Over the next three days, we'll be counting down the Most Embarrassing Failures of the Year by Conservative Websites.
As will become apparent, conservative sites regularly get themselves into trouble by having editorial standards that consist entirely of: "Does this story reflect poorly on Obama and/or liberals? Print it!"
For many prominent conservative online outlets, anything seen as reaffirming a conservative narrative is worth printing -- fact-checking is, at best, a minor annoyance to be handled after publication, if at all. This is the very definition of political hackery, yet many of these same conservative websites like to spend much of their time lecturing the "lamestream media" on how they are supposed to do their jobs.
No matter how many times conservative websites embarrass themselves by running completely false stories, they just can't help themselves.
This morning, Media Matters exposed a directive sent by Fox News Washington Managing editor Bill Sammon to the network's journalists questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering them to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question." Sammon added that "It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies."
Sammon's email was sent during crucial global climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, and came amid the network's relentless promotion of the manufactured "Climategate" scandal.
It's important to point out that what Sammon calls "notions" about climate change are anything but -- as far as the science is concerned, the fact that the planet is currently warming is well-established. As the National Climatic Data Center explains, the warming trend "is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change" and "is also confirmed by other independent observations."
In contrast to Sammon, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch has stated unequivocally that "climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats," and that "we certainly can't afford the risk of inaction."
In 2007, Murdoch announced an initiative to make News Corp. carbon neutral in the hopes that it would inspire their audience to also reduce their carbon footprint. In his words, "we can do something that's unique, different from just any other company. We can set an example, and we can reach our audiences. Our audience's carbon footprint is 10,000 times bigger than ours... That's the carbon footprint we want to conquer."
Murdoch is right. The carbon footprint of News Corp.'s audience is "10,000 times bigger than" the company's, which is why the benefits of his company's attempt to become carbon neutral pale in comparison to the damage done by the network's ongoing war on climate science.
For his part, Murdoch has repeatedly stressed the division between Fox's "news" and "opinion" programs in order to defend the network from criticism. But Sammon is firmly in the supposed "news" camp, and is using his position to order the network to poison the well of public opinion on an issue Murdoch thinks -- and the world's climate scientists agree -- poses "clear, catastrophic threats."
As CEO of News Corp., Murdoch can either profess to care about them setting an "example" for their audience on climate change, or he can employ a Washington managing editor that directs his staff to push phony stories to cast doubt on the science behind it.
He can't do both.
In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering the network's journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."
The directive, sent by Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, was issued less than 15 minutes after Fox correspondent Wendell Goler accurately reported on-air that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record."
This latest revelation comes after Media Matters uncovered an email sent by Sammon to Fox journalists at the peak of the health care reform debate, ordering them to avoid using the term "public option" and instead use variations of "government option." That email echoed advice from a prominent Republican pollster on how to help turn public opinion against health care reform.
Sources familiar with the situation in Fox's Washington bureau have expressed concern about Sammon using his position to "slant" Fox's supposedly neutral news coverage to the right.
Sammon's orders for Fox journalists to cast doubt on climate science came amid the network's relentless promotion of the fabricated "Climategate" scandal, which revolved around misrepresentations of emails sent to and from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit.
At the time of Sammon's directive, it was clear the "scandal" did not undermine the scientific basis for global warming and that the emails were being grossly distorted by conservative media and politicians. Scientists, independent fact-checkers, and several investigations have since confirmed that the CRU emails do not undermine the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet.
Contrary to Sammon's email, the increase in global temperatures over the last half-century is an established fact. As the National Climatic Data Center explains, the warming trend "is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change" and "is also confirmed by other independent observations."
* * *
On the December 8 edition of Happening Now, one of Fox News' daytime straight news shows, Fox White House correspondent Wendell Goler delivered a live report from Copenhagen and was asked by host Jon Scott about "U.N. scientists issuing a new report today saying this decade is on track to be the warmest on record."
Goler accurately reported that, indeed, 2000-2009 was "expected to turn out to be the warmest decade on record," following a "trend that has scientists concerned because 2000-2009 [was] warmer than the 1990s, which were warmer than the 1980s." Goler went on to explain that "ironically 2009 was a cooler than average year in the U.S. and Canada," which, he said, was "politically troubling because Americans are among the most skeptical about global warming."
When Scott brought up the "Climategate" emails, Goler explained that although people had raised questions about the CRU data, "the data also comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and from NASA. And scientists say the data of course across all three sources is pretty consistent." Watch:
Less than 15 minutes after the segment, Sammon sent the following email to the staffs of Special Report, Fox News Sunday, and FoxNews.com, as well as to other reporters, producers, and network executives, instructing them to "IMMEDIATELY" include objections of "critics" when reporting on climate data:
From: Sammon, Bill
To: 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 036 -FOX.WHU; 054 -FNSunday; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers; 069 -Politics; 005 -Washington
Cc: Clemente, Michael; Stack, John; Wallace, Jay; Smith, Sean
Sent: Tue Dec 08 12:49:51 2009
Subject: Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data...
...we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.
This morning, Media Matters released a leaked email sent by Fox News' Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon during the height of the health care reform debate instructing Fox's journalists not to use the phrase "public option." As we detailed, Sammon's directive echoed advice from a Republican pollster on how to turn public opinion against reform.
Responding to The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz about the leaked email, Sammon reportedly defended his directive, and also objected to being characterized as conservative:
Sammon said in the interview that he was a newspaper reporter for 25 years and his record demonstrates that he hasn't favored either side. "Have I said things where I take a conservative view? Give me specifics," he said.
Kurtz lists several examples from Sammon's appearances on Fox since he became managing editor:
In his Fox appearances since his promotion last year, Sammon has been notably unsympathetic to the Obama administration. "The mainstream media hates the Tea Party movement almost as much as it hates Sarah Palin," he said this year. "And the reason is simple. That's because both are a threat." Less than a month after the president took office, Sammon said of the stimulus bill: "I think this has turned into a public-relations disaster for Obama. People look at this thing and see, you know, some mouses being protected in Pelosi's district, some rail lines being built in Harry Reid's state... I think as we get deeper into the details of this bill, it's going to get uglier and uglier. So yes, Obama won, but he won ugly."
Sammon has also accused Obama of making decisions that "take America off its war footing... the opposite of what the Bush and Cheney folks did in the wake of 9/11." And during a discussion of Iraq last year, he said: "That's the difference between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives have the intellectual honesty like Bill Kristol here to support both surges, whereas a lot of Democrats reflexively opposed George Bush's surge because--it wasn't so much because they were antiwar. It's because they wanted to destroy the Bush presidency."
And evidence that Sammon pushes a conservative viewpoint goes back much farther.
As we documented earlier this year, Sammon wrote numerous fawning books about the Bush administration, most of which were published by the Regnery Company, which describes itself as "central to the conservative movement" and "the nation's preeminent conservative publisher."
Sammon's books didn't really try to hide his viewpoint, and in fact were identified by reviewers as "conservative polemic" that show his "admiration" of President Bush:
But you don't have to take our word for it about Sammon's conservative bona fides, just ask two of Fox News' most prominent on-air personalities.
In a June 2001 interview on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly introduced Sammon by saying: "Mr. Sammon obviously is a conservative and coming from that point of view." Sammon did not object to O'Reilly designation.
More recently, on the August 2009 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co's Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace told Sammon that "I think it's fair to say you tilt conservative in your views." Once again, Sammon did not reject Wallace's characterization.
Is that "specific" enough, Mr. Sammon?
At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News' controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network's journalists not to use the phrase "public option."
Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox's reporters should use "government option" and similar phrases -- wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts.
Journalists on the network's flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier, appear to have followed Sammon's directive in reporting on health care reform that evening.
Sources familiar with the situation in Fox's Washington bureau have told Media Matters that Sammon uses his position as managing editor to "slant" Fox's supposedly neutral news coverage to the right. Sammon's "government option" email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox's reporting to the right -- in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.
As far back as March 2009, Fox personalities had sporadically referred to the "government option."
Two months prior to Sammon's 2009 memo, Republican pollster Frank Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity's August 18 Fox News program. Luntz scolded Hannity for referring to the "public option" and encouraged Hannity to use "government option" instead.
Luntz argued that "if you call it a 'public option,' the American people are split," but that "if you call it the 'government option,' the public is overwhelmingly against it." Luntz explained that the program would be "sponsored by the government" and falsely claimed that it would also be "paid for by the government."
"You know what," Hannity replied, "it's a great point, and from now on, I'm going to call it the government option."
On October 26, 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the inclusion of a public insurance option that states could opt out of in the Senate's health care bill.
That night, Special Report used "public" and "government" interchangeably when describing the public option provision.
Anchor Bret Baier referred to "a so-called public option"; the "public option"; "government-provided insurance coverage"; "this government-run insurance option"; the "healthcare public option"; and "the government-run option, the public option." Correspondent Shannon Bream referred to "a government-run public option"; "a public option"; "a government-run option"; and "the public option."
The next morning, October 27, Sammon sent an email to the staffs of Special Report, Fox News Sunday, and FoxNews.com, as well as to other reporters and producers at the network. The subject line read: "friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the 'public option.' "
Sammon instructed staff to refer on air to "government-run health insurance," the "government option," "the public option, which is the government-run plan," or -- when "necessary" -- "the so-called public option":
From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the "public option"
1) Please use the term "government-run health insurance" or, when brevity is a concern, "government option," whenever possible.
2) When it is necessary to use the term "public option" (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation's lexicon), use the qualifier "so-called," as in "the so-called public option."
3) Here's another way to phrase it: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."
4) When newsmakers and sources use the term "public option" in our stories, there's not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.
Fox's senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, soon replied. He thanked Sammon for his email and said that he preferred Fox staffers use Sammon's third phrasing: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."
This morning on Fox & Friends, The Daily Caller's Tucker Carlson discussed the potential repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell with host Brian Kilmeade and former DNC finance chair Robert Zimmerman. When Zimmerman asked Carlson what his excuse was for "not moving" on a repeal of DADT, Carlson explained that he is not opposed to repeal, but views it as "totally a sideshow issue" and a "stupid issue." Carlson also mocked the idea that it was "central to American national security."
Zimmerman explained that the US has a "shortage of Arabic translators," and that many have been dismissed under DADT, prompting Carlson to say "spare me."
Kilmeade, confused as always, chimed in with the question "if we repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, we'll have more Arabic translators? Most of them are gay?"
"Most translators are gay," Carlson joked, "and flamboyantly so." Watch:
Contrary to the smug dismissiveness of Carlson and Kilmeade, dozens of Arabic linguists have reportedly been dismissed from the military under DADT, in addition to more than 13,500 other service members. So, to answer Kilmeade's question: Yes, if we repeal DADT, we will have more Arabic translators.
Based on his website's editorial standards, Carlson's treatment of the issue on Fox this morning isn't much of a surprise. Last week, The Daily Caller published an odious column from Joe Rehyansky that included the "sarcastic comment" (since removed) that the military should allow lesbians - but not gay men - to serve in the military in order to give "straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream."
Yesterday, Fox Business host and Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show and joined Jones in pushing conspiracy theories about the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. Napolitano announced that "twenty years from now, people will look at 9-11 the way we look at the assassination of JFK today. It couldn't possibly have been done the way the government told us."
In the past, we've noted that Napolitano has lent his credibility -- and, by extension, Fox News' -- to Jones' show by helping Jones promote bizarre anti-government conspiracies. Jones is widely recognized as one of the leaders of the "9-11 Truth" movement. He also, among many other outlandish theories, believes a "New World Order" is going to exterminate 80% of the world's population.
While Napolitano's appearances with Jones have been problematic in the past, his foray into pushing 9-11 Truth conspiracies should - but, based on the network's refusal to reprimand on-air talent, likely won't - spell the end of Napolitano's Fox News career.
Did you know that Barack Obama and liberals hate America and don't understand why it is the best country ever?
I had never heard such groundbreaking analysis until I cracked open Sarah Palin's new book, but it's true - and Palin can even egregiously crop a comment by Obama to prove it.
In a chapter titled "America the Exceptional," Palin claims that "many of our national leaders no longer believe in American exceptionalism," and instead think that "America is just an ordinary nation and so America should act just like an ordinary nation."
