The Washington Times misleadingly cited a government factsheet to claim that a "U.S. policy" could authorize the confiscation of Hillary Clinton's personal email server. In fact, the authority to which the Times refers explicitly notes that its "advisories are NOT binding upon U.S. Government departments and agencies."
On July 1, the Times published an article headlined "Admission Of Hillary's Classified Emails Opens Door For Feds To Seize Her Servers." The report suggested that because some information on Clinton's State Department emails has now been retroactively classified, the NSA could seize the private server on which she stored the emails in order to "destroy" it.
The emails in question are part of a collection of the former Secretary of State's official business correspondence, which was conducted on a non-government email account, and which the State Department is currently reviewing and releasing to the public. According to the Times, the classification of "two dozen" of her thousands of emails could "trigger a U.S. policy that authorizes the government to take control of her private server and sanitize the contents":
The State Department on Wednesday conceded that two dozen of Hillary Clinton's emails did contain classified information, a fact that could trigger a U.S. policy that authorizes the government to take control of her private server and sanitize the contents.
A former senior intelligence official told The Washington Times the policy also requires the government to check other Internet paths her secret information could have taken.
The procedures are spelled out by the National Security Agency's special panel on controlling leaked secrets, called the Committee on National Security Systems. It published a policy, "Securing Data and Handling Spillage Events," that fits Mrs. Clinton's unauthorized private server kept at her home while she was secretary of state, according to the retired officer's reading of the regulations.
Washington Free Beacon staff writer Stephen Gutowski falsely reported that the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence must pay more than $200,000 to ammunition dealers that supplied a gunman who attacked moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado in 2012. The misleading article was published after a court dismissed a lawsuit against the companies.
In fact, the plaintiffs in the case - parents of one of the victims - were ordered to pay the ammunition companies' legal fees because of a special carve-out in Colorado law for the gun industry.
On July 20, 2012, a man wearing body armor and carrying an arsenal of firearms and tear gas fatally shot 12 people and wounded 58 others during a midnight screening at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. The Brady Center subsequently filed a lawsuit against companies that had supplied the gunman, on behalf of Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the shooting.
The lawsuit alleged that Lucky Gunner and several other companies had negligently supplied the gunman with thousands of rounds of ammunition, body armor, a high-capacity drum magazine that could hold 100 rounds of ammunition, and canisters of tear gas.
In April, a federal court dismissed the lawsuit and Lucky Gunner and other defendants moved to collect attorney's fees from the plaintiffs. On June 17, a judge granted that request, ordering the Phillipses to pay $203,000. The decision is currently under appeal.
On June 29, Beacon staff writer Gutowski reported on this development, but botched his analysis to claim that the Brady Center, rather than the Phillipses, was ordered to compensate companies that supplied the Aurora gunman.
In an article headlined, "Federal Judge Orders Brady Center to Pay Ammo Dealer's Legal Fees After Dismissing Lawsuit," Gutowski wrote, "A federal judge has ordered that the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence pay the legal fees of an online ammunition dealer it sued for the Aurora movie theater shooting." The actual order, which is cited in the article, contradicts this claim by describing at length how the plaintiffs, who are listed at the top of the order as Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, must pay fees to companies that enabled their daughter's killer.
While chronicling the Latino outreach efforts of their former columnist and current GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson, The Washington Times chose to leave out what Carson said about immigration in a speech at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) conference, the largest gathering of its kind.
In its overwhelmingly positive profile of Carson, the Times highlighted the candidate's hope that being the only Republican to speak at NALEO's annual conference would win him Hispanic votes, and underscored his support for a flat tax and repeal of Obamacare.
But the piece left out Carson's actual remarks at the conference, which revealed his desire to "seal the borders" to prevent "somebody from Syria who wants to bomb us" from entering the country. From the 32nd Annual NALEO conference:
[T]he reason that I think that we need to seal our borders, completely, all of our borders -- north, south, east and west -- is not so much because I'm afraid of somebody from Honduras. I'm afraid of somebody from Syria who wants to bomb us, who wants to do bad things. So that's the main reason that we need to seal all of our borders. But in the meantime, we do have an illegal immigration problem that would be solved if you sealed the borders and you ceased the benefits so that people wouldn't see a reason to come here. But what about the 11 million people who are still here, what do you do with them? Well, many of them have never known any other country, so where are you going to send them? So I don't think that that's necessarily a good idea but what we should do, I believe, is provide them a way that they don't have to hide in the shadows, give them an opportunity to become guest workers, they have to register, they have to enroll in a back tax program. And if they want to become citizens, they have to get in the line with everybody else and do what's necessary because we have to pay homage to the people who have done it the right way and not slap them in the face and say we don't care about you. That's not fair either, so we have to do things that are fair to everyone, and if we use that general philosophy, recognizing that the people who came here across the border, they weren't coming here to be Democrats or Republicans they came here to try to improve their quality of life. And we need to understand that, and our policies need to understand that.
The Washington Times has a history of championing Carson; they continued to publish his columns and promote his image in its sister publications even after he made it clear he planned to run for president, while paying him large sums of money for his contributions.
UPDATE (6/5/15): Following the publication of this post, The Washington Times changed its headline from "EPA: Fracking doesn't harm drinking water" to "EPA finds fracking poses no direct threat to drinking water." However, the New York Post published an article on June 5 adopting The Washington Times' original language, headlined, "Fracking doesn't harm drinking water: EPA."
Within hours of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) releasing a study on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," Newsweek and The Washington Times published online articles with headlines that falsely claimed the EPA determined fracking does not pollute drinking water. However, while the EPA said it found no evidence that fracking has led to "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States," the study also identified "specific instances" where fracking "led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells."
In its headline, Newsweek asserted: "Fracking Doesn't Pollute Drinking Water, EPA Says." The Washington Times' similar headline, "EPA: Fracking doesn't harm drinking water," was also adopted by The Drudge Report, a highly influential conservative news aggregator.
But the EPA study said none of those things. Rather, the EPA concluded (emphasis added):
From our assessment, we conclude there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources. These mechanisms include water withdrawals in times of, or in areas with, low water availability; spills of hydraulic fracturing fluids and produced water; fracturing directly into underground drinking water resources; below ground migration of liquids and gases; and inadequate treatment and discharge of wastewater.
We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States. Of the potential mechanisms identified in this report, we found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells. The number of identified cases, however, was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.
A more accurate headline about the EPA's study would have resembled that of U.S. News & World Report, which stated: "EPA: Fracking Tainted Drinking Water, but Problems Not Widespread."
Indeed, the EPA's determination that fracking has contaminated some drinking water wells was even included within the body of The Washington Times article. But a headline often shapes the way the rest of the article is perceived, and even reading the article may not be enough to correct for the headline's misinformation -- that is, if the reader gets past the headline, which most Americans do not.
In addition to mischaracterizing the EPA study, Newsweek and The Washington Times also excluded EPA's explanation of why its findings don't necessarily indicate "a rarity of effects on drinking water resources." The agency identified several "limiting factors" in its analysis, including insufficient data, the lack of long-term studies, and inaccessible information, stating that these limitations "preclude a determination of the frequency of [drinking water] impacts with any certainty." As the Environmental Defense Fund stated in a press release about the EPA study, "Better and more accessible data on activities surrounding hydraulic fracturing operations is needed."
Fox News contributor Stephen Moore declared in a May 10 column that "[t]he green energy movement in America is dead," but a video airing directly above Moore's column on The Washington Times website makes clear that his characterization of the U.S. clean energy industry is blatantly false.
The video read from an April 27 article by Environment & Energy Publishing's ClimateWire titled "Strong Future Forecast for Renewable Energy," which pointed out that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) "forecasts renewable energy will be the fastest-growing power source through 2040." The video (and ClimateWire article) also noted that an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows "[n]ew investments in renewable energy rose from $9 billion in the first quarter of 2004 to $50 billion for 2015's first quarter," and that "the volume of installed photovoltaic systems in the United States has grown every year since 2000."
In recent months, the Republican attorneys general in West Virginia and Oklahoma have been relentlessly working to block the EPA's proposed carbon pollution standards for power plants, via an ongoing lawsuit, legislation, public relations activities, and Senate testimony. But the media coverage of these efforts has consistently left out a key aspect of the story: These attorneys general have formed what a New York Times investigation described as an "unprecedented, secretive alliance" with the fossil fuel industry against the Obama administration's environmental policies.
The Washington Times relied on statements from fossil fuel allies and a coal industry poll to allege that blacks and Hispanics "increasingly are turning against" President Obama's climate change agenda, supposedly out of concern for the poor. But non-industry-funded polls show that blacks and Hispanics strongly support the U.S. government taking action on climate change, and many black and Hispanic organizations have endorsed the EPA's plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants because of the financial and health benefits it will provide for their communities.
Fox News attacked the Obama administration by reviving the false claim that in 2012 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) began asking gun purchasers about their race and ethnicity on background check forms. In fact, ethnicity questions have been on the background check form for more than a decade.
On the April 21 edition of Fox News' The Real Story, guest host Martha MacCallum and Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano trumpeted the efforts of GOP lawmakers to stop the ATF from asking gun buyers about race. Napolitano argued, "I can only think that insisting upon knowing the race of the person, is perhaps so this Obama administration, so decidedly anti-gun, could say, oh by the way, such and such a percentage of whites buy -- and the amount of non-whites that buy is a smaller percentage, and we don't like that."
During the segment, an on-screen "Fox Facts" graphic wrongly claimed that ATF began "requiring gun buyers to answer questions about race & ethnicity on firearm applications" in 2012.
Contrary to the "Fox Facts" assertion, a question about race and ethnicity has been on the firearm background check form since at least 2001.
Less than one week into Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and it's a blurry image from a fast-food restaurant security video that's emerged as the defining media image. After "news" broke that Clinton, en route to Iowa to meet with voters, stopped in at an Ohio Chipotle for lunch and that the order was captured on film, the press corps basically went bonkers, treating it like a Tupac sighting and going all-in with fevered reporting.
The New York Times first got hold of the security cam video and reported that Clinton's order "included a Blackberry Izze drink, a soda and a chicken salad, and was filled just after 1 p.m." (1:20 p.m., to be exact, according to the New York Daily News.) Who carried the tray after payment? Clinton herself, the Times explained to readers.
Stories like the original Times report are not entirely out of the ordinary for campaign coverage. But the way the rest of the press went completely overboard in its wake suggests we could be in for a long and painful 19 months before the 2016 election.
More tick-tock details followed. "The newly-minted presidential candidate ordered a chicken bowl with guacamole, a chicken salad and fruit juice," according to ABC News, which interviewed the restaurant's manager. (The guacamole and fruit juice information was considered a mini-scoop; Business Insider noted guacamole "costs extra.")
For days, Clinton's Chipotle stop served as a treasure trove of information: Who made Clinton's burrito bowl? Politico sent a reporter to Maumee and determined, "The 25-year-old who cooked the chicken that went into the burrito bowl Hillary Clinton ordered at the Chipotle here on Monday makes $8.20 an hour and splits rent with two roommates." And assistant general manager Jef Chiet got Clinton her drink, Politico confirmed, "first a blackberry Izze, which she decided she didn't want after she read the ingredients, so he replaced it with an iced tea."
But campaign sleuths weren't finished. Bloomberg confirmed that, "The change from the meal totaled less than a dollar, but it was pocketed rather than deposited in the tip jar as many customers at the restaurant do."
Could any political analysis be gleaned from the mundane lunchtime stop? Of course:
"Hillary Clinton Goes Unnoticed at Chipotle In Botched Retail Politicking Bid" (Washington Times)
"Clinton Bypassed Centrist Taco Bell for Liberal Favorite Chipotle" (Wall Street Journal)
"What Hillary Clinton's Chipotle Stop Says About Her Campaign" (Christian Science Monitor)
Is it possible that maybe she was just hungry?
The Chipotle nonsense reached such heights (or depths), that even starstruck E! called out the political press for its ridiculous overreaction to the story, and the fact that "ChipotleGate 2015" triggered "all sorts of in-depth analysis, from what her choice in burrito bowl means for America, to whether her decision to don sunglasses means she's unfit to be president."
During her first week on the campaign trail, Clinton has avoided any defining, self-inflicted gaffes. The same cannot be said of the press.
News organizations have gone on a "staffing binge" in preparation for the 2016 campaign, according to the Washington Post. That means political units have to produce content, no matter how trivial and innocuous. The machine must be fed (clicks must be harvested). And right now, that machine is spitting out some dreadful, breathless, and gossipy campaign dispatches that are divorced from anything remotely connected to a public discourse.
Just think about the Chipotle story. Was Clinton in hiding at the time? Had she dared the press to find her out? Was there any reason to think her highway pit stop for food was newsworthy? No, no and no. Maybe -maybe -- if it were the final weeks of an historically close White House campaign, that kind of myopic attention paid to a lunch order would be warranted. But 70-plus weeks before voters go to the polls? It's unfathomable.
Chipotle Week was so bad it produced a sense of dismay among some media observers and practitioners, as expressed on Twitter.
Daily Beast executive editor Noah Shachtman:
Hillary's campaign is only three days old and it has already been the subject of some of the worst political "journalism" of all time.-- Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) April 15, 2015
New York Times writer Nate Cohn:
A lot of the analysis of the nascent Clinton campaign is unusually vacuous--and that says something-- Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) April 15, 2015
New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen:
Detecting a sense of dread coming over watchers of campaign coverage after the first few weeks... Plotting how to write criticism into that.-- Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) April 15, 2015
The irony was that while the campaign press freaked out over the trivia surrounding Clinton's lunch order, some pundits were simultaneously castigating the candidate for not rolling out a sweeping campaign agenda.
Politico assigned no fewer than eight reporters for an article about how, just 72 hours into her likely 18-month campaign, Clinton "has been slow" to articulate detailed positions on issues such as fast-track trade agreements and the need for reform at the National Security Agency.
The team at NBC's First Read agreed: "That lack of a message was on display at her Iowa event yesterday." Well, actually that wasn't true. NBC conceded that Clinton had already detailed four fights she wants to wage: "1) building an economy for tomorrow, 2) strengthening families and communities, 3) fixing America's political system by getting rid of "unaccountable" money, and 4) protecting the country."
Additionally, NBC reported Clinton had struck a "populist tone" and condemned income equality in America. But NBC didn't think any of that counted as much of a "message" from Clinton because she was just saying "what you hear from 90% of Democratic candidates running for downballot office."
Clinton didn't say anything entertaining and newsy! "She didn't say anything unique, which was always going to be the shortcoming of a rollout emphasizing theater over substance/message," according to NBC.
And there's the media's inadvertent punch line: It's Clinton who's guilty of emphasizing "theater over substance."
The staff at the Maumee, Ohio, Chipotle might disagree.
The conservative Washington Times published a series of bizarre conspiracy theories and claims about the Common Core State Standards, alleging that the educational standards amount to "Islamic infiltration of America."
On April 7, The Washington Times published a piece by columnist and Fox News Radio analyst Bethany Blankley titled, "Common Core ties to Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia." Blankley conflated several stories unrelated to Common Core throughout the article, including the addition of two Muslim holy days to the New York City public school calendar and "public-school sponsored trips to mosques via taxpayer expense," to allege that the state standards are "but one of many parts of an intricate plan to infiltrate every area of American society with Islam." She also included a passage supposedly demonstrating Common Core's connection to foreign countries, relying on right-wing birther website WorldNetDaily for evidence:
Globally, Common Core originated from the "One World Education" concept, a global goal orchestrated by the Connect All Schools program. Its origin is funded by the Qatar Foundation International (QFI). The director of QFI's Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics is Tariq Ramadan, grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan al-Banna.
According to the WND website, in 2011, QFI "partnered with the Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to facilitate matchmaking between classrooms in the U.S. and international schools through ... the 'Connect All Schools' project." QFI states on its website that the initiative was founded in response to Mr. Obama's infamous 2009 Cairo speech, during which the Muslim Brotherhood was seated in the front row.
Mr. Obama's mentor, domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, received $49.2 million from Vartan Gregorian, a board member of the Qatar Foundation, who also is involved with Mr. Obama's White House Fellowships Commission. Gregorian is an integral part of Connect All Schools, through which Qatar invested $5 million to teach Arabic in American public schools
Such inexplicable conspiracy theories about Common Core, however, don't come as much of a surprise given Blankley's anti-Islamic agenda. On her personal website, Blankley has published several pieces supposedly uncovering "The Muslim Brotherhood's Infiltration of the American Government," in a series titled, "The Betrayal Papers," where she implicates everything from Common Core to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the Department of Homeland Security.
Blankley's piece is just the latest in a long history of Common Core misinformation from right-wing media. Multiple conservative outlets have promoted tired myths to stoke fears about this set of state-based education standards in math and English voluntarily adopted by 45 states in 2010. The conservative media outrage machine has turned Common Core into something of a "rallying cry" over the past few years, thanks to the loud and often misinformed voices telling audiences to be angry or in some cases, to boycott the tests associated with the standards.
For more on the lies and misinformation about Common Core often propagated by conservative media, watch below:
Right-wing media attacked President Obama's Easter prayer breakfast speech, claiming he "smeared" Christianity by referring to "less-than-loving" statements from Christians.
Conservative media figures are lashing out against tentative framework for a historic deal on Iran's nuclear program as a "surrender to Tehran," -- ignoring the widespread approval among diplomats, foreign relations and nuclear weapons policy experts of the agreement between the United States and five other nations aimed at limiting Iranian nuclear ambitions.
A new survey of firearm experts reveals a consensus debunking the myths the gun lobby and conservative media use to try to infect the national dialogue on gun safety to create the appearance of legitimate debate.
Creators will suspend Dr. Ben Carson's syndicated column in "about 30 days," according to managing editor David Yontz, who told Media Matters the move follows Carson's description of himself as a presidential candidate in his latest column. Yontz said that Creators has removed the offending column from its website.
In his March 25 column, which was reprinted in conservative outlets like The Washington Times, WND, and Townhall, Carson described the "learning curve of a candidate" and focused on how much he has "to learn in terms of becoming both a better candidate and a better potential president of the United States." Given the many concrete steps Carson has taken towards mounting a presidential run, Media Matters reached out to Creators to inquire about Carson's status as a columnist, given that he was apparently open to using the space to publish pieces that read like campaign press releases.
"In his latest column, Ben Carson talks about what he would do as an official candidate for president of the United States," Yontz said in an email to Media Matters Wednesday. "He ends the column by saying he wanted to communicate his thoughts as he 'consider(s) this monumental step.' But in the same column, he describes himself as a candidate for president. Consequently, we have decided to suspend syndication of the column, effective in about 30 days, until after he is no longer running for president, either officially or unofficially."
Yontz said the syndicate will remove Carson's most recent column from its website because, "though the column was not an announcement and Dr. Carson is still in exploratory mode, we agree that the column was misleading."
Creators' move follows The Washington Times' decision earlier this month to drop Carson as a columnist after the formation of his exploratory committee and Fox News' move last fall to end its relationship with Carson after he released a campaign-style video "introducing himself to the American people."
Yontz estimated the suspension will be completed in "about 30 days" because "it will take us some time to send letters to all of his subscribers." He explained that, "For the next month, the column will be staying away from anything that could be perceived as campaign-related."
Media Matters had initially reached out to Yontz in December after Fox News dropped Carson as a contributor. At that time, Yontz said, "he hasn't officially announced yet, it is looking likely he is going to run. But once he officially announces, we most likely will stop syndicating it, we just have to come up with a solution as to what to do, at that time."
"We have 30-day agreements with the subscribers to Dr. Carson's column," Yontz added Wednesday. "And we will also be offering alternative conservative columnists to his subscribers during this time period."
He would not reveal how many clients take Carson's weekly syndicated column, but called it "substantial"
UPDATE: Carson responded to the Creators Syndicate news in a March 28 statement on Breitbart.com, writing: "While my words may not have been precise, be assured I have not declared my candidacy for president in any shape or form. I have been, and am still, exploring a candidacy as a possibility. In an effort to be straightforward I did not follow each time the political protocol of qualifying my language with appropriate adjectives and caveats."
Conservative media are alleging that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is attempting to "punish" governors who do not acknowledge climate change by "holding disaster funds hostage." In reality, FEMA is simply updating its requirements for state disaster mitigation plans to ensure that they include consideration of climate change impacts, which is essential to reduce risk from hazards that states will face as the climate continues to change.