Media outlets including NPR and Fox News are targeting federal disability benefits programs through a campaign deceptively portraying these programs as wasteful and unsustainable. In reality, these programs have low fraud rates and help the rising number of Americans with severe disabilities survive when they are unable to work.
Prefacing his comments by insisting he knows "how foreign affairs work," Glenn Beck on April 18 announced that his website, The Blaze, was breaking news about the Boston Marathon bombing: A Saudi national student on a student visa and was "absolutely involved" in the Patriot's Day blast was being deported by the U.S. government for security reasons.
Beck went further, claiming the student, or "dirt bag," as the host described him, was "possibly the ringleader" in the bombing that killed three people and injured more than one hundred, and the government was deliberately covering it up.
Beck urged listeners to spread the breaking news via Twitter and Facebook because, he warned, the mainstream media would ignore the revelation. But the right-wing media would pick up the slack. Fox News' Sean Hannity helped launch the story on April 17 and continued to fan it yesterday, claiming the student had previously "been involved with a terrorist or terror activity," while a swarm of right-wing sites pushed the paranoid tale.
By making his wild allegations, Beck was asking listeners to ignore the fact that law enforcement officials had previously, and repeatedly, denied earlier right-wing media claims that the Saudi student had been taken into "custody," or was in any way responsible for the blast.
Indeed, officials at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security both soundly denied the story, explaining that there were two different Saudi nationals: one recovering in a Boston hospital who had witnessed and been injured in the explosions but was not a suspect, and another in ICE custody who was unrelated to the bombing investigation. Beck responded by calling for President Obama to be impeached for what he considered the sprawling government cover-up that now surrounded the student, Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda.
So yeah, it was that kind of week for the right-wing media. It was a debacle.
In the same week that Pulitzer prizes were announced honoring the finest in American journalism, many in the far-right media worked to set news standards in mindless, awful behavior in the wake of the Boston attack.
Faced with covering the most important American terror news story in a decade, too many players opted to just make stuff up. Prompting witch hunts, they cast innocents as would-be killers and then couldn't be bothered with apologies.
The New York Post has seen three of its supposed scoops about the Boston Marathon bombing fall apart this week. Nonetheless, their editor is unrepentant, lashing out at critics and claiming a "crystal ball" would have been necessary for the paper to publish accurate information.
In a widely criticized move, the April 18 Post front page featured the headline "Bag Men: Feds seek this duo pictured at Boston Marathon" along with a photo of two men holding bags at the event. The article reported that investigators had been "circulating photos of two men spotted chatting near the packed finish line" and also that officials "have identified two potential suspects who were captured on surveillance videos." The Post added that "it was not immediately clear if the men in the law-enforcement photos are the same men in the surveillance videos."
The paper later reported in an online story that the two men they had featured on their front page had been "cleared."
In an email to Media Matters, Post editor Col Allan claimed that when the photo was published this morning, the article stated that the FBI was only emailing the photo to other law enforcement officials and noted "there is no direct evidence linking them to the crime."
"With regard to today's front page emails containing images of the two young men were sent to law enforcement offices, federal and state, at 3pm yesterday seeking information about them," Allan said in an e-mail. "I have a copy of one of those emails sent to a regional office of the FBI. At no point did the Post state they were 'suspects.' Today it is clear they were not involved ... had you loaned us your powerful crystal ball we would have known this before the presses ran."
But, asked specifically if placing the photos on Page One was misleading because it gave the appearance the men were somehow involved, Allan stated via email:
"Common sense would suggest if the FBI emailed pictures of these men standing around the Boston marathon to law enforcement offices asking for information about them it might be newsworthy. We made no judgment about the men. We simply reported the facts. Their photos were emailed by the feds. Information about them was sought. If it is your idea that we or anyone else in the media wait until the complete truth is clear then there is little need for journalists. Only historians. "
Allan also claimed that a previous incorrect Post report on Monday, that 12 people had died in the bombing -- which has yet to be corrected - was also not the paper's fault.
"Our sources were federal authorities who have been reliable in the past," he wrote. "In this event, they and thus we, were wrong. Later Monday our reporting online and in Tuesday's paper accurately reflected the official toll...give your crystal ball a good hard polish and drop it over sometime."
The day of the bombing, the Post also reported that a Saudi national student had been "taken into custody" and was considered a "suspect." That student was also cleared of involvement. In response to questions about that story also falling apart, Allan claimed that "The Post said a Saudi student WAS detained in hospital after the bomb blast. He was not free to go. at 2 am the following morning the federal bureau of investigation raided his flat and took away several bags of material. The next day the authorities stated he was co--operating and not considered a suspect. The post would have required one of your hindsight crystal balls to have known this."
Right before noon on April 16, the New York Post quietly surrendered and conceded its big scoop from the previous day, that 12 people had been killed by the Patriot's Day terrorist attack in Boston, could no longer be sustained.
The concession didn't come in the form of a correction or a clarification. (Rupert Murdoch's money-losing daily rarely bothers with such newsroom niceties). It simply appeared in a news story posted on the daily's website at 11:55 a.m., where any reference to 12 Boston victims was quietly dropped [emphasis added]:
The twin blasts killed at least three people and injured 176 -- including 17 in critical condition, authorities said today.
Four hours later, the Post reaffirmed that it had flushed its big scoop down the memory hole [emphasis added]:
A 29-year-old restaurant manager from suburban Boston and an 8-year-old boy from the city's Dorchester neighborhood were identified today as two of the three people killed in the Boston Marathon bombings.
But that wasn't all.
Right around 3 p.m. on April 16, the Post quietly conceded its other big scoop from the day before was wrong; its claim that a Saudi national student had been taken "into custody" by police, was tagged a "suspect". ("Suspect" was later amended to a "potential suspect.) That second embarrassing concession was announced on the daily's twitter feed:
Investigators rule out Saudi national as a suspect in Boston bombing after searching his apartment nyp.st/Zougoy-- New York Post (@nypost) April 16, 2013
It's not the most pressing question to ponder in the wake of the carnage that exploded in Boston, as authorities search for those responsible. But in terms of journalism and ethics and common sense, the Post's performance does make you wonder how a news organization, and even one owned by Rupert Murdoch, manages to get a story that wrong?
I understand it's the notoriously deceitful New York Post we're talking about. It's one thing to make stuff up about Democrats on behalf of the RNC while the Post proudly plays its role as cog in the Republican Noise Machine. But to completely botch, and so publicly, botch one of the biggest crime story in years?
If there's anything the Post, as a proud big-city tabloid, is supposed to be good at, it's big crime stories; working cop sources as well as sources buried deep inside the FBI and the federal government. The Post is supposed to be wired all across law enforcement, even if the breaking story unfolds in Boston.
So this debacle is bad; really bad. Even for the New York Post.
Conservative media critics have been adamant this week in accusing news organizations of ignoring the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is charged with killing seven babies and a mother. According to the grand jury report, Gosnell was running a "house of horrors" in which he performed illegal late-term abortions by delivering live babies who were then killed by his staff, all under unsafe conditions. Convinced the liberal media is censoring the story because of its alleged support for abortion, critics have been lamenting the lack of coverage and demanding the disturbing local trial be treated as big national news.
On Fox News' Special Report yesterday, contributor Jonah Goldberg complained that "the media is not covering" the story. Fox News employee Kirsten Powers penned a USA Today column criticizing the country's leading newspapers for not putting the Gosnell story on "the front page." (Powers singled out the New York Times and the Washington Post for allegedly downplaying the Philadelphia trial.)
And on Thursday, Rupert Murdoch's flagship American newspaper, The New York Post, weighed in with an unsigned editorial, "Dead Silence," which condemned the supposed "media blackout" surrounding the story.
Like most of the conservative attacks, the Post's editorial saw a clear case of media bias [emphasis added]:
The trial is receiving intensive coverage in Philadelphia and across the conservative press and Web sites. But national networks and newspapers? Not so much.
The reason seems obvious: Much of our press corps skews to one side on abortion. So even though what Gosnell is charged with is closer to infanticide - an unlicensed abortionist profiting mightily by killing the newborn babies of poor, minority women - somehow it's not news.
Isn't that a scandal, too?
Here's the thing: Up until Thursday's editorial condemning the so-called liberal media for not covering the Gosnell trial, the New York Post hadn't covered the Gosnell trial. Not only hadn't the Post put the story on its front page, where Powers demanded it belonged, but Murdoch's Post hadn't covered the story at all*. Meaning, the Post had been part of the media "silence" surrounding the story; the same silence the Post yesterday condemned.
Note that Murdoch's Wall Street Journal also has not covered the Gosnell trial, according a search of the paper's archives, via the Factiva database.
Fox News figures claimed the U.S. should emulate the United Kingdom by slashing funding to federal disability programs and changing eligibility requirements, despite the fact that U.S. eligibility requirements are already stringent, that the new U.K. benefits tests were largely overturned on appeal, and that research shows changes to disability programs in the U.K. will force thousands of individuals with disabilities into poverty.
The New York Post used three examples of anti-discrimination law violations to scapegoat marriage equality as an infringement upon religious freedom.
In a Tuesday editorial, the Post suggested that marriage equality might undermine religious freedom by highlighting instances where religious institutions supposedly had to violate their beliefs in order to accommodate same-sex couples. From the Post:
The answer is that without clear conscience protections, we will see more religious institutions and individual citizens forced to violate their beliefs or be driven off the public square because their moral views have been deemed officially bigoted.
These fears are not hypothetical. In New York, Yeshiva University was forced to accept same-sex couples in its dorms for married students. In New Jersey, a Methodist association was sued after it would not allow a lesbian couple to use its boardwalk pavilion for a civil union ceremony. In Boston, the Catholic church was forced to get out of adoption because it would not place children with same-sex couples. Without clear conscience protections, we will see more, on everything from access to government facilities to licensing or accreditation.
All of these examples, however, resulted from violations of non-discrimination laws. Yeshiva University was sued on the basis that its housing policy for married couples discriminated against gay and lesbian students who at the time were denied the right to marry. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, only Yeshiva's rabbinical school is religious while the rest of the university is "a secular institution open to students of all religions." The New York Court of Appeals found that Yeshiva's policy was a threat to New York's discrimination laws because its policy of providing housing to married couples had a "disparate impact on homosexual students, because they cannot marry and thus cannot live with their partners in student housing."
The Post's second example is equally as irrelevant to marriage equality. The New Jersey Methodist Church was found to have violated the state's Law Against Discrimination when it refused to allow a same-sex couple to celebrate their civil union in a pavilion owned by the church. In doing so, the church violated the requirements of their "Green Acres" program tax exempt status. One condition of the "Green Acres" tax exemption was that a pavilion the Methodist church owned was to remain "open to the public on an equal basis." Though the church lost its tax exempt status under the "Green Acres" program, it was able to replace its "Green Acres" tax exemption with a similar religious exemption, which allowed the church to continue engaging in discriminatory practices. Currently, New Jersey does not have a marriage equality law.
Finally, the Catholic Charities of Boston were not forced out of facilitating adoptions but instead voluntarily stopped providing public adoption services after Massachusetts' four Catholic Bishops found out that gay parents had been adopting children through the service. The Catholic Charities were free to continue discriminating against same-sex couples in private adoptions, but doing so in public adoptions would have violated a 1989 anti-discrimination law because they received public funds. Even the former board chairman of the Catholic Charities, Peter Meade, spoke out against a Maine anti-equality organization's attempt to paint the Catholic Charities case a violation of religious freedom.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott claimed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) "dropped over 94 percent" of instances where an individual failed a criminal background check "after preliminary reviews" in order to discount accurate claims that the background check system has stopped over a million prohibited individuals from obtaining a firearm.
Lott's claim is a willful distortion of how the federal background check system works: once an individual is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) no gun sale occurs, regardless of whether the ATF takes further action.
On to [Senator Chuck] Schumer's second falsehood -- the claim that checks have stopped 1.7 million prohibited sales. In fact, these were only "initial denials," not people prevented from buying guns.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dropped over 94 percent of those "initial denials" after preliminary reviews. Further review cleared at least a fifth of the other 6 percent.
Lott would have his audience believe that because ATF does not take further action after most denials that the background check system did not actually stop "1.7 million prohibited sales." This claim is blatantly false as a denial means that the sale cannot be completed.
Right-wing media figures distorted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's congressional testimony to attack President Obama over the response to the terror attack on the Benghazi consulate. In fact, Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey explained that the attack occurred in two waves separated by large blocks of time, and White House officials were engaged with military throughout the incident.
The New York Post reacted to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's January 23 congressional testimony with a front page photograph of a supposedly angry Clinton and the headline, "NO WONDER BILL'S AFRAID." The tabloid quickly drew criticism, with writers calling the cover "blatantly sexist," and "offensive sexist garbage." The Post however found a fan with fellow News Corp. employee and Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.
Speaking on Allman in the Morning, Wallace expressed amusement at the cover, telling host Jamie Allman: "Let me tell you -- you probably haven't seen it, the front page, the big front page of The New York Post today is a picture of her looking, screaming during her answer, and the headline is, 'No Wonder Bill's Afraid.'" A laughing Allman replied: "I don't know, that's not very nice." Wallace responded: "Well no, but it's funny" and "nice can be overrated sometimes."
Listen to Wallace's comments from the January 24 edition of KFTK's Allman in the Morning:
The Post is one of several conservative outlets and figures to push sexist attacks in response to Clinton and the Benghazi attacks. In his January 24 Washington Times column, Wesley Pruden similarly tied Clinton's supposedly "angry and combative" testimony to discredited rumors about her alleged interactions with President Clinton in the White House.