They don't believe we have a special message for the world or a special mission to preserve our greatness for the betterment of not just ourselves but all of humanity. Astonishingly, President Obama even said that he believes in American exceptionalism in the same way "the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Which is to say, he doesn't believe in American exceptionalism at all. He seems to think it is just a kind of irrational prejudice in favor of our way of life. To me, that is appalling. [America By Heart, pg 69]
A few pages later, Palin laments Obama's "global apology tour" and yearns for a time when America was led by people that "are not embarrassed by America, who see our country's flaws but also its greatness."
The dishonesty of Palin's assessment of Obama's views on American exceptionalism is really staggering. Let's return to the half-sentence Obama quote she uses to prove that he views American exceptionalism as "just a kind of irrational prejudice in favor of our way of life."
Obama's remark that he believes in American exceptionalism in the same way "the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism" came in response to a question by Ed Luce of the Financial Times in April of 2009 about whether Obama subscribes to American exceptionalism.
While Palin quotes Obama's first sentence, she leaves out the rest of the statement in order to lie about Obama and contrast him with Presidents Reagan and Kennedy.
Earlier this year, Fox News televangelist Glenn Beck spent several months making a mockery of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
In the build-up to his 8-28 Restoring Honor rally, Beck repeatedly tried to co-opt King's legacy and portray himself and his followers as the true torchbearers of King and the civil rights movement.
In her new book America by Heart, Sarah Palin continues this shameful tradition by using MLK's words to attack Obama for seeking a "fundamental transformation" of our country. After (approvingly) citing then-candidate Obama's speech on race during the 2008 presidential campaign, Palin writes:
My only wish is that President Obama would follow through on this hopeful view of America. To want a better and brighter future for our country does not mean a rejection of our founding or a "fundamental transformation" of who we are. Instead it means following, in part, the wisdom of the most powerful American voice for civil rights of the twentieth century, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Famously, Dr. King called not for a rejection of America's founding principles, but for America to "rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed." [America by Heart, pg 32]
In a rare moment in which Palin and I agree wholeheartedly, she claims on the next page "it's a shame that not everyone wants to quote Dr. King these days."
Aside from repeatedly quoting King's "I Have a Dream speech" - while removing it from the historical context of the culmination of a march on Washington by civil rights and labor leaders not only to combat racial injustice, but also calling for massive federal intervention in the economy to fight economic injustice - conservatives like Palin and Beck like to ignore the balance of King's writings and speeches.
First of all, Palin spends much of her book railing against big government and spending, joining Beck in decrying people who want "handouts." King, on the other hand, spent much of his life explicitly calling for the government to fight poverty by redistributing our nation's wealth; called for an economic bill of rights guaranteeing a job to all Americans; wanted the government to ensure a "guaranteed national income"; and called for our country to "place the problems of the poor at the seat of government of the wealthiest nation in the history of mankind."
Surely by coincidence, three of the people most often listed as likely candidates for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination - Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich - have been spending some time in Iowa lately. Huckabee was in the state this past weekend, Palin is visiting Des Moines to promote her book this week (on News Corp's dime), and Gingrich swung by the state last week.
As we've noted, all three have benefited from their platform as Fox News employees, using their employment at the network to position themselves for possible presidential runs.
And a fourth Fox candidate, Rick Santorum, was interviewed by National Review Online last month about his increased presence in Iowa, during which he told the magazine that his role on Fox has "been big," and "helped folks remember who I am...it's a great platform, being able to talk about the current issues of the day."
In recent weeks, as likely 2012 candidates have begun to slowly transform into actual candidates, Fox finds itself in yet another ethical mess. While the network has claimed it will immediately end the contract of any employee that officially declares their candidacy, it's quite clear based on the actions of Santorum, Huckabee, Palin, and Gingrich, that they are at least dipping their toes in the 2012 pool - a reality acknowledged by Fox itself, which has admitted that Palin "certainly sounds like" she is running.
Now Mike Huckabee is joking to the Des Moines Register about wanting fellow Fox employee Sarah Palin's endorsement if he decides to run. If Fox had any concerns about ethics, they would immediately suspend the contracts of their employees that are exploring presidential runs.
But they don't, so they won't.