Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley falsely claimed that the FBI misrepresented data on mass shootings to "help drive Democratic turnout" during the 2014 midterm elections. In fact, the report only contained data on "active shooter" situations, not mass shootings, and made that clear in the introduction, which stated, "This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings."
In a June 9 editorial headlined, "Obama's Gun-Control Misfire," Riley wrote, "Last September the Obama administration produced an FBI report that said mass shooting attacks and deaths were up sharply -- by an average annual rate of about 16% between 2000 and 2013."
But the 2014 FBI report, which focuses on 160 incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013, literally says it is not about "mass shootings," but rather a different phenomenon known as an "active shooter" situation. From the report's introduction (emphasis added):
This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings, but rather a study of a specific type of shooting situation law enforcement and the public may face. Incidents identified in this study do not encompass all gun-related situations; therefore caution should be taken when using this information without placing it in context. Specifically, shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence--pervasive, long-tracked, criminal acts that could also affect the public--were not included in this study. In addition, other gun-related shootings were not included when those incidents appeared generally not to have put others in peril (e.g., the accidental discharge of a firearm in a school building or a person who chose to publicly commit suicide in a parking lot). The study does not encompass all mass killings or shootings in public places and therefore is limited in its scope. Nonetheless, it was undertaken to provide clarity and data of value to both law enforcement and citizens as they seek to stop these threats and save lives during active shooter incidents.
The FBI defined an active shooter situation as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area," and found that such incidents occurred with increasing frequency over a 13-year period starting in 2000.
In his opinion piece, Riley used his inaccurate reading of the report to claim that the Obama administration hoped to use the report to help Democrats win in the 2014 midterm elections and to advance its own gun safety agenda:
The White House could not possibly have been more pleased with the media reaction to these findings, which were prominently featured by the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, the Washington Post and other major outlets. The FBI report landed six weeks before the midterm elections, and the administration was hoping that the gun-control issue would help drive Democratic turnout.
Following the high-profile mass shootings in 2012 at a cinema in Aurora, Colo., and an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the White House pushed hard for more gun-control legislation. Congress, which at the time included a Democratic-controlled Senate, refused to act. This surprised no one, including an administration well aware that additional gun controls wouldn't pass muster with enough members of the president's own party, let alone Republicans.
But the administration also knew that the issue could potentially excite Democratic base voters in a year when the party was worried about turnout. Hence President Obama's vow in his 2014 State of the Union address "to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook."
To attack the report's credibility, Riley cited criticism of it from discredited gun researcher John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center. Lott has a history of manipulating statistics and making false claims about guns to advance his pro-gun agenda, and he is the author of the well-known but thoroughly debunked "more guns, less crime" hypothesis. Lott, who is not considered a credible source for information about mass shootings, recently claimed Fox News is partnering with him to "start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders." (According to an analysis of 62 mass shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones, no such cases exist.)
Riley's false accusations are the latest in a series of outlandish and baseless criticisms of the Obama administration and gun laws. In a 2014 appearance on Fox News, he said "The administration already has enough race baiters, starting with the president continuing to Eric Holder, his attorney general." In 2013, he said controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense laws "[benefit], disproportionately, poor blacks," even though research has shown that killings defended with such laws are much more likely to be found justified when a white person killed a black person, rather than the reverse.
From the June 9 edition of Fox Business Network's Making Money with Charles Payne:
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From the June 9 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Some media outlets are distorting comments made by President Obama claiming he admitted he doesn't have a "complete strategy" to fight the terrorist group the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). But the full context of the remarks -- which were reported correctly by a number of media outlets -- shows that Obama was only referencing the complete strategy of training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers.
From the June 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Former Fox News employee Mike Huckabee led all declared and potential Republican presidential candidates with 70 minutes of airtime on the network in May. Sen. Rand Paul, who was second in total time with 53 minutes, led all candidates with 12 appearances.
As we did during the 2012 presidential cycle, Media Matters will publish regular updates on the amount of interview time Fox News gives each declared and potential Republican presidential candidate. The network provides candidates with an invaluable platform with which to raise their profiles and pitch themselves to Fox's conservative audience.
This cycle, the Fox Primary may be more consequential than ever.
In a May 30 column for the Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus argued that Fox News chief Roger Ailes "will decide which candidates can compete in Republican presidential primaries next year." In a move that has raised the ire of some conservative activists and members of the presidential field, Fox News announced that the first primary debate -- to be hosted on the network on August 6 -- will feature a maximum of 10 candidates, chosen based on polling.
According to McManus, "One side effect, GOP strategists say, is that during the next two months, those candidates will be even more desperate to boost their name recognition -- by appearing on Fox News." He added, "Fox won't exactly be judge, jury and executioner, but it will be rule-maker, gatekeeper and moderator."
