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Conservative media frequently push the debunked claim that immigrants pose a threat to public health, merely changing the disease to fit their narrative. Fox News repackaged a popular nativist and anti-immigrant smear claiming that the child migrants from Central America were "an illegal health risk" and were bringing diseases into the country according to internal CDC emails.
On the April 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, anchor Heather Nauert reported that "disease" had come with the "thousands of immigrant children" who came to the United States in 2014, fleeing violence from their home countries. The assertion was based on documents recently made public by the conservative activist group Judicial Watch showing officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) coordinating responses for the possibility of unaccompanied minors arriving with tuberculosis:
While the CDC acknowledged that “a small number of cases of TB have been identified,” it also noted that “CDC believes the unaccompanied children arriving from Central America pose little risk of spreading infectious diseases to the general public.”
Similar claims to Fox News' have been debunked by experts previously. In 2015 the fact-checking website PolitiFact examined Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's claim that "tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border" and wrote that "The experts we contacted agreed that there is no evidence of a massive influx of infections across the border" as a consequence of undocumented immigration. An NBC News report explained that, in fact, most of the illnesses found in unaccompanied child immigrants were “nothing unusual,” including the common cold and head lice. NBC also noted that mechanisms were put in place so that arrivals are screened for tuberculosis -- which is not casually transmitted -- and facilities with the capacity to quarantine were made available. According to the most recent data from the World Health Organization, immunization rates for tuberculosis in Central America are above 80 percent. Tuberculosis in the United States has had a declining incidence for decades, with a relatively small increase of 157 more cases in 2015, which, according to the CDC, cannot be pinned on a single variable like undocumented immigration, since funding for prevention has been reduced or stagnant nationwide.
However, the trope of immigrants carrying diseases to the United States is often perpetuated by anti-immigrant and nativist groups hoping to stoke fear and resentment towards immigrants. According to one expert, “There is a long, sad and shameful tradition in the United States in using fear of disease, contagion and contamination to stigmatize immigrants and foreigners.” Fox News and other conservative media figures -- including Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham -- have pushed this smear, blaming immigrants for diseases that range from leprosy, measles, chickenpox, and dengue to ente
Rush Limbaugh ridiculed complaints that the Republican National Convention delegate selection process is rigged, a claim that has been repeatedly made by Donald Trump.
In the last few weeks, Trump and his allies have made what the New York Times has characterized as “an aggressive effort to undermine the Republican nominating process by framing it as rigged and corrupt,” as rival candidate Ted Cruz has “outmaneuvered him in delegate contests in states like Colorado, North Dakota and Iowa.” The result of Cruz’s moves could result in Trump being short of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump complained, “Our Republican system is absolutely rigged. It’s a phony deal.” His campaign recently hired Roger Stone associate Paul Manafort to oversee efforts to keep delegates in line ahead of the convention. The Times said the hire was “a sign that Mr. Trump is intensifying his focus on delegate wrangling as his opponents mount a tenacious effort to deny him the 1,237 delegates he would need to secure the Republican nomination.”
On the April 25 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh attacked claims that the process is being rigged or that the delegate fight is beyond traditional campaign activity.
Limbaugh told his audience, “nobody is being cheated,” pointing out that “I'm really trying to get you to not think that this particular system is being rigged or you're being cheated. You're not, this is how politics is.”
Limbaugh noted that the strategy being used by the Cruz campaign “has always been the way it happens,” adding, “There is nothing happening this year that has not happened before in terms of delegate selection, allocation or what have you.”
He concluded, “I think you've got a lot of people in the media spreading all this, just to incite people, just to get them all fired up and charged up and just spread this narrative that there's cheating going on when either they don't understand it, or they want the fireworks, they want charged up and angry callers calling in raising hell for the sake of it, ratings or what have you.”
Despite Limbaugh blaming “the media” for “spreading all this,” it has been Trump himself who has promoted and repeatedly made this claim about the delegate process.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight notes that Trump’s complaints that the system is rigged have largely been echoed in the media, and have helped to increase support for him in polling of Republican primary voters.
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Six years after BP’s offshore oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, media outlets are detailing new research that shows how the spill continues to harm wildlife and the local environment. These reports stand in stark contrast to the countless times conservative media defended BP and downplayed the disaster’s catastrophic impacts.
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history, which devastated the region’s ecosystem and economy. The magnitude of the spill was so great that new evidence of its long-lasting impacts continues to surface six years later in research and media coverage.
US News & World Report: The BP Spill Is Responsible For A “Die-Off Of Baby Dolphins.” On April 12, U.S. News & World Report covered a recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finding that “[m]ore than 170 stillborn and juvenile bottlenose dolphins found stranded in recent years along the Gulf Coast were likely killed by oil from the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.” The article further reported:
Scientists observed a spike in stranded stillborn and juvenile dolphins along Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana's shores from 2010 to 2013. Researchers now believe the dolphins' mothers suffered chronic illnesses after being exposed to oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill off the coast of Louisiana.
"Our new findings add to the mounting evidence from peer-reviewed studies that exposure to petroleum compounds following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill severely harmed the reproductive health of dolphin living in the oil spill footprint in the northern Gulf of Mexico," veterinarian and study co-author Teri Rowles, head of NOAA's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, said in a statement.
The oil spill's long-term effects on dolphins' reproduction remain unclear.
More than 1,400 dead dolphins and whales – collectively referred to as cetaceans – have washed up on the Gulf's shores since the disaster, far more than the average before the spill. Federal officials have declared an "unusual mortality event" for cetaceans in the region, which remains ongoing.
The Tampa Tribune: Spill May Have Long-Term Effects On Fish Health. The Tampa Tribune reported on April 18 that researchers at the University of South Florida (USF) are just “beginning to chart the long-term effects of one of the biggest environmental disasters in history.” For one, the scientists are examining the long-term effects on both shallow and deepwater fish:
No contaminated fish have made their way to the seafood market, said Steven Murawski, a professor of population dynamics and marine ecosystem analysis at USF, but researchers are still trying to figure out how many generations of fish may be affected by the spill.
Now, researchers are working to determine if the spill has had any long-term effect on fish DNA by attempting to grow second generations of affected fish at Mote Marine in Sarasota. The production of baby red snapper has fallen in the eastern gulf, for example, but researchers can’t yet say if that’s a result of the spill or natural cycling.
The fish can metabolize some oil components and were only exposed to lower, sub-lethal concentrations of toxins because the oil that escaped the well was a light form of crude, but there are still questions surrounding the effects of long-term exposure, [USF scientist David] Hollander said.
“It’s like if you stick your head in a paint can and smell the fumes you would get a headache, but what are the results if you painted a room and went to sleep in it so you’re breathing those fumes for a lot longer?” Hollander said.
National Geographic: The Oil Spill Was Even Bigger Than Previously Thought. On April 20, National Geographic reported on a new study finding that the BP oil spill was even bigger than previously thought -- 19 percent bigger, to be exact. From National Geographic:
Scientists from the federal government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several private research companies found oil along 1,313 miles (2,113 kilometers) out of 5,930 miles (9,545 kilometers) of surveyed shoreline after the spill, an increase of 19 percent from previously published estimates. That makes the disaster the largest marine oil spill in history by length of shoreline oiled, the team reported in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.
The scientists found the majority of the oiling in Louisiana, with significant oiling in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and, to a lesser extent, Texas.
National Geographic also reported that approximately “30 percent of the oil thought to have been spilled is still unaccounted for,” adding that some scientists think “it must have sunk to the ocean bottom, where it may be harming communities there.”
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Right-wing media figures attacked Hillary Clinton for saying that she always carries hot sauce with her during an interview with a New York hip-hop radio show, attacking her for “pandering” and “casual racism.” But Salon reports that Clinton “has been talking about carrying hot sauce since 2008,” and various outlets over the years have reported that Clinton “packed pepper sauce” in her bag and had “a collection of more than 100 hot sauces” when she was first lady.
For Sexual Assault Awareness month, Media Matters looks back at right-wing media's history of downplaying, and questioning the legitimacy of, sexual assault. Right-wing media figures have called reporting statutory rape “whiny,” claimed sexual assault victims have a "coveted status," said the sexual assault epidemic is "not happening," blamed feminism for encouraging sexual assault, and said attempts to curb sexual assault constitute "a war happening on boys."
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A New York Times analysis found “historic increases” in those covered by the Affordable Care Act, destroying right-wing media predictions about health care reform including that it would “topple the stock market” and enslave Americans. The Times analysis is just one of many pieces of research that have highlighted the successes of the Affordable Care Act.
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With His Contract Up, Limbaugh’s Radio Boss Teeters On Bankruptcy
One of the favorite pastimes for sports fans is commiserating over the worst contract their home team ever made; guffawing over management’s decision to waste tens of millions of dollars for a player who never justified the huge payday. (See: Gilbert Arenas.)
