooming Martin report, which was to view the story with a mixture of uncertainty and bafflement.
It seemed the Martin story simply did not fit the right-wing's preferred narrative about guns and minorities and how white America is allegedly under physical assault from Obama's violent African-American base. Or, as Rush Limbaugh famously put it, "[I]n Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering."
The conservative media have spent the last three years utterly obsessed with the topic of race in America, but only when they can frame that issue dishonestly; only when conservatives can use news events for race baiting purposes. So as the Martin story morphed into a national conversation about race and guns and the law, many conservative media voices remained silent early on. (A silence later replaced by attempts to smear the young victim.)
For a snapshot, TVeyes.com indicates that between March 15 and 25, "Trayvon Martin" was mentioned nearly 500 times on CNN, 350 times on MSNBC, but less than 100 times on Fox News. Through the end of last week, for instance, Fox's late afternoon round table discussion show, The Five, had never discussed the Martin shooting, according to a Nexis review.
Last week on Bill O'Reilly's primetime show there were more on-air mentions of "Media Matters" than there were "Trayvon Martin." O'Reilly devoted a Talking Points Memo segment to each.
And when Fox News did wade into the controversy last week the results were somewhat disastrous, like when Geraldo Rivera suggested it was the sweatshirt hoodie the Florida teen was wearing that was responsible for his death; a comment that was widely ridiculed. (His later suggestion that Martin was dressed like a "wannabe gangster" didn't help matters.)
Fox's initial muted response, especially from it's nighttime opinion shows, stood in stark contrast to the channel's previous cheerleading for the "Stand Your Ground" law, which remains at the center of the Martin controversy. Backed by gun advocates, the Florida law puts the burden on prosecutors to disprove claims of self-defense from shooters who use deadly force. When the law was passed in 2005, critics warned about looming citizen confrontations like the one that ended Martin's life.
Yet rather than vigorously defend the law in the wake of the teen's killing, and rather than offering up coherent analysis of the story, Fox opinion makers mostly preferred to look away, reluctant to engage in the debate. Perhaps, as Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab wrote last week, that's because "There is no good way for gun proponents to spin the death of an unarmed teenager."
Without Fox News to show the way, much of the conservative press seemed adrift and unsure with how to proceed last week.
Right-wing media criticized U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for declining to deport six undocumented students who were arrested while participating in a non-violent protest against the immigration policies of controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. However, ICE has limited resources and determined that the students did not fall under its enforcement priorities, which focus on "national security, public safety, and border security."