The right-wing media is pouncing on a federal judge's ruling striking down parts of Utah's anti-polygamy law, using the decision to assert that legalized polygamy is an inevitable consequence of the slippery slope created by marriage equality for same-sex couples.
On December 13, Judge Clark Waddoups, a U.S. District Court judge in Utah appointed by President George W. Bush, issued a decision finding that Utah's ban on "cohabitation" violated constitutionally protected rights of free exercise of religion and due process. The case, Brown v. Buhman, was brought by Kody Brown, a star of the reality television show "Sister Wives."
Conservative media outlets immediately linked the decision to the push for same-sex marriage rights. FrontPageMag proclaimed that "[t]urning gay marriage into a thing paves the way for legalizing polygamy. As everyone with a brain predicted." "Judge Cites Same-Sex Marriage in Declaring Polygamy Ban Unconstitutional," Breitbart.com reported. And even as he acknowledged that the decision didn't vindicate opponents of marriage rights for gay couples, Commentary's Jonathan Tobin declared that "[t]he floodgates have been opened."
In reality, here's what media outlets need to know about Judge Waddoups' ruling:
With Brown likely headed toward an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, it's far from clear whether Waddoups' ruling will stand. What should be obvious, though, is that contrary to the right wing's willful distortion of the decision, it's neither the inevitable consequence of same-sex marriage nor the first step toward legalized polygamy.
Conservative media figures have attacked House Speaker John Boehner for accusing tea party groups of undercutting Republican Party interests, claiming that Boehner did so to facilitate passage of "amnesty" in 2014. But the "amnesty" label that right-wing figures affix to immigration reform has been disputed even by Republican lawmakers opposed to reform.
Indeed, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate imposes severe hurdles and makes undocumented immigrants wait 13 years before they can even begin to apply for citizenship.
As the Washington Post explained:
One of the weaknesses of the public conversation about immigration is that any proposal under which the final result for some undocumented immigrants is citizenship gets labeled "amnesty." But in reality, most proposals put a ton of hurdles between such immigrants' current status and that goal.
The Post included this graph from the Center for American Progress, which drives home the absurdity of calling what basically amounts to a 13-year wait -- that may or may not result in citizenship -- an "amnesty":
As the Post reported on December 12, Boehner criticized tea party and ultra-conservative groups who came out against a recently passed bi-partisan budget deal, calling them "misleading" and without "credibility," and saying they are "working against the interests of the Republican Party."
After Pope Francis released his first apostolic exhortation -- in which he criticized global inequalities of wealth and the tenets of so-called trickle-down economics -- right-wing media went on the attack, characterizing the pope's treatise as "disturbingly ignorant" and "pure Marxism."
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 an agreement was reached with Iran to halt parts of their nuclear program, right-wing media figures responded by calling the compromise "abject surrender by the United States" and comparing negotiations between the United States and Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the lead up to the Second World War.
As the nation mourns the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, conservative media figures have attempted to appropriate his legacy and attribute to the beloved former president their conservative ideas and positions. This effort runs counter to Kennedy's stated positions, speeches, and other historical facts surrounding his presidency.
President Obama's recitation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is sparking hysteria from the right-wing media who slammed the president for omitting the phrase "under God." But ironically, in their hurry to attack the president, they omitted the fact that Obama was reading the first draft of the speech -- a draft that did not include "under God" -- at the request of filmmaker Ken Burns.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, filmmaker Ken Burns compiled footage of important national figures -- including Obama and all the living former presidents -- reciting portions of the speech.
On November 19, right-wing radio host Chris Plante accused Obama of omitting the phrase "under God" from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address. Other conservative media outlets like the Drudge Report, The Daily Caller, and National Review Online's The Corner promptly ran with the story. WMAL, which hosts The Chris Plante Show, remarked about the news:
One nation under God? Under President Obama, maybe not so much.
As first reported on WMAL's Chris Plante Show Tuesday, the Commander-in-Chief joined a cast of 61 other noted lawmakers, politicians, news anchors and celebrities, including every living President, in reciting the Gettysburg Address, which President Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863.
The dignitaries all delivered the address as Lincoln had written it, including the phrase, "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." (Click to listen). Curiously, however, in his version of the address, President Obama omitted the words "under God."
Obama's recitation was not 'curious,' it was accurate -- Burns requested that President Obama read the 'Nicolay Version' of the Address, which was Lincoln's first draft of the Address and does not contain the phrase "under God." The relevant text of the Nicolay version, which Obama recites, reads (emphasis added):
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The right-wing media's rush to hysteria and ignorance of the facts in this case is ironic: Burns' project is called Learn the Address.
UPDATE: After this post's publication, the Daily Caller acknowledged the error in an update to its original post:
The "Learn the Address" website notes that "We asked President Obama to read ... the 'Nicolay Version'" of the Gettsyburg Address, which omits the words "under God." That disclosure does not appear alongside Obama's video on the site.
UPDATE 2: National Review Online's The Corner also published an update to its original post:
During today's White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney claimed that President Obama had read from the version of the Gettysburg Address given to him by documentarian Ken Burns. This appears to be the case. As Mediaite notes, the website for Burns' upcoming project, Learn the Address, says that there are five manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address and that Obama read from the "Nicolay Version." This version of the manuscript is believed to be the earliest of the copies of the Address, and it does omit the phrase "under God." Three of the five manuscripts do include the phrase.
The office of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) revoked access to a Senate meeting room for a right-wing confab planning to discuss how American social conservatives can learn from Russia's draconian crackdown on LGBT people. Among the participants slated to speak at the event was Breitbart.com columnist and notorious homophobe Austin Ruse.
BuzzFeed's J. Lester Feder reported on November 14 that Kirk - who supports marriage equality and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) -- had shut down the planned November 15 "Family Policy Lessons From Other Lands: What Should America Learn?" conference. A Kirk spokesman explained that "Sen. Kirk doesn't affiliate with groups that discriminate."
Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Instiute (C-FAM) and Breitbart.com's go-to anti-gay extremist, lashed out at Kirk, calling him a "coward" and blasting the "shameful" cancellation of the event. But while Ruse and his fellow anti-LGBT activists might be too fringe for the Senate's meeting rooms, he's always welcome to spew his hate at Breitbart.com and conservative websites like The Daily Caller, where he penned a column titled "Putin is not the gay bogeyman." At Breitbart.com, Ruse has been a relentless cheerleader for Matthew Shepard trutherism and supporter of Russia's anti-gay crackdown, which Ruse considers vital to "human rights." In his capacity as C-FAM president, Ruse has worked to block a U.N. treaty on the rights of people with disabilities and supported the former right-wing government of Poland in its effort to fire pro-gay teachers.
Ruse's Breitbart.com column on the "human rights" groups supporting Russia's anti-gay laws touted a joint statement signed by social conservative organizations from around the globe endorsing the Kremlin's crackdown and expressing concern "about the heavy attacks that the Russian Federation is facing" in the wake of the laws' passage. Several of the groups that signed the statement were planning on participating in the now-canceled Senate-sponsored conference. They include the Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF), whose spokesman says that the U.S. is "doomed to extinction" thanks to marriage equality. WCF has also worked internationally to defend laws criminalizing homosexuality. The anti-contraception Population Research Institute, another signatory of the pro-Kremlin statement, was also to have been represented at the November 15 event by President Steven Mosher.
The symposium would have been much more than a gathering of figures who wish to "discriminate." Ruse and his anti-LGBT compatriots are enthusiastic backers of vicious laws that have stoked a horrific climate of violence and vigilantism toward gay Russians. If full-throated support for such grievous human rights violations isn't disqualifying at Breitbart.com, what is?
Conservative media are applauding House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) decision to refuse negotiations on immigration reform between the House and Senate, which likely means the end of comprehensive immigration reform this year. This decision comes after months of right-wing media telling Republicans to obstruct any and all action to pass comprehensive immigration legislation.
Following Republican Ken Cuccinelli's defeat in the Virginia gubernatorial race, conservative media blamed the Republican Party establishment for not supporting Cuccinelli's right-wing agenda.
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
On October 15, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a case that challenges a 2006 ballot initiative in Michigan that amended the state's constitution to prevent state universities from using race or sex as one of many equal factors in admissions. Although proponents of what was formerly known as Proposal 2 say this resulting affirmative action ban is consistent with the law, it appears to be specifically prohibited by the "political restructuring" doctrine of the Supreme Court.
Fox News and right-wing blogs falsely claimed that the federal government turned off Amber Alert, the child abduction broadcast service, because of the government shutdown. In fact, there have been several Amber Alerts since the shutdown began October 1 -- only a Justice Department website listing them has been shut down, along with the websites of many other federal agencies due to a lack of funding.
Before Republicans caused a government shutdown beginning October 1 by refusing to fund the government unless Democrats accepted unrealistic demands, media reports explained that numerous federal government websites would go offline or would not be constantly updated as a result.
A week later, right-wing media are highlighting the unavailability of the Justice Department's AmberAlert.gov website to falsely claim that the government "shut off" the Amber Alert program. On October 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said "if somebody goes missing, and an Amber Alert should be issued, it won't be" due to the website not being available. Fox Nation's headline read: "Amber Alerts Cancelled: WH First Targets Veterans, Now Targeting Children, in Shutdown." A Breitbart.com blog post claimed in a headline, "Amber Alerts Shut Off." And the Washington Examiner claimed that "somebody, somewhere in the Obama White House or the Obama Justice Department decided to shut down the Amber Alerts."
Contrary to the right-wing media's claims, Amber Alerts have continued to be issued since the shutdown began. On October 5, an Amber Alert in Miami, Florida for a missing two-year-old was made and then canceled. An Amber Alert was issued in Galveston County in Texas on October 5 for four children, but was later canceled when the children were found safe in Tennessee.
The government shutdown and the suspension of Justice Department websites did not stop Amber Alerts. As California Highway Patrol officials explained to a NBC affiliate reporting on the shutdown of the Amber Alert webpage, local law enforcement agencies will still alert local media outlets about an Amber Alert.
UPDATE: The Justice Department's Amber Alert website AmberAlert.gov has been restored. A link on the website to view active Amber Alerts shows that this website does not post any active Amber Alerts. A Justice Department spokesman explained on Twitter that "[a]t no point has AmberAlert system been interrupted during shutdown":
Conservative media are citing an article in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (JPandS) to attack legitimate research on the causes of gun violence. While its title suggests that it is a serious research publication, the journal is published by a conspiracy-minded right-wing organization and has printed articles questioning the link between HIV and AIDS and theorizing that undocumented immigrants are spreading leprosy in the United States.
JPandS is published by conservative non-profit Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), an anti-healthcare reform advocacy group that opposes almost all government involvement in healthcare. The National Library of Medicine, which bills itself as "[t]he world's largest biomedical library," has twice declined to index JPandS in its database of medical reports.
Still, an article by AAPS Executive Director Dr. Jane M. Orient has been cited by conservative media to attack calls for more research into the causes and prevention of gun violence by the Obama administration and the medical and scientific communities. AAPS aided the gun lobby in its successful endeavor to block the Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence during the 1990s.
In a September 23 op-ed for The Daily Caller, National Shooting Sports Foundation Senior Vice President and General Counsel Larry Keane cited Orient's article to attack the scientifically supported claim that "fewer guns equals less violence":
One of the anti-gun lobby's leading arguments is that fewer guns equals less violence. This seems like a logical argument, and is often passed on as fact. But, as with most of the arguments the anti-gun left recycles over and over, the facts simply do not back it up.
In the fall issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons , Jane M. Orient, M.D. argues there is no evidence-based support for more gun control measures. Rather, the statistics gun-control proponents cite are cherry-picked from larger data sets that show no correlation between more gun laws and less violence.
Orient's article was also approvingly cited by Breitbart.com's AWR Hawkins and promoted by Guns.com. During a September 4 appearance on the National Rifle Association's media arm, NRA News, Orient attacked "organized medicine" for calling for gun violence research and stated that "the best evidence we have" on gun violence "was collected by John Lott." Lott, whose research on gun violence was cited in Orient's JPandS article, has been widely discredited.
A recent incident in which 7,500 songbirds died after flying over a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant has been ignored by the same conservative media outlets that often exaggerate the danger posed to birds by wind turbines, including hyping an incident in which a single bird was killed in Scotland.
The birds killed by the LNG facility, which may have included some endangered species, were headed south for the winter when a routine "flare" release at the Canaport LNG facility in Canada, used to burn off excess natural gas, drew them in. Though company officials apologized for the episode and said they are modifying equipment to reduce flaring, one manager at the plant admitted "At the moment there's not a whole lot I can do to resolve it in the short term." The dead reportedly included "a large number of red-eyed vireos" (see photo above).
Three months prior, another migrating bird, the white-throated needletail, died after flying into a wind turbine off Scotland. The needletail is not endangered or threatened, but it is sighted only rarely in the United Kingdom.
Can you guess how conservative media covered these two cases?
Searches of Nexis, Google and an internal video database indicate that the thousands of birds that died after flying into a Canadian gas flare have not been mentioned by any U.S. conservative outlet to date (or any major U.S. outlet other than the environmental sites Treehugger and National Geographic).
Conversely, the single bird that flew into a wind turbine became a big story in the conservative media bubble. Right-wing outlets used the episode to smear green energy, sometimes betraying sheer glee, as when National Review Online blogger Greg Pollowitz wrote "Your [sic] laughing as you read this, aren't you?" or Rush Limbaugh remarked "[a] bunch of environmentalist whackos watched a precious windmill kill a rare bird."
Conservative media's fixation on a single bird death -- albeit regrettable -- while completely ignoring thousands more seems to let slip that feigning an interest in conservation is simply a convenient way for these outlets to attack wind power, which they have depicted as an agent of "mass slaughter " or an "open-ended aviary holocaust," while overlooking far more elementary, existential threats to wildlife, including climate change. Lest we forget, conservative media figures have regularly mocked those who are concerned about the impact that humans are having on animals -- one Fox News contributor declared "lots of species may be about to leave the planet, and I don't care" -- and attacked conservation efforts for endangered species from lizards to polar bears.