Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative filmmaker and author charged this January with violating federal campaign finance laws, allegedly said that while he might eventually admit his guilt, he would initially plead innocent because it would give "him a window of opportunity to get his story out there." Conservative media have been happy to lend him a hand in doing so.
In January, federal prosecutors announced that D'Souza was being charged with filtering excessive campaign donations through straw donors to Republican Wendy Long, a friend of his who lost her 2012 campaign to unseat Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. D'Souza pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to The New York Times, D'Souza's lawyer is claiming that the conservative pundit is being "targeted...because of his consistently caustic and highly publicized criticism" of President Obama. (The prosecution has called these claims "entirely without merit.") The Times also reports that prosecutors claim to have a recording made by the husband of a woman D'Souza was "involved with romantically" who was "one of the alleged straw donors." According to the woman, D'Souza said that if he were eventually charged, he might plead not guilty to help "get his story out there":
Prosecutors also said they had obtained a copy of a recording made surreptitiously last October by the husband of a woman Mr. D'Souza was involved with romantically around the time of the donations, when Mr. D'Souza was separated from his wife. In making the recording, the husband was not acting at the government's direction, prosecutors said. The woman, Denise Joseph, was one of the alleged straw donors.
Ms. Joseph was recorded as saying that Mr. D'Souza had told her that if he were charged he might plead guilty, but would initially plead not guilty because that "gives him a window of opportunity to get his story out there," the government said. Ms. Joseph had no comment, her lawyer said.
Conservative media have been crucial in helping D'Souza "get his story out there" -- his allies on Fox News, talk radio, and right-wing online outlets have loudly and repeatedly claimed that D'Souza is a victim of persecution because of his political beliefs.
Right-wing media hyped a misleading apples-to-oranges comparison to claim that the U.S. is at a "tipping point" in the "relationship between welfare and work."
On April 15, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed new statistics showed that "the number of people living on the government dole outnumbered full-time working women." Fox Business host Stuart Varney then claimed "welfare is replacing work" because in 2012, 46 million people collected Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) and 44 million women worked full time. Varney cited SNAP benefits as "the classic example" of an "explosion in welfare payments outgoing from the government to individuals and a decline in work," which he attributed to the Obama administration "buying votes." Meanwhile, Fox displayed this graphic:
Other right-wing media sources highlighted the same supposedly "telling" numbers. CNS News posted a graphic comparing the number of women working full time to total SNAP beneficiaries and the Drudge Report also hyped the connection:
But these numbers can't be compared, as many working women fall into both categories.
In fact, because the majority of recipients are working-class Americans with jobs, senior citizens, or children, an increase in SNAP beneficiaries is an extremely unreliable predictor of the number of full-time workers, let alone evidence of a tipping point before a decline in overall employment. A 2013 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the "overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who can work do so" (emphasis original):
The overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who can work do so. Among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP -- and more than 80 percent work in the year prior to or the year after receiving SNAP. The rates are even higher for families with children -- more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent work in the prior or subsequent year.
The number of SNAP households that have earnings while participating in SNAP has been rising for more than a decade, and has more than tripled -- from about 2 million in 2000 to about 6.4 million in 2011. The increase was especially pronounced during the recent deep recession, suggesting that many people have turned to SNAP because of under-employment -- for example, when one wage-earner in a two-parent family lost a job, when a worker's hours were cut, or when a worker turned to a lower-paying job after being laid off.
A separate report from the USDA pointed out that in 2012, "75 percent of all SNAP households, containing 87 percent of all participants, included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled nonelderly person. These households received 82 percent of all SNAP benefits."
This latest attempt to cast the SNAP program as spurring unemployment ignores current economic reality. SNAP enrollment has risen as a result of the economic downturn. The Economic Policy Institute noted that "SNAP swelled because the economy entered the worst recession since the Great Depression and remains severely depressed even 18 months after the official recovery began." According to a 2012 report from the Congressional Budget Office, SNAP enrollment is projected to decline as the economy recovers:
The number of people receiving SNAP benefits will begin to slowly decline at the end of fiscal year 2014, CBO expects, reflecting an improved economic situation and a declining unemployment rate. Nevertheless, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits will remain high by historical standards, CBO estimates. That is partly because of a growing U.S. population and thus a greater number of potential SNAP participants.
"Whether it's true or not, we have to wait to see."
