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  • Flashback: How Fox News Promoted Trump's Birtherism

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    As the Trump campaign attempts to put Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump’s racist, conspiratorial claims about President Obama's birthplace to rest, it’s important to remember that Fox News and Fox Business helped lay the groundwork for Trump’s birtherism by giving him a platform to promote his birther beliefs -- which some Fox hosts, analysts, and contributors embraced.

  • Mainstream Media Echo Conservatives’ Claim That Clinton’s Pneumonia Legitimizes Their Conspiracy Theories

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media across the spectrum are claiming that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s diagnosis of pneumonia “vindicated” conservative conspiracy theorists who have long made baseless assertions about Clinton’s health. These claims have recently been mainstreamed by non-partisan outlets despite having been debunked time and time again.

  • Limbaugh Cites Fringe Conspiracy Group To Claim Clinton’s Health Is Disqualifying

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh cited an “informal internet survey” by a fringe right-wing medical group to baselessly claim that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s “health problems” mean she is unqualified to be president.

    The American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) released a press release on September 8 after conducting an “informal internet survey” of 250 physicians about Clinton’s medical fitness. Seventy-one percent of respondents claimed Clinton’s health concerns “could be disqualifying for the position of the president of the U.S.,” while 20 percent responded that the concerns are “likely overblown, but should be addressed as by full release of medical records.” Almost all respondents said there has not been “enough emphasis” on Clinton’s “health concerns” by the media.

    The results of this “informal internet survey” were reported in notoriously right-wing fringe websites including WorldNetDaily, Infowars, Drudge Report, Zero Hedge and Western Journalism, which linked the results to Clinton’s overly hyped “coughing fit” on September 5. Limbaugh also picked up the survey, claiming it provided a “scientific consensus” that Clinton “is not qualified” to be president.

    From the September 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show:

    RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): Have you heard about these doctors? These concerned doctors, these, I guess they’re neurologists, who think that Hillary has serious health concerns? Did you see this? I’ll read you an upshot of this, and it’s a press release but it has been reported as news. Concerns about Hillary Clinton’s health as serious. And they could be disqualifying  for the position of president. Saying nearly 71 percent of 250 physicians responding to an informal internet survey by the Americans Association of Physicians and Surgeons, otherwise known as the AAPS. So what happened here? The AAPS sent out an informal survey to their membership. Two hundred fifty  doctors. Seventy-one percent percent of them responded that Hillary Clinton’s health concerns could be disqualifying for president of the United States. Twenty percent said that the concerns for her health are  likely overblown but they should be addressed by a full release of her medical records. Only 2.7 percent responded that they were just a political attack. Now, folks, it seems to me here that we have a scientific consensus here. Just as we have  in climate change and global warming, we have a consensus of scientists here. These happen to be doctors. But they wear white coats and they work in labs, which makes them scientists. And 71 percent of them think that Hillary’s health concerns are so bad that she may not be qualified to hold office and an even greater number think that it's so bad that she needs to release her health records. So it's settled. A consensus of scientists have suggested Hillary’s  not qualified. That settles it. She is not qualified.

    The American Association of Physicians and Surgeons is a far-right medical group with a history of espousing fringe views. It has  advised doctors to quit participating in Medicare, advocated against vaccines for children, and defended doctors who provided massive amounts of painkillers to patients who then abused them. The group also promulgated conspiracy theories about the death of former Clinton deputy counsel Vincent Foster, calling for the release of “ten photographs of Foster’s fully clothed body” in an effort to cast doubt over the death, which has been widely ruled a suicide. In 2005, the AAPS' Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons attacked illegal immigrants, claiming that leprosy "was so rare in America that in 40 years only 900 people were afflicted. Suddenly, in the past three years [2002-2005], America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy." In fact, there had been just 431 reported cases of Hansen's disease, or leprosy, over the "past three years" in question. 

  • Trump Adopts Right-Wing Media's Flawed Robert Byrd Canard To Detract From Allegations Of Racism

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump followed right-wing media’s lead by connecting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) to mitigate the accusations that he is racist and has stoked racial tension. Conservatives have invoked Byrd’s past affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) for years to deflect from accusations of bigotry in the Republican Party, despite Byrd’s disavowal of his involvement with the hate group and his dedication of the rest of his life to atoning for his mistakes and supporting legislation to help minorities.

    After Clinton’s August 25 speech linking Trump to the “radical fringe” and accusing him of embracing a philosophy of “make America hate again,” Trump responded in an August 27 tweet, quoting supporters who lashed out at CNN for failing to mention that Clinton had once “said a KKK member was her mentor.” CNN confirmed that the supporters “referred to the last West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, a former KKK member whom Clinton mourned in 2010 as ‘a true American original, my friend and mentor.’”

    Right-wing media -- including Breitbart News and WND -- were quick to highlight the connection between Clinton and Byrd after her speech in an attempt to downplay her accusations against Trump. Independent Journal’s Frank Camp asserted that Clinton “can beat the drum against Trump over and over again, but her relationship with Senator Byrd may make those appeals ring hollow for some.” InfoWars claimed that Clinton and her campaign were “conveniently leaving out the fact that Hillary herself described Robert Byrd – a KKK leader who once called black people ‘mongrels,’ as her ‘friend and mentor.’” CNN political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes accused Clinton of having “a long track record ... of bias” because she “praised Senator Byrd.”

    This attempt at deflection is a familiar one for conservatives. In 2005, author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson explained in a Huffington Post piece that “Whenever a Republican makes a racial foot-in-the mouth gaffe, and Democrats publicly lambaste him for it, GOP leaders quickly and reflexively scream, ‘But what about Byrd,’ and pound the Democrats for having a former Klansman as a top Democrat.” However, Hutchinson noted that this flawed canard “makes Republicans seem disingenuous at best and racial hypocrites at worst” because “Byrd flirted with the Klan six decades ago” and Republicans, like Trump “flirted with them, in the past, and still do today.”

    The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart more recently pointed out that this conservative deflection is also flawed because Byrd “admitted his mistake and atoned for it in public and in policy.” The NAACP even mourned Byrd’s death in 2010 saying that he “went from being an active member of the KKK to a being a stalwart supporter of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and many other pieces of seminal legislation that advanced the civil rights and liberties of our country.”

  • Another Muslim Brotherhood Conspiracy Theorist Becomes A Trump Adviser

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is now advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, adding to the list of Trump influencers who have peddled the right-wing media conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is a “Muslim Brotherhood” operative. Bachmann, who formally requested a federal investigation into Abedin and others in the federal government, joins conspiracy theory-spouting Trump associates Stephen Bannon, Sean Hannity, and Roger Stone.

  • Fox, Right-Wing Media Run With Conspiracy Linking Clinton To Murdered DNC Staffer

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News has followed others in right-wing media in suggesting that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich may have been murdered because he had helped WikiLeaks gain access to the DNC’s email servers. These conspiracy theories were floated after WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information on Rich’s murder, and after Trump ally Roger Stone suggested Rich was murdered for talking to the FBI about election fraud.

  • After Conservative Media Attacked Khizr Khan, He Started To Receive "Hateful Messages"

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Conservative media outlets highlighted a section of Khizr Khan’s website that stated he specialized in immigration law to suggest that the real “incentive” for the Gold Star father’s speech criticizing Republicans presidential nominee Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention was that his livelihood could be threatened under a Trump presidency. Khan subsequently told The New York Times that he had received “hateful messages” in the wake of “insinuations… that he was involved in shady immigration cases,” but that he had no immigration clients.

  • Right-Wing Media Fearmonger Over Washington State’s New LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Conservative media are fearmongering over Washington state public schools’ new LGBT-inclusive education standards that aim to teach students “the importance of treating others with respect regarding gender identity.” Outlets are reporting that the state will soon begin to “teach transgenderism to kindergartners” and suggesting that Washington is promoting transgender “recruitment.” But education professionals and advocacy groups say students benefit from learning about gender identity at an early age.

  • Vince Foster’s Sister In Wash. Post: “Trump Should Be Ashamed” For Pushing Murder Conspiracy Theory

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The sister of late White House deputy counsel Vince Foster wrote a Washington Post op-ed strongly condemning presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for reviving the conspiracy theory that the Clintons killed her brother.

    Trump recently told the Post that the circumstances of Foster’s death were “very fishy” and Foster “knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide.”

    Sheila Foster Anthony responded to Trump’s “wrong,” “irresponsible,” and “cruel” remarks in a May 26 piece headlined, "Vince Foster was my brother. Donald Trump should be ashamed." She wrote: “For Trump to raise these theories again for political advantage is wrong. I cannot let such craven behavior pass without a response.”

    She noted that five investigations concluded that Foster’s death was a suicide and he “told me he was battling depression” days before he committed suicide.

    “Never for a minute have I doubted that was what happened,” she added.

    Anthony noted that after Foster’s death, she began to read “countless conspiracy theories spun by those who claimed that the Clintons had Vince murdered because he knew something about Whitewater” and “These outrageous suggestions have caused our family untold pain because this issue went on for so long and these reports were so painful to read.”

