The Daily Caller's headline: "Holder's No. 2 in 2009: Gunwalking, Fast and Furious a 'terrific idea.'"
The Daily Caller's lede:
The head of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division and Attorney General Eric Holder's highest-ranking deputy, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, called Operation Fast and Furious and gun walking a "terrific idea" in emails to now-former Acting Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Ken Melson back in late 2009, according a report released by Republican staff of the House Oversight Committee.
What Melson and Breuer actually said, as reported by the Daily Caller:
On Dec. 3, 2009, Melson wrote to Breuer, "Lanny: We have decided to take a little different approach with regard to seizures of multiple weapons in Mexico. Assuming the guns are traced, instead of working each trace almost independently of the other traces from the seizure, I want to coordinate and monitor the work on all of them collectively as if the seizure was one case. . . We should meet again just to catch up on where we are in our gun-trafficking issues and we could talk about the above idea as well. Let me know what you think."
Breuer responded on Dec. 4, 2009, writing, "We think this is a terrific idea and a great way to approach the investigations of these seizures. Our Gang Unit will be assigning an attorney to help you coordinate this effort."
According to the Republican Oversight Committee staffers' report, Breuer -- Holder's number two -- assigned a prosecutor to help ATF handle Fast and Furious. That attorney, according to the report, was Joe Cooley.
As the Daily Caller's own reporting shows, the emails in question don't mention the idea of allowing guns to be trafficked to Mexico; they deal with how data from seizures of multiple weapons that were recovered in Mexico would be treated by ATF in their investigations.
This isn't the first time the Caller's reporting hasn't matched up with the slant they apply to their stories on Holder and Fast and Furious.
By the way, "Holder's No. 2" isn't Lanny Breuer, it's Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Other than that, the Caller did a bang-up job.
Daily Caller columnist Yates Walker is frustrated at the conservative hand-wringing over Mitt Romney's "electability." As he sees it, the whole idea of "electability" is just a ruse concocted by the media that is intended to damage Republican candidates:
The electability question is a liberal media con. It is posed only when discussing Republicans. And it is posed often. The purpose of the question is to cast doubt on conservative candidates and, ultimately, keep them out of office.
And, tragically, it works.
It shouldn't be surprising that Walker finds questions of electability to be a pernicious conspiracy, given that he worked for Christine O'Donnell's 2010 Senate campaign, which was a master class on the dangers of baggage-laden candidacies. To wit: Walker himself gained a small amount of notoriety for floating the ugly rumor that O'Donnell's primary opponent, Mike Castle, was having a gay affair (he had quit the campaign at that point and was working for a pro-O'Donnell outside group, from which he was subsequently fired).
Walker's theorizing on "electability" earned an approving tweet from Erick Erickson, so it's likely we'll see this theme repeated elsewhere. And that's as good a reason as any to examine the evidence for the "electability" media conspiracy, such as it exists.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama said that his administration "will take every possible action to safely develop" America's reserves of natural gas, and that the "development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy." The next day, in Las Vegas, the president talked about "an America where more cars and trucks are running on domestic natural gas than on foreign oil. Think about an America where our companies are leading the world in developing natural gas technology and creating a generation of new energy jobs; where our natural gas resources are helping make our manufacturers more competitive for decades."
So Obama supports the development of natural gas. And conservatives think they have figured out the reason why: George Soros.
Lachlan Markay, of the Heritage Foundation, wrote yesterday:
George Soros, a billionaire investor and major backer of President Obama, stands to reap a windfall from legislation promoting natural gas-powered vehicles. The White House unveiled a proposal on Thursday that would do just that.
One company that stands to benefit handsomely from the president's proposal is Westport Innovations. The company converts diesel engines to be fueled by natural gas. Wall Street analysts predicted a boom for the company if the NAT GAS Act were passed.
If Westport reaps the predicted windfall, one of the chief beneficiaries will be George Soros, a major Obama donor and supporter. Soros's hedge fund holds 3,160,063 company shares (as of its last SEC filing).
Hot Air's Tina Korbe credited Markay for uncovering "a potentially key motivation for the president's recent proposal to offer incentives to companies to buy and use trucks powered by natural gas." Korbe added with an air of wildly unsupported certainty that this is an example of "the president's perpetual crony capitalism."
