Media outlets have pounced on a quote from one member of a science advisory panel to once again claim a White House "war on coal," but they are missing crucial context about President Barack Obama's expected plan, which sets aside money for the development of so-called "clean coal" technology in addition to proposing necessary regulations on the pollution that coal-fired power plants currently emit.
Tuesday, The New York Times published a quote from Harvard University professor Daniel P. Schrag, a member of the president's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, in anticipation of the Obama administration's announcement of measures to reduce carbon emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change:
"Everybody is waiting for action," he said. "The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they're having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what's needed."
The Washington Post singled out the remarks in a post titled "Obama science adviser calls for 'war on coal." However, Schrag is not Obama's primary science adviser -- he is simply one of 18 advisors in a group that includes current and former executives from Microsoft, Google and tech conglomerate Honeywell, Inc. Additionally, as the Post noted, "he is not closely involved in setting regulatory policy for the White House."
Right-wing outlets immediately began publicizing the remarks, suggesting they are a sign of President Obama's true motives, with The Washington Free Beacon claiming the quote shows that the president's plan "is explicitly aimed at attacking the coal industry." Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin followed up by asking "Is Obama waging a 'war on coal?' and responding that "[t]o a large extent, the answer is yes."
However, Schrag's remark is not representative of President Obama's record as The Columbia Journalism Review and others have previously pointed out. Schrag responded to an email inquiry from Media Matters that he believes "there is nothing wrong with coal if technology is used to remove CO2 emissions and other harmful pollutants" (emphasis added):
The quote was slightly out of context. I was asked about the question of a war on coal, and I explain that shutting down conventional coal plants is a critical step in moving towards a low-carbon economy. But the phrase "war on coal" is really inappropriate and I shouldn't have used it - simply because it is not the coal that is the problem, but the emissions from coal, and what they do to our health, the health of our children, and of course the climate. So there is nothing wrong with coal if technology is used to remove CO2 emissions and other harmful pollutants. But conventional coal, that is harming our children and changing the climate system should have no place in our society.
Glenn Beck announced on his website The Blaze that he will be attending a June 19 rally in Washington, D.C. to oppose the Senate's immigration reform bill and to "stand against amnesty." In a segment titled "Why is Glenn going to DC?" Beck claimed that the bill would pit "amnesty over security," culminating weeks of inflammatory rhetoric directed at the bill and its supporters:
Right-wing media are trying to downplay a confrontation over gun sale background checks between a woman who lost her mother in the Newtown, CT, shooting and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) by promoting a report from an Ayotte donor whose wife is the former chair of the New Hampshire GOP.
Erica Lafferty, the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, asked Ayotte during an April 30 town hall meeting in Warren, New Hampshire, "why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't more important" than Ayotte's claim that conducting background checks would be burdensome for gun store owners. According to NBC News, the meeting "drew more than 100 people who came to condemn or support Ayotte's vote."
Reacting to news reports of the confrontation between Lafferty and Ayotte, Shawn Millerick, editor of the conservative New Hampshire Journal, complained of "liberal media bias" and wrote that reports of Ayotte being confronted over her failure to support expanded background checks were exaggerated by the national media. Millerick also posted photographs of cars with out-of-state license plates that he says belonged to the individuals who opposed Ayotte's background check vote.
Breitbart.com, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, RedState and NewsBusters are all promoting Millerick's report as evidence that the media was dishonest in its coverage of Ayotte's town hall meeting while also characterizing Millerick's online newspaper as a "local" media source and not mentioning its partisan slant. According to Breitbart.com's John Nolte, Millerick's report "expose[d] the leftist national media for the liars they are." The Daily Caller's Alex Pappas framed the issue as a discrepancy between "local" and "national" media:
From the May 2 edition of The Blaze's The Glenn Beck Program:
Loading the player reg...
Glenn Beck can't keep his conspiracies straight.
It took the conservative host less than 90 seconds during his May 1 television show to produce one of the most glaring media contradictions in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. Not surprisingly, Beck didn't seem to notice the obvious inconsistency. That's what happens when you chase hollow and reckless conspiracy theories for a living.
The mix-up occurred during one of Beck's signature, rambling monologues about what really happened in Boston and who's really to blame. (Hint: Saudi Arabia.) But Beck managed to tie together two competing conspiracy theories that draw opposite conclusions about the Saudi government's involvement.
Recall that after the April 15 attack, Beck engaged in a wild conspiracy, insisting that a Saudi national student who had been injured in the blast and who was questioned by authorities was "absolutely involved" in the Patriot's Day attack. (Law enforcement officials have repeatedly claimed he was not.) Beck called the student a "dirt bag," a "bad, bad, bad man," and "possibly the ringleader" of the bombing that killed three people and injured more than one hundred.
The White House was "trying to make this a lone wolf crime so the Saudi government will be spared embarrassment, and the U.S. will be spared explaining how a terror cell was active when we have Al-Qaeda on the run," Beck told radio listeners on April 18.
"You want to know why we have terror over and over in our streets?" he asked on April 22. "Saudi Arabia. It is time someone on network television says it." The host even called for President Obama to be impeached for what the host considered to be a sprawling government cover-up surrounding the student, Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda.
On May 1, Beck returned to the claim insisting, "We know Saudi Arabia is involved."
Then, less than 90 seconds after implicating Saudi Arabia, Beck latched onto yesterday's conspiracy-of-the-day claim, courtesy of Britain's Daily Mail. It reported Saudi officials had delivered a "very specific" written warning to the Department of Homeland Security in 2012 about Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Saudi officials were allegedly so concerned about Tsarnaev's radical ties that his visa request to visit Saudi Arabia had been denied. Beck's site, The Blaze, also pushed the story, as did scores right-wing blogs.
The Department of Homeland Security, the White House, and Saudi Arabia's U.S. Ambassador have all since categorically denied the Daily Mail's claim. The newspaper has produced no evidence to back up its anonymous source's dubious allegation.
That didn't matter to Beck. Because the unproven claim made the Obama administration look bad, and because it made it look like government officials had missed obvious warning signs about Tsarnaev, Beck embraced the Saudi story as truth. But that left him in the very awkward position of insisting Saudi Arabia was "involved" in the bombing (and not in a good way), while simultaneously reporting Saudi Arabia tried to warn the U.S. about the bomber.
In Beck's telling, Saudi Arabia officials were both the good guys and the bad guys in Boston. Only he would try to paper over a boulder-sized inconsistency like that in the span of 90 seconds.
Question: Was it keen programming like this that convinced executives at Cablevision to add Beck's Internet channel to Cablevision's New York City metropolitan cable system?
Glenn Beck's The Blaze continues to push the debunked claim that a Saudi Arabian national who was briefly placed on the federal No-Fly List following the Boston Marathon bombing was wrongly removed from that list and, at one time, was a suspect.
And now it wants Congress to help.
For weeks, Beck and The Blaze have fixated on the 20-year-old Saudi man, Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, claiming that he was once considered a suspect in the bombing and had been up for deportation. Other news outlets have debunked these claims.
But just this week, a producer at the conservative outlet sent an email (since obtained by Media Matters) to staff members at congressional offices of both houses and parties asking whether members of Congress would "be willing to raise" the Blaze's claims with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano or FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The email (below) from Blaze producer Virginia Grace states:
From: Grace, Virginia
Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 4:40 PM
To: Grace, Virginia
Subject: Revised: Request from TheBlaze
Over the past two weeks TheBlaze has been reporting on the Saudi National, AbdulRahman ali Al-Harbi, who was briefly detained as a potential suspect after the Boston bombing. Shortly after a search of his apartment in Revere, Massachusetts an event file was issued by the NTC designating him as a terrorist under the Immigration Nationality Act 212 (a)(3)(B)(ii)(II) and making reference to involvement in the bombing. Twenty four hours later the file was amended to remove the terrorist designation and a short time after that removed from the system altogether. To date Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has refused to comment on the terrorist designation, first even denying Mr. Al-Harbi had ever been a person of interest before finally admitting to Congress on Tuesday that he had, in fact, been placed on the Watch List for a short time. TheBlaze believes the public has a right to know why Al-Harbi went from terrorist to nobody in the span of 48 hours. What evidence led to the designation in the first place and what transpired to reverse it a short time later.
Would you be willing to raise those issues with Ms. Napolitano or Mr. Robert Muller at the FBI and report your findings to the American public?
Please let us know.
Sincerely, The Blaze
Several journalism veterans say this email is unusual for a media outlet, both as an effort to spark political action and as an attempt to get members of Congress to do their reporting.
"My general view is that legitimate, neutral news organizations should report and let members of Congress decide on their own whether they want to get involved," said Andy Alexander, former Washington Post ombudsman.
Hours after it was debunked, Glenn Beck continued to beat the drum of a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is deporting a Saudi national who was behind the tragic bombings at the Boston marathon.
The conspiracy theory arose when Steve Emerson, a guest on Fox News' Hannity, accused the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of preparing to deport a Saudi national "person of interest" in the bombings at the Boston marathon. Right-wing blogs like Glenn Beck's The Blaze, Breitbart.com, WND, and Infowars quickly latched on to the story, alleging President Obama wishes to cover up Saudi Arabian and Al Qaeda ties to the attack.
The myth pretends that a Saudi national who was hospitalized after sustaining injuries in the bombing -- initially reported to be a "person of interest," though he never was -- is the same man DHS is allegedly in the process of deporting for visa violations.
DHS soundly discredited the conspiracy theory this afternoon, explaining to CNN's Jake Tapper that the rumors are confusing two very different men.
Still, hours later, Beck continued to run with the debunked conspiracy on his television program, claiming his "sources" knew better (emphasis added):
We at the Blaze know that this Saudi national is a bad, bad, bad man ... This administration is playing an extraordinarily dangerous game. They have very little regard for what it takes to be a citizen. Before the sequester cuts happened, they opened the prison and let illegals out. Who does that? Remember also, the Saudi national that was -- is about to get on a plane -- involved in blowing the legs off of American citizens, being held in protective custody or being protected, at least, by our administration. He will be put in protective custody and the plans are to deport him.
Beck's claims, of course, are far from true.
Several right-wing media sites stoked race-based fears to manufacture controversy over a Phoenix, AZ program designed to diversify the lifeguard ranks at city pools, falsely claiming the program hires minorities who can't swim and could "get someone killed."
On March 28, NPR reported that the Phoenix aquatics department was trying to attract more minority lifeguards by using a scholarship to cover the cost of training for those applicants who were not strong swimmers. Fox Nation claimed that minorities would be hired, "even if they can't swim." National Review Online echoed that headline. The Blaze alleged that such a program could "actually get someone killed."
National Review Online:
In reality, scholarship applicants will still be required to pass a swim test before they can apply to become city lifeguards. The scholarship covers the cost of lifeguard-certification courses for minority students in order to encourage a more diverse field of applicants. According to one survey, minorities report lower swimming proficiencies than whites.
While NRO and The Blaze have a questionable record on race, Fox Nation in particular has a well-documented history of race-baiting. In one infamous example, Fox Nation labeled President Obama's 50th birthday party, "Obama's Hip Hop Barbecue."
Fox News host Bill O' Reilly suggested President Obama is to blame for the decades-long high unemployment rate among African-Americans, ignoring other factors such as institutionalized racism, even while acknowledging his employers have used affirmative action programs.
Right-wing blogs took President Obama's comments about gun violence prevention out of context to claim that he complained about being constrained by the Constitution. The full text of his comments, however, shows that he was praising the genius of the document rather than lamenting that the Second Amendment prevents him from confiscating guns.
On April 3, President Obama gave a speech in Colorado to raise support for strengthening gun laws following the passage of new gun violence prevention measures in the state. During his speech, Obama attempted to put gun owners' possible concerns over these measures to rest:
One last thing I'm going to mention is that during this conversation -- I hope you don't mind me quoting you, Joe. Joe Garcia, I thought, also made an important point, and that is that the opponents of some of these common-sense laws have ginned up fears among responsible gun owners that have nothing to do with what's being proposed and nothing to do with the facts, but feeds into this suspicion about government.
You hear some of these quotes: "I need a gun to protect myself from the government." "We can't do background checks because the government is going to come take my guns away."
Well, the government is us. These officials are elected by you. (Applause.) They are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place. It's a government of and by and for the people.
And so, surely, we can have a debate that's not based on the notion somehow that your elected representatives are trying to do something to you other than potentially prevent another group of families from grieving the way the families of Aurora or Newtown or Columbine have grieved. We've got to get past some of the rhetoric that gets perpetuated that breaks down trust and is so over the top that it just shuts down all discussion. And it's important for all of us when we hear that kind of talk to say, hold on a second. If there are any folks who are out there right now who are gun owners, and you've been hearing that somehow somebody is taking away your guns, get the facts. We're not proposing a gun registration system, we're proposing background checks for criminals. (Applause.)
Don't just listen to what some advocates or folks who have an interest in this thing are saying. Look at the actual legislation. That's what happened here in Colorado. And hopefully, if we know the facts and we're listening to each other, then we can actually move forward.
The next day, Fox Nation claimed that Obama "complain[ed] he's 'constrained' by the Constitution" in his speech, linking to an article from The Blaze that also failed to provide the full text of his comments:
Breitbart.com's Ben Shapiro similarly wrote on April 3 that "[t]he natural inference [of Obama's remarks] seems to be that if it were not for the Constitution, Obama would indeed pursue a federal gun seizure. Like the villain at the end of every Scooby Doo cartoon, Obama's offhand protest suggests that if it weren't for those darn kids, he would have gotten away with it. Except that the kids are the founders, and 'it' is massive gun control."
But the full transcript of Obama's speech shows that he never expressed a desire to confiscate Americans' firearms or lamented that the Second Amendment prevents him from doing so. In fact, he was approvingly citing the Constitution's protection of individual rights while telling people to be informed about the new gun legislation instead of succumbing to gun proponents' claims that guns will be taken away, and he reminded voters that they could hold the government accountable at the ballot box if they felt their rights were threatened.
Fox Nation attacked President Obama for attending an Easter service at a church where dozens of presidents have worshipped, claiming he had a "pastor problem" because the Easter sermon given by the church's reverend touched on politics.
On March 31, Easter Sunday, Obama and his family attended services at St. John's Church, known as "The Church of the Presidents" due to the attendance of many presidents since James Madison. According to Washington Post reporting, the rector of the church, Reverend Luis Leon, delivered a homily in which he highlighted past discrimination that he felt was rooted in religious-right extremism:
It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back ... for blacks to be back in the back of the bus ... for women to be back in the kitchen ... for immigrants to be back on their side of the border.
Based on reporting on Leon's Easter service sermon, Fox Nation claimed on Monday that Obama has a "pastor problem":
Based on his record, Leon is not controversial. Leon previously delivered the benediction at Obama's second inauguration, replacing a more controversial selection. He also delivered the invocation at the second inauguration of President George W. Bush. Bush reportedly counted Leon as a close friend and dined with him at the White House:
(Image via Berryacademy.net)
Right-wing media are attempting to rebut a TV ad calling for stronger gun laws by claiming that it depicts unsafe gun handling.
According Fox News, conservative bloggers, and the National Rifle Association's news program, an ad calling for expanding the background check system features a man with his finger on the trigger of a firearm that is not ready to be fired, an unsafe practice. In fact, footage from another ad featuring the same firearm clearly indicates that the right-wing media are wrong about where the gun's trigger is; the man's finger is actually nowhere near the trigger in either ad.
The claim originated with Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller, who claimed in a March 25 article that ads recently released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) are "irresponsible" because the man in the ad "violates all three gun safety rules taught by the National Rifle Association." Miller specifically claims that "the man has his finger on the trigger, as if ready to shoot," and comments, "To make an ad demonstrating actual gun responsibility, the man would put a straight forefinger above the trigger guard to make sure he doesn't accidentally touch the trigger."
Miller was referencing this moment from the ad "Responsible":
But another ad released by MAIG, "Family," which features the same man and firearm, shows the position of the trigger on that particular firearm to be much closer to the buttstock than where the man's index finger is in "Responsible":
Based on the trigger location clearly seen in "Family," the trigger of the firearm would sit approximately behind the base of the man's hand in "Responsible" making it impossible for his finger to be on the trigger or within the trigger guard.
Miller's claims have nonetheless been picked up by The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Hot Air, and a Townhall column authored by Fox contributor Katie Pavlich and have also been featured on Fox & Friends and the NRA's Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel.
Conservatives in media are hyping the argument of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that a ban on assault weapons would be similar to the government deciding which books people are allowed to read, even though Cruz's argument is based on a misunderstanding of constitutional law and courts have held that assault weapon bans are constitutional.
During a March 14 meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a party line vote advanced an assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to the floor of the Senate, Cruz drew an equivalence between banning assault weapons and an act of Congress "to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books" or a law stating that the Fourth Amendment "could properly apply only to the following specified individuals, and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights":
CRUZ: It seems to me that all of us should be begin as our foundational document with the Constitution. And the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights provides that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The term "the right of the people," when the framers included it in the Bill of Rights they used it as a term of art. That same phrase "the right of the people" is found in the First Amendment, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition their government for readdress of grievances, it's also found in the Fourth Amendment, "the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures." And the question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is, would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment. Namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books, and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights. Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment's protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?
Cruz's comments were promoted by Fox Nation, The Blaze, Red State, Breitbart.com, PJ Media, The Daily Caller and The Gateway Pundit. Breitbart.com wrote that Cruz "destroys" Feinstein's argument for an assault weapons ban. Red State ran a headline that Feinstein was struck by a "Ted Cruz Missile." The Daily Caller titled its article on Cruz's comments, "Ted Cruz offends Dianne Feinstein by bringing up the Constitution."
The praised heaped upon Cruz by conservative media outlets ignores that the junior Texas senator's constitutional argument is flawed because it fails to acknowledge longstanding and widely accepted limitations on all of the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Last year conservative media decried a Justice Department investigation into Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. as a politically-motivated "abuse of power." But now the company itself has admitted they were probably in violation of the law.
Sheldon Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a casino and resort operating firm. He reportedly spent nearly $150 million to influence the 2012 election via donations to a super PAC allied to Mitt Romney and other outside groups (including Karl Rove's American Crossroads).
During the campaign, Adelson reportedly alleged that he was making such large donations in part because he had been unfairly targeted by the Justice Department, which was investigating whether Sands operations in China had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), an anti-bribery statute. But in its most recent annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Las Vegas Sands Corp. admitted that the company's own audit committee believes there were "likely violations" of that law:
As part of the annual audit of the Company's financial statements, the Audit Committee advised the Company and its independent accountants that it had reached certain preliminary findings, including that there were likely violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions of the FCPA and that in recent years, the Company has improved its practices with respect to books and records and internal controls.
Right-wing media outlets are reporting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate of gun violence prevention, denied the National Guard entry into Brooklyn to aid victims in the wake of Hurricane Sandy because members of the National Guard carry firearms. In fact, during the press conference the critics are citing, Bloomberg said he opposed having the Guard patrol the streets because he believed the New York Police Department was sufficiently equipped to protect the public and that the Guard would be better used in locations with smaller police forces.
During an October 31 press conference, Bloomberg was asked to respond to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's request for additional National Guard resources to deter criminal activity. Bloomberg responded that "The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns," adding that "[w]e don't need it" and that the troops would be better used for that purpose in "locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York."
REPORTER: Mr. Mayor, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz has a question, additional National Guard in Brooklyn, do you agree?
BLOOMBERG: No, we appreciate the help. The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns. We don't need it. There has been one or two minor outbreakings, disgraceful as they may be, looting reported in the paper, but the vast bulk of people are doing the right thing. And in Brooklyn people are safe the same way they are in the rest of the city. We have the resources, the NYPD is 100 percent confident that we can protect the public, we've been doing this for an awful long time. You just have to take a look at the crime rate to understand how good a job this is. And the National Guard has plenty of responsibilities. There are plenty of locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York, and they can use help from the state, and that's where they should be.