When the State Department released its final Environmental Impact Statement, nearly all the headlines read the same: "Report Opens Way to Approval for Keystone Pipeline" and "State Dept. Keystone XL Would Have Little Impact On Climate Change." Yet after Reuters broke the news last week that the State Department was wrong in its predictions of greatly expanded rail capacity, undermining its claim of no climate impact, no major media outlet amplified the report.
In a report released late on Friday, January 31, the State Department concluded that Keystone XL was "unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas" based on the assumption that if the pipeline were not built, the equivalent amount of tar sands would instead be transported by rail. It was this finding that the media trumpeted, largely ignoring that buried in the analysis, the State Department for the first time acknowledged that under some studied scenarios, the project could have the equivalent climate impact of adding 5.7 million new cars to the road. The idea that the Keystone XL would not harm the climate led many to declare that President Barack Obama should approve the pipeline, even spurring MSNBC host Ed Schultz to call for approval (before later reversing his stance) and liberal commentator James Carville to predict that the pipeline would be built.
On March 5, Reuters added to skepticism that locking in infrastructure enabling tar sands extraction would have no climate impact, reporting that the State Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had significantly overestimated the amount of tar sands that would move by rail from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The draft EIS projected that about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) would be moved along this route by rail before the end of 2013. However, a Reuters analysis found that "even in December, when deliveries were near their highest for the year, that tally did not top 40,000 bpd" -- less than a quarter of the State Department's prediction. The final EIS removed any specific projections of movement by rail.
Not a single major media outlet has reported on Reuters' finding, according to a Media Matters search.* In fact, some continued to repeat the State Department's claim that Keystone XL could be replaced by rail without mentioning the report.
Much of the initial coverage of the State Department's final EIS left out that an investigation at the time was looking into whether the contractor that wrote the report for the State Department had a conflict of interest in part because it was a member of the pro-pipeline American Petroleum Institute (API). The investigation later concluded that it did not, but environmentalists still contended it was based on too low of a bar. In fact, API told reporters prior to the final EIS release that it received news from inside the State Department about the timing and conclusions of the report, allowing it to spin the findings to reporters beforehand.
From the March 9 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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From the March 7 edition of CNN's Crossfire:
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MSNBC host Chris Hayes blasted the myth that expanding unconventional energy sources in the U.S. will weaken Russia, an "absurd" claim that has been perpetuated by conservative media to pin the security crisis in Ukraine on President Barack Obama.
Conservative media are manipulating the Ukraine crisis to push a "drill, baby, drill" agenda, claiming that approving the Keystone XL pipeline and expanding the use of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") will somehow weaken Russian President Vladimir Putin's influence in Ukraine. They are calling for expanding development of natural gas in the U.S. (including by the environmentally-contentious use of fracking) to ease the concern that Putin may cut off the natural gas supply to Ukraine and subsequently affect natural gas prices in Europe and around the globe.
Liquefying, exporting, and re-gassifying natural gas is more carbon intensive than domestically consuming it, and would likely drive up the price of natural gas in the U.S., so some oppose permitting further LNG export terminals -- at least until fugitive methane emissions are reigned in. Despite concerns, the Obama administration has permitted several LNG export terminals and is expected to permit more. Republicans and the oil and gas industry complain that it's still not fast enough. However, as LNG is very expensive, reports have suggested that even if they were approved, many LNG export terminals probably won't even be used, or at least not for years -- far too late to address the Ukraine crisis. MSNBC's Chris Hayes and his guest Dan Dicker, CEO of wealth management group MercBloc, explained on the March 5 edition of All In with Chris Hayes:
DICKER: The Russians do have a major control, major influence, on most of eastern Europe through natural gas. But we have to distinguish between natural gas -- which is a gas -- and crude oil which is a liquid. If you want to move a liquid from one place to another, you put in the a dixie cup and you can move it any way you like. Natural gas has two ways of being transported, one is through pipelines. Now, the United States can do nothing in terms of creating a pipeline to all of these eastern European nations.
The only other way you can get it across, and what they're talking about is permitting, is through what we call LNG, which is liquid natural gas. It needs to be cooled, natural gas, to be transported as LNG needs to be cooled to a minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit then put in very, very carefully into very select containers that you can now transport overseas. This costs a lot of money. This is why permitting -- you could permit all of the natural gas export plants you want, there are very few energy companies who are going to undertake building these things, they cost $2 billion to convert an import plant into an export plant.
From the March 5 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront:
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From the March 5 edition of CNN's The Lead:
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CNN's Wolf Blitzer distorted comments by Hillary Clinton to criticize her for "compar[ing]" Russian President Vladimir Putin with Adolf Hitler, even though Putin is not engaged in genocide. But Blitzer ignored Clinton's reported statement that while similarities to Hitler's actions are "what's gotten everybody so nervous" about Putin's recent actions, she believes Putin isn't "as irrational" as Hitler and that a diplomatic response is appropriate.
Clinton addressed Russia sending troops into Ukraine at a March 4 California fundraiser for the Long Beach Boys and Girls Club. According to the Long Beach Press Telegram, whose reporter attended the event, Clinton explained that Putin has been issuing Russian passports to people with Russian ethnicity who live in other countries in the region, including in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, and has claimed that he sent Russian troops to the region to protect those Russians who are supposedly in danger. Clinton reportedly explained that the similarity between this move and steps taken by Hitler in the 1930s is "what's gotten everybody so nervous":
Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the 30s... All the Germans that were ... the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous.
Clinton went on to say that "while that makes people nervous, there is no indication that Putin is as irrational as the instigator of World War II," according to Harry Saltzgaver, the executive editor of a California newspaper chain who also attended the event and spoke to Buzzfeed.
The former secretary of state also reportedly called for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine:
"So everybody is hoping that there will be a negotiation but a negotiation that respects Ukraine and doesn't ratify a reoccupation by Russia of Crimea," she said. "So it's a real nail-biter, right now, but nobody wants to up the rhetoric. Everybody wants to cool it in order to find a diplomatic solution and that's what we should be trying to do."
On CNN Newsroom, Blitzer criticized Clinton for comparing Putin to Hitler, while failing to note Clinton's full remarks. Blitzer said that "it is always a mistake to make these comparisons with Nazi Germany," adding that Putin "clearly he is not engaged in any activities at all along the lines of what Hitler was doing, including genocide, mass murder, and all of the occupations that he was engaged in." Neither Blitzer nor CNN's Brianna Keilar, who was featured in the segment, addressed Clinton's reported statements that Putin is not as irrational as Hitler and that she believes a diplomatic approach is appropriate.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) sparked backlash when he sent an absurd tweet blaming the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. But Graham's tweet followed in the footsteps of conservative media, who have repeatedly attempted to link Benghazi to a variety of unrelated events, or invoke the tragedy to deflect conservatives from scrutiny.
Here are just a few examples of things conservative media have linked to Benghazi:
1. Openly Gay NFL Prospect Michael Sam. Washington Times columnist Steve Deace accused President Obama and the media of using openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam as an excuse to divert attention from Benghazi and other alleged "failures" of the Obama administration. According to Deace, liberals pounced on Sam's coming out in February in order to advance "LGBTQ propaganda" -- and to shift focus away from the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission.
2. Ted Nugent. CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson invoked Benghazi in order to inexplicably shield NRA board member Ted Nugent from further scrutiny for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel." On CNN's New Day, Ferguson argued that Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's loyalty to Nugent was no different than Obama's loyalty to former UN Ambassador Susan Rice, whom Ferguson falsely labeled a liar for her comments about Benghazi.
3. Chris Christie's Bridgegate. Fox & Friends devoted five segments during its January 10 broadcast to the scandal surrounding Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his administration's involvement in deliberate traffic gridlock across the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a local mayor. But in every segment purporting to discuss Christie, the hosts and guests brought up Benghazi to attack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
4. The Boston Bombing. In April 2013, Rush Limbaugh invoked the New Black Panthers, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi to pre-emptively attack Obama's handling of the Boston bombing suspect, who had been apprehended by police and charged that day with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
5. Monday Night Football, The New iPhone, And Yom Kippur. The week of the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, Fox & Friends aired an image of events that were supposedly distracting Americans from the anniversary and the ongoing conflict in Syria, including Monday Night Football, the NYC primary elections, the launch of the latest iPhone, and the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.
From the March 2 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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MSNBC and CNN both shined a spotlight on the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the extreme anti-gay group behind Arizona's recent effort to allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers. The networks' decisions to profile ADF stand in stark contrast to a broader media tendency to ignore anti-gay group's records of extremism.
In the same week that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer chose to veto SB 1062, a measure that would have expanded protections for businesses refusing service to gay customers, both CNN and MSNBC ran segments profiling ADF, which drafted the law along with the Center for Arizona policy.
During the February 25 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper noted the similarities between the talking points used by proponents of SB 1062 and similar measures in other states, tracing their shared "genetic code" back to ADF. Though Cooper invited ADF to participate in the segment, the group declined:
Catholic League President Bill Donohue's anti-equality arguments collapsed under questioning from CNN host Chris Cuomo, who tried to get Donohue to explain how marriage equality undermines religious freedom. Donohue couldn't point to any specific damage done by marriage equality, but resorted to comparisons of same-sex marriage with polygamy and condemnation of the modern notion that marriage should be based on love.
During the February 27 edition of CNN's New Day, Donohue sat down with Cuomo to discuss Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of a measure that would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse service to gay couples on religious grounds. Donohue defended the bill as an effort to protect religious liberty, leading Cuomo to ask how marriage equality engenders religious freedom.
Donohue couldn't point to any negative consequences - religious or otherwise - of allowing same-sex couples to marry, but he made clear he wasn't happy about "alternative lifestyles" or the shift away from the notion that marriage is about "duty," not shared love and commitment:
CUOMO: How does gay marriage compromise your rights?
DONOHUE: Gay marriage - the problem with gay marriage is this - it makes a smorgasbord. It basically says that there's no profound difference, socially speaking, between marriage between a man and woman - the only union which can create a family - and other examples.
CUOMO: Who says that's the purpose of marriage? What if you want lifelong companionship and commitment?
DONOHOUE: If a man and woman don't have sex, we can't reproduce, can we? We can't propagate.
CUOMO: But you don't have to be married to propagate.
DONOHUE: No, that's right.
CUOMO: You don't have to want to have kids to be married.
DONOHUE: Look, I don't want alternative lifestyles to be exactly that. I want marriage to be given a privileged position.
CUOMO: Who says it's an alternative lifestyle? Why isn't it just a lifestyle?
DONOHUE: Well, you want to make it that way and a lot of people - polygamy ...
Just seconds after urging public officials to avoid name-calling, CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson falsely labeled Susan Rice a liar in order to inexplicably shield Ted Nugent from further scrutiny for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel."
Ferguson appeared on New Day Tuesday to react to NRA board member Nugent's so-called apology, first offered on Ferguson's radio show last week, and again, mockingly, on CNN Monday. During that CNN appearance, Nugent called Obama a "liar" and suggested that the president is a criminal.
After claiming that Nugent's apology was sufficient, and pleading with public officials to eschew name calling and stick to the facts, Ferguson leveled the false accusation that former UN Ambassador Susan Rice "lied" to the American people about the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi. When CNN host Chris Cuomo asked whether it was appropriate for Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott to stand behind Nugent despite his unacceptable rhetoric, Ferguson invoked Benghazi and argued that Abbott's loyalty to Nugent was no different than Obama's loyalty to Susan Rice, whom he called a liar.
"You had Susan Rice that came out and lied about four Americans dying and the ambassador of the United States of America on the anniversary of 9-11, and insulted those who died and their families by giving them a fake story about protestors," Ferguson claimed. While Cuomo rejected the analogy, he agreed it was wrong to lie to the American people and that the "situation needed to be investigated."
Ferguson's claim is rooted in the right-wing hoax that the White House dispatched Rice to mislead the American people by claiming that the September 2012 attack was sparked by protests over an anti-Muslim YouTube video that was sweeping the region. But the reality is that Rice's comments were consistent with what the U.S. intelligence community said was their best assessment at the time, a position that has been supported by independent investigations.
A January report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that there was intelligence linking the Benghazi attacks to anger over the anti-Muslim YouTube video, consistent with what Rice said when discussing the attacks days after they occurred on several Sunday morning news shows. After a year of exhaustive investigation, New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick reported that the protests were fueled in part by reaction to the video. Administration and agency emails that have been in the public record for the past year demonstrated that it was the intelligence community that said their best assessment at the time Rice discussed the attacks indicated that they were in reaction to a YouTube video.
But on the right, "Benghazi" has never been about preventing future tragedies, or learning the truth about what happened that night. The campaign to politicize the tragedy has created a get-out-of-jail-free card. It's the one word conservatives can always use to get out of a jam or change the conversation. Inside the bubble, truth doesn't matter. Because Benghazi.
Facing widespread denouncement for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," Ted Nugent is promising to stop calling people names -- but with his promise still hanging in the air, Nugent labeled Obama a "liar" and suggested that the president is a criminal.
The NRA board member's promise came during an appearance on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, where Nugent attempted to mitigate the firestorm surrounding his description of Obama as a "subhuman mongrel" and his subsequent (hollow) apology, which were criticized by politicians of both parties and some in the media. Nugent was originally scheduled to discuss this firestorm with Burnett last week, but, citing an illness, he canceled the appearance -- after comparing CNN to a Nazi propagandist.
On February 24, Burnett began the interview by asking Nugent to confirm that he apologized to the president for his remark. Nugent dodged the question, instead simply saying that he was sorry for "being part of that political discourse" with "street language." The interview went downhill from there.
Nugent claimed that "the president is intentionally disassembling the greatest quality of life in the history of the world" before concluding, "the president's a bad man."
According to Nugent, there was nothing racial about his "subhuman mongrel" attack. Nugent alleged that such an idea is "crap," as there is "not a racist bone in body." (For reference, Nugent previously argued that African-Americans could fix "the black problem" if they just put their "heart and soul into being honest, law-abiding, [and] delivering excellence at every move in your life." He's also written that "I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War" and that "black communities across America" have a "mindless tendency to violence.")
From the February 21 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:
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CNN anchor Chris Cuomo highlighted the extreme anti-LGBT history of the legal organization that helped write an Arizona bill that would allow individuals and businesses to refuse to serve gay people on religious grounds, noting the group's record of opposing LGBT equality under the guise of protecting religious liberty.
As the Religion News Service noted on February 21, the principal drafters of the Arizona anti-gay segregation measure were the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy and the Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Spokespersons from both organizations have commented publicly on the bill, but media coverage has featured scant attention to the strident anti-LGBT positions taken by ADF in particular.
But in an interview with ADF attorney Kellie Fiedorek on the February 24 edition of New Day, Cuomo refused to let ADF escape scrutiny. Like other supporters of the measure, Fiedorek dodged uncomfortable questions about whether the bill would allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers.
But when Fiedorek compared requiring businesses to serve gay customers to asking a Muslim to participate in a burning of the Koran or an African-American to photograph a KKK rally, Cuomo pushed back, noting the ADF's record of defending anti-gay discrimination: