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After Donald Trump received widespread criticism for attacking the ethnicity of the judge overseeing the Trump U. case, right-wing media figures are now falsely equating Trump’s bigoted attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel to comments made in a 2001 speech made by the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, who called for more diversity in the court.
Following CNN's Republican Party primary debate last week, the conservative site NewsBusters, which exists to bash the press for its supposed liberal bias, quickly published a piece focusing on the debate moderators' prime-time performance. No doubt NewsBusters was furious with CNN, right?
Recall that last November, following a raucous Republican debate hosted by CNBC, Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell released a scathing critique of the moderators, insisting they were dripping with contempt for the GOP candidates and trying to throw the election to the Democrats. (Bozell's group publishes NewsBusters.)
So what was the collective sin of the CNN moderators last week? According to NewsBusters, they had failed to press Donald Trump for a response regarding documented claims that a reporter had been manhandled by Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager, at a public event.
NewsBusters was also upset that the alleged assault had received minimal time on the network evening newscasts: "The main broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC largely remained silent on Lewandowski's alleged actions toward a female reporter until Thursday."
It's true: Following a Republican debate, the conservative NewsBusters pointed out that the media wasn't paying sufficient attention to a news story that reflected poorly on the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.
And with that, we're officially through the looking glass, to the point where conservative critiques of the campaign press now read like Media Matters essays: Journalists are too soft on Trump, rewarding him with too much airtime and allowing him to dictate access ground rules.
This Trump campaign has produced all kinds of regrettable firsts this season (regular outbursts of violence at rallies, for starters). But one of the strangest twists has to be the fact that some conservatives who have spent generations denouncing the press for being unfairly critical of Republicans have now completely flipped the script.
Grasping at conspiratorial straws in an effort to explain away Trump's control over Republican voters and the media's apparently soft treatment of a prominent Republican politician, conservatives remain convinced the "liberal media" is still out to get the GOP. Only this time, the press is torpedoing Republicans by ... being too nice to the Republican front-runner.
Convinced that Trump is not a true conservative and that he's a surefire loser in November, more and more conservative commentators are desperate to derail his nomination. So they're demanding pundits and reporters sharpen their knives when covering the Republican front-runner; that they tell The Truth about Trump and reveal him for the phony they insist he really is.
NewsBusters has also objected to networks not covering news that the Trump campaign had given press credentials to a prominent white supremacist and underplaying the controversy over Trump University.
There's obviously deep irony in these newfound complaints. It was just five months ago that the conservative media revolted against CNBC for hosting its allegedly biased Republican debate. Beating the "liberal media bias" drums quite loudly, critics pounced on the network because moderators were unfair to the candidates, including Trump. So it's a bit disingenuous to now blame that same press simply because lots of Republican supporters are suddenly freaking out about Trump's likely nomination.
Meaning, conservatives can't just unring the "liberal media bias" bell. Republican-friendly critics have told the press, in no uncertain terms, that when it comes to presidential campaigns, lay off our guy -- or else. (Because of the CNBC fracas, the Republican Party yanked NBC's sponsorship for a subsequent debate.)
Well, this year, the press has too often laid off Trump (and even indulged him), and now lots of conservatives, for purely political purposes, wish the press had moved sooner and more aggressively to properly vet him.
The anxious right-wing press is belatedly discovering that its reckless campaign over the years to berate the political press comes with a price; that trying to defang the media means that when suddenly, during a truly bizarre campaign season, conservatives want a famous Republican vetted, there's nobody around to do it.
And to date, the in-depth vetting just isn't happening. "If Donald Trump were to become president, he is the first person I know of who would be in the White House in modern times with deep, continuing associations with mobsters, con artists, drug traffickers, convicted felons -- gratuitously involved with these folks," author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston recently told Huffington Post. "That deserves enormous inquiry."
Think back to last year and the conveyor belt of endless press investigations into Clinton Foundation finances, and then compare that to media investigations into Trump's possibly unseemly business connections. Notice the difference?
And yes, some Republicans and conservatives (including NewsBusters) still see liberal media bias at play in Trump's coverage. The theory goes like this: The media want Trump to be the Republican nominee because they think he'll lose in November and the press wants another Democrat in the White House.
That's why Ted Cruz recently suggested some reporters were sitting on Trump bombshells but not planning to publish or air them until Trump has won the GOP nomination. (Cruz: "The media knows Donald can't win the general, that Hillary would wallop him.")
And Marco Rubio also criticized the Trump coverage for not shedding enough light on the candidate's past. "He's being treated with kid gloves by many in the media, in the hopes that he's the nominee," said the candidate before he suspended his campaign.
But even considering that conspiracy theory, the truly remarkable media complaint from conservatives is that Beltway press is going too easy on the Republican front-runner.
Talk about a message with bipartisan appeal.
Conservative media are attacking Cosmopolitan magazine for working in partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety to run a feature highlighting the dating issues surrounding gun ownership and domestic violence. Conservative media attacked the feature, comparing it to anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda and labeling it a "war on men with guns" while saying Cosmo wants its readers to be "slutty and defenseless." Several conservative media critics expressed skepticism that Cosmo was capable of publishing serious reporting.
As President Obama approaches his final year in office, there's mounting frustration among Republicans and members of the conservative media that the elusive "truth" still hasn't been told about Obama, and that the mainstream media continues to hide scandalous revelations from public view.
Using the allegation as a shield to protect himself from claims he may have fabricated parts of his own biography, Ben Carson took the lead last week when he admonished the press for allegedly giving Obama a pass. "This was the same media that time and again declared it off-limits to dig into then-candidate Barack Obama's background," claimed Carson in a recent fundraising pitch.
Again, Obama's entering his eighth year in office, but somehow he hasn't been vetted? Somehow all kinds of embarrassing and scandalous parts of his background remain under wraps? It's hard to believe. And as Media Matters detailed, not many journalists are buying the claim that Carson's being held to a unique standard.
"The suggestion that others have not gone through this [scrutiny] ignores history," noted Washington Post reporter Ed O'Keefe.
The not-vetted complaint works side-by-side with the revived 'liberal media bias' allegation that's been at the center of the Republican campaign season in recent weeks. Together, the two claims represent the Mantle and Maris of conservative whining. The conspiratorial bookends are often used to try to explain away Obama's two electoral landslide victories. Conservatives seem to think that if only the truth were revealed, "Then the scales will fall from the voters' eyes and they'll boot him from the office he never deserved to occupy in the first place," wrote Paul Waldman at American Prospect.
The vetting claim reflects life inside the Fox News-generated bubble. It reflects a conservative movement that's increasingly allergic to bouts of reality and common sense. It goes to a core belief that they've been right all along about Obama and his dastardly ways, it's just that the press won't inform the public.
But here's the thing: conservative commentators, and especially conservative bloggers, are ignoring the fact that Obama was vetted -- by them. For more than two presidential election cycles.
And it was priceless.
All of those claims, and much more, were forwarded by right-wing media outlets (including Fox News) that have been thrashing around in cesspools over the years, all in the name of vetting the elusive Obama. (The late blogger and satirist Al Weisel, known as Jon Swift, masterfully detailed the attempted vetting.)
Some of the lowlights from conservative bloggers' 2008 crusade that I previously highlighted when they started complaining in 2012 that the president hadn't been properly investigated:
Then in 2012, the same frantic, clueless sleuths vowed to redouble their efforts. Under the headline, "Re-Vetting Wars: Obama's Girlfriends Speak," American Thinker editor Thomas Lifson noted "One of the foremost concerns of the Obama re-election effort is the promised re-vetting of Obama, playing off the widespread perception that the media utterly failed to investigate the reality beneath the highly manufactured identity peddled in 2008."
At Breitbart.com, founder Andrew Breitbart vowed to pull back the dark curtain on Obama's troubling past; to do what the supposed lapdog press refused to do in 2008.
Breitbart's first supposed smoking gun centered around the revelation that in 1998, then-state senator Obama attended a Chicago play about activist Saul Alinsky and then took part in a panel discussion afterwards.
Shocking stuff, indeed.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that the White House released the president's long-form birth certificate in 2011 to debunk all the birther nonsense, right-wing columnist Jerome Corsi delved deeper down the black hole, publishing a series of reports trying to prove Obama's birth certificate was a forgery. He also promoted the claim that Obama "hid" his gay life and that, of course, he's secretly a Muslim.
In 2012, conservative filmmaker Joel Gilbert unveiled his documentary film, Dreams From My Real Father, which claimed Obama is the son of communist writer Frank Marshall Davis. The loopy DVD movie was touted by Fox News' Monica Crowley, among others.
So c'mon, conservative commentators, don't sell yourselves short. You did vet Obama, and it was genius. I can't wait to see what their vetting of Hillary Clinton looks like.
CNN has hired Jeffrey Lord as a political commentator. Lord has a history of pushing fringe rhetoric and misinformation. He engaged in a "profoundly ahistorical" crusade to deny the lynching of a black man, pushed bogus conspiracies about Democrats, compared his political opponents to Nazis and the KKK, and defended Donald Trump's anti-immigrant remarks.
