Last month, the Breitbart team tried -- and failed -- to gin up outrage over a 1991 video showing then-law student Barack Obama embracing the late Harvard professor Derrick Bell. Breitbart editor-in-chief Joel Pollak went to great pains to cast Bell and the critical race theory that he espoused as radical, even pushing his spin in an appearance on CNN (where host Soledad O'Brien took apart his argument).
In an April 25 post, Pollak returned to the Bell non-controversy, announcing in a post on Big Government that Breitbart News has obtained "exclusive" "handwritten notes" that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan sent to Bell back in 1985. At the time, Kagan was the editor of the Harvard Law Review, to which Bell had submitted an article.
And just what did the Breitbart team find? Apparently nothing good, because the only thing the post proves is that Kagan questioned one of Bell's ideas.
Pollak apparently found images of the notes themselves unworthy of inclusion in his post, save a single image of a few sentence fragments.
Looking on for at least a transcription of the notes -- the headline refers to "handwritten notes" "on critical race theory" -- the reader has to wade through a few paragraphs of Pollak building tension. He seems to have found significance, for example, in Kagan's choice of paper: "Unlike then-Harvard Law Review president Carol Steiker, who corresponded with Bell via typed letter (apparently on a 1980s-vintage dot matrix printer), Kagan chose to write to Bell exclusively on yellow notepad paper. She did not explain her choice to write by hand, save to suggest in one note on Aug. 30, 1985 that she was pressed for time."
President Obama has urged lawmakers to provide relief on student loan debt by preventing interest rates for federally subsidized loans from doubling. Conservative media have responded by ignoring the economic benefits of such a program and instead claiming Obama is trying to "bribe" college students with "gimmicks" and "giveaway[s]" in an effort to get reelected.
A Fox Nation headline shouts: "RUSSIA HIRES EXXON MOBIL TO GET OIL OBAMA DOESN'T WANT." The headline accompanies a Breitbart.com post of the same title by AWR Hawkins about ExxonMobil's deal to develop Russian oil resources in the Arctic. The post is only a few paragraphs long but it gets an impressive number of things wrong. Let's take them one at a time. Hawkins begins by stating:
Here's the picture--Alaska contains a wealth of oil both on land, in ANWR, and off shore in its outer continental shelf. But President Obama and the Democrat party are staunchly opposed to allowing us to avail ourselves of it.
In fact, President Obama is expanding offshore drilling in the Arctic. You don't have to take it from me -- the VP of Shell Alaska has described the Obama administration as having responded "favorably" to its drilling plans. Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office questions whether regulators will be able to provide "sufficient oversight" of Arctic drilling operations given the "environmental and logistical risks associated with the remoteness and environment of the region." Hawkins continues:
And via the Keystone Pipeline, Canada could supply nearly 1,000,000 barrels of oil a day that we're not getting from Alaska, but Obama and the Democrats have stopped that too. As a result, the price we're paying per-gallon for gasoline is steadily climbing, and other countries are choosing to go where we won't for oil. Thus the oil Canada was going to sell us via Keystone will now go to China....
No serious energy analyst would agree that the administration's decision to delay Keystone XL is why gasoline prices have risen. And once the pipeline was up and running at full capacity in a decade or so, the impact on gasoline prices would be a matter of pennies, if anything. As for U.S. oil production, due to the scale of the global market, "we probably couldn't produce enough to affect the world price of oil," in the words of Ken Green from the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
Hawkins claims that the U.S. will be missing out on Canadian oil in the absence of the Keystone XL pipeline, but as FactCheck.org has noted, "There's nothing to prevent more Canadian oil from coming into the U.S. right now" since "existing cross-border pipelines already have much more capacity than they are using" and will have excess capacity until at least 2020. An analysis conducted by the oil consulting firm EnSys for the Department of Energy found that U.S. oil imports are "insensitive" to "whether or not KXL is built and projected that in 2030, the amount of oil we import from Canada would be the same with or without the pipeline. Hawkins again:
Right-wing media have seized on a National Journal report quoting an anonymous State Department official saying that "the war on terror is over" to claim that President Obama has "surrendered." In fact, both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly emphasized their commitment to "eliminat[ing] terrorism" and have repeatedly said "we are at war" with Al Qaeda and other extremists.
Breitbart.com is misrepresenting statements by Van Jones about the public health benefits of environment regulation. Breitbart wrote that Jones "claimed the right is waging an open campaign and willing to kill children to weaken the EPA to create a new job," which is not at all what Jones said in the video that the sites used.
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."
Following the release of a report on the legislative business conducted by the Senate, conservative media have tried to cover up Republican obstructionism in order to label the Democratic-controlled Senate as "lazy" and "do-nothing." In fact, Senate Republicans have repeatedly used procedural tricks to block measures that would otherwise have passed the Senate.
