Right-wing media have been pushing multiple dubious claims related to the recent revelation that the IRS used inappropriate criteria to scrutinize some conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Media Matters has compiled five of the worst offenders.
Right-wing media are falsely claiming that excerpts of interviews with IRS employees prove that improper targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status originated from IRS supervisors in Washington, D.C. But House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa admitted on CNN that no such proof is contained in the excerpts.
Right-wing media are wildly distorting facts and criminal procedure to pretend Attorney General Eric Holder "lied" to Congress when he testified about government surveillance of journalists and prosecutorial discretion at a May 15 hearing.
Now that the possible chilling ramifications of legal searches of reporters' work product have been widely condemned not only by the press, both political parties, and President Obama and Holder, right-wing media have resorted to misrepresenting search warrant procedure, criminal law, and basic facts of what the Department of Justice (DOJ) actually did in their investigation of how a State Department employee may have violated the Espionage Act of 1917.
Specifically, right-wing media claim Holder's May 15 testimony is inconsistent with a two-year-old affidavit DOJ filed in support of a search warrant request for an email account associated with Fox News' James Rosen, as part of their investigation into the government official's unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Fox News host Sean Hannity was the most recent example, who showed a clip of the testimony on his May 29 show and then stated "what you just witnessed was the United States Attorney General lying while under oath before Congress."
Continuing in a vein set by Fox News host Megyn Kelly on the May 28 edition of America Live when she complained "it is one thing for the DOJ to go into a courtroom and try to get your records, your phone records, your email records. It's quite another for them not to give you any notice[,]" right-wing media is complaining that the underlying legal rationale behind the warrant request was incorrect. In support of this argument, the Drudge Report has been pushing claims made on Breitbart.com that Holder went "judge shopping" in pursuit of approval for this supposedly flawed search warrant.
Right-wing media figures argued that Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights at a congressional hearing by declaring her innocence before invoking those rights. By contrast, legal experts say Lerner's statement did not negate her constitutional protections.
Breitbart.com is promoting the theory that Hitler was secretly gay, playing into one of the most extreme and damaging anti-gay smears in right-wing politics: that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust.
In a May 9 post, Breitbart.com touted "new evidence" that Hitler was gay, citing a Washington Examiner article that highlighted notes taken from interviews with several of Hitler's doctors. The "evidence" of Hitler's alleged homosexuality includes the claims that Hitler took female hormones and did not sleep in the same bedroom as his girlfriend and eventual wife, Eva Braun:
There is new evidence that Adolph Hitler was gay. Doctors who treated Hitler were interviewed by the U.S. Army after World War II, and the notes from those interviews have now been made public.
Army interrogator Herman Merl, who was a medical technician who interviewed Hitler's doctors, Karl Brandt and Hitler's primary physician, Theodor Morell, wrote "Homosex" in the space provided for Hitler's sexuality. The doctors told Merl that Hitler did not sleep with girlfriend Eva Braun in her bedroom, and he himself received female hormones. Merl wrote, "Eva Braun = separate rooms" and "female hormone - injection 50,000 units." He added, "His sexual life and intercourse with Eva Braun was told to me."
The theory that Hitler was secretly gay isn't new in right-wing circles - anti-gay extremists like Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association have been making similar claims for years. In fact, the "Hitler was gay" claim is part of a broader anti-gay smear which posits that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust and that Hitler intentionally sought out homosexuals for his "inner circle" because their "unusual brutality" made them well-suited to carry out mass genocide.
That myth has been widely debunked, of course, and the reality is that gay people were the victims, not the perpetrators, of the Holocaust.
Breitbart.com's post, with its blaring headline and ominous picture, continues a long tradition in right-wing media of grasping at straws to suggest some link between homosexuality and one of worst human rights atrocities in history.
Members of conservative media are trumpeting a government report indicating that gun homicides have fallen as proof that the need for stronger gun laws is unwarranted, while ignoring multiple factors that could account for the decrease. At the same time, firearm violence continues to be a problem as firearm homicides have fallen less than serious violent crime in general and the rate of gun violence in the United States still far outpaces other high-income nations.
In a May report, the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) indicated that the number of gun homicides fell 39 percent from 18,253 in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011. The Pew Research Center adjusted the figures to represent per capita rates in its report on the BJS data, finding that the incidence of firearm homicide has fallen 49 percent during that time period.
Right-wing media have quickly seized upon this data to dismiss the need for stronger gun laws. According to the National Review Online's Charles C. W. Cooke, the BJS and Pew reports make "embarrassing reading for those who spend their time trying to make it appear as if America is in the middle of a gun-crime wave." John Nolte of Brietbart.com wrote, "This report not only proves the media wrong, it proves the NRA right." Conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote that the reports represent "rotten data for anti-gun advocates trying to revive the Newtown, Conn., anti-gun legislative package." Townhall's Katie Pavlich, who is also a contributor at Fox News, added, "Once again more guns do in fact equal less crime."
But there is no logic to their arguments that data from the reports constitutes evidence against proposals to strengthen gun laws. Gun availability has been repeatedly linked to higher incidence of firearm homicides, and firearms remain the driving factor of homicides, with 70 percent of murders involving guns. According to an October 2012 report from BJS, the rate of serious violent crime declined 75 percent between 1993 and 2011, meaning that gun homicides are declining at a slower pace than overall crime.
Other factors may help explain the fall of gun crime since the early 1990s including reductions in lead levels, the end of the crack epidemic, advances in medicine that allow more gunshot victims to survive their wounds, and a declining rate of gun ownership.
David Martosko of the Daily Mail Online provided former Vice President Dick Cheney a platform to criticize the Obama administration's failure to anticipate the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, without noting that seven attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities occurred during the Bush administration.
In his article, Martosko quotes Cheney saying that the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks was "a failure of leadership" for not anticipating an attack on September 11, which Cheney said the Bush administration always expected following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Martosko's interview of Cheney was promoted by the Drudge Report, Fox Nation, and Breitbart.com.
But none of these outlets promoting Cheney's opinion noted that the U.S. suffered fatal attacks on embassies and consulates during the Bush administration. Between 2002 and 2008, seven attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates took place in Pakistan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Serbia, and Yemen.
Additionally, there have been many attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets -- including embassies -- for decades, and far more have occurred during previous administrations than under President Obama. Mother Jones put together the following graphic based on data from the State Department and the University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism:
Cheney also served as Secretary of Defense during George H.W. Bush's presidency, when there were many times more attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets than under Obama.
Right-wing media are trying to downplay a confrontation over gun sale background checks between a woman who lost her mother in the Newtown, CT, shooting and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) by promoting a report from an Ayotte donor whose wife is the former chair of the New Hampshire GOP.
Erica Lafferty, the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, asked Ayotte during an April 30 town hall meeting in Warren, New Hampshire, "why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't more important" than Ayotte's claim that conducting background checks would be burdensome for gun store owners. According to NBC News, the meeting "drew more than 100 people who came to condemn or support Ayotte's vote."
Reacting to news reports of the confrontation between Lafferty and Ayotte, Shawn Millerick, editor of the conservative New Hampshire Journal, complained of "liberal media bias" and wrote that reports of Ayotte being confronted over her failure to support expanded background checks were exaggerated by the national media. Millerick also posted photographs of cars with out-of-state license plates that he says belonged to the individuals who opposed Ayotte's background check vote.
Breitbart.com, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, RedState and NewsBusters are all promoting Millerick's report as evidence that the media was dishonest in its coverage of Ayotte's town hall meeting while also characterizing Millerick's online newspaper as a "local" media source and not mentioning its partisan slant. According to Breitbart.com's John Nolte, Millerick's report "expose[d] the leftist national media for the liars they are." The Daily Caller's Alex Pappas framed the issue as a discrepancy between "local" and "national" media:
Fox News editor-at-large Peter Boyer previewed the network's special on the Kermit Gosnell murder trial by falsely claiming the trial illustrates "what abortion is," and that Gosnell's alleged crimes were the natural response to Roe v. Wade.
Gosnell is currently facing eight counts of murder for horrific acts committed under the guise of women's health at a clinic he operated in Philadelphia, PA. Since early April, right-wing media have criticized the media's perceived lack of coverage of the trial, and a new Fox documentary on the case is scheduled to air May 3.
In an advance interview with Breitbart.com, Boyer previewed Fox's upcoming Gosnell documentary, claiming that "though abortion itself is not on trial--it ends up being that it really is," and suggested that "Roe v. Wade created a specialized niche in the marketplace and Gosnell filled that niche in an urban, minority community."
However, as Media Matters previously noted, Gosnell's alleged actions bear no resemblance to legal abortion procedures, which is why he faces criminal charges. The grand jury in Gosnell's case noted that "Gosnell's approach was simple: keep volume high, expenses low - and break the law. That was his competitive edge." The grand jury report elaborated:
Pennsylvania, like other states, permits legal abortion within a regulatory framework. Physicians must, for example, provide counseling about the nature of the procedure. Minors must have parental or judicial consent. All women must wait 24 hours after first visiting the facility, in order to fully consider their decision. Gosnell's compliance with such requirements was casual at best. At the Women's Medical Society, the only question that really mattered was whether you had the cash. Too young? No problem. Didn't want to wait? Gosnell provided same-day service.
As University of California reproductive health professor Dr. Tracy Weitz pointed out, the procedures Gosnell is accused of performing have "nothing to do with the way in which the standard of care and later abortion procedures are performed in the United States," and that his actions are "nowhere in the medical literature."
Abortion procedures in the U.S. are highly regulated for safety. Women face fewer complications during legal abortion procedures than during childbirth: just 0.6 deaths per 100,000 abortions compared to 8.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the vast majority of states prohibit abortions after a fetus reaches "viability," typically between 20 to 24 weeks, except primarily in cases when the procedure is "necessary to protect the woman's life or health." Such procedures make up just 1 percent of abortions in the United States.
Though Boyer blamed the legalization of abortion for creating the "niche" that Gosnell's clinic exploited, research has shown that laws promoted by anti-abortion activists that raise access barriers to abortion push women toward such unsafe and unlawful operations as Gosnell's. According to the American Journal of Public Health:
Several studies indicate that the factors causing women to delay abortions until the second trimester include cost and access barriers, late detection of pregnancy, and difficulty deciding whether to continue the pregnancy. In part because of their increased vulnerability to these barriers, low-income women and women of color are more likely than are other women to have second-trimester abortions.
The grand jury in Gosnell's case stated: "Gosnell catered to the women who couldn't get abortions elsewhere." And as Salon's Irin Carmon noted, "The abortion rate is higher in countries where it's illegal, and around 47,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions in clinics that likely look a lot like Gosnell's."
Pro-choice activists have publicly condemned Gosnell. A Planned Parenthood official called the actions committed at his clinic "horrifying and outrageous," and NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue said:
So let me be loud and clear: Kermit Gosnell is a dangerous predator. He wouldn't exist, couldn't exist, without the work of Rep. Duffy and his friends in the anti-choice movement. Opponents of women's rights have hounded safe, legal health providers halfway out of business and blocked women's access to the quality care they need.
Fueled by a report from the conservative Boston Herald, right wing media outlets such as Fox News, the New York Post, and the Washington Times, are demonizing government assistance programs by tying them to the heinous terror attacks committed at the Boston Marathon. Conservative blogs used sensationalized headlines and rhetoric to make their attacks, like RedState's "Does The US Welfare System Benefit Jihadists?" and Monica Crowley's "Nice Return on Our Investment, Huh?"
On April 24, 2013, the Boston Herald published a report that claimed, "Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism."
On the April 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer hyped the report and complained that "taxpayers were giving money to at least one of the bombing suspects."
In reality, the right-wing smear uses an absurd guilt-by-association non sequitur in an attempt to smear government spending programs. But where does this logic end? The Tsarnaev brothers presumably used taxpayer funded roads to physically reach the Boston Marathon finish line. Will right wing media next attack government spending on highway maintenance for literally paving the way for the Boston terror suspects to commit their crimes?
Conservatives are trying to take advantage of the horrific attacks to taint the public perception of yet another policy they dislike. Since the terrorist attack on April 15, the right wing media has exploited the tragedy in Boston to smear Islam, immigration reform, education, a member of Congress, the Obama administration's foreign policy, and even the constitutional rights of American citizens.
UPDATE: During his radio program, Rush Limbaugh also jumped on this bandwagon. Limbaugh claimed the Herald's report shows "another great example of your tax dollars at work."
LIMBAUGH: Now we hear that the entire Tsarnaev family was on welfare. How could he not be an Obama supporter?
So we have another great example of your tax dollars at work. Your tax money helped to pay for the explosives, as well as Tamerlan's at least two trips back to Dagestan, his late model Mercedes, his $900 shoes. No wonder this guy hated America.
Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart.com both falsely suggested that Planned Parenthood knew Dr. Kermit Gosnell was committing murder in his clinic and failed to report his crimes to authorities.
Gosnell is currently on trial for murdering seven infants and a mother, accused of grotesque behavior committed under the guise of women's health services.
Following comments made by Dayle Steinberg, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, Breitbart.com claimed, linking to a LifeNews.com article, that Planned Parenthood "knew about the massacre of the innocents" at Gosnell's clinic but "didn't say a word to the authorities about it."
Similarly, on the April 23 broadcast of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh, also referencing the LifeNews.com post, claimed that Steinberg had admitted Planned Parenthood "knew of what Gosnell was doing at his abortion facility" and "didn't report it to the state health department or other state or local officials." He concluded:
LIMBAUGH: Folks, that is profound to me. We know what was going on in Gosnell's -- I don't even know what we could -- house of horrors doesn't describe what was going on in there. And now we find out that Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood knew all along.
But Steinberg never said that Planned Parenthood was aware of the full extent of Gosnell's crimes -- only that women complained to Planned Parenthood about the "conditions" at Gosnell's clinic. A Philadelphia Inquirer article noted that Steinberg said Planned Parenthood "would always encourage [women with complaints] to report it to the Department of Health."
UPDATE: In a letter to the editor published on Philly.com, Steinberg confirmed that complaints Planned Parenthood had received about Gosnell's clinic referred to "the uncleanliness of his facility." She added, "If we had heard anything remotely like the conditions that have since come to light about Gosnell's facility, of course we would have alerted the state and other authorities."
From Steinberg's letter to the editor:
When Gosnell was arrested, I asked our staff if anyone had ever heard of him, and clinic staff members reported that a few women over the years said they were concerned about the uncleanliness of his facility and came to Planned Parenthood instead.
Our staff told these women that issues of cleanliness should be reported to state officials. If we had heard anything remotely like the conditions that have since come to light about Gosnell's facility, of course we would have alerted the state and other authorities.
Nobody who believes in good health care, access to safe and legal abortion, and respect for women would ever look at Kermit Gosnell's facility and call it a health-care center. He preyed on women in their most vulnerable moments.
The argument by conservative media that former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and other survivors of gun violence who supported a failed Senate compromise to expand background checks on firearms sales are "props" of the Obama administration is both hypocritically partisan and logically flawed.
Right-wing media are unable to acknowledge that President Obama's gun violence prevention agenda mirrors the priorities of gun violence survivors, who are not mere "props," to pass stronger gun laws. As Greg Sargent of The Washington Post notes, "the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want":
All of this aside, the "props" line is actually an insult to the families, posing as a defense of them. It implies that the families, in lobbying on these issues, are not thinking for themselves. In reality, the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want. Indeed, one of the family members, Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel in the shooting, voluntarily stood with the president at the White House yesterday as Obama reacted to news of the Senate vote, and thanked Obama for his leadership. Needless to say, if Barden felt like he was being exploited or used as a prop, he wouldn't be thanking the president. [emphasis in original]
Logical flaws aside, those who would call Newtown families and other gun violence survivors "props" fail to acknowledge that presidents routinely evoke the experiences of victims in advocating for policies that would prevent future tragedies.
In 1991, former President Ronald Reagan evoked his own experience of being shot by a would-be assassin, as well as the experiences of others wounded in the 1981 attack in order to advocate for background checks on gun sales. In a New York Times op-ed Reagan wrote about his press secretary, Jim Brady, who was grievously wounded in the attack by a man who acquired a gun despite a lengthy history of serious mental illness. Brady would go on to lend his name to the legislation -- the Brady bill -- that mandated a background check for gun sales conducted by licensed dealers:
Right-wing media used a straw man argument to defend the Republican-led filibuster of a gun violence prevention bill, claiming that the legislation wouldn't have stopped the massacre at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, and ignoring that there are approximately 30,000 gun deaths in the U.S. each year.
On April 17, the U.S. Senate rejected gun violence prevention legislation that included a compromise amendment to expand background checks crafted by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (WV) and Republican Senator Pat Toomey (PA).
An April 17 Wall Street Journal editorial dismissed the defeated bill as "a liberal wish-list that wouldn't have stopped the next mass murder." Likewise, Breitbart.com featured two blog posts that claimed that gun violence prevention legislation would not have stopped the school shooting in Newtown. In one of these posts, Breitbart.com went so far as to accuse President Obama of throwing a "tantrum" after the vote, saying that "he used the Newtown disaster--or, in the eyes of many critics, exploited it--to make an argument about the urgent need for new laws, even if such laws would not have prevented the Newtown atrocity itself."
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer made similar comments on the April 17 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, saying that the proposal was "irrelevant" and "would not have" stopped the Newtown shooting:
KRAUTHAMMER: The question is, would it have had any effect on Newtown? If you're going to make all of these emotional appeals -- you saying you're betraying the families, you've got to show how if this had been law it would have stopped Newtown. It would not have. It is irrelevant.
Fox contributor Laura Ingraham went even further on the April 18 edition of her radio show, dismissing the bill by claiming that "criminals will be criminals":
INGRAHAM: The real things we can do to stop violent crime, we can actually have an economy that spins off jobs, have policies that don't encourage more lawlessness in our inner cities. Encourage families to stay together, fathers to stay with their, you know, the mothers of their children. All of these things. I mean we have a cultural and moral collapse in our society. You see it in many ways and many iterations of it. But we're supposed to believe that if only these background checks were in place, all -- Newtown wouldn't have happened, Aurora wouldn't have happened, Gabby Giffords wouldn't have been shot, none of this would have happened.
As Newtown parent Mark Barden explained in his April 17 statement at a White House press event, the argument that background checks would not have prevented the Newtown shooting is irrelevant, because the legislation's purpose was to save lives in the future:
Expanded background checks wouldn't have saved our loved ones, but still we came to support the bipartisan proposal from two senators, both with "A" ratings from the NRA -- a common-sense proposal supported by 90 percent of Americans. It's a proposal that will save lives without interfering with the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.
Fox News is attacking a new Maryland anti-pollution measure as a "rain tax," adopting the misleading frame of local politicians. But the program doesn't tax rain -- it taxes surfaces that lead to more pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, a vital ecosystem that generates major revenue for surrounding states.
The program was signed into law in 2012 to meet an Environmental Protection Agency-issued pollution diet for the states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The diet was required under the national Clean Water Act and instituted in response to "continued poor water quality" in the Bay. In order to pay for pollution management and habitat restoration, Maryland is instituting fees based on paved surfaces, which funnel a huge amount of pollution-laden stormwater runoff into gutters, eventually contributing to algal blooms and "dead zones" that kill fish and shellfish.
But following the lead of some local politicians, Fox News is misleadingly labelling it as a "rain tax," attacking the program on nine different Fox News or Fox Business programs between April 11 and 14. For instance, Neil Cavuto criticized the program on his Fox Business show, incorrectly characterizing it as a fee levied because some homes "disproportionately benefit from mother nature":
But Maryland's plan does not tax households that receive more rainfall -- it taxes surfaces that ferry more pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. As the EPA explains, the great size of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in comparison to the Bay itself -- "a ratio much higher than any other comparable watershed in the world" -- makes it "highly susceptible to actions taken on the land, including those associated with agriculture, development, transportation and wastewater treatment." A significant amount of the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that reaches the Bay from stormwater runoff comes from Maryland. Plain soil acts as something of a filter and buffer for this pollution, and impervious surfaces take that benefit away.
Right-wing media outlets are criticizing the Washington attorney general for enforcing non-discrimination laws against a florist who refused to offer her services for a same-sex wedding.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit on April 9 against Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, a florist that refused to supply flowers for the wedding of a same-sex couple due to her religious beliefs. According to the lawsuit, the florist violated the state's Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation.
Right-wing media outlets have jumped on the story, touting it as evidence of the gay community's hostility towards religious freedom.
American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer cited the incident as an example of "homofascism":