That's the caveat Fox News legal correspondent Bob Massi provided to viewers after reporting a baseless conspiracy theory about the government's motivation for enforcing the law against a Nevada cattle rancher who has been defying court orders for decades.
For years, cattle rancher Cliven Bundy defied legal orders instructing him to remove his cattle from a publicly owned allotment of land in the Nevada desert. Bundy, who says he does not recognize the authority of the federal government, initiated a decades-long conflict in 1993 when he began refusing to pay grazing fees related to his cattle's use of lands referred to as the Bunkerville allotment. An escalating series of judicial orders eventually led to the revocation of his grazing rights and orders to remove his cattle. In April, officers from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which stewards the land in question, began impounding the cattle in order to pay off the nearly $1 million Bundy owes in unpaid fines and grazing fees.
The conflict reached a boiling point on Saturday, when Bundy and hundreds of protesters, including militia members, initiated a standoff with authorities. Violent rhetoric associated with the movement led BLM to abandon its efforts to round up the cattle.
Fox News legal correspondent Bob Massi was still near the Nevada ranch after the standoff wound down, and he issued several reports on the April 14 edition of Fox & Friends speculating that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was behind a nefarious plot to bar Bundy's cattle from public lands in order to build a solar power plant there at the behest of a Chinese energy firm. Massi made sure to point out that he was repeating these claims without knowing "whether it's true or not."
MASSI: As Eric just said, the present director of the Bureau of Land Management is Harry Reid's former political adviser. And it's been reported, whether it's true or not, one of the things that the ranchers have said -- and I've interviewed Ryan, who's the son of Mr. Bundy, his sister Susan -- that they believe that there's plans out here for some solar energy projects out here that Reid has basically endorsed. There's one at State Line in Nevada, there's one in San Bernardino. And it's also been reported, whether it's true or not, that, Senator Harry Reid when he went to China made some kind of deal with a Chinese manufacturer over there to actually put in the solar plants over here in the state of Nevada and in California and Utah. Whether it's true or not, we have to wait and see, but there's no question I'll tell you this: Being here since 1974, anything that happens in Nevada, Harry Reid's behind it one way or the other.
The claims about Harry Reid's involvement appears to have originated with conspiracy-monger Alex Jones, whose website Infowars.com alleged that BLM wants to remove Bundy's cattle "in order to make way for solar power stations."
As the theory goes, BLM has studied the possible impact of solar power plants in certain portions of the Nevada desert. BLM has a new director, Neil Kornze, who is a former Reid adviser. Reid's son is an attorney at a law firm that represents a large Chinese energy firm who wanted to build a solar power plant in Nevada, and Reid has himself expressed support for the project. Ergo, Kornze is Reid's puppet at the BLM, who is strictly enforcing the law against Bundy in order to place a solar power plant on land where Bundy's cattle have been trespassing for more than 15 years.
Unfortunately, a quick glance at a map illustrates that the Alex Jones dots don't connect. Bundy's ranch and the allotment in question are located north and west of Lake Mead, near Bunkerville, NV. Per Reuters, the proposed site for the Chinese power plant was "90 miles south of Las Vegas" near Laughlin, NV. And the land currently being studied by BLM for possible solar development (dubbed the "Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone") is north east of Lake Mead and well south west of the Bunkerville allotment.
Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher in Nevada, is embroiled in a decades-long fight with the federal government over grazing rights on public land. Since 1993, Bundy has refused to pay for his use of 600,000 acres of public land to feed his cattle because he does not recognize the federal government's ownership of the land. Tensions recently escalated when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began confiscating -- pursuant to court orders -- Bundy's cattle in order to pay off the $1 million in fees and trespassing fines Bundy owes.
During the dispute, Bundy and his family have repeatedly threatened violence, invoked revolutionary rhetoric, and issued public statements making known that they own firearms and are willing to use them.
Drudge's hyping of the dispute comes as armed militia groups are reportedly entering the area to support Bundy; the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that "[s]erious bloodshed was narrowly avoided" during an April 9 confrontation between Bundy supporters and federal law enforcement agents. BLM says one of its agents used a Taser on one of Bundy's sons after BLM authorities were assaultedand intimidated during that incident.
The dispute has been given top billing on Drudge, with the headline, "Heavily-Armed Feds Surround Nevada Ranch," accompanied with an image of anti-BLM protest signs. Also featured on Drudge's homepage is the headline, "Militia Members Arrive: We're not 'afraid to shoot'...":
The Daily Caller attempted to generate outrage about the Environmental Protection Agency's research by stating that it "tested deadly pollutants on humans," without noting that the EPA followed strict regulations to protect the consenting research subjects. The research was done to inform regulations on the harmful pollutants that the Daily Caller has suggested should not be further regulated.
On April 2, a Daily Caller article titled "Report: EPA tested deadly pollutants on humans to push Obama admin's agenda" claimed that the EPA has been "conducting dangerous experiments on humans." The article, hyped at the top of the Drudge Report, failed to mention that the Inspector General report on the matter found that "The EPA followed applicable regulations" including obtaining approval from a biomedical Institutional Review Board and informed consent forms from all of the subjects before exposing them to the pollutants.
The article, written by Daily Caller reporter Michael Bastasch, also claimed that the agency "conducted tests on people with health issues and the elderly, exposing them to high levels of potentially lethal pollutants, without disclosing the risks of cancer and death." However, the three studies with consent forms that did not alert subjects "to the risk of death for older individuals with cardiovascular disease" only examined healthy adults and adults with mild to moderate asthma, thereby not placing them at risk. The Inspector General report did conclude that the EPA should include long-term cancer risks for some of the pollutants studied, which it had initially excluded because an EPA manager "considered these long-term risks minimal for short-term study exposures." The Daily Caller left out that the EPA accepted the report's recommendation to rectify this and all of the other recommendations from the report.
The news site further distorted the report by mentioning that one person was "hit with" pollution concentrations above the approved target, without mentioning that the EPA followed approved safety protocol in the situation. According to the report, the "protocol stated that an exposure was to be shut down if particulate concentrations exceeded 600 [micrograms per cubic meter] for over six minutes" and "real time data from the exposure chamber showed that the exposure session was shut down six minutes after the first concentration of 600 [micrograms per cubic meter] was recorded."
The Daily Caller has previously downplayed the lethality of the key pollutant at hand, particulate matter, even running an opinion piece in 2012 that claimed it is "rarely considered a killer by physicians or toxicologists." However, the news site is now stating unequivocally that it is "dangerous" and "deadly" in an attempt to attack EPA regulations on it.
The EPA follows extremely strict regulations for the use of human subjects in research, which have been conducted for about 40 years. For instance, the report notes that after a subject developed a migraine during the study, the EPA "revised the consent forms to exclude future human subjects with a history of migraine headaches from participating in the study." The Institutional Review Board, which approved EPA's study, requires "avoidance of using human subjects if at all possible." However, for controlled scientific studies, human subjects are often necessary. The results will be used to inform EPA's regulations under the Clean Air Act, which help reduce exposure to pollution nationwide.
Right-wing media stoked fears that the English language will soon disappear based on the decision by a Texas county school board not to renew the contract of a principal who reportedly mandated an English-only policy on campus. In fact, English-only policies have been found to discriminate against Latino immigrants and they fail to take into account that the majority of Latino immigrants speak fluent English.
Talking about women's access to health care on Valentine's Day is akin to urging women to get a 'traditional' abortion for the holiday, according to conservative media.
This week Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards posted a Vine video on Twitter promoting access to basic women's health care, using the hashtag #WhatWomenNeed:
In the short video, Richards held placards detailing what women need this Valentine's Day: "birth control," "cancer screenings," "safe and legal abortions," "well woman visits," "breast exams," "maternity care," "preventive care," "Planned Parenthood," "To make our own decisions."
The notion was offensive to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who accused Planned Parenthood of "urging women to get abortions for Valentine's Day." According to Limbaugh, the tweet evidenced how Democrats "see women as basically walking vaginas looking to have sex every change they get":
LIMBAUGH: Democrats see women as basically just walking vaginas. Democrats see women as nothing but walking vaginas looking to have sex every chance they get, and then they go get an abortion whenever they need one, or they got to get them birth control pills or whatever. If you listen to your average liberal Democrat talk about women, that's it. That's what they think the only thing women are concerned about is, is making sure they can have sex whenever they want to have it, and then they're covered, either with contraception or an abortion. And anybody who opposes that is obviously engaged in a war on women. It's nonsense.