For talk radio, there’s probably only one contract that enters that realm of notoriety: Rush Limbaugh’s eight-year, $400-million deal, signed in the summer of 2008 with his longtime radio employer Premiere Radio Networks.
Owned by Clear Channel Communications, which has since changed its name to iHeartRadio, Premiere’s Limbaugh deal instantly dwarfed any payout in AM/FM history. (Only Howard Stern’s contract with Sirius was larger.) The contract, which included a staggering $100 million signing bonus, never panned out as the wheels began to come off Limbaugh’s radio empire.
This year, his contract is up and the timing couldn’t be worse. The talker is facing ratings hurdles, aging demographics, and an advertising community that increasingly views him as toxic, thanks in part to his days-long sexist meltdown over Sandra Fluke in 2012. (He’s also stumbling through the GOP primary season.)
Concurrently, iHeartRadio’s parent company, iHeartMedia, is heading to court, teetering on bankruptcy. The once-dominant radio behemoth is saddled with $20 billion in debt, thanks to a misguided leveraged takeover engineered by Bain Capital in 2008, the same year the radio giant inked its disastrous Limbaugh deal.
Today those two defining missteps from the past are crossing paths, which means Limbaugh’s radio future has never looked less bright. This, as Limbaugh passes his 65th birthday, which seems to mirror his audience’s age.
"Who would even want someone whose audience is aging and is considered toxic to many advertisers," asked RadioInsight last year.
Some industry insiders are wondering if his AM days are over and if Limbaugh’s futures rest with satellite radio, where advertiser indifference wouldn’t penalize him. The problem? His audience is so old. “With the aging and decline of Limbaugh's audience, Sirius may not be as viable an option as it once was,” Darryl Parks tells Media Matters. A former talk radio host, programmer, and self-identified Republican, Parks writes about the industry at DarrylParksBlog.
Indeed, the conservative talk radio format has morphed into the Classic Rock of talk; super-serving the same aging demo for the last twenty-plus years.
“Everything needs to evolve, but stations, conservative talk hosts and programmers have decided to double down and focus on the aging Baby Boomers,” says Parks. “When a group is no longer appealing to advertisers, that spells the end of any radio format.”
The former Clear Channel network owns 850 radio stations across the country and the syndication rights to right-wing stars such as Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s the company, feasting on the fruits of media deregulation, gorged itself with profits. (It also bullied the music business for years.)
Since then, not so much. And what a brutal ride it’s been for investors:
Clear Channel stock price, January 2000: $90.
Clear Channel stock value, April 2007: $39.
iHeartMedia stock price, July 2011: $8.30.
iHeartMedia stock price at close of yesterday: $1.15.
The company hasn’t reported a profit since 2007. Today, iHeartMedia is busy selling off assets in an effort to shore up its bottom line. “It’s a case of burning your sofa to heat up the house,” Philip Brendel, a credit analyst recently told Bloomberg. “It’s not necessarily a good idea but you’re running out of options.”
The company’s woes date back to the Clear Channel leveraged buyout deal in 2008. It was overseen by private equity giants Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital, once headed by Mitt Romney. Coming just months before the U.S. financial crisis of September 2008, the Clear Channel deal couldn’t have been hatched at a worse time.
How bad was the deal? Monumentally bad:
In 2007, the company, then called Clear Channel, reported a net income of $939 million. In the years since the LBO, the company has reported losses of between $220 million and $4 billion per year. For 2015, it reported a loss of $738 million.
Today, the interest paid on iHeartMedia’s massive debt gobbles up earnings. “Revenue last year was $6.5 billion. A $1.74 billion interest expense drove a net loss of $661 million,” Billboard reported. (iHeartMedia also operates a huge billboard advertising and live concert business, among other interests.)
Is this a company that can continue to fill wheelbarrows full of cash and pay Limbaugh $38 million annually, and bless him with another $100 million signing bonus? No way.
In fact, iHeartMedia’s too busy putting out other raging fires right now -- like trying to stay solvent.
What sparked the sudden specter of bankruptcy was an allegedly deceptive move made by iHeartMedia: Shifting money from one division of the business to another instead of paying debts owed to creditors.
The creditors went to court and sued. They “believe the stock transfer constitutes a default and might call their debt within 60 days,” Billboard reported. iHeartMedia sought an emergency injunction, stressing that if creditors won their “default” claim, the dominoes would instantly fall and iHeartMedia would face an avalanche of bond defaults totaling $15 billion to a long line of creditors. Those are payments the company simply cannot make, which would mean bankruptcy for iHeartMedia.
Having secured a temporary restraining order to halt the creditors’ actions, the two sides are set to square off in a courtroom next month to determine the outcome of the injunction request.
“It’s not a question of whether it collapses but when, and it’s likely to come sooner rather than later,” suggested Media Life. “It could be within months."
Just look at Boston, where Limbaugh stood out as a talk radio star for years. In 2015, his affiliate there dropped his midday show. Although not unheard of in the radio business (Limbaugh’s show is very expensive for stations to carry), what was surprising was that nobody else in Boston stepped forward to pick up Limbaugh’s program. Desperate not to lose coverage in the tenth largest radio market in America, iHeart shipped Limbaugh’s show down to a has-been station the company owns in Boston. Today, that station ranks 26th out of 29 stations in the market, boasting a .2 rating.
Those aren’t the kind of major market ratings you want to take to the negotiating table for a new contract.
"It's almost like you're going so far out of your way and almost doing back flips and cartwheels to defend Trump. It's just a turn-off at this point." [Caller to Rush Limbaugh, March 31]
Conservative media's "Trumpkins"-fueled civil war has spared few victims. Just ask Rush Limbaugh, who continues to take on fire as he stumbles his way through the right-wing media's divisive Primary Season from Hell.
Routinely condemned for not calling out what Republican critics see as Donald Trump's brand of faux conservatism, Limbaugh continues to fish around for a middle ground. The host seems anxious to defend Trump from attacks, but also wary of offending his legion of listeners, who see the front-runner as a fraud, and see Limbaugh as a hypocrite for playing nice with him.
Torn between the allure of what's popular (Trump) and abandoning everything Limbaugh's said about how he defines conservatism over the last 30 years, Limbaugh now often finds himself in no-man's land.
"Every day of Rush's show now feels like an exercise in strained, compulsory quasi-neutrality, which amounts in practice to him defending nearly everything Trump says and does but mixing in some praise for Cruz here and there just to make sure he's got his footing on the tightrope," wrote the Hot Air blogger known as Allahpundit.
In other words, Limbaugh's playing defense, a mode that most talk radio hosts despise.
Have there been previous primary squabbles, and has Limbaugh been at odds with his famously like-minded listeners in the past? Of course. But as a rule, the conservative media world over the years hasn't been known as the home of freewheeling and raucous partisan debate within the GOP, pitting Republicans against Republicans. Instead, it's been known to be an amazingly disciplined echo chamber that directs its fire outward toward Enemy No. 1: Democrats.
The current primary battle is the most bitter in recent memory. It's also threatening to implode the Republican Party -- and to a degree, the entire conservative movement as we know it -- as Trump angles to secure the party's nomination while breaking free from core beliefs that have been considered sacrosanct for generations by Limbaugh's listeners.
The host, meanwhile, has become a piñata, as conservatives line up to take whacks at him in a way we've never really seen before.
In a scathing critique of Limbaugh's support of Trump, The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens lamented that conservatives "used to have the good sense to dismiss" unserious candidates like Trump "as eccentrics, lowlifes or clowns."
Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, complained, "Through a long series of controversies, Limbaugh has excused Trump's narcissism and bluster as an endearing 'schtick.'"
Then he lowered the boom: "Populist anti-intellectualism, on the rise at least since Sarah Palin, has culminated in Trump. It is the passing of conservatism, even if Limbaugh baptizes the dead."
At The Daily Caller, Matt Lewis nicked Limbaugh for "abdicating" his "responsibility" and not having the "intellectual honesty and moral courage" of local Wisconsin talk show hosts who stood up to Trump. Lewis blamed Limbaugh and other nationally syndicated hosts for feeding the Trump beast last year to the point where he now may be unstoppable.
"Limbaugh is a mind-numbing, frustrating hypocrite," wrote longtime listener Travis Hale at The Hill. "His tacit endorsement of Trump, now occurring daily during his show, is almost impossible to understand."
You don't get the sense that these brushback pitches are coming from Ted Cruz diehards who are furious with Limbaugh's partisan refereeing. Some of the missives are coming from people who are puzzled that someone they looked up to for so many years "to be our voice of conservative reason" is revealing himself to be a weather vane this primary season, pointing whichever way the (Trump) wind blows.
That includes some of Limbaugh's Dittohead listeners, who are chewing him out, too. "I believe that most of the time you stimulate my intelligence, but today I feel like you're insulting my intelligence -- and that of many other people," a caller recently lamented to Limbaugh.
