Right-wing media are attacking President Obama over the cost of his upcoming diplomatic trip to Africa, ignoring or dismissing the fact that the security measures that have driven the trip's budget are in line with those used by previous presidents on similar trips.
On June 13, The Washington Post reported on an internal document that detailed some of the security precautions being taken during President Obama's scheduled trip to Africa later this month, which will include the first lady, and will seek to forge stronger economic ties with African nations and address global health problems. According to the document, hundreds of Secret Service agents will be dispatched where the president and his family will be, a naval ship will be standing by for medical emergencies, and fighter aircraft will fly in 24-hours security shifts. The document "does not specify costs" for the trip, but the Post cited speculation from a source familiar with the trip that it "could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years."
The Post also stated that "the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past" and quoted Ben Rhodes, an Obama adviser on national security, who said that the security requirements "are Secret Service-driven." The story also mentioned that a safari was being considered during the trip but was canceled, and that previous presidents had made similar trips, with President Bush bringing his daughters along on one that included a safari:
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also made trips to multiple African nations involving similarly laborious preparations. Bush went in 2003 and 2008, bringing his wife on both occasions. Bush's two daughters went along on the first trip, which included a safari at a game preserve on the Botswana-South Africa border.
But in their eagerness to criticize President Obama over the cost of the trip, right-wing media ignored or dismissed these facts. The Drudge Report only highlighted the speculation that the trip could cost $100 million and that the safari was canceled. A blog post from The Weekly Standard drew attention to the canceled safari without mentioning the African safari that Bush and his family went on.
Mark Levin, on the other hand, decided that these precedents were irrelevant when he attacked Obama on his radio show. Levin said that he'd "never seen a presidential family take so many trips" and that Obama "doesn't deny himself or his family a damn thing." Levin stated that Obama is "on welfare, presidential welfare" and that "Obama believes that this is his time to live like a king" and that "his wife is the imperial first lady." He concluded by dismissing the fact that previous presidents have made similar trips by claiming "this president's propaganda is different from other presidents, this president's Marxist class warfare is different than other presidents."
Fox Nation highlighted Levin's attack on Obama with the headline, "Levin slams Obama's $100 million Africa trip: He lives like a billionaire off you and me!"
Right-wing media outlets are hyping a new study by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) -- a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled nativist organization -- which claims that the Senate's immigration bill would double the number of guest workers admitted into the country each year. The study, however, is just the latest in a series of flawed, debunked studies that CIS has released.
The outlets - including the Daily Caller, Newsmax, The Washington Times, Breitbart.com, and Drudge Report -- have all highlighted the study which claims that in the first year of the Senate's proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill, "nearly 1.6 million more temporary workers than currently allowed" will be admitted to the United States. The study also claims that the bill would double the number of temporary workers admitted each year compared to current levels.
What these outlets fail to mention is that, like many of CIS' previous studies -- and others they have latched on to in order to undermine immigration reform -- this study is flawed and its conclusions are bogus.
Philip Wolgin, senior policy analyst for immigration at the Center for American Progress, emphasized the top five reasons the CIS study "misses the mark," including its lack of methodology, double-counting temporary and permanent immigrants, misrepresenting who will actually compete with American workers, and the miscounting of visa categories. Wolgin explained that CIS makes significant statistical errors, including what he calls the "absurd" idea that 950,000 people would apply for and be granted the V Visa in the first year after the immigration reform bill's passage.
The V visa is a temporary visa that allows the family members of legal permanent residents to remain in the country legally until they are granted permanent residency as well. As the Center for American Progress explained, even though 75 percent of spouses and children of permanent residents are exempted from per-country quotas, some families still face up to 19 years apart due to backlogs in the immigration system.
Wolgin also pointed out that among the three visa categories that make up 83 percent of the increases in the CIS study, CIS over-counted by more than 255,000 people.
