After ducking the controversy over National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," NRA leaders at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference tried to shield the organization from the fallout over those comments.
While some NRA supporters criticized Nugent, three NRA board members sought to downplay his actions and his connection to their organization, suggesting he isn't viewed mainly as an NRA representative or brushing the controversy off as unimportant.
Nugent issued the slur during a January interview, but the comments received new interest last month when Nugent campaigned with Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Following days of negative coverage for both Abbott and Nugent, including condemnations from GOP leaders, Nugent offered a half-hearted apology, though "not necessarily to the president," for his "subhuman mongrel" comment. He then attacked Obama as a lying, law-breaking racist who engages in Nazi tactics.
Former NRA president and current board member David Keene said the "subhuman mongrel" comments do not reflect on the gun-rights organization because "Ted is seen as Ted more than as an NRA board member."
Grover Norquist, another NRA board member, said the comments were "not a good idea," but added they are not bad enough to hurt the NRA's image because Nugent is viewed differently than other NRA leaders.
"He's a rock star and people know he's talking as him and he is talking outrageously," Norquist said following a CPAC "meet and greet" he hosted for fans. "If an establishment Republican said that, you'd go, 'whoa Nellie.' Rock stars and hip hop artists are cut some slack in American society."
Despite their attempts to suggest Nugent's comments don't reflect directly on the NRA, as a musician and conservative commentator, Nugent is to many the public face of the organization. He has had a longstanding relationship with the group, serving on its board of directors since 1995. In the group's 2013 board elections Nugent was second only to Fox News contributor Oliver North for most votes in favor of reelection.
After the 2012 meeting, Nugent drew the attention of the Secret Service for saying he would be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected as president. An NRA memo indicated that he was paid $50,000 by the group for a "spoken presentation" in 2011. Nugent has also recorded the song "I Am The NRA," which includes the lyrics: "If you hate tyrants and dictators and are ready to give freedom a whirl/Celebrate the NRA and the shot heard round the world."
Oliver North denied knowing about the "subhuman mongrel" comments during an interview at CPAC. He accused Media Matters of trying to instigate criticism from him. Questioned at CPAC's radio row, North said, "I'm not necessarily sure how to take your word for what he said since I didn't hear it I am not going to comment about it."
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.
Fox host Chris Wallace asked former Secretary of State Robert Gates to comment on the appropriateness of President Obama's decision to "take the weekend off in the middle of" the developing crisis in Ukraine. But in 2008, Wallace struck a much different tone during Russia's invasion of Georgia, mentioning then-President Bush's trip to his Texas ranch without a hint of criticism.
On the March 9 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Wallace joined the media in implicitly criticizing Obama for spending the weekend in Florida with his family. Wallace asked former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates if "it's helpful for president Obama to take the weekend off in the middle of what you call a crisis to be playing golf in Florida":
Wallace's concern about the president's weekend vacation flies in the face of his attitude during a similar interview following Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008. While discussing the situation with then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the August 17, 2008, edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace mentioned that Rice had joined President Bush at his Texas ranch but never once broached the appropriateness of the trip in the 13-minute interview:
WALLACE: With questions about the ceasefire and U.S.-Georgia relations, we're joined by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who's been meeting with the president in Crawford, Texas, following her trip to Georgia.
From the March 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham claimed that undocumented immigrants under the Obama administration's deferred action program would have access to health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In fact, DACA recipients are ineligible to apply for subsidized health insurance.
During a town hall event with Spanish-language media on March 6, President Obama allayed fears within the immigrant community that information gathered about undocumented immigrant family members while signing up for health care would not be used for deportation enforcement. In the process, he stated that only U.S. citizens and those with "legal presence" would be able to apply for subsidized health care, noting that "it's true that the undocumented are not eligible -- that's how the law was written."
On her radio show, Ingraham distorted Obama's comments, claiming that "legal presence" applied to "anyone that he decides to defer immigration action on." She added: "The DREAMers can get Obamacare."
In fact, as the New York Times reported in September 2012, undocumented immigrants with lawful presence under DACA are not eligible for subsidized health care:
The White House has ruled that young immigrants who will be allowed to stay in the United States as part of a new federal policy will not be eligible for health insurance coverage under President Obama's health care overhaul.
The decision -- disclosed last month, to little notice -- has infuriated many advocates for Hispanic Americans and immigrants. They say the restrictions are at odds with Mr. Obama's recent praise of the young immigrants.
In June, the president announced that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, attended school here and met other requirements would be allowed to remain in the country without fear of deportation.
Immigrants granted such relief would ordinarily meet the definition of "lawfully present" residents, making them eligible for government subsidies to buy private insurance, a central part of the new health care law. But the administration issued a rule in late August that specifically excluded the young immigrants from the definition of "lawfully present."
At the same time, in a letter to state health officials, the administration said that young immigrants granted a reprieve from deportation "shall not be eligible" for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. Administration officials said they viewed the immigration initiative and health coverage as separate matters.
Thanks to a 1995 California law however, about 73,000 DACA recipients who are 21 and under are reportedly eligible for the state-funded Medi-Cal program, which is completely separate from the ACA's Medicaid program.
From the March 7 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News host Mike Huckabee denied responsibility for shady email pitches sent to subscribers to his email list, telling Media Matters that he is "simply a conduit to send messages" and "can't always vouch for the veracity" of the promoted products.
Huckabee is part of the conservative movement's attempts to cash in on their followers by renting out their email lists to suspect sources. Fox News contributor Scott Brown was recently forced to disown a quack doctor after he sent a sponsored email touting the doctor's dubious Alzheimer's disease cures. Huckabee also sent emails promoting the doctor.
During a press conference held at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside Washington, Media Matters asked Huckabee about shady sponsored emails he's sent with his name on it, such as the Alzheimer's disease emails.
Huckabee shrugged off responsibility for the emails, saying "You are supposed to read the disclosure and the disclaimer that is a part of the messages. We are simply the conduit to send messages, these are sponsored and I can't always vouch for the veracity."
Huckabee's sketchy sponsored emails extend beyond questionable medical cures. He recently sent a sponsored email touting the stock recommendation of a financial analyst who was fired from Fox News for ethical violations.
Fox reported that a new survey found that a small number of previously uninsured people have enrolled for health coverage on the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) online exchanges, but failed to report the cause: that many people who have avoided enrolling because of cost concerns were misinformed about the costs.
On the March 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum hyped new information that she said shows "big problems with Obamacare." MacCallum cited a March 6 McKinsey & Company survey to report that one in 10 previously uninsured individuals who qualify for ACA coverage have signed up through the exchanges.
This framing hides crucial elements of the survey, which highlighted misinformation about the ACA as a key reason that potential beneficiaries chose not to enroll. According to McKinsey, the "most common reason for not enrolling cited by both previously insured and previously uninsured respondents continues to be perceived affordability challenges, "and for most of those respondents, that perception was based on insufficient information. From McKinsey:
Over 80 percent of the respondents who cited affordability as the reason for not enrolling are eligible for subsidies; 66 percent of these consumers were not aware of their subsidy eligibility status or subsidy amount.
Furthermore, the survey showed a positive trend in enrollment numbers, which have "continued to increase, particularly among the previously uninsured."
It's not surprising that Fox hid Mckinsey's findings about the negative impact that misinformation can have on Americans' willingness to enroll in ACA coverage, since the network has consistently worked to stoke fears about the costs of ACA coverage. Meanwhile, this is not the first time the network has shamelessly twisted or cherry-picked a McKinsey survey to baselessly smear Democratic policies.
From the March 7 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News is helping New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) rehabilitate his political career even as investigations into the George Washington Bridge scandal continue, suggesting that Christie's appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) indicates a comeback for the governor.
While other conservative media figures have panned Christie's March 6 CPAC appearance, Fox celebrated the "standing ovation" he received and characterized the appearance as a "comeback." Fox Nation proclaimed,"The Comeback Has Begun!"
On the March 7 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha McCallum painted a sunny picture of Christie's reception at CPAC, saying, "Now, you know America loves a comeback kid, so is Chris Christie that comeback kid right now?" MacCallum went on to ponder Christie's 2016 presidential prospects: "And then you have Chris Christie, who says, 'Look, you know what? We have to win elections.' And he is seen as somebody who may have an easier time of it on a national stage."
Later in the segment, MacCallum asked guest Stephen Sigmund, "If you were advising him, Stephen, what would you tell him to do from here on in to sort of get past this Bridgegate thing and put himself back on track?"
"This Bridgegate thing" caused Christie's popularity to plummet after news broke that his aides played a central role in shutting down several lanes of the George Washington Bridge for four days in September, intentionally triggering disastrous traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee as a means of political retribution.
Christie's chances of getting past the scandal soon, as MacCallum suggests, seem thin -- it is still being investigated by both the New Jersey Legislature and the FBI as evidence linking Christie to the lane closures builds.
Fox has gone through extraordinary lengths to shield Christie, who is widely presumed to be running for president in 2016, from the scandal's fallout, even complaining that the media won't simply move on from the scandal. Indeed, Fox's history of cozy relationships with Republican presidential contenders is well-documented.
From the March 6 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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From the March 6 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News continued its attacks on Debo Adegbile, President Obama's pick to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and seemingly conflated the advocacy efforts of a different civil rights attorney with Adegbile's legal work as proof of his supposedly "radical" past.
On March 5, all Senate Republicans and a handful of Democrats voted to block Adegbile's nomination following a smear campaign against Adegbile's sterling legal record by leveling racially-charged attacks and linking him to the crimes of his former client, Mumia Abu-Jamal. As a top official at the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Adegbile and a team of lawyers were successful in overturning Abu-Jamal's death sentence due to constitutional error. Because of the unconstitutional sentencing, Abu-Jamal's punishment was ultimately commuted to a life sentence after prosecutors elected not to pursue the death penalty for a second time.
After the failed Senate confirmation vote, Fox News continued its debunked attack that Adegbile was a "cop killer's coddler" for representing Abu-Jamal. The network then introduced a new argument that Adegbile's criminal defense work was politicized and that he "crusaded" for Abu-Jamal, "revealing a bitter bias." Referencing "critics," and Fox contributor Jonah Goldberg, Bret Baier claimed that Adegbile "went beyond the legal work and it was more about political rallies and leading rallies for Mumia and kind of became more political in his support for this character." Fox News contributor J. Christian Adams went even further:
[Adegbile] was not nominated in spite of his defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, he was nominated because of it. Because these folks think that Mumia was innocent. It is not just a question of giving somebody their day in court. Adegbile took on the wider cause, claiming America was unjust towards people of color. It was because of this rancid racial attitude that President Obama appointed him in the first place and that is why he is mad.
Former Republican Senator Scott Brown's latest appearance as a Fox News contributor exemplified the ethically murky middle ground between being a potential political candidate and a news commentator.
Since his initial hiring by Fox News in 2013, there has been widespread speculation that Brown would return to politics and mount a run for Democrat Jeanne Shaheen's Senate seat in New Hampshire. Both Brown and Fox have mutually benefited from the publicity surrounding his potential run, and have discussed his possible candidacy during his appearances on the network (including his first appearance on-air after renewing his contract last month).
If Brown wants to keep his contributor status, he needs to walk the tightrope of repeatedly toying with the idea of running while not actually taking formal steps to declare his candidacy (in the past, Fox has severed the contracts of contributors once they have filed the requisite paperwork).
Earlier this week, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren tweeted that she was told it is "certain" that Brown is going to run, prompting Brown to deny the report, telling Politico, "I will make my decisions in due course."
As Brown continues to delay his decision, Fox News is happy to help bolster their employee's potential candidacy. Brown sounded like a candidate today during an appearance on Your World with Neil Cavuto, where he attacked Shaheen and Senate Democrats. He also attempted to prove his New Hampshire bona fides in the wake of carpetbagger criticism.
Cavuto wondered whether Obamacare would be Brown's "issue" if he chose to run, prompting Brown to reply that "it's no secret" he's thinking of getting into the race before launching into speech about "dysfunctional" Washington and how we "need to fix it."
Cavuto raised the attacks on Brown as a possible "carpetbagger" were he to run in New Hampshire, since he was previously senator in Massachusetts. Brown called the attacks "laughable," adding "people know that I have long and strong ties to New Hampshire, you know, going back generations" and explaining he has been a resident for "a couple of months."
Brown then turned to the "real issue," which was attacking his possible opponent Jeanne Shaheen for joining Democrats in having "rammed" health care reform through Congress.
Pressed by Cavuto for when he planned to make his decision -- and whether he would make any announcement on Cavuto's show -- Brown was coy as usual, explaining that "I'll make an announcement sooner rather than later."
In the meantime, Fox is willing to hand him a paycheck while he practices potential stump speeches.
Conservative media were unfazed by Rep. Paul Ryan's suggestion that low-income parents don't care for their children if they receive free school lunches, a response that stays true to their history of shaming low-income people.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, helped kick off the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 6 with a speech on the direction of the Republican Party as the 2014 and 2016 elections approach. Ryan shared an anecdote about a child receiving free lunch from school to paint Democrats as out of touch (emphasis added):
RYAN: The Left is making a big mistake here. What they're offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that. You know, this reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy Gov. Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a very poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn't want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch. One in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the Left does not understand.
Right-wing media saw nothing objectionable in Ryan's comments. National Review Online praised his argument with the headline, "Paul Ryan's Moving Story That Explains the Difference Between Hard Work and Dependency," a take which echoes Fox News' narrative that free school lunches for children create dependency rather than encouraging hard work.
On Fox's Happening Now, correspondent Carl Cameron, reporting from CPAC, characterized Ryan's speech as taking a "middle-of-the-road tone."
Ryan's comments fit in well with conservative media's history of shaming the poor, and in particular, free school lunch programs for children of low-income families. In the past, Fox has even suggested children be forced to work for their meals.
Where else might Ryan have heard this before?