Washington Post columnist George Will deepened his ethically challenged connections to big-money conservative groups by participating in an Americans for Prosperity summit where prominent Republican presidential hopefuls made their pitch to major donors.
Will's attendance at the Koch-backed group's annual convention comes after he spent months promoting Koch-backed candidates for public offices and advancing Koch-backed policy issues in his syndicated column.
On August 31, Politico reported that Will was part of an "exclusive group of major donors and VIPs" who "dined privately" at AFP's eighth annual Defending the American Dream summit. According to Politico, the summit "has become an increasingly important stop for aspiring GOP presidential candidates." In previous years, Will has also spoken at the summit and been given AFP's highest honor, the George Washington Award.
Will's cozy relationship with AFP has not been disclosed in any of his recent columns promoting key Republican candidates for Congress or governorships, who have benefited from AFP's ad spending. Using his platform at The Washington Post, Will has promoted Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, suggesting that she is "the GOP's best answer to the so-called war on women" and contrasting her with Sandra Fluke, whom he smeared as "a professional victim and virtuoso whiner." Will argued that by electing Land, Michigan voters would be able "to show what they think of 'war on women' hysterics as a substitute for thought." Like Will, AFP supports Land and, as Will noted, has already spent $5 million on her behalf. Will did not note his connections to the group.
Will has similarly promoted North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis' candidacy for the Senate, parroting his anti-Obamacare campaign advertisements in a May 30 column. Will defended Tillis against charges that he is an "establishment" moderate by praising his conservative credentials: "Tillis has been an enthusiastic enactor and implementer of the conservatism that North Carolinians voted for." Will noted that AFP has spent $8 million on advertising attacking Tillis' opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan. Charles Koch and his family have also maxed out their contributions to Tillis, and he received a $5,000 donation from the Koch Industries PAC.
Will has profiled Republican Bruce Rauner, who is running to be governor of Illinois, framing the election as a choice between Rauner's push for term limits and his "vows to change the state's fundamental affliction --its political culture" and "the acceleration of stagnation" under the Democratic incumbent, Pat Quinn. AFP has spent at least $120,000 attacking Quinn.
Will also supported the candidacy of Monica Wehby in Oregon. In a July 25 column, he argued that since she has spent 17 years as a pediatric neurosurgeon, "She probably can cope with the strains of legislative life." He cited her "two X chromosomes," opposition to abortion rights, and support of marriage equality to claim she "complicates the Democratic Party's continuing accusation that Republicans wage 'war on women.' " Will also suggested that Wehby isn't too extreme for Oregon because she "won 50 percent of the vote in a five-candidate primary in which her rivals accused her of moderation." The Koch-affiliated group Freedom Partners, which Politico called the "Koch brothers' secret bank," plans to spend $3.6 million on Wehby's race.
Organizations that receive large amounts of Koch funding have also been prominently mentioned in Will's recent columns. Will twice hyped the work of the Institute for Justice, which relied on Charles Koch for seed money, and has since received more than $1 million in money from Koch-backed groups. Will dedicated another column to pushing the Goldwater Institute's effort to create a balanced budget amendment. The group has received more than $1.6 million in donations from Koch-affiliated groups.
Will also offered praise for U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa, who halted a criminal investigation into possible illegal coordination between the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and outside groups during a recall election. Walker has benefited from more than $10 million in spending by AFP.
Will has previously had problems with nondisclosure. Will has been criticized by media ethicists and veteran journalists for citing groups that are funded by the Bradley Foundation without disclosing that he is a paid board member of that organization. Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University's College of Communications and former Miami Herald editor, stated that Will's acceptance of an award from the Bradley Foundation "signaled his alignment with its philosophy." Washington and Lee University journalism professor Ed Wasserman said that Will's failure to disclose the relationship was "[o]f course" a problem, explaining that even though Will is known to be a conservative, readers should know if Will's commentary is "independently arrived at rather than a reflection of a nexus of relationships and entanglements that he is embedded in."
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade falsely claimed that an immigration ruling allowing a victim of domestic violence in Guatemala to pursue an asylum claim in the U.S. would allow Guatemalans "to get instant U.S. citizenship as well as our benefits" while an on-screen graphic read "Opening the Border." In fact, an immigration judge must still review the request for asylum in this specific case, and even if immigrants are granted asylum, they face a years-long path to gaining citizenship.
Right-wing media outlets criticized the Obama administration over news that three administration officials planned to attend shooting victim Michael Brown's funeral, citing the myth that the White House failed to send representation to the funeral of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, who was killed in Afghanistan -- In reality, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attended the two star general's service.
Fox News selectively clipped Attorney General Eric Holder's Ferguson, Missouri, statement on the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown to accuse him of taking sides against the police in the coming Justice Department investigation -- though Holder explicitly noted that, "as a father of a teenage son" and "as the brother of a retired law enforcement officer," he understands both sides.
Days after selectively editing a statement from President Obama to claim the administration is "choosing sides" in Ferguson, Fox tried the same tactic with Holder. The network aired a deceptively clipped portion of Holder's July 21 statement about his visit to the town, which has been the center of national attention since unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed by an officer of the St. Louis County Police Department.
On Fox & Friends, Fox host Steve Doocy said the clip showed Holder "personally claiming that he understood the public's mistrust toward the police" in a way that may "inflame racial tension." Doocy suggested that "there's been a rush to judgment" by Holder and the administration. Fox News contributor Linda Chavez agreed that Holder was "basically picking a side." She went on to argue that the administration has been "playing the race card" and exploiting the black community for political gain:
CHAVEZ: I do think there's something going on. I think it's politics, it's all about domestic politics. I think it's an exploitation of the black community. I think it is playing the race card and I think it's disgraceful.
The full context of Holder's statement contradicts Fox's narrative that Holder has already sided with critics of the Ferguson police. The portion of the statement that Fox aired came immediately after Holder noted that felt personally affected by the tensions in Ferguson because he understood both sides on a personal level.
Holder said that, "[a]s the brother of a retired law enforcement officer," he understood the " tremendous threats and significant personal risk" that police who "lives on the line every day" have to factor into rapid decision-making, but also noted that "as a father of a teenage son myself" he understands the community's need for answers.
What's more, Holder's comments following the portion Fox aired go on to condemn the violence in Ferguson, with Holder stating, "I hope the relative calm that we witnessed overnight last night can be enduring. To a person yesterday, the people I met with, take great pride in their town and despite the mistrust that exists, they reject the violence that we have seen over the past couple of weeks."
Here's a longer version of Holder's statement, from CNN (the portion Fox aired is in bold):
Now although our investigation will take time, and although I cannot discuss the specifics of this case in greater detail since it remains open and very active, the people of Ferguson can have confidence in the federal agents, investigators and prosecutors who are leading this process. Our investigation will be fair, it will be thorough, and it will be independent.
On a personal note, I've seen a lot in my time as attorney general but few things have affected me as greatly as my visit to Ferguson. I had the chance to meet with the family of Michael Brown. I spoke to them not just as attorney general, but as a father of a teenage son myself. They, like so many in Ferguson, want answers. In my conversations with dozens of people in Ferguson yesterday, it was clear that this shooting incident has brought to the surface underlying tensions that have existed for many years. There is a history to these tensions and that history simmers in more communities than just Ferguson.
Law enforcement has a role to play in reducing tensions as well. As the brother of a retired law enforcement officer, I know firsthand that our men and women in uniform perform their duties in the face of tremendous threats and significant personal risk. They put their lives on the line every day and they often have to make split-second decisions.The national outcry we have seen speaks to a sense of mistrust and mutual suspicion that can take hold in the relationship between law enforcement and certain communities.
I wanted the people of Ferguson to know that I personally understood that mistrust. I wanted them to know that while so much else may be uncertain, this attorney general and this Department of Justice stands with the people of Ferguson.I hope the relative calm that we witnessed overnight last night can be enduring. To a person yesterday, the people I met with, take great pride in their town and despite the mistrust that exists, they reject the violence that we have seen over the past couple of weeks.
In that sense, while I went to Ferguson to provide' assurance, in fact, they gave me hope. My commitment to them is that long after this tragic story no longer receives this level of attention, the Justice Department will continue to stand with Ferguson. We will continue the conversation this incident has sparked about the need for trust building between law enforcement officers and the communities that they serve, about the appropriate use of force, and the need to ensure fair and equal treatment for everyone who comes into contact with the police.
