From the moment Debo Adegbile was nominated to the most recent smear in the Washington Examiner, right-wing media have made clear that their objection to President Obama's pick to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is that he is one of the preeminent civil rights attorneys of his generation.
Paradoxical? Only if you believe in civil rights precedent and the idea that civil rights experts should be the ones bringing civil rights cases.
Right-wing media, apparently, believe in none of that.
Byron York's attempt in the Examiner to tenuously link Adegbile with guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was just another example of right-wing media's concern that Adegbile might do his job a little too well. Resorting to invoking right-wing media's favorite civil rights bogeyman of the long-established legal doctrine for establishing impermissible racial discrimination from unjustified racial effects, York accused Adegbile of "embrac[ing]" the EEOC's "crazy" use of disparate impact precedent. From the March 3 column:
It's not unusual for businesses to conduct a check before hiring new employees. If the check uncovers that the applicant has, say, a felony conviction in his past -- well, that can put a quick end to the application process.
But Obama's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that the use of background checks in hiring is racially discriminatory.
Hearing that, many employers might say: This is crazy. There are companies that will reject a job candidate because he posted something embarrassing on his Facebook page, and the Obama administration is warning businesses they'll be in trouble if they don't hire convicted felons?
Of course a business, after a background check, might well choose to hire a felon. But that is the employer's decision -- not the Obama administration's.
At the moment, EEOC "guidance" does not have the force of law, no matter the threats from top EEOC officials. That's where Debo Adegbile comes in. When he was with the NAACP, Adegbile praised the commission's guidelines. Now, if he becomes the assistant attorney general for civil rights, he will have the power to pursue the same or similar policies.
In written questions, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley asked Adegbile whether he would, if confirmed, "take action to abridge or eliminate an employer's ability to perform criminal background checks on potential employees." Adegbile embraced the EEOC position and suggested it would guide his own actions in the Justice Department. "If employers do perform background checks, the EEOC has released guidance on the subject," he told Grassley.
But York is stretching in this failed attempt to land a new hit on Adegbile.
In response to a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation on sulfur in gasoline, Fox News misinformed viewers about the health benefits of reducing sulfur, which contributes to smog, and overstated even the claims of the oil industry about the costs of the rule.
As fact checkers investigated and debunked claims made in an ad attacking the Affordable Care Act, Fox News and other conservative media used a cancer patient's illness to defend the spot's dishonesty.
The episode is part of an ongoing pattern in the conservative media of promoting anecdotal Obamacare horror stories that have fallen apart under scrutiny.
A Fox News segment falsely labeled as a "bailout" a temporary system to pay health insurers money they are owed by the federal government to subsidize insurance plans in the Affordable Care Act exchanges, even though the segment itself debunked the notion.
Despite the improvements that have been made to fix some of the numerous issues with HealthCare.gov, problems with parts of the website remain. Subsidies that help make the plans offered on the exchanges more affordable are paid directly from the government to insurers, but the online system that handles these payments is not ready. Bloomberg explained that a temporary system to make these payments to insurers has been set up:
The government's original plans called for the federal system to automatically determine consumer subsidies and issue payments to insurers. Instead, the companies will submit estimates that will be "trued up" by the government at a later date, according to a CMS memo provided to Bloomberg News. The work-around for insurers will be in place until the automatic payment system is ready, though CMS has no specific date for the fix, [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokesperson Aaron] Albright said.
On December 4, America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer said of the temporary payment system: "Some say it already looks like a bailout for the insurance companies. There's that B-word again." As he introduced The Washington Examiner's Byron York, Hemmer said "you could call it a bailout," which York agreed with.
But during the segment, York and co-host Martha MacCallum mentioned details that debunk Hemmer's claim that this is a bailout, noting that this is money the insurers will receive anyway and that the government and the insurers will later make sure the payments are accurate. Watch:
Daniel Durham, an executive at industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, explained to Reuters that "[o]nce the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to 'true up' payments." CMS spokesperson Aaron Albright told Bloomberg that this temporary process "is consistent with how payments have been made to issuers in the Medicare program."
No bailout involved.
Washington Examiner correspondent Byron York dishonestly criticized the Senate immigration bill as a mere "promise of border security," ignoring the significant border enforcement component of the Senate immigration bill.
On the July 17 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer and York discussed a recent Fox News poll on immigration which found that 81% of those surveyed are in favor of "strengthening border security," while 74% favor legalization that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the country. York responded to the poll by falsely claiming that the Senate immigration bill is weak on border enforcement:
YORK: Well, the key word is first. The big issue is the sequence of those things, because a lot of Americans do favor legalizing the immigrants who are here illegally at the moment and putting them on a path to citizenship. But they want border security to be in place first. And the Senate bill was essentially a promise of border security in place, and the House will want to insist on the reality of border security that's actually done and in place before the process gets underway.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum and contributor Byron York suggested that the President Obama may have scheduled his current trips to Europe and Africa to help his poll numbers even though both trips were scheduled as early as November 2012.
Obama is currently in Northern Ireland attending a G8 summit before embarking on a tour of Africa -- an effort to strengthen economic ties to the continent. On the June 18 edition of America's Newsroom, MacCallum and York were discussing the president's current job approval rating when MacCallum wondered aloud whether Obama was trying to "get overseas and do some traveling and draw the attention somewhere else" in an attempt to "turn the tide." York responded, "Well, he's trying that."
Both the G8 summit and the Africa trip were being planned as early as November 2012, according to the BBC and Politico respectively. At that time, President Obama had just won re-election and had a job approval rating of over fifty percent.
Fox News contributor Byron York suggested that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's congressional testimony on Benghazi indicated that President Obama failed to order the military to protect Americans under attack. However, Panetta testified that Obama explicitly directed him to take military action to protect American lives.
On Fox's America's Newsroom on Friday, guest host Rick Folbaum aired clips of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) questioning Panetta during Thursday's hearing about the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. York described Panetta's testimony as confirming that "[a]fter having a prescheduled meeting in the afternoon on that day, Secretary Panetta spoke to [President Obama] no more." York then said, "I think what became clear with Lindsey Graham's questioning about possible military activity is that nobody in the Pentagon would have ordered military action without a specific order from the president. And the president wasn't around."
But Panetta's very testimony refutes York's accusation: Panetta made it clear that Obama ordered Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and himself to take all necessary action to protect Americans under attack.
The right-wing media are claiming that the "liberal agenda" President Obama outlined in his second inaugural address is out of the mainstream, even though polling has shown that the majority of Americans agree with Obama's stances on marriage equality, sustainable energy, and other issues.
Fox News is continuing its hunt for "pork" in a Hurricane Sandy relief bill blocked by House Speaker John Boehner, claiming that the bill included $600 million for the Environmental Protection Agency to address climate change. But the funds in question actually focused on ensuring affected states' access to clean water, a crucial issue in the wake of the storm - and emblematic of future consequences of climate change.
Rep. Boehner recently canceled a vote on a Sandy relief bill, prompting heavy criticism from some members of his own party. He later reversed course and called for a vote on $9 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program, with another $51 billion in relief spending to be voted on later.
Continuing Fox News' attempts to find "pork" in the bill, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer proclaimed lawmakers "were just chucking everything" including "$600 million for climate change for the EPA" into the bill, and "that's where the resistance" from Rep. Boehner came:
But the previous day, Rep. Carolyn Maloney had explained to Fox Business that the "money is for wastewater treatment," which she pointed out is "very much needed" in many areas hit by Sandy. Indeed, The New York Times reported that sewage from storm-battered treatment plants had flowed into New York and New Jersey waterways after the storm, "a sign of an environmental and public health disaster that officials say will be one of the most enduring and expensive effects of Hurricane Sandy."
Niall Ferguson's Newsweek cover story on President Obama exemplifies a deficiency in today's media. As criticism of Ferguson's shoddy work mounted -- both from outside and inside of Newsweek/The Daily Beast -- Newsweek explained to Politico's Dylan Byers that Newsweek "rel[ies] on our writers to submit factually accurate material." Indeed, Byers also noted that Newsweek does not even have a fact-checking department.
This admission is disturbing on face. Newsweek wants to sell you stories and news about the world but can't even be bothered to check the claims it publishes. Even worse, they didn't seem all that uncomfortable with the admission. Newsweek's defense is that others are this lackadaisical at journalism, which is to say Newsweek has no defense. In a media environment without fact-checkers, it's no wonder we have fabulists and problems with facts and the media. But there's a more pernicious ramification of Newsweek's abdication of journalistic practices: This is what the predatory conservative echo-chamber and Fox News count on.
Fox and the right-wing echo chamber exploit these vulnerabilities in the media. When the media process seems shoddy (regardless of whether it actually is) and the result produces news that is inconsistent with conservative ideology, right-wing media pounce and attack the outlet as part of some left-wing media cabal. We've seen Fox do this from Dan Rather to Politico to ABC News to MSNBC and more. On the other hand, when they find the argument useful, the right-wing echo chamber can herald the piece and ignore inaccuracies within.
It's no surprise that while discussing Ferguson's article across multiple programs, Fox never discussed the myriad factual problems in Ferguson's piece that one could find with a rudimentary Google search. This is even as Ferguson's self-professed friend who writes for the same outlet called the piece "absurd propaganda."
Byron York, the chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner, is amplifying Mitt Romney's discredited allegation that President Obama knowingly slowed down the economic recovery because he favored health care reform.
This Romney falsehood is based on a distortion of comments reported in the book The Escape Artists: How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery, by The New Republic's Noam Scheiber. The actual comments make clear that the White House has always rejected the dubious claim that it could not focus on economic recovery and health care reform at the same time.
Under the headline "Romney: Obama slowed recovery to push Obamacare," York declared:
In an appearance in Texas Wednesday, Mitt Romney charged that President Obama "knowingly slowed down the recovery in this country...in order to put in place Obamacare." The president's action, Romney said, "deserves a lot of explaining."
Romney's claim that Obama "knowingly slowed down the recovery" is based on a misreading of The Escape Artists. As documented by Talking Points Memo, Romney claimed:
A book that was written in a way that's apparently pro-President Obama, was written by a guy named Noam Scheiber and in this book he says that there was a discussion about the fact that Obamacare would slow down the economic recovery in this country and they knew that before they passed it. But they concluded that we would all forget how long the recovery took once it had happened, so they decided to go ahead. The idea that they knowingly slowed down our recovery in order to put in place Obamacare, which they wanted and they considered historic but the American people did not want or consider historic, is something which I think deserves a lot of explaining, because I think the President's responsibility is to put people back to work. To get people out of poverty and to help people have good jobs and have prospects for a brighter tomorrow.
Romney's claim, that Scheiber's book proves that the Obama administration knowingly slowed the economic recovery, is false.
As New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait detailed when Romney first started leveling the accusation, the comments in the book are attributed to former White House economic adviser Larry Summers, who made it perfectly clear that he did not think that passing the Affordable Care Act would slow the economic recovery:
The passage cited by Romney as evidence that Obama willingly chose to "make life harder for the American people" is an interview with Larry Summers:
"I always admired the president's courage for recognizing that 50 years from now, people would remember that all Americans had health care," Larry Summers later said in an interview. "And even if pursuing health care affected the pace of the recovery, which was unlikely in my view, people wouldn't remember how fast the recovery from this recession was."
As you might notice from the phrase "even if," Summers denied that health-care reform affected the pace of the recession. That is, he was claiming the opposite of the position imputed to him by Romney.
Chait went on to note additional comments from Summers that made it clear that the administration did not choose health care reform over economic growth.
The Obama campaign recently released a new ad highlighting the way venture capital firm Bain Capital, under Mitt Romney's leadership, handled the takeover of a steel mill that later went bankrupt. Bain Capital walked away with millions in profit and consulting fees while hundreds of GST Steel workers lost their jobs and many more lost a percentage of their pensions. The U.S. government ultimately had to intervene to cover the mill's pension payments.
Fox News is defending Romney by pointing to the Obama administration's handling of the auto industry's rescue and the dealerships that were closed under the managed bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler -- which resulted in significant job losses.
Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade highlighted the losses when he claimed that "there's no way the president should have been cutting dealerships and making these demands. He knew nothing about the car business -- that was way over the line." Kilmeade added: "He's talking about costing jobs, he went in and fired a bunch of people."
Fox News contributor Byron York similarly argued that Romney and his supporters should bring up the dealerships closed during the auto rescue and the "tens of thousands" of jobs lost as a result. Senior Fox political analyst Brit Hume advised Romney to "talk about the dealerships, the auto dealerships that were closed down when the government took control of a couple of the auto companies," adding, "an awful lot of people lost their jobs."
But to compare Bain's treatment of GST Steel to the Obama administration's handling of the auto crisis is not only "fairly silly," it ignores important facts.
Fox News is pushing fatally flawed analogies to defend Mitt Romney from criticism over his jobs record at Bain Capital, pointing to the Obama administration's green energy loans and the successful rescue of the U.S. auto industry. These comparisons crumble under scrutiny, as leveraged buyouts are different from providing bankruptcy financing or loans.
The publication last week of an excerpt from a forthcoming Barack Obama biography sparked an especially frenzied response from conservative bloggers who view the president's distant personal past with an unhealthy fascination.
The book's new revelation about the identity of a girlfriend Obama had soon after he graduated college nearly 30 years ago, along with the other biographical nuggets, were deemed to be crucial pieces of information that had gone missing during the 2008 campaign season. Washington Examiner columnist Byron York bemoaned the fact that the Vanity Fair excerpt revealed "a portrait of Obama that might have enriched the voters' understanding of him in the 2008 campaign."
Indeed, for conservatives, previously unearthed details about Obama post-college girlfriend represented the latest piece of evidence that reporters hadn't done enough digging during the previous campaign. That they never grilled the candidate; that they ignored the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story! (Fact: They covered it. Exhaustively.)
But this time around, it's going to be different. Obama's (supposedly mysterious) life story is going to be fleshed out during the 2012 campaign.
Under the headline, "Re-Vetting Wars: Obama's Girlfriends Speak," American Thinker blogger Thomas Lifson noted "One of the foremost concerns of the Obama re-election effort is the promised re-vetting of Obama, playing off the widespread perception that the media utterly failed to investigate the reality beneath the highly manufactured identity peddled in 2008."
That vow to "vet" the president has become a mantra this year. Addressing CPAC this winter, Andrew Breitbart declared "[T]his election we're going to vet him," and specifically promised to "vet" Obama's "college days." (Days after Breitbart died in March, his site unveiled the "college days" vetting he had promised; it did not go well for Team Breitbart.)
That same month, Sean Hannity announced it was clear that Obama's "friends" in the press made sure "that his past remains un-vetted," while Hannity's angry guest Michelle Malkin reported it was time to "vet the prez."
The vetting obsession however, doesn't spring from a natural affinity for fact checking. Instead, it's used to bolster the broader conservative argument that the real reason Obama won an electoral landslide victory in 2008 was because the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is. And, by extension, if Obama wins re-election in November, the only reason will be because for his four years in office, the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is.
The conspiracy theory serves as a convenient catchall excuse for why Obama succeeds electorally despite the conservative press' depiction of him as a monster determined to destroy the American economy and ruin our way of life. That's all accurate, the bloggers insists. It's just that the liberal media hasn't properly conveyed all the crucial information to voters.
Media conservatives are pushing the narrative that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's attacks against President Obama over the economy will be effective because Obama favored health care reform rather than focusing on "fixing the economy." However, this narrative falters when confronted with the facts, including that Obama pushed through the first of many economic initiatives a month after he was elected -- more than a year before health care reform became law.