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.
Several media figures have reacted to the mass shooting in Washington, D.C.'s Navy Yard by downplaying the role access to firearms had in the killings, instead blaming video games and their purported effect on mental health. But studies have either debunked or failed to find a plausible link between playing violent video games and real world gun violence.
Much of the connection between shooter Aaron Alexis and video games appears to come from Mike Ritrovato, who says he knew Alexis. Ritrovato told The Los Angeles Times that "if [Alexis] had anything bad about him, it was that he was a 35-year-old man playing video games." Ritrovato also told ABC News that Alexis was often late to work "because he was staying up all night playing video games."
A new study from The New Republic determined that the Drudge Report's use of race-baiting headlines has soared in the last five years, a fact that lends context to the recent flood of conservative media amplifying random, interracial crimes and baselessly assigning them a racial motive.
Matt Drudge's conservative website Drudge Report is infamous for its obsessive coverage of alleged black-on-white crime and race-baiting headlines. But it's only getting worse, according to a new analysis by The New Republic. The magazine analyzed Drudge's use of race-related terms in headlines after 2008 -- the year President Obama established himself as a national figure with his first presidential campaign -- with Drudge headlines before 2008, and the results are striking. According to the analysis, since 2008, Drudge headlines:
Notably, the analysis highlighted that Drudge often altered headlines to inject a racial component when the original source contained none. This method of race-baiting has spilled over into the broader media. Recently, conservative outlets have seized upon local crime stories and baselessly assigned them racial motives when no such evidence existed. This spate of reckless race-baiting has been repeatedly accompanied by inapt comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin, an attempt to highlight a supposed double standard among civil rights leaders and media figures.
When a video of three teenage students beating up another student on a Florida school bus surfaced in early August, local media reported that the attack was in retaliation for the victim notifying school officials that the three teens tried to sell him drugs. But because the perpetrators happened to be black and the victim white, conservative media broke into a chorus of race-baiting, complaining that civil rights leaders hadn't spoken about the assault. Fox News bragged about its insertion of race into the crime, highlighting that it was the only network to bring race "to the forefront" on the story.
When three teens -- two black, one white -- allegedly shot and killed an Australian college student last month because they were "bored," law enforcement officials emphasized there was no evidence "to indicate that the killing of Christopher Lane was related to either his race or to his nationality."
Undeterred by facts, right-wing media again repeatedly manufactured a racial motive. Fox argued that the murder was "likely motivated by race" and even criticized other media outlets for "ignoring the race issue" in the crime. Drudge featured photographs of the two black suspects, neglecting to include the photo of their alleged white accomplice.
Reacting to news that the Obama administration will use executive action to curb gun violence, The Drudge Report titled its top story, "HEAD FAKE: OBAMA GOES AFTER GUNS."
Obama reportedly seeks to restrict the importation of military grade firearms for civilian sale and close a loophole that allows felons to obtain highly dangerous guns without a background check. In contrast to fearmongering by Drudge Report, neither policy will interfere with the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
In an attempt to promote stereotypes of African-Americans as violent and dangerous, Matt Drudge is featuring on his website the photos of two black teenagers who allegedly killed an Australian athlete, leaving out the photo of their alleged white accomplice.
On August 16, Australian baseball player Christopher Lane was shot and killed while jogging in Oklahoma. Two black teenagers have been charged with first-degree murder in the case while a white teenager has been charged as an accessory for allegedly driving the getaway car. Conservative media have suggested that the shooting was racially motivated, despite the fact that one of the alleged perpetrators was white and that the local district attorney said he has seen nothing to "indicate that the killing of Christopher Lane was related to either his race or to his nationality."
Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, who has a long record of bigoted commentary, claimed during a Fox News appearance that the murder is part of a societal trend in which "interracial violence is overwhelmingly black-on-white." Drudge is featuring that commentary under photos of the two black teens charged with murder, leaving out their alleged white accomplice.
The Washington Times is claiming that carbon emissions could be causing "global cooling" in contradiction of basic physics.
In an editorial Monday designed to ridicule Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) for convening a summit on clean energy in Las Vegas, the Times repeatedly referred to climate change as a "scam" and cited several "facts" that allegedly discredit it -- including that "there's new evidence that carbon-dioxide emissions, which first set off global-warming hysteria, are actually triggering global cooling."
But there isn't "new evidence" of that. Or any kind of evidence, really.
As Duke University scientist William Chameides explained to Media Matters when Fox News tried to advance this "utter nonsense" claim, scientists established the greenhouse effect "more than a century ago":
What CO2 does is trap a larger amount of the heat from the sun, preventing it from escaping and thus driving up temperatures. To argue otherwise is to argue that the greenhouse effect does not exist. In fact the existence of the greenhouse effect was established by scientists more than a century ago. It would be impossible to explain the temperatures of Mars and Venus, as well as the Earth, without invoking this effect.
The "greenhouse effect" is part of a complex process -- a "balancing act" -- that makes life on earth possible. However, mankind's use of fossil fuels has led to a surplus of these gases, which prevents more radiation than usual from escaping back into space, thus making the planet hotter. This is not the slightest bit controversial in the scientific community, and the reverse is a vanishingly remote belief even among the climate deniosphere. For instance, the chairman of the industry-funded George C. Marshall Institute, a physicist who has conducted no climate research but suggests we should be "clamoring for more" carbon dioxide, has said that "most people like me believe that industrial emissions will cause warming, but just much less than has been predicted by many computer models." Indeed, industrial emissions have already caused substantial warming, as seen in this chart from NASA:
Right-wing media reacted to President Obama's proposal to lower the corporate tax rate by pushing the repeatedly debunked claim that a majority of small businesses pay the top individual income tax rate. In fact, only a small fraction of small businesses pay this rate, and Obama's plan includes other incentives to help them.
Right-wing media is disingenuously suggesting that Attorney General Eric Holder has disarmed George Zimmerman amid reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is holding all evidence -- including the gun used to kill Trayvon Martin -- from the Zimmerman trial as part of an ongoing civil rights investigation.
According to The Drudge Report, Zimmerman "can't have his gun back":
Zimmerman, who was acquitted on July 13 of charges of unlawfully killing 17-year-old Martin, is allowed to own a firearm because he is not disqualified from doing so under state and federal law and the current hold on evidence does not prevent him from buying another weapon.
Zimmerman reportedly already owned more than one handgun before the February 2012 shooting. Commenting on the handgun used to kill Martin, Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara, told CBS, "that particular weapon, he should never carry again. There's no reason to carry a weapon that's already killed somebody."
The Drudge Report highlighted the Senate passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill by reviving the falsehood that the legislation amounts to amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Drudge announced the news with the headline, "Amnesty Clears Senate":
Right-wing media have repeatedly invoked the amnesty falsehood to attack the bill, when in fact the Senate proposal requires immigrants who are in the country illegally to meet a number of requirements before they can apply for citizenship. Some of those conditions include passing criminal and security background checks, paying significant fines, and going through a waiting period that stretches to as far as 13 years.
Experts have further explained that the path to earned citizenship as outlined in the Senate bill cannot be equated with amnesty. As Cato Institute immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh noted of the Senate bill: "If it was amnesty they would be legalized immediately with no punishment, no process. They would just be forgiven and handed a green card."