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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Tucker Carlson has defended The Daily Caller's reporting on Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) patronizing prostitutes in the Dominican Republic as "traditional, straightforward journalism" as that story has come under fire. But when Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was accused of patronizing prostitutes in 2007, Carlson defended Vitter and lambasted the media for digging into what he described as private matters that were no business of theirs.
In their initial much-hyped pre-election bombshell, the Caller reported on allegations from two Dominican prostitutes that Menendez had paid them for sex. Menendez has repeatedly denied the allegations, and the FBI has reportedly found no evidence of their veracity.
This week the story has unraveled after the Washington Post and ABC News reported that one of the prostitutes who alleged that she had sex with Menendez has recanted her story in an affidavit and claimed that she was paid to lie about the senator. ABC further reported that they also looked into the story last year but decided not to run it because they doubted the women that they and the Caller had spoken to were telling the truth.
From the March 5 edition of CNN's Around The World:
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Fox News has gone silent after questions emerged casting serious doubt on a Daily Caller report that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) paid women for sex in the Dominican Republic, a report that Fox News hyped during at least 22 segments.
The Washington Post reported on March 4 that a woman who appeared in a video claiming Menendez paid her for sex now says that she was paid to make those claims, claims she now denies, as part of an effort to frame Menendez. Menendez has denied the allegations, first reported in November 2012 by the Daily Caller.
Fox News has yet to discuss the latest developments that undermine what the Daily Caller has reported for months. By contrast, Fox aggressively hyped the uncorroborated allegations when they were being pushed by the Daily Caller, discussing them during at least 22 segments since November 2012, according to a search of the Nexis database.
CNN, which also reported on the initial, uncorroborated allegations against Menendez, has reported on the latest developments.
According to the Post, two affidavits have been filed that refute the Daily Caller's story - one by a woman who claims she was paid to give false accounts about Menendez on the Daily Caller video, and one from a lawyer who claims he was misled into getting the woman to provide a false story.
As New York Magazine's Margaret Harmann noted, this is at least the second report from a legitimate news source that discredited what the Daily Caller first alleged.
The Daily Caller has since claimed that the Post spoke to the wrong woman.
Politico reported that the Post is standing behind its reporting.
Tucker Carlson, the Daily Caller co-founder and editor-in-chief, is scheduled to appear on Fox News' Special Report Tuesday night.
Update: During the March 5 edition of America Live, host Megyn Kelly reported on what she called a "new twist" in the story.
Talk about lowering the bar to can't-miss depths.
In its Sunday, page-one profile of partisan "provocateur" and Free Beacon founder Michael Goldfarb, the New York Times pointed to a report the right-wing site published this month, which raised questions about a speech Chuck Hagel gave in 2007. Free Beacon claimed Hagel had called the State Department "an adjunct to the Israeli foreign minister's office."
The report represented yet another missile fired by the sprawling, well-funded, far-right smear campaign to obstruct Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense. (A campaign that seems destined to fail, by the way.)
Writing up Goldfarb's supposed successes, the Times treated the Hagel report as a singular Free Beacon victory. (Sen. Lindsey Graham mentioned it on the floor of the Senate!) Even though, as the Times itself point out, Hagel denied the quote and no video was ever found to confirm it. Additionally, one professor who was present at the speech adamantly denied Hagel ever made the State Department comment.
But hey, other than that Free Beacon totally nailed the anti-Hagel story.
Also, note that Goldfarb has a long history of making stuff up, calling it news, and then refusing to admit to his published fabrications. The Times, in its puffy profile about how Goldfarb deftly outwits liberals, failed to mention that troubling career trait.
Coming in the wake of last week's Friend of Hamas debacle at Breitbart.com, the Times' toast to the factually challenged Goldfarb raises questions as to how the mainstream media treat disingenuous players inside the GOP Noise Machine. (Historically, the press has played nice with them.)
The good news about Ben Shapiro's colossal Breitbart failure with regards to his bogus claims about the (fictitious) Friends of Hamas group that allegedly had nefarious ties with Hagel? It helped shine a spotlight on the type of dishonest skullduggery that goes on within the conservative blogosphere on a nearly daily basis. The bad news is too many publications analyzed the Breitbart debacle against the backdrop of journalism and fact finding.
It's time for journalists to give up the ghost and stop pretending that lots of players on the far right media spectrum even try to engage in journalism as it's commonly defined. (Thankfully, some exceptions exist.)
It's not journalism. It's not even partisan opinion journalism. It's proud propaganda. More and more, it's the intentional spreading of rumor and misinformation for political gain. (And often done in conjunction with the Republican Party.) For too long, the press has allowed right-wing players to hide behind the shield of journalism, and then acted surprised when they cut egregious ethical corners.
