Fox News is now suggesting that minor contradictions in Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' life story constitute a more important political "scandal" than accusations of corruption and political retribution by NJ Gov. Chris Christie's administration.
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott accused "op-eds and pundits [for] tearing into [Christie's] character," while ignoring the "political scandal in Texas." This scandal, according to Scott, was that Davis' life story had "holes" in it, partly because she didn't pull "herself up by her stilettos" and instead relied on some financial help from her second husband in order to attend law school:
Scott: The interesting thing about Wendy Davis is this story that has propelled her to state-wide stardom, maybe even national stardom. She says she was married at 19, teenage mother, divorced, lived in a trailer, made it through Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School, and now she is where she is today, a state senator and maybe the next governor of Texas. The problem is, there are some holes in that story.
The suggestion that she pulled herself up by her stilettos and made it through Harvard Law School doesn't exactly jive with the fact that her husband, her then-husband, paid for it all, then as soon as it's all paid for, she left him, and he got custody of the two girls.
Michael Barone, a Fox News contributor, argued during the segment and in a Washington Examiner piece that Christie's record as governor of New Jersey was being scrutinized by media "because he might be a successful presidential candidate," and that Davis should come under similar media scrutiny for these details of her life because her run for governor could potentially "turn Texas blue," a move which would have national significance.
But the reason to scrutinize Christie's record is not that he might run for president. It's that he has been accused of corruption and petty political retribution in his position as the current governor of New Jersey. At no point during the segment did either Scott or Barone delve into the details of "Chris Christie's problems," but they are far more than minor contradictions in a timeline of life events.
Christie has admitted that his administration caused a massive traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, in what is alleged to have been political payback against a local mayor. Though the governor claimed he was unaware of his staff's actions, and later removed two top aides, his administration was subsequently accused by a different mayor of holding Hurricane Sandy relief funds hostage for political reasons.
There are at least three separate legal investigations examining the accusations launched against the Christie administration.
In contrast, Davis is not currently under investigation for possibly abusing the power of her office as state senator. There are some small, legitimate questions about her presentation of her life story, but those questions have been blown out of proportion by conservative media, who have launched an absurd and often sexist campaign against her. Right-wing radio hosts and Fox contributors have implied she is an unstable and unreliable mother, unfit for public office, and have attacked her for defying gender norms by leaving her spouse to pursue her career (a move many male politicians have made, with little media fanfare).
Scott's sexist joke about Davis' stilettos is just the latest example of these demeaning attacks, and furthers the network's desperate attempt to bury the Christie scandal by deflecting attention to unrelated stories.
Fox has previously attempted to compare Christie's scandal to the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and to the IRS scandal, in which bureaucrats largely based in Cincinnati allegedly devoted inappropriate scrutiny to conservative groups. The network also devoted less than 15 minutes of coverage to Christie on the day the scandal broke, and mentioned the revelations about Hurricane relief only once the day they emerged.
In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
Right-wing media figures distorted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's congressional testimony to attack President Obama over the response to the terror attack on the Benghazi consulate. In fact, Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey explained that the attack occurred in two waves separated by large blocks of time, and White House officials were engaged with military throughout the incident.
From the November 25 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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In the wake of President Obama's decision to approve the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, right-wing media are claiming that the call was in direct contradiction to Obama's foreign policy positions. In fact, as a presidential candidate, Obama promised he would take action against terrorists in Pakistan if "President Musharraf won't."
In the wake of former House Majority Leader Tom Delay's three-year prison sentence for money laundering and conspiracy charges, Media Matters looks back on the right-wing media's attacks on DeLay's prosecution by Travis County, Texas, district attorney Ronnie Earle. Conservative media have called Earle a "zealot," a "political crackpot," and said that he should be "behind bars."
Krauthammer: "Tom Delay Is Going To Be A Big Mac" For Earle, Who Sees Delay As "A Political Prize." From the September 28, 2005, edition of Fox News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
KRAUTHAMMER: As we saw with the distinction between hard and soft money in the federal campaigns, a distinction which was incredibly violated by the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996 to such an open extent that in the end it became -- the law became a dead letter and nobody ever obeyed it again.
Look, let's begin by stipulating that, as the lawyers like to say, you can indict a ham sandwich and that Ronnie Earle has been after this ham sandwich, Tom DeLay is going to be a Big Mac for him. The real -- I don't want to stretch the analogy, but this is -- the guy has been after him for years, is a political prize.
We also know that in the past he indicted Senator Hutchison and it was a bogus charge, it was dropped. The indictment itself is a political event. It was meant to be a political event. I agree that it looks very thin. Showing that these murky laws were violated intentionally, knowingly by DeLay, who ordered this elaborate scheme, is going to be a high bar unless he has it on videotape. It's hard to say how he would show it. But the political impact is obvious. DeLay had to step down temporarily. [Special Report with Brit Hume, 9/28/2005, via Nexis]
Coulter: "I Mean, It's Terrifying To Have A Criminal Prosecutor, Someone Who Can Put You In Jail, Bringing These Political Prosecutions." From the April 4, 2006, edition of Fox News Network's Hannity and Colmes:
HANNITY: All right, Ann, there is a whole political side to this equation. But when you indict for a nonexistent crime, and then you go grand jury shopping afterwards, and then you already are on record saying you're going to bring this man down, doesn't it look like the criminalization of politics in our day?
COULTER: Absolutely. And you can't imagine a Republican prosecutor doing the same. I think Ronnie Earle was a joke and everyone recognizes that. No one is concerned about that prosecution.
But I also think the political side of this -- I mean, it's terrifying to have a criminal prosecutor, someone who can put you in jail, bringing these political prosecutions. But the political side of this is also something to consider, and that is the way liberals just choose a Republican, an effective Republican, blacken the person's name just by repetition and hysteria. [Hannity and Colmes, 4/4/2006, via Nexis]
Napolitano: "The Republican Leadership Today Called Him [Earle] A Political Crackpot. And There Is A Basis For Calling Him That." From the November 16, 2004 edition of Fox News Channel's, The Big Story with John Gibson:
NAPOLITANO: Tom DeLay's associates, people that have worked for him, and some who still do work for him, have all been indicted by a sort of renegade prosecutor in Texas, who has made it known that Tom DeLay is in his crosshairs. ...
JOHN GIBSON (host): OK, but now tell me about this prosecutor. You said quasi-renegade.
NAPOLITANO: I was being polite when I said quasi-renegade. The Republican leadership today called him a political crackpot. And there is a basis for calling him that. [FOX News Channel, The Big Story with John Gibson, 11/16/04]
Fox News Contributor Barone: Earle Is "A Partisan Democrat Who Has Done Some Really Rotten, Political Prosecuting." From the November 17, 2004, edition of Fox News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
BARONE (FOX News Channel contributor and U.S. News and World Report senior writer): "Ordinarily I would agree with the Democrats' point of view on this. This is, you know, changing the rule, lowering the ethical standards. But the fact is what you've got here is a prosecutor -- Travis County prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, a partisan Democrat who has done some really rotten, political prosecuting. ... So this is a rotten prosecutor who -- and I think in those circumstances, it's appropriate." [FOX News Channel, Special Report with Brit Hume, 11/17/04]
Buchanan: "They Ought To Put That Guy, Earle, Behind Bars." From the October 11, 2005, edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning:
IMUS: We're talking to Pat Buchanan here on the Imus in the Morning program, 17 till the hour. Even people who are not fans -- we're kind of switching gears here, slightly -- but, even people who aren't fans of Tom DeLay think that this looks a little flimsy, what they have on him, or not?
BUCHANAN: They ought to put that guy, Earle, behind bars. Look, I mean, look what he did. He indicts DeLay, on Friday, so DeLay's lawyers come in on Monday and said, "Ronnie Earle has indicted DeLay for violating, in 2002, a law that wasn't even passed and enacted until 2003" --
BUCHANAN: --and so Earle has got egg all over his face. So, he impanels a grand jury --
IMUS: Over the weekend, I guess, right?
BUCHANAN: --and in five hours they indict him. Well, it's unbelievable.
BUCHANAN: I mean, really. I was talking with a friend of mine in the green room last night, and we were talking about this -- you know, the criminalization of politics is appalling. It used to be good enough that you'd go out there, and you beat the guy, fair and square. And he's out for four years, and you have a good laugh. But, now's it's, uh, it's not satisfactory or if you can't beat him, you put him in prison. [Imus in the Morning, 10/11/2005]
O'Reilly: "He's A Zealot. Earle Is A Zealot. We All Know That." On the September 28 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly said of Delay, "Well I want everybody to follow the law. If he broke the law, he should pay the price." He later continued:
O'REILLY: You know I don't think it is a populous story. I tried to do it on the radio today and we had, like, six calls. You know people don't care. They don't understand what he did.
I think that the people who pay attention know this Ronnie Earle. He's the guy who indicted Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senator, and got -- and she was acquitted of tampering with government documents. He's a zealot. Earle is a zealot. We all know that.
Kellyanne was right when she pointed out that he's made inappropriate statements, politically, in his prosecutional forums. And this is tainted, A to Z. That being said, there is definitely a chance he could be convicted, don't you think? [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 9/28/05, via Nexis]
Slate's David Weigel catches Michael Barone "phoning it in":
I'm not even sure that Michael Barone woke up before writing this one about "the Democratic party shrinking back to its bicoastal base."
Now we see Barack Obama campaigning at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, in Dane County where he won 73 percent of the vote in 2008, chiding students for their apparent apathy. Sen. Russ Feingold, who lives in Middleton, four miles away, was unable to make it -- and it's not the first Obama event in Wisconsin he's skipped.
Actually, Feingold did make it to the rally, announcing his intentions in a Tuesday afternoon tweet and giving a brief speech from the stage. I noticed the mistake in the free print edition of the paper, but it's still online.
Barone's column contains another flaw that suggests it was thrown together with no more than eight minutes of thought: a reliance on the tired old gimmick of pretending that the GOP's edge in "land mass represented" is meaningful.
Here's an exercise for some evening when you're curious about big nationwide trends in this year's elections.
Get an outline map showing the 50 states and take a look at the latest poll averages in pollster.com in each race for senator and governor. Color in the percentage (rounded off; no need for tenths) by which either the Republican or Democratic candidate is leading (I use blue for Republicans, red for Democrats) in each state.
The results are revealing, even breathtaking.
The map of the Senate races shows Republicans leading over almost all the landmass of America.
I imagine most readers stopped right there. I mean, who hasn't read this exact column a couple hundred times over the past decade? (I guess Barone thinks he's keeping things fresh by switching around the now-standard blue/red indicators. Bold!) Is there anyone who still believes -- actually believes, not just pretends to believe -- that maps that give parties credit for landmass represented are anything other than wildly misleading?
Several paragraphs later, Barone admits this, sort of:
Now, the geography can be a little misleading. The Democrats' Northeast and Pacific Coast bases are heavily populated, and the states where they're leading in Senate races cast 136 electoral votes in 2008. But the states where Republicans are leading cast 274 electoral votes.
A little misleading? No: It can be completely misleading. You know what else is misleading? Using electoral votes as a proxy for population. And Barone is wrong about the electoral vote totals, anyway: States in which Republicans are leading cast 257 electoral votes in 2008, not 274. By using electoral votes, a misleading proxy for population, then inexplicably awarding the GOP a bonus of 17 electoral votes, Barone makes it look like the Republicans have a 2-1 advantage.
If, on the other hand, you look at each state's population, you find that Republicans lead in states containing a total of about 144 million people, and Democrats in states with a total of about 82 million people. That's still a sizable gap, but considerably smaller than a 2-1 margin. (And then there's the fact, not acknowledged by Barone or included in his calculations, that there are two Senate races in New York, both of which Democrats are leading. Include both races, and the gap shrinks to 144-101.)
Long story short: Beware the columnist who misleads you in his disclaimer acknowledging that he misled you earlier.
Numerous media outlets seized on a dubious January London Sunday Times report which claimed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 statement on Amazon rain forests was "unsubstantiated" and without scientific basis in order to attack the IPCC's credibility and global warming science in general. However, The Sunday Times has now retracted that claim, noting, "In fact, the IPCC's Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence." Will these media outlets follow suit?
The right-wing Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation has announced that conservative media figures Michael Barone and Paul Gigot are recipients of this year's $250,000 "Bradley Prizes for outstanding achievement."
According to a press release from the Foundation:
The 2010 Bradley Prize recipients are: Michael Barone, Senior Political Analyst for The Washington Examiner, and Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; Paul A. Gigot, Editorial Page Editor of The Wall Street Journal, and winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary; Bradley A. Smith, Josiah H. Blackmore II/Shirley M. Nault Designated Professor of Law at Capital University, and a former member of the Federal Election Commission; and John B. Taylor, Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics, Stanford University, and the George P. Schultz Senior Fellow in Economics, the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.
"These accomplished and respected individuals are being recognized for achievements that are consistent with the mission statement of the Foundation, including the promotion of liberal democracy, democratic capitalism, and a vigorous defense of American institutions," said Michael W. Grebe, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bradley Foundation.
The awardees were selected based on nominations solicited from more than 100 prominent individuals and chosen by a Selection Committee, which included Terry Considine, Martin Feldstein, Robert P. George, Michael W. Grebe (Bradley Prizes Committee Chairman), Charles Krauthammer, Dennis Kuester, Dianne J. Sehler, Abigail Thernstrom and George F. Will.
Not familiar with the Bradley Foundation?
The right-wing foundation shells out tens-of-millions of dollars each year to a slew of right-wing causes and individuals according to a review of the its IRS filings at Conservative Transparency, a project of our partner organization, Media Matters Action Network.
Who knew that pushing conservative misinformation so aggressively could be so profitable? Okay, stupid question.
In his May 1 column, Michael Barone falsely claimed Democrats "don't seem to be planning to include" border-enforcement provisions in their plans for immigration reform. In fact, the outline released by Senate Democrats includes extensive enforcement provisions that reportedly "would be more far-reaching than anything in place now" or proposed by the Bush administration
In an April 12 column, Michael Barone cited Betsy McCaughey's suggestion that the health care bill could be unconstitutional because it would remove the "freedom to choose a hip replacement or a Caesarean section," which McCaughey argued would violate privacy rights established in Roe v. Wade. In fact, the section to which McCaughey refers simply sets minimum requirements for an insurance plan to operate in health care exchanges, and nothing in the legislation bans "hip replacements or a Caesarean section."
From Barone's February 24 Washington Examiner column:
It's an argument that has often been appealing to Europeans but that has always been unappealing to Americans. That's why these advocates segue to other arguments, like Barack Obama's assertion that the government can expand coverage and save money at the same time.
But voters quickly sniff out what this means. The government will use the "science" of comparative effectiveness research to achieve cost savings the only way government can: denial of care. The Soviet medical system kept down the heart disease caseload by placing cardiac care units on the fifth floor, walk up. Death panels, anyone?
Conservative media have recently suggested that scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia intentionally "threw out" or "destroyed" the raw temperature data "underpinning the man-made-warming theory," in the words of the New York Post, echoing a recent London Times article that said it is "now impossible" to examine how the CRU made its conclusions. In fact, according to the scientists, the raw data is still available at the meteorological services where they obtained it -- director Phil Jones said the CRU simply did not keep copies for "less than 5 percent of its original station data" in its database because those "stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends."
From Barone's July 12 Washington Examiner column titled, "Who's afraid of global warming?":
I am open to arguments on this issue, but as I have written several times it seems to me that many global warming alarmists are motivated by something that is more like religion than science. It makes sense to try to mitigate negative effects of any change in climate or weather, as we are quite capable of doing, technologically and economically. Though not always politically, as seen by our decades-long failure to protect our one major city under sea level, New Orleans, from the effects of a catastrophic storm, in the ways that the Dutch have protected their country in which most people live below sea level. But imposing huge costs on our private sector economy on the basis of computer models of something as complex as climate, and which have not done a good job of predicting the present or recent past, seems the height of folly.
I think it makes more sense to monitor and mitigate--keep our eyes open for problems that may occur and take intelligent action to prevent negative effects.
As for global warming, why assume that every affect will be negative? I grew up in Michigan and would have been grateful for some global warming as I waited in the dark for the school bus. As [Ian] Plimer explains in the opening chapter of Heaven and Earth, climate has been much warmer and much cooler at various times in the past. Human beings have adapted--and it's been a lot easier to adapt to warming than cooling.
From the June 23 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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