Media coverage of the debt ceiling frequently claims that raising the limit without simultaneous spending cuts would give President Obama a "blank check," repeating a pattern of promoting this false narrative -- or failing to correct it -- that occurred during the unprecedented brinkmanship of 2011. The phrase implies that the debt ceiling governs additional spending desired by the White House, when in fact it is a restriction on the executive branch's ability to borrow money to pay for spending measures already enacted by Congress.
Matt Drudge, Fox News, and The New York Post misrepresented the content of a bill to provide federal aid for the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in order to claim the bill is a "scam" that is "filled with holiday goodies unrelated to storm damage." In fact, less than 0.3 percent of the spending identified is unrelated to Sandy, and that spending is largely allocated to separate disasters.
The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on Monday on a $60.4 billion bill that provides funding for the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy. Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his Democratic colleagues in New York and Connecticut, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Dannel Malloy, have endorsed a bill of this size, but some congressional Republicans have reportedly balked at the bill, saying it is too large or that its spending should be offset by spending cuts in other areas.
Drudge hyped a New York Post article claiming the bill is "filled with holiday goodies unrelated to storm damage." Fox News Fox & Friends aired a graphic titled "Sandy Scam," which listing six spending items:
Aside from money for fisheries, which represents about 0.2 percent of the spending in the bill, the White House has said that each of the items identified by Fox and the Post -- $42 million for U.S. military bases, including the base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, $5.2 million for the Justice Department, $4 million for the Kennedy Space Center, $3.5 million for Homeland Security, and $2 million for the Smithsonian Institution in DC -- is directly related to Sandy. The fisheries money is slated to provide aid in wake of other disasters.
Following renewed interest in a proposal to raise the minimum wage in New York, the New York Post attacked the measure as a job killer, despite significant research indicating no substantial link between job losses and wage increases. In fact, studies show the proposed minimum wage increase would benefit New York workers.
Democrats have been seeking a 17% hike in the minimum wage, to $8.50 from $7.25, for a while. [Republican Senator Dean] Skelos and his fellow Republicans, who've controlled the Senate for the past two years, have blocked it.
Yet on Tuesday, the [National Federation of Independent Business] painted a sobering picture of what such a hike would do: Besides killing 22,000 jobs, some $2.5 billion in economic output would vaporize.
"Raising the minimum wage," said Mike Durant, the NFIB's New York director, "will affect the smallest businesses that can least afford higher labor costs, and they'll respond by finding ways to reduce or limit the number of jobs they create."
Depending on inflation, the group says, costs for entry-level workers would soar by as much as 66% by 2022 -- "more than many small businesses can handle."
Some 70% of the lost jobs would come from small businesses, the very engine of job creation.
The Post's assertion that small businesses would be most affected is dubious. Most workers in New York who make minimum wage are employed by larger chains, not by small businesses. According to testimony by National Employment Law Project Staff Attorney Tsedeye Gebreselassie:
Despite misconceptions, the majority of low-wage workers are, in fact, employed by large chains, not small mom-and-pop businesses. Two-thirds of all employees work in firms of at least 100 workers (and half of all employees work in firms with more than 500 workers).
In addition, the larger companies are already paying their workers less and are therefore likely to have to increase wages for their employees in light of a new minimum wage policy. A Fiscal Policy Institute study found that New York retail employers with over 500 workers paid their workers 25 percent less on average than smaller retail employers. As for the claim of massive job losses, another study by the Fiscal Policy Institute found that job growth for small businesses actually grew faster in states with higher minimum wages.
In fact, numerous studies have shown that historically, unemployment is not linked to an increase in minimum wage. A Fiscal Policy Institute study conducted after New York increased their minimum wage in 2004 found that over the next three years, "total employment in the state [had] grown by 3.0 percent." A National Employment Law Project study found that even during times of economic downturn, increases in the minimum wage did not lead to job losses among teens -- part of a group of people the Post has previously targeted as being most affected by a minimum wage increase.
Despite the fearmongering over job losses and slowed economic output, a minimum wage increase would actually have a substantial positive impact on New York workers. Raising the minimum wage would benefit about one million workers in the state, which is just over 11 percent of all New York workers. In addition, it would bring its minimum wage closer to other states in the Northeast such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont -- all which have a higher minimum wage than New York.
Unfortunately, this attack on minimum wage is not new for the Post. Earlier this year the Post editorial board wrote a similarly misinformed piece about minimum wage increases in New York.
In the wake of President Obama's re-election, right-wing media outlets and figures compared the president to a dictator, called for a revolution, and baselessly suggested impeachment.