Rush Limbaugh

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  • Another Muslim Brotherhood Conspiracy Theorist Becomes A Trump Adviser

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is now advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, adding to the list of Trump influencers who have peddled the right-wing media conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is a “Muslim Brotherhood” operative. Bachmann, who formally requested a federal investigation into Abedin and others in the federal government, joins conspiracy theory-spouting Trump associates Stephen Bannon, Sean Hannity, and Roger Stone.

  • Right-Wing Media: “Lesbian And Transgender Hillbillies” Are The Latest Threat to Conservatism

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Right-wing media attacked the Iowa LGBT Rural Summit as possibly the “dumbest” “waste” of taxpayer money to date. Conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh even suggested the summit was a “scam” by the “Obama regime” to “bust up” conservative voting areas of the country by convincing lesbians to become farmers with government subsidies. Iowa’s summit, which was held on August 18, was the 15th in the nationwide LGBT Rural Summit Series, which aims to share information to protect and strengthen LGBT communities in rural areas. 

  • TheBlaze Used Simone Biles’ Olympic Victories To Push A Right-Wing Myth About Abortion

    TheBlaze's Matt Walsh: "Planned Parenthood Has Centered Its Entire Business Around Killing Babies Like Simone Biles"

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Glenn Beck's conservative news site TheBlaze published a column using U.S. Olympic medalist Simone Biles’ background and success to prop up a conservative fringe talking point alleging Planned Parenthood “specializes in killing humans just like Simone,” from low-income, often black and brown communities.

    At the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Simone Biles led the United States gymnastics team to a gold medal before securing multiple individual accolades.

    After Biles’ historic performance, TheBlaze’s Matt Walsh used her family history as an adopted child and her subsequent success as evidence that abortion was “a devastating tragedy” perpetrated by Planned Parenthood disproportionately against black women.

    According to Walsh, “if Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry had their way, she would have never made it to the podium … seen the light of day … [and] wouldn’t even have a name, let alone Olympic gold medals.” He argued that Biles’ success was in opposition to the efforts of Planned Parenthood to target “single black women” and predominately operate clinics in economically disadvantaged communities. Walsh further lauded Biles’ adoptive parents and said without their intervention Biles “would be one of the untold million … decomposing in a medical waste dumpster behind an inner city abortion clinic.”

    Walsh’s argument echoed a frequent right-wing media attack on Planned Parenthood and its role as an essential provider in underserved communities.

    For example, Fox News commentator and Donald Trump surrogate Dr. Ben Carson has claimed that Planned Parenthood engages in racist population control by placing “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods.”

    Similarly, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has claimed that “the original goal of Planned Parenthood was to abort various minorities out of existence.” Limbaugh has even alleged that “Planned Parenthood [is] doing the job the [Klu Klux] Klan could never finish” and that supporters of the organization support the abortion of “60 percent of black babies.”

    In his August 15 article, Walsh went a step further and hijacked Biles’ Olympic success as a platform to spread similar misinformation about Planned Parenthood:

    Reports have confirmed that the abortion conglomerate specifically targets poor black babies for extermination. Granted, this is probably more a marketing decision than racism. Planned Parenthood concentrates its abortion enterprise in poor areas with heavy minority populations simply because it knows it can make a fast buck off of scared and desperate women like Simone’s mother. Planned Parenthood has centered its entire business around killing babies like Simone Biles.

    [...]

    It’s very fortunate that Simone’s life was not vacuumed away before she had the opportunity to show us what incredible things she could do with it. If only the 50 million other babies the abortion industry has stolen from the world had been given the same opportunity. Think of how much brighter the world might be.

    Despite Walsh’s bombast, the evidence to support his attack is lacking.

    According to a recent Guttmacher Institute fact sheet, women of color do experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and more frequently elect to abort. Think Progress’ Kira Lerner explained these numbers simply reflect “the difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively.” Lerner noted black women also experience a “racial disparity … for other health measures including rates of diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.”

    In an earlier fact check of “the claim that most abortion providers are located in black or Hispanic neighborhoods” Guttmacher found the argument demonstrably false as “6 in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-white neighborhoods.”

    Walsh wrote that Planned Parenthood is “not in the business of supporting and helping the Simones of the world” because it was “murdering them” through abortion. Groups representing women of color and reproductive rights advocates have strongly rejected this specious claim.

    In reality, women of color are left particularly vulnerable and without a health care provider when Planned Parenthood clinics are forced out of communities. As Planned Parenthood’s associate director of global communications noted, “Planned Parenthood is often the primary health care provider for Latinos and African Americans in this country.” In 2015, the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda reported that “black women have more than double the unintended pregnancy rate of white women,” which is particularly concerning given “the risk of death from pregnancy complications was nearly three and a half times higher for Black women than for white women.”

    NARAL board member Renee Bracey Sherman wrote after the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby -- which enabled certain employers to deny contraception coverage benefits to their employees -- that because of these higher rates of unintended pregnancy and maternal mortality, “when employers deny access to birth control, they are actually putting Black women’s lives in danger.”

    Despite this, anti-choice groups have long attempted to curtail access to necessary reproductive health services by attacking Planned Parenthood and women of color who rely on the health care provider. For example, clinic escort Pearl Brady told Vox that protestors outside abortion clinics “often target young women of color” by shouting things like “Black babies’ lives matter” even if a woman is seeking care “for birth control or an STI screening rather than an abortion.” Other anti-choice groups like the Radiance Foundation have run entire campaigns arguing that Planned Parenthood is “the number one killer of black Americans.”

    Aside from the lack of evidence to support such arguments, Rewire’s Imani Gandy summarized how positions like Walsh’s shame and ignore the experiences of black women and mothers:

    To put it bluntly, this country was a hostile birthing environment for Black women during slavery, and remains so for many Black women today. But rather than take steps to make it easier for women to have and raise children, the anti-choice community simply grows more extreme and ridiculous in their rhetoric, and dials up to 11 its efforts to shame and demonize Black women.

    Anti-choicers clutch their collective pearls about the high rate of abortion in the Black community, but have no interest in talking about the root cause of that abortion rate. Anti-choice advocates, conservatives in particular, don’t want to talk about the never-ending war they are waging against contraception access; comprehensive sexual education; and social programs like public assistance, food benefits, health care, sex education, and fair pay that would permit Black women to not only choose motherhood when the time is right for them, but also to raise healthy children.

  • New Book Explains Media’s Role In Today’s Toxic State Of Public Discourse

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Why is it so hard to create meaningful action on climate change? Discussion about global warming -- and many other critical issues -- has become “polluted” by toxic rhetoric, argues author and public relations specialist James Hoggan, which in turn “discourage[s] people from taking action.” In his new book, I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How To Clean it Up, Hoggan examines why and how the public sphere has become “polluted” by “polarized rhetoric, propaganda and miscommunication,” and offers advice on how to clean it up.

    In discussions with dozens of scholars and thought leaders, from NASA scientists to the 14th Dalai Lama, Hoggan details several factors that have degraded rhetoric around important political issues. Here are four ways that conservative media have played a key role:

    Right-Wing Tactic #1: Use Ad Hominem Attacks To Damage Credibility Of Advocates, Scientists

    Because science is not on the side of those who oppose acting on climate change, it is much easier for climate science deniers to vilify their opponents than to address the actual issue. Sociology professor Alex Himelfarb pointed out to Hoggan that there is an “increasing and effective use of a classic rhetorical ploy called ad hominem -- where attacks are aimed at a person’s character, not their line of reasoning,” a ploy that is frequently used against climate advocates.

    Media Matters has documented this tactic countless times on Fox News and other right-wing media, where pundits have attempted to smear climate scientists as corrupted by money, falsely claimed the Paris climate conference had a large carbon footprint to paint its participants as hypocrites, and frequently mocked prominent climate activists Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore.

    As Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley explained to Hoggan, deniers “attack and undermine [their] opponents’ integrity while making them appear to have a vested interest” simply because they “can’t rely on [their] own credibility” and “the facts aren’t on [their] side.”

    Right-Wing Tactic #2: Change The Frame -- Or Create A False One

    Conceptual frameworks “permeate everything we think and say, so the people who control language and set its frames have an inordinate amount of power,” argues Hoggan. He spoke with linguistics professor George Lakoff, who noted that “if you do a bad job of framing your story, someone else will likely do it for you.” Hoggan also spoke with social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who noted that he heard right-wing radio host Glenn Beck say, “Climate change is not about the environment; it’s about control.” In this case, Beck re-framed the discussion about climate change action to be about empowering “the nanny state,” according to Haidt, who added that Beck “very skillfully pushed certain moral buttons that sowed profound doubt.”

    As a case study, Hoggan pointed to the manufactured “Climategate” controversy, an “international campaign to discredit scientists” before the landmark international climate change summit in Copenhagen, according to DeSmogBlog. Fox News had a heavy hand in amplifying the phony controversy, even after official investigations proved -- six times over -- that there was no wrongdoing.

    Hoggan wrote that he was “astonished to see how a group of legitimate climate scientists, with stacks of peer-reviewed evidence on their side, could lose debates to a group of people who had none -- all because of a lens created by mischief-makers.” But he noted that the scientific facts in this controversy were complicated, and the public was not equipped to analyze them on their face. Thus, “Climategate was a battle of frames versus facts, and the frames won.”

    Right-Wing Tactic #3: Silence -- And Erode Trust In -- Mainstream Media

    According to Yale professor Stanley, who wrote the book How Propaganda Works, right-wing media are less interested in reporting “accurate, well-researched stories” and more interested in “broadcasting noise so that it becomes difficult to hear the truth.” Stanley called out Fox News in particular, stating that its “fair and balanced” slogan is not only false, but intentionally so:

    Fox engages in a kind of silencing tactic when describing itself as “fair and balanced,” especially to an audience that is perfectly aware that it is neither. The effect is to suggest there is no possibility of balanced news, only propaganda; this results in a silencing of all news sources by suggesting everyone is grossly insincere.

    The complex science behind global warming, and the huge scale of actions needed to address it, can defy easy description -- a fact that conservative media often exploit. Hoggan cited psychologist and author of State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind Bryant Welch, who noted that in response to confusion, an “authoritative person who takes command -- ‘think of Fox News or Rush Limbaugh’ -- and spews strong feelings with absolutely certainty is appealing to a beleaguered mind.”

    Welch has written about “gaslighting” -- the process of manipulating someone into questioning their sense of reality -- and he explained to Hoggan that the tactic is commonplace on Fox News. When “people begin to doubt their own perceptions and observations,” they “become less rational, less capable of thinking for themselves,” and “more and more beholden to Fox News.”

    Right-Wing Tactic #4: Make The Challenge Of Addressing Climate Change Seem Impossible

    The easiest way to inhibit progress on climate change is to make it seem impossible, argues Hoggan -- to promote the “do-nothing stance.” He explains that to take action “requires an anti-gravity position, which is so-called because it takes energy, hard work and a real sense of the common good.” He said deniers “don’t have to convince the public that climate change isn’t real,” but instead can “exaggerat[e] the hazards of solutions to make them seem unbelievably risky.”

    This tactic is common among fossil fuel front groups, which have employed baseless fearmongering and false attacks to attack key climate actions over and over -- and too often, conservative media take the bait, as Media Matters has documented. Dozens of front groups have attacked the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, and many of these groups published bunk studies and reports falsely claiming that the landmark carbon pollution rule would hurt consumers or harm the economy (it won't). Conservative media also targeted a barrage of misleading attacks at the Paris climate agreement reached by 195 countries in December and recycled many of these attacks on Earth Day. This rhetoric has also made its way into mainstream media, with prominent Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson brazenly declaring that "we have no solution" for addressing climate change.

    Hoggan argues that conversations about climate change should not focus solely on the negative, because doing so can lead to paralysis. Correspondingly, his book includes positive suggestions for the media to help improve public discourse and create “healthier dialogue” that moves people forward instead of exacerbating conflicts and creating divisions.

    Here are some of his suggestions for media:

    Tell More Positive Stories

    A Rutgers University study once found that The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times both frame climate action as ineffective more often than effective. Yet Hoggan argues that barraging people with facts about climate change that evoke feelings of fear and guilt is not going to inspire action. Instead, he writes, it is time to “build hope instead of fear, empathy instead of alienation, people’s sense of self-worth rather than their sense of inadequacy.” Harvard professor Marshall Ganz explained to Hoggan that stories that offer hope can become “an emotional dialogue that speaks about deeply held values, about an inspired future that is hopeful and steeped in those values.” Hoggan also explained:

    Environmentalists must explain why every previous generation did what was necessary to secure the infrastructure and climate for people to succeed, and emphasize this generation’s obligation to do the same.

    Studies have shown that while negative stories about climate change can turn readers into cynics, stories about successful political activism and individual actions can generate enthusiasm.

    Disclose Special Interests Behind Front Groups

    People need to know where most of the climate misinformation is coming from: fossil fuel corporations that want to protect their bottom line. As Hoggan pointed out, corporations are “furiously focused on creating shareholder value,” meaning “they can and must act in the interest of their shareholders.” And when something threatens their license to operate -- such as the knowledge that fossil fuels are disastrously changing the climate -- these big businesses are “motivated to become skilled at propaganda.”

    That’s why it’s so important to disclose the fossil fuel funding behind front groups that claim to represent the best interest of citizens. It’s also why corporations work so hard to hide their support for these groups, through “astroturfing” -- creating fake grass-roots groups that Hoggan says “makes it almost impossible to distinguish between a legitimate groundswell and manufactured opinion.”

    As a case in point, Hoggan details the “ethical oil” PR campaign, when oil companies used the front group EthicalOil.org to rebrand dirty tar sands oil in Canada as “ethical” and tar sands opponents as “foreign-funded radicals.” He also pointed out other industry-funded front groups, including Citizens for a Sound Economy, which pushed the myth of “clean coal.” In fact, there are dozens of fossil fuel industry front groups that are currently attacking environmental protections in the United States, but their industry ties often go unmentioned.

    Invite Scientists To Discuss Climate Change

    Media Matters analyses have shown that when discussing climate change, broadcast news networks have turned to politicians and media figures far more often than scientists. This may be why French scientist Bruno Latour argues that scientists should get more involved in the public debate about climate change -- “to stand up and fight, with full disclosure, full respect, scrupulous honesty, honoring of the democratic process.” As Hoggan explained:

    We have long passed the point where we can talk about a fight between good, clean science and science that has been sullied and distorted by personal and public interests.

    [...]

    We need scientists to become more political because pure evidence -- facts, figures and flow charts -- cannot form an adequate basis for public debate. Why? Primarily because public is not equipped to get to the bottom of such a discussion or analyze all these facts.

    There is much more to examine in the book, from pundits repeating false myths over and over to the Dalai Lama’s appeal for “warm-heartedness.” Improving public discourse begins with expanding knowledge, and reading I’m Right and You’re an Idiot is a good first step.

  • Myths & Facts: $400 Million Payment To Iran

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are distorting a new report in The Wall Street Journal detailing a payment of $400 million from the United States government to the Iranian government to resolve an arms sale dispute dating to 1981. Conservative outlets are suggesting the payment “was definitely ransom” paid for American prisoners held in Iran, claiming “the administration did not reveal this to the public,” suggesting that Hillary Clinton was wrong to say the report is “old news,” and that airlifting cash to make the payment was essentially “money laundering.” But past reporting and explanations from the administration reveal “no concrete evidence that the cash payment was, in fact, a ransom,” that many of the details of the payments were made public in January, Clinton correctly noted the payment has been public for “seven or eight months,” and making the payment in cash was the only way to legally do it due to economic sanctions against Iran.

  • Right-Wing Media Distort WSJ Article To Claim Obama Administration Made Secret Payment To Iran

    The Obama Administration Announced Fund Transfer For Settlement Over Abandoned Arms Deal In January

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media figures are hyping a new article in The Wall Street Journal which reports the United States “secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran” to claim that the administration concealed this deal from the public. But President Obama explained in a January 17 press conference that, as a result of the newly agreed-upon Iran nuclear deal, Iran and the U.S. “are now settling a longstanding Iranian government claim against the United States government,” and Secretary of State John Kerry issued a press release the same day which explained “Iran will receive … $400 million,” “as well as a roughly $1.3 billion compromise on the interest.”

  • Why Reports About Rush Limbaugh's Contract Renewal Don't Mention The Price

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Rush Limbaugh’s radio business model has been cracked and broken for several years. News this week of his four-year contract extension does little to repair those fractures, but does raise the specter of his eventual departure from the AM dial. Because without a solid advertising and affiliate base, Limbaugh simply cannot flourish the way he once did.

