The Daily Caller currently has a "2016 Bombshell" splashed across its front page -- the conservative website claims that while the "chattering class" is certain that Hillary Clinton is planning to run for president in 2016, "whispers persist" that she will decline a run for office. Caller political reporter Alex Pappas amasses an array of slipshod claims from even less credible sources to string together his case.
The Caller often runs poorly-sourced hit-jobs aimed at damaging progressives and garnering traffic. Here's the evidence on which the Caller is basing its story, which puts a Clinton spokesman's statement that she is "100%" up against four uses of the word "rumors" and three uses of "skeptics" or "skeptical."
In the story's third graph, Pappas unveils what is apparently his most compelling evidence that Clinton's health is in jeopardy -- two supermarket tabloids have reported it:
These ubiquitous rumors of her health have been fueled in part by the supermarket tabloids. The National Enquirer wrote in 2012 that Clinton had brain cancer, something a spokesman dismissed then as "absolute nonsense." In January of this year, the Globe claimed that Clinton secretly had a brain tumor.
That Globe story cites a "close source" saying that Bill Clinton has been telling Hillary that "they need to think long and hard about" her doctors' supposed warnings that she would not survive a presidential campaign. Which is weird, because back in September The Globe was reporting that Hillary was going to divorce Bill -- who, according to the story, is "dying" -- after he recently tried to "hook up" with Gennifer Flowers. And because in August, The Globe was reporting that Hillary's presidential plans were doomed after video emerged of her "steamy romps -- with another woman!"
In any case, the supermarket tabloids are old news -- they came out one month and fourteen months ago. So why is the Caller running the story now? The closest thing Pappas has to a news hook -- the only data point in the story from within the last month -- is a February 24 tweet from Roger Stone, identified as a "GOP consultant," claiming that Clinton is "not running for health reasons." Stone, who has been called a "professional dirty trickster and high priest of political hijinks" by the conservative Weekly Standard, is not someone to be taken seriously where Clinton is concerned -- in 2008 he founded the anti-Hillary Clinton 527 group Citizens United Not Timid, which emphasized its acronym on its website and on T-shirts.
The balance of the story goes back over Clinton's health scare in December 2012, when she suffered a concussion and doctors subsequently found a blood clot in her head, from which they said she made a "full recovery." At the time, conservatives claimed that she had fabricated her "immaculate concussion" as a means of avoiding scheduled congressional hearings on Benghazi. Since then, Clinton has stepped down as Secretary of State, begun a campaign to accelerate global progress for women and girls at the foundation her husband founded, and embarked on a vigorous series of speeches around the world.
The phony concussion "rumor" has faded away, so the Caller has made up a new one. And Pappas apparently did the job his employer is looking for - his story got a Drudge Report link, and Caller reporters are paid in part based on traffic. This brand of conservative rumormongering is shoddy, but apparently it pays.
This post has been updated for clarity.
Conservative media are latching on to the climate change denial of Patrick Moore, who has masqueraded as a co-founder of Greenpeace. But Moore has been a spokesman for nuclear power and fossil fuel-intensive industries for more than 20 years, and his denial of climate change -- without any expertise in the matter -- is nothing new.
Will Ferrell was the target of conservative ire this week after tweeting a picture encouraging uninsured Americans to get health care coverage.
On February 24, Ferrell's "Funny Or Die" humor website tweeted a photo of the comedian holding a sign with the words #GetCovered, a hashtag affiliated with the Department of Health and Human Service's efforts to encourage young people to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act's new health care exchanges.
Cue the wrath of right-wing media figures.
Dr. Roy Spencer -- one of the few climate scientists who doubts manmade climate change and one of the few climate scientists often quoted by conservative media -- announced that he is going to start calling his opponents "global warming Nazis."
In a February 20 post on his personal website, Spencer wrote that he was going to start calling those that use the term "deniers" of manmade climate change "global warming Nazis" because, he said, the term "indirectly equate[s]" climate change "skeptics" with Holocaust deniers. He went on to detail how "extremists" on climate change are supposedly like Nazis, including saying that they are "over-educated" like Nazis supposedly were:
Like the Nazis, they advocate the supreme authority of the state (fascism), which in turn supports their scientific research to support their cause (in the 1930s, it was superiority of the white race).