Perpetually fuming about President Obama, Sean Hannity widened his rant Wednesday night on Fox News and condemned the "lapdog, kiss ass media" that allegedly lets Obama have his way. Echoing the same attack, Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week that "Mr. Obama is a once-in-a-generation demagogue with a compliant press corps," while the anti-Obama Daily Caller pushed the headline, "Lapdog Media Seeking Lap To Lie In."
Complaining about the "liberal media," has been a running, four-decade story for conservative activists. But what we're hearing more of lately is the specific allegation that the press has purposefully laid down for the Democratic president, and that it's all part of a master media plan to help Democrats foil Republicans.
The rolling accusation caught my attention since I wrote a book called Lapdogs, which documented the Beltway media's chronic timidity during the previous Republican administration, and particularly with regards to the Iraq War. I found it curious that Hannity and friends are now trying to turn the rhetorical tables with a Democrat in the White House, and I was interested in what proof they had to lodge that accusation against today's press.
It turns out the evidence is quite thin. For instance, one never-ending partisan cry has been the press has "ignored" the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last year; that they're protecting Obama. Yet the New York Times and Washington Post have published nearly 800 articles and columns mentioning Benghazi since last September, according to Nexis.
What the lapdog allegation really seems to revolve around is the fact that conservatives are angry that Obama remains popular with the public. Rather than acknowledge that reality, partisans increasingly blame the press and insist if only reporters and pundits would tell 'the truth' about Obama, then voters would truly understand how he's out to destroy liberty and freedom and capitalism.
Sorry, but that's not what constitutes a lapdog press corps. And to confuse chronic partisan whining with authentic media criticism is a mistake. The Hannity-led claim also isn't accurate. Studies have shown that during long stretches of his first term, Obama was hammered with "unrelentingly negative" press coverage.
By contrast, the lapdog era of the Bush years represented nothing short of an institutional collapse of the American newsroom. And it was one that, given the media's integral role in helping to sell the Iraq War, did grave damage to our democracy.
From the February 14 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre wrote that Americans need to buy firearms in order to ensure their "survival" and urged gun owners to join the NRA and buy more weapons in an unhinged February 13 Daily Caller op-ed.
Media Matters has long documented the feedback loop by which the NRA fearmongers about stronger gun laws in order to drive up membership and promote increased firearm sales; gun manufacturers in turn pour millions of dollars into the NRA's coffers.
In his latest op-ed LaPierre took this argument to new levels, arguing that Americans who don't buy firearms risk death from a number of sources:
Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face--not just maybe. It's not paranoia to buy a gun. It's survival. It's responsible behavior, and it's time we encourage law-abiding Americans to do just that.
Since the election, millions of Americans have been lining up in front of gun stores, Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops exercising their freedom while they still have it. They are demonstrating they have a mass determination to buy, own and use firearms. Millions of Americans are using market forces like never before to demonstrate their ardent support for our firearm freedoms. That's one of the very best ways we can Stand And Fight.
LaPierre writes that this "Stand and Fight" effort involves a "four-year communications and resistance movement." As part of this effort, LaPierre writes that a stronger NRA is necessary "to resist the coming siege" and states:
Every gun owner should be an active member of the NRA. Every gun owner should be sure that every member of his or her family is an active member. [...]
This begins with remembering to keep your own membership active, or reactivate it if it has lapsed. It means reminding yourself, "I have a son and daughter who aren't members and should be." It means reaching out to your hunting and shooting friends and personally telling them why it's so important that they join the NRA now, during this time of peril.
Renewing an NRA membership for one year costs $35; lifetime memberships cost $1,000.
Conservative media are pushing selectively cropped footage of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey as evidence that President Obama was "AWOL" the night of the Benghazi attack. In reality, Panetta and Dempsey emphasized that Obama's involvement was appropriate and that the White House was kept "well-informed" throughout the night.
After outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before Congress on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, The Weekly Standard selectively cropped a portion of his testimony and blogged that Panetta found Obama to be "absent" the night of the assault. The Weekly Standard's attack on Obama subsequently made the conservative media rounds to Fox Nation, The Drudge Report, The Daily Caller, Breitbart.com, and Fox News.
In its post titled "Panetta: Obama Absent Night of Benghazi," where this smear seemingly originated, The Weekly Standard highlighted Sen. Kelly Ayotte's (R-NH) questions to Panetta as proof of Obama's absence:
AYOTTE: Did you have any further communications with him that night?
AYOTTE: Did you have any further communications - did he ever call you that night to say, "How are things going? What's going on? Where's the consulate?"
