Tucker Carlson's content farm screwed up big time.
Two days ago, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle reported that the Environmental Protection Agency, in phasing in greenhouse gas regulations, was "asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers." In fact, the EPA was arguing the exact opposite: that they were avoiding a scenario in which 230,000 new workers would be required. The facts are not in dispute: the Daily Caller got it completely wrong.
Normally, in instances like these, corrections are issued. That's what journalists do.
That's not what the Daily Caller is doing.
Daily Caller executive editor David Martosko is standing by the inarguably false story, and is actually claiming that the facts surrounding the story are subordinate to the narrative they're trying to push. He told Politico:
"The EPA is well-known for expanding its reach, especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions. What's 'comically wrong' is the idea that half of Washington won't admit it. The EPA's own court filing speaks volumes," Martosko said in an email.
"What's more likely: that the Obama administration's EPA wants to limit its own power, or that it's interested in dramatically increasing its reach and budget? Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows the answer," he added. "The suggestion that the EPA -- this EPA in particular -- is going to court to limit its own growth is the funniest thing I've seen since Nancy Grace's nipple-slip."
This isn't a question of "what's more likely" -- you're wrong. The EPA did not do what you said it did. And the facts of the story actually argue against your hackneyed, preformed notion of the Obama administration's insatiable drive to expand government, which itself is certainly not sufficient basis for a "news" story.
Sweet Nancy Grace joke, though.
Former Republican Congressman and nativist crank Tom Tancredo wrote an op-ed this morning for the Daily Caller titled: "Governor Perry's Muslim blind spot." Tancredo's thesis is that Perry, currently the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is unacceptable because he has "connections to Muslim groups in Texas" that "are well documented."
This might not sound particularly controversial to you or I, but for bigots like Tancredo a cordial relationship with the Muslim community is a deal-killer. And in marshaling evidence for his anti-Perry, anti-Muslim jeremiad, Tancredo veers into self-clowning buffoonery:
Perry's close ties to Muslim groups led the political blog Salon to headline a recent story: "Rick Perry: The pro-Sharia candidate?" Evidence in support of that theme comes from Gov. Perry's refusal to support legislation sponsored by Texas Republican legislators to outlaw Sharia law in Texas.
The title of that blog post, authored by Salon reporter Justin Elliot, was quite clearly a poke at reactionary Islamophobes like Tancredo who view anything short of outright hostility to Muslims as a de facto endorsement of Sharia law. Perry's rhetoric, Elliot wrote, "presents a stark contrast to some other members of the GOP presidential field, who have variously called for resistance to Islamic cultural conquest and outright restrictions on Muslims in public life." And, as it turns out, in the same piece Elliot noted that Perry's relationship with the Muslim community could become a target for "right-wing bomb-throwers."
And then there's the issue of the Daily Caller publishing Tancredo in the first place. He's only grown more extreme since leaving Congress, bemoaning the lack of "civics literacy tests" as a prerequisite for voting (a throwback to Jim Crow which would be very much illegal) and calling for the impeachment of President Obama over an issue that he concedes is completely false. He also famously accused Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor of membership in the "Latino KKK" (his term for the National Council of La Raza). His is a voice that doesn't merit broader dissemination.
The problem is that Tancredo's "Rick Perry doesn't hate Muslims" attack, despite its hateful incoherence, will likely have more than a few heads on the conservative right nodding in approval.
EPA explained in a court brief that by phasing in greenhouse gas regulations and focusing on large sources of emissions, the agency avoids a scenario in which 230,000 new workers would be required. Somehow, the Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle concluded from this that "The EPA is asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers." Other conservative media outlets, including Fox News, repeated Boyle's false report.
Right-wing media have reacted to the announcement that the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster will make adult and children's meals healthier by inventing the conspiracy that the decision was the result of favors from the administration or political pressure from Michelle Obama. This follows the right-wing media's long history of attacking healthy eating and exercise.
Last week Media Matters noted how Matthew Boyle, who works for Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, published a one-sided story highlighting conservative attacks on the National Labor Relations Board. In the piece, Boyle "simply transcribe[d] the distortions about NLRB made by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), a member of the House Oversight Committee."
Blogger Brad Friedman notes that Boyle has done the exact same thing this week; basically take dictation from a company and publish a 'news' article without including any comment, context or perspective from the other side. Like the NLRB article, Boyle's latest is a government-bashing piece that condemns regulations. In neither article is anyone given a chance to explain or defend the regulations.
The Daily Caller headline:
The article details how Texas-based coal plant owner Luminant is unable to meet a "new Cross-State Air Pollution rule, which requires Texas power generators to make 'dramatic reductions' in emissions beginning on January 1, 2012."
That's it. EPA regulations forced Luminant to shut down two facilities. No other possible explanation is given by the Daily Caller for why Luminant is laying off 500 workers.
In very little time however, Friedman was able to find an environmental advocate who offered up a very different explanation for Luminant's move [emphasis added]:
This company is highly leveraged, pays out about three and a half billion dollars a year in debt, and is flailing because it bought a lot of coal plants (and decided to build three new ones), as natural gas prices have fallen. Luminant's anxiety about the declining price of natural gas, and its effect on the company's profitability, is right there in their 2010 SEC 10-k filing. So, they're trying to make the EPA and the Clean Air Act the scapegoat for their bad investment decisions.
Boyle really ought to try harder to report both sides of the story.
The right-wing has labeled the Department of Justice's decision to block the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile as politically motivated and anti-jobs. In fact, experts say the DOJ's decision was based on clear violations of antitrust laws and would both protect consumers and prevent significant job loss.
The Daily Caller is the latest in a long line of conservative media outlets waging a campaign of misinformation about the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Today, in typical Daily Caller fashion, Matthew Boyle simply transcribes the distortions about NLRB made by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), a member of the House Oversight Committee. The committee has been attacking the agency for opening a standard investigation into allegedly illegal retaliation against organized labor by Boeing, Inc.
In an interview with Boyle, Gowdy calls for the elimination of the NLRB, an 80 year-old independent government agency tasked with investigating unfair labor practices and protecting the organizing rights of employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act. Gowdy would prefer the legislation be enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and suggests that the NLRB is a politically partisan agency by deceptively implying that the NLRB is not covered by the Hatch Act, a law preventing most federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. Boyle writes:
"The United States Department of Justice has criminal prosecutors and it also has a civil division," Gowdy said. "It's the DOJ that gets involved in anti-trust issues, it's the DOJ who handles issues looking into behemoth telecommunications companies. Surely to goodness, they've got bright lawyers at DOJ. Surely to goodness, they can enforce the provisions of the NLRA." [...]
"[Federal prosecutors'] allegiance is solely to the truth and they're not sycophants for labor unions," Gowdy said. "I have confidence in career prosecutors; I worked with them. They're necessarily and by law apolitical because of the Hatch Act and we trust them with the other major decisions that we have in our civil and criminal justice system."
The NLRB has typically swung with political tides, being a bit more pro-business under Republican administrations and a bit more pro-union under Democratic administrations.
Had Boyle done a minimal amount of research for his article, he would have discovered that Gowdy's insinuation -- that NLRB attorneys don't fall under the Hatch Act -- is completely false. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel quickly confirmed to Media Matters that "the Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326) governs the political activity of federal civilian executive branch employees, including NLRB employees." In other words, if DOJ attorneys are "necessarily apolitical" because of the Hatch Act, then NLRB attorneys are no different.
Boyle and TheDC are no strangers to lazily parroting conservative distortions, and in this instance Boyle clearly has no desire to present an objective, or even truthful, depiction of the NLRB. He quotes three sources for his 800-plus word article: Gowdy, Republican Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley and Fred Wszolek of the Workforce Fairness Institute. Haley recently called the NLRB "un-American" and has supported dismantling it. Wszolek represents the Workforce Fairness Institute, an organization that has been loudly critical of the NLRB and organized labor and is funded by anti-union business owners.
In the aftermath of the Justice Department's motion to block the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, conservatives in the media have begun attacking the Obama administration and alleging that DOJ's lawsuit was motivated by politics, and not by concern for consumer welfare.
The Daily Caller is doing their part to further the meme this afternoon, reporting that AT&T executives are "confused -- shocked, even," and quoting two anonymous sources affiliated with AT&T suggesting that DOJ rushed out yesterday's complaint against the wireless giant because of "mounting political pressure" and to get ahead of AT&T's message on jobs. Indeed, one of their sources seemed to suggest, implausibly, that DOJ made their announcement yesterday in response to an AT&T jobs announcement from just hours earlier.
From the Daily Caller article:
According to two sources familiar with the matter, on Tuesday of this week -- the day before the complaint -- AT&T representatives and DOJ attorneys had a meeting in which they discussed the wireless company's proposal for its divestitures. Both sources told TheDC there was absolutely no hint or indication given from the DOJ during that meeting that the next day, they would file suit to block the merger.
"We were talking about setting up another meeting..." said one of the sources. "Not once did they say, 'Don't worry about it because we're going to block it tomorrow!'"
"When we got the media advisory, we thought 'This can't be us ... who else could it be?'" said the other source.
Then, on the Wednesday before DOJ filed suit to block the merger, AT&T announced that even with the merger, the company would retain up to 35,000 jobs -- a fact that was sure to become a major talking point for those pushing consolidation of the two companies.
At that point, the theory goes, folks at the DOJ decided to file a complaint before the "mounting political pressure was too insurmountable for them," as one source put it.
Another source familiar with the merger proceedings put the speculation another way, telling TheDC that the "jobs announcement yesterday caused them [DOJ] to move [more quickly] than they had intended."
The "jobs announcement" the Daily Caller's source referred to presumably was AT&T's announcement that they would bring 5,000 outsourced call center jobs back to the U.S. upon approval of the merger. AT&T made that announcement early Wednesday morning, just hours before news of DOJ's lawsuit broke around 10:30 a.m. Deputy attorney general James Cole and acting assistant attorney general Sharis Pozen held a press conference on the suit shortly after 11 a.m.
Art Brodsky, communications director for the public interest group Public Knowledge, dismissed the notion that the Justice Department rushed the civil complaint in response to AT&T's jobs announcement, noting that the case has been under "active consideration" since March. "There was nothing slapdash about this," Brodsky told Media Matters.
When asked about the timing of the complaint at yesterday's press conference, Pozen said: "We went through a lot of effort here; as I said, months of effort, worked thoroughly and carefully with the parties and concluded that this merger violated the law. And when we reach those conclusions we take actions. We wanted to clear up any uncertainty in the marketplace about this transaction."
Are you a right-winger with an axe to grind and a book to sell? Having trouble getting anyone to pay attention to your expensive non-story about liberal evildoers? Then call Caroline May, intrepid reporter for Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller! The Caller has substantial experience repeating verbatim the politically-tinged accusations made by right-wing figures, and May knows just how to conceal your conservative credentials in an effort to make your story seem credible.
In the latest example of ethical subterfuge, May has written a news story that repeats the claims by conservative bloggers J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky that the hiring practices at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) "have become politicized under Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama Administration."
Importantly, May doesn't turn a critical eye to the research methods used by Adams and Spakovsky to come to their conclusion that "every single new hire" at DOJ's Civil Rights Division "boasted far-left resumes," she simply pushes their complaints forward. More importantly, May -- for the second time -- completely omits any mention that Adams and Spakovsky played a central role in the saga of politicization at DOJ under President Bush.
May's story is only newsworthy if the "former Department of Justice officials" (Adams and von Spakovsky) she cites are trustworthy sources whose call for investigation is objectively warranted and not based on an ulterior political motive. It's ethically imperative, then, that their significant right-wing backgrounds are disclosed so that readers can fairly assess the credibility of their work and their claims. May does not even attempt this.
Reports by industry groups have warned of dire consequences from pending EPA limits on pollution from coal-fired power plants. In recent weeks, conservative media have promoted and in some cases even overstated these predictions of a "regulatory train wreck." But according to a detailed analysis by the Congressional Research Service, many of these claims rely on unrealistic assumptions.
CRS assessed reports by the Edison Electric Institute, which concluded that new EPA regulations "would cause the unplanned retirement of" up to 18.8 percent of coal fired electric capacity by 2015, and by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which "concluded that the implementation of four EPA rules could result in a loss of up to 19% of fossil-fuel-fired steam capacity" by 2018. CRS concluded (emphasis added):
The EEI and other analyses discussed here generally predate EPA's actual proposals and reflect assumptions about stringency and timing (especially for implementation) that differ significantly from what EPA actually may propose or has promulgated. Some of the rules are expected to be expensive; costs of others are likely to be moderate or limited, or they are unknown at this point because a rule has not yet been proposed. Rules when actually proposed or issued may well differ enough that a plant operator's decision about investing in pollution controls or facility retirement will look entirely different from what these analyses project.
The primary impacts of many of the rules will largely be on coal-fired plants more than 40 years old that have not, until now, installed state-of-the-art pollution controls. Many of these plants are inefficient and are being replaced by more efficient combined cycle natural gas plants, a development likely to be encouraged in the price of competing fuel--natural gas--continues to be low, almost regardless of EPA rules.
Did you see that The Huffington Post had to take down a story this week?
The site had published an item accusing Andrew Breitbart of having "doctored" a video posted on one of his websites. But the claim just wasn't true. So when confronted with the facts, the Huffington Post quickly posted a correction as well as an apology. They got the story wrong and alerted readers to that fact.
That's how journalism, including opinion journalism, is supposed work, and The Huffington Post made that plain this week: If you make an irrefutable error you correct it. You don't ignore it or try to explain it away. You own up your mistake.
But take a look at the far-right end of the media spectrum these days and you'll see how those simple rules of accountability don't apply to conservative media outlets, where covering up and ignoring obvious blunders has become a sad (celebrated?) hallmark of the movement.
It just so happens that the Huffington Post correction occurred the same time key right-wing players, such as Michelle Malkin and the Daily Caller, were doing their best to stiff-arm accountability. The contrast between The Huffington Post's honorable response to a miscue and the right-wing media's attempts at damage control tells us we all we need to know about how professionals play this game, as compared to rank amateurs.
Lots of conservative outlets pretend to be in the journalism game. But the embarrassing way they handled the recent fallout from imploding smear campaigns have made it plain they're more at home in the propaganda camp.
Roll Call has hired Daily Caller reporter Jonathan Strong to cover the House. Strong previously worked as a congressional aide to House Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), and more recently drew criticism for his reporting on Michele Bachmann's migraines.
According to House data compiled by LegiStorm, Strong served as a staff assistant and legislative correspondent for Lungren from August 2006 and August 2008. During his time at the Daily Caller, Strong reported on and provided friendly coverage of the congressman.
When asked by Media Matters if Strong would cover Lungren or legislative activity he's involved with, a Roll Call spokesperson said the details of his House assignment have yet to be finalized but they're "excited to bring" him aboard.
"As with many of our talented journalists, they have a distinguished work history that accompanies them to our newspaper," said Rebecca Gale, Roll Call's Director of Promotions, in an email. "We have not finalized details of Jonathan's reporting, but we expect he will continue to report on Capitol Hill with the highest integrity and ethics that Roll Call is known for."
In a staffing note, Roll Call suggested that Strong was hired, in part, because of his ability to break news. In the memo, posted on FishbowlDC, Roll Call editors noted some of Strong's stories, including "the recent excitement over Michele Bachmann's migraines? Jonathan broke that story." While some reporters defended him, Strong's story drew criticisms for sexism from conservatives and liberals (including Media Matters.)
Strong was also the reporter who spearheaded the Daily Caller's series on the JournoList archives, which purported to show liberal journalists conspiring together. The reporting however, resulted in a seemingly endless series of misleading write-ups about JournoList. The Columbia Journalism Review's Joel Meares wrote that "the controversial reports left many prominent Washington press types, Left and Right, cold."
Strong has devoted friendly coverage to Lungren in The Daily Caller (Strong's site biography notes that he worked for Lungren). On April 26, 2010, for instance, Strong published an article with the headline, "Lungren introduces bill to repeal hidden Obamacare tax authority." From the article:
Conservative media are promulgating the myths that higher fuel economy standards are unattainable with current technology, will cost consumers and will increase traffic deaths. In fact, automakers have said they will be able to meet the standards, consumers will net thousands in fuel savings, and safe cars in a variety of sizes will continue to be produced.
Late Monday night, Tucker Carlson's pseudo-journalism rag, the Daily Caller, published a piece on Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann that strongly alleged she popped pills whenever she came under any kind of stress. From the sensationalist headline, "Stress-related condition 'incapacitates' Bachmann; heavy pill use alleged," to a last paragraph that highlighted her "debilitating headache episodes," the article tried very hard to make readers understand that because of this "incapacitating" condition, she is unfit to be president. It wasn't until the eighth paragraph that the Daily Caller informed readers that these "stress-induced medical episodes" are in fact "severe headaches" or migraines.
The article has been heavily criticized as "ignorant," as well as sexist. Others have defended the piece, with Slate's Jessica Grose arguing the migraines are "relevant, gender-neutral information." However, the piece reads like an expose of a "catastrophic drama queen," as Wired's Steve Silberman put it, whose migraines are sometimes triggered by "anything going badly" requiring her to be rushed to the nearest emergency room. Additionally, according to the piece, Bachmann is a habitual pill-popper whose condition is so "incapacitating" that she couldn't manage it without the help of her husband.
Reporting on efforts by Democratic legislators to promote healthy media portrayals of women, the Daily Caller's Caroline May offers up a gem of a non sequitur:
So much for the obesity epidemic
Despite the obesity epidemic, North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, and Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis are pushing legislation to encourage the media to produce healthier images of women.
They say women and girls feel overly pressured to be thin.
"Despite the obesity epidemic"? How does "pushing legislation to encourage the media to produce healthier images of women" have anything to do with the obesity epidemic? Rampant obesity and unhealthy, unrealistic portrayals of women are two discrete problems that, to the Daily Caller's apparent and baffling surprise, exist at the same time. Their implication seems to be that we can't simultaneously fight both, and that by encouraging women not be unhealthily thin, we're actually encouraging them to be dangerously overweight.
This is all very silly. Not quite as silly as the Washington Post's ongoing coverage of Michelle Obama's hamburger, but close.