Conservative media figures have been attacking President Obama's economic record by citing the fact that approximately 88 million Americans are not considered part of the labor force. In fact, only a small fraction of those "not in the labor force" actually want to work, and economists say the long-term decline in labor force participation is due to changing demographics -- a trend that is likely to continue over the next decade.
James O'Keefe's Project Veritas has unveiled the latest chapter in its ongoing "voter fraud investigation": a video that purports to show a young man nearly obtaining the ballot of Attorney General Eric Holder. Like O'Keefe's past "voter fraud" videos, however, this video fails to show actual voter fraud being committed, and it doesn't prove the existence of a widespread conspiracy to throw an election. That's because both are extremely rare.
The video shows the man entering a polling place in Washington, D.C., then cuts to the man asking a poll worker, "Do you have an Eric Holder?" After the O'Keefe associate confirms Holder's address, which is censored, the poll worker offers him the voter roll and says, "Please sign your name there." The fake Eric Holder then says he left his ID in the car and leaves.
The video's accompanying blog post on Breitbart.com claims that Project Veritas has "proven" that "voter fraud is easy and simple -- and may be increasingly common in the absence of voter ID laws." A Daily Caller article on the video claimed that Holder "could have himself been disenfranchised by white men because there is no federal voter ID law to protect voters in D.C." from fraud.
This video doesn't prove any of these things. What it shows is a man coming close to committing a serious crime. But even if the man had fraudulently cast a vote under Eric Holder's name, D.C. and federal laws provide a number of protections against fraudulent votes.
First of all, if the imposter had fraudulently cast Holder's ballot, and the real Eric Holder then had shown up to vote and been told his name was already crossed off the list, the real Holder almost certainly could have still voted. Under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, any voter who is told by an "election official" that he or she is "not eligible to vote" must be allowed to "cast a provisional ballot."
The Breitbart.com crew's promise to provide proper "vetting" of President Obama hasn't been going very well. But as mockable as their campaign has been so far, it is now becoming even more hilarious. Today, Breitbart.com features a post by Charles C. Johnson headlined "Obama's War On Catholic Church Began At His First Job." What evidence does the post provide that Obama is anti-Catholic? In 1985, he worked for "Catholic leftists" and was paid by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the former Catholic archbishop of Chicago.
You read that correctly. Johnson's thesis is that Obama is anti-Catholic. And part of his evidence is that a Catholic archbishop paid him:
Obama's first job in Chicago began in 1985 with Jerry Kellman, a Saul Alinksy-trained community organizer who continues to work with the radical Catholic left in the Windy City.
He was paid by these radical Catholic leftists, who in turn had received their money from their parishioners or the larger Catholic church. Obama's travel documents and expenses were signed and approved by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin,a controversial figure in the Catholic church who supported nearly every left-wing movement within it.
Is this a delayed April Fool's joke?
Well, it turns out that, in the mind of the Breitbart.com's Johnson, "Bernardin's work undermined many Catholic teachings." Bernardin was a bishop for about 30 years, and at one time served as the president the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference. So this seems a bit unlikely.
But let's not be too hasty. Maybe Johnson has some evidence of Bernardin's undermining the Catholic Church.
Person-who-is-employed-by-CNN Dana Loesch seems to think she's discovered evidence of "voter fraud" and caught Media Matters in a "FAIL," per the online parlance.
Pointing to reports four Democratic officials in Indiana have been charged with "forging of Democratic presidential primary petitions in the 2008 election," Loesch writes that this October 2011 Media Matters blog post explaining how those allegations of petition fraud were not "voter fraud" was somehow incorrect -- the "fail" declaimed by the headline. Our reasoning at the time for claiming that "petition fraud" and "voter fraud" are two different things was that they're actually two different things, much in the same way an apple is not an orange, nor a bicycle a sledgehammer.
Here's what we said at the time: "The alleged crimes are serious and should be investigated and any perpetrators punished. But the alleged crimes are not voter fraud, no matter how much Fox wants them to be."
As of yesterday, those Democrats have been charged with petition fraud, which is still not voter fraud.
One of the more macabre elements of the conservative response to President Obama's comments on the Trayvon Martin case has been the surge of what-about-ism. After the president gave his statement on Martin (which was primarily one of empathy for the slain boy's parents), the right began combing the obituary pages to find examples of recently killed young Americans and demanding to know why the president weighed in on one Florida teenager's death but not other murders. ("He commented on Martin, but what about...")
The point of the exercise is not to promote awareness of the violence epidemic plaguing the inner cities or the disproportionate number of young African Americans who find themselves victims of violent crimes. It's to use these tragedies as a weapon against the president.
Breitbart.com served up a particularly gross example of this phenomenon yesterday, highlighting the shooting death of 6-year-old Aliyah Shell in Chicago to attack Obama: "No mention of Aliyah from the president. No public outpouring for a young mother who sat untangling her daughter's hair as shots rang out. Nothing."
They argue that this can be explained -- and I'm not joking here -- by Saul Alinsky:
Once again, the right-wing media are working hard to create a controversy where none exists. This time, they're attacking President Obama for telling Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" to negotiate on the issue of missile defense after the November election. In the opinion of these media conservatives, Obama's comments are further evidence that he is "surrendering America." In fact, according to Obama, he was referring to the fact that anything he could do on missile defense would require bipartisan buy-in, which is not very likely during an election year.
Following a meeting on Monday with Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea, Obama told the Russian president, "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it's important for him to give me space," adding: "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." Medvedev responded: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin]." The comments were intended to be private, but were picked up by a hot microphone.
Cue the outrage. Conservative blogger Doug Powers, writing at MichelleMalkin.com, accused Obama of "capitulation." Hot Air's Ed Morrissey blasted the incident as proof that American voters "need to fear an Obama second term." The headline of a post by Breitbart.com's editor in chief, Joel Pollak, read: "Obama to Putin: I'll Surrender America After Re-Election." Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft wrote that Obama "explained his secret plans to sell out America and her allies" and "told Medvedev to wait until after his reelection to sell out American security." Fox News contributor Palin wrote of the incident: "Let this exchange be a warning to voters: President Obama will have 'more flexibility' to weaken us if he's re-elected in November." Fox News contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton called Obama's comments "a fire bell in the night" and accused the president of "giving way on American missile defense, defending our homeland."
But Obama explained today that he was talking about the difficulty in an election year of getting the bipartisan agreement necessary to negotiate on important foreign policy issues. Obama said: "This is not a matter of hiding the ball." He added: "The only way I get this stuff done is if I'm consulting with the Pentagon, if I'm consulting with Congress, if I've got bipartisan support, and the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations."
And bipartisan buy-in is important. In 2010, the right-wing media claimed that Obama was "compromising our missile defense capabilities" by negotiating the New START treaty with Russia. In fact, military leaders strongly supported New START. At the time, 13 Republicans were willing to ignore the right-wing media freak-out and vote for New START, allowing the treaty to attain the support of two-thirds of the Senate needed for ratification. But instructively, that vote did not happen until a lame-duck session after the midterm elections were concluded. Does anyone believe Obama would get so much Republican support on a controversial issue during an election year?
As part of the promotional rollout for his new book, Hollywood Hypocrites, Jason Mattera yesterday unveiled an ambush interview he conducted with U2 lead singer Bono. Or at least, that's who Mattera thought he had ambushed.
The video was posted at conservative websites like Breitbart.com and Glenn Beck's The Blaze, but was later marked "private" on YouTube and pulled from Breitbart.com. Why? As explained by The Blaze,"There is widespread discussion on Twitter that the person Mattera interviewed in the videos may have been a Bono impersonator."
In what is likely the vaguest retraction in recent history, Breitbart.com added an editor's note saying, "Last night, we removed an article about Bono at the request of the videographer who had provided the links to the videos upon which the article had been based."
Another chapter in the right-wing media's campaign against Attorney General Eric Holder was launched yesterday as they attacked Holder's efforts to discourage people from violating the District Of Columbia's gun laws as detailed in a speech Holder gave in 1995. Not surprisingly the 17-year-old speech about trying to convince young men not to illegally carry guns instantly became the latest excuse to use the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious to attack Holder.
Following Breitbart.com's release of a short portion of Holder's speech, Glenn Beck's The Blaze, The Daily Caller and Breitbart.com's own Mary Chastain all pushed the highly tenuous connection to Operation Fast and Furious. As Media Matters noted this morning, Holder's speech addressed his role of U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and efforts to teach young people in the city that "it's not hip to carry a gun anymore," an action that was illegal in the District Of Columbia at the time.
The Blaze opened with the suggestion that "New video of Eric Holder from 1995 has surfaced, and it may put "Fast and Furious" in a much broader perspective." The Daily Caller similarly suggested a connection saying "The revelation that Holder wanted to "brainwash" people into being "anti-gun" appears to be supported by what Congress and the American people have learned about Operation Fast and Furious." Breitbart.com's Chastain asserted that Fast and Furious was about providing Holder with "material" for the "anti-gun curriculum" described in this 1995 speech.
Despite a tremendous amount of hand waving, these attacks fail to personally link Holder to the initiation or approval of the controversial tactics used in Fast and Furious. As accurately noted by Charlie Savage in his December New York Times profile of Holder, "no documents or testimony" have disproved Holder's statement that he didn't know about Fast and Furious as it was underway.
Further, Bush-era investigations featured similar 'gun walking' tactics as those used in Fast and Furious. Rather then suggesting those investigations were gun control plots, Fox News and right-wing media outlets rushed to defend the Bush-era programs. The Democratic staff of the House Oversight Committee released a report in January documenting the three similar operations conducted under the Bush administration out of the ATF's Arizona offices.
Neither the Bush-era gun walking investigations or the dearth of evidence regarding Holder's purported connections to the tactics used in Fast and Furious have slowed down the right-wing media's increasingly nonsensical attacks against Holder.