Pressure is building for Republican presidential hopefuls to repudiate Rudy Giuliani's accusations that President Obama doesn't love America and harbors an "anti-colonial" worldview -- claims that, while extreme to moderate media consumers, have become commonplace in the far-right media circles that will help shape the GOP primary season leading up to the 2016 elections.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani sparked controversy this week when he told attendees at a fund-raising event for Wisconsin governor and 2016 presidential hopeful Scott Walker that Obama does not love America. Giuliani went on to defend his remarks in an interview with The New York Times, denying any racial element to his attack with the excuse that he merely believed Obama's worldview is symptomatic of "socialism or possibly anti-colonialism."
The comments have been condemned by many in the mainstream press. On the set of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson called on potential Republican presidential candidates to denounce Giuliani's stance, saying the comments were "racist and ...frankly kind of unhinged."
In contrast, conservative commentators like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh rushed to justify Giuliani's claims, a defense which foreshadows 2016 hopefuls' predicament -- GOP candidates who want to appeal to mainstream voters must now navigate a rhetorical minefield if they hope to avoid attacks from the right-wing pundits who will help shape the opinions of conservative primary voters.
Race-baiting attempts to link Obama to anti-colonialism (and along with it the utterly bizarre attempts to redefine anti-colonialism as a negative trait) have been commonplace in right-wing circles for the better part of a decade, popularized by disgraced filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza's use of the phrase as a means of suggesting Obama bears origins or philosophical allegiance to Kenya, his father's birthplace.
Current CNN contributor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich took the baton from there, telling National Review in September 2010 that Obama pretends to be normal while actually being engaged in "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior."
Matt Drudge's Drudge Report has become the leading conservative media booster of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, promoting him for the Republican presidential nomination and proclaiming him the "clear GOP frontrunner."
This week's messy, public breakup between conservatives and Sarah Palin was executed with brutal swiftness. After years of alternately worshiping and defending her from all comers while gleefully echoing her falsehoods about the Obama administration (death panels!), lots of conservatives -- and especially conservative pundits -- decided enough, and collectively tossed her overboard.
Palin's speech last weekend at a conservative confab in Iowa, odd and vacuous even by her standards, served as the trigger for the media mutiny. Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough tagged it "a tragedy," the Daily Beast's Matt Lewis apologized for his previous Palin support, and the Washington Examiner rounded up reactions from the GOP faithful: "Long and disjointed." "A weird speech." "Terrible. Didn't make any sense." (See video of the speech below.)
After six years conservatives have essentially conceded what Palin's critics on the Left have said all along: She's not a serious person and she serves no serious political purpose. Palin, who symbolized an uber-aggressive anti-intellectual conservative push that coincided with Obama's election, seemed more interested in self-promotion -- via reality shows and habitually flirting with running for office that never materialized -- than in building a lasting political legacy.
Note that Palin's accelerated descent this week represents a larger trend within the conservative media. It represents the decline of the tea party wing of the right-wing press and how a once-flourishing enterprise of outside upstarts, with their eyes on disrupting the GOP hierarchy, have in recent years faded in terms of importance and prestige within that sphere.
For instance, five years ago players like Palin, tea party guru Glenn Beck, and tea party "godfather" Rick Santelli from CNBC were on the cusp of powering of grassroots movement to retake the Republican Party and the country. Beck drew huge cable audiences on Fox News while weaving dark tales of Obama deception, Santelli helped inspire patriot rallies across the country, and Fox favorite Palin surfed political celebritydom and eyed a possible White House run. They represented a new and different brand of media agitators who didn't take the traditional paths to the masses.
But today they stand deflated. In fact, as the next campaign season looms, all three appear to be vanishing in the media's rear-view mirror.
Criticizing President Obama for not attended the Sunday solidarity march in Paris in the wake of last week's terror attacks, Republican Congressman Randy Weber (R-TX) yesterday took the debate to absurd and offensive levels when he tweeted that "Even Adolph [sic] Hitler thought it more important than Obama to get to Paris. (For all the wrong reasons.) Obama couldn't do it for right reasons."
The jaw-dropping insult from a sitting member of Congress can only really be understood when you realize that the conservative media in America have been wallowing in that kind of mindless chatter for most of Obama's time in office. (UPDATED: Weber has since apologized.)
Freely engaging in the kind of rhetorical bomb-throwing that had previously been seen and heard on the far fringes of American politics, mainstream conservative commentators have embraced the Obama-is-just-like-Hitler narrative and have proudly paraded it around for years, either oblivious to, or unconcerned with, the offensive implications.
As Media Matters noted last year:
Wallowing in self-pity and convinced of the dark forces moving against them, conservatives launch attack after attack, insisting they're fighting forces at home akin to Hitler's Nazi storm troops. They complain louder and louder that America has become like Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler when 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
It's gotten so bad that now something as innocuous as a debate over Obama's scheduling is met with a Republican Hitler-based denunciation. Sadly, this kind of rhetoric has been a mark of conservative shame throughout the president's tenure.
The Islamophobic rhetoric spewed by right-wing media in response to the deadly attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris is just the most recent in a long history of conservative anti-Islam vitriol.
Teachers faced an unprecedented level of scrutiny in 2014, thanks to a landmark legal case dismantling teacher tenure in California, which is likely to spark copycats lawsuits across the country. In part due to this increased scrutiny, educators also encountered various attacks from mainstream and conservative media over the year, five of which were particularly egregious.
In June, a California Superior Court handed down the decision in the Vergara v. California trial, a case in which "a group of student plaintiffs ... argued that state tenure laws had deprived them of a decent education by leaving bad teachers in place." Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu sided with the students, in a ruling that Teacher Wars author Dana Goldstein wrote "has the potential to overturn five state laws governing" how tenure, which helps guarantee due process to prevent "capricious firings," operates in the state. The lawsuit became something of a model for media attacks -- sparking reactions that ranged from outraged to elated -- and prompted extensive media discussion about the positives and negatives to reform of the public education system.
Unfortunately, much of this discussion featured direct attacks on educators in 2014. They came from all facets of the media sphere, and were often rooted in conservative misinformation, though some rang louder, stronger, and more abhorrent than others.
Here are the top five times media failed educators in 2014.
The November 3 cover story of Time magazine, titled "The War on Teacher Tenure" and promoted on the cover as "Rotten Apples," spurred significant backlash, particularly among teachers, who were dismayed at the portrayal of their profession as "rotten." The backlash led to a petition calling for an apology from Time that garnered more than 70,000 signatures. In their coverage of the Time backlash, however, several media outlets, including MSNBC's Morning Joe, Fox News' Outnumbered, and The Weekly Standard's blog failed to discuss what was at the heart of the controversy: due process for teachers. These media outlets instead took to doubling down on the allegations of "rotten," and making outlandish claims.
If Fox News can find a way to blame any education controversy on teachers or teachers unions, it will do so. Two such instances in 2014 were particularly egregious. When hundreds of Colorado high school students walked out of class to protest a "conservative-led school board proposal" to change their history curriculum, Fox hosted the country board of education president to falsely allege that "teachers [were] using students" as "pawns" not over the history proposal, but over an upcoming teachers union contract. And in March, when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would block three charter schools from using public school space rent-free, Fox figures took to speculating and attacking teachers and teachers unions, arguing, among other things, that de Blasio was trying to "kiss back butt on the unions" and wage a "war on children."
Glenn Beck's book Conform, released in May and co-authored with Kyle Olson, lobbed a number of laughable attacks against public schools, the Common Core State Standards, and in particular, teachers. His ridiculous attacks on teachers included claiming that:
In April, the Kansas State Legislature passed a bill in a whirlwind weekend session that "kill[ed] long-held teacher rights" in the state, namely the right to due process. In addition to being pushed by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, the bill was also introduced by a committee whose chairman had ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has received "untold sums of cash" from the Koch brothers. None of the three major newspapers in Kansas, however, made the connection between the legislation and the Koch brothers in their original reporting.
Media Matters conducted an analysis of education coverage on weeknight cable news programs from January 1 to October 31, 2014, to determine how many of the shows' guests who discussed the topic were educators. The report found that across CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, educators made up only 9 percent of guests during education segments, with each network only hosting a total of one, four, and eleven educators, respectively.
This post has been updated for accuracy.
This year, media coverage of issues affecting women often failed badly, from trivializing sexual assault to pushing inaccurate reports on pending state abortion restrictions. Below are nine major ways the media failed women in 2014.
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) will be the next chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Right-wing media figures like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have championed the conservative legislator, calling him one of the "good Republicans," a leader on Benghazi, and someone who will be a "great Oversight chair."
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Monday issued a state of emergency and activated the National Guard in anticipation of the grand jury announcement about whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will be charged with the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown.
The unarmed teen's controversial death sparked weeks worth of protests, many of which were met with overwhelming police force. The killing also inspired a national debate about police shootings and law enforcement's relationship with black Americans. (The Department of Justice is currently investigating the Ferguson police department.)
And of course since the protests prominently featured the issue of race, and since Obama's conservative media critics positioned him at the center of the story -- his administration was allegedly "orchestrating" the unrest -- the events have inspired wave after wave of attacks from Fox News and its allies in the conservative media.
Brown family advocates have been denounced as "race hustlers." Fox contributor Laura Ingraham characterized Ferguson protesters as a "lynch mob" on her radio show. And conservative author Dinesh D'Souza actually compared the Ferguson unrest to beheadings carried out by the Islamic State terrorists. "What the common thread between ISIS and what's going on in Ferguson is you have these people who basically believe that to correct a perceived injustice, it's perfectly OK to inflict all kinds of new injustices," said D'Souza.
Conservative commentators have a long history of condemning, as vile and un-American, citizens who protest on behalf of their causes, whether it's racial injustice, income equality, collective bargaining rights, raising the minimum wage, or defending public education. The spotlight on Ferguson and its supposed "lynch mob" represents just the latest example of those sweeping condemnations and attacks on civil discourse.
Keep in mind that it was Fox News, as well as the rest of the right-wing media, that championed lawless insurrectionists earlier this year in Nevada when gun-toting militia members rallied to the side of rancher Cliven Bundy, who refused for more than two decades to pay grazing fees for his cattle that fed off federal land. (Bundy's Fox-sponsored crusade imploded when he was recorded making racist comments, asking if black Americans were "better off as slaves.")
In the Fox worldview, activists are thugs and thugs are freedom fighters.
From the November 17 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the October 16 edition of MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner:
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From the October 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News host Megyn Kelly said that Glenn Beck accurately predicted the formation of a caliphate in the Middle East, though in reality the actions of the terrorist group known as the Islamic State fall far short of Beck's 2011 prediction that was ridiculed by his fellow conservatives at the time.
In reaction to the protests against Egypt's former dictator Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, Beck theorized on his since-canceled Fox show that one of the results of this and other protests in Arab and North African countries would be "a Muslim caliphate that controls the Mideast and parts of Europe." On June 29 of this year, the Islamic State's leaders formally declared that they had formed a caliphate after seizing control of parts of Syria and Iraq.
On Wednesday, Kelly decided that recent developments had vindicated Beck's old claims, saying: "When ISIS became a big story earlier this year a number of people were reminded of a prediction by Glenn Beck. Beck had long argued that radical Islamists were pursuing a dream of establishing a caliphate in the Middle East, a country unto themselves. And that is exactly what ISIS has managed to do." She then interviewed him about how he feels about his claim now:
But reporter David Weigel, who was prodded by conservatives earlier this year about Beck's claims of a caliphate, explained on his former Slate blog that the recent developments show that Beck was very wrong:
[T]he gulf between what Glenn Beck was talking about and what the 10,000 or so murderers of ISIS are able to accomplish is so large as to be comical. Not that Beck's initial monologue wasn't comical.
"You have Somalia and Iran already in green," said Beck. "Now, let's add Tunisia. Former Tunisian government was considered one of the most secular and corrupt governments in the Arab world. The poor and the angry demanded changes. Most dangerous scenario is that radical Muslims seize power and put Sharia law into place."
That was a dangerous-sounding scenario. It did not happen. Tunisia is currently run by technocrats who were handed power after an Islamist party failed to govern effectively. Beck went on to worry that the Muslim Brotherhood would take power in Egypt, and that the result "could very easily be 1979 Iran." The Muslim Brotherhood did win an election, before being overthrown in popular protests and being replaced by a new military government. Not quite 1979 Iran.
Seriously, just read Beck's monologue. The host speculated that the weak economies of Spain and Portugal and the Muslim populations of France and Great Britain left them exposed to some kind of Shariah revolution. This was what "caliphate" meant--not a gang of killers terrorizing parts of Iraq, but a green wave spreading across the world that the early Muslims almost conquered.
Beck's prediction was also dismissed when he made it, particularly by his fellow conservatives. Then-Fox News contributor Bill Kristol wrote that Beck was "marginalizing himself" through his "hysteria" about the protests in Egypt, likening him to the conspiracy-minded John Birch Society. National Review Online editor Rich Lowry endorsed Kristol's "well-deserved shot at Glenn Beck's latest wild theorizing." And the Wall Street Journal's John Fund described Beck's claims as "apocalyptic conspiracy terms" that went too far.
Right-wing media are using President Obama's plan to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as another opportunity to attack him. Conservatives are calling the president a "hypocrite" because he's sending "more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS"; labeling the plan "arrogant" because of problems with HealthCare.gov; and accusing him of trying to "change the subject" by "fighting a really bad flu bug."
The White House announced on September 16 that the United States would send 3,000 troops to Africa to help combat the Ebola threat. The U.S. military and broader uniformed services effort will "entail command and control, logistics expertise, training, and engineering support."
President Obama said in a speech that "[m]ore than 2,400 men, women and children are known to have died -- and we strongly suspect that the actual death toll is higher than that ... In West Africa, Ebola is now an epidemic of the likes that we have not seen before. It's spiraling out of control. It is getting worse. It's spreading faster and exponentially. Today, thousands of people in West Africa are infected. That number could rapidly grow to tens of thousands. And if the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic."
Conservatives responded to the plan by mocking the president and his policies: