The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza baselessly criticized former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun safety efforts, claiming without evidence that Bloomberg's "persona could hurt" the campaign.
Bloomberg plans to spend $50 million this year "building a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence," The New York Times reported. Republican and Democratic officials, including President Bush's secretary of homeland security and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sit on the board of Bloomberg's new group, Everytown for Gun Safety, as do several prominent survivors and family members of victims of gun violence.
Responding to the news, Cillizza criticized Bloomberg for allegedly making himself "the face of his new gun violence push." Cillizza wrote that Bloomberg "doesn't fully grasp how he is viewed by many people outside of major cities and the Northeast," who supposedly see the former Mayor as "the living, breathing symbol of the sort of nanny government they loathe."
It's true that Bloomberg has been harshly criticized by conservative media outlets for his work as mayor of New York City. But Cillizza errs in conflating this "conservative vitriol" from critics like Michelle Malkin -- hard-right types who will never support a gun safety agenda -- with the views of the people Bloomberg "needs to convince."
As Cillizza himself notes, polling data doesn't bear out the contention that there's a massive wave of anti-Bloomberg sentiment. According to the 2013 poll Cillizza cites, roughly equal numbers of Americans view the former New York City mayor favorably or unfavorably, while slightly fewer haven't heard of him or have no opinion. Other polls likewise show no massive anti-Bloomberg movement of the type Cillizza suggests.
Cillizza claims Bloomberg's persona impedes his efforts with the Republican-leaning women Bloomberg "needs to convince" for his efforts to be successful. But he provides no evidence that a sizable number of those women see Bloomberg unfavorably -- or that any block of swing voters, moderates, or independents do so. Indeed, the proposals Bloomberg supports, such as universal background checks on firearms purchases, have overwhelming public support.
Cillizza's case study for the supposed opposition also doesn't hold up. He writes:
The more groups opposed to gun control are able to cast the effort to pass measures that would tighten said laws as the efforts of a New York City billionaire bent on telling you how to live your life, the less effective the effort will be. Look at how badly Virginias reacted when Bloomberg ran stings in the Commonwealth in 2007 and when he made comments in 2012 about how so many guns used in New York City came from Virginia. People don't like others telling them how to handle their business -- especially if that person is a billionaire New York City resident who wants to regulate things like sugar in soda.
Cillizza leaves out what happened in Virginia in 2013, when pro-gun safety candidates backed by millions in election spending from Bloomberg-supported groups were elected as the state's governor and attorney general. Either the people of Virginia weren't as opposed to Bloomberg as Cillizza thinks, or their opinion of him didn't matter as much as Cillizza thinks.
The Wall Street Journal is pushing the false narrative that Hillary Clinton is a hypocrite for taking sizable speaking fees while Democrats criticize inequality.
Since leaving public service as secretary of state, Clinton has followed in the footsteps of predecessors Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell by embarking on a nationwide speaking tour, reportedly receiving fees of more than $200,000 per appearance to speak to a variety of industry groups. She typically discusses her experience at State and takes questions from a moderator or the audience about current events. These engagements have come amid a flurry of media attention over whether Clinton will seek the presidency in 2016.
The Journal editorial board is using these appearances to attack Clinton and try to drive a wedge between her and the Obama administration. "We don't begrudge anyone making a buck," they write in an April 13 piece, "though it is amusing to see the Clintons getting rich off the same 1% that President Obama's Democratic Party blames for most of mankind's ills, at least in election years."
Conservatives have long sought to tar rich progressives as hypocrites for seeking to help the poor while being wealthy. But there is no inherent inconsistency between making money and opposing inequality -- what matters is the policies one espouses while doing both. If Clinton was calling for policies that enriched the 1 percent while making money hand over fist and decrying inequality, the Journal might have a point. But there is no evidence that is the case.
Clinton is not currently a candidate for office, and thus has not fleshed out a detailed policy platform. But a cursory review of her rhetoric and proposals from her 2008 presidential run shows that she both called attention to inequality and put forward policies intended to reduce it -- including tax increases that would have hit her own family.
In a 2007 speech laying out her vision of "shared prosperity," Clinton explained the need to "solve this growing problem of inequality" with "a new vision of economic fairness and prosperity for the 21st century." Her proposals included "return[ing] to the income tax rates for upper-income Americans that we had in the 1990s" as well as increased access to early childhood and college education, more support for job training, increasing the minimum wage, and increasing access to health care.
At the time, Bill and Hillary Clinton had made between $10 million and $20 million for the last several years, meaning that the tax increases Hillary Clinton was proposing would have impacted her own bottom line.
By contrast, while often speaking of the need to help the middle class, Sen. John McCain in 2008 and Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012 both put forward tax proposals that would have given huge tax breaks to wealthy families like their own.
It's those policies that are the key in determining hypocrisy, not personal wealth alone.
MSNBC military analyst and retired colonel Jack Jacobs pushed back against the conservative claim that all soldiers should be armed on U.S. military bases in a contentious head-to-head interview alongside pro-gun researcher John Lott.
Right-wing media have rushed to blame restrictions on the ability of soldiers to carry sidearms on military bases for the April 2 mass shooting at Fort Hood. But military veterans and base commanders, including Fort Hood's own commanding officer, have said that calls to expand access to firearms on bases are flawed.
Jacobs, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, added his voice to those critics during the April 4 edition of Jansing and Co.
"The situation that existed at Fort Hood the other day, in a circumstance in which everybody has weapons, could very easily result and probably would have resulted in an enormous mass fratricide, and you would have this all the time," said Jacobs. "Arming everybody in a civilian situation like at Fort Hood would result in a terrible, terrible tragedy, larger than this one."
Later in the segment, Lott repeatedly tried to interrupt Jacobs, with the MSNBC analyst responding, "Be quiet... please, don't be rude. Please, don't be rude... Be quiet."
Jacobs concluded: "No responsible commander would ever agree to arm all of his soldiers on post, that's all there is to it, and I know, I've commanded lots of troops in and out of combat."
A senator from each party criticized the notion -- heavily promoted by the right-wing media -- that President Obama's foreign policy somehow impelled Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Since Russia sent troops into Ukraine in late February, conservative media have suggested that the move was the result of the "weakness" of Obama's responses to events in Syria and Libya and suggests that he's lost "moral authority." Conservatives offered no such argument about Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia, which occurred during the Bush administration.
David Gregory highlighted this argument on the March 16 edition of NBC's Meet The Press, pointing out that Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer had criticized President Obama's actions toward Russia as "fruitless accommodationism." Gregory then asked his bipartisan panel if Obama's foreign policy "invite[s]" Russian President Vladimir Putin "to take the action he's taken ... when the president doesn't follow through in Syria."
Both Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin (IL) and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake (AZ), newly returned from Ukraine, pushed back on Krauthammer's criticism. Durbin said that "Mr. Krauthammer has a short memory," highlighting the similarities between the current crisis and Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia by asking, "What does Mr. Krauthammer say of the Bush administration in those days?" Flake agreed, saying that while he has been critical of President Obama in the past, "I don't think anything the president did or said lended itself to what Putin did here."
Earlier this week Fox News hosted the "professional dirty trickster" who founded an anti-Hillary Clinton group with the acronym "C.U.N.T." The day before, it was the attorney who pushed fabricated anti-Clinton stories in the 90s. Last month, it was the woman who has suggested the Clintons may have had her husband killed.
Fox has never had particularly high standards for who they put on air, and it appears there's no source too incredible for Fox to host as long as they are willing to smear the Clintons. And that list is long.
As Joe Conason and Gene Lyons detailed in their book The Hunting of the President, in the 1990s, an array of conservative operatives, right-wing journalists, and opportunists sought to drive the Clintons from the White House. Their backgrounds were often shady, their methods deceitful, and their claims fraudulent.
So who might be the next guest for a network with no standards and an urge to stop a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run? Some of these figures have gone on to extensive careers in the conservative media, while others haven't been in the public eye for decades.
But all have literally unbelievable stories to tell.
Gary Aldrich is a former FBI agent who wrote a 1996 book about his time inside the White House during the first three years of the Clinton administration. CNN described the book, produced by a right-wing publisher and flacked by a Republican operative, as filled with "second-hand, unsubstantiated sexual rumors about and bitter attacks against President and Mrs. Clinton," including ludicrous claims that President Clinton was regularly ditching his Secret Service detail for trysts at a downtown hotel (Aldrich later said that allegation was a "hypothetical"). Aldrich also wrote that on "orders from the First Lady's Office," the White House Christmas tree was decorated with crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia as well as sex toys and condoms (unsurprisingly, the White House denied the charge).
Aldrich used the notoriety from his book to become a professional conservative. He founded the right-wing Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty in 1997 to support federal whistleblowers (Linda Tripp was among the organization's first clients), but the bulk of the group's spending soon focused on raising money and paying Aldrich's salary. The group was largely silent during the Bush administration, but re-emerged to support tea party groups in 2010. Aldrich has written op-eds for TownHall and the Daily Caller.
Larry Nichols spent years at the heart of the conservative campaign to smear President Clinton. A former jingle writer who became a marketing consultant for the State of Arkansas, he was fired from the Arkansas Development Finance Authority in 1988 for making hundreds of phone calls to Nicaragua contra leaders and their American political supporters on the taxpayer's dime, and apparently held a grudge. Shortly before Bill Clinton's 1990 re-election as governor of Arkansas, Nichols held a press conference announcing he was suing Clinton for allegedly using state funds to conduct affairs with five women. All five women subsequently signed affidavits denying the claims and threatened to sue Nichols, who later issued a statement saying he had wrongfully issued the accusations because he was mad about being fired. But the incident nonetheless ushered in the right-wing focus on Bill Clinton's sex life.
Nichols, who described himself as "smut central" in a 1998 interview, spent years tracking down sketchy rumors about women who had had affairs with the president and trying to peddle them to everyone from supermarket tabloids to major newspapers. Last year, he offered a new explanation for why he had spent years trying to destroy the Clintons -- he claimed to have "beat up women and beat up husbands to protect the Clintons" and even "killed people" for them for money until they turned on him and he had to defend himself.
Fox News is complaining that President Obama is unwilling to face tough interviewers like Bill O'Reilly, who interviewed Obama six weeks ago.
Responding to President Obama's interview on the comedy website Funny or Die, host Gregg Jarrett claimed that President Obama's "critics are saying, look, the reason he's going for the softball interviews is because he cannot defend the indefensible, which is why he's avoiding anyone who would ask tough questions" on the March 14 edition of Happening Now. Contributor Judy Miller replied that Obama doesn't want to take "tough questions" from Fox News White House contributor Ed Henry or O'Reilly, adding, "he doesn't want to face those people."
Obama faced O'Reilly on February 2 for an interview. A portion of the interview aired live during pre-game coverage of the Super Bowl on Fox's broadcast network, while other portions aired on O'Reilly's Fox News show. O'Reilly used the interview to push Obama on the phony scandals his network has promoted.
The New York Times used the upcoming 2014 congressional elections to revive the lazy analysis that candidates who support stronger gun laws will be punished at the polls.
Since the 1994 election, the media -- often aided by flawed analysis from Democrats -- have baselessly claimed that an all-powerful National Rifle Association will motivate angry voters to defeat candidates who defy them.
This week the Times revived this tired claim when it suggested that the Democratic push for gun violence prevention is a political loser for the party:
Generally, however, the Democrats' Senate majority is at risk, which helps explain why the party has not tried to revive gun-safety legislation proposed after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. Few issues have hurt Democrats more among working-class white men over time.
While the Senate has not revived its gun-safety legislation after it failed to clear a procedural vote despite the support of 55 senators, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he plans to bring the bill back to the floor in 2014. Moreover, the Times' lazy analysis about the current political impact of stronger gun laws is simply unfounded.
Democratic Gun Policy Has Overwhelming Public Support. The policy that most Senate Democrats voted for in 2013 -- expanding the background check system to cover almost all gun sales - is incredibly popular with voters of all demographics, garnering support of up to 90 percent of respondents in several polls, even in deep red states. Even strong majorities of Republicans support the passage of the Senate bill.
Gun Safety Opponents Took A Political Hit After The Legislation Was Blocked. Senators of both parties who opposed the background check bill saw their political standing decline in the wake of their votes, including Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) -- who became "one of the most unpopular Senators in the country" after he told the mother of a victim of the Aurora theater shooting that he supported expanded background checks then voted against the bill -- along with Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). In each case, between 36 percent and 52 percent of voters said they'd be less likely to support their senator because of their vote.