This authoritarianism tends to happen with an over-educated elite class...I have read that Nazi Germany had more PhDs per capita than any other country. I'm not against education, but it seems like some of the stupidest people are also the most educated.
So, as long as they continue to call people like me "deniers", I will call them "global warming Nazis".
The term "denier" has been used since 1475 according to the Oxford English Dictionary and since at least 1800 according to Google's record of English books. However, some argue that is reminiscent of Holocaust deniers, while others, including some of those who doubt the consensus on climate change, have embraced the term. In fact, National Review editor Rich Lowry, who had previously claimed that "climate denier" was intended to invoke Holocaust deniers, now uses the term against those advocating climate action. A scientist at Scientific American wrote that he uses climate denier for those who deny the basic science and thinks those who deny this warming is "almost certainly because of human influence" are "at least leaning toward being a denier." He uses "skeptic" for those who dispute the impacts of climate change.
Spencer has said that recent warming may be mostly natural, contrary to 97 percent of his colleagues. A 2011 study by Spencer received substantial attention from conservative media, including from Fox News, which suggested the study had destroyed a "central tenant [sic]" of global warming. Later, the journal editor that published the study resigned, saying it "likely" had "false claims" and shouldn't have been published. Spencer has also suggested that he is politically motivated, stating that he "view[s] [his] job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government."
The Daily Caller, which -- along with other conservative media outlets -- often quotes Spencer, appeared to trumpet his announcement, writing up his remarks uncritically and detailing those who use the term "climate denier."
After some in the comment section of his website took umbrage with his use of the term Nazi, Spencer doubled down, adding a note that "Considering the fact that these people are supporting policies that will kill far more people than the Nazis ever did -- all in the name of what they consider to be a righteous cause -- I think it is very appropriate."
National Rifle Association President Jim Porter wrote that "the big gorilla in the room is Obama's lawless approach to governing" in a Daily Caller op-ed. Porter also claimed that a "corruption of power" by President Obama could mean "the wondrous stability of our nation could end."
Claiming that "gun owners have become victims of Obama's abuse of power," Porter wrote in his February 19 op-ed that "[i]n contravention of absolute congressional spending bans, Obama has ordered the Centers for Disease Control, in effect, to create a massive gun-ban propaganda and lobbying agenda to treat gun ownership as a public health menace."
But the Obama administration has not ordered the CDC "to create a massive gun-ban propaganda and lobbying agenda." In reality, the Obama administration's January 2013 presidential memorandum asked the CDC to "[c]onduct or sponsor research on the causes and prevention of gun violence and the ways to prevent it." The Obama administration has noted that the CDC cannot, under federal law, "advocate or promote gun control," but that "research on gun violence is not advocacy; it is critical public health research that gives all Americans information they need."
The Obama administration action was a reaction to lobbying by the NRA that seeks to prevent the CDC from conducting research on gun violence. The Obama administration subsequently issued an executive action that asked Congress to appropriate $10 million to fund further CDC research into gun violence. As the Obama administration suggested, gun violence is a major public health concern that is described by the American Medical Association as an "epidemic."
Conservative media outlets are lauding a legislative effort to enact what experts are calling an attempt to reincarnate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the core provision of which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last summer.
On February 12, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Senate version of the State Marriage Defense Act, a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) in January. The bill would require the federal government to yield to state definitions of marriage, meaning that same-sex spouses would lose the federal benefits and protections of marriage if they moved to states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Accordingly, ThinkProgress has dubbed the bill the "'You're Not Married Anymore' Bill."
The bill - which stands an infinitesimal chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate - would push back on the Supreme Court's June 2013 ruling against Section 3 of DOMA, which barred the federal government from recognizing validly performed same-sex marriages. Section 2 of DOMA, which wasn't considered in the Supreme Court case, allows states to define marriage, but there's a strong argument - increasingly supported by the courts - that the logical end-point of the Supreme Court's ruling is the demise of state-sanctioned discrimination against same-sex couples.
Since the Court issued its ruling, five federal courts have overturned state marriage equality bans, citing Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion that DOMA served no legitimate purpose. The most recent such ruling came on February 13 when U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen struck down Virginia's marriage equality ban.
Right-wing media, however, won't let DOMA die without waging a fight for anti-gay discrimination.
Breitbart.com championed Cruz and Lee's bill as a defense of state's rights, reprising the argument advanced by anti-civil rights figures who supported placing racial minorities' constitutional rights at the whim of state authorities. The website's William Bigelow asserted that the bill "protects the states from having the federal government encroach" on their ability to deny equal rights to same-sex couples.
Following the same narrative, The Daily Caller touted the bill as an effort "to prevent the federal government from imposing conflicting definitions of marriage on the states," promoting Cruz's claim that President Obama "should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states." PJ Media also acted as stenographer for the bill's sponsors, extensively quoting the bill in addition to Cruz and lee. The bill, PJ Media's headline read, tells the federal government to "mind states' rights on same-sex marriage."
Daily Caller gossip scribe Betsy Rothstein used the transphobic slur "tranny" to describe transgender activist Janet Mock, defending Piers Morgan against charges that his February 4 interview with Mock sensationalized Mock's story and stating Mock's new memoir wouldn't "even exist if she had not been born with a penis."
In a February 5 column titled "CNN's Piers Morgan unfairly gets his nuts handed to him by a tranny," Rothstein blasted critics who denounced Morgan for fixating on the physical and sexual aspects of Mock's gender identity during a February 4 interview on his show. Rothstein said the controversy was much ado about nothing, even as the title of her column contained a notorious anti-transgender slur (emphasis added):
The reason for his bad day centered around Janet Mock, a transgender woman he'd had as a guest on his program to discuss her new book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. That's right, he was helping her sell her book. But that wasn't enough for Mock. She really wants to sell her book. So a week after the interview was taped, she incited people in the transgender community, who accused Morgan of being "transphobic" and mistreating her by explaining that she was male before age 18. The fact is, Mock was born a boy with the name "Charles" and had a sex change at 18. Her beef is that she "identified" as a woman her whole life. And yet, she still had a penis. During the interview, Piers told her that her dress was something Beyoncé would wear. Mock replied, "Well, I live for Beyoncé. So that's a very good compliment. Thank you." Piers complimented Mock repeatedly throughout the segment, calling her "brave" and "gutsy" and a "remarkable lady." Instead of being treated like a zoo animal who is fed his part, Morgan asked questions he thought viewers would wonder about. For example, asking his audience how they might feel if they learned a woman they were dating was once a dude? Hardly an outlandish question to ask in reference to a transgender woman who is selling a book about her life experiences. But that was not in Mock's talking points. She wanted Piers to normalize her experience and speak to her as if she wasn't selling her book based on the fact that she is a transgender. Would the book even exist had she not been born with a penis? OF COURSE NOT. If we wanted a sanitized, publicist's version of an interview, fine. But that wasn't the case, nor should it have been.
Tonight, Piers had Mock back on his program in a live interview. He asked why he has had to endure 24 hours of abuse from the transgender community.
Rothstein's apparent belief that Mock couldn't possibly have truly identified as a woman until she underwent a surgical sex change reflects the very sort of "reductive thinking about gender" Mock decried in a February 4 interview with BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner. But Rothstein's focus on Mock's genitalia is standard fare at the rabidly transphobic Daily Caller, where even transgender high school students are considered fair game for journalistic ridicule.
Morgan - who continued to complain about Mock and his critics in a follow-up interview with her on February 5 - tweeted Rothstein's article, calling it an "interesting take":
Right-wing media figures jumped at reports that Sandra Fluke is running for political office in California with sexist attacks and falsehoods about her advocacy for the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate.
The Daily Caller mocked and objectified transgender students in its report on a recent legal victory for transgender youth, a report that also featured the long-debunked claim that transgender students will engage in inappropriate behavior if they're allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
The Daily Caller accompanied a February 1 article titled "Maine's supreme court foists choose-your-own-bathroom policy on entire state" with a photo illustration of a woman screaming from behind a shower curtain, which the Daily Caller also used for another piece deriding transgender protections:
In the article itself, education editor Eric Owens continued his pattern of transphobic ignorance, often characterized by an objectifying fixation on the genitalia of transgender subjects. Blasting Maine's Supreme Judicial Court for its January 30 ruling that states must allow transgender students to use restrooms for the gender with which they identify, Owens wrote (emphasis added):
The supreme court of Maine has issued an opinion declaring that transgender children in the state's public schools must be allowed to choose their own bathrooms despite their genitalia or how uncomfortable other students may feel about it.
The 5-1 decision, which came down on Thursday, marks the first time any state's high court has ruled that transgender kids can use the bathroom with which they identify rather than the one matching their biological trappings, reports the Bangor Daily News.
The case, which originated in 2009 and stagnated for years in Maine's courts, involved a fifth-grade student who wanted to use the girls' bathroom. School officials said no because the student was not, in fact, a girl.
Jennifer Levi, director of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) transgender rights project, was pleased with the outcome.
"A transgender girl is a girl and must be treated as such in all respects, including using the girls' restroom," Levi stridently insisted.
The article's jump-page line read, "Transgender dudes cleverly force their way into female bathrooms all over the country":
A Daily Caller writer penned an historically illiterate column proclaiming that the mission of American liberalism has always been "controlling the masses," asserting that contemporary liberals wish to engineer a world in which "we can just eradicate that last opponent of gay marriage" and "Americans are all Rachel Maddows."
In his January 30 column, Mark Judge embarked on a lengthy, error-ridden history of American liberalism featuring claims that arch-libertarian and bitter New Deal opponent H. L. Mencken was actually a liberal and that FDR's administration was riddled with communists -- a conspiracy theory that has been derided even by right-wing commentators. Judge then trained his sights on contemporary liberals (emphasis added):
With the arrival of Ronald Reagan, and the subsequent Tea Party movements, American liberals, argues Siegel, have gone back to 1920s mode, but with a twist. Like Mencken, Bourne, Upton Sinclair, and George Bernard Shaw, today's left is obsessed with containing and controlling the masses and forcing them to be ruled by their betters. It's why there is such rage at the Tea Party, no to mention the Little Sisters of the Poor, who dare to resist the sexual revolution and Obama's contraception mandate. Yet there is a twist: these same liberals now love popular culture, especially the parts of it that tweak (or twerk) bourgeois values. They have also, as [author Fred] Siegel notes, traded in their concept of a "universal consciousness" that needs to be elevated for the racial and gender identity politics of "gentry liberalism." It's not a hive mind that needs to be dragged into enlightenment; it's a bunch of dumb rednecks who need to be forced to celebrate "diversity." In either case, the goal is heaven on earth, and they will do anything to attain it.
Let me try and sum up by putting it this way: combine utopianism, snark, arrogance, selective defense of science -- that is, defense of science when it agrees with your preformed prejudices -- hostility to Western civilization, ignorance of American history, mockery of classical culture, the ability to shift sides to either defend or excoriate the masses depending on whether the people are for or against your unreasonable utopian demands (i.e. your "rights"), a Valley Girl singsong accent, and free-floating rage. Put it all together, have Obama recite an incantation over the stew, and you have a modern liberal. You have Rachel Maddow.
And as I said at the opening of this piece, I think Americans are all Rachel Maddows now. They willfully submit themselves to their betters, even if the best and brightest of those elites is a man with no experience and a proven record of lying. NSA wiretapping, drones, religious persecution -- no matter, we have a black president. Not to mention Miley Cyrus and Oprah. Now if we can just eradicate that last opponent of gay marriage, or outlaw the Tea Party, or unplug Fox News, we can usher in that heaven on earth that Randolph Bourne and H.G. Wells prophesied.
Following an announcement that House Republican leaders will unveil a set of "principles" for guiding debate on immigration reform, conservative media urged Republicans to reject these and any attempts to pass immigration reform legislation this year. This is the latest in a series of conservative media attacks against the immigration reform effort that began in 2013.
On January 28, President Obama gave his fifth State of the Union speech during which he addressed the urgent need to act on climate change. Conservative media pundits latched on to the cold winter weather in the area during his speech to laugh off global warming, despite the clear long-term warming trend.
As Republicans gear up for an annual retreat later this month where leaders will reportedly unveil principles for immigration reform, conservative media are again misrepresenting facts to mislead about Americans' support for legalization.
As Roll Call reported, the retreat is set for January 29 and will include discussions about immigration reform: "To get their members energized and focused on the issue, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and his top lieutenants are about to unveil a set of principles for an immigration overhaul. They could be distributed to lawmakers as early as Friday, but likely not until lawmakers have settled into the retreat, sources say." The article went on to note "that more and more GOP lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum appear to be growing receptive to giving undocumented immigrants a chance to receive legal status."
In an attempt to hijack the debate, however, radio talk host Mark Levin and the Daily Caller are using the occasion to mislead about Americans' support for immigration reform.
On his radio show, Mark Levin pointed to a poll by Rasmussen Reports to claim that "immigration increases are opposed by the majority of lower-income and middle-income voters," and by a "plurality of African-Americans."
Levin was apparently reading from the Daily Caller, which made the same points in an article previewing the GOP retreat:
A new poll shows that the wealthy and politically well-connected favor the sharp immigration increases that are included in pending House and Senate bills.
The immigration increases are opposed by the majority of lower-income and middle-income voters, and by political moderates and conservatives, according to the new Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely voters. A plurality of African-Americans oppose the increases.
The article added: "In June, the Senate passed a bill that would triple the inflow of legal immigrants over the next decade."
But this is a false argument that was repeatedly debunked when conservative media first latched onto it in 2013, after its invention by anti-immigrant nativist group NumbersUSA in an online ad against reform.
Right-wing media have hyped demands from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to illegally remove the Department of Justice attorney tapped to investigate the IRS targeting scandal because of her political contributions, despite the fact that the DOJ is prohibited by law from considering political affiliations or contributions in personnel decisions.
Transgender actress Laverne Cox made waves with a recent appearance on Katie Couric's syndicated talk show, where she pushed back against Couric's fixation on the genitalia of Cox and fellow guest Carmen Carrera, a transgender model. In decrying the objectification of trans people, Cox highlighted a problem that plagues right-wing media coverage of transgender issues.
On the January 6 edition of Katie, Couric repeatedly focused on her guests' gender transitions, introducing Carrera by stating that "she was born a man and that's why she's on our show," before inquiring whether Carrera's "private parts" are "different now." Carrera challenged Couric's line of questioning, saying the issue was "really personal" and that "after the transition there's still life to live, I still have my career goals, I still have my family goals."
Couric pursued the matter further when Cox joined the segment, asking the Orange is the New Black actress for her take on Carrera and Couric's exchange. Cox responded that fixating on trans people's bodies detracts attention from the realities of transgender lives:
Compelling as they were, Cox's words fell on deaf right-wing ears. The Media Research Center's Tim Graham responded by mocking Carrera and Cox's handling of what he called "those uncomfortable wiener questions" and "the bulge issue." Graham derided the "two men" for believing "[i]t's possible to pretend to be a woman and use a urinal."
Graham's transphobia dovetails with the right-wing media's approach to transgender coverage, characterized by willful ignorance and expressions of derision and disgust. After Army Private Chelsea Manning announced her gender transition in 2013, Fox News mocked her transition as "confus[ing]" and "bizarre." Fox & Friends ended a segment on Manning's transition by playing Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like A Lady),"while one Fox host cautioned viewers not to be "deceived" by Manning's announcement that she's a female.