As the nation mourns the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, conservative media figures have attempted to appropriate his legacy and attribute to the beloved former president their conservative ideas and positions. This effort runs counter to Kennedy's stated positions, speeches, and other historical facts surrounding his presidency.
On July 28, 2009, the demise of Glenn Beck's career as a Fox News host began when he announced on Fox & Friends that President Obama was a "racist" and that, despite being raised by a white mother and his white grandparents, the new president had a "deep-seated hatred for white people." The advertising boycott sparked by that shockingly hateful statement soon robbed Beck of most of his commercial supporters. In 2011, Fox News, unable to turn his ratings into revenue, let Beck go.
In 2009, Beck appeared to be an outlier within the right-wing media, using the type of incendiary, race-baiting language that even many Obama-hating pundits considered to be out of bounds. But fast-forward to 2013, and specifically fast-forward to the right-wing media reaction to the conclusion of the George Zimmerman trial, as well as Obama's reaction to it, and it seems clear that Beck's comments have been mainstreamed within the conservative movement.
Obama hates whites? He's a racist? He's trying to start a race war? Today, more and more conservative voices in the media chorus seem entirely comfortable making those reckless allegations.
And somewhere the authors of the Republican National Committee's "autopsy" report must be shaking their heads.
You'll recall that the in-depth, and at times startlingly frank, analysis of the GOP's poor showing in 2012 repeatedly stressed that for the party to compete in national elections in coming years, it must become more inclusive. And specifically, the Republican Party had to find a way to appeal to minority voters, including blacks. Plagued by what the Republican authors said was a voter perception of the GOP as being a party of rigid, out of touch ideologues, the party had to embrace new kinds of voters.
"We know we have problems; we've identified them, and we're implementing the solutions to fix them," RNC chairman Reince Priebus said at the time of the 97-page report's release in March. He warned that "focus groups described our party as narrow minded, out of touch and "stuff old men." The party pledged to spend $10 million on outreach to minority groups.
Four months later though, and nearly every corner of the right-wing media landscape is broadcasting the same, hateful message that Beck first enunciated four years ago: America's first black president is a racist who despises whites. It's hard to see how the GOP Noise Machine's angry, divisive memo is going to do anything but drive even more minority voters away from the party.
As President Obama addressed reactions surrounding the acquittal of George Zimmerman, right-wing media took to Twitter and attacked the president's remarks:
Right-wing media figures argued that Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights at a congressional hearing by declaring her innocence before invoking those rights. By contrast, legal experts say Lerner's statement did not negate her constitutional protections.
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) bills itself as an event convened to "crystallize the best of the conservative thought in America" that will showcase "all of the leading conservative organizations and speakers." Media covering CPAC 2013 should know that the conference's speakers, from the most prominent to the lesser-known, have a history of launching smears, pushing conspiracy theories, and hyping myths about the validity of President Obama's birth certificate.
Drudge, Fox Nation and Breitbart distorted comments made by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to claim she "trashed the uninsured" by calling them "free riders." Pelosi's comments were not directed toward all uninsured Americans, but were specifically referring to health care consumers who remain uninsured until they have a health care need, overburdening the market and increasing health care costs. This is a claim almost identical to policy recommendations made by Mitt Romney in a 2009 op-ed.
In a recent interview with San Francisco's KQED radio, Pelosi pointed out that Thursday's Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act in its entirety meant "goodbye to the free riders." In the comments that followed, Pelosi made it clear that she was referring to people who "just decide you're not going to apply for health insurance" and then when "[y]ou get sick or in an accident, your health care costs are a burden to everybody else."
Breitbart's Joel Pollak acknowledged that Pelosi defended the penalty as " necessary because some (many?) of the uninsured actively choose not to buy health insurance, even though they can afford it." But these were the very people Pelosi was talking about when she discussed free riders - not everybody without insurance. That fact is obscured by the Breitbart headline, which was highlighted by Drudge and Fox Nation.
The difference between Pelosi's comments and Pollak's suggested interpretation is significant. Pelosi was not referring to people who currently have no ability to access or afford health care coverage, but to those who have the resources to purchase insurance but choose not to, making their eventual care a liability for themselves and to taxpayers. Because the low-income premium subsidies in the Affordable Care Act make health insurance affordable for millions more people, and the group previously labeled "free riders" will largely consist of those who refuse to pay for health care instead of being simply uninsured due to a lack of affordability.
Right-wing media have reacted to the Supreme Court's ruling upholding President Obama's health care law by claiming it is "a dark day for freedom" and "the end of America as we know it." But the decision allows the health care law to implement reforms that will protect and extend affordable insurance coverage to millions of Americans.
Add Breitbart.com editor-in-chief Joel Pollak to the list of right-wing media dismissing voter identification law concerns despite evidence showing that such laws have kept many eligible voters, including the elderly and racial minorities, from voting.
Pollak writes that "voting rights are not threatened in the least by voter ID laws," adding that "[f]raud, not voter ID, is the only danger."
But evidence paints a clear picture: voter ID laws have kept otherwise eligible voters from having their vote counted. For instance, a May 2008 Los Angeles Times article reported that elderly nuns and college students "were turned away from polls" after Indiana's voter ID law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Additionally a report on voter ID laws from NYU's Brennan Center for Justice found that voter identification and other laws "could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012." Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel for the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, found that the laws are more likely to impact minority voters, writing:
Looking at voter ID laws alone, we know that although 11 percent of Americans lack government-issued photo ID, 25 percent of African-Americans, 16 percent of Hispanics, and 18 percent of elderly voters do not have this form of ID. States have also passed restrictions on early voting and community voter registration drives. Communities of color are more than twice as likely to register to vote with these groups, and they use early voting days at a much higher rate than the general population.
Furthermore, despite Pollak's suggestion that voter fraud is a widespread issue, a Supreme Court plurality found in 2008 that actual instances of voter fraud are few and "scattered." The Brennan Center has found that allegations of voter fraud "simply do not pan out" and distract from "real [election] problems that need real solutions." Even voter ID law proponent and right-wing commentator Hans von Spakovsky has acknowledged that there's no "massive fraud in American elections."
No matter how many times they say it, the facts still don't change: The Rev. Jeremiah Wright story was covered endlessly in 2008 by the press, including The New York Times.
But that doesn't stop people like Breitbart's Joel Pollak from pushing one of the right's most beloved, albeit comically inept, lies: The liberal media refused to address the Wright story.
NY Times Ignored Obama's Wright, Focuses on Romney's Mormon Faith
This stubborn untruth is crucial because the far-right's ongoing obsession with Obama's former pastor only makes sense if conservatives can argue it's a new story and that new information is coming out all the time. They need to whitewash the past because Obama foes have to pretend voters were never informed about Obama's association with Wright and his incendiary rhetoric; that the press hid the truth about Obama.
In other words, there needs to be a conspiracy. Or, Obama was never vetted!
For the record, the Times "ignored" the Wright story so often in 2008 that it managed to publish just 200-plus articles and columns that mentioned both Obama and Rev. Wright, according to Nexis. The Times published more than 126 rticles and columns that mentioned Obama and Wright at least three times each, and 33 hefty pieces that mentioned both men at least eight times each.
As we've noted before, the avalanche of non-stop Wright coverage became so intense in 2008 that at one point the press was covering it more closely that Hillary Clinton's campaign, and she was running for president at the time. Also, just five percent of Americans thought the story received "too little" media attention, according to a CBS/New York Times poll in 2008.
Maybe Breitbart editors just have a different definition of "ignored."
In a May 18 post, on his blog, RedState, CNN's Erick Erickson praised Breitbart.com for its May 17 "vetting" of Obama, using the post to call Obama a "Composite Kenyan." From his May 18 RedState post:
The Breitbart Crew has done the world a very valuable service in finding a 1991 biography of Barack Obama from his literary agent claiming he was "born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii."
The point is not that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. The point is that Barack Obama has repeatedly been perfectly okay embellishing and having others embellish his qualifications and biography to make himself someone unique instead of just another Chicago politician. The pattern goes back to his job as a "financial reporter". A former colleague of his and Obama fan, way back in 2005, claims Barack Obama really embellished his resume describing his financial related reporting.
[T]he largest point, however, is that the media is yet again caught flat footed, claiming the story is no big deal, irrelevant, or that somehow the Breitbart Crew is in the wrong and peddling Birtherism.
They are not peddling Birtherism. The Breitbart Crew are kind of like illegal immigrants -- doing reporting Columbia journalism grads won't do. In 2008, the New York Times ran a big story on John McCain having an affair with a lobbyist. It got picked up all over the place. Reporters were on the trail. There was no *there* there.
The Breitbart team has a new entry in its flailing campaign to redefine former Harvard law professor Derrick Bell and critical race theory -- along with President Obama -- as radical. This time around, Breitbart editor-in-chief Joel Pollak offers up the previously known fact that Bell wrote a blurb for Obama's memoir, Dreams From My Father, that was published in the book's first edition.
The "exclusive" part of Pollak's post appears to be a letter that Obama sent to Bell requesting the blurb. Pollak says the letter comes from the New York University archives, which hold Bell's papers. The portion of the letter that Pollak quotes is unremarkable:
As for me, I'm keeping busy in Chicago. I'm currently working at Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland here in Chicago, a small firm specializing in employment discrimination and voting rights/civil rights cases. I'm also teaching a seminar on race and the law at the University of Chicago law school -- your casebook has been an invaluable reference guide for that.
The main reason I'm writing to you, though, has to do with a book that I've been writing, on again, off again, for the past two years. Originally, the book (called Dreams of My Father) was going to be a series of essays on issues of race and class, but as it has evolved it's become a memoir of my family and my experiences as an organizer in Chicago...
Your name came to mind as somebody whose insight I've always appreciated, so I've enclosed an advanced reader's edition of the book. If you have time to read it and think it's worth of a plug, I'd be thrilled...
Pollak goes on to link to a website showing a copy of Dreams From My Father that includes the blurb from Bell.
All of this does nothing to change the fact that Bell is a mainstream figure. It is also not evidence, as the Breitbart team has been insisting, that the media have failed to "vet" Obama and his administration.
Nevertheless, Pollak concludes:
Clearly, Obama's link to Bell was more than just a "hug," but part of a sustained effort to align himself with the radical left--and to be seen by others as a legitimate radical--in the early stages of his public life.
As a reminder of how wrong Pollak is about this, watch CNN's Soledad O'Brien explain the details to him back on March 8:
Once again, the right-wing media are working hard to create a controversy where none exists. This time, they're attacking President Obama for telling Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" to negotiate on the issue of missile defense after the November election. In the opinion of these media conservatives, Obama's comments are further evidence that he is "surrendering America." In fact, according to Obama, he was referring to the fact that anything he could do on missile defense would require bipartisan buy-in, which is not very likely during an election year.
Following a meeting on Monday with Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea, Obama told the Russian president, "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it's important for him to give me space," adding: "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." Medvedev responded: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin]." The comments were intended to be private, but were picked up by a hot microphone.
Cue the outrage. Conservative blogger Doug Powers, writing at MichelleMalkin.com, accused Obama of "capitulation." Hot Air's Ed Morrissey blasted the incident as proof that American voters "need to fear an Obama second term." The headline of a post by Breitbart.com's editor in chief, Joel Pollak, read: "Obama to Putin: I'll Surrender America After Re-Election." Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft wrote that Obama "explained his secret plans to sell out America and her allies" and "told Medvedev to wait until after his reelection to sell out American security." Fox News contributor Palin wrote of the incident: "Let this exchange be a warning to voters: President Obama will have 'more flexibility' to weaken us if he's re-elected in November." Fox News contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton called Obama's comments "a fire bell in the night" and accused the president of "giving way on American missile defense, defending our homeland."
But Obama explained today that he was talking about the difficulty in an election year of getting the bipartisan agreement necessary to negotiate on important foreign policy issues. Obama said: "This is not a matter of hiding the ball." He added: "The only way I get this stuff done is if I'm consulting with the Pentagon, if I'm consulting with Congress, if I've got bipartisan support, and the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations."
And bipartisan buy-in is important. In 2010, the right-wing media claimed that Obama was "compromising our missile defense capabilities" by negotiating the New START treaty with Russia. In fact, military leaders strongly supported New START. At the time, 13 Republicans were willing to ignore the right-wing media freak-out and vote for New START, allowing the treaty to attain the support of two-thirds of the Senate needed for ratification. But instructively, that vote did not happen until a lame-duck session after the midterm elections were concluded. Does anyone believe Obama would get so much Republican support on a controversial issue during an election year?
The Breitbart empire isn't letting the massive humiliation following this month's Hug-gate manufactured controversy discourage them from further "Vetting" of President Obama and his administration. In their latest effort, they've discovered that as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia nearly 20 years ago, now-Attorney General Eric Holder publicly discussed a campaign to... wait for it... encourage people in that city not to break the law.
The premise of these Breitbart.com "Vetting" pieces is that decades-old comments and connections of Obama and his advisers somehow tell us more about their agenda than what they have actually done in office. Gun violence prevention is a particularly ripe area for this effort: conservatives have desperately tried to maintain their fiction that the Obama administration is on the verge of a confiscatory gun crackdown, even as the White House makes little effort to push for even the mildest gun control legislation.
Thus, as Breitbart.com editor-in-chief Joel Pollak breathlessly explains:
Breitbart.com has uncovered video from 1995 of then-U.S. Attorney Eric Holder announcing a public campaign to "really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way."
Holder was addressing the Woman's National Democratic Club. In his remarks, broadcast by CSPAN 2, he explained that he intended to use anti-smoking campaigns as his model to "change the hearts and minds of people in Washington, DC" about guns.
Pollak goes on to write that in his speech, Holder said that he wanted a campaign involving television ads and celebrities to convince young people in D.C. that it is "not cool, that it's not acceptable, it's not hip to carry a gun anymore." The implication from Pollak -- and the other right-wing media outlets now picking up on his post -- is that this is evidence that Holder is virulently anti-gun. Some are even echoing right-wing conspiracies to bizarrely link the video to the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious.
What the right-wing media never get around to mentioning is that in 1995, when Holder gave the speech, it was illegal to possess a handgun in Washington D.C.
In other words, in calling for efforts to teach young people that "it's not hip to carry a gun anymore," Holder, the chief prosecutor for the District of Columbia, was discussing a campaign to encourage citizens of his jurisdiction not to break the law.
What a bombshell!