For Conservatives, It Nullifies Future Media Critiques
Always viewing conflicts through the prism of partisan warfare, conservative media have been faced with a stark choice as Bill O'Reilly's long list of confirmed fabrications pile up in public view. They can defend the Fox News host no matter what, while lashing out his "far-left" critics for daring to fact-check the host. Or, conservative media outlets can let him fend for himself. (The third, obvious option of openly criticizing O'Reilly for his duplicitous ways doesn't seem to be on the table.)
Incredibly, as the controversy marches on and neither O'Reilly nor Fox are able to provide simple answers to the questions about his truth-telling as a reporter, some conservative media allies continue to rally by his side.
On Sunday, Howard Kurtz's MediaBuzz program on Fox came to O'Reilly's aid by doing everything it could to whitewash the allegations against the host.
Over the weekend at Newsbusters--a far-right clearinghouse for endless, and often empty, attacks on the media--Jeffrey Lord denounced the O'Reilly fact-checking campaign as "wrong" and "dangerous." And Fox News contributor Allen West actually told the Washington Post that all the allegations against O'Reilly had been "debunked." (Lots of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week shared West's contention.)
What's the peril for blindly protecting O'Reilly this way? Simple: It completely undercuts the conservative cottage industry of media criticism. Because why would anyone care about media critiques leveled by conservatives who are currently tying to explain away O'Reilly's obvious laundry list of lies.
"O'Reilly's story, intended to portray him as an enterprising journalist unfazed by potential danger, is a fiction," noted Gawker. "It is precisely the sort of claim that would otherwise earn Fox's condemnation, and draw sophisticated counter-attacks to undermine the accusers' reputation."
And how do we know that to be true? Because the entire conservative media apparatus spent last month unleashing sophisticated counter-attacks to undermine NBC News anchor Brian Williams after doubts were raised about his wartime reporting. Today, the same conservative media are either playing dumb about Bill O'Reilly, or actually defending him.
Obviously, you can't have it both ways. You can't demand Brian Williams be fired and that Bill O'Reilly be left alone. Not if you want anyone to pause for more than three seconds when considering your press critiques.
As fact checkers investigated and debunked claims made in an ad attacking the Affordable Care Act, Fox News and other conservative media used a cancer patient's illness to defend the spot's dishonesty.
The episode is part of an ongoing pattern in the conservative media of promoting anecdotal Obamacare horror stories that have fallen apart under scrutiny.
Right-wing media figures condemned the weddings of 33 same-sex and opposite-sex couples at the 56th annual Grammy Awards, describing the ceremony as an attack on Christianity.
Right-wing media figures have rushed to defend President Ronald Reagan's record on apartheid and South Africa in the wake of Nelson Mandela's death.
Reagan's record came under increased attention following the death of the former South African president and anti-apartheid activist. In an interview with Salon, Whitman College historian David Schmitz discussed Reagan's policy toward South Africa, which included opposition to Mandela's party, the African National Congress, labelling Mandela and the ANC as "terrorists," and vetoing sanctions against the pro-apartheid government that ruled South Africa at the time:
What about U.S. policy toward the opposition groups like the ANC and Nelson Mandela?
They called the ANC terrorists. It was just continuing this notion that the ANC members are the extremists and the South African government has these moderates, and you're going to end up with one extreme against the other if you don't work with the government. Clearly, it never worked. This was a flawed policy.
Would you argue that Reagan's foreign policy extended the life of the regime in South Africa?
Yes. It gave it life. It gave it hope that the United States would continue to stick with it. It gave it continued flow of aid as well as ideological support. It delayed the changes that were going to come. Then you had the big crackdowns in '86 and '87. So there was harm in the lengthening. There was harm in the violence that continued.
Despite his history, right-wing media figures defended Reagan's history after Mandela's death. CNN host Newt Gingrich claimed that Mandela's death was "being used inappropriately" by critics of Reagan:
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.
Media Research Center's Noel Sheppard has once again used an image that he previously admitted was "anti-Semitic."
In a post on the MRC's NewsBuster's blog discussing comments from former President Bill Clinton about the Republican Party's "media base," Associate Editor Noel Sheppard used the following Photoshopped image of politicians laughing:
(copy of full page with image here)
Newsbusters used the same image, which is steeped in anti-Semitic imagery, in May 2012 in a post also written by Sheppard.
As noted at the time, in the manipulated photo President Obama's tie has a Jewish Star of David design, and the Israeli flag has been added to the tie of former Sen. Joe Lieberman. An Israeli flag pin has also been added to Obama's lapel.
The creator of the images describes the Holocaust as a "scam" on their website, and has several other images with anti-Semitic and conspiratorial themes on display.
After Media Matters pointed this out, Newsbusters removed the image and added an editorial note from Sheppard that said "the original article included a doctored picture of Obama and others that turned out to have anti-Semitic imagery that I didn't notice when I incorporated it into the piece."
