A misleading Associated Press (AP) headline sparked a storm of right-wing media accusations that former IRS official Lois Lerner targeted Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for audit, though records only show that Lerner asked an expert a legal question about an event invitation sent to Grassley and the subject of her inquiry was unclear.
Right-wing media jumped to parrot a June 25 AP headline that claimed newly released emails show "IRS Official Sought Audit of GOP Senator." The Drudge Report linked to the AP story with the claim "IRS Lerner Targeted GOP Senator," the Daily Caller argued that newly discovered emails from Lerner show "the former IRS Exempt Organizations director's attempt to audit GOP Sen. Chuck," and The Washington Times claimed that Lerner "tried to get her agency to conduct an audit" of Grassley. On the June 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Steve Doocy said Lerner decided "I've got to target that guy, even though she didn't have any of the facts."
But as the actual AP article pointed out, the email exchange between Lerner and Giuliano does not support the claims forwarded in its own headline and by right-wing media. Lerner initially asked if an event organizer's offer to pay for Grassley's wife to attend an event warranted examination. Lerner mentioned the possibility that the offer was inappropriate but did not specify whether she was suggesting that Grassley should be examined:
Is this the one where we got the copy to Grassley? Did he get one to me? Looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to Exam?
Giuliano was similarly focused on the event host. He noted that that the invitation from the group was not enough to warrant sending the issue to the IRS Exam Department, because Grassley had not yet accepted the invitation, and said the issue would only warrant further investigation if Grassley later failed to report the offer as income. In her response, Lerner didn't indicate interest in pursuing the issue further.
MSNBC's Steve Benen summarized the exchange:
Behold, yesterday's blockbuster that set the right's hair on fire. Lerner questioned whether a group had done something wrong, talked to a colleague, and then dropped the whole thing.
Fox News is reviving accusations that NASA's peer-reviewed adjustments to temperature data are an attempt to "fak[e]" global warming, a claim that even a climate "skeptic" threw cold water on.
Tony Heller, a birther who criticizes climate science under the pseudonym "Steven Goddard," wrote a blog post that claimed "NASA cooled 1934 and warmed 1998, to make 1998 the hottest year in US history instead of 1934." After the Drudge Report promoted a report of this allegation by the conservative British newspaper The Telegraph, conservative media from Breitbart to The Washington Times claimed the data was "fabricated" or "faked." On June 24, Fox & Friends picked it up, claiming that "the U.S. has actually been cooling since the 1930s" but scientists had "faked the numbers":
However, the libertarian magazine Reason noted that even climate "skeptic" blogger Anthony Watts said that Goddard made "major errors in his analysis" and criticized the implication that "numbers are being plucked out of thin air in a nefarious way."
In fact, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and NASA, which both maintain temperature records that use slightly different methods but show close agreement, have publicly documented the peer-reviewed adjustments they make to raw data. NCDC states that the "most important bias in the U.S. temperature record occurred with the systematic change in observing times from the afternoon, when it is warm, to morning, when it is cooler," and so it must correct this cool bias as well as other biases that, for example, result from moving temperature stations.
NASA's data shows that the nation has not been "cooling" since the 1930s, with several years, including 2012, ranking hotter than 1934 in the continental United States, along with a long-term warming trend. And while The Sean Hannity Show claimed that this shows the "Earth has been cooling," the continental United States makes up less than 2 percent of the Earth's surface -- global surface temperatures have increased significantly.
On June 19, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) held its second March for Marriage - an event that proved to be largely a repeat of last year's march, with dismal attendance, bussed-in supporters, and examples of anti-gay animus on display.
An estimated 2,000 attendees convened at the U.S. Capitol for a rally culminating in a march to the U.S. Supreme Court. As he did for last year's event, anti-equality State Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-NY) bussed in a large group of mostly Spanish-speaking evangelicals from the New York area, after promising rally-goers an expense-free trip to Washington to "visit the monuments." Equality Matters approached several attendees to ask about their reasons for attending the rally and their means of getting there, only to be told that they spoke little English.
Throughout the rally, speakers like Fox News host and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stressed that the rally was pro-marriage, not anti-anybody. But as others monitoring the event documented, anti-gay animus was clearly on display.
