Right-wing media are claiming that former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attikisson was "targeted" by the Obama administration because a Department of Justice press aide complained to CBS about an article Attkisson wrote about Operation Fast and Furious. In fact, the story DOJ was criticizing inaccurately accused Attorney General Eric Holder of lying to Congress.
On November 20, conservative website PJ Media first reported on October 2011 emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request by conservative group Judicial Watch. The emails contain a conversation between then-DOJ office of public affairs director Tracy Schmaler and White House communications aide Eric Schultz criticizing a CBSNews.com piece written by Attkisson.
Schmaler wrote that she was going to contact Attkisson's editor and CBS's Bob Schieffer and called Attkisson "out of control." In a later email, Schmaler wrote that the contention of Attkisson's article was "bullshit."
PJ Media characterized the exchange as a "bombshell" that "provides smoking gun proof that the Obama White House and the Eric Holder Justice Department colluded to get CBS News to block reporter Sharyl Attkisson."
Conservative blogs ran with PJ Media's article, which was eventually picked up by the Drudge Report. Attkisson reacted to PJ Media's article on Glenn Beck's radio show, saying, "If you dare to go after them, they will target you, try to assassinate your character, they'll call your bosses, they'll email. We know all of this is going on, but we now have emails that they've been withholding under executive privilege that refer to this."
The story also quickly made its way to Fox News, where America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer reported the development as "more bombshell emails revealing how the White House targeted former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson."
That the Obama administration would complain about Attkisson's reporting is unremarkable -- the central contention of the article they were complaining about was in fact inaccurate, as later confirmed by a 2012 independent investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.
Media figures are touting the Keystone XL pipeline as an "environmentally safe" alternative to truck and rail transportation, uncritically citing a State Department report on the environmental impact of building Keystone XL. But experts and subsequent studies have determined that the report is based on faulty conclusions and grossly underestimates greenhouse gas emissions caused by Keystone.
Right-wing media resurrected the myth that increased immigration hurts American workers in response to President Obama's plans for executive action on immigration. In fact, studies consistently find that immigration does not lead to higher unemployment or lower American wages and that it actually helps the economy.
President Obama is expected to announce immigration orders that build upon the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and provide temporary administrative relief for certain undocumented immigrants, an exercise of prosecutorial discretion that right-wing media have attacked as "lawless." But experts across the political spectrum acknowledge that this type of executive action has long been practiced and authorized under federal immigration law.
Conservative media attacked President Obama over a historic deal between China and the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions, claiming that the deal was a "cave" to China and that the U.S. got "steamrolled." But climate experts and others widely agree that the deal is an important step in the fight against climate change.
Fox News celebrated historic Republican victories in the midterm elections by applauding the party for answering calls for diversity, a celebration that overlooks GOP policies that harm women and minorities, policies the network has relentlessly advocated.
Republicans made history in Tuesday's midterm elections, electing a handful of younger and more diverse candidates to Congress. Mia Love became the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, and Tim Scott from South Carolina became the first black man elected to the Senate in the south since Reconstruction. Republicans Joni Ernst and Shelley Moore Capito became the first women to represent their states in the Senate.
The next day, Fox News pointed to these midterm victories as evidence that Republican policies are not harmful to women and minorities. On America's Newsroom, anchor Martha MacCallum wondered, "So what does this mean -- the election of a lot of women last night -- in terms of the war on women that we heard so much about in the last presidential election?" She asked whether these wins mean "that whole discussion is no longer relevant." Later on Outnumbered, Andrea Tantaros applauded Republicans, saying the GOP has "finally responded to the call that they need diversity."
Fox does not have a history of treating diversity as a virtue. Only days ago, Fox hosts advocated for an "older white guy appreciation day" and claimed that "the white Republican power structure is afraid of black Americans." This is the same network that has discouraged women from voting, denied the existence of gender pay inequality and white privilege, and argued that there has to be a downside to a woman president (such as women being too preoccupied with other things to run for office).
And although these Republican gains in diversity are a step in the right direction, they don't negate GOP policies that are harmful to women and minorities -- policies for which Fox has relentlessly advocated.
Fox News misleadingly claimed that a Republican Senate majority could be a "big plus" for the stock market and generate economic growth of 3 percent to 4 percent, but hid the reality that growth has already topped those levels.
On the November 3 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum warned that the midterm elections could have a "big impact on your money" and argued that despite recent stock market growth, "we could be seeing an even bigger rally if the GOP takes the Senate." Fox Business host Stuart Varney agreed, attributing the stock market rally of the past two weeks to the fact that "Republicans look more and more likely to take the Senate," and predicting that policies produced by a Republican-led Senate could set the economy on a path toward "3 to 4 percent" growth "instead of 2 percent." MacCallum and Varney claimed that 4 percent growth is something the economy has not seen in "a long time":
In reality, the American economy has grown by an average of 4.1 percent in the last six months -- while the Senate remained under Democratic control. The second and third quarters of 2014 had the strongest back-to-back growth rates the U.S. has seen since 2003, with respective growth rates of 4.6 percent and 3.5 percent. In fact, growth rates have topped Varney's arbitrary "3 to 4 percent" threshold during four of the past five quarters.