In response, Limbaugh is alternately defending himself and periodically bowing out of the Republican free-for-all.
Retaliating against conservative commentators who have branded the talker a "sellout," Limbaugh returned fire last month with his own accusations of hypocrisy: "They turn to me as a source of blame for the fact that Trump hasn't been taken out, despite the fact that they've tried. But I don't see where they've endorsed other people. I don't see where they have actually engaged in the behavior they demand that I engage in."
When controversy erupted after Trump's campaign manager was charged with simple battery after grabbing the arm of a reporter, and after Limbaugh was seen as defending the Trump campaign, the host announced that the topic was suddenly off-limits. "I have determined here that because tensions are so tight, everybody is wound up to such a feverish pitch here, that no matter what I say it is misunderstood and is not helpful," he announced.
Lamenting the state of the GOP primary season, Limbaugh conceded the arm-grabbing incident might not be the only one where he'd have to "muzzle" himself: "Because it's apparently impossible to be correctly, properly, understood."
For someone whose entire career has been based on lies and misinformation, there's something wonderfully fitting about Rush Limbaugh silencing himself because his fans and conservative media just aren't listening properly and he just can't be understood.
Right-wing media figures have been laying the foundation to allege a "scandal" and "cover-up" if the FBI's investigation into Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's email server does not result in Clinton's indictment, thus setting her up for a lose-lose situation. Yet multiple law experts have explained that an indictment is highly unlikely.
Vox Highlights Study: "Republicans Rely On A Media That Is More Likely To Echo Their Partisan Biases, And Democrats Rely On Media That Does Not Pick A Side"
Vox's Dylan Matthews highlighted a study from two political science professors which found that Republicans "rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases" and create parallel media outlets, creating an echo chamber which "increase[s] partisanship and ideological commitment."
Right-wing media has a noted effect on shaping its viewers perceptions.The conservative media echo chamber has been partly responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, by consistently providing a platform for his ideas and defending him when attacked. In addition, conservative media has created the environment where presidential candidates feel comfortable enough to claim that the media has a liberal bias and therefore shouldn't be trusted. This leads candidates to mold their candidacies towards what those who listen to conservative media want to hear and parrot popular conservative media hosts ideas and rhetoric.
In the April 1 article, the study highlighted by Matthews found these media echo chambers created by conservatives are having an impact. The study, conducted by two political science professors, argued that conservatives' "distrust of the mainstream media" caused them to "set up a parallel ecosystem to get their message out." Therefore, "Republicans rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases, and Democrats rely on media that does not pick a side and at least claims to be objective and empirical (whether or not it lives up to that promise)." The study also found that this echo chamber effect "has huge implications for how Democrats and Republicans view politics", "increas[ing] partisanship and ideological commitment":
The numbers come from a new study from political scientists Matt Grossmann and Dave Hopkins collating five years of Public Policy Polling data on which major news networks people do and do not trust. PPP's data shows that Republicans are just as distrustful of mainstream outlets as of MSNBC, and Democrats are about as trusting:
Grossmann and Hopkins's broader argument is that Republicans' distrust of the mainstream media creates an asymmetry in how the parties approach the media. Democrats rely on the mainstream media both to get out their message and to cover events. Republicans generally distrust mainstream outlets and so have set up a parallel ecosystem to get their message out.
The result is Republicans rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases, and Democrats rely on media that does not pick a side and at least claims to be objective and empirical (whether or not it lives up to that promise). "Democrats therefore remain relatively unexposed to messages that encourage ideological self-identification or describe political conflict as reflecting the clash of two incompatible value systems," Grossmann and Hopkins write. "Instead, the information environment in which they reside claims to prize objectivity, empiricism, and policy expertise."
Grossmann and Hopkins confirm this, citing a bevy of evidence demonstrating that increased access to only one side's media increases partisanship and ideological commitment in news consumers. The University of Pennsylvania's Matthew Levendusky experimentally exposed study participants to Fox and MSNBC, and concluded that "partisan media make citizens more convinced that their views are the 'right' one ... make citizens less willing to trust the other party and less willing to support compromise with them, thereby contributing to persistent gridlock ... [and] influence vote choice, as well as how citizens come to understand elections."
Grossmann and Hopkins's underlying explanation is that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are fundamentally structurally distinct. Republicans are "chiefly defined by a common ideological commitment," while Democrats are a "coalition of social groups."
So on the one side you have an ideologically rigorous party/movement that relies on its own newsgathering and information-producing services, leading to an increasingly distinct worldview from Democrats or independents.