Right-wing media are citing the claims of a high-level Mexican drug cartel figure, who faces life in prison for narcotrafficking, to advance its latest conspiracy theory about a failed federal law enforcement operation to stop the flow of guns into Mexico.
According to Vicente Zambada-Niebla, a high-level Sinaloa Cartel figure known as "El Vicentillo" who will soon face trial in Chicago, the purpose of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious was to arm the Sinaloa Cartel so that it would have the firepower to destroy rival drug cartels. Zambada-Niebla's testimony is not credible for a number of reasons, the most glaring being that he was arrested in March 2009, more than six months before the ATF even conceived of Fast and Furious.
Despite this red flag, Zambada-Niebla's claims have been repeatedly promoted on the National Rifle Association's radio and television shows, by Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich, and throughout the fringe conservative blogosphere.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry's trade group, is pushing back on a conspiracy theory promoted by right-wing media that the Obama administration is using the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate the domestic ammunition supply.
In November, The Doe Run Company announced that they will shutter their primary lead smelter at the end of the year -- the last such facility in the country -- as part of a settlement the company reached with the EPA in 2010. The settlement also involves the payment of $7 million in civil fines for violations of environmental law and an agreement to spend $65 million to correct past violations. A Doe Run senior communications liaison explained to The Salem News Online that, "The closure was really a result of increasing standards and an aging facility" and noted that it would be too expensive for the company to comply with clean air regulations.
Conservative media have claimed the EPA move was a backdoor attempt to limit the supply of lead ammunition. But responding to those conspiracies, NSSF senior vice president Lawrence Keane told The Washington Times that, "Manufacturers use recycled lead to make ammunition. They don't buy from smelters. The EPA closing, which has been in the works for a while, will have no impact on production, supply or cost to the consumers."
As Keane suggested, the root of the ring-wing media's conspiracy theory is the mistaken belief that ammunition must be made from lead obtained from the earth as opposed to recycled lead. Even Doe Run, which also operates a secondary lead smelting operation, noted in a November 7 press release that the closure will only affect products that require primary lead.
After the White House released a picture of President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David, conservative bloggers were quick to claim that the photo had been altered or created with Adobe Photoshop or a similar graphics editing program. This follows a long, bizarre tradition of conservative media labeling a wide range of pictures and documents related to the president as fraudulent.
In the past few years, conservatives have accused President Obama and his staff of Photoshopping the short and long-form versions of the president's birth certificate, two separate photos of the president with his family, two Situation Room photos from the day of the bin Laden raid, a photo of Obama throwing a football, and now a photo of the president shooting skeet.
During an interview last month with The New Republic, President Obama was asked if he has ever fired a gun. After the president told the magazine that he goes skeet shooting with guests at Camp David, conservatives -- as well as reporters from more mainstream outlets -- sought proof. In order to quiet the skeptics, on Saturday the White House released a photo of the president shooting clay targets at Camp David in 2012:
Linking to the picture on Twitter, White House senior adviser David Plouffe joked, "let the photoshop conspiracies begin!" While Plouffe was mocking the penchant of some conservatives to turn everything related to President Obama into a conspiracy, some conservative outlets quickly proved his point by doing just that (New York Magazine has produced a comprehensive roundup of the skeet shooting conspiracies).
In an article posted Sunday at conservative website American Thinker -- an outlet frequently touted and cited by Rush Limbaugh -- titled "Seven Reasons Why it's a Photoshop," blogger Michael Harlin concluded, "if he's shooting skeet, then I'm Daffy Duck." (While the headline calls it a Photoshop, Harlin seems to waver on whether the picture was manipulated or merely "staged like everything else in President Obama's life.")
To give you some idea of the level of analysis in the piece, among Harlin's evidence that something is off about the Obama picture is his observation that unlike Obama, "most shooters wear baseball style caps" to help "block unwanted sun in your eyes."
Obama is wearing sunglasses (or tinted protective eyewear) in the photo.
It's easy to point and laugh at analyses like these, but conservatives' obsession with these Photoshop conspiracies shows the type of paranoid nonsense that has passed for journalism at many prominent conservative outlets during the Obama era.
In this report we examine right-wing claims that the president's allies have altered:
Since Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) revealed a plan to introduce legislation banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, members of the right-wing media have launched hysterical, and often false, attacks against her proposal to crack down on weapons like the one used in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
In two December 27 pieces published on Brietbart.com, contributor AWR Hawkins grossly exaggerated the scope of Feinstein's legislative proposal to suggest that the assault weapons ban would require that all firearms be registered with the government and claim that "the details of Senator Dianne Feinstein's pending assault weapons ban show that her real goal is to ban handguns."
Sen. Feinstein's actual proposal allows current owners of assault weapons to keep their firearms so long as the owner fulfills a registration requirement and includes no mandate to register firearms that are not assault weapons. While the proposed ban would cover some handguns with military characteristics, Hawkins' claim that the legislation would lead to a general handgun ban is based on the speculation "that as soon as a public crime is committed with a double-action revolver, Feinstein and Co. will try to add those to the list as well."
But an even bigger problem lurks -- right now the focus is only on "assault weapons" and semi-auto handguns, however, as soon as a public crime is committed with a double-action revolver, Feinstein and Co. will try to add those to the list as well.
The bottom line: If we are foolish enough to embrace a ban on any weapon in the coming Congress then we are unwittingly embracing a ban on every weapon.
Hawkins repeated these claims on National Rifle Association News, calling the proposed assault weapons ban "garbage" and "anti-freedom to the core."
The Obama administration has announced that it will allow some young undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States. In response, right-wing bloggers are falsely suggesting that this policy change is evidence that President Obama is "putting politics above national security and the rule of law" and "acting like a king." In fact, the change is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion that is consistent with the current law and has decades of precedent.
Republicans in Congress are attempting to prevent the military from purchasing alternative fuels, which Senator Inhofe (R-OK) believes are merely "perpetrating President Obama's global warming fantasies and his war on affordable energy." And conservative media are backing the attacks on climate change and clean energy programs, suggesting that these investments come at the expense of national security. But experts across the political spectrum agree that climate change poses a serious threat to our national security, and that transitioning to alternative energy will enhance military effectiveness. Here are 15 current and former national security officials in their own words on the threat of climate change:
The Pentagon recognizes that our dependence on oil is problematic not only because of the threat of climate change, but also because of volatile oil prices and supply disruptions that can threaten the military's energy supply. It's Operational Energy Strategy states:
Conservative media are once again hyping the amount of oil in the U.S. by including oil shale, ignoring that oil companies have found no profitable way to develop that resource.
The most recent flood of misinformation came after testimony by the Government Accountability Office's Anu Mittal about "oil shale," a sedimentary rock that when heated at high temperatures can produce liquid fuels (except gasoline) with a larger carbon footprint than conventional liquid fuels. While some conservative outlets claimed it was major news, the testimony -- which was based on an October 2010 GAO report -- contained no positive developments for oil shale, which has long been known to exist in large amounts in the U.S. but is not commercially viable. Earlier this year, energy expert Robert Rapier wrote, "It is not at all clear that even at $100 oil the shale in the Green River formation will be commercialized to produce oil." Even an editor at the right-wing blog The American Thinker acknowledged that "any large scale operations" for oil shale development would be "prohibitively expensive at this time." And just recently, Chevron gave up its oil shale lease in Colorado.
Mittal noted in her testimony that no technology to develop oil shale "has been shown to be economically or environmentally viable at a commercial scale." But Fox News' nightly news show and CNSNews.com, a project of the conservative Media Research Center, failed to mention that oil shale is not currently commercially viable. Breitbart.com and Investor's Business Daily incorrectly suggested that oil shale is not being developed because of Obama administration policies, rather than economic considerations. And Powerline suggested that oil shale is in fact viable because of the "advance of extraction technology," seemingly confusing oil shale with tight oil from shale rock, which can be extracted via horizontal drilling and hydrofracking.
It's interesting to see that the same people who dismiss the enormous potential of solar and wind power and attack investment in renewable energy are hyping the potential of oil shale. A December 2011 Congressional Research Service report, which classified oil shale as a "sub-economic" resource, stated that "despite government programs in the 1970s and early 1980s to stimulate development of the resource, production of oil shale is not yet commercially viable."
Sometimes you just have to marvel at the almost-transcendent inanity of the conservative blogosphere. For a few years now, some conservative media figures -- led by conservative bloggers like Jack Cashill -- have been obsessed with proving that Bill Ayers is the true author of President Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father.
If you were under the impression that this conspiracy theory couldn't sink any lower than Cashill's column in February highlighting how Obama and Ayers both use words like "skillet" and "ice cream" in their writing, you were mistaken.
This week, seeking to add more "evidence" to this theory, some conservative blogs are running with the claim that Google has joined in on the conspiracy and is now listing Ayers as the author of Dreams on Google Books.
That might be somewhat interesting if it actually happened. But it didn't.
A recent New York Times article highlighted two studies that the article claimed "question the pairing of food deserts and obesity" and may "raise questions about the efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods." While right-wing media have seized on the article to claim that food deserts are a "make-believe" issue, food experts have called the Times article "sloppy" and have said the two studies it highlights are "definitely outliers," in the face of "over 50 studies" in the past three years finding "the opposite."
In the fall of 2009, Lou Dobbs left CNN amid a furor over his embrace of conspiracy theories about President Obama's birth certificate. It looks like he didn't learn much from that experience.
Friday, a graphic on Dobbs' Fox Business show cited the right-wing website American Thinker as the source for a figure about Michelle Obama's vacations:
American Thinker has published the writings of Jack Cashill, a shameless birther conspiracy theorist, and hosted Cashill's suggestion that the president's father was not Barack Obama Sr., but Frank Marshall Davis, a writer and labor activist.
Aside from other instances of birther nuttiness, American Thinker has also published prominent white nationalist Jared Taylor and an array of right-wing conspiracy theories: Texas Gov. Rick Perry is in the thrall of radical Islamists, climate scientists are hoaxing the world about global warming, etc.
Dobbs may have gone quiet on Obama's birth certificate, but he's still comfortable citing the same fringe websites that have fueled the birther story.
The calculation about the first lady's vacations is highly suspect, as well.
The right-wing media have launched another round of attacks on President Obama for supposedly being anti-Israel. However, Obama has regularly supported Israel, and according to a recent poll, the majority of Israeli Jews support him.
Anonymous hackers recently released another batch of emails taken from a climate research group at the University of East Anglia in 2009, along with a document containing numbered excerpts of purportedly incriminating material. Many of these selections have been cropped in a way that completely distorts their meaning, but they were nonetheless repeated by conservative media outlets who believe climate change is a "hoax" and a "conspiracy."
Right-wing media seized on a comment Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made about Catholics and health care providers to suggest that Pelosi was mocking Catholics for having a "conscience." In fact, Pelosi, who is Catholic, was discussing Republican-backed "conscience exemptions" for health care providers that refuse to perform abortions, which Pelosi has said could endanger the health of women.
UPDATE: Kristina Schake, communications director for First Lady Michelle Obama, made the following statement about these attacks:
The words, meaning and context in these claims are all wildly off the mark. The First Lady was commenting to the President on how moving and powerful it always is to watch all that America's firefighters and police officers do to honor the flag. It was an emotional moment on a powerful day and she was awed by the ceremony and all that the flag symbolizes.
The Washington Times' senior editorial writer for foreign affairs James Robbins and right-wing bloggers are claiming that Michelle Obama likely disparaged the American flag during a ceremony commemorating the 9/11 attacks.
They have posted video of Michelle Obama whispering something inaudible to her husband during the ceremony and are speculating that she said "all this just for a flag," "all that for a flag," or "all of this for a damn flag." (They disagree on exactly what she said.)
Blogger Jim Hoft, still in the running for the Dumbest Man on the Internet, didn't even have the confidence to type the fake Michelle Obama quotation himself. He instead provided a link to an American Thinker post making the accusation for him.
The video the bloggers have posted has no audio of Michelle Obama at the relevant point, and their lip-reading is hindered by the fact that Michelle Obama's lips disappear behind a partition at one point:
But they still believe Michelle Obama must have said something extremely controversial. We leave you with the ramblings of Debbie Schlussel, who seems to believe it doesn't matter what Michelle Obama said, because we all know what "she's thinkin' ":
I can't really tell for sure, but a number of people are abuzz about this video of Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Hussein Obama Idi Amin Dada. The consensus seems to be that the First Ms. Thang is saying to hubby Barack, "All of this for a damn flag." (She said this about the American flag -- you know the one brave men died for.) Wouldn't be surprised if that's what she said because we know she hates America and previously said she wasn't proud of our country until Obama had a chance to become Prez. Looks like that's what she said, but I can't tell for sure. I would need a deaf person or other expert lip reader to confirm. Watch and see if you agree (like I said, even if she didn't say exactly that, we know she's thinkin' it).
The anti-Muslim segment of the conservative media has identified yet another Republican as a traitor to America because he is supposedly too close to Muslims. The current target is Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), labeled as the "5th column candidate" by Pamela Geller because of his ties to Muslim leader Aga Khan IV and others.