A day after The Wall Street Journal attacked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for attempting to rein in racial bias in auto loan practices, Politico questioned the agency for seeking advice from a consumer advocacy group that many media outlets -- including Politico -- frequently ask to comment on consumer issues.
On November 19, Politico questioned the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) supposedly "cozy" relationship with a consumer advocacy group after emails revealed the agency consulted with the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) on payday lending reforms. CRL is a leading source of research on the issue of payday loans; however the article misleadingly compared the CFPB consulting with a consumer advocacy nonprofit to the often nefarious "influence of big banks and lobbyists in writing legislation":
When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau put out its proposal to overhaul payday lending rules in March, the move was cheered by consumer advocates as a much-needed crackdown on an industry that preys on the poor.
But the final product wasn't a surprise to at least one nonprofit group.
While Elizabeth Warren and other progressives decry the influence of big banks and lobbyists in writing legislation, in this instance, the agency created by Warren to protect consumers from abusive lending leaned heavily on consumer activists as it drafted regulations for the $46 billion payday loan industry. The Center for Responsible Lending spent hours consulting with senior Obama administration officials, giving input on how to implement the rule that would restrict the vast majority of short-term loans with interest rates often higher than 400 percent. The group regularly sent over policy papers, traded emails and met multiple times with top officials responsible for drafting the rule.
Politico's criticism comes a day after The Wall Street Journal's editorial board lambasted the agency for drafting guidelines on ending racial bias in auto lending, and advocated for legislation to slow the CFPB's consumer advocacy work.
Politico's false comparison that consumer watchdogs have the same pervasive effect as big banks on legislation and rulemaking fails to note that the Center for Responsible Lending is a well-respected resource on financial products and how these products affect consumers. In the last month, research from the CRL has been cited by a Yale professor in The New York Times, and appeared in articles in Time, The Atlantic and The Huffington Post. On November 19, The Washington Post's Dave Weigel took to Facebook to criticize Politico, explaining to readers that "the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending, which reporters who have covered any of this stuff recognize as a pretty above-board group that lobbies against predatory loan practices":
In 2009, the Center for Responsible Lending uncovered that 76 percent of the total volume of payday loans are borrowers taking out new loans to pay their existing loan. The CRL also reported that payday loan practices lead to $3.4 billion in excessive fees a year with over 75 percent of these fees generated by borrowers with more than 10 loans a year. The CRL and its sister non-profit -- the Self Help Credit Union -- use this research to advocate for lending practices that will end the perpetual payday loan cycle, saving low income Americans billions.
While Politico questioned why "CFPB requested data from the nonprofit on payday lenders 'to help focus these efforts,'" it failed to mention it has used reports and published comments from the Center for Responsible Lending on multiple occasions in relation to financial products and legislation. On October 29, Politico asked CRL's Maura Dundon to explain a financial ruling on student loans and, on October 16, quoted Dundon to emphasize the strength of a CFPB crackdown on for-profit colleges. In December of 2008, Politico reported on the CRL findings that minority homeowners were pushed into higher priced mortgage options:
Research by the Center for Responsible Lending, for instance, shows that African-American and Latino homeowners were often steered into subprime mortgages with hefty fees when their credit scores in fact qualified them for less expensive prime loans. Now those groups are experiencing some of the highest rates of foreclosure.
Right-wing media figures are supporting calls from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to stop the Syrian refugee program over worries the refugees could be terrorists, saying Ryan is "exactly right" and his statement is "common sense." This comes as Christian resettlement groups are criticizing calls by GOP figures to block the refugees.
Politico interviewed retired FBI senior official Ron Hosko about the FBI investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email without disclosing Hosko's role as president of the right-wing Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. Other media outlets have previously turned to Hosko for comments about the investigation without noting his role in or the political leanings of the conservative organization.
Major national print outlets, and most Sunday morning political talk shows, ignored a Politico report indicating that the U.S. intelligence community was "retreat[ing] from claims" that two key emails received by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contained highly classified information.
The office of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has reportedly concluded that two emails received by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not contain top secret information, a reversal from the Intelligence Community inspector general's prior claim that they did, according to a Politico report. Media had previously used the notion that the two emails were highly classified to suggest that Clinton or her aides had engaged in criminal behavior.