Limbaugh wasn't alone in his attacks. Drudge Report promoted a Breitbart.com article about Richards' tweet with the headline:
Breitbart.com's Robert Wilde alleged that Richards was advocating for an "abortion tradition" on Valentine's Day, writing:
In a global Internet search of the varied customs of Valentine's day expressions of love, there were zero mentions of other abortion traditions. It appears that Ms. Richards can safely claim that she is the seminal inspiration for the "avant-garde" concept that having an abortion is a value to be shared on Valentine's day.
The Drudge Report and Fox Nation are promoting an outlandish report from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' website Infowars that suggests a sinister purpose behind a Department of Homeland Security procurement request for 141,160 rounds of .308 rifle ammunition.
Jones and his website have long fearmongered about the government's bulk purchase of ammunition. Conservative media outlets and Republican politicians have followed Jones' lead and run wild with the conspiracy, suggesting that the government was preparing for widespread civil unrest, attempting to limit the civilian ammo supply, or even planning to wage war against Americans. The conspiracy even inspired a Republican-led House Oversight Committee hearing and Republican-backed legislation to limit government ammunition purchases.
2013 was an epic year of right-wing media misinforming the public on the health care debate, particularly on women's health issues. Ignoring women's health experts, conservative media spent this year stoking fears about everything from birth control to maternity care, ignoring science, distorting state and federal regulations, and demonizing women's health care options in the process. These are the top six scare tactics from 2013.
President Obama's recitation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is sparking hysteria from the right-wing media who slammed the president for omitting the phrase "under God." But ironically, in their hurry to attack the president, they omitted the fact that Obama was reading the first draft of the speech -- a draft that did not include "under God" -- at the request of filmmaker Ken Burns.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, filmmaker Ken Burns compiled footage of important national figures -- including Obama and all the living former presidents -- reciting portions of the speech.
On November 19, right-wing radio host Chris Plante accused Obama of omitting the phrase "under God" from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address. Other conservative media outlets like the Drudge Report, The Daily Caller, and National Review Online's The Corner promptly ran with the story. WMAL, which hosts The Chris Plante Show, remarked about the news:
One nation under God? Under President Obama, maybe not so much.
As first reported on WMAL's Chris Plante Show Tuesday, the Commander-in-Chief joined a cast of 61 other noted lawmakers, politicians, news anchors and celebrities, including every living President, in reciting the Gettysburg Address, which President Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863.
The dignitaries all delivered the address as Lincoln had written it, including the phrase, "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." (Click to listen). Curiously, however, in his version of the address, President Obama omitted the words "under God."
Obama's recitation was not 'curious,' it was accurate -- Burns requested that President Obama read the 'Nicolay Version' of the Address, which was Lincoln's first draft of the Address and does not contain the phrase "under God." The relevant text of the Nicolay version, which Obama recites, reads (emphasis added):
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The right-wing media's rush to hysteria and ignorance of the facts in this case is ironic: Burns' project is called Learn the Address.
UPDATE: After this post's publication, the Daily Caller acknowledged the error in an update to its original post:
The "Learn the Address" website notes that "We asked President Obama to read ... the 'Nicolay Version'" of the Gettsyburg Address, which omits the words "under God." That disclosure does not appear alongside Obama's video on the site.
UPDATE 2: National Review Online's The Corner also published an update to its original post:
During today's White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney claimed that President Obama had read from the version of the Gettysburg Address given to him by documentarian Ken Burns. This appears to be the case. As Mediaite notes, the website for Burns' upcoming project, Learn the Address, says that there are five manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address and that Obama read from the "Nicolay Version." This version of the manuscript is believed to be the earliest of the copies of the Address, and it does omit the phrase "under God." Three of the five manuscripts do include the phrase.
Conservative media are applauding House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) decision to refuse negotiations on immigration reform between the House and Senate, which likely means the end of comprehensive immigration reform this year. This decision comes after months of right-wing media telling Republicans to obstruct any and all action to pass comprehensive immigration legislation.
Right-wing media are dishonestly blaming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the fact that Chad Henderson, a low-income college student, will "pay $175 per month under Obamacare, about 18% of his yearly income," ignoring the fact that Henderson would have been eligible for subsidized health care if his state had not rejected the healthcare reform law's Medicaid expansion.
On October 3, several media outlets highlighted Henderson as an early ACA enrollment success story. Henderson, a 21-year-old student at Chattanooga State University, told Washington Post's Wonkblog that he had been without health insurance for 14 years but successfully signed up for coverage through one of the law's new online exchanges. Henderson will pay $175 per month in premiums, which he said fits his budget. Right-wing blogs later hyped the cost of Henderson's insurance plan to claim it's unaffordable.