Nearly a year and a half later, the same writer has used the same image on the same website.
Limbaugh, Others Butcher Science To Claim Arctic Isn't Melting
Conservatives are still turning to British tabloids for their climate science, most recently treating a single year's Arctic sea ice -- which is still far below previous and long-term averages -- to claim that the region is not melting.
The latest instance of tabloid-reviewed science began when the The Mail on Sunday -- a sister newspaper to serial climate misinformer the Daily Mail* -- published an article titled "And now it's global COOLING!" suggesting that an increase in Arctic sea ice cover between September 2012 and August 2013 is among "mounting evidence that Arctic ice levels are cyclical." The story was summarily picked up by other British tabloids and a variety of conservative outlets, all to cast doubt on climate change. Notably, Rush Limbaugh used the report to claim "the Arctic ice sheet is at a record size for this time of year. They told us the ice was melting in the Arctic Ice Sheet. It's not."
Actually, Arctic sea ice is nowhere near "a record size." A graph from the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) illustrates that 2013 Arctic sea ice extent minimum (beige line), while not as low as last year's record (dotted line), is still tracking well below the 1979-2000 average (as have the minimum extents of every year since 1997). It is on track to be the sixth-lowest in satellite annals:
As 2012 was a record low, it is not terribly surprising that 2013 looks like it will be higher. This is due to a phenomenon known as regression to the mean, eloquently illustrated by this Skeptical Science graphic:
Conservative media are distorting a New York Times article that explained scientists' research on how the ocean has absorbed much of recent global warming to deny manmade climate change. A prime example is the conservative website The Daily Caller, whose article is easily refuted by one of its own sources, a scientist who stated that "people should be exactly as concerned as before about what climate change is doing."
Here's The Daily Caller claiming that scientists have "lowered their warming estimates," (it actually means estimates of climate sensitivity, or the amount that the surface temperatures would warm in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide):
Researchers from the UK recently reported that global temperatures will only rise between 0.9 degrees Celsius and 2.0 degrees Celsius. Before that, Norwegian researchers found that the earth may warm only 1.9 degrees Celsius.
"The most extreme projections are looking less likely than before," Dr. Alexander Otto of the University of Oxford told BBC News.
In fact, Patrick Michaels of the libertarian Cato Institute compiled a partial list of studies that have lowered their warming estimates:
"Richard Lindzen gives a range of 0.6 to 1.0 C (Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 2011); Andreas Schmittner, 1.4 to 2.8 C (Science, 2011); James Annan, using two techniques, 1.2 to 3.6 C and 1.3 to 4.2 C (Climatic Change, 2011); J.H. van Hateren, 1.5 to 2.5 C (Climate Dynamics, 2012); Michael Ring, 1.5 to 2.0 C (Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, 2012); and Julia Hargreaves, including cooling from dust, 0.2 to 4.0 C and 0.8 to 3.6 C (Geophysical Research Letters, 2012)."
Here's the scientist that The Daily Caller cites, Dr. Otto of the University of Oxford, saying to the BBC that "We would all like climate sensitivity to be lower but it isn't":
The IPCC said that climate sensitivity was in the range of 2.0-4.5C.
This latest research, including the decade of stalled temperature rises, produces a range of 0.9-5.0C.
"It is a bigger range of uncertainty," said Dr Otto.
"But it still includes the old range. We would all like climate sensitivity to be lower but it isn't."
Right-wing media are trying to downplay a confrontation over gun sale background checks between a woman who lost her mother in the Newtown, CT, shooting and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) by promoting a report from an Ayotte donor whose wife is the former chair of the New Hampshire GOP.
Erica Lafferty, the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, asked Ayotte during an April 30 town hall meeting in Warren, New Hampshire, "why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't more important" than Ayotte's claim that conducting background checks would be burdensome for gun store owners. According to NBC News, the meeting "drew more than 100 people who came to condemn or support Ayotte's vote."
Reacting to news reports of the confrontation between Lafferty and Ayotte, Shawn Millerick, editor of the conservative New Hampshire Journal, complained of "liberal media bias" and wrote that reports of Ayotte being confronted over her failure to support expanded background checks were exaggerated by the national media. Millerick also posted photographs of cars with out-of-state license plates that he says belonged to the individuals who opposed Ayotte's background check vote.
Breitbart.com, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, RedState and NewsBusters are all promoting Millerick's report as evidence that the media was dishonest in its coverage of Ayotte's town hall meeting while also characterizing Millerick's online newspaper as a "local" media source and not mentioning its partisan slant. According to Breitbart.com's John Nolte, Millerick's report "expose[d] the leftist national media for the liars they are." The Daily Caller's Alex Pappas framed the issue as a discrepancy between "local" and "national" media: