Conservative media have long alleged that progressives are waging a "war on Christianity" in the United States. Now many of these same media figures are waging their own war on the man who leads the world's largest Christian denomination, the Catholic Church's Pope Francis, for addressing the urgent issue of climate change.
Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change reveals his belief that there is a moral obligation to act swiftly on climate change, which disproportionately harms the world's poor. But conservative media are relentlessly attacking the pope over the encyclical, calling it "insipid" and "blasphemous," and fearmongering that the Catholic leader is a "Marxist" pushing for "a new world order," among other things.
Right-wing media have baselessly speculated for months that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was injured in a physical altercation, and now, a Las Vegas man claims to have invented the false rumor to see whether it might become fodder for the conservative media bubble.
In the months that followed, right-wing media ran wild with speculation that Reid was lying about his injuries -- on the March 27 edition of his radio program, Rush Limbaugh claimed Reid was "behaving like somebody who may have been beaten up." Breitbart.com published an "investigation" into Reid's story, going so far as to obtain "a copyrighted digital image" of the model floor plan of Reid's home is based on, and claiming it had "uncovered facts that appear to discredit Reid's version of the home exercise," such as the distance between his shower door and his bathroom cabinets. John Hinderaker, who runs the conservative Powerline blog, helped spearhead the conjecture. Only four days after Reid's injuries were reported, Hinderaker noted that "[s]ome are speculating that he had a run-in with Las Vegas underworld characters," though admitting there "is zero evidence for that." On March 28, Hinderaker asked: "Was the Senate Majority Leader in the pocket of the Mafia? That seems like a question worth exploring."
With the right-wing rumor mill churning, a Las Vegas man has come forward saying he duped the conservative talking heads with phony rumors about Reid. Lawrence Pfeifer told the Las Vegas Sun on April 26 that he "started a false rumor that the injuries suffered by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid several months ago were the result of an attack by Reid's brother ... after becoming appalled that right-wing political blogger John Hinderaker published a rumor that Reid's injuries stemmed from an assault by a Mafia enforcer." Using the name Easton Elliott in his dealings with Hinderaker, "he pitched his fake story about the Reid brothers' supposed fight to Hinderaker, author of the Power Line blog, to test whether the blogger would publish it."
Pfeifer's false story first appeared in an April 3 Powerline post which relayed the account of Easton Elliott. Hinderaker reported that Elliot had seen Reid's brother, Larry Reid at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on New Year's Eve, bloodied and "visibly intoxicated":
Some time between 10:00 and 11:30 p.m., a man entered the meeting. His appearance was striking: there was blood on his clothing, beginning around his midsection. His left hand was swollen. He appeared to be somewhat intoxicated and was visibly agitated. He introduced himself as "Larry."
In a group discussion that was heard by a number of people, Larry said that he had just had a fight with a family member. Larry said he had been at a family get-together, and he didn't remember much about the fight because he had blacked out. When he came to, he was rolling on the ground, fighting with a family member, and his clothes were bloody. Now, he said, he was frightened that the Secret Service would come after him.
Easton Elliott didn't think much more about Larry until, several weeks later, he saw a newspaper story about Larry Reid, Harry Reid's brother, being arrested for DUI and assaulting a highway patrolman. The story was accompanied by a photograph, and Elliott immediately recognized Larry Reid as the "Larry" who had attended the AA meeting on New Year's Eve.
Pfeifer told the Las Vegas Sun that he had included details that "should have been seen as red flags, including that AA allows intoxicated individuals to attend meetings on New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve."
But the tall tale spread quickly through right-wing media. Limbaugh read parts of the Powerline post on his show, saying "Hinderaker can't vouch for it. Neither can I. But if what he says about the AA meeting is accurate, then the inferences seem reasonable ... So, bottom line, somebody attacked Harry Reid on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day." Glenn Beck talked about Elliott's allegations on his radio show, saying that if the details could be verified, "this one I could believe." World Net Daily reported the allegations in a post titled "Was Harry Reid really pummeled by a relative?," while The Gateway Pundit called Reid's brother "the main suspect in his brutal beating." Hinderaker even pushed the rumor when he guest-hosted The Laura Ingraham Show, saying "any normal person who just looks at the photographs that have been released of his face ... the first thing you would say is, that guy got beaten up."
Hinderaker attempted to explain running with the fake rumor in an April 26 post, saying that he never attempted to verify Pfeifer's rumor about Reid and that his "constant theme has been to call for an investigation of what appear to be obviously suspicious circumstances."
Right-wing media have been mocking a recent resolution to address the disproportionate impacts that women will face from climate change, laughing at the possibility that "climate change will turn women into prostitutes." But the grim reality is that climate change will affect women in ways that should not be laughed at or ignored.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced legislation on March 25 to "recogniz[e] the disparate impact of climate change on women and the efforts of women globally to address climate change." When an identical resolution was introduced in 2013, PolicyMic reported that it would oblige Congress to "acknowledge the disparate effects that climate change will have on women, build gender into a framework for combating climate-related issues, and take steps to reverse this disparity."
Right-wing media coverage of this bill, on the other hand, has been exclusively focused on sex -- by ridiculing the notion that climate change could force women into prostitution.
Conservative news sites published scandalizing headlines such as Breitbart's "Congresswoman Claims Climate Change Will Turn Women Into Prostitutes," WorldNetDaily's "Lefty Lawmaker Warns: Climate Change Makes Women Prostitutes," Powerline's "Will Global Warming Cause Prostitution?" and Daily Caller's "Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): Global Warming Will Turn Women Into Prostitutes For Food." A blog post on the American Spectator wrote that climate change "is going to be great for dudes, who apparently don't have to worry about any negative effects of the transactional sex they engage in as a result of the warming climate." An editorial at Tennessee's Kingsport Times-News quoted the movie Forrest Gump to attack the proposal, writing: "Forrest Gump said that 'stupid is as stupid does.' Witness Rep. Barbara Lee, Democrat of California ... [who says] that global warming will force women into prostitution." Fox News' late night show Red Eye devoted several minutes to mocking the idea that climate change harms women more than men. And Rush Limbaugh asked on the March 27 edition of his show, "which came first, prostitution or climate?"
They are all are referring to a single line in the bill's text: "[F]ood insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health."
The harmful impacts of climate change on women, which Rep. Lee's resolution hopes to address, are no laughing matter. A United Nations analysis detailed how women are often more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than men, particularly in developing countries, and that it is therefore "important to identify gender-sensitive strategies to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change." U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres noted further in a CNN.com op-ed that "women often bear the brunt in places where the impacts of climate change are already being felt":
From the March 31 edition of MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes:
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Taking their cues from the Drudge Report, right-wing media are echoing a London Telegraph columnist's false claim that scientific agencies intentionally adjusted years of weather station data to show a global warming trend that isn't really there, which the author dubbed the "biggest science scandal ever." But far from being a scandal, historical temperature records are routinely subject to peer-reviewed adjustments to account for changes to measuring instruments, the time of day measurements are taken, and other factors -- and they do not negate a global warming trend.
Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson baselessly accused the IRS of knowingly canceling a contract with email archiving company Sonasoft in order to hide emails connected to the alleged targeting of tax exempt organizations. But Sonasoft itself debunked these allegations after it revealed that the IRS never had a contract for its email archiving software.
On the June 27 edition of The Real Story, during a discussion on the IRS' lost emails with Judicial Watch's Tom Fitton, Carlson referenced a story from Power Line blog speculating on the purportedly suspicious timing of the IRS' cancellation of the Sonasoft contract. Carlson alleged that the IRS canceled Sonasoft's contract because "they knew Sonasoft would then delete those emails."
But I want to switch gears just for a minute with regard to this back up system, this Sonasoft company that the IRS cancelled their account with. Because I know that you believe that the timing seems somewhat suspicious, number one. But could there be a deeper meaning as to why that was cancelled at that particular time because, you know, other people are suspecting right now that quite deliberately they cancelled that account because they knew that Sonasoft would then delete those emails.
Carlson didn't offer any concrete evidence to support her claims that the IRS cancelled its contract with Sonasoft to hide IRS emails. In fact, Sonasoft never had access to any IRS emails.
When news broke that William Clark, a longtime aide to Ronald Reagan, had recently passed away, several conservative media outlets quickly posted tributes to the man. Touted as the "most important and influential presidential confidante" in nearly a century, Clark was warmly remembered as a "a great treasure to the nation" and an "inspiration."
By all indications the laurels were well earned and Judge Clark, as he was known, served his country with distinction. What's telling about the warm words written about Clark are how they contrast so sharply with the tone the same type of conservative outlets use to describe current foreign policy and national security advisors who were in any way connected to the terrorist attack in Benghazi last September.
I'm referring to the strangely personal and almost hysterical way pundits have attacked Obama officials, including the president's national security advisor, in the wake of Benghazi, where four Americans were killed, including a U.S. ambassador.
For the right-wing noise machine, Benghazi trumps all. It stands as a singular failure in American foreign policy and represents one of the darkest days in recent U.S. history. It's worse than Watergate, was a bigger story than Hurricane Sandy last October, and symbolizes an unconscionable failure to protect Americans serving abroad.