The Fox Primary has been well underway since President Obama's second inauguration. An April Media Matters study found that potential Republican presidential candidates had already made more than 800 appearances on Fox News' evening and primetime programming and Fox News Sunday.
In May, the 16 declared and potential Republican presidential candidates made a combined 68 appearances on Fox News, totaling more than 8 hours of airtime. Rick Perry was the only one to not appear on the network during the month.
Megyn Kelly's The Kelly File featured both the most candidate appearances and the most total interview time, though it should be noted that these numbers are inflated slightly by a special her show aired on May 22 featuring a compilation of previous interviews Kelly had done with various Republican candidates.
Most Total Airtime: Mike Huckabee (1 hour and 10 minutes)
Most Total Appearances: Rand Paul (12 appearances)
Fox Show With The Most Total Candidate Airtime: The Kelly File (2 hours and 40 minutes)
Fox Show With The Most Candidate Appearances: The Kelly File (19 appearances)
Softball Question(s) Of The Month: In Fox & Friends' only interview with Christie, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked only a single question on "the controversy with the bridge and various other things":
KILMEADE: What did you learn over the last year where you had the controversy with the bridge and various other things about yourself and about who your friends are?
For this study, we used FoxNews.com's "2016 Presidential Candidate Watch List."
Media Matters searched the Nexis database and our internal video archive for all guest appearances on Fox News Channel and Fox News Sunday for the 16 declared and potential presidential candidates in question: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.
For programs where a transcript was unavailable, we reviewed the raw video.
Charts by Oliver Willis. Additional research by Media Matters' research staff.
The raucous political warfare of the 1990s returned into view late last week with the stunning news that former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is under indictment for allegedly agreeing to pay more than $3 million in hush money to cover up sexual abuse involving a male student at a high school where Hastert taught decades ago.
Hastert's unsettling case doesn't have anything to do with partisan politics, per se. But his rise to the speakership back in 1998 sure did. Like virtually everything else inside the Beltway at the time, Hastert's promotion revolved around the Republicans' relentless impeachment pursuit against President Bill Clinton. And today, Hastert's alleged crime once again throws into focus what a strange and hypocritical spectacle it was for GOP men to play sex cop and crusade for impeachment.
The impeachment of Bill Clinton defined American politics in the 1990s. It also defined the Beltway press, which still clings to many of the bad Clinton-related habits it formed that decade. The impeachment farce, where the press teamed up with Republicans to wage war on a Democrat, could also explain why the Clintons today might not fully trust the media as Hillary Clinton expands her presidential run and the press stands "primed" to take her down.
Why won't Hillary Clinton open up to the press? Why can't Bill and Hillary handle the media? Why has she "withdrawn into a gilded shell"? Why does she wear media "armor"? Those questions have been rehashed in recent months as journalists focus on themselves and what role they'll play in the unfolding nomination contest.
A suggestion: Follow the path back to Dennis Hastert's impeachment era for clues to those Clinton press questions.
During the 1990s, Hastert remained a firm advocate of impeachment, at one point condemning the president for his "inability to abide by the law." Hastert stressed, "The evidence in President Clinton's case is overwhelming that he has abused and violated the public trust."
Of course it was the impeachment imbroglio that elevated Hastert, indirectly, to his lofty position of speaker of the House; a position he later leveraged into millions by becoming a very wealthy lobbyist.
The background: Former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich was forced to resign in 1998 after the impeachment-obsessed GOP faced disastrous midterm losses. (Gingrich later admitted he was engaged in an affair with a Congressional aide at the time.) Up next was Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA), chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. "One of the loudest of those calling for the House to impeach Clinton over an extra-marital affair," noted the National Journal, Livingston was soon ousted after he was forced to publicly confess to committing adultery "on occasion."
Into that void stepped Hastert.
That means all three Republican House leaders who pursued Clinton's impeachment have now confessed or been accused of sexual and moral transgressions themselves. Those were the people the D.C press took its cues from during the impeachment charade?
As Orin Kerr noted in the Washington Post following the Hastert indictment:
If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.
While some in the press have conceded that the '90s impeachment was a strange circus, the truth is the Beltway press basically served as executive producers for the GOP's doomed theatrical run. It was the media elite who legitimized for years the right-wing's Javert-like pursuit of all things Clinton. "So much of the media was invested in breathless, often uncritical coverage of Clinton's impeachment," wrote Josh Marshall at Salon in 2002, while detailing the final release of the independent prosecutor's $70 million Clinton investigation.
Put another way, the same D.C. press corps that openly taunted the Clintons for years in the '90s, culminating with impeachment, is the same D.C. press corps that's now openly taunting them, for instance, regarding the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton's emails, and anything/everything else that can be presented as a Clinton "scandal" story.