The Daily Caller also got in on the fun:
President Barack Obama, at a Las Vegas UPS facility Thursday, pitched a plan to boost the American use of natural gas, a plan that would not only benefit long-time natural gas proponent billionaire T. Boone Pickens, but also long-time Obama supporter, billionaire investor and progressive philanthropist George Soros.
So did the president craft a national energy policy based largely on how it would benefit George Soros' investment portfolio? It certainly seems likely, assuming you've been conditioned to believe that Soros is secretly pulling the strings at the White House, in which case the mere fact of Soros' connection to the natural gas industry is evidence enough to convict.
You just have to disregard the fact that the many millions of dollars in political donations made by the oil and gas industry and the natural gas pipeline industry -- which would also stand to benefit handsomely from expanded use of natural gas vehicles -- have overwhelmingly gone to Republicans. There's also the inconvenient presence of billionaire T. Boone Pickens. who cut checks to George W. Bush, funded the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, and, as noted by the Daily Caller, would make some serious bank with accelerated development of natural gas.
So if Obama's goal was to line the already well-lined pockets of one of his prominent supporters, he's also throwing vast sums at the people and industries who have bitterly opposed him and are likely to continue doing so in the future.
But hey, it's a conspiracy! It doesn't need logic, it just needs selectively reported facts and the thinnest patina of plausibility.
(Full disclosure: Soros has donated to Media Matters)
The Daily Caller's Guns and Gear section recently featured two op-eds authored by retired Major General Jerry Curry. In previous statements Curry has raised questions about President Obama secretly being a Muslim, demanded that Obama release his long-form birth certificate or resign, and derided Muslims as inherently violent.
The Daily Caller is currently running an "urgent poll" on its website asking its readers if the United States should "sign on to the UN gun ban."
There's just one problem: there is no "UN gun ban." While the right-wing media and theNational Rifle Association have consistently fearmongered over a proposed UN Arms Trade Treaty, there is no evidence their dark claims will come to pass. In December, the Daily Caller launched a "Guns and Gear" section, featuring content and advertising largely provided by the NRA.
The treaty in question seeks to regulate international arms deals to prevent weapons trafficking to human rights violators; the U.N. General Assembly's resolution on the treaty makes clear that countries will "exclusively" maintain the authority within their borders to "regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership." The goal of U.S. negotiators is get other countries to agree to follow import and export rules that the U.S. already has already instituted.
The Daily Caller promises to "share the poll results with major media outlets across the country," but it's unlikely that such outlets would be interested with the results of an unscientific online poll that features a flagrantly inaccurate description of the proposed treaty. The more likely purpose of the exercise is likely to allow the Caller to harvest its readers' email addresses, the submission of which is required to see the poll's results.
In a press release announcing the launch of its Guns and Gear section, Caller publisher and CEO Neil Patel criticized the media as "hopelessly out of touch with American values and interests" for not providing news coverage to "[t]he millions of Americans who own and are interested in guns." But now it appears that the publication is happy to treat those millions as rubes, playing to their fears pushing gun lobby nonsense in order to get their email addresses.
Fox News and The Daily Caller have promoted the idea that unemployment rates are dropping in Alabama because of the state's new immigration law. In fact, the state's governor -- who supports the law -- and economists say there's no definitive evidence about the law's effects on unemployment.
Right-wing media figures are slamming President Obama for the State Department's decision to reject plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline until a full assessment can be made, claiming that he is "killing jobs." But they cite industry-funded estimates of job creation that are wildly inflated. Moreover, the administration had long warned that it would be unable to complete the legally required review under the deadline imposed by a GOP-backed provision and would thus be forced to reject the project, and conservative outlets have previously attacked other Obama proposals that experts say significantly boost economic growth.
It's been nearly two years since the passage of President Obama's health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and the right-wing media's apocalyptic predictions ("the end of America as you know it") have still failed to be realized. In response, the brunt of most attacks have focused on minor issues, such as the temporary waivers that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have issued to employers who have found the pace of the transition too rapid.
The newest line of attacks on the waivers came after HHS issued a series of reports on PPACA implementation last Friday. The conservative website The Daily Caller reacted to the document release last Friday, alleging that "[l]abor unions [were the] primary recipients of Obamacare waivers." From The Daily Caller:
Labor unions continued to receive the overwhelming majority of waivers from the president's health care reform law since the Obama administration tightened application rules last summer.
