Earlier today, Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple wrote of his efforts to interview the Daily Caller's Neil Munro about his heckling of President Obama, only to hear back from Munro that he was "too busy with health-care, etc."
But Munro was not too busy, however, for a cozy conversation with Sean Hannity on his radio show today. Hannity gave Munro ample space to tell his "version of things," in which he admitted it was "technically ... correct" that he interrupted the president. Hannity performed his usual routine, in which he gives conservatives who are in media messes plenty of airtime to explain away their problems. Hannity even prompted Munro to agree with him that the heckling was merely "mistimed."
Hannity said during the appearance that Munro will appear on his Fox News show later this evening, presumably for more of the same treatment.
From the June 18 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show:
UPDATE: In his Fox News appearance, Hannity again gave Munro ample time to tell his version of events. The closest Hannity got to criticizing Munro was telling him, "I think you should have waited until he was finished, but you recognize that, you've said so." Hannity then cued up Munro to criticize his "colleagues" in the media for being "too easy" on Obama.
On June 15, President Obama delivered a statement in the Rose Garden on the Department of Homeland Security's new policy halting deportations of certain young undocumented immigrants and granting them work permits, subject to various conditions. In the middle of Obama's statement, Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro delivered his own statement, interrupting the president as he shouted nonsensical questions about the administration "employ[ing] foreigners."
It was a breach of decorum that threatened to derail coverage of an important policy announcement, and was met with near-universal condemnation. The Daily Caller, however, is standing by their man with a variety of explanations and excuses, all of them dreadful.
First out of the gate (I think) was Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle, who defended "a reporter" -- later confirmed to be his colleague -- for interrupting Obama because OMG the president just wouldn't shut up!
Obama just bashed a reporter for asking him a question while he's rambling on.-- Matthew Boyle (@mboyle1) June 15, 2012
The president was "rambling on," said Boyle. By my stopwatch, the president had been speaking for just over four and a half minutes before Munro interjected, well within the attention spans of most toddlers and a few gifted dogs. And he was laying out a new federal policy that will affect close to 1 million people living in the United States, so perhaps we can spot him a few minutes.
Conservative media are seizing on a report by The Daily Caller to baselessly suggest that Van Jones' connection to a California solar company helped the company secure a $2 million grant from the Department of Energy. But Jones is an unpaid advisor to Solar Mosaic and was not even aware of -- let alone involved in -- the grant application process, according to the company's President.
This latest faux-controversy started when The Daily Caller reported that former Obama administration green jobs czar Van Jones serves as an advisor to Solar Mosaic, and that the company "employed Rebuild the Dream, Jones' firm, to do its public relations work." But Billy Parish, the president of Solar Mosaic, told Media Matters that Jones is "one of over a dozen unpaid advisors to the company," and that he "was not involved in the grant application in any way and didn't even know about it." And Natalie Foster, CEO of Rebuild the Dream, told Media Matters that reports that the organization was "employed" by Solar Mosaic are "not accurate at all." Foster said that while Rebuild the Dream supports companies like Solar Mosaic, "there is no formal, monetized relationship."
And contrary to The Daily Caller's suggestion that Solar Mosaic was singled out for an especially generous grant because of its connection to Jones, many of the projects supported by the same program received more funding. Solar Mosaic was one of nine companies awarded grants by DOE's SunShot Incubator Program in its latest round of funding -- the seventh round since the program began in 2007. The Daily Caller noted that of the nine recent recipients, "Solar Mosaic received the most money," without mentioning that almost half of the 47 projects supported by the Incubator program have been awarded more than $2 million -- including 16 companies selected by the Bush administration.
From the June 18 edition of Current's Talking Liberally with Stephanie Miller:
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From the June 17 episode of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Conservatives have defended the actions of Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro by claiming that his shouted questions to President Obama yesterday are no different than what veteran ABC News anchor Sam Donaldson used to do when he covered the Reagan White House. On Friday, Munro repeatedly interrupted Obama during his announcement of an immigration policy change that will potentially exempt hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to legally seek work in the United States. But Donaldson rejected that comparison.