That's why when the New York Times story about Hillary Clinton's email account first broke in March, "The media and politicos and Twitterati immediately responded with all the measured cautious skepticism we've come to expect in response to any implication of a Clinton Scandal," noted Wonkette. "That is to say, none." And that's why Times columnist and chief Clinton sex chronicler Maureen Dowd has, to date, published 100 columns mentioning "Lewinsky."
More than twenty years ago, the Clintons understood that the so-called liberal media was working with conservative activists and Republican prosecutors to try to destroy Bill's presidency. For the GOP, the motivation was purely partisan. For the press, it seemed to be a mix of careerism (Clinton bashing proved to be good for business), combined with a genuine dislike of the Clintons.
Today, it's often difficult to recapture just how completely bonkers the D.C. media establishment went during the impeachment saga, and how on some days it seemed journalists were more pruriently obsessed with the Clintons than their tireless Republican tormentors. The recent Hastert sexual abuse allegation helps bring into focus the absurdity of the era, and reminds us why, as a new campaign season unfolds, the Clintons might not fully trust the Beltway media.
From the June 1 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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From the May 31 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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From the May 28 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Hillary Clinton returned to South Carolina this week to rally support for her 2016 White House bid, and despite speaking at length about the substance of her campaign platform, media chose to fixate on her southern accent.
While speaking to the South Carolina Democratic Women's Council, Clinton laid out her vision for America and highlighted her support for President Obama following their 2008 primary fight. In her remarks, Clinton placed a heavy emphasis on her support for gender pay equality and helping middle class families, while pushing for civility and coalition-building:
CLINTON: We will have disagreements. We will have debates, but I want you to know that I will be remembering what I think should be at the core of every political campaign, how we treat one another, and how we care for this if we have been given, the United States of America.
Media's takeaway from the event? Clinton's southern accent.
CNN's New Day host Alisyn Camerota declared Clinton's accent is "an interesting twist" to her campaign, while MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said that, "Hillary Clinton got her southern accent back after, like, 20 years." Vox.com dedicated a post to exploring the origins of the accent, writing that "there is a certain fascination worthy to be had of public figures who can turn their accents on and off."
Such superficial coverage of Clinton's event is unsurprising, given media's seeming preference for fluff over substance in coverage of the Clinton campaign and their repeated attempts to sensationalize Clinton's voice.
From the May 26 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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The Associated Press suggested it was unethical for then-first lady Hillary Clinton to push for tax breaks for those who donated to nonprofit organizations while the William J. Clinton Foundation was soliciting donations for the Clinton administration's presidential library -- but its own article later undermined those claims, outlining how the proposed measure had been building momentum since 1997, three years prior to the alleged conflict of interest. In fact, as the AP admitted, the proposal in question would provide no "direct" benefit to the foundation.
Hillary Clinton endorsed a plan proposed by the Clinton administration to provide tax breaks to "private foundations and wealthy charity donors" while she was first lady, according to a May 22 report from the AP:
As first lady in the final year of the Clinton administration, Hillary Rodham Clinton endorsed a White House plan to give tax breaks to private foundations and wealthy charity donors at the same time the William J. Clinton Foundation was soliciting donations for her husband's presidential library, recently released Clinton-era documents show.
The AP suggested that the "blurred lines between the tax reductions proposed by the Clinton administration in 2000 and the Clinton Library's fundraising were an early foreshadowing of the potential ethics concerns that have flared around the Clintons' courting of corporate and foreign donors for their family charity before she launched her campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination."
But the AP's own article went on to undermine its allegations of a conflict of interest that "blurred the lines" between the proposed tax reductions and donations to the Clintons' nonprofit. As a spokesperson for Bill Clinton's office explained, the "administration was not trying to incentivize giving to the foundation, but instead was spurred by a 1997 presidential humanities committee that urged tax breaks for charities to aid American cultural institutions," meaning that the proposal was born from a committee three years prior to the timeline the article used to suggest a conflict of interest.
As The New York Times wrote at the time, the nonpartisan committee had made the recommendations because "cuts in public, private and corporate spending on the arts and humanities [were] undermining cultural and educational institutions in the United States." Funding from donations to nonprofits accounted for "90 percent of the nation's cultural financing," and the proposed tax measures would have helped fund cultural institutions that the federal budget would no longer be able to support.
And as the AP's report later explained, quoting former economic adviser to Bill Clinton, Gene Sperling, not only were the nonprofit tax reductions "'developed at the Treasury Department, endorsed by experts and designed to encourage all forms of charitable giving'" but the foundation also "would not have benefited directly by the tax proposals" at all, and any indirect benefits would also have helped "many other U.S. charities."
From the May 21 edition of MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes:
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Fox personalities criticized President Obama for calling climate change "an immediate risk to our national security" during his U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement address. But security experts agree with the president that global climate change does threaten U.S. national security.