Remember when Kanye West said George W. Bush "doesn't care about black people"? Of course you do; it was kind of a big deal. Such a big deal that when then-Senator Barack Obama appeared on ABC's This Week a few days later, he was asked about it. There was an avalanche of media coverage, including predictable outrage from conservative publications. A New York Post headline blared "WHERE DOES KANYE WEST GET OFF," while National Review sneered "'Racism!' They Charged - When don't they?" Jonah Goldberg blasted West's "self-indulgent diatribe" and insisted "He should be ashamed." Goldberg went so far as to argue that even if West was right, he should have kept his mouth shut: "Assume for the sake of argument that West's rant was accurate. Was this really the time to say so?"
Conservatives were certainly not alone in rebuking West; many liberals did so as well. To pick just one example, Richard Cohen -- the ostensibly liberal Washington Post columnist who supports torture and opposes affirmative action -- leapt to Bush's defense.
In short: suggesting the president might be a racist was widely seen as a Big Deal -- and widely condemned.
So I was startled to see how casually ABC's The Note quoted Rush Limbaugh calling Barack Obama a racist this morning:
Rush Limbaugh, not a fan of the efforts to restart the campaign engines: "This is the regime at its racist best," he said, per Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet. "He is asking young people, African-Americans, Latino and women to reconnect, to fight who? Who is this fight against?"
Now, Rush Limbaugh isn't a rap star like Kanye West -- but he is one of the most influential leaders of the conservative movement and the Republican party. And The Note quoted him calling the president a racist as casually as it would have had quoted him saying "I find the president's fiscal policies lamentable."
Maybe journalists have become dulled to statements like Limbaugh's because of the frequency with which they come. Conservatives have been calling Obama, and those around him, racist since he took office. Longer, actually. Today's Washington Examiner reinforces those allegations with a headline taking up much of the front page: "Obama disses white guys."
Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for the first Richard Cohen column defending President Obama from charges of racism.
Washington Examiner contributor Jed Babbin claimed that the administration is "reassigning some of [the CIA's] most valuable assets to study global warming." In fact, the CIA has said the climate data sharing program "draws on imagery and other information that is collected in any event."
Conservative media have falsely claimed that a motion filed by disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich indicating that Blagojevich and President Obama spoke on December 1, 2008, contradicts Obama's statements about his contacts with Blagojevich. Media have also falsely claimed that the motion states that Obama and Blagojevich discussed who Blagojevich would appoint to fill Obama's Senate seat.
Fox News' Dana Perino and Byron York of The Washington Examiner channeled Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) criticism of Democrats for reportedly planning to pursue immigration reform legislation before a climate change bill. But last month, Graham himself reportedly called for President Obama to "step it up" on immigration reform efforts.
Right-wing media are falsely claiming that, in recent interviews and speeches, former President Bill Clinton compared the tea party movement to the domestic terrorists who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing. In fact, Clinton did no such thing; rather, he stressed the importance of citizens' ability to criticize the government, and in drawing "parallels" to the rhetoric leading to the bombing and the rhetoric today, he specifically limited his criticism to those currently advocating or encouraging violence.
With the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing on April 16 for Goodwin Liu, who was nominated by President Obama to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, Media Matters revisits some common myths and falsehoods pushed by right-wing media to attack Liu.
Conservative media have attacked financial reform legislation under consideration in Congress by stating that it establishes a "permanent bailout" or "bailouts forever" -- echoing language recommended by Republican strategist Frank Luntz to derail the bill. But far from encouraging "bailouts" for failing financial firms, the bill would establish the government's authority to liquidate them.
In a Washington Examiner column, the Heritage Foundation's James Carafano falsely claimed that the Obama administration is "refusing to modernize the U.S. [nuclear] arsenal" and is "cutting back on defense." In fact, the administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) includes "significantly increased investments" to modernize America's nuclear weapons infrastructure, and each of Obama's two defense budget requests have increased the budget by billions of dollars.
Fox News' Bill Hemmer and The Washington Examiner's Byron York distorted federal appeals court nominee Goodwin Liu's record to paint him as out of the mainstream, with York suggesting that Liu supports reparations. However, neither York nor Hemmer noted that Liu has widespread support from across the political spectrum, including from former independent counsel Kenneth Starr and Bush administration lawyer John Yoo.
Right-wing media have accused Rep. Henry Waxman and the Obama administration of "tyrannical" actions after Waxman announced a hearing looking into several large corporations' assertions about prescription drug costs related to health care reform. According to Waxman, the companies' claims "appear to conflict with independent analyses."
Washington Examiner columnist Theodore H. Frank distorted a column by federal circuit court nominee Goodwin Liu to claim Liu was "disqualif[ied]" from that position because he purportedly spoke "against private ownership of property." In fact, Liu merely identified the term "private ownership of property," as used by an organization then-Supreme Court nominee John Roberts was affiliated with, as indicative of "an ideological agenda hostile to environmental, workplace, and consumer protections."
In a Washington Examiner blog post, David Freddoso baselessly suggested that Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) -- who is seeking the nomination to run for retiring Sen. Evan Bayh's seat -- "s[old] his 'yes' vote on ObamaCare for $1 million in campaign money." However, the campaign money that Bayh is reported to be contributing is for the Indiana Democratic Party, not simply for Ellsworth; moreover, in announcing his retirement in February, Bayh made clear that he would use his remaining campaign money "to help whoever our nominee is in Indiana." Ellsworth has been widely reported to be the "frontrunner" for the nomination since Bayh's announcement.
Right wing media figures have compared the passage of landmark health care reform legislation to historical events including the Black Plague, the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bloody Sunday, the passage of the Stamp Act, the federal government's refusal to bail out New York City in the 1970's, the Jonestown massacre, and The Day The Music Died.
From a March 22 Washington Examiner editorial:
Well, they finally did it. Despite more than a year of steadily rising public opposition, manifested in opinion polls and in protest rallies across the country, President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally rammed through Obamacare late Sunday when House Democrats gave the bill their imprimatur.
The House vote isn't the end of the national debate on this issue, however, as the Senate still must accept the House changes in the Senate Obamacare bill. Senate Republicans argue that the House reconciliation bill that makes significant changes in the Senate bill violates the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, maintaining that it should be ruled out of order by the Senate parliamentarian for consideration in the upper chamber. That in turn would mean the only bill the president could legally sign would be the original Senate bill, with its massive funding of abortion and the infamous deals used to buy senators' votes, including the Cornhusker Kickback. At that point, a constitutional crisis of historic magnitude seems inevitable.
A fast-track challenge to Obamacare's constitutionality will likely reach the Supreme Court in coming months. The justices will have multiple issues to consider, including the unprecedented federal mandate that all individuals buy approved health insurance, the undeniable inequity of the many corrupt bargains used to buy votes for the measure, and the banana republic parliamentary tactics used by the Democratic congressional leadership. Whatever the high court's decision, it won't be nearly as unpleasant as the verdict many Democrats will hear from their constituents in November.
In recent weeks, conservative media have promoted a number of myths and falsehoods about the possible use of the budget reconciliation process to finalize passage of health care reform.