From the August 19 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports:
Loading the player reg...
Right-wing media figures jumped to the false conclusion that 305 Clinton emails contained classified information after the State Department announced that those emails were under review by intelligence agencies. In reality, it is not yet clear how many of the emails, if any, contained classified material, and such reviews are "common in large FOIA requests that involve documents from multiple agencies."
Conservative media outlets are praising Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's immigration proposals -- which include mass deportation and ending birthright citizenship -- despite mainstream and Hispanic media outlets pointing out that the plan would cost billions of dollars, dismantle the labor force across the country, raise the undocumented immigrant population exponentially, and be "clearly unconstitutional."
A Washington Post article headlined, "Minimum-wage offensive could speed arrival of robot-powered restaurants," alleged that increasing the minimum wage would accelerate automation in the fast food and restaurant industries, destroying jobs in the process, despite little evidence linking minimum-wage increases to decreased employment.
In an August 17 article, The Washington Post suggested that a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in Washington, D.C., combined with similar efforts in cities around the country, could threaten millions of food service workers whose positions might be replaced by machines:
The industry could be ready for another jolt as a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour nears in the District and as other campaigns to boost wages gain traction around the country. About 30 percent of the restaurant industry's costs come from salaries, so burger-flipping robots -- or at least super-fast ovens that expedite the process -- become that much more cost-competitive if the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is doubled.
Many chains are already at work looking for ingenious ways to take humans out of the picture, threatening workers in an industry that employs 2.4 million wait staffers, nearly 3 million cooks and food preparers and many of the nation's 3.3 million cashiers.
The Post's decision to label minimum-wage campaigns -- like the Fight for $15 -- as a threat to fast-food workers is confusing. The Post quotes one kitchen equipment supplier as saying, "The innovation and the automation, they're going after it even before the wages go up. Why wait?" The article admits that productivity gains and increased efficiency have led to a decline in the number of workers per store for decades, noting that McDonald's restaurants in 1966 employed "70 or 80" staff members "as opposed to the 30 or 40 there today." The Post even cites market research showing a more than 10 percent decline in the average number of employees per fast-food restaurant over the last decade; the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has been constant since July 2009.
The truth of the matter is that raising the minimum wage has a negligible effect on employment. In February 2013, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) published a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between employment and the minimum wage and concluded that "the minimum wage has little or no discernible effect on the employment prospects of low-wage workers." One study included in CEPR's analysis reviewed nearly 1,500 employment estimates from minimum-wage studies, finding that the overwhelming majority of "the most precise estimates were heavily clustered at or near zero employment effects":
A recent study from researchers at Purdue University found that increasing the minimum wage of fast-food workers to $15 per hour would only result in a 4.3 percent increase in restaurant prices. To put that in perspective, a 4.3 percent increase in the cost of a Big Mac would be roughly 20 cents.
Blaming increased wages for the adoption of so-called "labor saving technology" is misleading; employers have other costs to consider beyond entry-level wages, and the move toward automation has always been a staple of labor-intensive industries. The "burger-flipping robots" that The Post attributes to increased salaries actually already exist. Momentum Machines claims that its automated sandwich machine can produce "custom meat grinds for every single customer" at a rate of one burger every 10 seconds -- far faster than a human line cook. But, according to Business Insider, the company believes that any jobs displaced by the product will be more than made up by increased productivity in other areas:
The issue of machines and job displacement has been around for centuries and economists generally accept that technology like ours actually causes an increase in employment. The three factors that contribute to this are 1. the company that makes the robots must hire new employees, 2. the restaurant that uses our robots can expand their frontiers of production which requires hiring more people, and 3. the general public saves money on the reduced cost of our burgers. This saved money can then be spent on the rest of the economy.
Conservative media figures are attacking Fox News and Megyn Kelly to defend Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, claiming the network and Kelly were "out to get" Trump in Fox News' first Republican primary debate.
On MSNBC, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker's pre-Republican-debate analysis pushed the conservative media myth that the deceptively edited videos attacking Planned Parenthood revealed that the women's health organization engaged in the sale of fetal tissue. In reality, the videos have been roundly debunked as showing no illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood, and the organization has been cleared of wrong doing in two state investigations.
Fox News has consistently helped Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush run defense for many of his controversial remarks, including his assertions that he would have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, that Americans "need to work longer hours" to boost the economy, and that the federal government spends "too much" on women's health.
The curious revelation that reporters from nine news organizations recently attended Charles and David Koch's political summit and voluntarily agreed not to identify key donors in attendance provided a helpful look into the double standard that the media often use when covering conservatives vs. covering the Clintons.
Willing to temporarily look away from the donor news behind the Koch brothers push to remake American politics in their billionaire image (and to bankroll the GOP's 2016 nominee), several of the same outlets have spent months this year needling Bill and Hillary Clinton for not being transparent enough about donors to the charitable Clinton Foundation.
To hear much of the press' often fevered coverage of the Clinton Foundation, it's simply unacceptable and downright deceitful to hide the names of wealthy people who give. Yet many of the same class of reporters volunteered not to disclose Koch donors who mingled among journalists all weekend at the five-star GOP summit?
Given that willingness to look the other way, it's difficult to take seriously the media's incessant demands that the Clintons be more transparent about their donors; donors who give to a charity devoted to help poor people around the world, not devoted to electing U.S. politicians, which is what Koch donors are all about. (The Koch brothers, and affiliated groups, are expected to spend $889 million on the 2016 race, after having raised $400 million on the 2012 contests.)
Moreover, the Clinton Foundation has actually done more than most charities do to disclose their donors. Though a few of their affiliates have not revealed some donors (in part because of differing laws in other countries), the charity has gone to great lengths ever since Clinton first became secretary of state: "In posting its donor data, the foundation goes beyond legal requirements, and experts say its transparency level exceeds that of most philanthropies," the Post previously reported.
Yet try to image the universal, all-encompassing, hour-after-hour pundit outrage that would be unleashed if the Clinton Foundation held a political summit this year and demanded journalists hide the identity of key donors who attended. The same Beltway media have no problem with the Kochs hiding 450 of their big, dark-money donors -- and hiding them in plain sight.
The Huffington Post's Michael Calderone spelled out the obvious ethical troubles raised by stipulations attached to the formerly closed-to-the-press Koch summit, where key Republican politicians were invited to address conservative billionaires:
The problem is that the ground rules could restrict journalists from reporting what's right in front of their eyes. If, say, Rupert Murdoch, or even a lesser-known billionaire, walked by, they couldn't report the person's attendance without permission. So it's possible journalists end up reporting largely what the event sponsors want, such as fiery speeches and candidate remarks criticizing Democrats, but less on the power brokers attending who play key behind-the-scenes roles in the 2016 election.
By playing by the Koch's rules, the press left itself open to some sizeable bouts of hypocrisy.
Recall that in April, Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins published partisan author Peter Schweizer's Clinton Cash, a sloppy, book-length attack on Clinton Foundation donors. The book purported (and failed) to show how foundation donations corrupted Clinton's decisions during her time as secretary of state. Media Matters documented nearly two dozen errors and distortions in the book.
But that didn't stop key outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post from teaming up with Schweizer and helping to push his lines of attack. At the time, here's how the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza's defended the immediate embrace of Clinton Cash:
The most foundational principle of covering a presidential campaign (or anything, really) is trying your damnedest to give people the fullest possible picture of the candidates running to represent them. The more information you have at your disposal then, the better.
Added Cillizza, "We are information-gatherers at heart."
So when the issue at hand was donors to the Clinton Foundation, the Washington Post sounded a clarion call, urging reporters to look at the all the information in order to give readers the "fullest possible picture of the candidates running." (And who might be trying to buy their influence.)
But last weekend, when the issue at hand was Koch summit donors, the Washington Post quietly demurred and apparently concluded not all information needed to be shared with voters.
It seems clear that the Clinton Foundation feeding frenzy sprang from the media assumption that the Clintons are hiding something, they aren't truthful, and they cannot be trusted. As Vox's Jonathan Allen asserted, detailing the press corps' "unspoken rules" to covering Hillary, "the media assumes that Clinton is acting in bad faith until there's hard evidence otherwise."
By contrast, what explained the pass given to the Kochs? Was it fueled by an inverse press assumption that the Kochs are forthright, they're honorable men, and of course they play by the rules?
If donors are deemed the targets of intense media scrutiny, the press should apply the rules fairly to both sides
Major U.S. newspapers ran front page stories about devastating California wildfires alongside reports on the Environmental Protection Agency's newly-finalized Clean Power Plan, President Obama's flagship policy to address climate change. Yet with only one exception, these newspapers' wildfire articles ignored the documented role that global warming has played in worsening wildfires.
The Washington Post's George Will likened legal abortion to "barbarism" and "a limitless right to kill, and distribute fragments of, babies."
Will cited the debunked notion that Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of fetal tissue -- a smear manufactured from a conservative group's recent series of deceptively edited videos -- to accuse the women's health organization of running "federally subsidized meat markets" in a July 31 column. The Fox News contributor claimed that those who support women's ability to make their own reproductive choices see fetuses as lacking "a moral standing superior to a tumor or a hamburger in the mother's stomach." He went on:
The nonnegotiable tenet in today's Democratic Party catechism is not opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline or support for a $15 minimum wage. These are evanescent fevers. As the decades roll by, the single unshakable commitment is opposition to any restriction on the right to inflict violence on pre-born babies. So today there is a limitless right to kill, and distribute fragments of, babies that intrauterine medicine can increasingly treat as patients.
We are wallowing in this moral swamp because the Supreme Court accelerated the desensitization of the nation by using words and categories about abortion the way infants use knives and forks -- with gusto, but sloppily. Because Planned Parenthood's snout is deep in the federal trough, decent taxpayers find themselves complicit in the organization's vileness. What kind of a government disdains the deepest convictions of citizens by forcing them to finance what they see in videos -- Planned Parenthood operatives chattering about bloody human fragments? "Taxes," said Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., "are what we pay for civilized society." Today they finance barbarism.
Despite Will's declaration that taxes "finance barbarism," Planned Parenthood does not use any federal money for abortion procedures -- it's been unlawful for nearly 40 years.
His smears are further undermined by the Post's own editorial board, which called out conservative efforts to attack Planned Parenthood based on the deceptively edited videos:
That truths were distorted to paint an inaccurate and unfair picture of a health organization that provides valuable services to women -- as well as to demonize research that leads to important medical advances -- doesn't matter to antiabortion activists. Or, sadly, to the politicians who pander to them.
Planned Parenthood is under virulent attack for the role a small portion of its affiliates play in helping women who want to donate fetal tissue for medical research. The antiabortion group Center for Medical Progress has orchestrated a propaganda campaign accusing the nation's largest provider of abortions of profiting from the illegal sale of fetal tissue, a charge refuted by Planned Parenthood.
None of the videos released shows anything illegal and, in fact, the full footage of Planned Parenthood executives meeting with people presumed to be buyers for a human biologics company include repeated assertions that clinics are not selling tissue but only seeking permitted reimbursement costs for expenses. Indeed, the Colorado clinic featured in the videos refused to enter into a contract with the phony company because of its failure to meet its legal and ethical standards.
It's hard to miss the media's looming sense of bewilderment over Donald Trump's continued strong showing among Republican voters. As the bulling billionaire cements his status as this summer's star GOP attraction, many pundits and reporters have been left scratching their heads over the turn of events.
Regularly dismissed one month ago as a campaign distraction, much of the Beltway media appeared to be in agreement that Trump's campaign was nothing more than a joke and might not even be worth covering.
But now with poll after poll showing him racing to the front of the Republican pack, journalists are trying to make sense of it all. (The fallout from Trump's attack on Sen. John McCain's war record is still being calculated.)
