Mary Kissel

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  • The 15 Most Ridiculous Things That Media Figures Said About Environmental Issues In 2016

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER & ANDREW SEIFTER

    Donald Trump and the presidential election dominated news coverage in 2016. But talking heads still found plenty of time to make jaw-dropping comments about climate change, energy, and the environment. This year’s list of ridiculous claims includes a dangerous conspiracy theory about Hurricane Matthew, over-the-top worship of fracking and coal, and absurd victim-blaming around the Flint water crisis. Here is our list of the 15 most ridiculous things that media figures said about climate, energy, and environmental issues in 2016.

    1. Rush Limbaugh And Matt Drudge Peddled A Reckless Conspiracy Theory Downplaying The Threat From Hurricane Matthew. Shortly before Hurricane Matthew made landfall in the U.S., Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge concocted a conspiracy theory that the federal government was overstating the hurricane’s severity in order to manufacture concern about climate change. On The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh accused the National Hurricane Center of "playing games" with hurricane forecasting and added, “It's in the interest of the left to have destructive hurricanes because then they can blame it on climate change, which they can desperately continue trying to sell.”

    Limbaugh doubled down on this theory the next day, telling his audience, “There’s politics in the forecasting of hurricanes because there are votes.”

    Drudge, the curator of the widely read Drudge Report website, promoted the conspiracy as well, suggesting that federal officials were exaggerating the danger posed by Hurricane Matthew “to make [an] exaggerated point on climate.”

    [Twitter, 10/6/16]

    [Twitter, 10/6/16]

    Drudge also used his website to persuade Southeast residents not to take the storm seriously, with a banner “STORM FIZZLE? MATTHEW LOOKS RAGGED!” and additional headlines “IT’S A 4?” and “RESIDENTS NOT TAKING SERIOUSLY...”.

    Climate scientist Michael Mann explained that people "could die because of the misinformation that folks like Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge are putting out there," and two actual hurricane experts provided a point-by-point rebuttal of Drudge’s claims. But that did nothing to dissuade Drudge, who refused to give up on the conspiracy theory.

    2. Fox News Blamed The Flint Water Crisis On Climate Change Policies, "PC Stuff,” And Even Flint Residents Themselves. National media outlets largely ignored the water crisis in Flint, MI, as it unfolded over almost two years, but when the story did finally make national headlines, Fox News pundits were quick to pin the blame on anyone and anything other than the Republican governor of Michigan.

    On Fox & Friends, host Heather Nauert and guest Mark Aesch suggested that “misplaced priorities,” including climate change and “PC stuff,” allowed the water crisis to happen:

    And on The Kelly File, Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt placed blame on Flint residents themselves, saying that the "people of Flint should have been protesting in the streets" after noticing that their water was poisoned. Stirewalt also blamed Flint parents for giving their children contaminated water, declaring: "If you were pouring water into a cup for your child and it stunk and it smelled like sulfur and it was rotten, would you give that to your child? No, you'd revolt, you'd march in the street." In addition to being offensive, Stirewalt’s comments were premised on a falsehood; Flint residents did in fact repeatedly protest throughout the year to demand safe drinking water for their families.

    3. CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Claimed Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt “Hasn’t Denied Global Warming.” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, is a climate science denier who has refused to accept the clear consensus of the scientific community that human activities such as burning fossil fuels are primarily responsible for global warming. Yet according to CNN New Day anchor Alisyn Camerota, Pruitt simply “sees nuance” and “hasn’t denied global warming.” Camerota falsely claimed that Pruitt only disputes climate “predictions” and “forecasts,” when in fact he has also denied that global warming is human-caused, and even Camerota's premise that climate models are unreliable is incorrect. As Camerota wrongly absolved Pruitt of climate denial, CNN’s on-screen text read: “Climate Change Denier Scott Pruitt To Lead EPA.” Co-anchor Chris Cuomo also pushed back on Camerota, stating that Pruitt “says it’s ‘far from settled.’ That means he’s not accepting the science.”

    Camerota badly butchered climate science, but it's noteworthy she was even discussing the issue given CNN’s spotty track record. In April, a Media Matters analysis found that CNN aired almost five times as much oil industry advertising as climate change-related coverage in the one-week periods following the announcements that 2015 was the hottest year on record and February 2016 was the most abnormally hot month on record. And in one segment later in the year where CNN did cover climate change, CNN Newsroom host Carol Costello speculated, “Are we just talking about this and people's eyes are glazing over?”

    4. MSNBC's Mike Barnicle: ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson "Is A Huge Green Guy.” Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil companies. Exxon is currently under investigation in several states for possibly violating state laws by deceiving shareholders and the public about climate change, while Tillerson himself has misinformed about climate science and mocked renewable energy. Yet according to Mike Barnicle, a regular on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “Rex Tillerson is a huge green guy.” And alas, no, we don't think he was comparing Tillerson to the Jolly Green Giant or the Incredible Hulk.

    5. Disregarding Everything Trump Has Said And Done On The Subject, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough Claimed “I Just Know” Trump Believes In Climate Science. On Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough defended Trump after it was announced he had selected Pruitt, a climate science denier, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Scarborough -- who along with co-host Mika Brzezinski has repeatedly carried water for Trump -- insisted, “I just know” that Trump “has to believe” in climate science.

    Scarborough’s comments followed a wave of TV coverage about how Trump had supposedly “reversed course” on climate change, which was based on a New York Times interview in which Trump said he has an “open mind” about the Paris climate agreement and that “there is some connectivity” between human activities and climate change. But few of these reports addressed any of the substantive reasons that such a reversal was highly unlikely, such as his transition team’s plan to abandon the Obama administration’s landmark climate policy, indications that he will dismantle NASA’s climate research program, and his appointment of fossil fuel industry allies as transition team advisers -- not to mention the full context of Trump’s remarks to the Times.

    6. Trump Adviser Stephen Moore: Being Against Fracking “Is Like Being Against A Cure For Cancer.” While discussing his new book Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy on C-SPAN2's Book TV, conservative economist and Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore stated that opposing fracking “is like being against a cure for cancer” because it is “one of the great seismic technological breakthroughs” that is “giving us huge amounts of energy at very low prices.” Never mind that many of the chemicals involved in fracking have actually been linked to cancer. 

    7. Stephen Moore: “We Have The Cleanest Coal In The World.” Moore’s preposterous praise for fossil fuels wasn’t just confined to fracking. On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., he declared that the U.S. has “the cleanest coal in the world.” That statement is quite difficult to square with the fact that “Coal combustion contributes to four of the top five leading causes of death in the U.S.—heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases—according to Physicians for Social Responsibility,” as Climate Nexus has noted.

    Pro-coal propaganda also found a home on Fox Business’ sister network, Fox News, where The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld asserted that “coal is a moral substance. Where coal reaches, people live longer, happier lives.”

    8. Breitbart’s James Delingpole: Climate Change Is “The Greatest-Ever Conspiracy Against The Taxpayer.” In an article promoting a speech he gave to the World Taxpayers’ Associations in Berlin, Breitbart’s James Delingpole wrote: “Climate change is the biggest scam in the history of the world – a $1.5 trillion-a-year conspiracy against the taxpayer, every cent, penny and centime of which ends in the pockets of the wrong kind of people.” In the speech itself, Delingpole similarly claimed that “the global warming industry” is “a fraud; a sham; a conspiracy against the taxpayer.”

    Breitbart, which was until recent months run by Trump’s chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon, has frequently denied climate change and viciously attacked climate scientists. Delingpole, in particular, has described climate scientists as “talentless lowlifes” and referred to climate advocates as “eco Nazis,” “eco fascists,” and “scum-sucking slime balls.” Bannon has criticized Pope Francis for succumbing to “hysteria” about climate change; The Washington Post has written about how Bannon influenced Trump’s views on the issue during his time at Breitbart.

    9. Fox Report On Law Gas Prices: “Put The Tesla In The Garage And Break Out The Hummer.” Just 10 days after Trump was elected president, Fox News began giving him credit for low gas prices, the latest proof of the network’s blatant double standard when it comes to covering gas prices under Republican and Democratic presidents. But simply shilling for Trump was apparently not enough for Fox Business reporter Jeff Flock, who provided the slanted gas prices report on Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters. At the conclusion of the report, Flock also displayed a brazen lack of concern about climate change, declaring: “I would say put the Tesla in the garage and break out the Hummer.”

    10. Wall Street Journal’s Mary Kissel Instructed Viewers To “Trust” A Climate Science-Denying Fossil Fuel Front Group. In a video interview posted on The Wall Street Journal’s website, Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel instructed viewers who are “confused about the science surrounding climate change” to “trust” Rod Nichols, chairman of a climate science-denying fossil fuel front group known as the CO2 Coalition. During the interview, Nichols denied that human activities such as burning oil and coal are responsible for recent global warming, claiming that “climate change has been going on for hundreds of millions of years,” “there is not going to be any catastrophic climate change,” and “CO2 will be good for the world.” Kissel asked Nichols, “Why don't we hear more viewpoints like the ones that your coalition represents,” and concluded that the CO2 Coalition’s research papers are “terrific.”

    The Wall Street Journal has made a habit of “trusting” climate science deniers like Nichols -- or at least repeating their false claims about climate science. A recent Media Matters analysis of climate-related opinion pieces found that the Journal far outpaced other major newspapers in climate science misinformation, publishing 31 opinion pieces that featured climate denial or other scientifically inaccurate claims about climate change over a year-and-a-half period.

    11. Fox Host Clayton Morris: Rubio's Climate Science Denial At Presidential Debate Was An "Articulate Moment.” During a Fox News discussion of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s performance at a CNN presidential debate, Fox and Friends co-host Clayton Morris described Rubio’s claim that the climate is “always” changing -- a common talking point among climate science deniers -- as “a really articulate moment.” 

    While Morris’ endorsement of Rubio’s climate denial as “articulate” is particularly striking, a 2015 Media Matters analysis found that media frequently failed to fact-check GOP presidential candidates’ climate change denial.

    12. Fox Hosts Mocked Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar Speech On Climate Change: "Focus On Something Else Other Than The Weather.” When actor Leonardo DiCaprio took home the Oscar for best actor for his role in The Revenant, the hosts of Fox News’ The Five and Fox and Friends mocked DiCaprio for devoting much of his acceptance speech to making the case for climate change action. On The Five, co-host Jesse Watters declared, “So the guy finally gets an Academy Award and he's talking about the weather. What's going on here?” Co-host Eric Bolling helpfully added, “Focus on something else other than the weather.”

    That wasn’t the only time in 2016 that DiCaprio was caught in Fox News’ crosshairs for having the nerve to talk about climate change. Later in the year, The Five aired footage from an event in which President Obama criticized congressional climate deniers and DiCaprio said, “The scientific consensus is in, and the argument is now over. If you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in facts, or in science, or empirical truths, and therefore in my humble opinion should not be allowed to hold public office.” The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld then responded by likening criticism of climate science deniers to religious extremism, saying: “You have to wonder about a belief system that doesn't want any challenges, that doesn't want any of their theories to be questioned. This -- what he is talking about is radical Islam of science. He is actually turning science into a religion.”

    13. Fox’s Meghan McCain: "The Liberal Hysteria Over Climate Change Was So Overblown That Now People Have A Hard Time Even Believing It.” Rather than criticize conservatives or Republicans who frequently deny climate science, Fox News host Meghan Mccain blamed liberals for public confusion about climate change, declaring on Fox News' Outnumbered that “the liberal hysteria over climate change was so overblown that now people have a hard time even believing it and believing that it's something that's justified.” McCain, who also mocked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for campaigning on the issue with Al Gore, added, “I do think there are signs we should look at, but if Al Gore, if you take his word for it, there's a big flood that's going to come in and wipe us all away in five minutes.”

    McCain is the daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who notoriously flip-flopped on climate change legislation in 2009, undercutting congressional efforts to address the issue.

    14. Fox’s Steve Doocy: Obama’s Monument Designation Was Done To “Appease Environmental Terrorists.” On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy declared that President Obama’s designation of the first marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean was “done to appease environmental terrorists.” Not so shockingly, Doocy and his co-hosts did not comment when their guest, Deadliest Catch’s Keith Colburn, acknowledged that "increased water temperatures" from climate change are impacting fisheries across the United States.

    15. Fox Hosts Flipped Out About Portland Public Schools Decision To Stop Teaching Climate Denial To Children. In May, the Portland Public Schools board unanimously approved a resolution “aimed at eliminating doubt of climate change and its causes in schools.” But while climate science denial may no longer be taught in Portland public schools, it still has a place on Fox News, as the hosts of Outnumbered demonstrated in their flippant response to the resolution.

    Co-host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery said the Portland schools decision is “so anti-scientific,” adding, “There are still scientists, believe it or not, out there who say, ‘No, we still have to look at the data.’ And it's impossible to predict how the climate is going to change over hundreds or thousands of years.” Co-host Jesse Waters remarked, “So getting out of the ice age, how did the Earth warm up after the ice age? There were no humans there with cars and factories.” He also stated, “It gets hot, it gets cold, this spring has been freezing. It's not getting warmer, it seems like it's getting colder. Am I wrong?”

    But Fox News pundits aren’t just defenders of teaching climate science denial; they’re also partially to blame for it, according to researchers at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Last year, the SMU researchers released a study that found some children's textbooks that depict the reality of human-caused climate change with uncertainty are influenced by a climate science knowledge gap that finds its roots partly in conservative media misinformation. In particular, the SMU researchers pointed to previous research that showed Fox has disproportionately interviewed climate science deniers and that its viewers are more likely to be climate science deniers themselves.

  • Denial Redux: Fox News, WSJ Pundits Dispute The Reality Of Climate Change

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News and The Wall Street Journal have once again reminded us that their heads are deep in the sand when it comes to the scientific reality of climate change.

    During a discussion about the presidential campaign on the September 7 edition of Fox News’ America's Newsroom, Fox host Tucker Carlson denied the findings of major scientific institutions around the world when he asserted that “there’s literally no proof” that climate change is caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels. He added that the notions that humans are causing climate change and can reverse it by cutting emissions are “articles of faith”:

    Meanwhile, on September 6 the Journal posted another interview on its website between editorial board member Mary Kissel and Rod Nichols, chairman of the climate science-denying CO2 Coalition. Kissel introduced Nichols as a “guy who takes no coal money or big energy money, as far as I know.” However, Nichols has served on the boards of the Manhattan Institute and George C. Marshall Institute, which have each received funding from ExxonMobil and foundations run by the oil billionaire Koch brothers.

    During the interview, Kissel and Nichols agreed that climate change is “a non-problem,” because according to Nichols, carbon pollution “is going to be good for the world.” He also claimed that there has been “practically no warming” in order to suggest that climate change is not a cause for concern:

  • WSJ Video Instructs Viewers To “Trust” Climate Science-Denying Fossil Fuel Front Group

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a video interview posted on The Wall Street Journal’s website, Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel told viewers that if they are “confused about the science surrounding climate change,” they should “trust” Rod Nichols, chairman of a climate science-denying fossil fuel front group known as the CO2 Coalition. During the interview, Nichols denied that human activities such as burning oil and coal are responsible for recent global warming, claiming that “[c]limate change has been going on for hundreds of millions of years,” that “[t]here is not going to be any catastrophic climate change,” and that “CO2 will be good for the world.” Kissel asked Nichols, “why don't we hear more viewpoints like the ones that your coalition represents,” and concluded that the CO2 Coalition’s research papers are “terrific.”

    Here's the August 17 video:

    MARY KISSEL (Wall Street Journal editorial board member): Are you confused about the science surrounding climate change? Don't know who to trust? Well, we have help for you! Rod Nichols is chairman of the CO2 Coalition ... Rod, I want to start with the CO2 Coalition. What exactly is it, and who's involved?

    RODNEY NICHOLS (CO2 Coalition chairman): We formed about a year ago -- a group of scientists, mostly physicists, a few chemists, engineers, economists -- who are convinced that the public is being misled about carbon dioxide. CO2. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is not a pollutant. But if you read the editorial pages and the news pages of most papers the word "pollutant" is always used with CO2. 

    KISSEL: So does that mean that your group doesn't believe in climate change? Or doesn't believe in something called "catastrophic climate change"?

    NICHOLS: Climate change has been going on for hundreds of millions of years. Everybody should recognize that there is climate change. There is not going to be any catastrophic climate change. CO2 will be good for the world. CO2 enhances agriculture. Crops tend to grow on the average of 15 percent more per year given more CO2. And even more important, crops don't need as much water when they're growing if they have more CO2. You can see this at the edges of deserts where struggling little green plants -- you couldn't see them 35 years ago. Thirty-five years later the satellite photos clearly show that these little green plants -- with more CO2 and needing less water at the edge of deserts -- they're fluorishing!

    KISSEL: So this is a completely opposite viewpoint than what is represented in, as you say, most of the media, most of our college classrooms. How did they get to this point, Rod? Why don't we hear more viewpoints like the ones that your coalition represents?

    NICHOLS: Well, that's a really good question that I don't have a completely satisfactory answer to. I shy away from conspiracy theories, I don't think -- but it's true in the scientific literature, you can find "skeptics" as we are sometimes called who are arguing against what appears to be a consensus but their views are not covered. Their views are not debated. If nothing else, the CO2 Coalition wants to open up a real debate. Science thrives with discovery and debate. And the subtitle of our first report, about six months ago, was called "See For Yourself."

    KISSEL: So where do viewers go to find out more information about what you're doing and to get educated on science about climate change?

    NICHOLS: Good questions. CO2Coalition.org is a storehouse of very reliable data. We've surveyed data over decades published in our reports. One is called White Paper 1, and White Paper 2. You can get these, we'd be glad to send them to you.

    KISSEL: And you don't need to be a scientist to understand these papers?

    NICHOLS: They're prepared to be readable by any intelligent citizen. Even my daughter found them readable and she's not an environmentalist, she's not an alarmist, she's an art history major. She loved them.

    KISSEL: Maybe even I will find it readable. In fact, it is readable. I have read these papers. They're terrific. CO2Coalition.org, go check it out, Rod Nichols is the chairman, thanks for joining us.

    Related:

    Climate Nexus Analysis: How The Wall Street Journal Opinion Section Presents Climate Change

    Previously:

    Breitbart News: Go-To Outlet For "Academics-For-Hire" By The Fossil Fuel Industry?

    Slate Destroys Climate Denier Myth That CO2 Is Not A Pollutant

    The Wall Street Journal: Dismissing Environmental Threats Since 1976

  • Conservatives Spark Attack On Latino Civil Rights Organization For Helping Hispanic Homeowners

    Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim That Settlement Payments From Institutions Responsible For The Financial Crisis Create “Liberal Slush Fund” For Progressive Groups

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Right-wing media have spent years attacking the Department of Justice’s handling of multi-billion dollar settlements from financial institutions partly responsible for the housing and financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. Conservative outlets falsely allege that the DOJ used settlement payments to create a “liberal slush fund” to disburse millions of dollars to nonprofit organizations like the nonpartisan National Council of La Raza (NCLR), even though these groups are certified housing counseling agencies.

  • Conservative Media Criticize U.N. Climate Change Summit

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS & KATE SARNA

    President Obama is in Paris at a United Nations summit, where nations hope to reach an international agreement on climate change. In response, conservative media figures have resorted to denial, dismissal, and mockery, while criticizing Obama as "simply stupid" and NASA scientists as "talentless low-lives."

  • Media Debunk False Comparison Of Hillary Clinton's Emails To Former CIA Director's Improper Access Of Classified Materials

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    News outlets are calling out a misleading conservative media claim that Hillary Clinton's email use mirrors the improper acts of former CIA Director John Deutch, who intentionally created and stored top secret material on unsecure systems. By contrast, "State Department officials say they don't believe that emails [Clinton] sent or received included material classified at the time," which is why experts conclude the Deutch case does not "fit[] the fact pattern with the Clinton e-mails."

  • "There Goes The Neighborhood": Right-Wing Media Reactions To HUD's Neighborhood Diversity Plan

    ››› ››› NICHOLAS ROGERS & KATIE SULLIVAN

    Right-wing media outlets are attacking a new rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designed to increase diversity in American neighborhoods, calling it an attempt by President Obama to dictate where people live. But the program merely provides grant money to encourage communities to provide affordable housing and greater access to community resources.

  • WSJ Allows Libre's Daniel Garza To Misleadingly Suggest Latinos Are Becoming More Conservative

    Blog ››› ››› JESSICA TORRES

    The Wall Street Journal and The Libre Initiative's Daniel Garza cherry-picked data from recent elections to suggest that Latinos are becoming more conservative, failing to note that almost 63 percent of Latinos voted for Democrats in U.S. House races and that 79 percent of Latino politicians elected to state legislatures were also Democrats.

    On the March 17 edition of The Wall Street Journal's "Opinion Journal," WSJ editorial board member Mary Kissel talked to Koch-funded Libre Initiative executive director Daniel Garza, asking him if Democrats were "at risk of really losing [the Latino] vote" despite Latinos "overwhelmingly" voting Democratic. Pointing to the 2014 midterm election results, Garza says that there is evidence that Latinos have "shifted" to the right. 

    Garza is correct to point out that a few races did see GOP gains among Latino voters, but as Democratic strategist Maria Cardona told The New York Times, "Republicans should not read too much into this," adding, "this doesn't mean their path to the White House in 2016 will be that much easier." In the same Times piece, Garza again claimed "there is a national trend of Latinos distancing away from the Democrats."

    In fact, according to The Huffington Post, the 2014 midterm elections produced the "most Latino Congress ever" with "Democrats making up almost three out of four" of the 32 incoming Hispanic Congress members. The Huffington Post also added that exit poll numbers prove "that some 63 percent of Latino voters backed Democrats in U.S. House races -- a six-point jump from the last midterm elections in 2010."

    Furthermore, the Pew Research Center found that "Democrats won the Latino vote by a margin of 62% to 36%" across the country in congressional races. This is an upward trend, considering that 60 percent of Latinos voted for Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. 

  • Who Are You Going To Believe On Fair Housing, The WSJ Or Congress And The Federal Courts?

    Blog ››› ››› MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel is misinforming about a new fair-housing case under consideration by the Supreme Court, scaremongering that a decision to uphold half a century of civil rights precedent could force sellers, lenders, and landlords to establish policies that amount to "informal quotas."

    On January 21, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Texas Department of Housing v. the Inclusive Communities Project, a fair-housing case that could make it more difficult for victims of discrimination to bring legal challenges against policies that reinforce decades of racial segregation, unintentionally or not. The Inclusive Communities Project argues that the way the Texas Department of Housing administered an affordable-housing plan had a discriminatory effect by entrenching racially segregated housing patterns in the Dallas area. This kind of lawsuit is known as "disparate impact" litigation, which has long been used under various civil rights statutes, including the Fair Housing Act (FHA). It does not require that intentional discrimination be demonstrated, rather that the challenged policies had an unjustified and disproportionate, negative impact on vulnerable groups protected by the FHA. Even though the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other fair-housing advocates have successfully relied on disparate-impact litigation for almost 40 years, Texas is arguing that lawsuits under the FHA should newly be required to provide evidence of intentional racial discrimination.

    On the January 21 edition of the Journal's WSJ Live video series, Kissel used a hypothetical about the government forcing a bank to make mortgage loans to attack the logic of disparate-impact analysis. Kissel said in this scenario, "Effectively, the government is saying, 'We want informal quotas. You have to lend x to Hispanics, y to blacks, and z to whites.' That doesn't sound constitutional to me." Kissel then went on to say that the Obama administration had "used this theory to shake down banks for millions of dollars. Let's hope the justices actually read the text of the law":

    Right-wing media have long objected to the use of disparate impact in fair-housing litigation, calling it a "dubious legal theory." In fact, every one of the 11 federal circuit courts that have considered the question over the last 40 years have reaffirmed that the amelioration of discriminatory effects is a core component of both the intent and text of the FHA, and Congress specifically amended the statute in 1988 in recognition of the fact. Such overwhelming consensus was unsurprising -- the need to begin the slow process of integration after centuries of residential apartheid was specifically designed to be a systematic task, and not a game of Whac-A-Mole aimed at individual bad actors. It was anything but a fringe theory, but rather the product of bipartisan efforts, including those of the Republican HUD chief George Romney in the Nixon administration.

    Nevertheless, the attacks on disparate impact continue at the Journal, whose editorials have frequently maligned disparate-impact analysis in the past. 

  • Only Off By A Million, WSJ's Kissel Says Zero Homeowners Were Wrongfully Foreclosed

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel falsely claimed that no American homeowners have been wrongfully foreclosed on since the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. In fact, federal investigations found more than a million homeowners have faced potentially wrongful foreclosures.

    On the October 11 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., guest host Charles Payne was joined by Fox contributor Monica Crowley and Kissel to discuss the latest quarterly earnings report from JPMorgan Chase. The firm, which has been beset by legal battles, reported robust profits despite extensive legal expenses in the last fiscal quarter.

    The discussion turned to an alleged government "shake down" of the bank and demonization of Wall Street when Kissel interjected that, in fact, the financial industry had done nothing whatsoever to deserve extra scrutiny:

    KISSEL: There hasn't been a single homeowner who has been identified who was foreclosed on that shouldn't have been foreclosed on. Somebody who was paying his bills.

    In fact, more than a million American homeowners were potentially wrongfully foreclosed on during the housing crisis.

    An independent review of foreclosures, conducted by the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), found that up to 30 percent of the 3.9 million households foreclosed on by 11 leading financial institutions faced wrongful challenges or should have been subject to certain legal protections. From the Huffington Post:

    Close to 1.2 million borrowers, or about 30 percent of the more than 3.9 million households whose properties were foreclosed on by 11 leading financial institutions in 2009 and 2010, had to battle potentially wrongful efforts to seize their homes despite not having defaulted on their loans, being protected under a host of federal laws, or having been in good standing under bank-approved plans to either restructure their mortgages or temporarily delay required payments.

    [...]

    They reveal that nearly 700 borrowers who faced foreclosure proceedings had actually never defaulted on their loans.

    The Huffington Post further reported, according to OCC data, that nearly a quarter-million borrowers eventually lost their homes. JPMorgan Chase, the bank being discussed on Varney & Co., has paid out millions of dollars in settlements over wrongful foreclosures, "leading Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan's chief executive, to personally apologize for his bank's errors."

    Kissel's argument that banks like JPMorgan Chase did nothing do deserve current legal investigation - and instead praising Dimon for not "blow[ing] up the bank" - denies the reality faced by millions of Americans over the past five years.

  • Fox Panelists Agree: Successful Anti-Poverty Programs Are Useless

    Blog ››› ››› ALBERT KLEINE

    MMFA

    Fox News promoted various falsehoods about poverty and anti-poverty programs, erroneously claiming that government programs cannot and have not reduced poverty levels.

    On the September 19 edition of Fox News' America Live, guest host Alisyn Camerota hosted a panel discussion over House Republicans' plan to reduce funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- formerly known as food stamps -- by nearly $40 billion over 10 years.

    Camerota introduced the discussion by noting that the Census Bureau recently reported that the national poverty rate in 2012 remained at 15 percent. She then claimed that poverty in America is a problem "that growing government assistance programs cannot fix." Fox Business' anti-food stamp crusader Charles Payne then claimed that poverty rates have remained unchanged since the 1960s, casting doubt over the efficacy of anti-poverty programs. Payne later claimed that people living in poverty have a strong disincentive to work because of government programs.

    Virtually every statement made by Camerota, Payne, and subsequently by Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel about anti-poverty programs is false.

    First, Camerota's claim about government assistance not lifting Americans out of poverty is directly contradicted by the very census report she cites. While it is true that 15 percent of Americans remain in poverty -- unchanged from 2011 -- the fact is that absent government anti-poverty programs, the number of Americans living in poverty would be millions greater. From the annual census report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage:

    • If unemployment insurance benefits were excluded from money income, 1.7 million more people would be counted as in poverty in 2012.
    • If SNAP benefits were counted as income, 4 million fewer people would be categorized as in poverty in 2012.
    • Taking account of the value of the federal earned income tax credit would reduce the number of children classified as in poverty in 2011 by 3.1 million.

    Payne's claim that the rate has remained unchanged since the 1960s despite anti-poverty programs also doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Previewing the release of the annual census report, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) anticipated such falsehoods, pointing out that they are "simply not valid or accurate." According to CBPP:

    Comparing today's official poverty rate with those of the 1960s yields highly distorted results because the official poverty measure captures so little of the poverty relief that today's safety net now provides.

    CBPP also included a chart showing just how effective anti-poverty programs have been at reducing poverty, and how rates would be reduced even further if the census accounted for noncash transfers.

    CBPP

    Payne's statement about government assistance discouraging people from working is also dubious, given that he ostensibly cited the findings of a misleading report from the Cato institute that has been thoroughly debunked by economists as overstating benefits from welfare programs.

    Fox has ramped up its misleading coverage of anti-poverty programs in recent weeks, going so far as to distribute its incredibly inaccurate special report on SNAP to members of Congress to assist efforts to reduce funding for the program.

  • VIDEO: What Ever Happened To The Conservative Defenders Of Energy Research?

    Blog ››› ››› MAX GREENBERG

    As House Republicans try to slash funding for research and development of new energy technologies, conservative figures who once proclaimed their support for such initiatives have been curiously silent.

    Buoyed by Republican lawmakers, the House recently passed a spending bill that cuts funding for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the key federal program that invests in research and development of new energy technologies, by 81 percent. ARPA-E is a bipartisan Bush-era creation modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which spurred breakthroughs like the internet and stealth fighter. Now, even a midpoint reconciliation with the more generous Senate spending bill could leave funding for the program in tatters.

    These cuts are an extreme departure from the rare interparty comity that has typically surrounded research and development for alternative energy. Indeed, conservative media figures have frequently embraced such efforts -- as opposed to programs that award loans to address the so-called "valley of death" between development and commercialization -- echoing the pro-ARPA-E views of free-market groups and some Republican leaders. Among the latter was former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who supported increasing funding. But with ARPA-E now in trouble, these figures appear tongue-tied.

  • WSJ Pushes Irrelevant Talking Points To Defend Discriminatory Background Checks

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    A member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board attacked decades-old employment discrimination precedent under Title VII by incorrectly describing the law and selectively quoting a letter written by nine Republican attorneys general to support her faulty argument.

    WSJ editorial board member Mary Kissel has a history of smearing civil rights precedent that holds racial discrimination is illegal if it has an unjustified disproportionate effect on historically protected groups. Kissel has written editorials that falsely pretend this current body of law is improper and any government official that utilizes or seeks to defend the doctrine is "shady."

    As the enforcement of civil rights law - including disparate impact law - is the job of the Department of Justice, Kissel's editorials have nicely dovetailed with the WSJ's constant support of GOP obstructionism and its attacks on the Voting Rights Act, former Civil Rights Division head Thomas Perez, Attorney General Eric Holder, and seemingly anyone else who worked at the Department of Justice.

    In her most recent editorial criticizing new civil rights guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Kissel fails to mention that the policy she is attacking is once again a disparate impact one, well-established in Title VII employment discrimination law. From the WSJ:

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has run amok under chairwoman Jacqueline Berrien's guidance, particularly in its extralegal push to expand civil-rights protections for the likes of murderers and rapists. So it's welcome news to see state attorneys general shedding some light on the situation.

    Nine Republican AGs, from states stretching from Montana to South Carolina, penned a letter to Ms. Berrien and the commission last week complaining about the "substantive position" the agency has taken against retailer Dollar General and a U.S. subsidiary of car maker BMW. The EEOC contends the companies broke federal law by using criminal background checks in employment decisions.

    The AGs rip apart that legal theory, noting that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination "on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin," not criminality, and that "neither lawsuit alleges overt racial discrimination or discriminatory intent." The EEOC's guidance issued in April last year, presumably to give a legal veneer to the subsequently filed lawsuits, "incorrectly applies the law" too.

    [...]

    [R]egulators are supposed to enforce the law, not write it. The AGs want the EEOC to rescind its criminal background check guidance and dismiss the Dollar General and BMW lawsuits, which is unlikely so long as Ms. Berrien is around. But at the very least, the letter should embarrass an agency that deserves serious congressional scrutiny.