Yesterday, Eric Boehlert explained how a completely made-up claim that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) gave a floor speech on health care reform while drunk had bubbled up through the right-wing noise machine and was amplified by The Politico -- despite the fact that there was absolutely no evidence supporting the story.
Nothing in the video of Baucus suggested that he was drunk. As The Washington Independent's David Weigel wrote, "Baucus talks like this all the time. ... Baucus mumbles occasionally. OK, a lot. Accusing him of being drunk on the job, without evidence, is shameful, and I'm flabbergasted at the number of journalists who are doing it."
UPDATE: A spokesman for Baucus released the following statement: "When his friend of 30 years Ted Kennedy, with whom he had fought so hard to provide health care to children, was being used as a cheap foil to oppose health care reform, Senator Baucus gave a passionate defense. Unfortunately, those who want to kill any meaningful reform, turned it into an unfounded, untrue personal smear internet rumor. This is beyond the pale and this type of gutter politics has no place in the public sphere. It is this type of slander that makes Montanans, and Americans, disgusted with the politics as usual in Washington. And what is even more sad is that such a personal attack would be given any validity at all, let alone being elevated to the status of 'news'."
That should have put an end to the story. But not if you are Matt Drudge. Hours after Baucus' denial -- and days after it was clear the story was entirely baseless -- Drudge was still linking to the YouTube video of Baucus' speech and still featuring the following headline: "DRUNK WITH POWER? TOP DEM BAUCUS SLURS ON SENATE FLOOR..."
As MSNBC's David Shuster wrote on Twitter, Baucus "always speaks in a halting fashion. The wingnut claims are lies and disgusting smears. ... Baucus speech was at 430pm in the afternoon. He was incensed at [Sen. Roger] Wicker [R-MS]. He was emotional. To smear him, as drudge does, is repulsive."
Right-wing media have highlighted recent snowfall during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, often suggesting that the winter storm is evidence that climate change is, in Rush Limbaugh's words, "a fraud." But climate scientists reject the notion that short-term changes in weather, let alone individual storms, bear any relevance to the global warming debate, and several major climate data centers have said that, thus far, 2009 is one of the warmest years on record.
The Drudge Report suggested that global warming is "junk science," by linking to a Washington Times editorial that falsely claims a series of emails that were reportedly stolen from the UK's Climate Research Unit [CRU] show that global warming is an "unproven theory." In fact, the validity of climate science is not hinged on the contents of these emails, some of which conservative media have taken out of context; reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading scientific body for assessing climate change research, are the product of thousands of scientists worldwide.
The Drudge Report and FoxNews.com have seized on a Washington Times article that falsely suggests the Obama administration excluded Republican lawmakers from its first state dinner on November 24, honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In fact, as the Times itself reported, Obama invited several Republicans, including the House and Senate Minority leaders, and some are declining to attend.
Right-wing media are up-in-arms about what they are falsely claiming is a "requirement for a monthly abortion fee" in the Senate health care reform bill.
In reality, there is no such "fee." Rather, the right is distorting a provision of the bill that requires insurance plans that offer abortion coverage to segregate their funds so that tax dollars aren't used to fund abortion coverage. And since the bill says that every state's health exchange must offer at least one plan that doesn't cover abortion (except in cases of rape, incest, or a danger to the mother's life), consumers won't be forced to fund abortions with their premiums either.
The misinformation food chain started when House GOP leader John Boehner's staff posted the following on his blog, under the headline, "Sen. Reid's Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee":
Just like the original 2,032-page, government-run health care plan from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) massive, 2,074-page bill would levy a new "abortion premium" fee on Americans in the government-run plan.
[A] monthly abortion premium will be charged of all enrollees in the government-run health plan. It's right there beginning on line 11, page 122, section 1303, under "Actuarial Value of Optional Service Coverage." The premium will be paid into a U.S. Treasury account - and these federal funds will be used to pay for the abortion services.
Section 1303(a)(2)(C) describes the process in which the Health Benefits Commissioner is to assess the monthly premiums that will be used to pay for elective abortions under the government-run health plan and for those who are given an affordability credit to purchase insurance coverage that includes abortion through the Exchange. The Commissioner must charge at a minimum $1 per enrollee per month.
Drudge quickly linked to Boehner's post and proclaimed, "Reid's Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee... ." By this afternoon, Rush Limbaugh was claiming that Boehner had "found" in the Senate bill a "requirement for a monthly abortion fee."
This is simply false.
"Monthly abortion fee" implies there is some sort of extra charge assessed to consumers in order to pay for abortions. But this isn't the case. Rather, the bill sets up requirements by which insurance plans segregate their funds so that federal dollars don't pay for abortion coverage.
Section 1303(a)(2)(B) requires insurers who cover any abortions that are not currently allowed to be paid for with federal funds to use money not provided by the federal government to "segregate an amount equal to the actuarial amounts determined under subparagraph (C) for all enrollees." This "segregated" money is what can be spent on abortion coverage.
Subparagraph (C) of Section 1303(a)(2) -- the subparagraph that Boehner and Limbaugh claim "describes the process in which the Health Benefits Commissioner is to assess the monthly premiums that will be used to pay for elective abortions" -- simply lays out a process by which insurers determine how much of their money to segregate in order to ensure that federal money doesn't pay for elective abortions.
If you choose to purchase a plan that covers abortion, it's completely expected that a portion of your premium pays for abortion coverage. Saying that this creates some sort of additional "abortion fee" is like saying that there's a "monthly heart attack fee" because the plan covers heart attacks.
Which brings us back to Limbaugh, who took the distortion a step further by claiming, "You will be required to pay a monthly abortion premium." Not just individuals who purchase an insurance plan that covers abortion, but apparently each and every "you" listening to Limbaugh's show.
In reality, you won't be required to pay a "monthly abortion premium," and you won't even be required to have your premiums help pay for abortion coverage. The bill requires that each exchange offer at least one insurance plan that doesn't cover abortions. If you purchase one of those plans, your premiums won't be used to cover abortion.
Right-wing blogs the Drudge Report and BigGovernment.com are promoting a London Telegraph article on an Australian scientist's arguments that carbon dioxide emissions are "not causing" the Earth to warm, that global warming is natural, and that it is not caused by human emissions. However, one of geologist Ian Plimer's central assertions in the article -- that volcanoes are the primary source for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere -- is false; moreover, Plimer's claims about global warming have been widely criticized and challenged by other experts.
Linking to a CBSNews.com story about a Justice Department subpoena of a news website's visitor lists, the Fox Nation featured the false headline, "Holder subpoenas Web site Visitor Lists," and other conservative media outlets and figures, including the Drudge Report, advanced similar claims that Attorney General Eric Holder was responsible for the subpoenas. However, Holder was not attorney general at the time the subpoena was issued by a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney; moreover, the story to which the Fox Nation and Drudge Report linked reported that a "Justice Department official" said that "the attorney general's office never saw" the subpoena, which was withdrawn in February.
Linking to a Politico article, the Drudge Report ran the misleading headline, "Attorney general will speak to controversial Muslim civil rights group," referring to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In fact, Attorney General Eric Holder is addressing a group named Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust, which lists as its "participating organizations" not only CAIR but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the FBI, several police groups, and the NAACP.
A Drudge-hyped article claimed that Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY), in his first day in office, broke four campaign promises at once by voting for the House health care bill. In fact, in accusing Owens of breaking campaign promises, the article misrepresented both Owens' campaign positions and provisions of the House's health care bill.
Matt Drudge and WorldNetDaily.com both falsely asserted that, in Drudge's words, the House health care reform bill states that people must "buy a $15,000 policy or go to jail." In fact, as stated by the Joint Committee on Taxation letter on which Drudge's and WND's claims are based, the bill does not impose criminal penalties on people merely for failing to purchase health insurance; rather, people who do not buy health insurance and also willfully refuse to pay the tax imposed on them for such actions can face civil or criminal penalties.
Following the shootings at the Fort Hood Army Post, the Fox Nation and right-wing blogs launched political attacks on President Obama's remarks at a the Tribal Nations conference at the Interior Department, in which he addressed the tragedy after making introductory remarks.
Right-wing media are claiming Speaker Nancy Pelosi broke a pledge to post the "final" House health care bill online 72 hours before it comes to a vote, echoing a Weekly Standard blog post that claimed amendments allowed by the House Rules Committee the day prior to the vote will change the bill. However, Pelosi's office posted both the text of the bill and the "manager's amendment" -- which The Sunlight Foundation called an "extra final version of legislation" -- 72 hours in advance; those actions meet guidelines set by a House transparency measure that Pelosi told the Weekly Standard she "absolutely" supported.
Numerous conservative media outlets are pushing a distortion of comments made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a roundtable discussion with business leaders in Pakistan to suggest that she celebrated the notion that "[w]e tax everything that moves and doesn't move," in contrast to lower tax rates in Pakistan. But in her comments, Clinton actually called on Pakistan to raise more revenue of its own, rather than relying on U.S. aid, and said that U.S. taxpayers and Congress say, "[W]e want to help those who help themselves."
Two days ago, my esteemed colleague, Jamison Foser, wrote on these pages on the startling possibility that Politico could have become too dumb for even Drudge. Turns out they hadn't, a point which was proven again today. This morning, Drudge is trumpeting Politico's latest piece of explosive journalism--that the House health care bill released yesterday clocks in at $2.2 million a word. Take a look:
It runs more pages than War and Peace, has nearly five times as many words as the Torah, and its tables of contents alone run far longer than this story.
The House health care bill unveiled Thursday clocks in at 1,990 pages and about 400,000 words. With an estimated 10-year cost of $894 billion, that comes out to about $2.24 million per word.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that this treat comes to us from Jonathan Allen, who, as Foser noted earlier this week, was one of the two winners who informed us that an anonymous contestant in the Organizing for America health care video contest was upset that one of the videos featured "defacing the flag." The right has been having a field day with that ever since.
But, if you thought that Allen taking the time to calculate that the House's health care bill cost $2.2 million a word was the worst of that article (never mind the fact that, using Allen's calculation, the bill actually saves $260,000 per word), you'd be wrong. Take this:
And for those who cry "read the bill," beware. There are plenty of paragraphs like this one:
"(a) Outpatient Hospitals - (1) In General - Section 1833(t)(3)(C)(iv) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395(t)(3)(C)(iv)) is amended - (A) in the first sentence - (i) by inserting "(which is subject to the productivity adjustment described in subclause (II) of such section)" after "1886(b)(3)(B)(iii); and (ii) by inserting "(but not below 0)" after "reduced"; and (B) in the second sentence, by inserting "and which is subject, beginning with 2010 to the productivity adjustment described in section 1886(b)(3)(B)(iii)(II)".
The section deals with "incorporating productivity improvements into market basket updates that do not already incorporate such improvements," if that helps.
After reading this, I have to ask, is this the first time Allen has attempted to read a piece of legislation? He seems surprised that they are more or less unreadable. He goes on:
Asked why the House will vote on the roughly 400,000-word bill in a week when it takes a congregation a year to read the 80,000-word Torah at a synagogue, Rothman, who is Jewish, exhibited the wisdom of a Talmudic scholar.
"It only takes a year because you read one section a week," he said.
Is this really what journalism at the Politico has come to?
Following the release of the House Democrats' health care reform bill, the leaders of the House Republican caucus repeatedly stressed the length and size of the bill during an October 29 press conference. Numerous media figures and outlets have followed in lockstep, with the Politico's Jonathan Allen asserting that the bill "comes out to about $2.24 million per word," and Sean Hannity claiming that "if you can't put this down in 30 pages or less, it proves that this is a complicated, you know, bunch of bureaucratic garbage."