Documents released in a classic Friday afternoon news dump show that labor unions representing 543,812 workers received waivers from President Barack Obama's signature legislation since June 17, 2011.
By contrast, private employers with a total of 69,813 employees, many of whom work for small businesses, were granted waivers.
The allegations were picked up quickly by Big Government, who called the high number of waivers going to labor unions "crony capitalism," and by Fox & Friends who this morning called it a "sweetheart deal." Fox Business host Stuart Varney further claimed that "96 [waiver applications] were rejected, and I believe it was mostly private enterprise companies that were rejected." Watch:
Yesterday, ABC News released excerpts from Barbara Walters' interview with President Obama and the First Lady, scheduled to air on tonight's 20/20. Several news outlets have focused on President Obama's comments about the "laziness in me," featuring headlines that lack needed context.
Politico headlined their story "Obama: I have some Hawaii laziness," while the Daily Caller went with "Obama: "There's a laziness in me," and National Journal selected "Obama Blames Hawaii For His 'Deep Down' Laziness."
All of these headlines would likely give readers the impression that Obama was saying that he tends to avoid doing work, which would fit neatly into a common conservative attack on Obama. But the full context of the interview shows that Obama was actually saying just the opposite. Obama told Walters: "It's interesting, there is a -- deep down, underneath all the work I do, I think there's a laziness in me." [Emphasis added.] He later added: "when I'm mad at myself, it's because I'm saying to myself, you know what, you could be doing better; push harder. And when I -- nothing frustrates me more than when people aren't doing their jobs."
While some reports on the Walters interview have included parts of this key context, the headlines generally have not.
From the full transcript of the interview, obtained from the White House [emphasis added]:
Q Okay. What's the trait you most deplore in yourself and the trait you most deplore in others?
THE PRESIDENT: Laziness.
Q You've lazy?
THE PRESIDENT: It's interesting, there is a -- deep down, underneath all the work I do, I think there's a laziness in me. I mean, probably --
MRS. OBAMA: If you had your choice --
THE PRESIDENT: It's probably from growing up in Hawaii, and it's sunny outside, and sitting on the beach --
Q Sounds good to me.
PRESIDENT: Right. But when I'm mad at myself, it's because I'm saying to myself, you know what, you could be doing better; push harder. And when I -- nothing frustrates me more than when people aren't doing their jobs. Although -- sorry, I shouldn't provide two answers. The thing actually that I most dislike is cruelty. I can't stand cruel people. And if I see people doing something mean to somebody else just to make themselves feel important, it really gets me mad. But in myself, since I tend not to be a mean person, if I get lazy, then I get mad at myself.
The portion of the interview released by ABC News does not include this part of Obama's statement: "But when I'm mad at myself, it's because I'm saying to myself, you know what, you could be doing better; push harder. And when I -- nothing frustrates me more than when people aren't doing their jobs."
Politico's Ben Smith is calling this the "next anti-Obama talking point," while Mediaite's Jon Bershad says, "If you're a fan of right wing media ... you're probably going to be seeing that clip about 5,000,000 times in the next week." Which is all the more reason why responsible journalists should be emphasizing what Obama actually said rather than writing sensationalist, misleading headlines.
Charlie Savage's New York Times profile of Attorney General Eric Holder and how he has become a "lightning rod" for partisan criticism must have seemed like an early Christmas present to The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle: It lets him accuse The New York Times of bias and attack Holder in one fell swoop.
It was clearly so exciting that he didn't bother to put together even a minimal arrangement of facts before suggesting the Times should issue a retraction.
Boyle suggests that Savage inaccurately reported that neither testimony nor documents have contradicted Holder's statements that he didn't know about the controversial 'gunwalking' tactic used in Operation Fast and Furious. In fact, just as Savage reported, there has not been any documents or testimony that suggest Holder knew about those tactics.
"Mr. Holder has denounced the tactics used in the operation, known as 'gunwalking,' but said he did not know about them or sanction their use," Savage wrote. "No documents or testimony have shown otherwise, but Republicans have pummeled him at oversight hearings and in news media appearances."
Savage made these statements without attribution.
Despite those assertions, Holder's office was provided with multiple briefings and memos about Operation Fast and Furious by top Justice Department officials. The memos contained intimate details of how Holder's DOJ allowed guns to walk.
The claim is specific: neither documents or testimony have shown that Holder himself knew about gunwalking tactics.
Tucker Carlson's content farm is upset at President Obama for praising the troops at Fort Bragg. I don't even know where to start:
President Barack Obama poured one compliment after another onto an audience of soldiers Dec. 14, and even came close to endorsing the Iraq campaign that he has denigrated since 2002.
"You are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries -- from the colonists who overthrew an empire, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you -- men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar, and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11," Obama declared at Fort Bragg, the North Carolina base of the U.S. 82nd paratroop division.
If that wasn't enough, Obama also told the soldiers that "unlike the old empires, we don't make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it's right."
Media coverage of the event downplayed the extent of Obama's scripted praise for the experienced soldiers. Neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times, for example, included the statements quoted above.
The flattering message was a remarkable 180 degree turn from his earlier description of soldiers as victims dependent on social-welfare and medical services offered by the Democratic coalition.
The article continues in this vein, dinging Obama for his "unfamiliar praise for the soldiers' professional accomplishments." How was it "unfamiliar" for Obama? No explanation is given, though I'm sure it doesn't extend far beyond "he's a Democrat so he hates the troops." They also take issue with Obama's invocation of the G.I. Bill and other government programs designed to assist soldiers and their families, saying that the president cast "the military merely as a welfare case." That's an insane interpretation that could only be arrived at via willful misunderstanding.
They even managed to shoehorn in a teleprompter reference.
And that's what gets me about the Daily Caller. They clearly relish taking potshots at the Democratic president and have no discernible threshold for pettiness or illogic, and they get themselves into trouble through this reflexive urge to attack Obama which frequently and amusingly ends up backfiring. They obviously can't control it, which explains why they conceive, craft, edit, and publish ludicrous articles attacking the president for praising the military while having the temerity to be a Democrat.
The Daily Caller features today an op-ed by former senator Don Nickles in which the Oklahoma Republican throws what weight he has behind two controversial anti-digital piracy bills before Congress, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP.
According to Nickles, the two bills will bring about a new age of glorious online free enterprise, and the critics of the legislation (who object to the potential for abuse and online censorship) are liars who enable criminal behavior:
While there are differences in the two bills, the ultimate goal is the same: to protect the American workers and businesses whose jobs are in jeopardy.
Critics of the legislation have fired a fusillade of inaccurate accusations charging that the bills will undermine Internet freedom. Protecting free expression online and protecting intellectual property rights are not mutually exclusive goals and suggesting they are is a false choice.
Freedom of speech has coexisted with intellectual property protection since our nation's beginnings. Our founders in fact respected the principle of intellectual property protection so much they included it in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. And founders from John Adams to George Washington wrote and commented on the integrally linked concepts of freedom, liberty and property rights. Theft of intellectual property is not protected speech any more than breaking into someone's home.
So Don Nickles supports SOPA and PROTECT-IP. What neither he nor the Daily Caller disclose is that Nickles supports them because he's paid a lot of money to support them.
Nickles' lobbying firm -- the Nickles Group -- lobbied in support of PROTECT-IP (S.968) on behalf of the Copyright Alliance, which has paid the Nickles Group $135,000 this year. It's likely that the Nickles Group is also lobbying for SOPA (the bill was introduced in October and fourth-quarter disclosures won't be made public until the new year).
The Daily Caller should make clear to their readers Nickles' financial incentives for promoting these two bills.
This morning, the right-wing Daily Caller announced the launch of a new website section called Guns and Gear. According to their press release, "The section will include everything from the latest news about armed citizens defending themselves and their property, to coverage of Second Amendment policies and politics, to reviews of the latest guns and gear."
Publisher Neil Patel is quoted in the release saying that "The millions of Americans who own and are interested in guns are currently without the sort of daily news coverage that is allotted to most other American interests." But if the section's current content is any guide, the Caller has decided that the best way to provide this "daily news coverage" is to republish articles and press releases directly from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Take a look:
The top of the web page currently features one op-ed from top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox; links to three previous Cox columns; a reposted November NRA press release highlighting "Twelve Big Wins for Gun Owners"; and a gun review from the NRA publication Shooting Illustrated. Oh, and two ads for the NRA; apparently purported news outlets can make money republishing content from interest groups.
