The Daily Caller published a sexist cartoon attacking Meghan McCain in response to reports that McCain will soon be hosting her own television show. Jim Treacher, the nom de plume of Daily Caller contributor Sean Medlock, used the cartoon as a vehicle to claim that Meghan McCain's physical appearance is "the only reason anybody ever pays attention to her."
The March 28 column, titled, "Meghan McCain to host TV show that will require her to talk," featured a cartoon using a photograph of McCain with speech bubbles emerging from McCain's breasts. The cartoon, which was published at Treacher/Medlock's personal website in 2009, appears to be his creation.
Due to the offensive nature of the cartoon, Media Matters has not republished it. The sexist content of the image, originally described by Treacher/Medlock as "a few words from Meghan McCain's funbags," speaks for itself.
Veteran media and criminal defense attorneys agree that the Daily Caller could be subject to a possible libel or defamation lawsuit or even criminal charges if it is proven the publication paid women to lie about having sex with Sen. Robert Menendez for money.
The Daily Caller first reported in a November 1 story allegations from two anonymous women who claimed they were Dominican prostitutes who had been paid by Menendez for sex. Over the past month, the story has slowly fallen apart.
Dominican law enforcement officials have said they determined that the three women who had made allegations about Menendez had actually been paid to do so by Miguel Figueroa, a Dominican attorney who was the only named source in the original Caller report. One of the women has reportedly signed an affidavit retracting her claims and said she was paid to lie.
Last week, the head of the Dominican National Police said Figueroa had blamed the Caller for the entire debacle, claiming that someone allegedly from the publication had supposedly paid him to find prostitutes who would lie about having sex with Menendez.
The Daily Caller has strongly denied making any payments.
Nonetheless, one criminal defense attorney told Media Matters the news outlet or anyone else who paid the prostitutes for their false story could face criminal charges that might involve wire fraud.
"Suppose all of these individuals lied and they were paid to lie and the advantage in some proprietary way flows to the people who paid them and there was a communication over U.S. or U.S and foreign communications facilities, you might make out a wire fraud," said Stuart Pierson, a Washington, D.C. attorney who specializes in white collar crime and media issues. "If there is a communication involving U.S. transmission communication facilities and the purpose of this lie and fraud is to adversely affect the proprietary interest of somebody in the United States or a U.S. Citizen."
A Department of Justice spokesperson declined to comment on any investigation that might be related to the reporting of the story.
Pierson and other attorneys agreed a defamation or libel civil charge is likely if it is found the Daily Caller knew the information was false, and is increased if it is found they paid someone to lie, or knew that someone was paid to lie.
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.
Right-wing media fabricated a conspiracy that "pro-Obama groups" will be able to steer health care reform insurance applicants to register to vote as Democrats, ignoring a 1993 law that requires programs offering public assistance to include questions about voter registration.
Right-wing media outlets like The Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and The Washington Times reported that a draft application for health insurance through the health care reform law twice asked if an applicant wished to register to vote. They claimed that organizations who may register Americans for health insurance through health care reform may steer applicants "to register with the Democratic Party."
On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson similarly fearmongered over "the bigger concern" for health care reform insurance applicants that "pro-Obama groups...would steer them to register as Democrats":
In fact, such voter registration questions on the draft application are required under law. A portion of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, otherwise known as the "Motor Voter Act," requires that programs that offer public assistance benefits, like the Medicaid benefits and tax credits contained in the draft health care reform insurance application, must offer voter registration:
Section 7 of the Act requires states to offer voter registration opportunities at all offices that provide public assistance and all offices that provide state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities. Each applicant for any of these services, renewal of services, or address changes must be provided with a voter registration form of a declination form as well as assistance in completing the form and forwarding the completed application to the appropriate state or local election official.
The Daily Caller's story linking Sen. Robert Menendez to prostitutes continues to disintegrate, as questions emerge about whether the only named source in the original article was paid to make the accusations. While the focus on possible payments to the source further establishes that the story is a farce, it also risks diverting attention from the central fact that the article never should have run in the first place.