    Asked about Anthony’s op-ed, Trump today said, “I really know nothing about the Vince Foster situation.” He also claimed it shouldn’t be a part of the campaign “unless some evidence to the contrary of what I’ve seen comes up.”

    Leading conservative media figures and outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News have pushed conspiracy theories about Foster and the Clintons in the years after his death.

    While many reporters condemned Trump’s remarks as “bizarre” and “kooky,” his reference to the Foster conspiracy theory drew praise from fringe conservative media.

    Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones on May 24 claimed “there’s a cover-up going on, so we don’t know what it is, but that’s good for an open investigation with the death. .... The Clintons thought they would just have their past not looked at, but Donald Trump is willing to do it.” Jones is one of Trump’s most vocal allies and has hosted the candidate on his program.

    WND, best known for obsessing over President Obama’s birth certificate, recently claimed that Trump’s conspiracy is “backed by new evidence.” The site’s 2015 “man of the year” was none other than Donald Trump, who called the accolade an “amazing honor.”

  • Right-Wing Media Lose It After Obama Dances The Tango

    ››› ››› CRISTIANO LIMA & BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing commentators ripped President Obama for dancing the tango at a state dinner in Argentina a day after the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, criticizing him for "dancing the night away" "while Brussels burns." Meanwhile, journalists and analysists slammed conservative media figures' "easy attacks," noting that right-wing media would have criticized Obama "either way," regardless of whether he continued on or cut his trip short following the Brussels attacks.

  • Right-Wing Media Distort Hillary Clinton's Comments About Libya Intervention

    Conservative Media Follow RNC Lead In Smearing Clinton For Accurately Stating No Americans Died In Military Campaign To Oust Gadhafi

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ, TYLER CHERRY & BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing media figures are distorting a comment made by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a MSNBC town hall, where Clinton said "we didn't lose a single person" during the 2011 U.S. military intervention in Libya. Conservative commentators parroted the GOP in berating Clinton for allegedly "forgetting" about the four Americans who were killed during the 2012 Benghazi attacks, when in reality Clinton was referring only to the military intervention in Libya, which ended nearly a year before the Benghazi attacks.

  • How A Right-Wing Media Myth Made It Into Oral Arguments For A Case Challenging Texas' Restrictive Abortion Law

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & SHARON KANN

    In the oral arguments for Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt -- the case before the Supreme Court concerning Texas' anti-choice law, HB 2 -- Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller relied on a common right-wing media myth to justify medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion. In his argument, Keller made the long-debunked claim -- pushed for years by right-wing media -- that HB 2 was passed to prevent another "Kermit Gosnell scandal," in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths at a Philadelphia clinic.

  • Right-Wing Media Run With "Unreliable" Arkansas Woman's Claims That The Clintons Want Her Dead

    Even The National Enquirer Scorned Her In The 1990s

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing media have seized upon Arkansan Sally Miller's baseless claims that Hillary Clinton is plotting to have her killed and that she had an affair with Bill Clinton in the 1980s, who supposedly told her that "Hillary is a lesbian." Miller's allegations spread through right-wing media websites and Rush Limbaugh's talk radio show after the Drudge Report highlighted an interview detailing Miller's attempt to sell a "tell-all memoir." Miller's claims were dismissed decades ago by Arkansas media outlets who regarded her as "unreliable," and even the National Enquirer ridiculed her assertions at the time.

  • Former Obama Birther Steve Deace Rushes To Defend Ted Cruz's Presidential Eligibility

    Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    Iowa radio host Steve Deace defended Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) eligibility to be president after some of Cruz's 2016 presidential opponents questioned the constitutionality of a Cruz presidency because of his Canadian birth. While Deace dismissed those questioning Cruz, the radio host played an active role in promoting similar "birther" conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama.

    During a January 6 interview with Senator Cruz, Deace sought to dismiss GOP rivals' doubts that Cruz is eligible to be president because he was born to an American citizen living in Canada. "It's like there is no factual amount of evidence that can be presented to the contrary when people get this issue stuck in their craw," said Deace. While Deace is quick to agree with legal experts that Cruz is eligible to hold office, he denied overwhelming evidence that President Obama was eligible to be president after his election.

    In 2009 Deace provided a platform for some of the most notorious birther conspiracy theorists to promote their unfounded ideas surrounding Obama's presidential eligibility. As the Iowa Independent reported, Deace dedicated significant time to the birther issue as well as hosting several conspiracy theorists including Drew Zahn of leading birther website WND (formerly WorldNetDaily) and Orly Taitz, who filed several lawsuits against President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in an effort to stop Obama's presidency:

    Conspiracy theorists claiming President Barack Obama is not a United States citizen were granted an hour of drive-time radio Friday to lay out the "evidence" by Christian radio host Steve Deace.