As the Washington Post reported, Donaldson "didn't approve" of the confrontation:
"I never interrupted any president while he was making a formal presentation of any sort. You don't do that, do you?" said Donaldson, who titled his 1987 memoir "Hold On, Mr. President!"
Not that Donaldson ever let them slip away quietly. But he would wait until a president had finished his remarks, he said. And if the chief executive turned away without answering questions, Donaldson would fire away.
Donaldson was also famous for shouting questions as the president walked to and from his helicopter.
Indeed, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, who covered the White House alongside Donaldson as a reporter for NBC, agreed that what Munro did was "outrageous."
Wallace stated on Fox News' Studio B:
WALLACE: I covered Ronald Reagan for six years with Sam Donaldson. We used to scream our lungs out asking questions, but we always waited until the president had -- any president had finished speaking. The idea that you would interrupt the president in the middle of prepared remarks and shout a question -- I don't think the guy should be allowed back in the White House, you know, on a press pass.
Later, during an interview with Washington, D.C.-based radio news station WTOP, Wallace added that Munro "was way over the line":
WALLACE: The role of the press is to ask questions of the president, to get answers, but you don't interrupt the president in the middle of a statement. I covered the White House, Ronald Reagan for six years -- I was there with Sam Donaldson. Nobody would say that either of us lacked aggressiveness when it came to questioning the president, but we didn't interrupt while the president was still talking. This was way over the line.
And yet the comparison to Donaldson was trotted out by conservatives as justification for Munro's actions.
The president of the White House Correspondents Association criticized Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro for repeatedly interrupting President Obama today during an event, calling it "discourteous" and "not the way reporters who cover the White House conduct themselves."
Caren Bohan, a Reuters White House correspondent and current WHCA president, made the comments in a phone interview with Media Matters this afternoon.
"It was discourteous and it's not the way reporters who cover the White House conduct themselves," Bohan said in the interview. "I've covered a number of events where the president has spoken and there are times when we need to shout a question to him. But typically reporters wait until he has finished speaking."
Bohan also said that Munro is an associate member of the WHCA, not a regular member.
According to the WHCA website, an associate member "must be employed on the editorial staff of a newspaper, magazine, wire service, radio, TV, cable TV or other broadcast organization or newsgathering organization that reports on the White House. Associate members may not vote or hold elective office."
Asked if Munro's membership would be affected by this incident, Bohan said such decisions are up to the WHCA executive board.
Three former WHCA presidents, meanwhile, also weighed in on the situation.
Ed Chen, a former Bloomberg White House correspondent and WHCA president during the 2009-2010 term, said in an email that Munro: "Betrays a shocking disrespect for the office. He owes the president a written apology." Chen also described it as "Rude. Forgot the manners he must have been taught once upon a time."
Ron Hutcheson, a former McClatchy White House correspondent and WHCA president in 2004-2005, stated: "Aggressive journalism serves our democracy. Rudeness serves no useful purpose. This was rudeness."
C-SPAN host and political editor Steve Scully, a former WHCA board member and former president, told Media Matters that Munro's actions were unusual.
"Anytime the president is delivering remarks from The White House, there has been a long standing tradition for the POTUS to make his statements, almost always followed by questions by the press corps," Scully said in an email. "It was indeed unusual for the president to be interrupted by a reporter during the middle of his remarks and clearly it caught President Obama off-guard, simply because it doesn't happen that often."
Steve Thomma, a current McClatchy White House correspondent who has been on the beat since the Clinton administration, called Munro's behavior "counterproductive."
"I think it's possible to be civil and persistent, they don't have to be mutually exclusive. You don't have to yell. There is nothing wrong with asking a question, but there is nothing wrong with waiting until the president finishes a statement," he said. "It seems counterproductive. If you are really trying to get an answer, you can wait. He might have answered it. I would not interrupt the president's statement to ask a question."
Right-wing media outlets have been in full freak-out mode this week, fabricating a myth that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been using drones to spy on Midwestern ranchers. In fact, the EPA has been utilizing manned flyovers -- not drones -- to investigate potential polluters since the Bush administration, in an effort to save money and enforce clean water regulations efficiently.
