Somehow the conservative media found a way to link a program promoting childhood health to an increase in pedestrian deaths. The magic word? "Obama."
The Drudge Report linked to this Washington Examiner story that gave the impression that there was a link between the "Let's Move!" campaign begun by first lady Michelle Obama and increased pedestrian deaths.
Rush Limbaugh promoted the version of the story appearing on his affiliate in the DC region, WMAL. That story was headlined "Michelle Obama's 'Get Moving' Program Linked to Pedestrian Deaths." Serial misinformer Jim Hoft wrote on his blog Gateway Pundit, "Michelle Obama's 'Get Up & Get Moving' Program Linked to Increase in Pedestrian Deaths," while Clarice Feldman of Pajamas Media wrote that "Michelle's 'Get Moving' Led to Increases in Pedestrian Deaths." The Daily Caller didn't want to be left out of the story, and produced a story with the headline "First Lady's anti-obesity campaign could be causing more pedestrian deaths."
From the Examiner:
First lady Michelle Obama's campaign to get people to exercise outdoors might be a factor in an increase in the number of pedestrian deaths during the first half of last year, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha said her organization doesn't know why there were more deaths in the first six months of 2010 than in 2009, but the increase is notable because overall traffic fatalities went down 8 percent during this period, and the increase ends four straight years of steady declines in pedestrian deaths.
But the "get moving" movement, led by Obama's "Let's Move" campaign to eliminate childhood obesity, could be to blame, Harsha told The Washington Examiner.
The Examiner had this tidbit four paragraphs in, however:
"There's an emphasis these days to getting fit, and I think people doing that are more exposed to risk [of getting hit by a vehicle]," said Harsha, who conceded to having no scientific evidence that the Let's Move campaign has led to an increase in walkers and runners, or deaths. (our emphasis)
In comments to Media Matters, GHSA spokesman Jonathan Adkins called the story a "total sham," and said, "some people have an agenda" to tie the non-partisan group to a "partisan" story, and noted that more mainstream outlets like USA Today reported the story accurately. Adkins said that GHSA "support[s]" the Let's Move program. Adkins also told Media Matters that none of their research showed any connection at all between the Let's Move program and pedestrian deaths.
TBD.com spoke to Harsha after the story gained traction:
Well, the folks at GHSA were awfully surprised when they read this morning's paper. In fact, Harsha tells us, she didn't tell the Examiner that at all. "It's ridiculous," she says. According to Harsha, the first lady's fitness campaign never even came up in her discussion with [Scott] McCabe. "Absolutely not," she says, adding that she actually supports the "Let's Move" campaign.
But as McCabe points out to us, the Obama nugget came from the GHSA's pitch to him for the story, which he passed along: "Why the increase? We don't really know but speculate that it could be a couple factors. One is the possible increase in distracted pedestrians and distracted drivers. We've been focusing on the drivers, but perhaps we need to focus some attention on distracted walkers! Additionally, Mrs. Obama and others have been bringing attention to 'get moving' programs, so perhaps pedestrian exposure has increased."
Harsha says her theorizing to the Examiner never went beyond the predictable and mundane: More people seem to be walking and running, particularly while listening to music or fiddling with their smartphones, and not paying attention to traffic signals. "What we were trying to say is if people do walk more, there's more risk," says Harsha. "We're concerned with the increase in pedestrian fatalities, and we need to monitor it. Maybe some education needs to be done for people who are into physical fitness."
Following the memorial service for the victims of the tragic shooting in Tucson, several in the right-wing media attacked and mocked the inclusion of a Native American blessing as part of the invocation.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman takes a lot of abuse from right-wingers for his liberal political views and his economic theories that contradict the right-wing way of doing things (never mind that Krugman did receive a Nobel Prize in economics). But did you know that Krugman is just like Fred Phelps, pastor of Kansas' Westboro Baptist Church and best known for leading his tiny flock in odious protests of funerals of fallen soldiers?
That's what NewsBusters' Matthew Sheffield wants you to think. In a January 12 post (cross-posted at the Washington Examiner, where he works as an online media consultant), Sheffield asserts that any liberal who suggests that extreme right-wing rhetoric might be contributing to an environment that may have played a role in the Arizona shooting is acting just like Rev. Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church brood because, as Sheffield explained, liberals think "Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and anyone else who dares to resist the march of history are heretics. That's why they need to shut up, or in the event that they choose not to, have someone else shut them up."
Sheffield transcribed a Phelps sermon asserting that, in Sheffield's words, "Innocent people were killed because American and its leaders have sinned against the higher light." He then claimed that this "is effectively what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said in a column printed Monday." This is followed by a lengthy section of Sheffield juxtaposing excerpts of Phelps' sermon with Krugman's column.
But Sheffield's little experiment discredits his argument. For instance, Krugman's statement that he was "expecting something like this atrocity to happen" is juxtaposed by Phelps' statement "God appointed the Afghanistan veteran to avenge himself on this evil nation." How are those statements any way analogous? We have no idea.
Krugman has never claimed he wanted to silence all views he opposes, nor does he claim divine approbation for his views; rather, he spoke in his column specifically of "eliminationist rhetoric" that he identified as "coming, overwhelmingly, from the right." Krugman has not called for his opponents to be struck down from above, nor is he running around the country picketing the funerals of those he disagreed with.
Americans may not be able to agree on much these days, but one thing both left and right do agree on is that the funeral protests held by Phelps and his fringe congregation are hateful and despicable. What purpose could Sheffield have in likening Krugman to Phelps other than revel in the vitriolic rhetoric Krugman is trying to tone down?
In the wake of last weekend's shooting in Arizona, Sarah Palin, Andrew Breitbart, and others in the conservative media have accused some journalists and progressives of manufacturing a "blood libel" against them. Historically, the term "blood libel" refers to the grave anti-Semitic charge that Jews use the blood of Christian children in some religious rituals -- a myth that has long been the source of anti-Jewish violence.
The latest criticism of Rush Limbaugh's offensive and false comment claiming that accused Arizona shooter Jared Loughner "has the full support" of "the Democrat [sic] Party" and that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is "doing everything that [he] can to make sure" Loughner is "not convicted of murder" comes from a surprising source: Tim Carney, senior political columnist at the conservative Washington Examiner.
After stating in a January 11 Examiner blog post that Limbaugh "added as much toxic waste to the Tuscon debate as Paul Krugman -- probably more" with his comments, Carney wrote:
Limbaugh is doing the same thing here Krugman and other liberals have done: he's simply making stuff up to smear the other side, and try to turn this atrocity into a political weapon.
What liberals are defending Loughner? What evidence is there Sheriff Dupnik wants to go light on the guy? And what about this guy would lead anyone to believe he wants to be the victim -- I would guess the opposite.
As I said about Krugman, Limbaugh isn't stating a viewpoint, he's making stuff up, especially where he claims to get in Loughner's mind.
Here's the best I can do to explain Limbaugh: he seems stuck in the 1990s, where we on the Right were often battling a "blame-society" relativism. But Dupnik and Krugman aren't blaming the Right in order to exculpate Loughner -- they are most likely doing it in order to vent frustration or to delegitimize our arguments. Limbaugh's fighting the wrong fight, and assigning the motive that's least likely and most offensive.
I was just beginning to think tonight that things were clearing up and the Krugman-Kos drivel was fading away. Then Limbaugh throws this garbage into the mix.
Now the countdown begins on Carney's inevitable walkback of his criticism, like every pretty much every other conservative who has committed the offense of criticizing Limbaugh in public.
In the days following the blizzard in New York City, right-wing media seized on a Republican NYC councilman's claim that a deliberate union slow-down was responsible for the city's widely criticized snow removal. In fact, numerous city officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, say there is no evidence for the claim and many reports have cited other factors likely to be responsible, such as the mayor's failure to declare a state of emergency and an inadequate number of sanitation workers.
In his Washington Examiner column today, Byron York takes a swing at press coverage of the Pentagon's service member survey regarding Don't Ask Don't Tell. York makes much of the fact that among troops with combat experience, larger percentages of service members predict a "negative effect." From York's column:
Press coverage of the new Pentagon Don't Ask Don't Tell report suggests that large majorities of U.S. servicemen and women wouldn't mind the repeal of the military's current policy on gays. Don't believe it. What the report actually shows is that the military is deeply divided over the policy, both between the service branches and especially between those who have served in combat and those who haven't. Did you know that 59 percent of Marines who have served in combat say repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell would have a negative effect? And that 45 percent of Army respondents who have been in combat say the same thing? That is significant, not marginal, opposition.
True, among service members with deployment experience and those in combats arms units, larger percentages of those surveyed predict negative results. However, an overwhelming majority (84 percent) of Marines in combat arms units who have had actual experience working in a unit with a service member believed to be gay said that the unit's "ability to work together" was either "very good," "good," or "neither good nor poor." That number is even higher (89 percent) among Army combat arms units and higher still (92 percent) among the services at large. From page 6 of the report, emphasis added:
Given that we are in a time of war, the combat arms communities across all Services required special focus and analysis. Though the survey results demonstrate a solid majority of the overall U.S. military who predict mixed, positive or no effect in the event of repeal, these percentages are lower, and the percentage of those who predict negative effects are higher, in combat arms units. For example, in response to question 68a, while the percentage of the overall U.S. military that predicts negative or very negative effects on their unit's ability to "work together to get the job done" is 30%, the percentage is 43% for the Marine Corps, 48% within Army combat arms units, and 58% within Marine combat arms units.
However, while a higher percentage of Service members in warfighting units predict negative effects of repeal, the percentage distinctions between warfighting units and the entire military are almost non-existent when asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with someone believed to be gay. For example, when those in the overall military were asked about the experience of working with someone they believed to be gay or lesbian, 92% stated that their unit's "ability to work together," was "very good, "good" or "neither good nor poor." Meanwhile, in response to the same question, the percentage is 89% for those in Army combat arms units and 84% for those in Marine combat arms units--all very high percentages. Anecdotally, we heard much the same. As one special operations force warfighter told us, "We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He's big, he's mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay."
However much the conservative media would like to preserve the myths about DADT, the fact is that countries that have repealed gay bans follow a familiar pattern. Surveys of troops often suggested widespread resistance to policy change, but repeal did not undermine unit cohesion, effectiveness, or recruitment and retention.
In a November 24 Washington Examiner op-ed, Cheryl K. Chumley promotes the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, touting its "collaborative approach to investigative journalism" and how it hires "veteran reporters with traditional muckraking skills." But Chumley is eager for you to dismiss all the evidence that the Franklin Center is a conservative group.
After quoting Franklin Center chief Jason Stverak saying how his organization partners with others to generate its stories, Chumley writes:
The majority of these organizational partnerships are forged with nonprofits of conservative or free-market bent. But Stverak says dismissing Franklin Center as a "right-wing group news site" is no more justified than ignoring ProPublica as a "leftist" media outfit.
ProPublica was started in 2007 with financial backing from wealthy liberal activists like Herb and Marion Sandler. Stverak, a former North Dakota Republican Party executive, praises the group's 2010 Pulitzer Prize recognition.
Note that Chumley doesn't mention where the Franklin Center gets is financial backing. That's because it has refused to release such information. (Media Matters' Joe Strupp has reported how the Franklin Center is one of a new crop of conservative nonprofit journalism organizations that like to keep their funding sources hidden from the public.) Stverak told Washington Monthly -- which noted that such secrecy "is more than a little ironic given Franklin's obsession with transparency in government" -- that it was irrelevant because his organization's credibility hands on the quality of journalism it produces, not who funds it.
There have been questions about the quality of that journalism. Chumley touts as the Franklin Center's top scoop the story of "White House claims to have saved jobs in districts that didn't even exist," stating that it "generated national recognition for Franklin's venture into investigative reporting soon after its inception." But as Washington Monthly points out:
The only problem: the story was, at best, misleading. In a "fact check" feature on Watchdog's scoop, the Associated Press's Matt Apuzzo took the step that the Watchdog reporters had not: he checked to see what was happening to the money. As it turns out, the funds were going exactly where they were supposed to go, not vanishing into black holes as the Watchdog sites had implied. The problem was simply that a handful of the local government agencies and nonprofits that had received stimulus funds had mistyped the zip codes when they entered information about their projects into the federal database. In other words, all the fuss had been over a few stray typos. "[T]he 'phantom congressional districts' are being used as a phantom issue to suggest that stimulus money has been misspent," Apuzzo concluded.
Even Chumley's noting that the training prospective reporters receive "includes a Computer-Assisted Investigative Reporting boot camp taught by Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott, who is a Franklin advisory board member" is presented not as evidence of conservative bias -- the Examiner's editorial page under Tapscott is aggressively conservative -- but as evidence that journalists receive training. Never mind, of course, that the link Chumley provides to Tapscott's boot camp goes straight to the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Chumley quotes Stvernak saying, "We ask the tough questions. When we push our reporters, when we train them, we tell them, 'You are not a stenographer.' I believe in an aggressive and honest Fourth Estate." Unfortunately, by not challenging Sternak on his organization's funding and pretending that the group really isn't conservative despite all the evidence to the contrary, stenography is precisely the approach Chumley took in writing about the Franklin Center.
It seems inevitable that every conservative news outlet will, sooner or later, dirty its hands by latching onto the birther issue. The Washington Examiner plunges in by publishing a Nov. 22 op-ed by Diana West promoting one birther's case.
West wrote that Terrence Lakin, an Army lieutenant colonel, "faces an upcoming court-martial at Fort Meade, Md., on Dec. 14 for refusing to follow orders to redeploy to Afghanistan because of his conviction that the president hasn't proven his eligibility to hold office." Lakin is the birthers' latest hope for promoting their case, and West admits she's writing about him in part because "Lakin supporters have dubbed this week Terry Lakin Action Week, urging American citizens to take the occasion to call their congressional representatives about the case."
West lionized Lakin as "a senior military officer with an unblemished career" who is committing "what amounts to a historic act of civil disobedience for which he may well serve time in prison." The reality, meanwhile, is that a military judge has already ruled that, according to military law, the personal beliefs or convictions of a soldier are not enough for the soldier to deem an order illegal, that Lakin cannot introduce any evidence related to Obama's citizenship at his court-martial, and that the military court was not the proper venue for determining the eligibility of a president.
West peppered her op-ed with standard birther arguments:
Of course, Obama's failure to release his original 1961 birth certificate (which, contrary to mantralike misperception, has never been released) is just the beginning. There remains a startling dearth of documentation pertaining to Obama's progress through his 49 years of life that only begins with his birth certificate.
A gaping hole -- dare I say "memory hole"? -- seems to have consumed all possible Obama records from his education, health, family records, even his pre-presidential political career. But this subject is never taken seriously by the media or the political establishment, including, most glaringly, erstwhile GOP opponent John McCain, who, on being challenged on the eligibility question himself, should have called on candidate Obama to join him in releasing their bona fides together.
But even to suggest such a thing is to indulge in "conspiracy theories." Not surprisingly, Wikipedia defines this term for us as well, noting that it's "often used dismissively in an attempt to characterize a belief as outlandishly false and held by a person judged to be a crank or a group confined to the lunatic fringe."
Is the birther path really the one that Philip Anschutz's aggressively conservative publication wants to take? It appears so.
Glenn Beck feverishly promoted a conspiracy theory throughout his Fox News show tonight that involved George Soros owning stock in a company that makes full-body scanners. Beck said that Soros had sold off the stock "two days ago" because "someone in the media" -- presumably Glenn Beck -- was on to his plan to quietly profit off the scanners.
You're probably used to Beck's theories falling apart in short order, and in comical fashion. This time, though, it comes with a special twist.
We have reached the logical endpoint of the conservative media's all-out campaign to vilify George Soros: When something in the news makes people mad, run Google searches on the object of the public's anger, plus "George Soros."
Washington Examiner writer Mark Hemingway handled the googling duties for the story about the outcry over full-body scanners at airports. In a blog post headlined "George Soros also profiting off controversial TSA scanners," Hemingway purported to show that Soros owns stock in OSI Systems, the parent company of Rapiscan, which makes the scanners.
Glenn Beck couldn't resist this. Today on his radio show, Beck warned his listeners that "there's something wrong with the scanner story." He went on: "First of all, George Soros has 11,000 shares in the scanner company. What a surprise. But there's something deeply wrong with the scanner story and what's happening at our airports. You're being set up."
Fox Nation loved it, too, linking to Hemingway's post with the headline "Soros Profiting Off Naked Airport Screeners":
Hemingway's "bad thing + Soros" search revealed shocking information -- some website you've probably never heard of says that Soros owns stock in OSI Systems. Hemingway wrote:
As for the company's other political connections, it also appears that none other than George Soros, the billionaire funder of the country's liberal political infrastructure, owns 11,300 shares of OSI Systems Inc., the company that owns Rapiscan. Not surprisingly, OSI's stock has appreciated considerably over the course of the year. Soros certainly is a savvy investor.
The link there points to GuruFocus.com, an investment information site owned by a limited liability company of the same name in Plano, Texas. Here's the smoking gun:
Assuming that GuruFocus is correct, Soros owns 11,300 shares of OSI Systems.
And according to that same site, Soros' holdings amount to a whopping 0.06 percent of the company's outstanding shares.
Yes, six one-hundredths of one percent.
Rush Limbaugh claimed that Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have a "proposal" to eliminate 401(k)s in favor of a retirement plan administered by the government. In fact, they have not made such a proposal. Rather, the idea of guaranteed retirement accounts -- which was distorted by Limbaugh -- was mentioned by a panelist from the Economic Policy Institute during a hearing held by Harkin and Sanders on retirement security issues.
In the final days before the midterm elections, following a very familiar pattern, conservative media have yet again turned to hyping baseless and misleading claims of voter fraud.
Earlier, we detailed how Glenn Beck credited conservative billionaire Charles Koch for information he used to attack Al Gore -- but not that he received that information at a secret strategy meeting the previous weekend hosted by Koch and his brother, David. But Beck is not the only media figure taking their cues from the Kochs at that meeting.
Also on the guest list (obtained by Think Progress) of conservative activists at the Kochs' June gathering -- at which strategies for the 2010 midterm elections were plotted -- were two Washington Examiner writers, senior political analyst Michael Barone and senior political columnist Tim Carney. That's a hefty representation for such a lower profile newspaper (The Wall Street Journal, by comparison, had only one representative, Steve Moore.) Their attendance presumably had approval from the top; after all, Examiner owner Philip Anschutz was there as well, as were executives from Anschutz's oil interests, according to Think Progress.
Interestingly, Carney recently penned a defense of the Kochs. In a September 1 column, Carney wrote that the Kochs and "any of us advocating a free market are trying to make the world a better place -- not just for business, but for the poor."
Carney disclosed that, in addition to Charles Koch introducing his speech at a "fancy dinner," "The Koch-created Institute for Humane Studies has, over the past two years, paid me on a few occasions to speak to various audiences (and also to mentor interns). The Koch-funded Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute have also hosted book talks for me." But Carney didn't disclose his attendance at the secret Koch confab two months earlier.
Washington Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott writes in an October 12 blog post: "Nobody knows with certainty how many illegal votes were cast in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, but odds are the total was in the millions, thanks to systematic vote fraud campaigns by leftist groups such as ACORN and mis-guided laws that allow individuals to register and vote on the same day."
Tapscott, however, offers no evidence of "systematic vote fraud" that resulted in "illegal votes" numbering "in the millions" -- perhaps because it didn't happen. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2008, election experts say that voter registration issues that had been associated with ACORN rarely result in fraudulent votes being cast because false and duplicate registrations are typically weeded out. The Chronicle goes on to state that "it's virtually impossible to pull off large-scale voter fraud without being discovered."
Tapscott's reference to ACORN is nothing more than yet another invocation of a right-wing bogeyman that has become so played out that it was getting tossed around indiscriminately; The Wall Street Journal's John Fund, for instance, insisted that one purported case involved people who allegedly "associated in the past with Acorn" that "may have" been involved in "advising" people "on how to perform" voter fraud, citing unnamed "local politicos." Scaremongering aside, Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall has pointed out that any actual vote fraud cases allegedly involving ACORN have been isolated.
Tapscott's baseless claim came in service to promoting Pajamas Media's "Voter Fraud Watch." He touted how one prominent name linked to Pajamas Media's project is "J. Christian Adams, the courageous former Justice Department attorney who blew the whistle on the Obama administration's craven cave-in to Political Correctness and left-wing ideology in the New Black Panthers Case."
The supposed "legal expertise" Adams intends to provide to "Voter Fraud Watch" doesn't exactly enhance the credibility of Pajamas Media's little project.