    Deace discussed the issue with Drew Zahn, editor of the conspiracy theory Web site World Net Daily, who said that while his cohorts have been "ridiculed and mocked" for continuing to follow the story, it simply won't go away.

    "We're catching heat from almost every direction," Zahn said.

    Zahn and Deace started off blasting the "mainstream media" for not fully investigating an issue that deals with whether "we're going to follow the Constitution at its most basic level."

    The pair then attempted to debunk any evidence produced that may contradict their theory -- including a certificate of live birth and newspapers accounts at the time -- ultimately concluding all materials could be easily obtained fraudulently or easily fabricated.

    [...]

    Deace discussed the issue once before in January, when he interviewed the birther movement's most high profile advocate, Orly Taitz, a woman news site Politico describes as "the Russian-born attorney/dentist who has become a kind of ringleader for the movement." Among other things, Taitz has become famous of late for encouraging soldiers to disobey orders from a president who is "ineligible to serve as commander-in-chief of U.S Armed Forces."

    Deace also contributed to the conspiracy by writing commentary on WND ranting against Obama, who he referred to as Barry Soetoro -- a name referring to Obama's stepfather's surname, which he used temporarily while living in Indonesia. Birther theory supporters falsely claim Obama used the Soetoro name on a Columbia University student ID, proving his foreign citizenship. Deace also defended WND by sharing its birther articles as mainstream media outlets like CNN denounced their conspiracy theories.

    In 2012, Deace continued his affiliation with birtherism by referring to Obama as a "Kenyan" and "foreigner":

    For the past four years we've called Obama every name in the book - Marxist, socialist, Kenyan, Muslim, heretic, divider-in-chief, infanticidist, traitor, amateur and foreigner (just to name to few) - and even though some of those are actually true, the really inconvenient truth is that if the election were held today Obama would most assuredly be re-elected.

    Deace also appeared on MSNBC's The Ed Show in May of 2012 to discuss the birther movement in Iowa. During the interview Deace never denied his support of the conspiracy theories, but sought to change the subject while speaking to the more mainstream outlet -- a well-known tactic of the radio host -- while pushing the idea that birtherism is just a "clash of world views" (emphasis added):

    ED SCHULTZ (HOST): Steve, this is not a world view. These are facts. Steve, respectfully, these are facts. There are facts that back up that President Obama is an American citizen, he loves the country, he was born -- he has got all the documentation. Why is this an issue? Krystal, you can see just from his answers that this is where they [Republicans] are.

    [...]

    SCHULTZ: I mean when you have a state party talking about putting it on the platform, how much more radical can you get? I mean they do not want to accept this president.

    [...]

    SCHULTZ: Why aren`t the Democrats asking for Mitt Romney`s birth certificate? I mean, his dad was born in Mexico. I mean, how do we know?

    CHRIS KOFINIS (DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST): You know why, because --

    DEACE: Here`s what I think --

    SCHULTZ: Go ahead, Steve.

    DEACE: I think if unemployment -- I think if unemployment was at five percent, I think if the president had lived up to his campaign promises on turning the economy around, we probably wouldn`t be talking about this issue right now. But when you`ve got to run on the economic record, you`ve got to change the subject to stuff like this.

    SCHULTZ: Well, not really. He`s got 26 months of private sector job growth. He`s saved the automobile industry, and he's added 4 million jobs. I mean, the guy is not superman. He is just president of the United States, and those are three facts right there that are --

    DEACE: Ed, there must be a lot of stupid people. There must be a lot of stupid people, then, Ed, in your own NBC news poll. Because if you look at the cross-tabs on the economy in your own poll that came out yesterday, it doesn`t appear that they see things the same way you do --

    SCHULTZ: That`s a messaging issue, there's no doubt -

    DEACE: At best he has a 50/50 chance --

    SCHULTZ: That`s -- he has added four million jobs. He has saved millions of jobs because of the turnaround of the automobile industry, and 26 months of private sector job growth. Those are three facts right now, whether it`s polled or not --

    (CROSSTALK)

    SCHULTZ: Your party in Iowa wants to put birtherism on the platform instead of talk about creating jobs. I`m out of time.

    BALL: We`re not the ones that --

    DEACE: What cracks me up is its considered radical that someone shows the same identification --

    Deace's defense of Cruz against some of the same criticisms he used against Obama comes as no surprise as the radio host has been working overtime to push the Texas senator to victory in Iowa. His personal investment in Cruz, which includes creating a campaign ad, prepping him for debates, and promoting him on social media, has prevented him from acknowledging the hypocrisy of his birther stance.