Further down the section, readers find additional republished NRA press releases, more Cox op-eds, more NRA web ads, and reposted articles from NRA publications American Rifleman, Shooting Illustrated, and American Rifleman. There are currently only seven pieces of content on the section's front page labeled as coming from The Daily Caller. Of those, three are articles that were originally published at Human Events and three are sets of links to gun manufacturers, state gun clubs, and gun owner manuals. The last is an article headlined "The War on Christmas."
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the Caller has apparently decided to rely on the gun lobby for its "daily news coverage" of gun issues. The press release lists Mike Piccione as the section's editor, with editor in chief Tucker Carlson stating, "Mike Piccione knows more about firearms and self-defense than anyone in journalism. We're grateful to have him editing this new section." According to his Human Events bio, where he worked as editor of the newsletter Guns & Patriots, Piccione is "a NRA Marketing Manager."
For most publications, this kind of ethical cesspool would lead to apologies, internal debates about standards, and some soul-searching. At the Caller, it's just another Wednesday.
Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff expressed regret for paying columnists on multiple occasions to write articles favorable to his clients.
During a recent interview with Media Matters while promoting his new book, Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist (WND Books 2011), Abramoff said in the past he would find columnists who agreed with his positions and pay them to "place" articles in newspapers.
"Normally what that means in a lobbying context is that you have a friendly writer who is somebody that the major papers are willing to publish and you get them to focus on your issue and write a piece about it," Abramoff said in a phone interview, later adding, "It just happened when it had to happen. When it did, we would find somebody who agreed with us, a writer, and we'd usually pay them to do it, but they would be in charge of getting it placed. And that probably still goes on. I can't imagine it doesn't go on."
Abramoff said he paid for columns on maybe a half-dozen occasions in several major newspapers. He also said the newspapers themselves were likely unaware of the financial arrangement.
He said the media "was a tool in lobbying, and that's the way lobbyists view the media. That you try as best you can to keep them out of your hair, use them where you can to spin your issue, and otherwise keep them at a distance."
Abramoff also stressed that the writers paid to push his agenda were always columnists or op-ed writers, never reporters:
"I'd find a writer who was sympathetic to the issue, I wouldn't approach a writer who disagreed with me or was neutral. I'd find somebody who was passionate about this and we'd try to get them focused on it, get them some money if they needed money or they wanted to be paid for it," Abramoff explained. "A lot of these writers write for pay, they write columns and get paid by their papers. ... So we would pay them, and their job would be to get the article placed. Rather simple. It didn't always work, by the way. They weren't always able to get them placed. But generally they could."
Asked if he ever tried to pay a news reporter to write something sympathetic, he said, "Nah. Most of the time we stayed away from reporters. Lobbyists don't like to hang out with reporters, at least lobbyists who are prudent."
Abramoff confirmed two specific monetary relationships involving writers Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara, who were quoted in a 2005 BusinessWeek story as having been paid by Abramoff.
We've long chronicled the right-wing media's problem with undertaking basic research before trying to smear progressives. Nonetheless, this one was a doozy.
Last week, we debunked the claim from three conservative bloggers that President Obama repeatedly met with a Department of Justice official "keenly aware" of the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious at "the height" of the operation. In fact, no evidence has been presented showing that the official was aware at the time of the controversial details of the program, and in any case, the meetings in question were actually White House visits to attend major events related to a visit by the Mexican President and the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
As we pointed out, hundreds to thousands of people attended these supposed meetings, making it extremely unlikely that the DOJ official was using them to secretly brief the President. And as we noted, this information was easily available through the same White House Visitors Office records that the right-wing bloggers were using to drum up their conspiracy.
Yesterday, the Daily Caller attempted to identify just where those bloggers went wrong:
But on the dates in question, the logs specifically referred to formal arrivals and receptions related to a State Dinner for Mexican president Felipe Calderón. It's unclear whether the three writers noticed this feature of the visitor logs, since the spreadsheets' columns related to the purpose for the visits is hidden from view and only become visible when readers scroll a considerable distance to one side.
That's how pathetic even the Caller acknowledges the right-wing blogosphere must be: they are either too incompetent to "scroll a considerable distance to one side" in order to confirm their conspiracies before they run with them or they're simply uninterested in the truth.
For their part, the Caller was also apparently unable to pull off the scrolling trick on their own. Instead, after reading the claims of right-wing bloggers, they contacted the White House directly, who pointed them to our post. It remains to be seen whether the Caller has learned not to take such sources seriously in the future.