For the past ten years, the EPA has conducted intermittent flyovers "to verify compliance with environmental laws on watersheds," as Reuters reported:
"EPA uses over-flights, state records and other publicly available sources of information to identify discharges of pollution," said a statement issued by the EPA's Kansas City regional office. "In no case has EPA taken an enforcement action solely on the basis of these over-flights."
EPA has for 10 years used flyovers to verify compliance with environmental laws on watersheds as a "cost-effective" tool to minimize inspection costs, according to the statement.
This article originally said that the EPA was using drones to monitor feedlots, but a representative from Senator Johanns office has alerted us that in actuality manned aircraft have been used to monitor the feedlots. We apologize for the error.
Nevertheless, right-wing commentators began falsely throwing the word "drone" into their reports about the EPA's enforcement mechanisms. For example, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly:
KELLY: You know, you gotta picture yourself, right, as one of these Midwestern farmers, because what's been in the news lately? The fact that President Obama's killed more terrorists with drones than any other president. That President Obama has a so-called "kill list." And that on that kill list, sometimes civilian casualties go as well, because if you're near an al-Qaeda terrorist, they assume if you're of an adult male age in a certain community, you also are a terrorist.
Even an American terrorist, an American al-Qaeda, was killed by a drone. So now you're in the Midwest, and you know you're not a terrorist, but nonetheless, you gotta get a little squeamish when you see a drone going overhead.
Right-wing media are arguing that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's victory in the Wisconsin recall election was a victory for the grassroots over unions and progressives. But, due to Citizens United and a loophole in Wisconsin campaign finance laws, the progressive message was swamped by conservative special interest money.
Conservative media outlets are credulously reporting House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's claim that wiretap applications signed by senior Justice Department officials "prove" they "approved" of dangerous gunwalking tactics in the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious, contradicting prior DOJ statements. In doing so, they ignore that the DOJ has repeatedly stated that senior officials do not necessarily review wiretap applications themselves, but rather largely rely on summaries of those applications produced by line attorneys.
"Documents prove senior Justice officials approved Fast and Furious, Issa says," reads the headline of Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's latest foray into reporting on the ATF's fatally flawed gunwalking operation.
Leaning heavily on Issa's just-released letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Boyle reports that Issa has obtained wiretap applications for that operation that were signed by senior DOJ officials. Boyle notes that Issa claims those documents "show that immense details about questionable investigative tactics were available" to those officials via those applications, supposedly disproving numerous DOJ statements that senior officials there were not privy to the details of gunwalking.
But there's one question that this sort of credulous recitation of Issa's claims does not address: Did those officials actually review the wiretap applications that Issa says contained that information? According to prior DOJ statements dating back to at least last year, the answer is no.
This is not the first time Issa has claimed that wiretap applications supposedly proved knowledge of gunwalking techniques on the part of senior DOJ officials. In February, his committee made similar allegations, claiming in a staff report that "Congressional investigators have learned about the information contained in one Wiretap Authorization and Wiretap Affidavit from Fast and Furious that Jason Weinstein signed. The Wiretap Affidavit presented Weinstein with the details of at least two instances in which ATF agents had witnessed illegal straw purchasing and the subsequent transfer of the purchased weapons to other individuals."
But Politico reported at the time that "Weinstein told investigators that it was his 'general practice' not to read the underlying affidavits in such cases but to rely on a so-called cover memo prepared by another Justice Department office." This was consistent with Politico's report last November in response to similar claims that the wiretap applications could have bearing on what senior DOJ officials knew of Fast and Furious:
The Justice official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said wiretap applications are reviewed by another DOJ office which writes a detailed cover memo that is usually the focus of review by Breuer's staff.
"What gets pulled out for their review is therough the lens of those two questions: necessity and probably cause," the official said.
In a letter that the committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), released in response to Issa's letter today, he reiterated these points in even greater detail.
Conservative media are twisting comments made by an EPA administrator -- and circulated by Senator Inhofe (R-OK) -- to suggest that the Obama administration is trying to shut down the coal industry. But the official was referring to a rule that applies only to new coal plants, and which industry leaders have said "won't have much of an impact" on business.
In a speech at Yale University in March, Region 1 administrator Curt Spalding discussed the EPA's efforts to implement necessary environmental safeguards with minimal economic consequences. Referring to greenhouse gas performance standards for new power plants, Spalding said:
You can't imagine how tough that was. Because you got to remember, if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities that depend on coal. And to say we just think those communities should just go away, we can't do that. But she had to do what the law and policy suggested. And it's painful. It's painful every step of the way.
The conservative media seized on these comments as proof of the Obama administration's "plan to destroy the coal industry in America."
The Daily Caller -- once again serving as Senator Inhofe's press office -- reported that Inhofe would take to the Senate floor to "highlight a little-known speech by an EPA regional administrator who admitted on video that the Obama administration's air regulations will kill the coal industry. Likewise, Fox Business' Lou Dobbs reported that Spalding was "caught on tape admitting the Obama administration's air regulations will kill the coal industry."
Fox Nation took that one step further, claiming that Spalding revealed that "the whole point of President Obama EPA's air regulations was to kill coal." And the Blaze reported that according to Spalding, the EPA aims to "drive an entire industry into the ground for no apparent reason."
In fact, Spalding said no such thing. And to suggest that the new greenhouse gas rule would "kill" the coal industry is absurd, as it applies only to new power plants. In announcing the rule, the EPA clearly stated that it "only concerns new generating units that will be built in the future, and does not apply to existing units already operating or units that will start construction over the next 12 months."
And since few companies plan to build new coal plants anyway given the low cost of natural gas, The Economist predicts that the new rules "will only formalise a shift that had already been under way, with little immediate economic impact." American Electric Power, one of the largest U.S. utilities, told the National Journal: "We don't have any plans to build new coal plants. So the rules won't have much of an impact." Duke Energy echoed this point, saying that the new rule "means nothing to us."
The right-wing website Daily Caller yesterday published an article by Jim Pontillo, the firearms manufacturer they have partnered with for their controversial gun giveaway promotion. The publication drew criticism last week following the revelation of Pontillo's past racially offensive and insurrectionist writings.
Pontillo's article for the "Guns and Gear" section is a list of the "Top 10 Guns You'll Find at the Neighborhood Liberal Gun Store" and disparages a wide range of Democratic politicians. Pontillo's list includes the "Pelosi Clinton Mini Derringer" ("Pull the trigger and this pocket pistol shrieks and cackles. No man can stand to be in the vicinity when this thing goes off.").
The Daily Caller's decision to publish Pontillo's political musings comes only a week after the website said his views were irrelevant, telling the Washington Post, "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant." The Caller's decision to feature Pontillo's work follows their "Guns and Gear" section editor's disclosure that he and Pontillo came up with the idea for the Caller gun promotion together.
This is not the first time Pontillo has written for the Caller. In December he authored a rambling piece for the site criticizing "those who lament America's cultural evolution toward secular society" for "devoid[ing] the moral absolutes that served our Founding Fathers" and attacking "the political class and by the main stream media" for supposedly disparaging his customers.
During an interview on NRA News, Mike Piccione, editor of Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" section, and host Ginny Simone spoke of "a team effort" between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Caller to promote gun ownership. During the interview Piccione said he hoped to expand his online publication's controversial gun giveaway promotion by giving away a firearm to a Caller email list subscriber who signs up for an NRA membership.
MIKE PICCIONE, DAILY CALLER GUNS AND GEAR EDITOR: Check back though because we're going to do a few things. One thing I want to do is I want to give a gun to somebody that joins the National Rifle Association from the Daily Caller.
GINNY SIMONE, HOST: Alrighty.
PICCIONE: Absolutely. Join the NRA and we'll support you.
SIMONE: It's a team effort.
Piccione also admitted that the gun giveaway promotion was the result of a brainstorm session with far right-wing gun manufacturer Jim Pontillo.
The Caller at one point distanced themselves from Pontillo's political views when confronted with extreme and racial comments about President Obama made by prize gun manufacturer Pontillo, telling The Washington Post, "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant." But the next day, Piccione told NRA News host Ginny Simone that he came up with the idea for the promotion with his "friend" Pontillo in order to "remind people" that Caller is "pro-Constitution" and "pro-gun."
Republicans in Congress are attempting to prevent the military from purchasing alternative fuels, which Senator Inhofe (R-OK) believes are merely "perpetrating President Obama's global warming fantasies and his war on affordable energy." And conservative media are backing the attacks on climate change and clean energy programs, suggesting that these investments come at the expense of national security. But experts across the political spectrum agree that climate change poses a serious threat to our national security, and that transitioning to alternative energy will enhance military effectiveness. Here are 15 current and former national security officials in their own words on the threat of climate change:
The Pentagon recognizes that our dependence on oil is problematic not only because of the threat of climate change, but also because of volatile oil prices and supply disruptions that can threaten the military's energy supply. It's Operational Energy Strategy states:
The Daily Caller wants to give you a free gun. A free gun with the Bill of Rights inscribed on the slide, presumably so that not all of your patriotism has to go downrange.
These weapons are made by Jim Pontillo, the owner of FMK Firearms. In addition to making guns, Pontillo moonlights as a lunatic conservative writer. We pointed out yesterday that he's written a smattering of columns for Human Events, one of which extolled the patriotic ardor of modern-day secessionists. And it turns out that, until recently, Pontillo blogged enthusiastically at his website, ForMyKountry.com.
Pontillo's writing bears all the hallmarks of fringe right-wing craziness, to include:
I am looking forward to [Obama's] inaugural address where the "coolest" "rock-star" Commander-In-Chief we've ever had wows us all by doing a fly-by around the newly repainted "Black House" and lands softly at the podium using nothing but those big ears for the flight.
As for Obama, I cannot see how he can expect to get any kind of majority among white America when his most fervent supporters hate white America.
Barack Obama will do very nicely for himself as a politician who represents a narrow and prejudiced group, he'll make lots of money and probably enjoy a long life in public service, but he will never be President of the United States; that job requires he represent all Americans, not just the angry black ones.
For president, he's done.
Poorly considered defenses of the Confederacy:
The American character, from the pilgrims on, has been defined by a special reverence for individual independence and individual right. Recalling the Civil War, the slave issue aside, it is natural to understand the Confederate rebellion. A resistance to government power is integral to the American DNA.
Favorable comparisons of Arizona's SB 1070 to the attack on Fort Sumter:
Arizona's SB1070 is a preemptive strike; a warning to a despotic administration that the American people are only going to tolerate a limited amount of assault on their sovereignty, it is a precursor revealing dissatisfaction turning to action.
Whether or not SB1070 is proper or right is really not the point. The question is...
Are Americans beginning to feel as intently in 2010 that its government has unjustly pushed them, as did the Confederate citizens of 1860?
Pontillo has also published some creepily bizarre stuff that transcends mere fringy-ness and is actually pretty alarming. Like his one-act play about the Virginia Tech massacre (written from the point of view of the murder weapon). And his belief that "we should send the U.S. Military down to Mexico, seize their oil fields, and confiscate the proceeds until the Mexican government changes its policy of encouraging their population to come here for work and send money home, all subsidized by American taxpayers."
This kind of conspiratorial and extremist thought permeates American gun culture, from small-time gun nuts like Pontillo to the highest levels of the NRA, and is enabled by the Daily Caller, which is handing out dangerous weapons just to get a little bump in traffic.
UPDATE: Slate's David Weigel asked Caller Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson about Pontillo's column calling Arizona's SB 1070 "a warning to a despotic administration that the American people are only going to tolerate a limited amount of assault on their sovereignty." Carlson responded to Weigel, "A little rebellion once in a while isn't a bad thing."
UPDATE X2: Erik Wemple of the Washington Post contacted the Daily Caller about Pontillo's "racier opinions." The Caller responded: "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant."
UPDATE X3: The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence released a statement condemning the Daily Caller for promoting Pontillo, given his "inappropriate and dangerous" commentary: "That Tucker Carlson and the Daily Caller would promote a man like firearms manufacturer Jim Pontillo to their readers is a testament to how far the American Conservative movement has moved to the right in the last several years."