Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump unveiled a tax reform plan that he claimed will "cost [him] a fortune" and that right-wing media touted as "populist." In fact, like many of his Republican rivals, Trump has offered a tax plan that amounts to a victory for the rich.
A legal brief recently filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly explains that former Secretary of State Hillary "Clinton was within her legal rights to use of her own email account, to take the messages with her when she left office and to be the one deciding which of those messages are government records that should be returned" -- contradicting conservative media speculation that she may have violated the law.
But, according to the Department of Justice, "[t]here is no question that Secretary Clinton had authority to delete personal emails without agency supervision -- she appropriately could have done so even if she were working on a government server." From The Washington Times:
The Obama administration told a federal court Wednesday that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was within her legal rights to use of her own email account, to take the messages with her when she left office and to be the one deciding which of those messages are government records that should be returned.
In the most complete legal defense of Mrs. Clinton, Justice Department lawyers insisted they not only have no obligation, but no power, to go back and demand the former top diplomat turn over any documents she hasn't already given -- and neither, they said, can the court order that.
The defense came as part of a legal filing telling a judge why the administration shouldn't be required to order Mrs. Clinton and her top aides to preserve all of their emails.
"There is no question that Secretary Clinton had authority to delete personal emails without agency supervision -- she appropriately could have done so even if she were working on a government server," the administration lawyers argued. "Under policies issued by both the National Archives and Records Administration ('NARA') and the State Department, individual officers and employees are permitted and expected to exercise judgment to determine what constitutes a federal record."
The legal brief said that means employees are required to "review each message, identify its value and either delete it or move it to a record-keeping system."
If it seems like conservative media are relishing the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accidentally spilled toxic wastewater into the Animas River in Colorado while attempting to treat pollution from an abandoned gold mine, it's because they are. Many of the media figures who are most ferociously criticizing the EPA over the spill have a long history of opposing EPA efforts to reduce pollution, which suggests that they are conjuring up faux outrage about this pollution in an attempt to weaken the EPA and prevent it from fulfilling its mandate to protect Americans' air and water.
The Washington Times laid out this anti-EPA strategy quite clearly in an Aug. 10 article. The Times promoted the allegation from "critics" that the mine spill "threaten[s] the credibility of the Environmental Protection Agency at a crucial moment" and provides "ammunition" for opponents of the EPA's clean air and water protections, including the Clean Power Plan. The "critics" quoted in the article included Dan Kish, a senior vice president at the oil industry-funded Institute for Energy Research, and Michael McKenna, the president of MWR Strategies, a lobbying firm that represents polluting fossil fuel interests such as Koch Industries and Southern Company.
This is just the latest attempt by The Washington Times to use industry-funded "critics" to undermine the Clean Power Plan, which would address climate change by placing the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. It follows two other Times articles that cherry-picked statements from fossil fuel industry-funded individuals and organizations to allege that the EPA climate plan "faces opposition from black [and] Hispanic leaders."
Then there's The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which revealed a newfound concern for pollution in an Aug. 11 editorial that lamented the "fiasco" in Colorado it blamed on "the green police." The Journal's stated worries about the "ecological ramifications" of the mine spill are hard to take seriously when they come from one of the most persistent critics of federal efforts to clean up pollution -- dating back to the Journal's claims about acid rain and ozone depletion in the 1970's and 1980's.
In the years since, the Journal's editorial page has consistently sided with polluting industries against EPA air and water protections. When the Supreme Court recently ruled against the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards on procedural grounds, jeopardizing a safeguard that reduces toxic air pollution linked to cancer, heart attacks, and premature death, the Journal called it "a welcome rebuke to EPA arrogance." When the EPA moved to reduce pollution by increasing fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, the Journal declared that automakers were being held as "hostages" to the EPA's "crushing" rule. And when the EPA moved to protect waterways that provide drinking water for 117 million Americans, the Journal described it as an "amphibious attack" by the "Washington water police."
Now the Journal is urging states to "refuse to comply" with the EPA's Clean Power Plan, so that power plants can continue to spew unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air, threatening public health and exacerbating climate change.
Fox News has also been all over the EPA's mishandling of the Colorado mine spill, including comparing it to the BP Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez oil spills. But Fox pundits vigorously defended BP in the wake of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and even claimed coverage of the Exxon Valdez spill was proof that "the press is horrible to business." They've also characterized the EPA's Clean Water Rule as a power grab, claimed that EPA officials are "job terrorists" for seeking to reduce smog, and enlisted fossil fuel industry allies to attack the EPA's carbon pollution standards.
For these conservative media outlets, pollution is only a problem when they can blame the EPA for it.
For the second time in recent months, The Washington Times has cherry-picked statements from fossil fuel industry-funded individuals and organizations to allege that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan "faces opposition from black [and] Hispanic leaders." In reality, a great majority of African-American and Latino voters support climate action, and leaders from many of the largest minority groups have come out in support of the plan.
Several polls indicate that African-American and Latino voters overwhelmingly support government action to combat climate change -- and the Clean Power Plan specifically. Additionally, many major 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.
Here's a list of people of color who aren't representing the fossil fuel industry that The Washington Times could have cited if it had wanted to fairly reflect how the nation's African-American and Latino communities feel about the Clean Power Plan:
Cornell Williams Brooks, NAACP President and CEO: In an Aug. 4 statement mentioning the health benefits the EPA's plan would bring to African-Americans living "within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant," NAACP's Cornell Williams Brooks noted:
"As we enter the third day of America's Journey for Justice, I applaud President Obama's introduction of the Clean Power Plan. Just as we march to preserve our right to vote and to ensure that our children have access to good schools and a quality education, we also march to preserve our rights to clean air, clean water and to communities less impacted by climate change. The NAACP will continue to advocate for safer, cleaner, healthier energy alternatives and the job opportunities that result from innovative energy solutions. We stand with President Obama's efforts to establish the protections our communities need."
Albert S. Jacquez, Deputy Executive Director of National Council of La Raza Action Fund (NCLRAF): In an Aug. 8 opinion column in The Huffington Post, Jacquez cited concern about how the Latino community is among the most affected by climate change in places like California, Texas, and Florida as a key reason for the overwhelming Latino support for taking action:
Thus, it is not surprising that Latinos are so concerned about climate change. Polling shows that 82 percent are concerned with climate change, and nine-in-ten believe it is important for the government to take action on climate change.
This is why President Obama's historical and ambitious Clean Power Plan is so important and relevant for Latinos. The Clean Power Plan sets the first-ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from the nation's existing power plants. It will protect public health from dangerous carbon pollution, invest in clean, renewable energy development, and boost energy efficiency measures, creating jobs in the process.
Gilbert Campbell and Antonio Francis, Volt Energy: In a statement, the two co-founders of this "minority-owned renewable energy firm" applauded the Clean Power Plan:
Volt Energy applauds President Obama's leadership on clean energy and especially with the Clean Power Plan. The president's leadership and commitment to clean power and climate action has helped the industry create millions of jobs and become one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy. As a minority-owned renewable energy firm, we also appreciate his championing of small businesses and working towards creating an inclusive green economy.There is real wealth being created in the clean energy industry and it is vital that communities of color are actively involved and also reaping the benefits.
Jamez Staples, Renewable Energy Partners: Staples, who is also on the Economic Development Committee of the African American Leadership Forum, said:
"We live in a time when profits are increasingly valued over people. The Clean Power Plan has the capacity to create more balance by opening doors to clean energy that protects our health and our kids' futures."
Kimberly Lewis, U.S. Green Building Council: Lewis, who fights to expand "access to green building to communities of color," stated:
My nieces and nephews are the light of my life. They will bear the burden of previous generations unsustainable use of energy resources that lead to pollution and climate change. President Obama's Clean Power Plan is vital to protecting vulnerable populations such as children, the poor and the elderly who share an undue burden of climate change. It will not be easy - but we believe the EPA's approach can work.
Christine Alonzo, Executive Director of the Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy Research Organization (CLLARO): In an Aug. 5 op-ed published in The Denver Post, Latino organization representative Christine Alonzo expressed her group's support for the Clean Power Plan:
As part of the national strategy to deal with climate change, CLLARO supports the Clean Power Plan and will encourage members of the Latino community to support it also. The improvement in the quality of health and life within the Latino community and the overall Colorado community merits such support.
Van Jones, Green For All: Van Jones, founder of Green for All -- which works to "make sure people of color have a place and a voice in the climate movement" -- praised the Clean Power Plan in an op-ed co-authored with Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) and published in The Guardian. They wrote that communities of color are disproportionately exposed to the health hazards of power plants, and that the Clean Power Plan "is a desperately needed response" to this problem:
African-Americans are more likely to live near environmental hazards like power plants and be exposed to hazardous air pollution, including higher levels of nitrogen oxides, ozone, particulate matter and carbon dioxide than their white counterparts ... We can't afford this. Black kids already have the highest rate of asthma in the nation, and our infant mortality rate is nearly double the national rate.
President Obama's Clean Power Plan is a desperately needed response to this problem. The Clean Power Plan would cut carbon pollution from power plants and put our country on a path towards cleaner energy solutions. It could stop up to 6,600 premature deaths and prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children over the next 15 years - especially in African-American communities.
Elena Rios, National Hispanic Medical Association: National Hispanic Medical Association President and CEO Elena Rios said in a statement:
I, along with the National Hispanic Medical Association's 50,000 member doctors and allied health professionals, strongly support the EPA's final rule limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants. Pollution from these power plants -- both carbon pollution and other toxic power-plant emissions -- sickens people raising the risk of illnesses like asthma, allergies, lung cancer and heart disease.
The League Of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC): In a press release at the time the EPA's climate plan was announced, LULAC stated that "the Clean Power Plan will benefit Hispanic Americans more than most":
The League of United Latin American Citizens, this nation's largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights organization, fully supports the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to cut carbon pollution from America's power plants. Given that half of the U.S. Latino population lives in areas where the air quality does not meet EPA's health standards and that Latinos are 30 percent more likely to have to visit the hospital for asthma related attacks, the Clean Power Plan will benefit Hispanic Americans more than most.
Coalition Of Hispanic Groups Voiced Strong Support For Clean Power Plan In Letter To EPA's McCarthy. In a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, a coalition of groups including GreenLatinos, AZUL, National Hispanic Medical Association, Latino Decisions, Mujeres de la Tierra, National Hispanic Environmental Council, Presente.org, CHISPA, Hispanic Federation, and Protegete: Our Air, Our Health stated:
We strongly support EPA in moving forward with the proposed Clean Power Plan in the strongest form possible. We know that communities of color and low-income communities, including the Latino community, are frequently among those most negatively impacted by carbon pollution. Whether it is exposure to health damaging copollutants associated with carbon emissions or the present and worsening effects of climate change, these impacts are both direct and indirect and they threaten the social and economic order of overexposed and overburdened communities.
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.