You might remember Penny Starr as the CNSNews.com reporter who tried to manufacture outrage over a gay-themed art exhibition at the Smithsonian last year. Now, she's upset by something she found on the Internet:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is offering advice to parents and teens about sex education, including assurances that teens may "experiment" with homosexuality as part of "exploring their own sexuality," and that masturbation should be of concern only "if a child seems preoccupied with it to the exclusion of other activities."
The information, located on a "Questions and Answers About Sex" link on the "Quick Guide to Healthy Living" portion of the HHS Web site, also describes children and infants as "sexual beings."
Under the question "When Do Kids Start Becoming Curious About Sex?" the answer notes that infants have curiosity about their bodies.
"Children are human beings and therefore sexual beings," the Q&A Web page says. "It's hard for parents to acknowledge this, just as it's hard for kids to think of their parents as sexually active. But even infants have curiosity about their own bodies, which is healthy and normal."
This sort of thing, of course, is catnip for the right-wing media, which have used Starr's article as a way to attack the Obama administration. The headline at Fox Nation blamed "Obama's HHS" for publishing this information; a LifeNews headline stated that "Obama Admin Pushes Sex on Kids." Even the version of Starr's article posted at NewsBusters -- like CNS, a division of the conservative Media Research Center -- carried the headline "Obama's HHS: 'Children Are Sexual Beings.'" The Blaze and Weasel Zippers are among the other right-wing websites that picked up on the story.
NewsBusters' Scott Whitlock has claimed that ABC World News "hid the identity of a global warming activist" whose commentary was played during ABC's newscast on Monday:
The journalist featured a clip of Heidi Cullen, who ABC simply labeled as a "climatologist." She announced, "When you crank up the heat, when you globally warm the planet, you're going to see more extreme events."
Yet, Cullen is also the communications director for Climate Central, a group dedicated to "helping mainstream Americans understand how climate change connects to them, and arming our audiences with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their future."
Avila made no mention of her advocacy on this topic. Yet, on May 23, 2011, in another World News piece by Avila, the network did identify Cullen's connection. (She also touted climate change as host of a now-defunct show on the Weather Channel.)
But this is how ABC World News identified Heidi Cullen during the report as it was broadcast on DirecTV in Washington, D.C (note the upper left-hand corner of the screen image):
Watch the segment from Monday as it aired on New York's WABC:
UPDATE: NewsBusters subsequently corrected its blog post:
[08-17-11 Correction: ABC did have the words "Climate Central" in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Though, the network did not offer any explanation of the group's advocacy.]
Right-wing media figures are using Standard & Poor's decision to "downgrade" the U.S. credit rating to rehabilitate former President Bush's economic record. However, the economy inherited from Bush was hemorrhaging jobs and contracting at a rate not seen in more than 50 years.
After relentlessly pushing the false claim that the so-called "Climategate" controversy showed climate scientists deceitfully manipulating data, conservative media are celebrating a Rasmussen Reports poll finding that a majority of Americans believe "some scientists" have likely "falsified research data" to support "their own theories and beliefs about global warming."
On his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh declared that "almost no temperature records were broken" during the recent heat wave and that media outlets who reported on "record-breaking" heat were telling "a bunch of lies" to "advance a political agenda of liberalism."
Limbaugh's remarks echo a Newsbusters post in which Noel Sheppard claims that "almost no temperature records were actually broken." He came to this conclusion by ignoring most of the temperature records. Nevertheless, Sheppard's claim was picked up not only by Limbaugh but also Fox Nation:
Citing the NOAA database, Sheppard claims "There were only 34 new all-time daily temperature records set during last week's 'record-breaking heat.' This is out of over 6000 records previously set for each day since such things have been reported."
Actually, it's not out of over 6000 records "set for each day," but out of over 6000 records set for all-time at each location. Sheppard is confusing all-time and daily records.
Yesterday afternoon, in an article apparently titled "Feds: Prison Converts to Extremist Islam Planned Ft. Hood Style Assault in Seattle," ABC News reported that "two men who converted to Islam in prison have been arrested and charged by federal authorities with plotting a Ft. Hood-style assault on a Seattle military installation." Citing anonymous "officials," ABC claimed that the two men, Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh, "met while in prison for earlier offenses" and that both "converted to Islam while incarcerated."
Right-wing bloggers jumped on the story to condemn those who criticized Rep. Peter King (R-NY) for his hearing last week on Islamic radicalization in U.S. prisons. According to Pam Geller, "Anyone who questions the necessity of Rep Peter King's hearings on Islamic extremism in the prison system is playing for the other team." NewsBusters' Ken Shepherd wrote:
Last Wednesday as Rep. Peter King conducted hearings on Muslim inmate radicalization in America's prisons, MSNBC was busy attacking the proceeding as unnecessary and/or unfairly targeted to unfairly single out the Islamic faith.
Well, eight days later comes this development as reported by ABCNews.com in a June 23 article entitled, "Feds: Prison Converts to Extremist Islam Planned Ft. Hood-Style Assault in Seattle."
But the link to prison conversion is extremely tenuous, and ABC is already backing away from its original claims.
Last night, ABC updated their report, removing references to prison radicalization from the headline and first paragraph and instead burrying at the end the following statement: "According to officials, both suspects were believed to have met in prison and to have converted to Islam in prison. Court documents, however, show no record of felony convictions for Mujahihd [sic] and do not specify where the men met or when they converted."
Further, the Associated Press reported that according to a spokesman for the California Corrections Department, "There is nothing in [Abdul-Latif's] records that indicates that he converted to Islam while in prison."
As of yet, neither Sheperd nor Geller have updated their posts to note this new information. We won't hold our breath.
Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, recently revealed that he is an undocumented immigrant. Right-wing media responded with virulent anti-immigrant attacks, with Don Surber of the Charleston Daily Mail writing: "kick the lying, illegal alien Jose Antonio Vargas out."
From IBD [emphasis added]:
In a record year for natural disasters, the Mississippi's worst flooding since 1927 may be the year's most consequential. It ought to lead the news. But the Beltway media-political complex is more interested in press games.
Coming on the heels of the worst tornadoes in a century, the stealthy, silent destructive spread of floods through the heart of one of America's most populous and economically productive centers ought to be cause for national, if not global, attention.
But it's not, and to be fair, it's not because the local press in affected areas haven't done decent reporting.
The problem lies in Washington. The White House has made no declarations, showed no leadership, and done all it can to keep the issue off the front page.
IBD's explanation for why White House would scramble to try keep a natural disaster story off America's front pages makes no sense. (It has to do with Osama bin Laden.) But the larger critique that the mainstream media are taking their cues from the White House and allegedly downplaying the flood story is, obviously, false.
In fact, that conservatives would even make the allegation simply highlights how un-serious they are in their so-called media critiques.
The facts: According to Nexis, a search for Mississippi news reports retrieves more than 2,000 hits in the last week alone. Among those mainstream outlets supposedly not giving the story enough attention are Chicago Tribune with 13 matches, New York Times (10), Washington Post (10), and USA Today (7). Those newspapers alone have devoted thousands of words within the last week to covering the Mississippi flood story.
As for network news, Nexis finds more than 100 flood reports that have aired in the last seven days on ABC, CBS and NBC. More than 100. Oh, and CNN alone has aired more than 100 flood stories in the last week.
But yes, other than that the press is definitely downplaying the story.
In the wake of President Obama's release of his long-form birth certificate, which further debunks the claims of those who have been saying Obama was not born in Hawaii, some in the conservative media are now trying to pretend they never questioned Obama's citizenship in the first place.
The right-wing's madcap revisionism continues all week in the wake of the mighty birther collapse. Although, I have to say the extent to which revisionists will go remains eye-popping.
From a Fox News apologist at NewBusters [emphasis added]:
Of course even Fox News did its part to debunk the birther nonsense. The channel's hosts of course played no part in the conspiracy theory, but its commentators also frequently spoke out against it.
Having spun the Media Matters birther archive wheel, I'll suggest that these headlines disagree:
Trust me, that's just a small sampling.
And the search continues for a coherent conservative argument to back up the far-right claim that National Public Radio is hopelessly liberal and bias. We all know conservatives want to defund NPR. But most of us still are not sure why.
Here's the latest supposed sin of NPR, as devised by NewsBusters:
NPR Leans Toward Democrats 7 To 3 On Federal Budget Showdown
I'll make sense of the confused headline: In a report on the looming budget showdown, NPR quoted Democrats seven times and Republicans only three times.
Until, that is, you examined the NPR report, which consisted mostly of quotes from President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Speaker of the House John Boehner. Note that two of the three key figures in the budget battle are Democrats because Democrats control the White House and the Senate. So yes, logic dictates that if they're each quoted, there will be more quotes from Democrats. And no, that does not constitute bias on the part of NPR.
But don't tell far-right critics.
In the first half of the report, NewsBusters objects to the fact that NPR quoted the President of the United States three times, the Senate Leader once, and the House Speaker once. And yes, this is how hollow the right-wing's supposed critique of NPR has become; complaining that the POTUS gets quoted too often in news stories.
I'm still searching for a conservative media critic who can explain what NPR's liberal media sins.
By contrast, and in a nice bit of irony, notice this week that NPR's David Folkenflik provided some real media reporting and analysis (as opposed to what NewsBusters did), when he examined six months worth of programming on Fox News' Special Report. Folkenflik found that the anchor program of Fox News' supposedly serious news coverage chronically underrepresented liberal voices during its round table "All Star" segments, where partisan conservatives are featured and often pitted against non-ideological journalists and reporters.
Based on the detailed research, Folkenflik's point about the tilt at Special Report was unassailable. Meaning, what NPR did was produce an actual piece of journalism and media analysis. What NewsBusters produced, on the other hand, was a complaint that the president was quoted too often in a single news story.
It's been a few days, but the Media Research Center has finally finished crafting their response to Media Matters' report that Fox News' Bill Sammon admitted lying on-air about Obama advocating "socialism," and it is as follows:
I'm not joking:
Soros Grantee Aids Soros Grantee: NPR Covers 'Scandal' of Fox News VP Calling Obama a 'Socialist'
By Tim Graham
In the same week, leftist hedge-fund billionaire/philanthropist announced he was giving millions to Media Matters for America and to National Public Radio. So NPR might have found it wise to avoid publicizing Media Matters initiatives and risk being seen by many as a walking conflict of interest. That's not what's happening. Instead, Soros is happily seeing his grantees play very nicely together. On March 26, Politico reported that Media Matters declared "war on Fox" and a campaign of "guerrilla warfare and sabotage" against not just Fox, but Rupert Murdoch's empire in general. Three days later, on the March 29 All Things Considered, NPR was participating in it.
It began with Media Matters giving the world a tape of FNC executive Bill Sammon on a 2009 fundraising cruise for Hillsdale College proclaiming that he thought 2008 charges that Barack Obama was a socialist were "rather far-fetched," but thought Obama made it very plausible upon taking office. Media Matters said the tape showed "Lying" by Sammon. NPR media reporter David Folkenflik, already looking like a robot-for-hire in his reporting on NPR's Schillergate scandal, became the wind beneath their wings in promoting it.
Let's address matters of factual accuracy, shall we?
First off: yes, both Media Matters and NPR have received donations from George Soros or his Open Society Institute (OSI). However, the OSI donation to NPR that Graham highlights was specifically earmarked for a project to "better inform the public about the impact that the actions of state governments has on citizens and communities." How that would impact media reporter David Folkenflik's reporting on Fox News is anyone's guess. Graham certainly didn't explain, but instead lazily implied some sort of conspiratorial quid pro quo.
Second: Graham's description of Media Matters' report omitted the key fact it uncovered: that Sammon acknowledged speculating on-air about charges of Obama's socialism despite privately believing them to be "far-fetched" -- which Sammon himself described as "mischievous." Given that Sammon is a news executive at Fox and directs their Washington coverage, that makes it a major media story, Graham's protestations notwithstanding.
Notably, Graham didn't even attempt to defend Sammon. Instead, he just wrote "Soros" over and over and berated Folkenflik over matters unrelated to the story in question. Sort of makes you suspect they don't have a whole lot to say.
In the pantheon of insane anti-Obama conspiracy theories, few hold a candle to the idea that former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers secretly wrote Barack Obama's autobiography Dreams from My Father.
This particular bit of crackerjack analysis was popularized by WorldNetDaily writers Jack Cashill and Aaron Klein, who have based their theories on "evidence" like the frequency of nautical terms in Obama's book, despite the fact that "Obama gives little indication that he has any real experience with the sea or ships beyond bodysurfing at Waikiki." (Slightly less unhinged conservatives like David Freddoso have labeled Cashill's work on this "a lot of crap, all conjecture and no concrete evidence.")