Right-wing media are wildly distorting facts and criminal procedure to pretend Attorney General Eric Holder "lied" to Congress when he testified about government surveillance of journalists and prosecutorial discretion at a May 15 hearing.
Now that the possible chilling ramifications of legal searches of reporters' work product have been widely condemned not only by the press, both political parties, and President Obama and Holder, right-wing media have resorted to misrepresenting search warrant procedure, criminal law, and basic facts of what the Department of Justice (DOJ) actually did in their investigation of how a State Department employee may have violated the Espionage Act of 1917.
Specifically, right-wing media claim Holder's May 15 testimony is inconsistent with a two-year-old affidavit DOJ filed in support of a search warrant request for an email account associated with Fox News' James Rosen, as part of their investigation into the government official's unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Fox News host Sean Hannity was the most recent example, who showed a clip of the testimony on his May 29 show and then stated "what you just witnessed was the United States Attorney General lying while under oath before Congress."
Continuing in a vein set by Fox News host Megyn Kelly on the May 28 edition of America Live when she complained "it is one thing for the DOJ to go into a courtroom and try to get your records, your phone records, your email records. It's quite another for them not to give you any notice[,]" right-wing media is complaining that the underlying legal rationale behind the warrant request was incorrect. In support of this argument, the Drudge Report has been pushing claims made on Breitbart.com that Holder went "judge shopping" in pursuit of approval for this supposedly flawed search warrant.
Less than 24 hours after Alex Jones theorized that a "weather weapon" could have been used to cause the devastating Oklahoma tornado, conservative gossip Matt Drudge returned to his pattern of promoting the conspiracy theorist.
On May 21, Jones told a caller that the government has the ability to "create and steer groups of tornadoes" and that if people spotted helicopters and small aircraft "in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things" in Oklahoma, it could be evidence that a "weather weapon" was used.
Today Drudge prominently links to a story on Jones' website Infowars in the upper left hand corner of his site. The linked story claims that "armed Homeland Security guards" were "policing free speech" by appearing outside an IRS building in St. Louis during a Tea Party protest.
Drudge later changed the headline, linking to the same story:
Media Matters has previously documented that Drudge has linked to Jones at least 244 times in the last two years, and that Drudge contributor Joseph Curl worked with Jones to "crash" a party being held by former Bush staffers.
Jones hailed Drudge for pushing "into the mainstream media" his conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland Security was stockpiling ammunition for use against American citizens while Drudge said 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones."
David Martosko of the Daily Mail Online provided former Vice President Dick Cheney a platform to criticize the Obama administration's failure to anticipate the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, without noting that seven attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities occurred during the Bush administration.
In his article, Martosko quotes Cheney saying that the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks was "a failure of leadership" for not anticipating an attack on September 11, which Cheney said the Bush administration always expected following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Martosko's interview of Cheney was promoted by the Drudge Report, Fox Nation, and Breitbart.com.
But none of these outlets promoting Cheney's opinion noted that the U.S. suffered fatal attacks on embassies and consulates during the Bush administration. Between 2002 and 2008, seven attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates took place in Pakistan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Serbia, and Yemen.
Additionally, there have been many attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets -- including embassies -- for decades, and far more have occurred during previous administrations than under President Obama. Mother Jones put together the following graphic based on data from the State Department and the University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism:
Cheney also served as Secretary of Defense during George H.W. Bush's presidency, when there were many times more attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets than under Obama.
Republican congressmen are giving credibility to Alex Jones and his conservative fringe website Infowars.com, which popularized a conspiracy theory that DHS is stockpiling ammunition for nefarious purposes. The conspiracy theory has now inspired legislation known as the AMMO Act of 2013, which seeks to limit the ammunition purchasing power of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), even though the underlying theory was based on flawed math and a mischaracterization of the facts.
