In December 2012, BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins reported that in the wake of their devastating electoral defeat, Republicans were looking to "break their Fox addiction" by working with mainstream outlets, not just conservatives ones. "As operatives are increasingly realizing," Coppins wrote, "many of these outlets have limited reach beyond the fervent Republican base, and the talking points politicians declaim often resonate only in the conservative echo chamber."
A year and a half later, the reaction to Coppins' latest piece shows one roadblock to GOP efforts to reach out to mainstream media and the voters who don't get their news from ideological sources: a jealous right-wing media that wants increased access to Republican leaders.
Coppins' April 28 BuzzFeed profile chronicled how Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is "doing something rather unprecedented for a Republican: He is spending unchoreographed time with poor people," purportedly in order to inform his policy-making in that arena. The BuzzFeed writer was given exclusive access to Ryan during one such trip to visit the impoverished. His article drew swift criticism from progressives who said that Coppins credulously accepted Ryan's rhetoric on the issue while downplaying the impact that the massive cuts to poverty-fighting programs in Ryan's budget would have on the poor if it were implemented.
But right-wing outlets have a very different critique of the article: They think it made Ryan look bad, proving that he never should have cooperated with Coppins in the first place.
Breitbart's Matthew Boyle writes that Ryan "comes across as a deeply awkward millionaire paralyzed by political correctness as he struggles to identify with a black church congregation," citing two anecdotes from the piece. He concludes that Ryan's aides should not have granted Coppins access in the first place. The idea that the Republican congressman from Wisconsin might actually have been awkward in that situation goes unmentioned, with the implication that if Boyle had been the one traveling with Ryan, he'd have reported a more flattering piece.
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt likewise writes that the Coppins profile did not "do much or even any good" for Ryan, and bemoans how Republican press aides "resist having their bosses sit down with their natural allies in the center-right press" instead of giving access to mainstream reporters. He provides a list of reporters at The Daily Caller, TownHall.com, the Weekly Standard, and The Washington Free Beacon, concluding, "Don't ask me why they were not invited along with Ryan but McKay was. Part of the ongoing epic fail of Beltway GOP communications strategy. Hopefully it will change before 2016 arrives."
Boyle and Hewitt are criticizing Ryan for following a strategy that Republican operatives had identified as necessary to improve the party's national standing and win presidential elections.
The Republican National Committee's analysis of the 2012 election found that if the GOP wanted to win national elections, it had to change the minds of voters who believe the party "does not care about people," particularly those living in poverty. Ryan's effort to speak out on poverty seems consistent with that report's advice.
But as the operatives Coppins spoke with in 2012 pointed out, it's difficult to shift the poverty narrative if Republicans only talk about the issue with conservative reporters, as Hewitt and Boyle suggest.
Of course conservative journalists will always want more access and scoops. But demanding them at the expense of mainstream outlets traps the GOP between their conservative media supporters and their desire to win elections.
Fox News is distorting a memo used to prepare an Obama administration official for media appearances to falsely suggest that the administration was lying about the Benghazi attacks for political gain.
On September 16, 2012, five days after the September 11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday political talk shows and suggested that the terror attacks had grown out of spontaneous protests. At the time, there were riots at American facilities across the Muslim world, inspired by an anti-Islam video. Since then, conservatives led by Fox News have claimed that Rice's comments on the Sunday shows were part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks, to bolster President Obama's re-election campaign. This effort has often involved distorting the CIA-approved talking points that Rice used to prepare for the interviews.
On April 29, Fox renewed these claims, seizing on a newly released September 14, 2012 email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes to other key national security aides -- which details goals for the Sunday interviews and a series of potential questions and answers -- that was released under public records law by the conservative group Judicial Watch. Over on-screen text which claimed "New Benghazi Documents Lead Directly To The White House," Fox correspondent Catherine Herridge highlighted that according to the email, one of the goals for Rice's appearances was "To underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video and not a broader failure of policy." She concluded that Fox had asked the White House "for comment on the Rhodes email, and what intelligence led to that conclusion that somehow an Internet video was responsible for the protests in Benghazi."
But contrary to Herridge's contention, the Rhodes email reveals nothing new. It is consistent with other intelligence briefings circulating at the time which have already been well-documented, and discusses a wide range of issues, not just Benghazi -- in fact, the specific comment Fox highlighted was an accurate depiction of the multiple riots occurring in the region at the time. When the email was sent, there were global anti-American protests in response to the video, often violent, many of which targeted U.S. diplomatic security posts, including in Egypt, Indonesia, Qatar, Pakistan, Sudan, Bangladesh, and Yemen.
In his twenty paragraph email advising Rice on her upcoming TV appearances, Rhodes made only two direct references to Benghazi -- first highlighting support from the Libyan government for U.S. diplomatic efforts in the country, and later debunking the false claim that there was any "actionable intelligence" prior to the attack on the facility in Benghazi and stating that "the currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex." That language is identical to the initial draft of the separate set of CIA talking points that were crafted by CIA analysts earlier that day, suggesting that Rhodes had seen that early document and was using it to ensure the administration's statements were consistent with the intelligence community's conclusions.
A bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released in January 2014 stated that "[s]ome intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day's violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video." Indeed, former CIA acting director Mike Morrell has testified that the CIA chief of station in Libya believed at the time that the video might have motivated the attackers. The Senate report also determined that "there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes" -- a reality that Fox has refused to accept.
Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, praised lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's actions in a sparsely attended speech outside the National Rifle Association's annual meeting.
"I think that this is a very positive development that came out of the confrontation out on that ranch," said Pratt, who regularly sits for credulous interviews with mainstream media outlets. "And hopefully we will look back on what happened there as a turning point in modern American history. The American people are saying 'Enough, no farther.'"
After Bundy refused for decades to pay the government fees required for his cattle to graze on public land, federal officials attempted to execute court orders to confiscate and sell the cattle to pay off the more than $1 million he owes the public. Bundy became a right-wing folk hero after he threatened violence against those officials, drawing the support of both conservatives in the media and hundreds of armed men -- including militia extremists -- who descended on Bundy's ranch, triggering an armed standoff with the government.
When the government stopped the confiscation fearing an outbreak of violence, Bundy's supporters cheered, but most of those allies abandoned him last week after The New York Times reported Bundy's racist comments, in which he questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy."
But on April 26 Pratt praised the rancher's standoff with the Bureau of Land Management, which he described as "an illegitimate entity" whose employees "shouldn't have guns, not as government officials." He linked the event to the surge in sheriffs who have said they will refuse to enforce expanded federal or state gun laws.
"I think we really are hopefully on an upswing," he said to a group of roughly 20 onlookers, including a Media Matters reporter. "We are seeing, finally, a proper, legitimate, lawful response to illegitimate, unlawful exercise of government power, particularly on the federal level."
Pratt frequently appears in the media as an advocate for gun rights, most recently responding to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's expanded gun safety efforts in a New York Times article earlier this month. The Times profiled Pratt and his "upstart group" that takes positions "farther right" than the NRA in April 2013, featuring praise from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Dean Heller (R-NV), and reported that the organization has been successful in "freezing senators, particularly Republicans" from taking positions in support of gun violence prevention legislation.
But Pratt also has a long record of anti-government extremism; he was forced out of his position as co-chair of Pat Buchanan's 1996 presidential run following the "disclosure that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements," as the Times reported at the time. More recently, he has suggested that the shooting at the Aurora, CO, movie theater may have been staged and flirted with the claim that the Sandy Hook shooting was a government "programmed event" designed to build support for stronger gun laws.
Pratt's speech came during a "Safety & Self-Protection Showcase" held in the park across the street from the Indiana Convention Center, where 70,000 members of the NRA were meeting this weekend. The event was sponsored by groups including Moms With Guns Demand Action, Gun Rights Across America, American Gun Rights, Indiana Moms Against Gun Control, 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control, 2A Friendly, and Armed American Women. Other speakers included Jan Morgan of Armed American Women, Indiana state representative Jim Lucas, Doc Greene of Raging Elephants Radio, and Nikki Goeser, author of "Denied A Chance."
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre took the stage today at his organization's most important event of the year and delivered a paranoid rant virtually identical to the one he gave to conservative activists last month.
LaPierre was speaking during the Leadership Forum at the NRA's Annual Meeting and Exhibits. Thousands of NRA members pay $10 to see LaPierre and other NRA and Republican leaders at what is billed by the group as "one of the NRA's premier events of the year."
But LaPierre apparently could not be bothered to come up with a new pitch for his members, instead delivering a speech virtually identical to the one he gave at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 6.
During the CPAC speech, LaPierre acknowledged that some attendees might not be NRA members and urged them to join. During the NRA speech, he responded to a recent development. The remainder of the speeches were word-for-word the same.
Media Matters compared the text versions of both speeches posted on the NRA website, and found that both speeches contained LaPierre's trademark paranoia in identical passages -- LaPierre's fearmongering that America is becoming too dangerous for children to play outside; his claim that Americans are buying guns because of "reckless government actions" and because the "entire fabric of society" is in jeopardy; his description of the national media as one of the nation's "greatest threats"; his assertion that people need unlimited firearms to stand up to "knockout gamers" and "haters"; and his declaration that the NRA "will not go quietly into the night."
Here are the only substantive differences between the speeches.
LaPierre opened his CPAC speech by saying (differences bolded):
It's great to be here today, thanks for having me. I really appreciate your warm welcome.
There must be some NRA members out there! To each of you, I thank you for being here with me and for your support and vigilance in defending our freedom. You and NRA members all over the country have made a real difference in making this nation and our freedoms safer.
By contrast, in his NRA speech he said:
Welcome to this great celebration of American freedom! It's great to be here today and I really appreciate your warm welcome.
To all of you NRA members, I want to thank you with all my heart for your support and vigilance in defending our freedom. You and NRA members all over the country have made a real difference in making this nation and our freedoms safer.
On two occasions, LaPierre urged CPAC attendees to join the NRA, a call that was presumably unnecessary at the organization's annual meeting. From the CPAC speech, with text not also appearing in the NRA speech bolded:
So I'll put it to you -- do you believe in that declaration of individual liberty? Come on, let me hear you! Are you willing to stand and fight for your rights?
There are two things I need you to do. First, go to the NRA booth, right here at CPAC, and sign your name to a Declaration of Individual Rights. Sign that declaration today and add your name to millions of patriotic Americans just like you. Second, stand behind your declaration -- back it up -- by joining the NRA. America needs you as part of an even larger, stronger, tougher NRA. It's how you resist and tell the world that you're going to fight and protect everything you care about.
Then later in the CPAC speech:
Those NRA members -- those great Americans -- THEY are the real muscle of NRA's clout. Become one of THEM.
Join us and together we will stand and fight and win and take back our country. Stand up right now and you tell me, do you want to save this country and all that is good about America?
During his NRA speech, LaPierre responded to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement earlier this month that he will spend $50 million on gun safety efforts this year, playing a video that asked members to donate to the NRA. Text that did not also appear in his previous CPAC speech is bolded:
But mark my words. The NRA will not go quietly into the night. We will fight.
Now, some of you may have heard about Michael Bloomberg. Last week, he gave a big interview to The New York Times and the Today show.
Bloomberg vowed to spend $50 million to beat us in November. He said he would do everything he could with all of his $50 million to confront and defeat the NRA. Well, here's our response.
This election will be won or lost on every street, every corner, in every coffee shop or store or church in America -- where every NRA member lives and works and volunteers and campaigns.
Conservatives are cheering S.E. Cupp's false claim that the gun safety coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) has "crumbled" with its member mayors fleeing in droves.
Last week former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he plans to spend $50 million on gun safety efforts, in part through the new group Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella organization that merges MAIG and the grassroots organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety in America.
During an appearance on ABC's This Week, Cupp, a host for both CNN and Glenn Beck's network The Blaze, claimed that "Mayors Against Illegal Guns has crumbled because he duped mayors into thinking they were actually going to fight illegal guns. And when they all found out actually they were going after law abiding gun owners, they said that's not what I want to be a part of. His efforts are duplicitous and they're measurably failing." Cupp's remarks were subsequently trumpeted across the right-wing media.
In fact, MAIG currently counts as members "a bipartisan group of more than 1,000 current and former mayors from nearly every state." While some mayors have left the group over the years -- at times while seeking the Republican nomination for higher office -- MAIG's overall membership has dramatically increased in recent years, from 15 mayors at its founding to 450 members in 2009 to roughly 850 in January 2013 to its current level.
Likewise, Cupp's claim that the gun safety effort is "failing" ignores reality. While federal legislation received a majority vote in the Senate but was blocked by a filibuster last year, gun safety efforts resulted in major executive actions; legislative packages passed in New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, California, and Delaware, among others; and the appointment of the first permanent director of the ATF since 2006. Championing gun safety in a swing state and with the support of Bloomberg's Independence USA PAC, Terry McAuliffe and Mark Herring were elected governor and attorney general of Virginia.
Peggy Noonan is criticizing Hillary Clinton because the publisher's notes for her forthcoming memoir display insufficient modesty. But the publisher's notes for Noonan's own memoir describe her book as a "priceless account" with "timeless relevance" that is "as spirited, sensitive, and thoughtful as Peggy Noonan herself."
The book is being put forward as "a master class in international relations," which is quite a claim and a rather silly one: a professional diplomat would be slow to make it. But members of political dynasties are not in the modesty business.
In dubiously suggesting that Clinton wrote her own publisher's materials in order to accuse her of immodesty, Noonan ignores the reality that publishers typically offer extravagant praise for their authors and the books they produce. Indeed, Noonan's criticism of Clinton could also be applied to the Journal columnist based on publisher's materials for her own books.
For example, promotional language from Random House for Noonan's 1990 memoir, What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era, is filled with over-the-top praise of the book's "timeless relevance" and the "spirited, sensitive, and thoughtful" Noonan:
On the hundredth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth comes the twentieth-anniversary edition of Peggy Noonan's critically acclaimed bestseller What I Saw at the Revolution, for which she provides a new Preface that demonstrates this book's timeless relevance. As a special assistant to the president, Noonan worked with Ronald Reagan -- and with Vice President George H. W. Bush -- on some of their most memorable speeches. Noonan shows us the world behind the words, and her sharp, vivid portraits of President Reagan and a host of Washington's movers and shakers are rendered in inimitable, witty prose. Her priceless account of what it was like to be a speechwriter among bureaucrats, and a woman in the last bastion of male power, makes this a Washington memoir that breaks the mold--as spirited, sensitive, and thoughtful as Peggy Noonan herself.
Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson is augmenting her campaign to paint herself as a victim of liberal media bias with conspiratorial and false attacks on Media Matters.
Earlier this year Attkisson, who had been celebrated by conservative activists for her often shoddy reporting on the Obama administration, ended her two-decade career at CBS News. She has since made numerous media appearances, often on Fox News, claiming that her reporting had been curtailed by CBS managers who opposed critical reporting on the administration. As Media Matters noted last week, Attkisson has provided little to no evidence to support her broad claims that politics, rather than newsworthiness, was keeping her stories off CBS' air.
Attkisson responded during an April 20 appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources. After Attkisson claimed that there is a "campaign by those who really want to controversialize the reporting I do," host Brian Stelter asked, "Media Matters has been campaigning against you and saying you've been inaccurate in your reporting, is that what they're doing? They're just trying to controversialize the issue?" Attkisson responded that she had been "targeted" by Media Matters and hinted at a motive, saying, "I don't know if someone paid them to do it or they just took it on their own." After Stelter asked her whether she really believed Media Matters had been paid to target her, she responded, "Perhaps, sure. I think that's what some of these groups do, absolutely."
Attkisson's claims quickly found a ready audience on Fox News.
But Attkisson's claims are false. Media Matters has never taken contributions to target her or any other reporter. We have published research on her reports on green energy and Obamacare, among other topics, when those reports have been inaccurate or misleading -- the same standard to which we hold any other reporter.
Attkisson decided to float this conspiracy theory without any evidence during an appearance on a news program, suggesting that she doesn't believe she needs to prove her contentions before bringing them to a national audience. If that was the reporting standard she sought to uphold at CBS News, it's no wonder that her managers were unwilling to let her promote half-baked conspiracies on their airwaves.
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."