Little Evidence Shows Guns Are An Electoral Loser For Democrats. While the myth that the NRA is capable of punishing Democrats who support stronger gun laws has been bandied about for two decades, a closer look at electoral results reveals that the group's impact is minimal. After reviewing the results of every House and Senate race in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, Paul Waldman determined that both the NRA's endorsement and its spending has virtually no impact on congressional election results. And despite spending more than it ever had before in 2012, the NRA's chosen candidates were devastated. The NRA failed to achieve its main goal, the defeat of President Obama, and also backed the losing Senate candidate in six out of its top seven targeted races. Over two-thirds of House incumbents who lost their seats were endorsed by the NRA. One study found that less than one percent of $10,536,106 spent by an NRA political group went to races where the NRA-backed candidate won.
A Pro-Gun Safety Candidate Won Virginia's Governorship in 2013. The 2013 gubernatorial elections provided an excellent test case for the theory that support for sensible gun laws damages Democratic candidates. In Virginia, a quintessential swing state in the South, Democrat Terry McAuliffe ran on his support of expanded background checks and defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who opposed that policy. Guns were a major issue in the campaign, to the surprise of media observers who considered it a loser for McAuliffe -- shortly before the election, The Washington Post wrote of him, "For once, a Democrat is talking tough about gun control, as if daring the National Rifle Association to take him on." McAuliffe wasn't the only Virginia Democrat to win statewide while championing stronger gun laws. After Mark Herring was elected Virginia's Attorney General, his campaign manager attributed the victory to ignoring the conventional wisdom and running on Herring's "strong record and advocacy for sensible gun legislation." Both Democrats withstood hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending from the NRA.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer distorted comments by Hillary Clinton to criticize her for "compar[ing]" Russian President Vladimir Putin with Adolf Hitler, even though Putin is not engaged in genocide. But Blitzer ignored Clinton's reported statement that while similarities to Hitler's actions are "what's gotten everybody so nervous" about Putin's recent actions, she believes Putin isn't "as irrational" as Hitler and that a diplomatic response is appropriate.
Clinton addressed Russia sending troops into Ukraine at a March 4 California fundraiser for the Long Beach Boys and Girls Club. According to the Long Beach Press Telegram, whose reporter attended the event, Clinton explained that Putin has been issuing Russian passports to people with Russian ethnicity who live in other countries in the region, including in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, and has claimed that he sent Russian troops to the region to protect those Russians who are supposedly in danger. Clinton reportedly explained that the similarity between this move and steps taken by Hitler in the 1930s is "what's gotten everybody so nervous":
Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the 30s... All the Germans that were ... the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous.
Clinton went on to say that "while that makes people nervous, there is no indication that Putin is as irrational as the instigator of World War II," according to Harry Saltzgaver, the executive editor of a California newspaper chain who also attended the event and spoke to Buzzfeed.
The former secretary of state also reportedly called for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine:
"So everybody is hoping that there will be a negotiation but a negotiation that respects Ukraine and doesn't ratify a reoccupation by Russia of Crimea," she said. "So it's a real nail-biter, right now, but nobody wants to up the rhetoric. Everybody wants to cool it in order to find a diplomatic solution and that's what we should be trying to do."
On CNN Newsroom, Blitzer criticized Clinton for comparing Putin to Hitler, while failing to note Clinton's full remarks. Blitzer said that "it is always a mistake to make these comparisons with Nazi Germany," adding that Putin "clearly he is not engaged in any activities at all along the lines of what Hitler was doing, including genocide, mass murder, and all of the occupations that he was engaged in." Neither Blitzer nor CNN's Brianna Keilar, who was featured in the segment, addressed Clinton's reported statements that Putin is not as irrational as Hitler and that she believes a diplomatic approach is appropriate.
Earlier today Media Matters reported on the racially-charged banquet roast for Sheriff Joe Arpaio that concluded the February 22 Western Conservative Conference in Phoenix, AZ. Arpaio's operations are currently subject to a federally-appointed monitor due to his use of racial profiling tactics as sheriff.
Media Matters' Alexander Zaitchik wrote:
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne laid down the basic comic framework for his fellow roasters, totaling a dozen conservative dignitaries of local and national reputation. "Apologies to the Civic Center," said Horne, "but half of the kitchen staff was arrested tonight upon arrival of Joe and his deputies. Because of a budget crunch, the sheriff's cutting way back. No more green baloney for prisoners -- just an extra beating at suppertime. Over the years, Joe's touched many people. We know because many are now pressing charges."
Chuckling throughout Horne's routine on stage next to Arpaio was Russell Pearce, a recalled state senator with a documented fondness for neo-Nazi websites, and the primary architect of Arizona's controversial immigration bill S.B. 1070. Pearce smiled as his one-time ally in the 1070 fight, Arizona State Rep. John Kavanagh, began his set asking, "How many Hispanics did you pull over on the way over here, Arpaio?" He later added, "All these years I figured he was rounding up Hispanics because you had a grudge from [fighting in] the Spanish-American War. But if you were in the Korean War, how come you're not rounding up Asians?" Kavanagh was doing a bit about the difficulties of dining out with Arpaio -- "When we go into a restaurant, most of the wait staff and cooks dive out the back window" -- when he spotted a passing waiter who appeared to be Hispanic holding a platter of stuffed chickens, and screamed, "There's a brave one! Get him!Sic 'em!"
The crowd roared; the waiter turned red.
Kavanaugh has since come under fire for his commentary during the roast about Latinos, Asians, and Muslims.
KFYI radio's Jim Sharpe was master of ceremonies for the event. Other roasters included Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, actor Steven Seagal, and the current and past chairmen of the Arizona GOP. Here's the program for the roast, which describes Arpaio as "the light on the hill for other counties, states and countries to emulate":
Here's the full audio of the event, which began with Frank Sinatra's "My Way" played over a video montage of Arpaio's career followed by nearly two hours of racist jokes and other hijinks:
The Daily Caller currently has a "2016 Bombshell" splashed across its front page -- the conservative website claims that while the "chattering class" is certain that Hillary Clinton is planning to run for president in 2016, "whispers persist" that she will decline a run for office. Caller political reporter Alex Pappas amasses an array of slipshod claims from even less credible sources to string together his case.
The Caller often runs poorly-sourced hit-jobs aimed at damaging progressives and garnering traffic. Here's the evidence on which the Caller is basing its story, which puts a Clinton spokesman's statement that she is "100%" up against four uses of the word "rumors" and three uses of "skeptics" or "skeptical."
In the story's third graph, Pappas unveils what is apparently his most compelling evidence that Clinton's health is in jeopardy -- two supermarket tabloids have reported it:
These ubiquitous rumors of her health have been fueled in part by the supermarket tabloids. The National Enquirer wrote in 2012 that Clinton had brain cancer, something a spokesman dismissed then as "absolute nonsense." In January of this year, the Globe claimed that Clinton secretly had a brain tumor.
That Globe story cites a "close source" saying that Bill Clinton has been telling Hillary that "they need to think long and hard about" her doctors' supposed warnings that she would not survive a presidential campaign. Which is weird, because back in September The Globe was reporting that Hillary was going to divorce Bill -- who, according to the story, is "dying" -- after he recently tried to "hook up" with Gennifer Flowers. And because in August, The Globe was reporting that Hillary's presidential plans were doomed after video emerged of her "steamy romps -- with another woman!"
In any case, the supermarket tabloids are old news -- they came out one month and fourteen months ago. So why is the Caller running the story now? The closest thing Pappas has to a news hook -- the only data point in the story from within the last month -- is a February 24 tweet from Roger Stone, identified as a "GOP consultant," claiming that Clinton is "not running for health reasons." Stone, who has been called a "professional dirty trickster and high priest of political hijinks" by the conservative Weekly Standard, is not someone to be taken seriously where Clinton is concerned -- in 2008 he founded the anti-Hillary Clinton 527 group Citizens United Not Timid, which emphasized its acronym on its website and on T-shirts.
The balance of the story goes back over Clinton's health scare in December 2012, when she suffered a concussion and doctors subsequently found a blood clot in her head, from which they said she made a "full recovery." At the time, conservatives claimed that she had fabricated her "immaculate concussion" as a means of avoiding scheduled congressional hearings on Benghazi. Since then, Clinton has stepped down as Secretary of State, begun a campaign to accelerate global progress for women and girls at the foundation her husband founded, and embarked on a vigorous series of speeches around the world.
The phony concussion "rumor" has faded away, so the Caller has made up a new one. And Pappas apparently did the job his employer is looking for - his story got a Drudge Report link, and Caller reporters are paid in part based on traffic. This brand of conservative rumormongering is shoddy, but apparently it pays.
This post has been updated for clarity.