The right-wing media is promoting a study by the conservative policy group Heritage Foundation which claims immigration reform will cost $6.3 trillion dollars and damage the economy. This claim has been repeatedly debunked, even by conservatives, and is a revision of a 2007 study that utilized "fatally flawed" methodology.
From the April 30 edition of MSNBC's Martin Bashir:
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The ties between conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and right-wing megaphone Matt Drudge remain strong, with Jones revealing that he spent time yesterday with one of Drudge's employees and crediting Drudge with pushing one of his conspiracy theories "into the mainstream media."
Matt Drudge, who has described 2013 as the "year of Alex Jones," promoted Jones' website, Infowars, 244 times over the last two years and 50 times since the year began on The Drudge Report. Conservatives have urged Drudge to stop linking to Jones after the latter suggested the Boston Marathon bombings were a "false flag" attack perpetrated by the federal government.
On his radio show today, Jones said he was "hanging out" with The Drudge Report's Joseph Curl at a hotel in Houston, Texas where the pair tried "to crash the private Bush-Cheney party" being held in concert with the dedication ceremony for President George W. Bush's presidential library.
Matt Drudge has long been conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' biggest ally. According to a Media Matters review, the heavily-trafficked Drudge Report has promoted at least 50 separate articles at Jones' Infowars website in 2013, and has linked to at least 244 different articles on the site in the past two years.
Drudge announced this week that he had privately told friends that 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." Considering Drudge's penchant for promoting Jones and his Infowars website, those comments are more of a promise than a prediction.
Alex Jones is a radio host famous for pushing absurd conspiracy theories about a host of issues, including that the U.S. government perpetrated or was otherwise involved in the 9-11 attacks, the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Colombia disaster, and the Aurora movie theater shooting.
Jones has lately made headlines for his most recent conspiracy that the Boston Marathon bombings were a "false flag" attack staged by the government. Drudge has provided several links to Jones' site in the days since Jones started floating Boston conspiracies, including an article highlighting the father of the bombing suspects claiming his sons had been set up.
The links to Jones' site in the wake of the Boston bombings are not surprising; he has sent a steady stream of traffic there in 2013.
Among the fifty Infowars pieces promoted by Drudge so far in 2013: a story mulling over claims that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may have been "surreptitiously" given cancer, possibly by the U.S. government; numerous articles promoting conspiracies about supposedly ominous ammunition purchases made by the Department of Homeland Security; and a story comparing Obama to "other tyrants" -- including Stalin, Hitler, and Mao -- that have "used kids as props."
Drudge has been consistently linking to Jones' site for years (Drudge Report also features two permanent links to the Infowars mainpage). Among the 244 Infowars articles Drudge has promoted since April 2011:
The right wing media's promotion of a widely-debunked Alex Jones conspiracy theory about the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) ammunition acquisitions prompted House Republicans to hold a hearing to investigate. The theory, which assigns some sinister motivation behind the recent ammo purchases, first gained traction on the websites of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones before finding its way to Fox News and Fox Business and finally to the halls of Congress.
On April 25, Republican Reps. Jim Jordan (OH) and Jason Chaffetz (UT) held a joint hearing "to examine the procurement of ammunition by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General." The hearing followed right wing media reports speculating about the reasons for the acquisitions.
The conspiracy theory picked up steam in March 2012 after a series of reports were posted to Alex Jones' InfoWars.com, including one that claimed "it's not outlandish" to conclude that the government, "is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest." An opinion piece at The Daily Caller cited the reports to suggest that the Obama administration is planning to kill thousands of American citizens. The DHS purchases were brought up on Fox News, prompting Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade to ask, "why they need all those bullets." And while covering the story, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs wondered why the government was "arming up" while trying to "disarm American citizens."
Forbes contributor Ralph Benko wrote that "It's Time For A National Conversation," and called for Congressional action:
If Obama doesn't show any leadership on this matter it's an opportunity for Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, to summon Secretary Napolitano over for a little national conversation. Madame Secretary? Buying 1.6 billion rounds of ammo and deploying armored personnel carriers runs contrary, in every way, to what "homeland security" really means.