PANETTA: No, but we were aware that as we were getting information on what was taking place there, particularly when we got information that the ambassador, his life had been lost - we were aware that that information went to the White House.
AYOTTE: Did you communicate with anyone else at the White House that night?
AYOTTE: No one else called you to say, "How are things going?"
The Drudge Report and others are suggesting that energy efficiency efforts somehow caused the power outage that occurred during the Super Bowl. But these attempts to scapegoat green energy are wrongheaded -- the outage occurred within the stadium, not among the energy efficient lighting outside the stadium.
Prior to Super Bowl XLVII, the New Orleans Host Committee worked to reduce the environmental impact of the game on and off the field, including by installing an energy efficient lighting display of LEDs outside the stadium.
During the second half of the game, many of the Superdome stadium's overhead lights blinked off, along with scoreboards, CBS-run cameras and other systems. The partial outage lasted for more than 30 minutes. The Drudge Report used the blackout to mock the possible "CURSE" from an efficient lighting display composed of LEDs on the outside of the Superdome:
Many prominent conservative media figures seized on the false implication -- Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich said "it's all [former Energy Secretary Steven Chu's] fault," and the Daily Caller suggested that the energy efficient lighting was the "cause" of the blackout.
But, as Politico and TIME's Mike Grunwald pointed out, these exterior LED lights did not go dark:
The Drudge Report snarkily linked to an Energy Department article published Saturday that praised New Orleans for being at the "Energy Efficient Forefront" and noted that the Superdome "features more than 26,000 LED lights" that conserve energy. However, others quickly pointed out that those are exterior lights, not the lights that went dark inside the dome.
Whatever the cause turns out to be, New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman saw one enduring U.S. tradition alive and well in the blackout aftermath.
"Only in America," he tweeted Sunday night, linking to Drudge's DOE link. "Blackout at Superdome actually becoming a political issue."
A Fox News guest falsely claimed that payments received by dependent children and divorced spouses of retired wage earners are bankrupting Social Security. In fact there is no major problem with Social Security's finances and the benefits Fox criticized make up a miniscule portion of the benefits Social Security pays out.
Despite evidence to the contrary, right-wing media have frequently questioned the financial health of Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Social Security spending will not rise sharply in the future, only rising from 4.87 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011 to 6.63 percent of GDP over the next 75 years. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities noted that Social Security's shortfall over the next 75 years can be almost completely made up by simply allowing the tax cuts passed during the Bush administration to expire for the wealthiest Americans.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy asked if payments received by dependent children and former spouses of retirees is "why [Social Security] could be going broke." Doocy called these payments part of a "great big gravy train." His guest, Michael Huffman of the Daily Caller, said that these payments are part of "what's wrong with Social Security," and added that these payments have "got to be contributing to bankrupting the system."
In fact, these old-age payments to dependent children and ex-spouses do not account for a sizable number of Social Security recipients or payments.
In anticipation of a Senate vote on a United Nations treaty that seeks to promote equal rights for people with disabilities, conservative media have revived the debunked myth that the treaty threatens U.S. sovereignty.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sets global standards for the treatment of people with disabilities, asking signatories to "ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability." More than 120 nations have ratified the treaty, and though the United States signed it in 2009 and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved it, the Senate has been unable to obtain the required number of votes to push it through. A Senate vote is scheduled to take place today.
Conservative media claim that signing the treaty would require the United States to alter its laws to meet these standards. Writing at National Review Online, the National Review Institute's Betsy Woodruff claimed that the treaty "could potentially undermine American sovereignty" and said it would be "self-abasing" for the U.S. "to comply with the treaty." Similarly, at the Daily Caller, Walter Olson of the Cato Institute equated signing the treaty with "sign[ing] away our national sovereignty on questions of how best to accommodate the disabled."
However, these claims are baseless, as U.S. law already meets the standards the treaty requests. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) "prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications." If a law, policy, or program is found to be discriminatory, the government has the power, through the Department of Justice, to enforce the ADA on both a private and public level. Thus signing the treaty would merely reaffirm the U.S. commitment to equal rights.
Both the Washington Post and The New York Times threw cold water on this fearmongering. The Post noted that the treaty "would not require the United States to change its laws." The Times further reported:
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved [the treaty] last July in a bipartisan vote, 13-6, while also passing a resolution to clarify, in case anybody was worried, that the United States would surrender none of its sovereign authority by joining the convention. The treaty would have no power to alter or overrule United States law, and any recommendations that emerge from it would not be binding on state or federal governments or in any state or federal court.
The baseless argument that the treaty threatens U.S. sovereignty is not new. In September, The Washington Times published an editorial warning that the "United States could soon find itself taking orders from international bureaucrats on how to treat people with disabilities."