In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
Right-wing media have mischaracterized the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that requires certain preventive health care services be included in employer-provided health insurance at no cost as a violation of the religious freedoms of corporations who object to contraception. In reality, this mandate, currently before the Supreme Court, accommodates religious employers' First Amendment rights without allowing secular, for-profit corporations to skirt federal law, and there is no legal precedent that gives corporations the right to exercise religious freedom.
Media outlets are ramping up their pushback against a highly questionable PolitiFact Virginia analysis of the proposed elimination of no-fault divorce law supported by Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia and favorite of "father's rights" groups.
Fox News and other conservative media outlets have amplified Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) misleading claim that Democrats "excuse[d] themselves" from testimony given by the families of the victims of the Benghazi attack. In fact, over the course of the hearing, members of both parties were in and out of the proceedings.
Rep. Issa posted a tweet claiming that Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee left the hearing room as Patricia Smith and Charles Woods testified about their sons, Sean Smith and Charles Woods, who were killed in Benghazi.
Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich dishonestly criticized the independence of the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) that investigated the September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya by hyping the fact that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed four of the ARB's members. Federal law mandates that the secretary of state appoint four of the five members of each Accountability Review Board.
During a September 19 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Republican Congressman John Mica of Florida asked Retired Admiral Mike Mullen, vice chairman of the ARB, to confirm that Clinton appointed four of the five members of the board. After Mullen confirmed that, Mica commented "it looks like sort of an inside job of investigation, the Department of State looking at the Department of State." Mica also commented that the ARB did not interview Clinton for its report.
Pavlich, who was commenting on the hearing through her Twitter account, seized on this fact to criticize the ARB report, calling it a "whitewash":
Pavlich later made the same point in a post on Townhall.com, where she's an editor, this time to impugn the independence of the board:
During the hearing, Republican Rep. John Mica pointed out Clinton appointed four out of the five members of the ARB board investigating the Benghazi attack. The ARB describes itself as "independent."
But the secretary of state is required by federal law to appoint four of the five members of an Accountability Review Board:
A Board shall consist of five members, 4 appointed by the Secretary of State, and 1 appointed by the Director of Central Intelligence. The Secretary of State shall designate the Chairperson of the Board. Members of the Board who are not Federal officers or employees shall each be paid at a rate not to exceed the maximum rate of basic pay payable for level GS-18 of the General Schedule for each day (including travel time) during which they are engaged in the actual performance of duties vested in the Board. Members of the Board who are Federal officers or employees shall receive no additional pay by reason of such membership.
Pavlich has previously smeared Clinton over the Benghazi attack on Fox News.
Right-wing media have pounced on a forthcoming book claiming that gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard's brutal 1998 murder was motivated by drug use, not homophobia. While these media figures shroud their interest in a desire to get at the facts, their vitriolic attacks on Shepard and the movement for whom his death became a rallying cry reveal that there's more to Matthew Shepard trutherism than a concern for the truth.
In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez revives his decade-old theory that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson killed Shepard in a meth-fueled rage. Shepard's death sparked a national discussion on anti-LGBT violence, but Jimenez makes the bombshell claim that Shepard and McKinney had actually had sex and done meth together. McKinney has denied this assertion.
Jimenez's theory is also difficult to square with the fact that McKinney cited Shepard's sexuality as a factor in the murder, attempting to employ a "gay panic" defense at trial.
Inexplicably, media coverage of The Book of Matt has ignored Jimenez's history of shoddy reporting on the case. In November 2004, Jimenez co-produced a special on Shepard's murder for ABC News' 20/20. The widely panned report downplayed the role of anti-gay bias in Shepard's murder, suggesting that meth was the primary factor. After the special aired, Gay City News unearthed an email Jimenez wrote two months before 20/20 even began its reporting, in which he proclaimed that the report would upend the conventional interpretation of Shepard's death.
Conservatives are using a comment from former President Bill Clinton's speech at the memorial celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to falsely suggest that background checks are required for all gun sales.
During his speech, Clinton stated, "A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon."
Clinton appeared to refer to two conservative legislative priorities: Their passage in several states of voter ID laws and other laws that make it harder for people to vote, especially low income and minority voters; and their effort to block earlier this year federal legislation to strengthen and expand the background check system to prevent felons and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing firearms.
Responding to Clinton's comment, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson facetiously wrote on his RedState.com blog that Clinton had "called for the elimination of background checks to purchase guns." Erickson claims that "purchases of firearms in every state must go through a firearms background check" and thus concludes that since one "does not even need photo identification in every state to vote... I take this statement to mean Bill Clinton wants background checks for gun purchases eliminated."
At TownHall.com, fellow Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich similarly wrote:
Clinton's words came in reference to voter identification laws being passed all over the country which require voters to show government issued photo identification in order to vote. Federal gun laws also require people purchasing firearms to show government issued photo identification. In addition, firearms purchasers are required to undergo a background check.
In fact, under federal law background checks are only required on those who seek to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer; no such check is needed for those who buy them from private sellers, including at gun shows and online.
Right-wing media have responded to a proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with a barrage of false attacks and overheated rhetoric. The rule, which attempts to increase minority access to community resources like public transportation and education, has been called an act of "tyranny" designed to "encourage diversity, for diversity's sake."
Fox News continued its smear campaign against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, by hyping an evidence-free claim that recipients are using the program to send food overseas.
A July 21 New York Post story claimed that low-income New Yorkers were using SNAP funds to purchase food to send overseas. The Post based its claims on anecdotes from unnamed sources at two New York supermarkets that "confirmed the practice," but failed to include specifics. The anonymous woman that the Post provided as its sole example of the practice was not a SNAP beneficiary:
Last week, a woman stuffed dozens of boxes of macaroni and evaporated milk into a barrel headed for her family in Kingston, Jamaica. She said she didn't have welfare benefits and bought the food herself.
"This is all worth more than $2,000," she said. "I've been shopping since last December. You can help somebody else, someone who doesn't live in this country."
A man helping her pack the barrel said: "We're poor here, and they're poor. But what we can get here is like luxury to them."
You're paying for food stamps for foreigners? The New York Post reports that welfare recipients in New York City are buying groceries and sending them in giant barrels to relatives in Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. The Agriculture Department won't investigate. That will be up to individual states. Thanks.
Eugene Robinson's Friday Washington Post column that throws buckets of cold water on the Benghazi "cover-up" is well worth a read, but it touches only briefly on one aspect of the Benghazi story that emerged this week that merits further exploration: the degree to which "whistleblower" Gregory Hicks was "muzzled."
Since testifying at the House Oversight Committee hearing on May 8, a media narrative has emerged that Hicks, after speaking to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in Libya following the attacks, faced intimidation at the hands of the State Department, beginning with a phone call from Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Depending on which conservative media figure is talking, Mills is said to have "excoriated," "reprimanded," "punished," and even "demoted" Hicks right then and there. Going by Hicks' own testimony, none of that is true.
To recap: following the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Rep. Chaffetz traveled to Libya to interview witnesses and survivors. Hicks, who had become chief of mission following the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, was one of the people Chaffetz sought to interview. Right-wingers like Guy Benson, writing at Townhall.com, have alleged "US Ambassador Chris Stevens' second in command, Gregory Hicks, was instructed not to speak with a Congressional investigator by Sec. Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills."
This is not true. Hicks testified that the State Department had instructed him not to speak to Chaffetz without a State attorney present -- a condition Hicks says was unusual, but which the State Department says is standard procedure. In any event, Hicks ended up speaking to Chaffetz without the attorney present because, according to his testimony, the lawyer lacked the proper security clearance. Also, Hicks testified that he spoke with Mills only after speaking with Chaffetz.
Fox News hyped a dubious story by Townhall news editor Katie Pavlich to stoke fears that a surge of immigrants has made the border less safe.
Pavlich, a Fox News contributor, published a story using anecdotal remarks from an unnamed Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent and CBP internal data to claim that non-citizens are attempting to cross the southern border in large numbers:
As the immigration reform Gang of Eight inside the Beltway prepares to announce a deal later this week, claiming border security will come before a path to citizenship for millions of illegals, Border Patrol agents have seen illegal border crossings double and warn the cutting of agent work hours will only result in less border security, not more.
"We've seen the number of illegal aliens double, maybe even triple since amnesty talk started happening," an agent told Townhall, who asked to remain unnamed due to fears of retaliation within Customs and Border Protection [CBP], something he said is common. "A lot of these people, although not the majority, are criminals or aggravated felons. This is a direct danger to our communities."