Reps. Jordan and Chaffetz answered that call.
As Media Matters has previously noted, the claim that DHS is stockpiling ammunition for some ominous purpose is simply wrong. In reality, the Associated Press reported that while DHS did buy 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition, the government bought the bullets in bulk to save money on ammunition used in training and in the field. As the AP noted, "More than 90 federal agencies and 70,000 agents and officers used the department's training center last year." On a separate occasion, Media Matters reported that DHS responded that ammunition purchases are lower than in previous years and that while the law allows DHS to set purchase contracts of billions of rounds in order to reduce prices and save money, the government hasn't actually purchased nearly that many rounds.
Alex Jones, who has called President Obama the "global head of Al Qaeda," and claimed that the terrorist attacks in Boston, New York City, and Oklahoma City were carried out or sponsored by the government, has gained influence with the right wing media. Recently, Drudge Report's Matt Drudge promised that 2013 would be "year of Alex Jones."
UPDATE: The hearing on Alex Jones' conspiracy theory inspired new legislation that's now before Congress. On April 26, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced bills in both chambers of Congress in order to limit federal agencies from stockpiling ammunition. From Inhofe's statement (emphasis added):
"President Obama has been adamant about curbing law-abiding Americans' access and opportunities to exercise their Second Amendment rights," said Inhofe. "One way the Obama Administration is able to do this is by limiting what's available in the market with federal agencies purchasing unnecessary stockpiles of ammunition. As the public learned in a House committee hearing this week, the Department of Homeland Security has two years worth of ammo on hand and allots nearly 1,000 more rounds of ammunition for DHS officers than is used on average by our Army officers. The AMMO Act of 2013 will enforce transparency and accountability of federal agencies' ammunition supply while also protecting law-abiding citizens access to these resources."
Fueled by a report from the conservative Boston Herald, right wing media outlets such as Fox News, the New York Post, and the Washington Times, are demonizing government assistance programs by tying them to the heinous terror attacks committed at the Boston Marathon. Conservative blogs used sensationalized headlines and rhetoric to make their attacks, like RedState's "Does The US Welfare System Benefit Jihadists?" and Monica Crowley's "Nice Return on Our Investment, Huh?"
On April 24, 2013, the Boston Herald published a report that claimed, "Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism."
On the April 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer hyped the report and complained that "taxpayers were giving money to at least one of the bombing suspects."
In reality, the right-wing smear uses an absurd guilt-by-association non sequitur in an attempt to smear government spending programs. But where does this logic end? The Tsarnaev brothers presumably used taxpayer funded roads to physically reach the Boston Marathon finish line. Will right wing media next attack government spending on highway maintenance for literally paving the way for the Boston terror suspects to commit their crimes?
Conservatives are trying to take advantage of the horrific attacks to taint the public perception of yet another policy they dislike. Since the terrorist attack on April 15, the right wing media has exploited the tragedy in Boston to smear Islam, immigration reform, education, a member of Congress, the Obama administration's foreign policy, and even the constitutional rights of American citizens.
UPDATE: During his radio program, Rush Limbaugh also jumped on this bandwagon. Limbaugh claimed the Herald's report shows "another great example of your tax dollars at work."
LIMBAUGH: Now we hear that the entire Tsarnaev family was on welfare. How could he not be an Obama supporter?
So we have another great example of your tax dollars at work. Your tax money helped to pay for the explosives, as well as Tamerlan's at least two trips back to Dagestan, his late model Mercedes, his $900 shoes. No wonder this guy hated America.
On April 23 Matt Drudge, owner and operator of the right-wing content aggregator The Drudge Report, tweeted that he "privately told friends" that 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." Drudge has linked to the radio host and conspiracy-monger several times following the Boston Marathon bombings.