    And what a difference eight years makes for the talker and the precarious state of his radio career.

    Back in 2008 when Limbaugh re-upped with his syndicated radio bosses, the details of the wildly generous deal were quickly trumpeted in the press. Headlines heralded the AM talker’s NBA-type, eight-year contract signed with Clear Channel, the conservative-friendly media behemoth with a soft spot for right-wing radio: $400 million! That included a 40 percent raise from his previous deal and a $100 million signing bonus.

    The larger 2008 context was clear: Limbaugh had established himself as a larger-than-life media and political kingpin and this was his victory lap. Limbaugh commanded the type of money and influence that few in the media and entertainment industry ever achieve. A radio ratings hero, Limbaugh was at the top of his game. Or so Clear Channel insisted.

    Compare all that 2008 contract triumph to this week’s minimalist roll-out announcing Limbaugh’s extension, which consisted of a single-page press release from his radio boss, iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel), and Limbaugh mentioning it on his program.

    Conspicuously absent this time around were any details about the size of the contract, or an acknowledgement that Limbaugh might have been forced to take a sizeable pay cut thanks to his diminished stature.

    On his Tuesday program, Limbaugh insisted he’s never wanted his earnings to be public knowledge and so he wasn’t going to discuss the details of the extension; “It was a sign of good manners.” But in a 2008 New York Times magazine profile, Limbaugh openly discussed the dollar figures behind his blockbuster deal. (“He estimated that it would bring in about $38 million a year. To sweeten the deal, he said he was also getting a nine-figure signing bonus.”) He also talked about how much his private jet cost ($54 million).

    Today Limbaugh announced -- while obscuring the details of his new deal -- that estimating his annual salary is “kind of a joke” because he doesn’t “earn a salary.” He continued, “I have to perform every quarter, every six months, every year. There's no salary involved here, so throwing out numbers with this is kind of misleading in the first place.”

    Put it this way, if Limbaugh got a raise or another big payday this week, you can be sure the figures would’ve at least been leaked to the press.

    “I hear the new deal has a much lower base salary and a much bigger revenue share component,” Darryl Parks tells Media Matters. Parks is a former talk radio host, programmer, and self-identified Republican who writes about the radio industry at DarrylParksBlog. “With the revenue share, the company is lowering its financial risk in signing him.”

    And let’s be clear, struggling iHeartMedia is in no position to take any “financial risk” on Limbaugh, or anybody else. Instead, the once-dominant radio behemoth is saddled with $20 billion in debt, thanks to a misguided leveraged takeover engineered by Bain Capital in 2008.

    Consider this: 

    Clear Channel stock value, April 2007: $39.

    iHeartMedia stock price, July 2011: Approximately $8

    iHeartMedia stock price at close of Tuesday: $1.30.

    But even with a sturdy corporate parent, it’s likely Limbaugh was facing a pay cut thanks to the historic advertising exodus that has wreaked havoc on his business model. The widespread Madison Ave. rejection was sparked by in part by the talker’s days-long sexist meltdown over Sandra Fluke in 2012. With advertisers staying away, and ratings down, station owners were suddenly less interested in carrying his expensive program.

    In key major markets such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis, Limbaugh has been demoted on the AM dial, onto often struggling, underperforming stations -- the type of affiliates that Limbaugh was rarely associated with during his glory days as the king of talk radio.

    Parks last week looked at Limbaugh’s most recent ratings in Boston:

    Limbaugh’s show has been banished to WKOX-AM, a iHeart Radio owned station, and in June ’16 that station ranked #23 with a 0.2.  That’s just two tenths of a point away from a DNS or “did not show,” meaning not having enough listeners to show in the ratings.

    Limbaugh’s show airs on a station in Boston that basically has no listeners.

    The Buffalo News recently looked at Limbaugh’s local ratings and found that for the months of January, February and March this year, his audience declined “14 percent in age 12 plus, 16 percent in the age 25-54 category and 5 percent in the older age 35-64 demographic.” And that was during the height of the political primary season.

    The paper also reported that the Buffalo station, like so many other Limbaugh affiliates, was having trouble selling ads on the program.

    As Parks wrote on his blog last week, “Years ago, Rush Limbaugh could make or break a news/talk station.  But, that was many years ago and is no longer the case.”