In July, the New York Times published an article -- which it subsequently had to correct twice -- about a security referral the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IG IC) made to the executive branch about whether there was any classified material on Clinton's email account during her time as secretary of state. The IG IC highlighted four allegedly classified emails and subsequently stated that two of those four emails contained "top secret" information. The State Department disagreed about whether the material in the emails was actually highly classified. As Politico is now reporting, "that disagreement has been resolved in State's favor" and the previous claim that the emails contained top secret information is wrong.
Despite the original disagreement between the two federal agencies, Fox News initially responded by running with speculation from an anonymous State Department official that aides to Hillary Clinton had "stripped" the classification markings from emails that she received in her private email server, and claiming that even if the emails hadn't been marked classified, Clinton should have known they contained highly classified information.
But Politico reported on November 6 that the office of the Director of National Intelligence has now overruled the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community's prior conclusion that two emails received by Clinton contained highly classified information. As Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists explained to Politico, this "mistake" is nothing short than "astonishing" because "[i]t was a transformative event in the presidential campaign to this point. It had a potential to derail Clinton's presidential candidacy." From the article:
The U.S. intelligence community has retreated from claims that two emails in Hillary Clinton's private account contained top secret information, a source familiar with the situation told POLITICO.
The determination came from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's office and concluded that the two emails did not include highly classified intelligence secrets. Concerns about the emails' classification helped trigger an on-going FBI inquiry into Clinton's private email set-up.
Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III made the claim that two of the emails contained top secret information, the State Department publicly stated its disagreement and asked Clapper's office to referee the dispute. Now, that disagreement has been resolved in State's favor, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Intelligence officials claimed one email in Clinton's account was classified because it contained information from a top secret intelligence community "product" or report, but a further review determined that the report was not issued until several days after the email in question was written, the source said.
"The initial determination was based on a flawed process," the source said. "There was an intelligence product people thought [one of the emails] was based on, but that actually postdated the email in question."
A top expert in classification procedures called the development "an astonishing turn of events."
"It's not just a mistake," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. "It was a transformative event in the presidential campaign to this point. It had a potential to derail Clinton's presidential candidacy."
Aftergood said Clapper's office should be credited for seriously reconsidering the earlier conclusions by intelligence agencies.
Media outlets are pointing out Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) shifting position on immigration reform after the presidential hopeful changed his position on ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). While Rubio previously supported eliminating the program after comprehensive immigration reform was in place, he recently stated he'd eliminate it regardless. This shift follows a push by conservative media figures who have long criticized Rubio for his immigration stances.
Media figures are highlighting the "dire consequences" of the Republican National Committee's (RNC) decision to suspend its partnership with NBC and it's allied Spanish-language network Telemundo for a presidential debate in February 2016. They point out that the move to eliminate the only debate airing on a Spanish-speaking network could hurt the Republican Party's Latino outreach, and would contradict the 2013 GOP autopsy report's recommendations to invest resources in Hispanic media.
During the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential debate, several candidates proposed tax and economic policies that were later described as "fantasy," "oddly imaginary," and even "insane" by media outlets because their implementation would inflate existing budget deficits and add trillions of dollars to the national debt.
Media outlets called out Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's "utterly wrong," "wildly misleading," and long discredited claim at the October 28 CNBC presidential debate that women held 92 percent of the jobs lost during President Obama's first term, pointing out that that statistic is recycled from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and newer data completely contradicts Fiorina's claim: women actually gained jobs by the end of Obama's first term.
Fox News is infuriated that Democrats voted down the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act, which contained a provision resembling Bill O'Reilly's "Kate's Law," a proposal to impose a mandatory minimum prison sentence on undocumented immigrants attempting to re-enter the country after deportation. With the support of his Fox News colleagues, O'Reilly fiercely criticized the defeat of the bill, calling the Democrats who voted against it "villains" and threatening to "come after" Republican Senators who voted alongside them.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, cited information from the CIA to debunk the claim that Hillary Clinton compromised national security by revealing the name of a CIA source in an email sent from her private account. The claim originated from the Republicans serving on the U.S. House Select Committee on Benghazi and was amplified by right-wing media, but now the CIA has informed the Select Committee that the e-mail did not contain any classified information, according to a letter released by Cummings.
Multiple media figures derided Hillary Clinton's laugh during the first Democratic presidential debate, calling it a "cackle" and "a record scratch." During the 2008 presidential race, Clinton's laughter was repeatedly attacked, despite criticism that such attacks were rooted in sexism.
During the October 13 CNN debate in Las Vegas, Clinton laughed after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defended her from repeated questions about her use of private email by criticizing the media for fixating on the issue and saying, "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Clinton and Sanders shook hands as the crowd applauded.
But several media figures initially focused on Clinton's laugh. BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski tweeted, "oh god the Clinton laugh is out," while the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote, "THE CLINTON LAUGH," and Fox's Sean Hannity tweeted "Omg that laugh."
Several conservative media figures took it further, calling it a "cackle":
::looks up 'cackle' in the dictionary:: ::sees Hillary's face::-- Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) October 14, 2015
(Hillary's laugh grates like a record scratch.)-- Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) October 14, 2015
The cackle. Drink!-- Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) October 14, 2015
Cue the cackle. #DemDebate-- toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) October 14, 2015
Attacking Clinton's laughter was a common theme during the Democratic primary before the 2008 election. In September 2007, after Clinton appeared on several Sunday political talk shows and laughed in response to some questions, media figures spent weeks debating and mocking her laughter. Fox News led the charge, with Bill O'Reilly even discussing Clinton's laughter with a "body language expert" who deemed it "evil," and Sean Hannity calling the laugh "frightening."
The mainstream press picked up on the attacks on Clinton's laugh, with New York Times political reporter Patrick Healy writing an article with the headline "Laughing Matters in Clinton Campaign," in which he described Clinton's "hearty belly laugh" as "The Cackle," calling it "heavily caffeinated" and suggesting it may have been "programmed."
Then-Politico reporter Ben Smith also described Clinton's laugh as her "signature cackle," while Politico correspondent Mike Allen and editor-in-chief John F. Harris wrote that Clinton's laugh "sounded like it was programmed by computer."
And New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who has a long history of nasty attacks on Clinton, claimed Clinton's laugh was allowing her to look less like a "hellish housewife" and a "nag" and more like a "wag":
As Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, once told me: "She's never going to get out of our faces. ... She's like some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won't stop nagging you about it until finally you say, fine, take it, be the damn president, just leave me alone."
That's why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.
The list goes on: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, then-MSNBC host David Shuster, then-MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, radio host Mike Rosen, Dick Morris, the Drudge Report, The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi, Time magazine's Joe Klein, the New York Times' Frank Rich, CNN's Jeanne Moos, and others all debated or derided Clinton's laughter during Clinton's first run for president.
Politico's Allen said on MSNBC during all of this that "'cackle' is a very sexist term," and disputed MSNBC's Chris Matthews' use of it in reference to Clinton. Other outlets agreed; Jezebel called out Matthews for his "cackle" criticism and other derisive remarks, asking, "can we agree that no matter what your political allegiances, this is not the way you speak of a woman -- whether she is a senator or not?" Rachel Sklar, writing in the Huffington Post, said at the time "I keep finding sexist Hillary Clinton bashing everywhere I turn," noting that criticisms of the candidate's laughter "turn completely on the fact that she's a woman. 'The Cackle?' So would never be applied to a man. We all know it."
Unfortunately, the criticism hasn't stopped in the intervening seven years. The Washington Free Beacon has a "Hillary Laugh Button" permanently on its site. The National Journal published in June 2014, many months prior to Clinton declaring her second bid for president, a "Comprehensive Supercut of Hillary Clinton Laughing Awkwardly With Reporters." And conservative tweet-aggregator Twitchy in August mocked "scary as hell" pens which featured "Clinton's cackling head."
Politico's Democratic presidential debate "Wrongometer" criticized comments from Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential debate by relying on a misleading definition to conclude that the "gun show loophole" -- a decades-old policy term referring to gun sales without a background check that occur at gun shows -- "doesn't actually exist."
Indeed, Politico itself has repeatedly used the term "gun show loophole."
During CNN's October 13 debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the United States has to "do away with this gun show loophole."
Politico purported to fact check this statement, concluding, "Sorry, Bernie: The 'gun show loophole' doesn't exist." According to Politico the "gun show loophole" does not exist because "there's nothing in particular about gun shows that allows otherwise illegal gun sales to occur":
When Bernie Sanders mentioned closing the so-called "gun show" loophole--one of the most widely supported gun-control measures on the left. But there's one problem: the "gun show" loophole doesn't actually exist.
There's nothing in particular about gun shows that allows otherwise illegal gun sales to occur. Sanders instead is referring to an exclusion in the gun laws that does not require a background check in a private sale. It doesn't matter if that sale is at the seller's home or at a gun show, a background check is not legally required.
But the occurrence of "otherwise illegal gun sales" is not the definition of the "gun show loophole." Instead the term has always referred to the sale of firearms without a background check by so-called "private sellers" at gun shows.
The term "gun show loophole" came to widespread use in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. All four guns used in that mass shooting passed through a local gun show in private sales that did not include a background check. (Today the term "private sales loophole" is often used because it encompasses sales without a background check at gun shows, in-person sales outside of gun shows, and sales through other venues such as the Internet.)
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has estimated that between 25 and 50 percent of sales at gun shows are conducted by private sellers without a background check, while the rest are conducted with a background check by licensed gun dealers in possession of a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Under federal law individuals who are "engaged in the business" of selling firearms are required to obtain an FFL and perform checks on customers, while individuals who make "occasional" sales are not. Because these terms are vaguely defined, unscrupulous "private sellers" can exploit the language of the law to operate unlicensed pseudo-businesses.
If the loophole did not exist, several states would not have moved to close it, but that is exactly what has happened. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois and New York all "have laws expressly addressing background checks at gun shows, although broader laws also apply." Other states have more expansive laws requiring background checks for all firearm transfers that encompass private sales at gun shows.
There is good reason to believe that the "gun show loophole" is exploited by individuals who would not be able to pass a background check. A 2011 undercover investigation of seven gun shows in three states by the City of New York found that 19 out of 30 private sellers agreed to a sale where the buyer said he probably couldn't pass a background check. The loophole is also ripe for abuse by narco-terrorists, illegal gun traffickers and other dangerous individuals.
Politico's purported fact check of Sanders' statement is also nonsensical because the outlet itself has used the term "gun show loophole" to refer to private sales at gun shows. A 2013 Politico article used the term the same way Sanders did in the debate:
"The 'private sale' loophole is the gaping hole in our federal gun laws which allows anyone who is not a federally licensed gun dealer to sell a gun without a background check -- no questions asked," said Jonathan E. Lowy, legal action director of The Brady Campaign.
It's also referred to as the gun-show loophole, because it can allow collectors to sell each other guns during gun shows, said John Lott, the former chief economist of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Some states have already passed laws to include running background checks on privatized gun sales, but there's no federal law.
In December 2012, Politico used the term "gun show loophole" in a section header to describe sales without background checks in an article that was billed as "POLITICO's look at the top policy proposals circulating in the wake of the" Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting (emphasis original):
Closing the gun show loophole
Requiring every person-to-person gun sale to be subject to a background check -- long a favorite talking point of the gun control crowd -- is perhaps the easiest for lawmakers to support but the most logistically difficult measure to achieve. The 1993 Brady law requires background checks for guns purchased by licensed dealers, but it does not address private sales.
After the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, Politico again used the term "gun show loophole" to describe private sales at gun shows:
Pennsylvania's experience closely mirrors what happened in Colorado after the 1999 Columbine shootings, in which 12 students and a teacher were killed. Lawmakers failed to close the "gun show loophole" by passing a law requiring background checks at gun shows. Instead, voters petitioned it onto the ballot in 2000, and it passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.
Oregon voters also had to take matters into their own hands after lawmakers failed to close a gun show loophole after a school shooting in 1998. The ballot measure closing the loophole passed with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Rush Limbaugh criticized Politico and other media outlets for reporting on his remarks that NASA's discovery of water of Mars was part of a "left-wing agenda," claiming the remarks were taken out of context. However, when asked by Politico to explain how, a Limbaugh spokesman refused to explain.
On the September 28 edition of his show, Limbaugh, talking about NASA's announcement that day it had discovered liquid water on Mars, claimed NASA had been "corrupted by the current regime" and, referencing global warming, asked, "what's to stop them from making up something that happened on Mars that will help advance their left-wing agenda on this planet?" Limbaugh doubled down on his remarks the next day, claiming Media Matters took his remarks "out of context" and that "Obama has turned NASA over to Muslim outreach."
Politico's Eliza Collins, writing about Limbaugh's criticism of the media reports on his remarks, noted "It's not clear, however, how exactly Limbaugh felt he was being misinterpreted." Collins added a Limbaugh spokesman "declined to elaborate." She also noted "[a] transcript posted on Limbaugh's own website, however, matches Media Matters' version word for word":
Rush Limbaugh took a swipe Tuesday at POLITICO and others who had reported on his recent comments about the discovery of water on Mars -- saying that his remarks about how NASA's findings would be used to "advance a leftist agenda" were being misinterpreted.
"POLITICO has a story: 'Rush Limbaugh Pans Evidence of Water on Mars as Part of Leftist Agenda,' and they take it out of context, too, which is typical," he said on his show Tuesday. "I don't think this guy, Eliza Collins... I doubt that he went to my website to find out what I really said. Just looked at these 'watchdog' websites and took it from there."
On Monday, POLITICO wrote about a lengthy segment of the conservative radio host's show in which he predicted that the Mars discovery would be used to promote liberal views about climate change.
The original story on POLITICO cited a transcript and video of Limbaugh from the left-leaning website Media Matters, a long-time critic of the radio host that has called on advertisers to boycott his program. A transcript posted on Limbaugh's own website, however, matches Media Matters' version word for word.
"This Mars thing is just totally all over the place out there, and every one of these people talking about it, from local TV news, say, in Dallas, or The Politico, are getting it totally out of context from our old buddies at Media Matters for America, which wouldn't know the truth if it knocked them unconscious," Limbaugh said Wednesday.
It's not clear, however, how exactly Limbaugh felt he was being misinterpreted. A spokesman for the radio host declined to elaborate.
Listen to Limbaugh's original remarks here:
An article in Politico uncritically repeated Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's claim that he would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans as president, but also reported that Trump's plan would actually reduce the top marginal income tax rate from 39.6 to 25 percent and lower the corporate income tax rate to 15 percent.
During a September 27 appearance on CBS News' 60 Minutes, Trump claimed that his tax policy would raise taxes on the "very wealthy." This claim apparently inspired Politico to use the headline, "Trump plans to hike taxes on the wealthy" for a September 28 article describing his tax plan that said publicly-available information about Trump's tax plan -- set to be released in full on September 28 -- indicated that the wealthiest Americans would actually receive a tax cut:
Under a President Donald Trump, some Americans will pay no income tax and the corporate income tax will fall to 15 percent, while the Treasury Department will maintain or even increase current revenue.
According to The Wall Street Journal, which obtained more details ahead of the plan's formal release, individuals making less than $25,000 and married couples making less than $50,000 will not have to pay taxes. The current highest income-tax rate--39.6 percent--would drop to 25 percent. Overall, the number of rates would decrease from the current seven to four, at 0, 10, 20 and 25 percent. While 36 percent of American households do not pay income tax currently, that share would jump to 50 percent.
The gulf between Politico's headline and its reporting on the publicly-available details of Trump's tax plan doesn't stand up to even modest scrutiny, and its failure to get the math right was rightly mocked by conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin on Twitter.
Despite what Trump told 60 Minutes, the numbers don't add up. According to a detailed summary of the billionaire businessman's plan in The Wall Street Journal, Trump also says he would reduce the top capital gains rate from 23.8 to 20 percent, and claims his proposed 15 percent corporate income rate is "among the lowest that have been proposed so far" by any candidate from either party. According to The Journal, Trump's tax plan would eliminate or cap some tax deductions that cater to the wealthy but with major reductions in baseline rates it is unclear how limiting deductions would amount to a tax "hike."
UPDATE: Following a September 28 speech in which Trump revealed his full tax reform plan, Politico updated its article with a new headline and additional reporting, including praise of the plan from Americans for Tax Reform, which opposes any increases of marginal tax rates for any individual or business. The new headline still takes Trump at his word that his tax proposals are "going to cost [him] a fortune," despite the underlying article reaffirming Trump's proposed rate reductions for corporations and high income earners. Politico also confirmed Trump's plan to eliminate the estate tax, which the publication referred to as the "death tax." Eliminating the estate tax would be a major tax policy victory for the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).