The Blaze reported that "Henderson, who reportedly earns $11,500 annually, will pay $175 per month under Obamacare, about 18% of his yearly income" and quoted the Cato Institute's Michael F. Cannon to claim that "it appears that Obamacare quadrupled Chad's premiums," citing an eHealthInsurance.com quote for a plan he could have purchased. Michelle Malkin's blog also highlighted Cannon's claim. A Washington Examiner article headlined "$175 premium for a young, healthy student? Thanks, Obamacare!" responded: "Ouch! Wasn't Obamacare supposed to lower premiums?" and on October 3, the Drudge Report promoted the Examiner story:
These reports failed to mention that Henderson would have been able to receive subsidized coverage under the health care reform law's Medicaid expansion if his state had not chosen to opt out after the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states didn't have to expand their Medicaid coverage. From Wonkblog's story about Henderson:
Henderson is a part-time worker at a day-care center. He did not qualify for tax credits to purchase health coverage because his income is below the poverty line. Since Georgia is not expanding the Medicaid program, that meant Henderson was essentially responsible for his entire premium.
Right-wing media falsely claimed a finalized rule shows that taxpayer money will fund abortion coverage for members of Congress under the new health care law, when the ruling clearly states individuals will have to pay for any abortion coverage with their own money and no federal funds will cover the procedure.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) ruled that members of Congress and their staffers purchasing health insurance coverage on the new health insurance exchanges, which opened for enrollment October 1, would be able to purchase a plan that includes abortion coverage but only with their own personal contribution to premium costs. Right-wing media instead falsely claimed taxpayer subsidies for the new health insurance plans would fund the medical procedures. A Drudge Report headline "Feds approve taxpayer subsidies for abortion coverage" linked to a Washington Times article that further pushed the false claim that the new ruling broke federal law on abortion funding.
Mark Levin similarly got the ruling wrong on his September 30 radio show, reading the Drudge Report headline and falsely claiming that President Obama had lied when he promised no government funds would pay for abortions.
But the OPM clearly stated September 30 that no federal funds "will be used to cover abortions or to administer plans that cover abortions," and that the ruling is legal because the OPM will ensure any plan that administers the procedures will be paid for by the individual and not a government contribution:
Coverage of Abortion Services
Under OPM's final rule, no Federal funds, including administrative funds, will be used to cover abortions or administer plans that cover abortions. Unlike the health plans for which OPM contracts pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 8902, 8903 and 8903a, OPM does not administer the terms of the health benefits plans offered on an Exchange. Consequently, while plans with such coverage may be offered on an Exchange, OPM can and will take appropriate administrative steps to ensure that the cost of any such coverage purchased by a Member of Congress or a congressional staffer from a designed SHOP is accounted for and paid by the individual rather than from a government contribution, consistent with the general prohibition on Federal funds being used for this purpose.
The lie that the Affordable Care Act will provide federal funds for abortion has been promoted by right-wing media for years, despite the lack of any evidence. The administration has made clear that even federal grants to health care providers cannot be used to fund abortion services.
The Drudge Report falsely accused President Obama of playing the "slavery card" to promote the Affordable Care Act, ignoring that the president actually invoked that phrase to criticize inflammatory right-wing rhetoric against the health care law.
The Drudge Report linked to a Time magazine article on a recent speech Obama gave in support of the ACA under the headline, "T-Minus 4 Days: Obama Plays Slavery Card":
But the Time post makes it clear that Obama was not invoking slavery in order to support the ACA, but was instead responding to the inflammatory rhetoric of the health care law's opponents:
Mocking Republicans for their escalating rhetoric on how dire the health care law will prove to be, Obama said one Republican's assertion that it was the worst law in the nation's history is an awfully tall order. "You had a state representative somewhere say that it's as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act," the president said as the audience booed. "Think about that. Affordable health care is worse than a law that lets slaveowners get their runaway slaves back."
Fox News and other conservative media outlets have amplified Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) misleading claim that Democrats "excuse[d] themselves" from testimony given by the families of the victims of the Benghazi attack. In fact, over the course of the hearing, members of both parties were in and out of the proceedings.
Rep. Issa posted a tweet claiming that Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee left the hearing room as Patricia Smith and Charles Woods testified about their sons, Sean Smith and Charles Woods, who were killed in Benghazi.