As Bloomberg News' Dave Weigel noted, Varney's speculation also ignores the Dow Jones industrial average's gain of more than 4,000 points since the 2012 election. The Dow is up more than 9,000 points since President Obama was first inaugurated in January 2009.
Right-wing media outlets have used misleading voter fraud stories to stoke fears of rampant voter fraud in the months leading up to the 2014 midterm elections. But experts state that voter fraud in the U.S. is virtually non-existent and that voter ID laws would actually disenfranchise voters.
Conservative media praised the failed theory of trickle-down economics in response to Hillary Clinton's remark that the middle class, not tax cuts for corporations, spurs economic growth, a position backed by economists.
With two weeks to go before midterm elections, the North Carolina Senate race is on track to be the most expensive Senate race ever. But on Fox News, the focus is on spending by teachers unions, not the conservative-backed groups pouring money three times that amount into the state.
Fox News' America's Newsroom highlighted on October 21 how two prominent teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA), are "on track to spend a record amount this [campaign] cycle." Focusing specifically on the North Carolina Senate race, host Martha MacCallum asked, "What are the teachers unions doing there?" Correspondent Mike Emanuel noted that Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan is polling narrowly ahead of her Republican challenger Thom Tillis, as "the National Education Association super PAC has spent about $3 million on ads blaming Republican Tillis for making class sizes bigger and for reduced art and sports programs. Expect more of this down the final stretch," because Tillis is "a target."
With its focus on teachers unions, Fox conveniently left out the spending from outside groups that totals nearly three times more. For example, the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by the Koch brothers has poured in at least $8.3 million in ad money. At least $6 million has come from groups linked to conservative Karl Rove, a Fox News contributor.
Such selective reporting on election spending is becoming standard for the network, which has worked to minimize the influx of money supporting Republican candidates into states with hotly-contested congressional races this election cycle.
Right-wing media falsely claimed that a New York Times report on old chemical weapons found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion vindicated former President George W. Bush's rationale for the Iraq war - ignoring the fact that the chemical weapons discovered predated 1991 and thus could not vindicate Bush's rationale which relied on an active, on-going chemical weapons program at the time of the invasion.
Fox News is claiming that Democratic campaigns and supporters are vastly outspending their Republican counterparts during this election cycle, a suggestion that appears to focus on super PACs and ignores the influence of "dark money" spending that favors the GOP.
On the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer stated that Democrats have "got a lot of money ... and they're spending it, in some states, 4-to-1 over Republican candidates." National Review Online editor-at-large and Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg repeated a similar claim on the October 13 edition of Happening Now, downplaying secretive right-wing donors like the Koch brothers and arguing that "the reality is, is that most of the money is actually on the Democratic side" in contentious Senate races like the one in Kentucky:
HEATHER CHILDERS (guest host): So, a lot of this also is coming down to money. And we are talking about big amounts of money that are being spent from both sides in these particular states, so how is that going to influence things?
GOLDBERG: Sure, well, it depends on state by state. You know, in some of these places, you just don't have enough physical airtime in the space-time continuum to buy more ads. I mean, people are throwing in -- you know, the Democrats are just announcing [unintelligible] a million dollars into South Dakota. A million dollars probably would buy, you know, who knows how much airtime in South Dakota at this point. And so you're seeing things saturated all over the place. One of the things that has helped Democrats enormously is, they have actually raised vastly more money than Republicans have at a lot of these different levels. They're spending a lot more money. In North Carolina, they're outspending Republicans, I think, 2-to-1, and yet they claim that it's all the evil Koch brothers and their sort of other James Bond-like villains who are throwing all the money into Republicans. When the reality is, is that most of the money is actually on the Democratic side, but a lot of the mainstream media covers it as if, "Oh, it must be the Republicans who are taking advantage of all of this outside money." [emphasis added]
On October 15, Fox News correspondent Jim Angle continued the network's inapt comparison of the Koch brothers to high-dollar Democratic donors. Angle didn't mention that unlike the progressive billionaires and unions he highlighted, conservative activists like the Kochs are unwilling to publicly stand behind the right-wing policies their billions of dollars fund.
Fox News' narrative is misrepresenting the full and current story on campaign spending, which actually shows that a deluge of undisclosed outside money is supporting Republicans and outpacing similar expenditures for Democrats -- especially in the Kentucky contest.
The 4-to-1 statistic that Hemmer used may be a reference to a widely cited report from The Wall Street Journal that found super PACs aligned with Democrats had raised four times more than their Republican counterparts. By focusing on super PAC figures, Fox News is ignoring massive spending from outside right-wing groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Fox News contributor Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, and the Koch brothers' network of secretive and increasingly political groups. These organizations don't reveal their donors, and sometimes -- depending on the type of ad they are running -- they don't even reveal their expenditures. Groups of that sort have spent more "dark money" -- funds from undisclosed donors -- than Democratic-leaning groups have.
Fox News' report on the Supreme Court's recent order temporarily blocking a Texas law that imposed strict requirements on state abortion providers included references to the horrific crimes of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell, but left out the law's dangerous implications for women's health and access to reproductive care.
On October 14, the Supreme Court stopped implementation of the law, allowing over a dozen Texas abortion clinics to re-open. The law "caused all but eight of the state's abortion clinics to close," according to The New York Times. The challenged restrictions require all abortion clinics in the state to meet the standards of "ambulatory surgical centers" and all doctors "performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital." The court order blocked the former requirement and partially blocked the latter.
The October 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom invoked Gosnell's crimes in its report on the Supreme Court order. Senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano admitted that "the practical effect of [the law] was to reduce the number of facilities in the state of Texas that could perform abortions," but went on to characterize the Texas law as intended to protect women's health and prevent crimes like Gosnell's:
Fox News provided a platform for Iowa Senate Candidate Joni Ernst (R) to recite talking points during an interview on the network, but neglected to ask Ernst about any of her controversial policy positions that are garnering widespread criticism across other media outlets.
During the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum interviewed Ernst about her campaign for the U.S. Senate opposite Democrat Bruce Braley. After highlighting a clip of Ernst's infamous campaign ad featuring the castration of pigs, MacCallum asked Ernst a series of softball questions including:
1. Were you nervous that that ad might backfire on you, Joni?
2. There's a huge ground game, Democratic ground game, very strong in Iowa left over even from President Obama's runs there. How are you going to compete with that?
3. How many undecided voters do you believe are out there right now, and what do you think is the major issue that's on their minds? What are they torn between and how are you going to reach them?
4. So I'm hearing in the local reporting that there's an increase in requests for absentee ballots from Independents and also from Democrats, so there's definitely an effort by your opponent to get out some of these voters who maybe don't usually vote in midterm elections. How does your ground game match up to what they're doing?
Fox's mild string of questions failed to get to the heart of Ernst's controversial platform. While MacCallum's inquiries into Ernst's "ground game" strategies provided the candidate a platform to discuss her own talking points, the interview failed to include the full scope of Ernst's controversial policy positions which have come under fire from other media outlets.
The Washington Post recently criticized the candidate for attempting to "cover her tracks" by backtracking on her previous support for a 'Personhood' amendment -- which would amend the state Constitution, preventing access to preventative health services for women including abortion and various forms of contraception.
ThinkProgress pointed out that Ernst is one of many Republican politicians that admit to "not knowing the science of climate change, but remain happy declaring we need do nothing about it," and noted that Ernst's climate denial was an issue so important it could cost her the election.
In a piece asking "How Does This GOP Senate Candidate Keep Getting Away With Such Terrible Gaffes," Mother Jones noted that Ernst has alleged that Obama has "become a dictator" and may deserve impeachment.
But any discussion of these extreme viewpoints were noticeably missing from today's interview.
Fox News is calling recent court decisions blocking voter ID laws a "setback," despite the fact that these decisions will allow more people to engage in the political process.
On October 9, the Supreme Court issued an order temporarily blocking Wisconsin's voter ID law -- a law that The New York Times called "one of the strictest in the nation." Even though these kinds of voter ID laws disproportionately affect people of color and in-person voter fraud is almost nonexistent, right-wing media outlets has repeatedly celebrated them. National Review Online was highly supportive of Wisconsin's law in particular, and it called fears that the new ID requirements would cause "chaos at the polls" overblown because "there has been no such 'chaos' in any of the other states that have implemented voter-ID laws over the past ten years."
Elsewhere, in Texas, a federal court struck down that state's voter ID law -- another stringent law that right-wing media have described as "a good thing." However, in its ruling, the court called Texas' law an "unconstitutional poll tax" that "has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose."
Yet Fox News was apparently unmoved by the Texas court's proclamation that the right to vote "defines our nation as a democracy." On the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum said the "timing" of the orders was "very interesting." Her co-host, Bill Hemmer, said the decisions were "the latest setbacks" to laws "meant to crack down on voter fraud":
The timing is interesting, but probably not in the way MacCallum thinks. Although the court's order doesn't say why it stopped Wisconsin's law from being implemented, SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston suggested that "the fact that this year's election is less than a month away may have been the key factor." In its brief in the Wisconsin case, the ACLU also argued that "[n]o court has permitted a voter ID law to go into effect this close to an election based on last-minute changes to the law." Had the law been implemented before the 2014 election, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters could have been affected. According to the ACLU and the Advancement Project, state officials would have had "to issue some 6,000 IDs per day between now and the election" to ensure that every eligible voter had the required form of identification.