Research Funding

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  • Why Media Should Be Skeptical Of Koch Brothers' New Anti-Poverty Group

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Officials from the Koch brothers' funding arm have announced a new "venture philanthropy" project called Stand Together, with aims of "strengthening the fabric of American society," and focusing on "poverty" and "educational quality," according to USA Today. Media should know that: previous Koch-backed poverty and education efforts have been coupled with ideological proselytizing, Stand Together's executive director is a Koch veteran and former Republican congressional candidate who repeatedly fearmongered about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the group's top collaborator is associated with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's sham "anti-poverty" efforts.

  • MSNBC's GOP Debate Analysis Included Conservative Media Myths Smearing Planned Parenthood

    ››› ››› KATE SARNA

    On MSNBC, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker's pre-Republican-debate analysis pushed the conservative media myth that the deceptively edited videos attacking Planned Parenthood revealed that the women's health organization engaged in the sale of fetal tissue. In reality, the videos have been roundly debunked as showing no illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood, and the organization has been cleared of wrong doing in two state investigations.

  • Fox Disregards Medical Research Budget Cuts To Ridicule Senator Reid

    Blog ››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER

    Fox News selectively edited comments by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to accuse him of exaggerating the effects of automatic budget cuts that began March 1. Fox's excerpt of Reid's call to end the cuts left out his description of specific impacts and ignored widespread media reporting that supports his statements.

    Due to the across-the-board spending cuts, the National Institute of Health (NIH) will be forced reduce its budget by $1.5 billion and expects to award 1,000 fewer grants in 2013. Because approximately three-fifths, or $40.8 billion, of all university research funding in 2011 came from the federal government, this loss will be disruptive. Some disruptions have already begun.

    On April 25, Fox & Friends aired a short clip from Sen. Reid's April 24 remarks to the Senate that called for an end to the arbitrary budget cuts. Although Reid prefaced the aired comments with a broader description of the impact that the mandatory budget cuts may have on education and the economy, Fox Business host Stuart Varney and Fox News host Steve Doocy chose to focus on just three sentences, accusing Reid of "desperate" exaggeration. Doocy claimed that Reid "essentially is saying Republicans want to kill people." 

    Fox's short excerpt of Reid's testimony omitted context in which Reid detailed specific examples of how the budget cuts may curb medical research. Here is a larger excerpt of Reid's statement [what Fox aired is bolded]:

    Nationwide these across-the-board cuts will cost 750,000 jobs. They will cost us investments in education that keep America competitive. They will cost millions of seniors, children, veterans and needy families the safety net that keeps them from descending into poverty.

    Most of the headlines are focused on the hours the sequester has cost travelers in airports across the nation. The frustration and the economic effects of those delays should not be minimized. But the sequester could also cost this country - and humankind - a cure for AIDS or Parkinson's disease or cancer.

    These arbitrary cuts have decimated funding for medical researchers seeking cures for diabetes, epilepsy and hundreds of other dangerous and debilitating diseases. The National Institutes of Health has delayed or halted vital scientific projects and reduced the number of grants it awards to research scientists. Thousands of researchers will lose their jobs in the next few months. And projects that can't go on without adequate staffing will be cancelled altogether.

    At Ohio State University, grants for cancer research and infectious disease control have been axed. At the University of Cincinnati - which is at the forefront in research on strokes, a leading cause of death in the United States - scientists are bracing for similar cuts. Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky are accepting fewer science graduate students because of funding reductions. At Wright State University, scientists researching pregnancy-related disorders such as preeclampsia will lose their jobs. Boston University has laid off lab scientists, and research laboratories in San Francisco have instituted hiring freezes and delayed the launch of important studies. And grants to some of Harvard University's most successful research scientists were not renewed because of the sequester.

    This kind of research saves lives. These scientists are looking for the next successful treatment for Alzheimer's disease or the next drug to treat high cholesterol. But they might never get the chance to complete their groundbreaking work or make their life-saving discoveries because of these short-sighted cuts.

    We have seen the devastating impacts of these arbitrary budget cuts. Now it's time to stop them.

    News reports confirm the cuts to medical research highlighted in Reid's statement.

  • Myths And Facts About Solar Energy

    ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Conservative media have denigrated solar energy by denying its sustainability, ignoring its successes, and arguing the U.S. should simply cede the solar market to China. Yet this booming industry has made great strides, and with the right policies can become a major source of our power.

  • Looking Back At The Wall Street Journal's Coal Op-Ads

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    A Media Matters analysis reveals that The Wall Street Journal's editorials on acid rain mirrored misleading talking points featured in coal industry advertisements running elsewhere in the paper in the 1980s. The Journal also heavily promoted the claims of one particular industry consultant that was on the wrong side of science on acid rain, secondhand smoke and climate change. Years later, as industry groups orchestrate efforts to cast doubt on the science demonstrating health and climate impacts of fossil fuel use, the Journal continues to aid their efforts.

    An American Electric Power ad that ran in The Wall Street Journal in 1979 downplays the environmental impacts of coal The Wall Street Journal Echoed Misleading Acid Rain Claims From Coal Industry Ads

    In the winter of 1981, the Coalition for Environmental-Energy Balance, a front group for the coal industry, ran several advertisements in The Wall Street Journal defending the industry's emissions of sulfur dioxide, which were contributing to acid rain. The ads cast doubt on the threat of acid rain, warned about the cost of regulation, and claimed that calls for action to address sulfur dioxide emissions were politically motivated. The Wall Street Journal's editorial board used these same rhetorical tactics to forestall action on acid rain, as a previous Media Matters analysis found.

    1) 'We Don't Know Enough': An ad by the Coalition for Environmental-Energy Balance that ran in The Wall Street Journal and other papers in November 1981 claimed that the primary causes of acid rain "cannot be stated with certainty." Shortly after, in 1982, a Wall Street Journal editorial stated: "Scientific study, as opposed to political rhetoric, points more and more toward the theory that nature, not industry, is the primary source of acid rain." Casting doubt on the science behind acid rain was an industry-wide strategy: an ad by Ingersoll-Rand Mining Machinery that ran in the Journal in 1985 claimed that acid rain is "mostly natural rather than industrial in origin" and said it is "probably wrong" that acid rain "threatens forest in the Eastern U.S."

    2) 'It Will Cost Too Much': The coalition ads claimed that addressing acid rain could cause electric bills for Midwest consumers to increase by "as much as 50%," and Ingersoll-Rand claimed that legislation would be "prohibitively expensive," costing "billions." In 1990, the Journal cited the Edison Electric Institute -- an industry group -- to say that electric utility costs would "surely" be "staggering."

    3) 'It's All Politics': A coalition ad attempted to obscure the science on acid rain by saying, "Some of the information [you hear about acid rain] is scientific, much of it is opinion." In 1983, the Journal stated "politics, not science, clearly is driving the acid-rain campaign."

    But the industry's claims about the state of the science on acid rain were out of step with the knowledge at the time. A report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development had connected acid rain to fossil fuel use years earlier:

    And the Journal's claims that addressing acid rain would be too costly did not stand the test of time: the acid rain program is widely seen today as a measure that successfully mitigated the problem at a cost much lower than industry and government estimates.

    The Revolving Door Consultant And The Journal

  • Bill O'Reilly Denies Clear Progress In Green Energy

    ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

    Criticizing President Obama for "remain[ing] enthusiastic about massive government investment in green energy," Fox News' Bill O'Reilly claimed that "the feds have not been able to make progress in the green area despite spending many, many billions of dollars." In fact, federal policy has driven improvements in energy efficiency and rapid growth in clean technology.

  • The Washington Post's Bad Math Tarnishes Innovative Light Bulb

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    In a front page article on Friday, The Washington Post reported that a $50 LED light bulb manufactured in the U.S. by Philips had won the Department of Energy's L-Prize for using only 10 watts of energy to produce light as bright as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. But the Post completely obscured the consumer savings from the LED's energy efficiency, including in an infographic that had to be corrected because its math was wrong.

    The graphic claimed we would be better off buying 30 incandescent bulbs over 10 years rather than one of the prize-winning bulbs:

    Washington Post

    But as several outlets pointed out, the Post greatly underestimated electricity rates. After correcting for this, the LED bulb that the Post called "costly" actually saves consumers a significant amount of money over time, as the corrected infographic shows:

    Washington Post

    Quite a difference.

  • Don't Believe Fox's Hype: Ener1 Enjoys Bipartisan Support And Is Not "Another Solyndra"


    Fox News figures have been hyping the bankruptcy filing of high-tech battery manufacturer Ener1, blaming President Obama for its financial problems and claiming the case is "another Solyndra," referring to a solar panel company that went bankrupt last year. But experts have said the case is "no Solyndra," and in blaming Obama for Ener1's bankruptcy, Fox is ignoring a history of GOP support for the company -- including from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, to whom Fox recently gave lavish praise.

  • ABC Still Fumbling Green Car Story

    Blog ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

    Looking for "another Solyndra," ABC News has run several reports about $1 billion in federal loans to advanced car companies Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors. ABC's big scoop last week -- that Fisker hired a company in Finland to assemble Fisker Automotive Karmasome if its cars -- was actually a recycled story pushed by Fox News more than two years ago.

    ABC delivered another round of reports last night and got some of its facts wrong. Nightline host Terry Moran introduced the segment as a story about Obama's 2009 stimulus bill:

    MORAN: Two and a half years ago President Obama pushed a $787 billion stimulus bill through Congress that he said would create millions of jobs, but now the president's under attack by critics who say that stimulus hasn't created a significant number of jobs and costs too much. Tonight ABC's Brian Ross looks at two companies that received a billion in government loans and asks, what did they do with it?

    Actually, these loans don't have anything to do with the stimulus package (which, by the way, increased employment by 1 to 2.9 million as of August, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. If ABC thinks that isn't a "significant number," it should say so.)

    The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program was established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which received broad bipartisan support. President Bush and Congress determined that investing in energy-efficient vehicles was worth risking $7.5 billion, which is how much they gave the program to cover the cost of any defaults or delinquencies.

    Somehow, ABC managed to avoid mentioning any of this in its three reports on the loans yesterday.

  • ABC's Fisker "Exclusive" Is Actually A Recycled Fox News Story From 2009

    Blog ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

    ABC's Brian Ross

    A story touted as "an ABC News exclusive" actually rehashes a flawed narrative pushed by Fox News more than two years ago.

    In collaboration with iWatch News, Brian Ross and ABC's "investigative unit" reported late last week that Fisker Automotive, a hybrid car maker that received a federal loan, "is assembling its first line of cars in Finland." The loan itself, however, can only be used to support operations based in the U.S.

    ABC published the story, titled "Car Company Gets U.S. Loan, Builds Cars In Finland," on Thursday night and Ross reported the "ABC News exclusive" on Friday's edition of Good Morning America. Ross said that World News and Nightline would also feature the story on Friday, but ABC did not run those segments.

    Instead, Ross appeared on the Fox Business Network Friday night, where he told host David Asman that those in the administration criticizing his reporting "just don't like the takeaway, which is that they got the loan and they're building the car in Finland."

    But this news isn't new. In fact, it was explained by the Department of Energy (DOE) in a September 2009 press release announcing the conditional loan. According to the release, "final assembly" of the high-end Fisker Karma "will be done overseas." Indeed, Fisker had a contract to assemble the Karma in Finland before the company ever received funds from DOE. ABC failed to note this fact and the misunderstanding was compounded by other news outlets covering ABC's report.

    The loan supports design work carried out in Michigan and California for the Karma, as well as the assembly of Fisker's lower-cost hybrid, Project Nina, which will take place at a former GM factory in Wilmington, Deleware. Fisker began hiring for the Delaware plant in June.

  • Fox's Asman Channels GOP To Attack Obama Jobs Plan

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Criticizing President Obama's new jobs plan, Fox Business host David Asman complained that the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "gave people $45 to tell them how much malt liquor they were drinking and how much pot they were smoking." He also brought up a stimulus-funded study that researched "the sex lives of female college freshmen," adding that such a study "should be left up to the parents rather than government researchers." However, both of Asman's examples were contained in a 2009 Republican report blasting the stimulus and its billions in supposed wasteful projects.

    Citing a report issued by Republican Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn, The Hill reported in December 2009:

    GOP senators on Tuesday highlighted "pure waste" in the billions of stimulus funds spent this year, including money for fossil research in Argentina, puppet shows and to protect cruise ships from terrorist attacks.

    The Obama administration has spent $217 billion in economic stimulus funds as of the end of November. A new report issued Tuesday by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.), the ranking Republican on the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, concluded that $7 billion was wasted or mismanaged.


    The State University of New York at Buffalo won $390,000 to study young adults who drink malt liquor and smoke marijuana. The National Institutes of Health got $219,000 in funds to study whether female college students are more likely to "hook up" after drinking alcohol.

    Highlighting these examples of scientific research in such a manner misses the point, however. PolitiFact reported that the study on female college students' sexual habits was "a public health study," and the findings would be used to "to inform parents, educators, medical and public health professionals, and to guide the development of more effective health promotion and disease prevention programs."