A Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial criticized a voter initiative gaining traction -- to place an increased minimum wage on Nevada's 2016 ballot -- by leaning on bogus right-wing information from a fast food industry-backed front group.
An op-ed published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal attempted to piggyback on Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' economic inequality platform to spread anti-union conservative misinformation blaming public employee unions for widening levels of inequality. The paper failed to disclose the author's parent organization is part of the State Policy Network -- a collection of think tanks funded in part by the Koch brothers -- and receives funding from the manufacturing industry.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal's editorial board dismissed the gender pay gap as an "injustice that doesn't actually exist," asserting that pay inequality between women and men is due to women's job choices. In reality, studies repeatedly show that gender pay inequality plagues women regardless of job choice, "at all education levels, after work experience is taken into account," and "gets worse as women's careers progress."
CNN Money reported that Las Vegas Review-Journal editor Mike Hengel was offered and accepted a buyout and will step down as editor of Nevada's largest newspaper.
Hengel's decision comes after the Review-Journal was purchased by an unnamed person later discovered to be top Republican donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The purchase has concerned many of the reporters at the paper who feared a loss of editorial control in deference to the new owner. Prior to stepping down, Hengel had instructed reporters to begin working on identifying the long list of "perceived conflicts of interest" that were likely to surround the paper and their new owner.
CNN Money's December 22 article reporting his resignation said Hengel "thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be 'adversarial' and that it was best to let them pick their own editor."
Mike Hengel, the top editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is stepping aside, less than two weeks after the family of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson took control of the newspaper.
One reporter said the newsroom was "stunned" by the announcement, which Hengel made on Tuesdayevening in the midst of a turbulent period for Nevada's biggest newspaper.
Wednesday's edition will include a message from the Adelson family on the front page. It says "we pledge to publish a newspaper that is fair, unbiased and accurate." It describes plans for "new investments" and the establishment of an ombudsman.
Retaining the trust of readers will be difficult for the paper, especially if other veteran journalists follow Hengel to the exit.
A round of end-of-the-year buyouts were initiated before Adelson purchased the paper on December 10. Hengel was originally not eligible. But the eligibility rules were apparently changed for him.
According to tweets and people who were present for the announcement, Hengel told his staffers that he did not ask for a buyout, but that he was offered one shortly after the change in ownership. He did not say who made the offer. But he said he thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be "adversarial" and that it was best to let them pick their own editor.
"I think my resignation probably comes as a relief to the new owners, and it is in my best interest and those of my family," Hengel said, according to reporter Neal Morton.
Hengel did not respond to a request for further comment.
The owners' letter in Wednesday's paper said managers "will appoint an interim editor and will immediately begin a search for the next permanent Review-Journal editor."
Hengel's departure comes at a time of widespread unease about what the new owners intend to do.
Longtime Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, who was once sued by Adelson, wrote over the weekend that "Adelson is precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper."
The recent purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (LVRJ) by an entity reportedly controlled by Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson is sparking concern among staffers at the paper. One reporter says that stories about the purchase before Adelson's involvement was public were edited by the publisher to remove references to the conservative billionaire.
Last week, LVRJ was purchased by a previously unknown company called News + Media Capital Group LLC. After days of speculation about the mysterious group behind the purchase, several outlets confirmed that Adelson and his family were the main buyers.
James DeHaven, who has reported for the paper for three years and has been covering its ownership change, told Media Matters that publisher Jason Taylor intervened last week to remove portions of two stories that hinted at Adelson's company as the buyer.
"We knew that we had been bought on Thursday, we just didn't know who bought us," DeHaven said. "We ran a story on Friday in which quotes were removed by the publisher. Portions of a Saturday story were removed, all mentions of [Adelson] were removed."
DeHaven said reporters at the paper had enough information to at least speculate about Adelson's involvement in stories that were published December 11. But he contends that Taylor intervened to remove portions of those stories.
"That's the first time it happened since I've been at the paper," DeHaven said.
Taylor did not respond to requests for comment.
Review-Journal staffers, meanwhile, are offering concern about the Adelson purchase, noting his past history of conservative activism, political influence and even his previous lawsuits against journalists -- including one who had worked for the paper.
"His litigiousness is something we're all concerned about, that is what I am worried about," said one reporter who requested anonymity. "It would be court-related in general, concerned about cases he has going through the courts." The reporter added, "We're definitely worried about it. It would be good to have a local owner, but I think everyone is definitely still a little nervous."
Another newspaper staffer highlighted that some reporters at LVRJ have previously had difficulty with Adelson: "Until our owners were willing to reveal themselves, we didn't have a lot of credibility. Some people here have had very difficult interactions with him, there's obvious concern here about it. We don't know how this current arrangement might change in the next few months. There are plenty of readers who have concerns about it."
A third newsroom staffer agreed, adding, "We don't know what's going to happen next, we're just in a holding pattern. Everyone is pretty unsure, it could go a lot of different ways, just not sure. We have to move on to the next step of figuring out what he wants from us."
DeHaven said the lack of initial information did not help the staff's trust in the new owners.
"It worries people," he said. "It's concerning because we still need to disclose those people in order to do our jobs properly. It is also concerning because of Adelson's political leanings. I know our editorial board doesn't want their endorsements meddled with any more than we want our stories meddled with.
"In terms of news coverage, Sheldon is a big political donor. If you were reporting on him or his political donations -- he makes a lot of those -- that would be one area of concern."
Jon Ralston, a former Review-Journal columnist whose website and TV show are seen as having the pulse of the state, said he is hearing worries from former colleagues as well.
"I think people are surprised and now wondering what they're going to do," Ralston said. "I think they're very unsettled at the paper, who wouldn't be? We have a major political player who has an obvious political agenda buying a newspaper. You have to wonder if he will make big changes, will it affect news coverage? People are worried for their jobs, they are worried about interference."
Fortune is reporting that billionaire and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson has purchased The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest paper in the 2016 election battleground state of Nevada.
Adelson would be a troubling owner for the Las Vegas paper. The casino magnate has spent millions supporting right-wing candidates and causes. He has a checkered past when it comes to his business dealings and practices, and he is anti-Muslim and anti-union.
The timing of the purchase would provide Adelson with many opportunities to advance his interests, both politically and personally. The reported purchase gives Adelson the largest newspaper in a crucial state for both the Republican primary and the 2016 general election. The seat held by Sen. Harry Reid will also be up for grabs next year. And the businessman operates "America's largest casino company" in Las Vegas, where the paper is based.
The Israeli publication Haaretz reported last year that Adelson said he doesn't like journalism:
Adelson already owns Israel Hayom, a free Israeli newspaper widely seen as reflecting the positions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is considered close to Adelson, and, more recently, news website NRG and religious newspaper Makor Rishon.
"I don't like journalism," Adelson said, highlighting what he said was the media's insistence on focusing on the empty half of the glass.
CNN's Brian Stelter reported following the Fortune report that Adelson told him last night "I have no personal interest" in the paper and "repeatedly indicated that he is not" the owner and "seemed to be enjoying the guessing game." He added on Twitter, "All signs point to Adelson, and his answers to my questions surprised me."
Here are four reasons why Adelson's reported purchase of The Las Vegas Review-Journal is a cause for concern:
RealClearPolitics reported in October 2014 that Adelson is perhaps "the most coveted man in Republican presidential politics" because of his deep pockets. Adelson, whose net worth is estimated at $24.5 billion, reportedly spent $100 million to defeat President Obama in 2012 (emphasis in original):
The stakes of getting on his good side are enormous. In 2012, Adelson spent $20 million supporting Newt Gingrich, single-handedly keeping him afloat during the primaries and doing great damage to Mitt Romney in the process; then, after Gingrich finally fell, Adelson shelled out $30 million to plump up Romney. All told, Adelson reportedly spent $100 million against Obama in 2012. In 2016, says one prominent Republican operative, "every candidate thinks, I can either be the Gingrich of the cycle, meaning Sheldon could give me oxygen, or I don't want to be on the opposite side of who his Gingrich is this cycle. They want to benefit from Sheldon's largesse or make sure no one else benefits from it."
The Huffington Post reported that Adelson and his wife, Miriam, "spent about $100 million on political causes during the 2014 cycle, according to multiple sources."
Adelson is also a major donor to the financial network organized by industrialists Charles and David Koch, with the Huffington Post reporting that in 2014, "Adelson's donations to Phillips' outfit [Americans for Prosperity] and other Koch-funded organizations accounted for a significant portion -- nearly $30 million -- of this haul, according to two conservatives familiar with the network."
The New York Times recently wrote that for the 2016 Republican primary, Adelson "had been rumored for months to be leaning toward supporting Mr. Rubio, but he is also said to be truly uncertain about what to do."
Tracking Adelson's spending may be a difficult task. The American Prospect's Justin Miller wrote that "Adelson's spending has become less transparent. GOP insiders have said that he's given more and more to prominent dark-money groups rather than to super PACs that must disclose donors."
As Media Matters noted in March 2014, Adelson has a checkered past when it comes to his business dealings:
In 2012, Adelson's corporation came under three different investigations from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Justice Department, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), an anti-bribery statute. Additionally, the Times reported at the time that several of the company's subsidiaries also "came under investigation by Chinese regulators."
Adelson allegedly attempted to bribe the Chief Executive of Macau, where a substantial portion of his casino business was located, and reportedly instructed Sands Corp. to bribe a Macau legislator with about $700,000 in "legal fees." (ProPublica reported that "several Las Vegas Sands executives resigned or were fired after expressing concerns" about the fee.) A former Sands Corp. executive also alleged that Adelson fired him after he refused to engage in illegal activity and protested the presence of Chinese organized crime syndicates in Sands' Macau casinos.
Adelson initially insisted that he was being unfairly targeted, but Sands Corp.'s own audit committee ultimately admitted there were "likely violations" of the anti-bribery law. And in August 2013, Sands Corp. agreed to pay the federal government more than $47 million in a settlement to resolve a separate money-laundering investigation, in which the casinos were accused of "accepting millions from high-rolling gamblers accused of drug trafficking and embezzlement."
Adelson has stated: "You don't have to worry about using the word 'Islamo-fascism' or 'Islamo-terrorist,' when that's what they are. Not all Islamists are terrorists, but all the terrorists are Islamists."
Reporter Peter Beinart wrote in Haaretz of Adelson's views of Palestinians and Muslims:
Then there's Adelson's view that the Palestinians are an "invented people." Again, flip it around. In 2008, when Tel Aviv University's Shlomo Sand published a book called "The Invention of the Jewish People," he was widely called anti-Semitic. When Adelson says the same about Palestinians, he's a Republican rock star.
This isn't hawkishness. It's hate. Hawks acknowledge that there are divisions among Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, but argue that, at this moment in time, the forces of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic militancy have the upper hand. For Adelson, by contrast, there are no distinctions. All Palestinians and all Muslims are detestable killers. It's just who they are. "There isn't a Palestinian alive who wasn't raised on a curriculum of hatred and hostility toward the Jews," he told the Jewish Press in 2011. "They don't want the Jews or any other religion to be alive," he said in the same interview. "The Muslims...want to kill 100 percent of the Jews," he explained last fall. "Not all Islamists are terrorists but all the terrorists are Islamists," he opined in 2012.
Historian Rick Perlstein wrote in Rolling Stone that Adelson is devoted "to crushing labor unions to dust ... Adelson's anti-union mania (I would argue) is the most important thing to know about him. For it reveals just how crazy, and how unscrupulous, the man is." Perlstein wrote of one battle Adelson had with union workers:
In 1999, Adelson closed one casino, the Sands, and completed work on a new one, the Venetian, stiffing so many contractors that there were at one time 366 liens against the property. Taylor, of the Culinary Workers, said he and his colleagues presumed that "like every other casino that had done that, workers in the [closed] hotel would be given priority when the [new] hotel was built." Instead, Adelson refused even to talk. All this, in a union town like Vegas, was unprecedented. "Even when you're having battles, you continue to have talks. Shit, we're talking to the North Koreans right now!" he told me. "The Israelis talk to the Arabs. Talking doesn't necessarily solve anything, but at least you understand the other guy's position." Adelson, not much interested in understanding the other guy's position, proceeded to launch a campaign against the Culinary Workers that Taylor calls "beyond aggressive."
Right before the grand opening of the Venetian, in 1999, the Culinary Workers staged a demonstration on the public sidewalk out front. Adelson told the cops to start making arrests; the cops refused. Glen Arnodo, an official at the union at the time, relates what happened next: "I was standing on the sidewalk and they had two security guards say I was on private property, and if I didn't move they'd have to put me under 'citizen's arrest.' I ignored them." The guards once again told the police to arrest Arnodo and again, he says, they refused. The Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, in town to support the rally, said the whole thing reminded him of living in the South during Jim Crow.
A Wall Street Journal profile stated that Adelson views legislation supported by unions as one of the "fundamental threats to society" (alongside "radical Islam"):
Mr. Adelson views radical Islam, he says, as "one of the two fundamental threats to society" -- a view promoted by his Adelson Center for Strategic Studies in Jerusalem. (The other big threat, he says, is a union-promoted measure to curtail the use of secret ballots in union-organizing elections.)
The Las Vegas Review-Journal downplayed gun violence in the United States to attack legislative attempts to address the issue while also claiming guns safety advocates "manipulate" data by including gun suicides in gun death totals.
An October 31 editorial argued against stronger gun laws, specifically mentioning expanded background checks, by noting that while public mass shootings have captured national headlines, the overall number of gun homicides has remained relatively flat over the past 15 years:
Mass shootings leave Americans anguished and angry. Every time one happens, more and more voters want to know how many more mass shootings will happen before our leaders "do something" about it. The unrelenting media coverage of and emotional debate surrounding mass shootings create the impression that the country is awash in worsening gun violence.
The trouble is, as horrific as mass shootings are, the numbers tell a different story.
According to a Pew Research Center study of data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of U.S. gun homicides and nonfatal gun victimizations have both held steady for roughly 15 years, and are both down over the past 20.
That mass shootings capture headlines is no surprise. According to an analysis highlighted by The Washington Post, the nation is averaging more than one mass shooting each day this year, and by several metrics, the incidence of mass shootings is increasing.
More so, that the firearm homicide rate has been steady for the past 15 years is not a compelling argument against gun safety proposals because the rate remains staggeringly high compared to other high-income nations. And it's unclear that fewer people are actually being shot: according to the Wall Street Journal the number of serious gunshot wounds that required hospitalization increased by nearly half between 2001 and 2011. Doctors speculate that this may not impact the gun homicide rate because medical advances have increased the survivability of gunshot wounds, the Journal reported.
The Review-Journal also took issue with the inclusion of gun suicides when counting the total number of "gun deaths" that occur in the United States each year, claiming that gun safety advocates "manipulate" the data on "gun deaths" to include suicides so as to "push their agenda":
While gun crimes have dropped over the past two decades, the number of suicides by gun is up (and growing) over the same time period. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to push their agenda, gun control advocates like to manipulate this data by citing growing "gun deaths" as a reason for stricter gun controls.
Gun suicides are widely included by experts on public health and gun violence when counting "gun deaths," which typically include suicides, homicides, accidents, and cases of undetermined intention. There is good reason that gun safety proposals and attempts to reduce suicide are interconnected. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, "Twelve or more U.S. case control studies have compared individuals who died by suicide with those who did not and found those dying by suicide were more likely to live in homes with guns." Studies show that between 89 and 95 percent of individuals who survive a suicide attempt do not become future victims of suicide, but when firearms are involved many victims never have this chance because gun suicide attempts are fatal 85 percent of the time.
The Review-Journal's editorial downplaying gun violence and dismissing gun suicides is the latest piece of commentary from the Nevada paper that attacked proposals for stronger gun laws. On September 14 the Review-Journal published an attack on expanded background checks that was so inaccurate that the authors of a study cited by the Review-Journal wrote a letter explaining how the editorial board had misread the study so as to invert its conclusion.
In addition to repeating debunked claims that a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ozone standard will harm the economy and do nothing to improve public health, conservative media are pointing to ozone that naturally occurs in national parks as supposed evidence that the EPA standard is unfair and unnecessary. But while some "background ozone" does come from natural sources like wildfires -- and from industrial pollution drifting into a state from outside the U.S. -- levels of background ozone are not high enough to prevent states from meeting the EPA's new standard, and states are not responsible for reducing it.
Several conservative media outlets cited a recent study in the Journal of Preventive Medicine to conclude that gun laws do not effectively deter criminals from obtaining firearms, even though the study actually found that gun laws in Chicago make it harder for criminals to acquire firearms by increasing opportunity costs. The study's authors are now speaking out against media misrepresentations of their work.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal (LVRJ) published a misleading and contradictory editorial about the effectiveness of expanded background checks in preventing gun violence, omitting crucial statistics showing the value of gun violence prevention measures.
Net metering policies, which allow utilities' customers to send energy from solar panels on their homes into the electric grid in exchange for a credit, are being threatened by efforts in several states to roll back or dismantle the policies -- most of which are bolstered by anti-solar myths from utilities and fossil fuel interests that are being parroted in the media. Here are the facts about net metering.
The Associated Press and Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush spoke out against the proposal to bury nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain, without mentioning Bush's ties to a nuclear industry group that actively supports the project.
Speaking in Nevada on May 13, Bush told a group of reporters that Yucca Mountain will not likely become the permanent storage location for the nation's nuclear waste. The Associated Press story quoted Bush saying the project "stalled out" and reported that he "said the waste dump shouldn't be 'forced down the throat' of anyone." And according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Bush also said "we need to move to a system where the communities and states want it."
What the AP and Review-Journal left out, however, is that Bush is currently listed as a member of a nuclear industry group called the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy), which has long advocated for Yucca Mountain -- and continues to do so. As recently as February 24, CASEnergy published a blog post declaring Yucca Mountain a "scientifically safe and sound option" for storing nuclear waste permanently, and "a critical component" of the nation's shift to nuclear energy.
Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston first detailed Bush's ties to the pro-Yucca industry group in March, in a blog post in which he wrote that Bush "was once part of a front group for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the main lobbying entity behind siting a repository at Yucca Mountain." Ralston further noted that Bush "signed letters opposing interim waste sites," specifically pointing to a November 2006 letter that said Senate legislation backing interim storage sites would constitute "a step backward in the long-standing federal policy to establish a permanent disposal facility."
The Las Vegas Review-Journal is mirroring the claims of congressional climate science deniers, who are lambasting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for requiring that states consider climate change impacts to better protect themselves from future disasters.
In a May 11 editorial, the Review-Journal enthusiastically endorsed a letter from a group of senators -- led by famed climate science denier and Environment and Public Works Committee chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) -- which alleged that the new FEMA policy requiring states to address climate change in their disaster mitigation plans "injects unnecessary, ideological-based red tape into the disaster preparedness process."
Echoing the GOP senators, the Review-Journal declared that "climate change is not settled science," and that FEMA has no right to weigh in on an issue as "dogmatic and hyperpolitical" as global warming. Like the letter itself, the editorial also channeled its inner Fox News, claiming the FEMA climate policy is a matter of "ideology." Never mind that 97 percent of climate scientists agree human activities are causing the planet to warm or that NASA scientists say "it is very likely that [climate change] will impact future catastrophes."
The Las Vegas Review-Journal criticized a long-awaited draft Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule to reduce smog pollution as economically harmful, echoing unfounded industry fears about EPA regulations. The EPA's estimates, however, are based on sound science and show that the smog regulation will have long-term economic benefits.
Newspapers across the country have been publishing misleading op-eds attacking the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy without disclosing the authors' oil-industry funding. The op-eds, which attack the wind energy policy as "corporate welfare" and "government handouts," ignore the fact that the oil and gas industry currently receives far greater government subsidies and that the PTC brings great economic benefits.