Data obtained by Townhall and reported within CBP from February 5 through March 1, 2013 shows 504 illegal aliens were spotted exploiting the Tucson/Nogales area, 189 were caught on CBP intelligence cameras. Of those 504, only 174 were apprehended and 32 of the 189 on camera were carrying large drug load packs for Mexican cartels. Some were armed with AK-47 style weapons.
Pavlich -- who has previously used discredited reporting and made baseless claims, including a series of false or misleading statements in her book on the Fast and Furious operation -- was touted on Fox by her colleague, Townhall political editor Guy Benson, though even he admitted most of her report was based on "anecdotal" evidence:
Pavlich's other sources for this story are dubious at best. In a follow-up to her original report, Pavlich cited the Texas Border Volunteers (TBV), a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled nativist extremist organization. TBV founder Mike Vickers began patrolling the border with the Texas chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a national anti-immigration group run by Chris Simcox which was affiliated with militia groups and white supremacist organizations. Vickers broke off with the Texas chapter of the Minutemen several years ago to form TBV, which "stages regular nocturnal watches" while armed and wearing camouflage and reports "illegal activity" to Border Patrol agents.
But CBP data shows that border crossings are historically low. Even though there was a 10 percent increase in apprehensions along the southern border for the first two months of this year compared to the first two months of 2012, it is a small increase compared to the 53 percent reduction in "illegal immigration attempts, as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions" over the past three years, which is less than one-third of what they were at their peak.
This is the second time in two weeks that Fox has pushed Pavlich's flawed data and misinformation about immigration issues.
Right-wing media are attempting to rebut a TV ad calling for stronger gun laws by claiming that it depicts unsafe gun handling.
According Fox News, conservative bloggers, and the National Rifle Association's news program, an ad calling for expanding the background check system features a man with his finger on the trigger of a firearm that is not ready to be fired, an unsafe practice. In fact, footage from another ad featuring the same firearm clearly indicates that the right-wing media are wrong about where the gun's trigger is; the man's finger is actually nowhere near the trigger in either ad.
The claim originated with Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller, who claimed in a March 25 article that ads recently released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) are "irresponsible" because the man in the ad "violates all three gun safety rules taught by the National Rifle Association." Miller specifically claims that "the man has his finger on the trigger, as if ready to shoot," and comments, "To make an ad demonstrating actual gun responsibility, the man would put a straight forefinger above the trigger guard to make sure he doesn't accidentally touch the trigger."
Miller was referencing this moment from the ad "Responsible":
But another ad released by MAIG, "Family," which features the same man and firearm, shows the position of the trigger on that particular firearm to be much closer to the buttstock than where the man's index finger is in "Responsible":
Based on the trigger location clearly seen in "Family," the trigger of the firearm would sit approximately behind the base of the man's hand in "Responsible" making it impossible for his finger to be on the trigger or within the trigger guard.
Miller's claims have nonetheless been picked up by The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Hot Air, and a Townhall column authored by Fox contributor Katie Pavlich and have also been featured on Fox & Friends and the NRA's Cam & Company on the Sportsman Channel.
Right-wing pundits frequently use former President Ronald Reagan's name to apply a stamp of approval on anything or anyone they deem symbolic of the ideal conservative -- even when Reagan's actual record on issues ranging from taxes to the deficit deviated far from the ideological standards of today's conservative movement.
Republican darling du jour Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) is the latest to receive the Reagan badge. Ahead of his delivery of the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address, Karl Rove said Monday that "in Rubio, the Republicans have got probably one of their best communicators since Ronald Reagan." On MSNBC's Morning Joe, The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis called Rubio "Reaganesque." And in November 2012, pundit Cal Thomas published a column on Townhall.com titled, "Marco Rubio: A Hispanic Reagan?"
Rubio is just the latest in a long line of Republican politicians to receive the ubiquitous accolade:
Mitt Romney: Fox News figures repeatedly linked former presidential candidate Romney to the Gipper during both opinion and news shows in the months leading up to the 2012 election. Bill O'Reilly said that Romney "is going to mirror the ghost of Ronald Reagan," while political correspondent Carl Cameron said Romney, on his bus tour, spent a lot of time "sort of echoing Ronald Reagan."
Rep. Paul Ryan (WI): Fox News figures from K.T. MacFarland to Megyn Kelly compared Ryan to Reagan as part of their cheerleading for Ryan after he was chosen as Romney's vice presidential candidate.
Gov. Chris Christie (NJ): Fox Nation highlighted a column by the director of the American Enterprise Institute with the headline, "Christie's Starting to Look Like Reagan."
Sarah Palin: A post on Breitbart's BigJournalism.com said that Palin "carries the torch of liberty and American exceptionalism in the palm of her lovely hand" before calling her the "surviving embodiment of the spirit of 1776 and the Reagan reformation."
Gov. Scott Walker (WI): On Sean Hannity's Fox show, conservative radio host Mike Gallagher called Walker "the Ronald Reagan of our time."
Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA): Karl Rove, on Hannity's show, called Virginia governor Bob McDonnell "a Reaganite conservative."
Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA): In February 2008, Rush Limbaugh called Jindal "the next Ronald Reagan."
Right-wing media figures have splashed the "Reagan" label about so freely that they're in danger of rendering the compliment meaningless.
The Drudge Report and others are suggesting that energy efficiency efforts somehow caused the power outage that occurred during the Super Bowl. But these attempts to scapegoat green energy are wrongheaded -- the outage occurred within the stadium, not among the energy efficient lighting outside the stadium.
Prior to Super Bowl XLVII, the New Orleans Host Committee worked to reduce the environmental impact of the game on and off the field, including by installing an energy efficient lighting display of LEDs outside the stadium.
During the second half of the game, many of the Superdome stadium's overhead lights blinked off, along with scoreboards, CBS-run cameras and other systems. The partial outage lasted for more than 30 minutes. The Drudge Report used the blackout to mock the possible "CURSE" from an efficient lighting display composed of LEDs on the outside of the Superdome:
Many prominent conservative media figures seized on the false implication -- Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich said "it's all [former Energy Secretary Steven Chu's] fault," and the Daily Caller suggested that the energy efficient lighting was the "cause" of the blackout.
But, as Politico and TIME's Mike Grunwald pointed out, these exterior LED lights did not go dark:
The Drudge Report snarkily linked to an Energy Department article published Saturday that praised New Orleans for being at the "Energy Efficient Forefront" and noted that the Superdome "features more than 26,000 LED lights" that conserve energy. However, others quickly pointed out that those are exterior lights, not the lights that went dark inside the dome.
Whatever the cause turns out to be, New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman saw one enduring U.S. tradition alive and well in the blackout aftermath.
"Only in America," he tweeted Sunday night, linking to Drudge's DOE link. "Blackout at Superdome actually becoming a political issue."
While polling has consistently shown that nearly all Americans support requiring a criminal background check on every gun sale, some conservatives in the media are writing in opposition to expanding background checks, a position also held by the National Rifle Association.
A January 23 Gallup poll indicates that 91 percent of Americans would vote for a law that required a criminal background check on every gun sale. Only eight percent of respondents would vote against such a law. As ThinkProgress notes, this polling indicates that opposition to strengthening background checks is less popular than human cloning, polygamy and the perennially unpopular Congress.
[ThinkProgress, accessed 1/30/13]
In recent columns, Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller, MSNBC host S.E. Cupp and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich all expressed opposition to expanding background checks, even as research demonstrates that a significant proportion of firearms are sold and purchased without a check.
In a New York Daily News column, Cupp quoted the faulty logic of NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who said before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 30 that checks should not be strengthened "because criminals will never submit to them," before worrying about the "psychological" impact of background checks on gun purchasers.
Ultimately, Cupp compared criminal background checks -- the vast majority of which are completed in seconds -- to Arizona's infamous SB 1070 immigration law:
But even though we accept background checks as a necessary preemptive measure, there is a real psychological and cultural impact when law-abiding gun owners are routinely treated en masse like suspects.
If it sounds silly to worry about the hurt feelings of gun owners, let me point out that liberals are both familiar and comfortable with this argument. Arizona's so-called "papers please" law, which allowed law enforcement officials to determine an individual's immigration status during a lawful stop, barred the use of racial profiling as the sole basis for investigating immigration status. But that didn't stop liberal critics of SB 1070 from insisting it was offensive, prejudicial and unfairly treated minorities as if they were criminals.