A man accused of violating Washington, D.C.'s gun laws is conservative media's latest dubious "hero" in its ongoing effort to attack stronger gun laws.
Right-wing media are defending a Washington, D.C. man on trial for possessing unregistered ammunition by making a flawed comparison between his situation and NBC News host David Gregory's display of a high-capacity ammunition magazine on Meet the Press following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Conservative media's complaint that Washington, D.C. financial advisor Mark Witaschek faces trial while Gregory faced no criminal charges ignores that those two situations rest upon entirely different circumstances.
On the December 23, 2012, edition of Meet the Press, Gregory showed, for demonstration purposes, a 30-round high-capacity ammunition magazine like the one used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed 26 lives nine days earlier. In Washington, it is illegal to own a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. NBC apparently ran the segment after a miscommunication with law enforcement. Gregory's display of the magazine angered conservative media including Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller who wrote that Gregory "should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." In January 2013, Washington prosecutors announced that Gregory would not be charged with a crime in a letter that explained, "Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States."
Witaschek's legal problems began in the summer of 2012. Following alarming allegations that Witaschek threatened his "estranged wife" with a gun, police visited his home on two occasions. During both visits, police found unregistered ammunition in Witaschek's home. In Washington, D.C., only individuals who have registered firearms may possess ammunition. Witaschek was charged with violating Washington's gun laws. The charge from the first police visit was thrown out because even though Witaschek consented to a search, the visit was conducted without a warrant. Witaschek was offered a plea deal that included no jail time and a $500 fine to resolve the charge from the second police visit, which was performed with a warrant. Witaschek rejected the offer and plans to go to trial on the remaining charge.
The same day yet another House Republican investigation into the attack in Benghazi debunked tired conservative myths, The Hill excerpts a piece of Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen's book HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, detailing an interesting twist in the relationship between Darrell Issa and the former Secretary of State.
"When the call came in at three o'clock in the morning, the failure wasn't viewed, at least as of today, as Secretary Clinton's. It was really an Obama failure," the GOP House Oversight Committee Chair told the journalists in December 2012. "Her legacy is mostly intact for 2016, if she chooses."
"The front end of it, Hillary's part of it, was very good," he continued. "I don't think she'd lie to me. In that sense, I trust her like any politician and particularly any diplomat - every word within a statement has to be carefully made sure you heard it correctly."
The Hill also cites Issa favorably comparing Hillary Clinton to other Obama officials.
"When you look at Eric Holder, I do not trust him. I do not believe he is trustworthy. I do no believe he is honest," he said. "In the case of Secretary Clinton, I think her personal standing - her legacy of tough but honest, diplomatic but not disingenuous - I think it's important to her."
So if Darrell Issa had such a positive view of Hillary Clinton in December 2012, it raises the intriguing question of when the relationship went south. A look at the public record would suggest this change might have taken place the following spring, when Republicans and the conservative media shifted their ire from the President to Hillary Clinton in anticipation of her Presidential campaign.
In April 2013, with the release of a Benghazi investigation from five Republican congressional chairman which mentioned Hillary Clinton 30 times and mentioned the President only 11, came Issa's first major attack on Hillary Clinton's credibility -- and one that represented a huge embarrassment for the GOP.
The report referenced a cable from March 28, 2012, sent from then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz to Hillary Clinton asking for additional security resources in Libya. A reply containing the Secretary's signature was delivered in April "acknowledge[ing] then-Ambassador Cretz's formal request for additional security assets but ordered the withdrawal of security elements to proceed as planned" from Libya.
On the day the report came out, Darrell Issa appeared on Fox & Friends claiming "The secretary of state was just wrong. She said she did not participate in this, and yet only a few months before the attack, she outright denied security in her signature in a cable, April 2012." Issa and the conservative media believed they had caught Clinton in a lie, as she had testified before Congress in January "that the security cables did not come to my attention or above the assistant secretary level."