"Everybody has been surprised that Donald Trump has seen these kind of poll numbers," noted Bloomberg's Steven Yaccino. Indeed, Trump's "surprising" frontrunner status has been a constant media theme -- especially after his campaign was first tagged as a "giant joke" and "sideshow" by some pundits. (Last month, the Washington Post pointed to Trump's favorability rating among Republicans as evidence for "Why no one should take Donald Trump seriously.")
But is Trump's run really that surprising? It shouldn't be if you've been paying attention to the radical, obstructionist turn both Republican politics and the right-wing media have taken over the last six-plus years. Yet during most of that span, the D.C. media stoically pretended the GOP hadn't taken an ugly, radical turn. And that's why so many seem baffled by Trump's rise.
Increasingly, Trump represents Fox News' Republican Party. He's holding up a mirror. But many journalists seem slow, or unwilling, to acknowledge that.
Some Beltway analysts blame the press for Trump's rise, insisting it's only because he's generating so much media attention that Republican voters are selecting him as their top choice. But that premise only works if you assume Trump doesn't connect with a certain group of voters. The fact is, most of Trump's coverage over the last month has been highly unflattering, as journalists and pundits detail his seemingly endless string of outrageous statements. (Minus Fox News, of course, where several hosts continue to fawn over him.) Yet Trump's favorable rating among Republican voters has been on the rise, suggesting that he is, in fact, connecting with the GOP base.
The idea that Trump's appeal isn't genuine or that the press has lured Republicans into supporting him is likely more comforting than acknowledging the truth: Trump, an ignorant, nativist birther, is appealing to an often-ugly streak within the conservative movement. He's winning over the illogical, demagoguery wing of the Republican Party that's been feasting off far-right media hate rhetoric for years.
This was the "grassroots" political movement that was so freaked out by Obama's ascension to power that it reached for the Nazi analogies just months into the president's first term, before he'd barely even finished filling out his cabinet positions. This is a wing of the party that views Obama as a monster of historic proportions who's committed to stripping citizens of their liberties and getting them addicted to government dependencies, like a drug dealer.
Is anyone surprised that Trump has the backing of Rush Limbaugh, even after the billionaire attacked McCain's war record? It's the same Limbaugh who claimed that if Obama weren't black he'd be working as a tour guide in Hawaii, not sitting in the Oval Office. The same Limbaugh who decried Obama as some sort of black Manchurian Candidate who ran for office because he resents white America and wants to garnish some payback. (Obama also thought Americans deserved to become infected with Ebola, according to Limbaugh.)
And you cannot underestimate Trump's previous birther charade and what that likely means for him today, politically. Note that a 2014 Economist/YouGov poll found that two-thirds of Republicans "disagree with the statement that the president was born in the United States."
Interviewing Trump's current supporters, the New York Times reported, "Some said they doubted whether President Obama was a citizen, a misrepresentation Mr. Trump has reinforced repeatedly."
And from the Daily Beast, which interviewed Trump donors:
I asked McNerney, who repeatedly referred to the president as "Obama Hussein," if he thought Obama was Muslim. He said, "I know he is." I asked if he thought Obama was born in America. He replied, "No, I don't. Probably Africa." Where in Africa, I wondered. "Wherever his father and his white mother were living." Kenya? "You got it," he said.
Earlier this month Trump told a CNN interviewer he wasn't sure where Obama was born.
Fueled by hateful rhetoric and right-wing media programming, Republicans and conservatives have veered towards extremism in recent years. If the press had honestly documented that trend, today's Trump phenomenon wouldn't come as such a shock.
Image via Michael Vadon via Creative Commons License
Since Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) announced his presidential campaign, the media has largely ignored the controversy over his attempt to gut Wisconsin's open records laws while continuing to obsess over Hillary Clinton's emails.
Walker, working with other Republicans in Wisconsin, inserted a measure in the proposed state budget that would, as the Associated Press reported, "shield nearly everything created by state and local government officials from Wisconsin's open records law, including drafts of legislation and staff communications." The provision was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats in the state, with one state senator, Robert Cowles (R - Green Bay), describing it as an "assault on democracy."
As the controversy grew, it became clear Walker's office was involved in drafting the provision. The Wisconsin State Journal noted the controversy began to heat up "barely a week before Walker was scheduled to announce a bid for the 2016 presidential nomination." The provision was then pulled.
Yet, national media largely ignored the story after months of coverage of Hillary Clinton's emails and the issue of transparency.
Around the time of Walker's July 13 presidential announcement, the open records controversy was barely mentioned. A USA Today op-ed from a Wisconsin Democrat noted it, as did the Washington Post, along with a short mention in a CNN report.
Fox's Sean Hannity interviewed Walker on the evening of his announcement, asking what he thought about "somebody that erases not only their e-mails and then their server" but never brought up Walker's open records problem or the bipartisan backlash.
At the same time, the media continued to bring up the Clinton email story - the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Fox News during Special Report, Hannity, and The Kelly File, and MSNBC on Hardball. Often the Clinton emails were still being referenced despite the absence of any relevant news. The State Department disclosure of some of the emails produced anodyne highlights like inter-office discussions about the use of a fax machine and iced tea.
As they reported on these conversations, Walker's gambit barely registered with the national press despite the furor in Wisconsin.
The media has previously exhibited this double standard on covering transparency issues within the context of covering the 2016 presidential campaign. When disclosing his emails from his time as governor of Florida, Jeb Bush omitted emails he determined were not relevant to the public record - including emails related to "politics, fundraising and personal matters while he was governor."
Even when it became known that Bush had discussed security and troop deployments using his private email, the press barely noticed, still focusing on the Clinton story.
Right-wing media praised Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ahead of his announcement that he will seek the Republican nomination for president, highlighting his record as governor and his efforts to reduce the power of labor unions.
A Washington Post article that called Hillary Clinton's strong embrace of gun safety proposals in her 2016 White House campaign "an important evolution in presidential politics" offered an in-depth look at the politics of gun safety, but also repeated the evidence-free conventional wisdom that Democrats lose elections when they support gun safety measures.
In a July 9 article, Washington Post national political correspondent Philip Rucker reported on Clinton's campaign trail vows to "speak out against the uncontrollable use of guns in our country" and to "take on the gun lobby." Comparing Clinton's willingness to talk about guns to "timid" Democratic candidates in previous election cycles, Rucker wrote that Clinton's position "marks an important evolution in presidential politics" and is "a sign that the political environment on guns has shifted in the wake of recent mass shootings."
In discussing the history of Democratic support for gun safety proposals, however, Rucker included the oft-repeated but baseless claim that support for gun safety is a perilous position for Democrats. Rucker cites former President Bill Clinton's claim that former Vice President Al Gore may have lost the 2000 presidential election because he supported the 1994 assault weapons ban, and adds, "Many Democratic lawmakers also lost their elections after gun-control votes."
There is no evidence, however, that gun safety is a particularly politically dangerous issue for Democrats. Despite this, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has claimed for years that it can determine election outcomes for its opponents. This claim has been adopted as conventional wisdom by much of the media, even though it is without evidence.
In 2012, American Prospect senior writer Paul Waldman (a former employee of Media Matters), conducted a regression analysis of recent congressional races to determine if there is any truth to the claim that "Democrats shouldn't bring up the gun issue." After analyzing NRA spending and endorsements in federal elections in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, Waldman concluded, "The NRA has virtually no impact on congressional elections" -- an outcome that "contradict[s] a conventional wisdom propagated by Democrats and Republicans alike, which says that any discussion of the possibility of restricting gun sales in any way will lead only to electoral catastrophe for Democrats, so formidable is the NRA's power."
In The Post, Rucker also cites former President Clinton's view on the matter, writing, "In his memoir, "My Life," former president Bill Clinton suggested that his vice president, Al Gore, lost the 2000 presidential election in part because of backlash in states such as Arkansas and Tennessee over the Clinton administration's 1995 ban on assault weapons, which has since expired."
While Clinton did make this claim in his memoir, there is no statistical evidence to support it. One 2000 study found that Gore's support for gun safety measures actually offered him a slight benefit on Election Day, which suggests he lost for other reasons. In fact, a 2000 survey of Tennessee voters found that residents supported more restrictions on gun ownership as opposed to fewer restrictions by a 51 point margin. It is far more likely that the reason why Gore lost several Southern states previously won by Clinton was because of a political shift that saw Southerners leaving the Democratic party, not his stance on assault weapons.
Although it repeated some tired conventional wisdom about Democrats and gun politics, Rucker's article deserves praise for providing a detailed look at important factors surrounding the gun debate.
Media reporting on support for gun safety measures often cite generic -- but flawed -- polling that asks respondents whether it is more important to "control gun ownership" or "protect the right of Americans to own guns." This type of question presents the respondents with a false choice because measures like background checks promote gun safety without restricting gun rights.
Rucker's article goes more in depth, actually discussing poll results where respondents were asked whether they favor specific gun safety proposals. For example, Rucker found that background checks are overwhelmingly popular with the public:
A survey this year by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found that 89 percent favor requiring background checks for all gun sales, including 85 percent of gun owners.
Rucker also reached out to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who proved the convention wisdom on Democrats and guns wrong by winning two elections in Virginia for the governor's office and a U.S. Senate seat in the face of strong NRA opposition, providing a countervailing perspective to claims that the NRA opposition is particularly dangerous in swing states:
Other Democrats argue that Clinton has nothing to lose. Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (D-Va.) said the NRA has become a "paper tiger," noting the elections he's won despite the NRA's vocal opposition.
"I think she has no illusion that even if she didn't say a word about guns, the NRA would be out there blasting her to say she had a conspiratorial plan to work with the U.N. to take everybody's guns away, so why not go head-on on an issue that will improve safety," Kaine said.
When the story of Hillary Clinton's private email account first broke in March, the Beltway media's response resembled barely controlled hysteria as pundits searched for adjectives to describe the impending political doom in store for Clinton.
Ron Fournier at National Journal immediately announced that perhaps Clinton shouldn't even bother running for president, the damage she faced was so grave. And New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wondered if the revelation meant Clinton had a secret political "death wish."
According to the nattering nabobs of negativism (to borrow a phrase), the revelation that Clinton had used a private email server while secretary of state was possibly the story that would doom Clinton's White House hopes.
As the media firestorm raged, the State Department announced it would release 55,000 pages of former Secretary of State Clinton's emails next January. But a U.S. District Court ordered the department to release portions of the email archive on a monthly basis. The first batch was released in May, and the second round, or roughly 3,000 emails, came late last week. Clinton has always said she welcomed the emails being made public. And now we know why.
Among the "highlights" from the latest email revelations, a story that has at times consumed the Beltway press? She once emailed then-Center for American Progress chief John Podesta to "Please wear socks to bed to keep your feet warm." She on one occasion requested some iced tea. In June 2009, she wrote aides, "I heard on the radio that there is a Cabinet mtg this am. Is there? Can I go? If not, who are we sending?"
That October, Clinton sent an email to longtime confidante Sidney Blumenthal, asking in the subject line, "Are you still awake?" The body of the email read, "I will call if you are." (That Clinton emailed with Blumenthal has been treated as very big news, although there's rarely a press explanation as for why it's treated that way.)
More scintillating insights? Clinton emailed an assistant to get the phone number of Judge Sonia Maria Sotomayor so Clinton could congratulate her on being nominated for the Supreme Court. Clinton once sent senior advisor Jake Sullivan an appreciative email, telling him what good work he was doing. And of course, there was the media's never-ending fax-machine coverage, detailing the trivial back-and-forth between Clinton and her aide as they struggled to get a piece of office equipment to work.
So since March, we've gone from breathless claims that Clinton's emails might end her presidential hopes, to reporting about how Clinton's emails revealed she was flummoxed by the office fax machine.
In other words, the story has traveled from scandal to farce in just four months' time.