One rally-goer held a sign declaring that people who "embrace homosexuality" do so because they "hate God and love to be sinful," instructing gay people to "repent":
"Repent or perish," another sign ominously warned:
Another attendee's sign denounced "sodomy & abortion" as "wrong":
In an interview with Equality Matters, one attendee predicted "violence" if marriage equality came to pass nationwide. Pressed on whom he thought would perpetrate violence, the man noted that many people are "angry" about same-sex marriage and stated that he didn't want "what homosexuals do" recognized as equal to his marriage:
Right-wing media outlets ran misleading headlines about Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's recent move against Common Core, erroneously claiming that he has withdrawn the state from the education standards. Jindal may be able to block a standardized test connected to Common Core, but he can't eliminate the standards entirely without help from the state legislature or the state school board.
On June 18, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Jindal announced plans "to try and roll back Louisiana" from the Common Core State Standards, a set of education standards adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Recent "political turbulence," fueled by misplaced conservative media outrage, has led a few states to withdraw from Common Core.
The Times-Picayune noted that the Louisiana legislature, the state school board, and "almost all other high-ranking state education officials" have said they want to keep Common Core. It also reported that while Jindal may be able to block the standardized test, developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), Jindal himself acknowledged he can't unilaterally abandon Common Core.
Nevertheless, conservative media outlets, many of whom have been leading the anti-Common Core rage machine, deceptively spun Jindal's announcement as "withdrawing" Louisiana from the standards. The Washington Times, for example, ran a headline that read, "Bobby Jindal pulls Louisiana out of Common Core." A post at Erick Erickson's RedState.com also claimed that Jindal was "pull[ing] Louisiana out of Common Core," while Michelle Malkin's Twitchy posted "Jindal withdraws La. from Common Core standards."
The Times-Picayune also reported that "Jindal also notified the National Governors Association that he was removing Louisiana from the Common Core development group. That does not end the use of the standards but is more of a symbolic gesture."
Jindal's announcement was especially notable given that he was initially considered a "staunch supporter when Louisiana signed on [to Common Core] four years ago." As the New America Foundation's Anne Hyslop pointed out, "most of Jindal's objections appear to stem not from the quality of the standards or tests or from the bidding process, but from concerns over federal overreach."
The right-wing Washington Times is effectively serving as an unofficial sponsor for the National Organization for Marriage's (NOM) upcoming March for Marriage. The news outlet is hosting NOM's petition to "stand for traditional marriage" and plans to livestream the march on its website.
The Washington Times is doing its part to promote the event; The Times' website is hosting a NOM-sponsored petition urging readers to sign and "stand for traditional marriage," instructing the government not to "seek to redefine it":
In a June 17 blog post, NOM announced that it had developed a "special partnership" with the Times to livestream the event on the news outlets website:
Thanks to a special partnership with The Washington Times, the official media sponsor of the 2014 March for Marriage, we will be live streaming the event on the world-wide web!
We are also very gratified that The Washington Times is hosting a marriage petition on their website which I encourage you to go sign right away. Click here to add your signature and show your support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman. This petition and the signatures we gather will be an important statement, along with the March itself, to our leaders in Washington and to the mainstream media that Americans still clearly stand for marriage.
NOM also announced that the Times would be creating a "special magazine" commemorating the march and encouraged supporters to subscribe to the Times' digital edition:
Finally, The Washington Times is creating a special magazine commemorating the March for Marriage. (You will find this online on Thursday on the same page as Thursday's livestream -- stay tuned to The Washington Times for more details!)
You can also get this special magazine by subscribing to the The Washington Times National Digital Edition. You can access this great, interactive "living digital daily newspaper" anywhere and anytime, showcasing the articles and features readers have come to enjoy from the home of fearless reporting and American values. Best of all, it is available for your desktop and laptop plus your favorite mobile device from the Apple and Google Play stores. Visit washingtontimes.com and click on the subscribe button to learn more.
Cultivating a "special partnership" with NOM and blatantly touting its march represents a clear violation of basic journalistic ethics. It's one thing for The Washington Times to cover the March for Marriage. It's another thing entirely to shill for the event.
Right-wing media have claimed that the current violence in Iraq is the result of the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq and President Obama's willful failure to secure a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In reality, Iraq refused the terms of a SOFA with the U.S. despite Obama's efforts to maintain a military presence there.
UPDATE: In a June 10 article, Mother Jones reported that a Department of Justice official said of Operation Choke Point, "There's been a lot of misunderstanding, there's been accusations were going after gun owners...None of our cases involve gun merchants":
Nonetheless, Issa's report alleges that the Justice Department is using the FDIC guidance as a hit list. "The FDIC's policy statements on firearm and ammunition sales carry additional weight in light of FDIC's active involvement in Operation Choke Point," the report reads. But a Justice Department official tells Mother Jones that this conclusion is incorrect. "We're not using the FDIC's list at all," the official says. "There's been a lot of misunderstanding, there's been accusations were going after gun owners...None of our cases involve gun merchants or porn."
Conservative media are advancing baseless claims about a Department of Justice program that targets fraud in order to manufacture a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is trying to put gun retailers out of business.
The DOJ program in question is called Operation Choke Point and was conceived as a project of the DOJ Consumer Protection Branch in November 2012. Based on the suspicion that some banks -- acting with knowledge or willful blindness -- conducted business with fraudulent merchants or those merchants' third-party payment processors, an assistant United States attorney drafted a proposal to investigate banks for possible civil or criminal violations. As an early memo stated, Choke Point was designed as "a strategy to attack Internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers, by choking fraudsters' access to the banking system." The memo called for an initial investigation of 10 banks and the creation of a "database to map relationships among fraudulent merchants (beneficial owners and trade names), third-party payment processors, and banks."
In April 2014, The Washington Post reported DOJ had "issued 50 subpoenas to banks and payment processors." In a May 7 blog post, DOJ described a settlement it obtained from Four Oaks Bank in North Carolina. The bank agreed to $1.2 million in fines to settle allegations it profited from its business relationship with a clearly fraudulent third-party payment processor. While touting the settlement, DOJ also noted, "We're committed to ensuring that our efforts to combat fraud do not discourage or inhibit the lawful conduct of these honest merchants." On May 29, The Wall Street Journal reported the existence of at least 15 DOJ investigations under Choke Point.
Conservative media, however, are hyping the evidence-free claims of various gun retailers that they have been targeted by Choke Point because of the Obama administration's supposed antipathy for guns. (Hysteria over Choke Point falls within a pattern of conservative media's embrace of conspiracy theories about the Obama administration attacking gun rights.) But recently released DOJ documents show that Choke Point is entirely focused on fraud, not firearms retailers.
Fox News brushed aside the value of Environmental Protection Agency research grants for clean cooking and heating technologies, saying that the dangerous indoor pollution from dirty stoves is only "a mere contribution" to 4.3 million deaths, and fearmongered that the EPA would soon come after American stoves. However, even Fox News' "favorite" environmental pundit has said that the fact that millions are dying from dirty cooking stoves -- more deaths than from AIDS and malaria combined -- is an "immediate problem."
Right-wing media have seized on the robbery of a restaurant that does not allow patrons to bring guns to claim that places with such policies invite attacks, but research has found no evidence that places that do not allow guns attract crime.
According to local news reports, three gunmen broke through the back door of The Pit restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, and demanded money. A manager gave the robbers a "small cash box," while employees at the front of the store shepherded 20 customers to safety. Two employees sustained minor injuries.
Conservative media have directed ridicule and scorn at the store's owner because The Pit has a sign in its front window letting guests know that firearms are not welcome. (No evidence has been presented that the sign played any role in the robbery.)
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards joked that it was "the weirdest thing" that The Pit had been robbed, considering the no guns sign, and added, "This sign on the door didn't stop those armed robbers from coming inside." Guest Dave Kopel of the NRA-funded Independence Institute said that if the robbers "paid any attention" to the sign at all, "it likely enticed them to pick that place to rob."
Conservative website Rare wrote, "Don't bring a gun to The Pit -- unless, of course, you plan on robbing the restaurant," while Western Journalism asked, "Did this restaurant just ask to be robbed?" The Washington Times reported that the robbers "ignored" the sign disallowing firearms -- although no evidence has been presented that the robbers were even aware of the sign.
In North Carolina, businesses that do not want guns carried on their premises must post a conspicuous sign disallowing the practice; otherwise individuals with permits to carry concealed weapons are free to enter the business with a firearm, even in bars or restaurants that serve alcohol.
To right-wing media, commencement speeches observing the anniversary of the desegregation of U.S. schools is no time to talk about race in America.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder each gave commencement addresses this month marking the 60th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, when the Supreme Court ruled that state-mandated racial segregation of schools violated the U.S. Constitution.
Speaking to graduating high school seniors in Topeka, Kansas, the first lady referenced racial segregation that still exists today, according to The Kansas City Star:
Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregated schools, Obama reminded the city where the case originated that the country is still racially divided -- although much more subtly than in the 1950s.
"Our laws may no longer separate us based on our skin color, but there's nothing in our constitution that says we have to eat together in the lunchroom or live together in the same neighborhoods," Obama told a full house at the 8,000-seat Kansas Expocentre.
At Morgan State University's commencement, Holder called on graduates to "take account of racial inequality, especially in its less obvious forms, and actively discuss ways to combat it."
Fox contributor and radio host Laura Ingraham attacked Obama's remarks as a "negative, cynical speech" that told kids their family members "were probably racists." Ingraham concluded that Obama was really just "projecting" her own racist beliefs.
Right-wing media equated sensitivity training to "re-education camp" after an NFL player was disciplined for homophobic tweets.
On May 10, University of Missouri football player Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. ESPN aired footage of Sam sharing a celebratory kiss with his boyfriend. Following the kiss, Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones reacted by tweeting "omg" and "horrible." The Dolphins fined Jones and barred him from team activities until he undergoes sensitivity training.
The conservative media took the opportunity to liken the sensitivity training requirement to being forced into a re-education camp. Fox personalities and guests alike proclaimed that Jones was being sent to a re-education camp, a claim The Washington Times echoed, calling the sensitivity training "modern-day equivalent of a re-education camp." Predictably, Rush Limbaugh joined conservatives decrying Jones "going to re-education camp" as "just creepy."
Real re-education camps are known for their vast human rights violations and still exist in countries like North Korea and China. A report on North Korea's camps in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the inhumane conditions at the camps:
North Koreans can end up in re-education camps for such crimes as listening to foreign radio broadcasts, secretly practicing a religion, or crossing the border to China in search of food. Inmates are subjected to forced labor and are required to memorize political tracts. They receive little food, no medical care and sometimes serve multiyear terms wearing the clothes in which they arrived at camp. I interviewed a woman who had been wearing high heels when she was arrested and had to bind her feet in rags when those wore out. Many prisoners die of abuse or malnutrition.
The New York Times described the conditions in China's "Re-education Through Labor" camps:
Conditions in re-education camps are dire: Physical abuse by guards and the criminal elements they entrust to enforce "order" is common, as are long hours of arduous work with no rest day; institutionalized corruption; deficient health care; and what the Justice Ministry refers to as "abnormal deaths."
Sensitivity training is nothing new in the NFL. In August 2013, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper attended sensitivity training after he used a racial slur. A typical training session lasts between two and four hours.
It should be obvious that comparing sensitivity training for a player's bigoted, anti-gay comments to brutal re-education camps in oppressive regimes are ridiculous, but right-wing media continue to embrace hyperbole in their opposition to gay rights.
A look at how right-wing media ran with Fox contributor Karl Rove's speculation that Hillary Clinton suffered brain damage from a fall in 2012, laying the groundwork to establish the baseless smear as an issue for the 2016 presidential race.
Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt insisted that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton release records from an MRI, purporting she showed signs of "psychosis" after her 2012 fall, echoing a lie created by Karl Rove to smear the possible 2016 presidential candidate.
In a May 13 Washington Times column, Charles Hurt suggested Clinton release MRI records from her 2012 concussion, accusing her of showing "varying degrees of psychosis," and claiming she showed an "inability to relate to the pain" of the families of the Benghazi victims. Hurt argued that it is "just and fitting" for voters to be "informed about the mental fitness of our politicians seeking higher office":
[T]he terrorist attack in Benghazi proved that Mrs. Clinton certainly wasn't up to the task.
After months of dodging, evasions and doctors' visits, Mrs. Clinton finally lashed out in public about the attack. "What difference at this point does it make!" she bellowed at her interlocutors.
Well, the families of the four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, would like clear answers and closure. They would like to know why Mrs. Clinton and the White House were far more interested in immediately covering up their handling of the attack than protecting American property and personnel in the first place.
This inability to relate to the pain felt by those around her is a frequent sign of varying degrees of psychosis.
In any event it was an awkward MRI moment that should have gotten the former first lady checked into a rubber room for further evaluation
And, if she really wants to be president, the American people have a right to know what the results of that MRI showed.
Right-wing media are seizing on the story of a lesbian "throuple" to falsely suggest that legalizing same-sex marriage inevitably leads to the acceptance and legalization of polygamy.
On April 23, the New York Post reported that Doll, Kitten, and Brynn Young, three Massachusetts women in a polyamorous relationship, were expecting their first child after uniting in an August 2013 commitment ceremony. Conservatives pounced on the story as evidence that once the institution of marriage is made available to gay couples, polygamy is a logical consequence.
Fox News' Todd Starnes set the tone for the right-wing reaction to the story with an April 23 Facebook post declaring that "[w]hen you redefine marriage - it's anything goes":
Erick Erickson's RedState.com offered a similar take, with contributor streiff calling polygamy "the logical and foreseeable consequence" of the push for marriage equality, which the post argued made marriage "a means for satisfying the libido." Likewise, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) predicted a rash of similar stories "in the wake of same-sex 'marriage.'"
Writing for First Things, NOM co-founder Robert George asserted that seeing marriage as a "sexual-romantic companionship" rather than a "conjugal bond" formed to produce children left no good reason to oppose "polyamorous sexual ensembles of three or more persons." Similarly, right-wing website LifeSiteNews wondered whether the throuple's story portended "the next marriage redefinition."
Cliven Bundy's abhorrent, racist comparison of slavery to federal poverty assistance bears a striking resemblance to common claims from conservative media, who have frequently invoked slavery to describe the supposed damage "the welfare state" has done to black Americans.
Nevada rancher Bundy, who was praised by conservative media for engaging in an armed standoff with federal agents after refusing to pay decades worth of federal grazing fees on public land, on April 19 questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," telling a reporter in a racist rant:
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.
"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
As Slate's Jamelle Bouie noted, Bundy's repugnant rhetoric sounds familiar -- it's the same logic behind many right-wing criticisms of the social safety net. Media Matters has been tracking this type of offensive rhetoric for years.
During the fight over health care reform, Rush Limbaugh claimed that "It won't be a matter of whether you have coverage or don't have coverage. What'll matter is that all of us will be slaves; we'll become slaves to the arbitrary and inhumane decisions of distant bureaucrats working in Washington where there's no competition, nobody you can go to if you don't like what you hear from the bureaucrats that you have to deal with."
When Glenn Beck was a host on Fox News, he had an obsession with comparing things to slavery, including the claim that progressive policies created "slavery to government, welfare, affirmative action, regulation, control," and that "big government never lifts anybody out of poverty. It creates slaves." In 2008, Jim Quinn, the co-host of the radio show The War Room with Quinn & Rose, was forced to apologize for comparing "slave[s] in the Old South" to welfare recipients today, when he claimed that the only "difference" was that the "slave had to work for" the benefits Quinn said they received.
In his 2008 book Let Them In, The Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley argued that the Great Society programs of the 1960s were ultimately worse for black families than slavery, writing "The black family survived slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, but the well-intentioned Great Society sounded its death knell."
More recently, Riley promoted the twisted logic of George Mason University's Walter Williams (who has often guest-hosted The Rush Limbaugh Show), who claimed that because more black children live in single-mother families now, welfare "destroy[ed] the black family" more than slavery:
During Reconstruction and up until the 1940s, 75% to 85% of black children lived in two-parent families. Today, more than 70% of black children are born to single women. "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do," Mr. Williams says. "And that is to destroy the black family."
Ted Nugent, National Rifle Association board member and a favorite of conservative media, has become infamous for his extreme racism for calling President Obama a subhuman mongrel -- but Nugent also used the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to claim that the Great Society programs were "responsible for more destruction to black America than the evils of slavery and the KKK combined." In a 2011 Washington Times column, Nugent also suggested that the Democratic Party is the "modern-day slave master" to low-income Americans.
Vox's Matt Yglesias noted the irony of Bundy criticizing the government for assisting Americans through federal programs, when he himself has benefited from federal subsidies which keep the cost of grazing low for ranchers like himself. And though the abhorrent comparison of slavery to welfare is ridiculous on its face, it's worth noting that federal benefit programs have been vital in keeping Americans out of poverty -- in fact, federal programs today are cutting poverty nearly in half, whereas in 1967 they only reduced poverty by a single percentage point.
Conservative media may finally renounce Bundy and his lawless cause following his racist remarks; but they should also renounce this harmful, inaccurate comparison.