Republicans and the conservative media trumpeted their evidence, but all they demonstrated was their own ignorance. As The Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler, who spent years covering the State Department, explained, "every single cable from Washington gets the secretary's name at the bottom, even if the secretary happens to be on the other side of the world at the time."
There was no reason to believe Clinton ever saw or knew about the documents in question, yet to this day neither Issa nor any of his Republican colleagues have apologized for their smear job.
Economists are encouraged by reports that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase job flexibility by allowing workers to maintain health coverage outside employment, calling the impact good for workers and the economy. But to Fox News, increased flexibility just means increased laziness.
Fox News is attacking the Obama administration's new rules regarding asylum for refugees by portraying the move as an "open door policy" and an invitation for terrorism. In reality, refugees still have to pass "lengthy" background checks, and the government states it will only accept "individuals whom the United States does not consider threats."
On February 5, the Obama administration announced new immigration rules concerning political or war zone refugees. The changes were prompted by restrictive rules that have prevented nearly all asylum-seeking Syrians from entering the United States. Reuters reported that the changes will grant exemptions "on a case by case basis," for those seeking political asylum that do not pose a national security or public safety risk. The New York Times explained that "the exemptions apply if the refugees provided only minor material support, such as meals or medical aid, to armed groups that have not been officially designated as terrorist organizations, or if they gave such support under pressure."
Echoing Republican lawmakers, Fox has misleadingly portrayed these exemptions as an "open door policy" for refugees and misrepresented the definition of refugees with "limited terror connections" to spread unwarranted fears of increased terror attacks due to these new policies.
On February 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy interviewed Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the nativist and anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies. Vaughn hyped fears that these exemptions could be given "to all applicants for any kind of visa or green card who have been identified as possibly supporting terrorism," while Doocy suggested that these exemptions could apply to someone who "was simply Bin Laden's au pair."
On February 8, Fox & Friends Saturday hosted Michael Cutler, who has an extensive history of association with anti-immigrant and nativist groups. Cutler is also a regular contributor to the white nationalist Social Contract Journal. During his Fox appearance, Cutler heavily criticized the exemptions and argued that "we must never allow compassion to compromise national security," while Fox News co-host Tucker Carlson suggested that these exemptions were made by the Obama administration to gain new voters.
But these exemptions are not an "open door policy" for potential terrorists. As Reuters reported, the "advocacy group Human Rights First said, for example, that the existing law had been invoked to bar a refugee who had been robbed of $4 and his lunch by armed rebels, and a florist who had sold bouquets to a group the United States had designated as a terrorist organization." Such standards have already barred thousands of people from refugee status.
The new rules still require refugees to pass eligibility requirement. The New York Times reported that "refugees have to pass through the lengthy existing series of criminal and national security background checks, lawyers said, and the exemptions do not come into play until the refugees have already passed all the other eligibility hurdles."
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told the Times that "these exemptions are for individuals whom the United States does not consider threats ... Nothing in these exemptions changes the rigorous, multilayered security screening we do."
The right-wing bubble seems impervious to both experts and fact-checkers when it comes to economic truth and the Affordable Care Act.
This week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its updated economic forecast for the years 2014 to 2024. Right-wing media quickly pounced on its projection that the supply of labor would voluntarily decline by about 2 million workers over the next three years due to the ACA, twisting the findings to accuse the ACA of destroying 2 million jobs. Such misinformation from the conservative bubble was predictable, as the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) put it on February 4:
Opponents of the ACA will try to paint these CBO estimates as evidence that the ACA has "killed jobs" or something like it. That's flat wrong. What the ACA has done is expand the menu of options available to Americans about how to obtain decent health insurance without having their income fall to poverty levels. That menu used to include one option--"go to work for a large employer."
Indeed, subsequent fact-checkers and experts discredited the right-wing media's spin -- As The Washington Post's FactChecker plainly said, "No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs," echoing Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Jason Furman who explained that "CBO's analysis itself is about the choices that workers are making in the face of new options afforded to them by the Affordable Care Act, not something about firms destroying jobs."
But it appears it will take more than facts and experts to penetrate the right-wing echo chamber.
Fox News doubled down on its misinformation on the February 6 edition of Fox & Friends, with an on-air graphic that framed the increased worker flexibility as "Obamacare to cut 2M jobs":
The Wall Street Journal editorial board claimed to "pars[e] this supply-of-labor reasoning" in a February 5 editorial by refusing to acknowledge the distinction between labor supply and job availability:
For years liberals have lamented the jobs crisis and underemployment to castigate Republicans as mean-spirited for opposing more "stimulus" and more weeks of unemployment benefits. But if pervasive joblessness is an economic and social scourge, why celebrate a program that is creating more of it?
Liberals are also trying to spin the CBO report as an endorsement of ObamaCare's alleged health security. Mr. Furman cited the phenomenon known as "job lock," in which people don't switch employers or start their own business to preserve fringe benefits. But job lock is really about employment flexibility, rather than the government extending subsidies so people don't need or want jobs.
A National Review editorial on February 6 characterized the fact-checks as "hilarious," claiming that the ACA was "taking a blowtorch to the work force" and creating a "crater" of lost economic value while mocking the administration:
But the administration still does not seem to be able to get its collective head around the fact that American workers are not just hungry mouths that have to be filled with paychecks: They are people who provide economically valuable goods and services. Those 2.5 million out of the work force may be happier at their leisure, but the economy as a whole will be substantially worse off without their contributions. We could, in theory, simply have the federal government deliver checks to every household and allow each and every one to follow his bliss as he sees fit, but the shelves of the grocery stores soon would be empty. The depth of the Obamacare crater in the labor force isn't some abstract unemployment rate, but the lost value of the work those Americans would have done.
Plugging their ears on the CBO's determination also blinded right-wing media to the CBO's suggestion that the projected changes in the labor supply would increase opportunity for unemployed workers:
If changes in incentives lead some workers to reduce the amount of hours they want to work or to leave the labor force altogether, many unemployed workers will be available to take those jobs--so the effect on overall employment of reductions in labor supply will be greatly dampened.
Fox News' idea for a debate on whether Disney should create a plus-size princess centered around the notion that such a princess might encourage obesity.
On February 6, Fox News' Fox & Friends discussed a Change.org petition for Disney to create a plus-size Disney princess. High school student Jewel Moore, who started the petition, envisions that such a princess would be a role model for "women who struggle with confidence and need a positivie [sic] plus-size character in the media."
Fox took the story and used it to entertain the notion that a plus-size Disney princess might encourage obesity and diabetes.
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked, "Move over Cinderella. Disney under pressure to create a plus-size princess. Should they? We're going to debate that," before inviting on Emme, a plus-size supermodel, and Meme Roth, a self-described obesity expert. Roth declared that such a Disney princess would "glorify obesity." She speculated as to whether the teen petitioning Disney is obese and argued that "If you're going to do a storyline with obesity, then you need to do Princess Diabetes, Princess Cancer, Princess Fertility Problems." To Roth, the petition was "like mob mentality." When Hasselbeck asked, "Is plus-size fat?" Roth responded, "It's unhealthy. If you like cancer and diabetes, if you want fertility problems, then plus-size is beautiful."
Fox treated Roth's invective as credible. As she ranted against Emme, a proponent of the petition, an on-screen graphic wondered, "Who's right?"
Presenting Roth as an expert on body-image issues and entertaining her vitriolic remarks is merely a continuation of Fox & Friends' complicity with body-shaming.
The program has previously given a fitness model and mother who shamed other mothers about their bodies a platform to unapologetically defend her position.
It is unclear why Fox presented Roth as qualified to speak on the plus-size Disney princess issue -- she does not appear to have degrees in the nutrition or medical field, but instead is known for body-shaming through her National Action Against Obesity website and personal blog which carries the tag-line "MeMe Roth: Reporting From FATOPOLIS." She has compared obese people to sex criminals and advocated for nutrition plans that sound a lot like anorexia.
It is important to note that obesity is not the equivalent of plus-size. PLUS Model magazine reports that plus-size models are on average between the sizes of 6-14.
Each year, Republican Senator Tom Coburn releases a "Wastebook" reviewing government projects that he views as wasteful, and each year, the media eagerly promote his report. Yet television news ignored a report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that U.S. taxpayers are being stiffed by coal companies buying federal land for less than its worth, which a previous report estimated has cost taxpayers nearly $30 billion over the last 30 years.
On Tuesday, the GAO found that the Bureau of Land Management was not adequately documenting reasons for accepting bids below the determined market value. Furthermore, as many states are not considering exports in their market value analyses, they may be underestimating the value in the first place. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), who requested the study, stated that "Given the lack of market competition in coal leases" -- the GAO found the vast majority did not have a single competitor, as seen in the chart below -- "if the fair market value set by Interior is low, it can lead to significant losses for taxpayers. For instance, for every cent per ton that coal companies decrease their bids for the largest coal leases, it could mean the loss of nearly $7 million for the American people."
Based on the report, Sen. Markey's office estimated that recent leases could have yielded an additional $200 million in revenue and "possibly hundreds of millions more." A previous report from the Institute for Energy Economics estimated that selling federally-owned coal for less than fair market value has cost taxpayers $28.9 billion in lost revenue over the last 30 years. That finding adds to the economic damages that coal pollution and disasters exact on the economy. A 2011 study, for instance, found that air pollution from coal-fired power plants imposes more costs on society than the value added to the economy by the industry -- and that study did not include climate change damages. Recently, the spill of a chemical used to clean coal in West Virginia cost the local economy $61 million, according to a preliminary study that did not include the cost of clean-up or emergency expenditures.
Yet none of the major television networks covered the GAO report confirming that coal companies are underpaying the federal government*.
The "Wastebook" received considerably more attention when it was released in December 2013, drawing uncritical coverage from all the major television networks except MSNBC (ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News uncritically touted the report at least once, and NBC hosted Sen. Coburn where he raised the report without pushback). LiveScience reported that nearly a quarter of the projects Sen. Coburn's office listed in 2013 were science-related and that the "Wastebook" often distorts the studies. Last year, for instance, Fox News promoted the Wastebook's attack on a "government study" on Tea Party intelligence that was actually a non-government funded blog post. CNN's S.E. Cupp and others also attacked a study of duck penises included in the "Wastebook," contributing to the pattern of basic research being cut in the face of what MSNBC's Chris Hayes called "ignorant mockery."
Right-wing media outlets are falsely claiming that workers voluntarily reducing hours due to provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is evidence that the law is harmful to the economy, ignoring economists' opinions about its role in reducing economic insecurity.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly baselessly claimed that the "explosion of disability payments in this country" is an "undeniable" fact that contradicts President Obama's point that "we have not massively expanded the welfare state."
O'Reilly's comments came on the February 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends during a discussion of his recent interview with President Obama. O'Reilly cited disability benefits as an example of what Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the "massively expanded the welfare state" and claimed that government is "getting conned like crazy" by disability beneficiaries. He failed to cite any further examples of the supposedly expanding "Nanny State" that Fox's on-air graphics hyped.
In reality, a recent study from the Social Security Administration's actuaries found that the total allowance rate for disability benefits has fallen significantly during Obama's presidency. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has noted, "[s]tandards don't become more lax in recessions, and stories that focus only on the growth in applications omit that crucial fact."
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): When he said we have not massively expanded the welfare state, how could coffee not shoot out through your nose? I mean, that's just -- that is just not true!
O'REILLY: Well, it's theoretical and I wanted to stay away from that, but I had to hit him with the disability because that's the -- if you want to point to something that is undeniable, it's the explosion of disability payments in this country because as I pointed out, the workplace is safer than it was 20 years ago. Then what are all these people getting paid for? If you go into welfare, he'll go into recession. It's not my fault. I had to bail these people out. They're dying. If you go into unemployment, he's going to go there. He's going to use the economic maladies as justification. But if you go to something like disabilities where that's somebody who is going into the government saying look, I can't do this, give me money and the government says sure and doesn't check it out and everybody knows it. That's what I said, you see you're getting conned like crazy. It all goes back to the fact that he doesn't see this stuff as a welfare state. He sees it as necessary.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): And that's the one thing that I don't get. That's an issue its not his fault, not his administration's fault, disability is exploding. That's where you focus on. 60 Minutes did 30 minutes on just the disability explosion in this country right now. And it would be apolitical and help our economy. But yet he doesn't see it that way. And unfortunately, we got three more years of this.
Fox News deflected from its role manufacturing scandals about the Benghazi attack by complaining that President Obama pointed to the network as a source of misinformation during a Super Bowl interview with Bill O'Reilly.
On February 2, Fox New host Bill O'Reilly conducted a live interview with President Barack Obama which aired before Super bowl XLVIII. During the interview, Obama responded to O'Reilly's claim that "your detractors believe that you did not tell the world it was a terror attack because your campaign didn't want that out" by pointing out that "they believe it because folks like you are telling them that," later noting "these kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you and your TV station will promote them."
During the February 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Steve Doocy, and Brian Kilmeade attacked Obama for pointing to Fox's role in pushing the manufactured scandal, complaining that the president "actually went on to blame Fox News for all the mistakes":
HASSELBECK: When Bill O'reilly, yesterday, sat down with the president, he asked him some tough questions and he said 'look let's go over some game tape here, you know, there have been some mistakes like Benghazi, the IRS scandals that's been bugging you.
HASSELBECK: Let's maybe review the tape and see what's wrong. Now most coaches would say this happened or the defense failed. No. He actually went on to blame Fox News for all the mistakes.
Later, Kilmeade likened this to other administrations claiming, "Bill Clinton didn't blame the New York Times for his scandal. George Bush didn't blame every media outlet for running down the war or for Katrina. Why attack the people who are asking you questions?"
But Obama was right, Fox led the charge in misinforming about every aspect of the Benghazi attack, including the false claim that Obama refused to call the attack an act of terror. In a May 13, 2012, press conference, Obama responded to an AP reporter's question by saying "The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism." In the days following the attack, Obama repeatedly called it an "act of terror."
Fox has repeatedly dodged the facts on Benghazi, hyped supposed "lingering questions" while ignoring the transcripts that answer them, and used its own Benghazi trutherism as a way to avoid discussing issues that could damage Republicans.
From the February 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News host Geraldo Rivera apologized for calling Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman a "thug," a concession notable not only for Rivera's acknowledgement that the term had racial connotations but also because of the criticism Rivera faced for applying the term to Trayvon Martin.
Sherman became the target of heavy media criticism following comments he made about San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in a January 19 post-game interview. As the sports blog Deadspin reported, the media used the term "thug" 625 times the day after Sherman's interview. Sherman later responded to the criticism by pointing out the racial undertones of the word "thug," arguing that "it seems like it's the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays."
On the January 31 edition of Fox & Friends, Rivera highlighted Sherman's comment and apologized for his role in the attacks:
RIVERA: I called Richard Sherman a thug when he ranted about Michael Crabtree. He said the use of the word thug was the new N-word. I pondered that. I have come to agree with Richard Sherman, the Stanford grad. I will never use the word thug in that context again.
Rivera's reversal is particularly noteworthy considering his past use of the term. In March 2012, Rivera came under fire for using the same term in an attack on Trayvon Martin. Rivera suggested that Martin's clothing choice was responsible for his death, saying that "it is reality" that minorities wearing hoodies "could attract the attention, not only of the cops, but of nutjobs apparently like this George Zimmerman." In July 2013, Rivera doubled down:
RIVERA: You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug. That's true. I stand by that.
Fox News is attempting to revive the myth that the Affordable Care Act includes a secret fee to cover abortions to support the GOP's misleadingly titled "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act."
On January 27, FoxNews.com highlighted an article from right-wing website Watchdog.org that was originally posted under the headline "Secret abortion fees hidden in Obamacare premiums." The post promoted the claims of "congressional leaders" who claimed "Insurance companies working under the Obamacare umbrella have secretly added a surcharge to cover the cost of abortions" and claimed the Republicans' proposed "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" would resolve the problem. The claim appeared again during the January 28 edition of Fox & Friends when co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham if it was "true that there's a hidden fee to cover abortions under Obamacare":
The right-wing media's "hidden abortion fee" myth is rooted in the original Senate version of the health care law. In 2009, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner posted a blog claiming "Sen. Reid's Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee." Boehner's claim was picked up by right-wing media figures such as Rush Limbaugh, who read the press release verbatim on his show. The myth reappeared in 2012 when right-wing media figures claimed everyone under the ACA "will be forced to pay a dollar a month to cover abortion on your insurance policy."
The myth has always been built on a misrepresentation of how the ACA handles abortion coverage. In fact, despite the title of the GOP's bill, the provision that the right-wing media is hyping is an effort to prevent taxpayer funding for abortion. The ACA requires states to offer at least one health plan that does not cover abortions. Plans that do cover abortion, however, contain a surcharge that is assessed on consumers who opt in to that plan in order to prevent federal funds from being used, a violation of the Hyde amendment that prevents federal funding from paying for abortion except in case of rape, incest, or the woman's life being in danger. In a March 21, 2012, post, PolitiFact explained:
Fox News hyped Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's economic record, claiming that the governor's economic plan generated a nearly $1 billion budget surplus while ignoring that the current surplus is built upon a projected structural deficit and that the state ranks 28th in the nation for job creation under Walker's tenure.
Fox News used the case of a woman whose son was killed by an unlicensed, undocumented immigrant driver to distort the debate over granting licenses to undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts. Fox has repeatedly highlighted similar cases over the years to stoke fears that licensing undocumented immigrants would make roads more dangerous when in fact the opposite is true. In fact, such fears have been criticized as "anti-immigrant hysteria."
Current Massachusetts law requires that immigrants prove they're lawfully in the country to obtain a driver's license in the state. However, lawmakers have reportedly scheduled a hearing to debate an amendment to the law next month.
On Fox & Friends, Fox anchor Heather Nauert reported on the proposal, saying that an immigrant advocacy group in Massachusetts "say[s] that giving illegals licenses would make the roads safer, but one mother whose son was killed by an illegal immigrant driver disagrees."
However, the evidence shows that licensing undocumented drivers makes roads safer. An increasing number of states in fact have responded to the problem of unlicensed, undocumented drivers by enacting laws that require them to be licensed, thus making sure they are trained and insured. As the Baltimore Sun editorialized following Maryland's approval of such a measure (emphasis added):
It should be obvious to anyone who depends on a car for getting back and forth to work, ferrying schoolchildren or running errands that the safety of everyone on the road is increased when all motorists have had to demonstrate a minimum level of competence in driving skills and knowledge of traffic laws. Protecting public safety is, after all, the main reason states require drivers to be licensed; the fact that government-issued licenses are also widely used as photo ID cards is an important but secondary consideration in deciding who can legally drive.
What the licenses can do, however, is help ensure that people who want to drive on the state's roads meet minimum safety standards and that their vehicles are registered and insured. Undocumented immigrants are less likely to leave the scene of an accident or attempt to flee from police if they know a traffic stop won't automatically get them deported for driving without a license, and that will greatly reduce the hazard such drivers pose to other motorists as well as make life easier for immigrants who are dependent on cars to get where they need to go.
The Sun went on to note that concerns that these measures have made residents less safe "are unfounded" and that such "objections are little more than the product of anti-immigrant hysteria, often whipped up for partisan advantage."