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Conservative media are again using a European financial crisis to stoke fears about the U.S. economy.
According to many right-wing media figures, the Cypriot government's plan to tax private bank accounts to avert a fiscal disaster provides a dire warning for the U.S. Many have speculated or outright claimed that the same could happen here unless the so-called "debt crisis" is averted
Of course, fears of heavy taxation on private bank accounts occurring in the U.S. are largely unfounded, with many experts noting the comparison between the two countries is ill-conceived. But the facts rarely matter for right-wing media when it comes to exploiting a European crisis.
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly challenged Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), over her claim that courts should avoid making controversial decisions about marriage, pointing out that the Supreme Court had previously struck down unjust laws against interracial marriage.
During the March 26 edition of Fox's America Live, Kelly invited Gallagher and former Equality Matters president Richard Socarides on to discuss the Supreme Court's consideration of the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8. When Gallagher asserted that the Court shouldn't override the democratic process when it comes to marriage, Kelly responded by citing that the Supreme Court similarly intervened to invalidate state laws against interracial marriage:
GALLAGHER: For the Supreme Court to brand this view as irrational bigotry akin to racial discrimination would not end the culture wars, it would entrench them, and it would take away something very precious, which is the right of seven million Californians to use the democratic process to make our case to the American people. And so, I certainly think trying that to persuade the American people that the Constitution drafted by our Founding Fathers in 1789 has always required gay marriage is a long stretch and I'm hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold Prop 8.
KELLY: But before I get back to Richard on that, there was a time in this country in which interracial marriage was not lawful. And the Supreme Court had to step in and say "that's wrong. Under the U.S. Constitution, under the Equal Protection clause, whites can marry blacks and states are not free to tell them otherwise." And those that advocate on behalf of this issue, Maggie, they say this is another, sort of, iteration of that.
From the March 25 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Insisting there are "growing questions about a possible government cover-up," Fox News' Megyn Kelly this week assured viewers that new information about the Benghazi terrorist attack suggests the White House is trying to silence several dozen Americans who survived the assault on the United States consulate in Libya. They're "being told by the feds to keep quiet," Kelly reported.
Fox's ongoing cover-up allegation is built around Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) claim that he recently met with Benghazi survivors who said they're being "told to be quiet" about the affair. He's urging they be subpoenaed and forced to testify in public.
In hyping the story though, Fox ignores the fact the survivors have already spoken to investigators, and that there are reasons to keep people with sensitive positions in the intelligence community from speaking publicly that don't involve government conspiracies. That, and the fact they're witnesses in an ongoing FBI investigation.
The survivor claim is part of the recent right-wing media effort to build a controversy surrounding the men and women who lived through the terror attack last year in Libya and turn them into pawns in the never-ending Benghazi 'scandal.'
Two weeks ago on Fox, Greta Van Susteren was urging that the survivors be hounded into testifying in public and relive the bloody events of the terror attack. "You keep bringing these people and putting them under oath," Van Susteren demanded. The new Fox angle is that the Obama administration, for political purposes, is denying the victims the chance to tell their tale. The White House is "trying to cover it up," Graham told Fox.
The unsubstantiated claim of a cover-up, which the White House has denied to Fox, represents a strategic shift for the far-right press as it heads towards their seventh month of trying to politicize the terror attack. Just recently, Republicans in Congress complained they had no idea who the survivors were; they didn't know their names or how to contact them, and demanded the White House provide the information.
But now Graham insists he's met with some of the survivors and talked to them. So which is it, are the survivors being hidden by the White House, or are they sitting down and talking to senators such as Graham? Fox can't have it both ways.
More importantly though, is what Fox leaves out of its telling of the alleged Benghazi cover-up. What facts do Fox hosts often omit when detailing how the government is supposedly silencing the survivors?
They're leaving out the fact that the survivors have already spoken. They have already told their stories of the terror attack. And they have done it on the record. In fact, they've done it twice. Within days of the attack, survivors were interviewed by FBI investigators who are currently conducting an on-going criminal investigation into the assault. Transcripts of those interviews have reportedly been made available to the Senate Intelligence Committee (with some redactions). Later, survivors spoke to investigators working for an independent review conducted on behalf of the State Department.
Media figures have repeatedly forwarded the notion that the United States is currently facing a debt crisis. However, leaders of both parties agree there is no immediate crisis, and by focusing attention too heavily on deficit and debt reduction, the media distract from the more imminent problem of growth and jobs.
Throughout news coverage of recent budget negotiations, media figures have consistently framed discussions around the notion that the country faces a debt crisis, an assertion that is often presented uncritically and accepted as an indisputable fact. Since discussions are predicated on the assumption that a debt crisis exists, ensuing analysis of budget proposals is often solely focused on how far they go in reducing short term deficits and debt.
While media are convinced that a debt crisis exists, leaders of both parties have made explicit statements to the contrary. In a March 12 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Obama claimed that "we don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt," a statement that was immediately criticized by conservative media. When asked if he agreed with Obama's statement regarding debt on the March 17 edition of ABC's This Week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded that there is no immediate crisis. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) made a similar admission on CBS' Face the Nation, saying "we do not have a debt crisis right now."
Furthermore, the media's focus on a "debt crisis" has necessarily steered the debate about budgets toward how the parties will sufficiently address short term deficits. Economists, meanwhile, have repeatedly argued that undue focus on deficits and debt distracts from the more pressing need for economic growth and reduced unemployment.
The bipartisan admission that there is no immediate debt crisis provides media with an opportunity to reframe their budget negotiations coverage around economic growth.
Video by Alan Pyke.
President Obama has nominated Thomas E. Perez as Secretary of Labor. Right-wing media used this announcement to push false attacks about Perez based on his service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights work and advocacy.
Fox News is using its lack of knowledge about the Voting Rights Act and basic civil rights law to smear the nomination of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor.
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) and Section 5, a provision within the law that requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting practices to submit election changes for federal review, has been a source of difficulty for Fox News. On the March 14 edition of America Live, Fox News host Megyn Kelly and frequent guest Jay Sekulow attacked Perez by incorrectly describing the role of race in race-conscious civil rights law, such as the VRA. In the lengthy segment about the Voting Section - a Department of Justice (DOJ) section under Perez's supervision - Kelly misrepresented a recent Inspector General report and allowed Sekulow to question Perez's competence even as he mangled civil rights law by insisting the Voting Rights Act is "colorblind."
Following the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency, conservative media are once again claiming that the Obama administration's EPA has waged a "war on coal." But that narrative ignores how natural gas has outcompeted coal, and why the long-overdue Clean Air Act regulations on coal are necessary in the first place. Here's what the public should know, as told in charts and graphics:
Low natural gas prices are behind the drop in coal power. As this chart shows, the boom in shale natural gas production has led to a drop in the price of natural gas -- in the free marketplace, many coal plants simply can't compete.
Clean Air Act regulations are long-overdue. George H.W. Bush's EPA administrator acknowledged that the Obama administration inherited several court-mandated rules from previous administrations, calling them "grenades" that required action. For instance, this timeline put together by energy giant Dynegy shows that the Mercury and Air Toxics rule issued under the Obama administration underwent a "thorough and lengthy development process." The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments required that the EPA study mercury and other emissions. In 2005, the EPA issued its final rule for controlling mercury that the Bush administration's own lawyers reportedly said would "almost certainly be reversed" by the courts. After the courts indeed reversed it, the burden of complying with the requirement to regulate mercury fell to the Obama administration:
[Source: Dynegy via SEC, January 2013]
Coal has huge health impacts even after decades of regulation in the U.S. In countries like China and India where coal is not as strictly regulated, coal pollution is extremely deadly. Meanwhile, in the U.S., harmful emissions have been significantly reduced, a fact that conservative media and the coal industry have used to tout coal's alleged cleanliness. But they often fail to mention that the industry only reduced its emissions after being required to by clean air standards, and that coal still has huge health impacts. The following chart details some of the known and quantifiable health impacts of pollution from coal plants:
Fox News is using reports that Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez may be nominated as Secretary of Labor to revive their manufactured scandal that the Obama administration favored the New Black Panther Party in a 2008 voter intimidation case.
The right-wing media has spent years propping up the bogus charge that President Obama's Justice Department engaged in racially charged "corruption" in the New Black Panther Party case. The claims, promoted by GOP activist J. Christian Adams, fell apart given the fact that the Obama DOJ obtained judgment against one defendant, while the Bush DOJ declined to pursue similar allegations in 2006.
America Live anchor Megyn Kelly highlighted news of Perez's possible appointment and said that his "fingerprints are all over some rather significant controversies," including the New Black Panthers case, during the March 11 edition of America Live.
During the segment Fox aired this image:
Rush Limbaugh recently bragged that conservative Justice Antonin Scalia should be "honored to be compared" to the radio host for disparaging the Voting Rights Act as a "perpetuation of racial entitlement" during the Shelby County v. Holder oral arguments. Other conservative justices also repeated right-wing media talking points as they considered the fate of this historic civil rights law.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires jurisdictions with a history of racially-based voter suppression to "pre-clear" election changes with federal officials or judges. By dismissing as a "perpetuation of racial entitlement" the fact that a bipartisan majority in Congress voted to reauthorize the law in 2006 - after reviewing thousands of pages of evidence that race-based threats to voting rights still exists in the covered jurisdictions - Scalia adopts the arguments of right-wing media.
The Wall Street Journal and Fox News are suggesting that President Barack Obama's nomination of Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a sign that he is acting like a "dictator," using an "end-around" to regulate carbon emissions that drive climate change. But they failed to mention that efforts to curb this greenhouse gas through the EPA are not an invention of the Obama administration -- they were given the go-ahead by a George W. Bush-era Supreme Court decision.
Earlier this week, the president nominated McCarthy, a former official for then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, to succeed Lisa Jackson as EPA administrator. McCarthy is likely to play a major role in the administration's presumptive plans to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants.
But News Corporation's Fox News and Wall Street Journal are launching a preemptive attack on these efforts, claiming they are "antidemocratic" by once again ignoring a Supreme Court decision that all but required action. Monday, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly incorrectly suggested that action through the EPA is unprecedented, saying "It used to be that if you wanted to make a major change or have a major impact on climate change or green energy regulations in this country, you went through Congress" but the president "has found an end-around, and as a result this EPA is extremely powerful right now." The next day, a Wall Street Journal editorial smeared McCarthy as "antidemocratic," adding, "Mr. Obama has been going around saying that the problem is that he's a President, not an 'emperor' or 'dictator,' but on carbon regulation this is a distinction without much difference."
Both failed to note that a 2007 Supreme Court ruling found that greenhouse gases fit the definition of an "air pollutant" and could be regulated under the Clean Air Act if they were determined to be harmful. A subsequent "Endangerment Finding," privately authored during the Bush administration but suppressed until 2009, stated that this was the case due to their contribution to climate change. Stephen Johnson, then the EPA Administrator, told President Bush in early 2008 that the Supreme Court decision "combined with the latest science of climate change requires the Agency to propose a positive endangerment finding," adding "the state of the latest climate change science does not permit a negative finding, nor does it permit a credible finding that we need to wait for more research." The Bush administration reportedly refused to open the email containing the Endangerment Finding, leaving it to the next president to take action. As noted by Legal Planet, the environmental law and policy blog of the University of California Berkeley and UCLA law schools, regulation of carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act is not undemocratic. In fact, "[T]here's nothing here that's an end-run around Congress. EPA is (as bureaucracies should do) implementing the orders of the legislature through duly enacted laws." If the president has "given up getting Congress to agree" to regulate emissions by other means, as the Journal argued, it is only because Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation doing so, thus compelling the executive branch to act.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly began the network's substantive coverage of oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, the current Voting Rights Act case before the Supreme Court, by incorrectly reporting the reach of the Voting Rights Act as limited to select states, while also appearing entirely unaware that this historic law has prevented voter suppression against limited-English proficient speakers since 1975.
On the February 27 edition of America Live, Kelly hosted a segment on the constitutional challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the provision that requires certain jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination to federally "pre-clear" election changes prior to enactment, reminding viewers it's the "biggest civil rights case in decades." However, both Kelly and Fox News reporter Shannon Bream neglected to inform viewers that the constitutional challenge is only to the "pre-clearance" provision and repeatedly reported the Voting Rights Act as limited to those Section 5-covered jurisdictions. Fox also ran a map of those states covered by Section 5 (mistakenly labeled as "Covered By Voting Act Entirely") and Kelly asked "Alaska? Is that right?"
Fox News rewarded Breitbart.com editor at large Ben Shapiro with an appearance less than a week after Shapiro publicly embarrassed himself over a fraudulent story linking Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel to the apparently nonexistent group "Friends of Hamas."
Over the past few weeks, Shapiro has been skewered for attempting to smear Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel by reporting that (according to "Senate sources") he had received money from a shady group called "Friends of Hamas."
After Shapiro's story imploded when it came to light that there's no evidence that "Friends of Hamas" actually exists, some in the conservative media suggested that their movement needed to police its own to maintain credibility. That accountability will not come from Fox News, which hosted him today and did not ask him about his failed smear.
Shapiro appeared for a discussion of the recent exchange between Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and the White House over the sequester - a topic that countless other pundits could have discussed. During the segment, Shapiro attacked the media for allegedly being too soft on the Obama White House. From the February 25 America Live segment, hosted by Megyn Kelly:
Fox News is cropping a statement President Obama made in November 2011 to falsely claim he threatened to veto any replacement for the scheduled across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. But in that statement, Obama called on Congress to pass "a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion" to replace the cuts in the sequester.