On his personal twitter feed, Drudge predicted that 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones," praising his show as "one hell of a broadcast in such homogenized media!" In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Drudge linked to articles on Jones' website Infowars, including stories that called Boston a "police state" during the manhunt for the alleged perpetrators, and a post accusing the Obama administration of covering up the involvement of a Saudi student who was later declared a victim of the attack:
Jones made news following the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon after he suggested that the blasts were staged by the U.S. government, calling the event a "false flag":
Jones elaborated on his initial comment during his show later that night, saying: "You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that's why I'm so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody's got to tell you the truth."
President Obama is "now the global head of Al-Qaeda" while "simultaneously invoking the threat of terrorists domestically to destroy the bill of rights."
The Oklahoma City Bombing was "carried out by intelligence agencies" with "Bill Clinton's involvement."
The government is using products like juice boxes to "encourage homosexuality with chemicals so that people don't have children."
The U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks. Jones describes himself as being on "the front lines of the growing global information war from ground zero to the occult playgrounds of the power-mad elite. Jones predicted the attacks on September 11th, 2001 and is considered one of the very first founding fathers of the 9-11 Truth Movement."
The government has set up FEMA concentration camps in America, and "the military-industrial complex is transforming our once free nation into a giant prison camp."
President Obama is transforming the United States into "something that resembles Nazi Germany, with forced National Service, domestic civilian spies, warrantless wiretaps, the destruction of the Second Amendment, FEMA camps and Martial Law."
The BP oil spill "could have been manufactured."
Following the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, radio host Alex Jones was quick to suggest the attacks may have been a "false flag" operation staged by the U.S. government. Jones' reaction is far from surprising; he has made a career out of pushing outlandish conspiracy theories.
Among other conspiracies, Jones has blamed the U.S. government for perpetrating, coordinating, or otherwise being involved in the 9-11 attacks, the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. But despite Jones' well-known history, he is regularly validated by conservative media figures, politicians, and prominent activists that frequent his program, as well as by right-wing websites that promote his work and mainstream outlets that host him on their networks.
In recent years, former Rep. Ron Paul and current Sen. Rand Paul; Fox News figures Lou Dobbs and Andrew Napolitano; gun activists Ted Nugent and Larry Pratt; and climate misinformer Marc Morano have all repeatedly appeared on Jones' show. His immensely popular website Infowars is also frequently promoted by conservative websites like The Drudge Report.
Shortly following the April 15 Boston attacks, Jones tweeted that "our hearts go out to those that are hurt or killed," but added that "this thing stinks to high heaven" and suggested it was a "false flag" operation.
On a special webcast of his show that aired the night of April 15, Jones elaborated on his suggestion, saying, "You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that's why I'm so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody's got to tell you the truth."
As Jones uses yet another national tragedy to push baseless, absurd conspiracy theories, it's worth asking whether there's anything he can say or do to lead media figures, politicians and activists to stop validating him.
In this report:
Reuters is purporting to examine how scientists are "struggling" to reconcile short-term temperature variation with long-term climate change, but fails to quote any scientists about the issue.
In an article titled "Climate scientists struggle to explain warming slowdown" that is being promoted by the Drudge Report, Reuters claimed that short-term temperature variability "has exposed gaps" in scientists' understanding of climate change. However, the article didn't quote a single scientist about the temperature trends, instead talking to environmental contrarian and business school professor Bjorn Lomborg and economist Richard Tol, considered a conservative estimator of climate damages, to sow doubt about the quality of climate science (Reuters quoted Dr. Paul Holland, a British Antarctic Survey scientist, about a separate topic at the end of the report).
Perhaps due to this, Reuters characterized the time period since 2000 as a "pause in warming," without mentioning that it included the warmest decade on record or that each of the 12 years since the turn of the century have ranked among the 14 warmest on record.
This map from NASA illustrates the temperature anomaly (or amount above the 1951-1980 average) between 2000 and 2009: