Does the pope's support for action on climate change contradict Catholic principles? Climate science deniers want you to think so -- and conservative media are running with their myths. Here are the facts:
Conservative media figures responded to riots following the funeral of Freddie Gray -- an unarmed man who died of severe, unexplained spinal cord injuries while in police custody -- by recommending that participants in the riots be shot, and blaming the outbreak of violence on Democratic leadership, President Obama, public schools, welfare, and single-parent families.
It's Earth Day, a day on which people around the world put "environmental concerns front and center" to help build "a clean, healthy, diverse world for generations to come." But for the right-wing media, Earth Day signifies something else entirely: The opportunity to engage in another round of conspiracy theories, anti-science claims, and unwarranted attacks. Here's how they are celebrating this year:
Rush Limbaugh celebrated Earth Day by inventing a new and extremely bizarre conspiracy theory: Earth Day has prompted the government to tell people to ignore food expiration dates, which will lead them to "ration" health care and eventually lead to "death panels."
On the April 22 edition of his show, Limbaugh berated the U.S. Department of Agriculture for trying to limit food waste by providing consumers with a tool educating them on the types of foods that have incorrect or overly cautious expiration dates. Limbaugh went on to claim that the government will eventually use expiration dates to ration medicine and health care, and that "there are going to be death panels." He concluded: "All of this has as its root, Earth Day."
Right-wing websites National Review and Townhall thought it was important to "remind" their audiences about the story of Ira Einhorn, who claimed that he was the co-founder of Earth Day and was convicted for murder several years later. Both outlets stated that Einhorn "composted" his girlfriend. Though Einhorm participated in the first Earth Day, leaders and organizers of the original 1970 Earth Week Committee of Philadelphia have made clear that Einhorn inappropriately disrupted the event and played no role in organizing it.
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.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones brandished an assault weapon and criticized a gun safety PSA as a "full out assault on the basic underpinnings of this country" during a recent broadcast.
On March 11, in conjunction with comedy website Funny or Die, gun safety group Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence launched a parody video in which two actors playing criminals facetiously advised other criminals to visit CrimAdvisor.com -- a play on TripAdvisor -- to learn which states have the weakest gun laws making it easy for criminals to get guns.
CrimAdvisor.com has information on which states have laws making it easier or harder for felons and other dangerous individuals to obtain firearms and also lists the top source states for illegally trafficked firearms. The website asks supporters to sign a petition in support of expanding background checks to all gun sales, noting that, "Brady background checks have stopped 2.4 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers, but only 60% of current gun sales include a background check."
Jones, however, saw the pitch for more background checks -- a measure overwhelmingly popular with the American public -- as a piece of "propaganda" that is part of an effort by globalists to enslave Americans.
According to the Urban Institute, 8.2 million Americans, disproportionately women and children, may become uninsured as a consequence of King v. Burwell. But for right-wing media, pointing out the dangerous consequences of the loss of health care subsidies is nothing more than a "scare tactic."
Conservative media lashed out at President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for recounting personal experiences with racism in an interview with People magazine, accusing the Obamas of playing the victim and even asking if the interview made race relations worse.
Conservative media are criticizing the Minnesota State High School League for adopting a policy that will allow transgender student athletes to play on the sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, warning that the policy will cause gender confusion, inappropriate behavior in locker rooms, and unfairness for female athletes. But officials from athletic leagues across the country haven't reported problems since enacting similar trans-inclusive policies.
On December 4, the Minnesota State High School League voted overwhelmingly to adopt a policy that would allow transgender students to participate on the athletic teams that correspond to their gender identity.
The policy was approved despite a right-wing misinformation campaign which tried to derail the measure by stoking fears about female locker rooms and student privacy. That campaign was led by the extreme Minnesota Child Protection League, which produced ads warning that trans-inclusive athletic teams would cause the "END OF GIRLS' SPORTS" and allow boys to take showers with girls. Those talking points were echoed by conservative media outlets including Fox News, Townhall, and WorldNetDaily. An unhinged article in The Federalist warned that the policy would be "psychologically destabilizing" and "encourage children to reject their bodies." The policy's adoption has only fanned the flames of conservative media outrage.
But Minnesota is hardly the first state to allow transgender student athletes to play on the teams they feel comfortable with. School athletic leagues across the country have had similar policies for transgender students in place for years without experiencing the problems predicted by conservative activists.
Numerous conservative media outlets are scamming their followers with paid promotions for dubious marijuana stocks. In one instance, a promoted stock had its trading temporarily halted and was part of an FBI-investigated pump-and-dump scheme. In another, fine print acknowledged the promoters had "a direct conflict of interest" that would "negatively" affect "your shares."
Erick Erickson's RedState, Dick Morris, Newsmax, Townhall, and Human Events have all recently pushed the shady investments.
Readers who took the financial advice would have made a bad call as the stocks have plummeted. For example, conservatives sent sponsored emails recommending a company called MediJane at an entry point of $0.85. The stock's closing price on December 2 was $0.03. Dick Morris sent a sponsored email promoting Cannabis-Rx, Inc. on April 14, when it was trading at around $1. The stock's closing price on December 2 was $0.17.
Politico recently reported that pot companies "are a new vehicle for stock scammers promising big returns," prompting federal and state agencies to investigate stock manipulations. Scrutiny is focusing "on pump-and-dump schemes, which involve attempts to inflate a company's share price and then sell, or dump, the stock before unsuspecting investors get wise to the scheme." The schemes are more likely to target "penny stocks," which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) defines as "a very small company that trades at less than $5 per share." Penny stocks are traded over-the-counter instead of on formal exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange.
The SEC issued an investor alert in May warning that "fraudsters" are using penny pot stocks "to lure investors with the promise of high returns." It cautioned that red flags include "E-mail and fax spam recommending a stock" and "SEC trading suspensions" -- both characteristics of the conservative-promoted stocks.
These shady stock promotions are part of a larger trend of conservatives scamming their followers for profit. Fox Business host Charles Payne was paid to promote now virtually worthless penny stocks. Tobin Smith sent paid promotions for stocks that ended up tanking; he was eventually fired from his position at Fox News for the practice. And Fox News host Mike Huckabee sent sponsored emails touting Smith's recommendation of Gray Fox Petroleum (GFOX); GFOX's price has since tanked and is now trading at a near 52-week low.
Below is a look at two recent marijuana stocks that conservative media promoted to followers.
Conservative media outlets are misleadingly promoting the report that a Washington state museum will return some firearms on display to their owners following the passage of a new background check initiative, while ignoring statements from law enforcement that there is no legal reason to remove the guns.
On November 4, a majority of Washington voters passed Initiative 594, a proposal to require a background check on nearly all gun sales in the state, with some exceptions for temporary transfers and transfers between family members.
In response to the new law, which takes effect December 4, the Lynden Pioneer Museum released a statement claiming, "we have to return some unique WW2 era firearms to their owners on Dec 3rd" because "as of Dec 4th, we would be in violation of the law if we had loaned firearms that had not undergone the background check procedure."
The museum is misreading I-594. The law is not retroactive, so the museum is not required to take any action when I-594 becomes law. Furthermore, the founder of the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum told the Associated Press that it was unlikely a museum returning a loaned firearm to its owner would require a background check either:
Seattle police officer James Ritter, who founded the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, said he doubted that returning a gun to its rightful owner would be considered a "transfer" under the law. Regardless, he said it was exceptionally unlikely that investigators would target museum exhibits for prosecution.
From the September 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Right-wing media outlets criticized the Obama administration over news that three administration officials planned to attend shooting victim Michael Brown's funeral, citing the myth that the White House failed to send representation to the funeral of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, who was killed in Afghanistan -- In reality, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attended the two star general's service.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson continued his pattern of championing anti-LGBT discrimination, warning that gay rights and Christianity are incompatible and asserting that a society that affirms LGBT equality "is a society bent on suicide."
In an August 7 Townhall.com column titled "Tolerate or Be Stamped Out," Erickson lamented the growing marginalization of anti-LGBT attitudes, charging that pro-equality activists are determined to purge Christians from American society:
In fact, enormous energy is being expended by the left in America to make Christianity and Christians unacceptable. A New York Times writer wants to stamp out those views "ruthlessly." He describes those with orthodox Christian views on marriage as unworthy of civility. Anonymous groups expose the home addresses of mostly Christians and subject them to harassment. This is not happening to orthodox Jews or Muslims, but to Christians.
It raises a serious question Americans must confront -- are gay rights and Christianity compatible? The answer appears to be no. As gay rights activists use the tactics of Bull Connor to push for what they declare civil rights, they are targeting churches, religiously affiliated groups and Christian businesses for harassment and lawsuits.
Across the country, the left has decided our sexual preference is something we are born with, but our gender is something we get to decide. Anyone who thinks otherwise is threatened and harassed. Several thousand-year-old pillars of society are being shoved aside in the name of tolerance. Those who speak up for sanity, tradition and faith are treated scornfully.
This will not end well for any of us. Despite surveys designed to show the contrary, children tend to do best with mothers and fathers. A society that willfully undermines perpetuating itself is a society bent on suicide. One thing is for sure -- a faith that survived its followers being used as torches to light the streets of Rome will survive a modern age hell bent on ruthlessly stamping it out. [emphasis added]
Erickson's latest apoplectic screed is par for the course from the Fox News commentator. Last month, he endorsed a Georgia congressional candidate's view that "the homosexual movement ... is destroying America." Previously, Erickson has written that gay people are on the "road to hell" and warned businesses that serve gay couples that they are "aiding and abetting" sin. Moreover, Erickson is a prominent supporter of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing legal group working internationally to help criminalize homosexuality.
Right-wing media are cherry-picking newly released emails from Judicial Watch to allege that the Washington D.C. office of the IRS initiated the flagging of Tea Party groups, omitting the full email chain that reveals the Cincinnati IRS office first flagged Tea Party applicants for tax-exempt status for further review.