Conservative media figures have wrongly accused Muslim groups and leaders of failing to denounce the violent acts of the terrorist group the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), despite the fact that numerous Muslim religious authorities, advocacy groups, and Imams have come together to denounce the Islamic State's un-Islamic crimes against humanity.
Fox News deceptively edited a clip of President Obama's statement on demonstrations following the shooting death of Michael Brown to suggest Obama is "choosing sides" and has "set an atmosphere" for discord and violence. In fact, Obama emphasized the importance of both "a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest."
Obama addressed the tense protests that followed the death of Brown -- an unarmed teen who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri -- in an August 15 statement that called for "healing," "peace and calm."
The August 15 edition of Fox & Friends promptly suggested Obama may have gone too far by noting that there is "no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters." In a teasing segment, an on-air graphic asked if the president was "choosing sides." Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. later argued that Obama "may have chosen a side too quickly with regard to this issue of excessive force." Though Johnson acknowledged that Obama "did to some extent" invoke reason, he concluded that "the shadings in his statements ... set an atmosphere -- unfortunately, I think -- for continued discord and possibly violence in such a community":
JOHNSON: Well, I don't know if he jumped in too quickly. He may have chosen a side too quickly with regard to this issue of excessive force and with regard to the police being an assaultive force on protesters. What I expect, and I think a lot of Americans expect, is the president to invoke the rule of law, to invoke reason. He did to some extent. But if you look at the shadings in his statements, he's clearly made a statement that the police were acting in an excessive way, that they were violating rights not only of the protesters, but of reporters on the scene. So when you do so, you set a scene and you set an atmosphere --unfortunately, I think -- for continued discord and possibly violence in such a community.
But the portion of Obama's statement that Fox & Friends aired during the segment was deceptively clipped to hide the fact that Obama also condemned "violence against police" as well as "excessive force against peaceful protests." Fox spliced together the Obama's comments that "I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we've seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting" and "There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests," skipping over the portion of his statement that condemned violence against police (the portions Fox aired are in bold):
Now, second, I want to address something that's been in the news over the last couple of days and that's the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we've seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting. Today, I'd like us all to take a step back and think about how we're going to be moving forward.
There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests, or to throw protestors in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. And here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground. Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority.
I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That's part of our democracy. But let's remember that we're all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law; a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest; a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us; and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.
So now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.
Even Fox News' Geraldo Rivera disagreed with this assessment. In a later segment, he pushed back against a similar suggestion from Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, noting that Obama "tried his best to do a measured presentation."
Right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham baselessly suggested that Muslims aren't condemning the violent tactics employed by the extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), though in reality many prominent Muslim voices have strongly denounced the group.
Recent news reports have documented shocking acts of terror that have made ISIS the "most feared organization in the Middle East." The group has warned Christians that they must either "convert to Islam or die," and according to Secretary of State John Kerry, its "grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide."
During an August 11 conversation about ISIS' threats against Iraqi Christians with the National Review's Nina Shea, Laura Ingraham claimed that few, if any, Muslims have spoken out against the group:
INGRAHAM: And it would be nice if more in the Muslim world coming out and condemning what the Islamic State is doing. You're not hearing enough of those voices, if any. I mean, where are those people?
But in reality, many Islamic leaders have strongly denounced ISIS, and thousands more Muslims have gathered to promote messages of peace.
Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation which represents 1.4 billion Muslims in 57 countries around the world, condemned ISIS' threats against Christians in Iraq, saying the "forced deportation under the threat of execution" is a "crime that cannot be tolerated." In an interview with Reuters, Turkey's highest ranking cleric, Mehmet Gormez, similarly decried ISIS' threats against Christians and argued that the statements were damaging to the Muslim community: "Islamic scholars need to focus on this (because) an inability to peacefully sustain other faiths and cultures heralds the collapse of a civilization."
In a July 7 statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called ISIS' actions "un-Islamic and morally repugnant." CAIR noted that the group's "human rights abuses on the ground are well-documented" and called on other Muslim community leaders to speak out against the violence. The Muslim Council of Great Britain's Shuja Shafi also said: "Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion. It is prohibited for people to present themselves for destruction."
A day after politicizing the current West African Ebola crisis in order to stoke baseless fears that immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border could spread the disease to Americans, radio host Laura Ingraham flipped to criticizing the media for taking advantage of the crisis by whipping up "hysteria" about the crisis without consulting experts to put the situation in context.
Two American health workers who were infected with the Ebola virus while fighting the ongoing epidemic in West Africa recently returned to the U.S. for treatment. Radio host Laura Ingraham took advantage of the news to ratchet up her efforts to smear Central American immigrants and push back against immigration reform. On the August 4 edition of her radio show, Ingraham cautioned her viewers about the supposed health risks of having "a border that's so much like Swiss cheese that anyone could be coming across the border right now," and warned: "We could have Ebola people coming across the border right now." Ingraham concluded, "If you're going to be upset about Ebola, you'd better be upset about the border."
These comments stand in stark contrast to Ingraham's August 5 coverage of the Ebola outbreak. Ingraham bemoaned the fact that media outlets are whipping up "hysteria" with extensive ebola coverage and attacked the media for stoking baseless fears about the potential spread of the virus while neglecting to talk "to medical experts about what the truth is about infectious diseases, the spread of this, what measures we take and what measures aren't taken in Africa to deal with this."
But Ingraham's own coverage conspicuously avoided the facts she called for. The suggestion that, in Ingraham's words, "Ebola people" could be "coming across the border right now" has already gotten a "pants on fire" rating from Politifact, which actually contacted experts on the issue. As Politifact noted, the CDC reports that "There is no Ebola in the Western Hemisphere," and it is "extremely unlikely" that a migrant entering the U.S. across the Mexican border could be infected. Experts also noted that even if the illness spread to central America, an infected person would unlikely to survive the journey across the border:
Experts we asked issued a resounding "No."
First, we checked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose job includes tracking outbreaks of serious infectious diseases. Spokesman Daniel J. DeNoon confirmed that the CDC has received no reports of a human Ebola infection anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, much less the U.S.-Mexico border. "Ebola cases in humans have never been reported outside of Africa," DeNoon said.
William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agreed. "The congressman is misinformed," he said. "There is no Ebola in the Western Hemisphere."
We also checked whether it was plausible for a child or adult entering the United States from Central America via Mexico to be infected with the Ebola virus. CDC scientists call it "extremely unlikely," DeNoon said.
Independent experts agreed. "It's very, very, highly unlikely if you are talking about someone from Central America who has not traveled to Africa," Thomas W. Geisbert, a microbiologist and immunologist specializing in Ebola at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
However, the profile of the jet-flying Ebola carrier doesn't mesh with the types of peoples now flocking to the U.S. border.
"The incubation period is two to 21 days, so theoretically, an African could fly from an infected area, land in a Mexican airport, take a bus toward the border, hire a coyote to take him across and then 'present' with Ebola," said Thomas Fekete, section chief for infectious diseases at the Temple University School of Medicine. "But this presupposes a suicidal person who also has the resources for this kind of travel."
Indeed, the prior, scattered examples of exotic and deadly diseases reaching the United States suggest that "the likelihood of an illegal migrant getting infected and introducing the disease to the U.S. is probably less than that of a 'legal' traveler," said Daniel G. Bausch, head of the virology and emerging infections department at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No.6 in Lima, Peru.
Another problem: If you had such an infection, the chances are good that you would die on the journey to the United States, said Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "You would be too sick to make it to the border by foot," he said.
Ingraham has a history of stoking fears of communicable disease in order to push her anti-immigration agenda.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly is under pressure to apologize for his inflammatory comments on "ghetto neighborhoods" and black culture. These recent comments follow a long history of O'Reilly, the self-styled culture warrior, using his platform at Fox to lecture the black community and hearken back to a time when society functioned more smoothly because white culture was unified. O'Reilly portrays himself as the moral and intellectual authority on how to solve the problems he says plague black communities and black culture, decrying "race hustlers" and prescribing harmful "solutions" to issues like the mass incarceration of black men.
Here's a look at how O'Reilly talks about the black community's "culture":
Fox News is recycling old news about a 1998 plan to kill Osama bin Laden, calling recently released audio of Clinton discussing decisions not to pursue the plan as "disturbing" and "sickening." In reality, the 9-11 Commission detailed this very plan in its report years ago, reporting that top military and intelligence officials worried it would have resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and would not have succeeded in killing bin Laden.