The Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog failed to disclose a writer's relationship with the National Rifle Association, whose piece offered a false attack on expanded background check legislation.
The Volokh Conspiracy is a blog operated by law professor Eugene Volokh that has been published on the Post website since January 2014. The blog is editorially independent from the Post and describes its contributors as "generally libertarian, conservative, centrist, or some mixture of these."
In a November 2 post, writer David Kopel attacked a common version of expanded background check legislation with the false claim that such legislation criminalizes benign activities such as merely handing a friend a gun to look at. He was identified by the site as "Research Director, Independence Institute, Denver, Colorado; Associate Policy Analyst, Cato Institute, Washington, D.C; and Adjunct professor of advanced constitutional law, Denver University, Sturm College of Law" and "author of 15 books and 90 scholarly journal articles."
That description ignores Kopel's longstanding ties with the NRA, which include large grants given by the NRA to the Independence Institute and Kopel's frequent contribution as a writer to NRA publications. Kopel most recently contributed to the NRA's paranoid and inflammatory America's 1st Freedom magazine in the November 2015 issue.
According to an investigation of Kopel's relationship with the NRA by journalist Frank Smyth, "Kopel has managed to establish himself as an independent authority on gun policy issues even though he and his Independence Institute have received over $1.42 million including about $175,000 a year over eight years from the NRA."
Following the publication of Smyth's exposé, The New York Times added language to an opinion piece submitted by Kopel to indicate that the Independence Institute "has received grant money from the National Rifle Association's Civil Rights Defense Fund."
But the Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog made no such disclosure, even though his post helps advance the NRA's agenda in several ways. Kopel uses the Volokh Conspiracy to give credence to the NRA's go-to argument against expanded background check legislation, attacks by name NRA opponent Everytown for Gun Safety for favoring such legislation, and specifically attacks legislative language in an upcoming ballot initiative in Nevada that the NRA opposes.
Moreover, Kopel's claim about expanded background check legislation is baseless.
The NRA previously attacked the legislative language discussed in Kopel's post as it was enacted in Washington state in 2014 via a ballot initiative and in legislation in Oregon in 2015 by claiming that the language was drafted in way that -- either through nefarious design or drafting incompetence -- turned many routine activities involving a gun into crimes.
Law enforcement officials charged with enforcing background check laws have rejected these hysterical claims, calling them "semantics" arguments. And the NRA and other opponents of expanded background checks have been unable to provide reporters examples of gun owners being prosecuted over technicalities of the law.
Following the publication of this post, the Volokh Conspiracy blog added the following language to Kopel's biography: "Kopel is an NRA-certified safety instructor. The Independence Institute has received NRA contributions."
Media commentators criticized the Republican presidential candidates' demands to media sponsors for future presidential primary debates, noting that because debates are "a chief means for Americans to hear and weigh the ideas of the candidates," they're "too important to be guided" by a "ridiculous manifesto" of demands from candidates.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent wrote that "Republicans [are shooting] themselves in [the] foot with Latinos, again" after the Republican National Committee (RNC) suspended its debate partnership with its only scheduled Spanish-language network. The debate, originally scheduled to be hosted by NBC and NBC-owned Telemundo, was canceled by the RNC following the fallout from the CNBC debate.
In the aftermath of the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential primary debate, conservatives reacted with outrage, and charged that the network demonstrated liberal media bias. The RNC responded by suspending NBC and Telemundo's future presidential debate, a move that political journalists criticized as a "harsh" response to "crisis mode," pointing out that the cancelled debate was the GOP's only scheduled debate that would have aired on a Spanish-language TV network.
Sargent's November 2 article titled "Republicans shoot themselves in foot with Latinos, again," noted that the Democratic National Committee is now in talks with Telemundo to possibly host a candidate forum. Accordingly "one consequence of this decision could be that Republicans end up holding no debate aired on a Spanish-language network," while Democrats may "be able to argue that they are far more interested in communicating with Latino voters than Republicans." Sargent also noted that "All this comes after GOP establishment types went into full-scale panic earlier this fall over the damage Trump -- with his call for mass deportations and suggestion that Mexican immigrants are rapists -- may already be doing to the GOP brand among Latinos":
Republicans are pulling out of their only scheduled debate that would be aired on a Spanish-language TV network. So Democrats may respond by holding a second gathering aired on one.
The Spanish-language network Telemundo is in talks with the Democratic National Committee about possibly scheduling a new candidate forum with the Dem presidential candidates, after the Republican National Committee canceled its debate on NBC News and the NBC-owned Telemundo to protest CNBC's handling of last week's gathering, sources familiar with ongoing discussions tell me.
If this comes to fruition, Democrats would effectively be moving into the breach created by the RNC's decision. It would mean Democrats end up holding two debate-style events on Spanish-language networks, since they are already set to hold a Univision debate in March.
But you'd think it would be a good idea for Democrats to try to make this happen. The RNC is claiming there will be another debate scheduled to replace the cancelled one on NBC and Telemundo. But RNC chair Reince Priebus has declined to say whether Telemundo would be included in the replacement debate. Obviously the RNC did not cancel this debate because of the Spanish-language network's participation; it had many other reasons for doing so. But one consequence of this decision could be that Republicans end up holding no debate aired on a Spanish-language network. If Democrats do add a second such gathering, they would then be able to argue that they are far more interested in communicating with Latino voters than Republicans are, which is a good message for the general election.
Indeed, one of the GOP campaigns -- that of Jeb Bush -- is actually protesting the decision to cancel the NBC/Telemundo debate, and demanding that Telemundo be reinstated, presumably because Latino outreach would be good not just for Jeb Bush, but for the GOP overall. Guess which GOP candidate isopposing a reinstatement of Telemundo? Yep: Donald Trump. All this comes after GOP establishment types went into full-scale panic earlier this fall over the damage Trump -- with his call for mass deportations and suggestion that Mexican immigrants are rapists -- may already be doing to the GOP brand among Latinos. And it comes as incoming House Speaker Paul Ryan is renewing his pledge not to act on immigration reform while Obama is president.
According to The Washington Post, one point of consensus among the GOP presidential campaigns after they met to discuss restructuring the debate format is "the secure standing of Fox News Channel." The Post reported that "any changes" to the debate format "would be applied to debates after next week's Fox Business Network debate," because, according to one source, "people are afraid to make Roger [Ailes, the chairman and CEO of Fox News] mad."
In the aftermath of the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential primary debate, conservatives reacted with outrage, and charged that the network demonstrated liberal media bias. While some media figures pointed out that there wasn't much of a difference between Fox and CNBC's debates, the RNC responded to the criticism by suspending NBC's future presidential debate, a move that political journalists criticized as a "harsh" response to "crisis mode."
The Washington Post's David Weigel and Robert Costa reported November 1 that representatives from a majority of the Republican presidential campaigns met to map out "new demands for greater control over the format and content" of the remaining Republican primary debates. The Post reported that "the campaigns reached an early consensus" during the meeting, agreeing that the changes would take effect after Fox Business Network's debate, because, according to one source, "people are afraid to make Roger [Ailes] mad":
The campaigns reached an early consensus on one issue, according to several operatives in the room: the secure standing of Fox News Channel. Any changes would be applied to debates after next week's Fox Business Network debate. Among the reasons, according to one operative in the room, was that "people are afraid to make Roger [Ailes] mad," a reference to the network's chief.
Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz recommended that Telemundo be reinstated after being dropped along with NBC. But the campaign of businessman Donald Trump, represented by manager Corey Lewandowski, threatened to boycott a debate if the Spanish-language network that Trump has clashed with was granted one.
On the October 30 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly promoted Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio's debunked claim from the October 28 presidential debate on CNBC that Hillary Clinton "got exposed as a liar" during her recent day-long testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Rubio's remark was given "Two Pinnochios" by The Washington Post's FactChecker, and the senator was unable to defend his claim when pressed during interviews with CBS and CNN. That has not stopped Fox News from repeatedly championing Rubio's false claim. Kelly furthered her network's defense, wondering why Rubio is not "entitled to his opinion that she lied," despite the fact that it is not true. From The Kelly File:
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Numerous media outlets have debunked Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio's false claim that Hillary Clinton was "exposed as a liar" for misleading the public about the cause of the Benghazi attacks during her testimony in front of the House Select Committee on Benghazi October 22. Media outlets who have fact-checked that claim pointed out that all of Clinton's statements following the attack reflected the best available intelligence at the time, and CIA guidance to administration officials changed as more information became known.
Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler debunked Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio's false claim during the CNBC presidential debate that Hillary Clinton "got exposed as a liar" during her testimony before the House Select Committee On Benghazi for supposedly misleading the public about the cause of the Benghazi attacks. Kessler asserted that Rubio "does not have enough evidence to label Clinton a liar," explaining that changing "reports from the intelligence community 'caused confusion and influenced the public statements' of policymakers" in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
During the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential debate, candidate Rubio claimed that Hillary Clinton "got exposed as a liar" about the cause of the Benghazi attacks by admitting "she had sent emails to her family" attributing the attack to "Al Qaeda-like elements" while "telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video." Rubio's allegation originated with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in Clinton's October 22 appearance in front of the House Special Committee on Benghazi, and has been repeatedly hailed by Fox News as a "smoking gun" despite having been debunked by numerous media outlets for disregarding how intelligence evolved in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
Kessler wrote October 30 that "one find[s] little support for Rubio's claim," asserting that Rubio "does not have enough evidence to label Clinton a liar." Kessler explained that contrary to Rubio's suggestion that Clinton made "a deliberate effort to deceive...evidence suggests there were few hard answers available then to policymakers" which "'caused confusion and influenced the public statements.'" Kessler also noted "that a Senate report [Rubio] signed documented that the CIA assessment changed several times and was not set in stone until more than ten days after the attacks":
These were pretty strong words uttered by Rubio at the third GOP debate, and they give us an opportunity to explore what was said by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the week after the 2012 attacks in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador.
The House Intelligence Committee, in its 2014 report on the incident, said "there was a stream of contradictory and conflicting intelligence that came in after the attacks."
The CIA's deputy director, Michael Morell, testified that the first time he learned there had not been a protest at the diplomatic facility was after receiving an e-mail from the Libya station chief on Sept. 15, three days after the attack.
(Morell's testimony contradicts Rubio's claim on CNN on Oct. 29, the morning after the debate, that "there was never a shred of evidence presented to anyone that this was spontaneous. And the CIA understood that." On CBS, Rubio also claimed that it was "not accurate" that the CIA changed its assessment, which is also wrong.)
A similar conclusion was reached by the Senate Intelligence Committee (of which Rubio is a member) in its report on Benghazi: "Intelligence analysts inaccurately referred to the presence of a protest at the Mission facility before the attack based on open source information and limited intelligence, without sufficient intelligence or eyewitness statements to corroborate that assertion. The IC took too long to correct these erroneous reports, which caused confusion and influenced the public statements."
Looking at Clinton's public statements, it is clear she was very careful to keep the attacks separate from the video; the two incidents do not appear in the same sentence (unlike the controversial televised remarks by then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice).
Focusing just on the public statements made by Clinton -- as opposed to the rest of the administration --one find little support for Rubio's claim that Clinton told the American people that the attacks were because of a video. She certainly spoke about the video, but always in the context of the protests that were occurring across the Middle East.
Rubio is wrong when he says the CIA assessment did not change, given that a Senate report he signed documented that the CIA assessment changed several times and was not set in stone until more than ten days after the attacks.
Can Rubio really attribute this to a "lie" rather than the fog of war? A "lie" suggests a deliberate effort to deceive, while the documentary evidence suggests there were few hard answers available then to policymakers. Even the Senate report signed by Rubio says the reports from the intelligence community "caused confusion and influenced the public statements" of policymakers.
Rubio is certainly within his rights to point out Clinton's contradictory statements -- and the remarks of the family members give us pause -- but he does not have enough evidence to label Clinton a liar.
An OB-GYN who also provides abortions wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post titled, "Being a doctor who performs abortions means you always fear your life is in danger" in which she explained how threats of violence and intimidation tactics directed at reproductive health service providers affect them and their patients.
Conservative media often compare abortion providers -- like people who work at Planned Parenthood -- to Nazis and Josef Mengele, but the potential for inciting violence is very real when radio, television, online, and print outlets use their public platforms to spout extremist rhetoric and fan the flames of public anger. Reproductive health care facilities have suffered arson attacks and other forms of vandalism in the wake of this summer's release of deceptively-edited videos by an anti-choice group that were heavily promoted by Fox News and other conservative media organizations.
From Dr. Diane J. Horvath-Cosper's October 29 Washington Post op-ed:
Every few months, I do an Internet search for my name, as recommended by a media-savvy colleague. In the past I've found myself in all the predictable places -- among a list of doctors who graduated from my residency program, on my employer's Web site, in various social-media posts. But in the stillness of a warm evening this past August, after putting my daughter to bed, I found myself in a new and terrifying place: an anti-choice Web site that claims I am part of an "abortion cartel." In addition to my office address and links to find my medical license numbers, it features several photos of me. In one of the photos, taken from social media, I'm holding my then-15-month-old daughter.
Though the site claims to be "informational" in nature, the real purpose is clear. There is no better way to intimidate and incite fear than to target a family member, especially a child. The message is unambiguous: I'm being watched, and so is my daughter.
I am an obstetrician-gynecologist. Among the many medical services I provide my patients, I also perform abortions for women who need them. That's made me a target for harassment online and in person over the course of my career.
Numerous colleagues have similar stories. On social media, I've witnessed friends and mentors called murderers, Nazis, racists and whores. The threats can be vague ("I hope someone does to you what you do to babies") or terrifyingly specific ("I know where you live, and someday I might show up at your doorstep").
Too often, these threats are not all talk: In the past two decades, 13 physicians or staff members at abortion-providing facilities have been killed or seriously injured.
As hard as it is for physicians and staff who work at these clinics, the impact isn't just on providers. When patients are confronted by threats and intimidation, some of them are too frightened to enter the clinic to get the care they need. These women deserve empathetic, respectful care -- which is what my colleagues and I have studied and practiced for years to give them -- not judgement, and not violence. Targeting clinics also prevents women from getting other essential medical services, from cancer screenings to ultrasounds to sexually transmitted-infection testing and treatment.
Media outlets refuted Gov. Chris Christie's (R-NJ) claims that a lack of support from President Obama and increased scrutiny of police are leading to an increase in crime, explaining that "2015 is actually on pace to have near-record low levels of deadly violence against police." The so-called "Ferguson Effect," that Christie alluded to, is a right-wing media myth that has used flawed or cherry-picked data to link supposed increases in crime rates to the increased scrutiny of police following episodes of police brutality and has been roundly debunked by experts
Media outlets called out Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's "utterly wrong," "wildly misleading," and long discredited claim at the October 28 CNBC presidential debate that women held 92 percent of the jobs lost during President Obama's first term, pointing out that that statistic is recycled from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and newer data completely contradicts Fiorina's claim: women actually gained jobs by the end of Obama's first term.
The Washington Post's Wonkblog debunked Donald Trump's debate assertion that places that do not allow guns attract mass shooters, concluding that "little data supports this claim."
During the October 28 CNBC GOP debate, Trump said, "I feel that the gun-free zones and, you know, when you say that, that's target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill. That's target [practice]. They look around for gun-free zones."
Wonkblog's Christopher Ingraham concluded in an October 29 article that "little data supports this claim," before offering three reasons why Trump was wrong.
As Ingraham explained, an analysis of public mass shootings shows that gunman do not choose their targets because of gun policies but rather "you typically find that gunmen have a grievance attached to a particular location" that forms the motive of the shooting.
Ingraham also cited an analysis of 110 mass shootings that occurred between January 2009 and July 2014 that "found that only 14 percent of those shootings took place in a so-called 'gun-free' zone."
Lastly, Ingraham explained that the claim gunmen target "gun-free zones" relies on the assumption that the individuals who perpetrate these crimes are rational actors:
But little data supports this claim. For starters, if you probe the reasons why shooters target particular places, you typically find that gunmen have a grievance attached to a particular location. A Mother Jones analysis of mass shootings between 1982 and 2015 found not one single instance where the gunman appeared to be motivated by the knowledge that a place was gun-free.
Rather, gunmen usually had specific grievances that they chose to take out at certain locations: a workplace, or a federal facility, or a school, for instance. The FBI's 2014 study of 160 active shooter incidents found that in many cases, shooters had a specific connection either to the place where the shooting occurred, or with somebody who worked there.
And a 2014 analysis by a gun control group of 110 mass shooting incidents between January 2009 and July 2014 found that only 14 percent of those shootings took place in a so-called "gun-free" zone.
As Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes point out at The Trace, the claim that shooters target gun-free zones runs contrary to another claim frequently made by gun rights advocates: that mass shootings are primarily a function of mental health and not of gun laws. But the claim that mass shooters rationally seek out gun-free areas in order to encounter the least resistance runs a tension with the notion that shooters are mentally ill individuals with an irrational axe to grind.
Experts continue to debunk "the Ferguson effect," the right-wing media's zombie myth that uses flawed or cherry-picked data to link supposed increases in crime rates to the increased scrutiny of police following episodes of police brutality.
At least three Hispanic journalists have been shut out of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign events, which Spanish-language media and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists have condemned.
The Washington Post relied on a flawed polling question to conclude that there is a "bitter and stark division" on the issue of gun violence as it relates to the 2016 election.
The Washington Post and ABC News asked respondents, "Which do you think should be a higher priority right now - (enacting new laws to try to reduce gun violence), or (protecting the right to own guns)?" in a survey conducted earlier this month.
46 percent of participants chose "enacting new laws to try to reduce gun violence," compared to 47 percent who chose "protecting the right to own guns." In its October 26 article on the poll, the Post describes the result as an indication of "bitter and stark division on whether new gun laws should trump the constitutional right to gun ownership." But the question presents a false choice: it is entirely possible to both protect gun rights and enact laws to reduce gun violence. For example, as the Post article itself acknowledges, proposals to expand background checks are overwhelmingly popular with the public. Background checks do not interfere with "the right to own guns" for lawful gun owners.
The Post/ABC News question is similar to a question used by Pew Research Center that Pew has acknowledged is flawed. For years Pew has asked the public to choose whether it is more important to "control gun ownership" or to "protect the right of Americans to own guns." Like the Post question, this presents respondents with a false choice.
Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research has criticized the Pew question, explaining, "Pew's question presents one side emphasizing the protection of individual rights versus restricting gun ownership. The question's implicit and incorrect assumption is that regulations of gun sales infringe on gun owners' rights and control their ability to own guns. The reality is that the vast majority of gun laws restrict the ability of criminals and other dangerous people to get guns and place minimal burdens on potential gun purchasers such as undergoing a background check. Such policies enjoy overwhelming public support."
In response to the criticism, Pew acknowledged to Mother Jones that the question is flawed and said that Webster "is right to put it in context."
A Washington Post article explained that "voices across the conservative media landscape" have fueled right-wing anger at conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus for supporting Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for Speaker of the House.
Before Ryan officially decided to run for Speaker conservative media figures attempted to pre-veto him by attacking his policy positions and arguing that he was not conservative enough. Sean Hannity used his talk radio platform and Fox News show to hype alternatives for the position, saying of Ryan, "the job of Speaker is not for him." Following Ryan's October 20 announcement that he would run if the Republican Party united behind him, conservative media reacted with outrage to Ryan's demands, comparing him to a "King" and "Caesar." Many of the same figures railing against Ryan had previously spent years calling for the ouster of Speaker John Boehner, who they also had believed was not conservative enough.
In an October 25 Washington Post article, Mike DeBonis noted that the decision to endorse Ryan for the Speaker role has put the House Freedom Caucus "in the unfamiliar position of defending their right flank," due to anger stoked by "the conservative media landscape." "Particularly brutal have been the syndicated talk-radio hosts," DeBonis noted, who have called Ryan "basically John Boehner with better abs" and have argued that "the best the Republican establishment can do; it's just not good enough":
Things may never be the same for the Freedom Caucus after most of its members moved last week to support Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as the next House speaker. Suddenly, they may not be conservative enough for some in the party.
The groundswell of support from hard-core conservative voters that emboldened the group as it battled Boehner and the GOP establishment seemed to subside for the first time in months. That has put its members in the unfamiliar position of defending their right flank.
The anger over Ryan's ascent has been fueled by voices across the conservative media landscape. On the Internet, sites such as Breitbart.com and the Drudge Report have pumped out a steady stream of anti-Ryan stories casting doubt on his record, while such prominent commentators as Erick Erickson, Ann Coulter and Mickey Kaus have sharpened their teeth and urged conservatives to contact lawmakers and tell them to spurn Ryan.
Particularly brutal have been the syndicated talk-radio hosts who have helped foment the anti-establishment outrage that has kept Donald Trump atop the GOP presidential race and forced Jeb Bush, a well-financed mainstream conservative, to undertake a campaign shake-up.
Laura Ingraham last week called Ryan "basically John Boehner with better abs" and featured segment after segment attacking Ryan's positions on trade and immigration. She also mocked his desire to spend his weekends with his family.
Another influential host, Mark Levin, lambasted Ryan as a creature of the establishment elite. "I think it's time, ladies and gentlemen, to choose a speaker from outside the House of Representatives," he told his audience Wednesday. "This is the best the Republican establishment can do; it's just not good enough."
And the biggest conservative talker of them all, Rush Limbaugh, on Thursday called Ryan a favorite of the Republican "donor class" and "the new Cantor" -- a reference to former House majority leader Eric Cantor, who was ousted last year in a GOP primary.