The Ayers ghostwriter theory has been back in full force this week, thanks to some conservative bloggers' inability to detect sarcasm. Speaking at Montclair State University last week, Ayers responded to a question from an audience member by joking that he "wrote" Obama's autobiography, and saying, "if you help me prove it, I'll split the royalties with you." Ayers was quite clearly kidding, and, as Jim Newell explains at Gawker, he's used this same joke before.
Numerous conservative websites like NewsBusters (which exists to lecture places like the New York Times on how to properly conduct their journalistic activities) promoted the Ayers comment as an admission that he wrote Obama's book. The story does seem to have caused a bit of a rift in the conservative blogosphere, however, with Dan Riehl writing that people running with the supposed admission look like "a bunch of Kool-Aid inebriated Right Wing nut jobs."
And while it's always good sport to point and laugh at the clownishness of certain corners of the conservative media, it's important to point out that conspiracies theories like this are actually not out of the conservative mainstream - they are the bread and butter of the movement.
In his upcoming book, which Media Matters obtained in advance of its release, Andrew Breitbart asserts that Ayers wrote Obama's book. Twice.
In a chapter titled, "Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Revolutionaries," Breitbart discusses the rise of conservative "citizen journalists" and purports to enumerate their various accomplishments. Apparently unfamiliar with the words "proved" and "reasonable," Brietbart lists among citizen journalist accomplishments that they "proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers." From Breitbart's Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save The World:
In the past few years alone, citizen journalists have deposed Dan Rather for his scurrilous and baseless attacks on George W. Bush; exposed John Kerry's true war record during the 2004 election cycle; debunked Reuters's photography fraud in the Middle East; proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers; gotten rid of communist Van Jones; and the list goes on. [Righteous Indignation, pg 149-150]
On the next page, advising activists to "Be open about your secrets," Breitbart again references Obama's "Ayers-written autobiography":
3. Be open about your secrets. If you're going to go out in public, be absolutely open about what you've done in the past. Take a page from Barack Obama, who revealed in his Ayers-written autobiography that he had done a bit of blow, hung out with commies and racists like Jeremiah Wright, and hated whitey. Once it was out there, there wasn't much the right could do with it - he'd already admitted it. [Righteous Indignation, pg 150]
We'll have more on Breitbart's book closer to the release date, but this seemed as good a time as any to remind people that he shouldn't be taken seriously.
Update: Proving yet again that there is nothing too absurd for conservative media outlets to promote, Fox & Friends hosted Cashill this morning to discuss his various conspiracy theories about Obama, including the idea that Ayers wrote Obama's book.
Update 2: In contrast to the review copy we were sent, Breitbart's endorsement of Cashill's theory is somewhat toned down in the retail version of the book.
Whereas in the version we were sent Breitbart says citizen journalists have "proved beyond a reasonable doubt" that Ayers wrote Obama's autobiography, it now says that citizen journalists have "raised the question whether Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, was ghostwritten by domestic terrorist Bill Ayers."
It truly is a special brand of human who does not grasp when he or she is being mocked. Case-in-point, Media Matters has previously reported that the right-wing media has vigorously tried to spread the idea that Bill Ayers, political activist, personally penned the president's first book - Dreams From My Father.
Recently, Ayers appeared at Montclair State, where he very clearly mocked right-wing conspiracy nuts who have previously credited him with this particular feat. The right took this as an admission that he actually did write Dreams.
This is so typical of right-wing "media criticism: Yelling, 'Biased!' without having any evidence to back it up. We've seen it most recently in the phony debate over NPR, and now NewsBusters take a swing at Associated Press for its allegedly unfair news coverage.
But oops, NewsBusters can't be bothered to cite a single AP example to prove it's point. (Telling, don't you think?)
AP's Expired Contract May Explain Much of Its Union-Sympathetic Wisconsin Coverage
In fact, the NewsBusters item is about how the News Media Guild's contract with AP expired in November and that negotiations between AP and its unionized workers continue. The item also highlights various provisions of the expired contract, which still applies to AP workers while negotiations continue. Period. That's it.
What about the claim that that expired contract has tainted AP's journalism, and specifically its reporting from Wisconsin, as alleged in the NewsBusters headline?
Nope. There's not a single reference to AP's Wisconsin union coverage, let alone any claims AP was "union-sympathetic" while reporting that story. None. NewsBusters simply concocted that attack for the headline.