The Caller's initial story promoted the allegation that the U.S. senator had visited prostitutes. If true, as editor in chief Tucker Carlson once explained when the target of the story in question was a Republican, that allegation had the potential to bring enough media scrutiny to destroy Menendez's life. If true, it also had the potential to be a hugely important story for the Caller, one that could have undermined previous assaults on the website's credibility and established it as a true player in the Washington media.
For those reasons, one might have expected the Caller to make sure they were on solid factual footing before publishing. That's what an actual news outlet does -- reporters are constantly barraged by a wide array of claims about public figures of varying degrees of truthfulness. It's their job to examine the evidence and report out the stories that are true. Sometimes that means that responsible outlets get beaten by those that don't have such high standards for publication. But more often, this sort of scrutiny prevents the media from scurrying from one story about Barack Obama's gay affairs to another about John McCain being a Manchurian candidate -- ridiculous accusations that lack credible evidence but could serve to distract journalists and thus the public from important issues.
But the Daily Caller didn't engage in this sort of scrutiny. Instead, it appears to have channeled smears peddled by Republican operatives onto its front page without first determining their veracity.
In 2009, Carlson drew boos from the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference for his faint praise of mainstream news outlets, saying "The New York Times is a liberal paper, but it is also... a paper that actually cares about accuracy. Conservatives need to build institutions that mirror those institutions."
It's now apparent that if the Caller was Carlson's attempt to build such an institution, he's failed. As Joan Walsh writes in Salon, what the Caller does "mostly isn't journalism; it's opposition research."
Fox News continues to ignore reports that undermine the Daily Caller smear -- promoted by Fox News -- that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) patronized prostitutes on a trip to the Dominican Republic. On March 22, media outlets reported that the Daily Caller's original named source, Melanio Figueroa, alleged that the Daily Caller and other media outlets paid and pressured him to fabricate the accusations -- an allegation that Fox News has not covered.
The Washington Post's latest story on the allegations against Menendez reported:
A top Dominican law enforcement official said Friday that a local lawyer has reported being paid by someone claiming to work for the conservative Web site the Daily Caller to find prostitutes who would lie and say they had sex for money with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
The lawyer told Dominican investigators that a foreign man, who identified himself as "Carlos," had offered him $5,000 to find and pay women in the Caribbean nation willing to make the claims about Menendez, according to Jose Antonio Polanco, district attorney for the La Romana region, where the investigation is being conducted.
The Daily Caller issued a statement Friday saying that the information allegedly provided by the Dominican lawyer, Melanio Figueroa, was false.
These revelations demonstrate Figueroa's lack of credibility and thus cast even more doubt on the Daily Caller's already-shaky story, as Figueroa was the only named source in their original story outlining the allegations. Responding to this latest Post story, along with other reports from the Post throwing doubt on the Caller's reporting, CNN media critic Howard Kurtz called the story "discredited" and said that the Daily Caller "owes the senators and its readers an apology."
A transcript search, including a search of the Nexis database, of Fox News programming on March 22 and of Fox's media criticism show Fox News Watch on March 23 shows no mention of Menendez. This continues a pattern of Fox covering the Daily Caller's allegations less and less as the credibility of the story continues to implode, even though the network covered the allegations in at least 20 segments after the initial report was made in November.
Tucker Carlson, who is a Fox contributor and editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, has not defended his publication's smear of Menendez on the network since March 5, when he appeared on The O'Reilly Factor and called the Daily Caller reporting "straightforward, traditional journalism." He also said that his website's sources "received no money from anyone." Carlson has appeared on Fox News at least three times in the past two weeks -- as a guest on Special Report on March 11 and on America's Newsroom on March 13, and as guest host of Hannity on March 15. The Daily Caller's discredited allegations against Sen. Menendez were never mentioned during those appearances.
Fox's effort to cover up its contributor's floundering story, which Fox was previously happy to promote, raises new questions about Carlson's future relationship with the network.
From the March 24 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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The Daily Caller's lurid, fraudulent story of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) patronizing Dominican prostitutes has taken yet another hit as the lawyer representing the prostitutes, Melanio Figueroa, has reportedly let loose with a variety of outlandish story-changing allegations, among them that he was paid and pressured by various media outlets (the Daily Caller among them) to fabricate the whole affair. Figueroa's credibility is now non-existent, which only serves to reinforce how wildly irresponsible the Daily Caller was to run with the story in the first place.
The Washington Post reported on March 22 that a "top Dominican law enforcement official" said that Figueroa told investigators that in autumn 2012 he had been approached by a man claiming to be from the Daily Caller and offered $5,000 to "find prostitutes who would lie and say they had sex for money with Sen. Robert Menendez." The Daily Caller adamantly denied the allegations, which as of yet lack evidence and appear far-fetched, and the Post acknowledged that the "account provided that Dominican authorities said they received from Figueroa could not be independently confirmed by The Washington Post." The Post also noted that Figueroa's new story is a reversal from his previous denials of having made the whole thing up.
The Daily Caller, meanwhile, has published a story pushing back against Figueroa, reporting that he "blamed four news outlets -- CNN, The Daily Caller, Telemundo and Univision -- for allegedly encouraging him to fabricate false accusations about Menendez." The Caller also reported that "CNN and Univision both issued statements forcefully denying Figueroa's accusations," and pointed out that the attorney has repeatedly contradicted himself in recent days as the Menendez story has collapsed.
In another devastating blow to the credibility of The Daily Caller, the Associated Press is reporting that Dominican police have determined that three women who said they had sex with Sen. Robert Menendez for money were actually paid to make the false accusations.
In November, the Caller reported that two Dominican prostitutes had told the outlet in interviews that Menendez had paid them for sex and that the senator's office had denied the charges. The Caller has since published dozens of pieces furthering the accusations, even as the story started to crumble under scrutiny.
From the AP:
Police in the Dominican Republic say they have determined that three women who said they had sex with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez for money were in fact paid to make false claims by an attorney in the Caribbean country.
Police spokesman Maximo Baez says officers traced the payments to attorney Melanio Figueroa. Baez says two women received about $425 each and the other was paid about $300 to falsely state on camera that they had sex with Menendez (D-N.J.).
Baez said at a news conference today that authorities were seeking to interrogate Figueroa about the payments. Figueroa did not respond to messages left at his office. The women's videotaped statements were published on a conservative U.S. website. Menendez denied the allegations.
President Obama has nominated Thomas E. Perez as Secretary of Labor. Right-wing media used this announcement to push false attacks about Perez based on his service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights work and advocacy.
Top conservative media voices spoke out on the need to keep stories accurate and in-depth, while at the same time citing some of the right-wing media's worst stumbles as points of honor during a panel discussion Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
It has been a rough few months for the right-wing media. After a variety of observers pointed to its ineffectiveness during the 2012 election, it has come under fire again over the last month as major stories from The Daily Caller and Breitbart.com have imploded.
But such concerns were largely ignored during the CPAC panel titled "Survivor: Conservative Media," which was billed as an examination of the future of right-wing publications. This comes as little surprise, given that representatives from both the Caller and Breitbart.com were featured panelists.
Moderated by Scottie Hughes of the Tea Party News Network, the panel included Katie Pavlich, news editor at Townhall.com and a Fox News Contributor; Seton Motley, a Breitbart.com columnist; Keith Urbahn, co-founder of Javelin; and Lars Larson, a conservative radio talk show host.
While defending their past work, each appeared to espouse traditional journalistic values of accuracy, in-depth reporting and balance.
"Listen to what everyone else is saying, but don't be afraid to break from the pack," Larson said. "When there is a story, get on it, because there are too many stories that are a sleeper. Fast and Furious was a sleeper for a long time."
Larson referred to the botched ATF mission, which Pavlich and others had baselessly spun as a a conspiracy by the Obama administration to implement stronger gun laws.
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.
From the March 10 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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More questions about the Daily Caller's role in publicizing prostitution allegations against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have arisen after it was revealed that two newspapers declined to report the story after expressing concerns about the accusers' credibility.
From the March 7 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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