But here's what's interesting about Clark's recently lauded resume when viewed against the right wing's permanent Benghazi name calling: Clark served as Reagan's national security advisor between 1982 and 1983. On April 18, 1983, Islamic terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Sixty-three people were killed, including 17 Americans, eight of whom worked for the CIA.
Five months later local terrorists struck again. During a lengthy air assault from nearby artillerymen, two Marines stationed at the Beirut airport were killed. Then on October 23, just days after Clark stepped down as national security advisor to become Secretary of the Interior, the Marines' Beirut barracks cratered after a 5-ton truck driven by a suicide bomber and carrying the equivalent of 12,000 pounds of TNT exploded outside; 241 Americans were killed, marking the deadliest single attacks on U.S. citizens overseas since World War II.
Reagan had sent 1,800 Marines to Beirut as part of a larger peacekeeping mission following the June 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the Palestine Liberation Organization's withdrawal from the country. But national security experts, including some members of Reagan's administration, warned that the Marines were vulnerable to attack.
In the aftermath, Col. Timothy J. Geraghty, the commander of the Marines in Beirut, said, "It didn't take a military expert to realize that our troops had been placed in an indefensible situation." Conservative columnist William Safire referred to the Beirut debacle as Reagan's "Bay of Pigs."
Conservatives have casually smeared numerous Obama officials over Benghazi for the last eleven months, yet the embassy attacks surrounding Clark's tenure as Reagan's national security adviser apparently did not blemish his long public career.
Media reporting on the verdict that George Zimmerman is not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin suggested a misleading distinction between the defense attorneys' supposed use of "conventional" self-defense principles and Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law (also known as "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will"), ignoring the fact that the sole justifiable homicide law in Florida incorporates "Stand Your Ground."
As President Obama readies his push for new measures to help curb gun violence, conservative writers, including a USA Today columnist, are calling the unfolding gun debate a "distraction" and a "red herring" designed by the White House to focus attention away from what's really important in America, the national debt.
Dismissing the implications of a steady string of mass shootings, including the Newtown, CT elementary school massacre, gun advocates in the media accuse the president of fabricating the need for action or attention on the issue. He's being an "opportunist" who's "picking a fight" on guns, they insist.
The dismissive claim actually runs counter to a popular right-wing mantra this month that the Obama administration's gun control efforts stand as the precursor to a looming civil war, and that Obama's true tyrannical nature will be revealed.
Either way, portraying 30,000 gun deaths each year in America as a "distraction," and especially portraying the issue of school gun killings as a "red herring," strikes me as tasteless.
Nonetheless, in his USA Today column, conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds suggested Obama is purposefully focusing on guns in order to keep attention off "the country's financial situation." Left unmentioned by Reynolds was the fact that gun violence was thrust to the forefront of Obama's second-term agenda because a madman massacred kids and teachers inside a Connecticut school with a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle. Meaning, Obama's trying to deal with the issue of gun violence in a public way because gunmen keep going on shooting rampages across the country.
On the topic of gun violence in America, Reynolds' column remained silent. He was only interested in blaming Obama for allegedly manufacturing a diversion. (In his December 25 column, Reynolds lodged a similar complaint, insisting, "They'd rather have us talking about gun control" than the national debt.)
Following Reynolds' lead, Powerline blogger John Hinderaker apologized for having recently weighed in on the issue of gun control. Why apologize? Because Hinderaker now realizes gun control, gun violence, and shooting sprees represent a "distraction" from what really matters, the debt.
And writing at Breitbart.com, AWR Hawkins could barely mask his contempt for anyone who thinks guns represent an issue of importance in America today. Accusing the president of trying to "seize on the emotions of those who operate emotionally rather than rationally," the blogger wrote that any effort to curb gun violence in the wake of the Connecticut mass murder was a "red herring" designed to "redirect all emotion" away from what really matters.
I wonder if Newtown families agree.
Fox News is promoting a report from a British tabloid to claim that new data shows "Global Warming [Is] Over." But the agency that released the data explained that the tabloid report is "misleading" because it is based on a short-term period that obscures the long-term upward trend in global temperatures.
The Roberts Court's five Republican-appointed justices invented a new rule that threatens to greatly weaken public employee unions in yesterday's Knox v. SEIU decision. Reaching out to decide an issue that the parties to the case never argued, these justices instead engaged in "radical policy-making" using an argument drawn from a friend of the court brief submitted by the Cato Institute and a coalition of other right-wing organizations. As the cheerleading for the decision by right-wing institutions and blogs makes clear, the decision is much more likely to be the first battle in a new legal war on public employee rights than a mere reworking of technical legal rules.
In the case, the five conservative justices turned precedent on its head to severely limit the ability of public employee unions to spend fees from employees they represent to fight anti-worker political battles. The limits adopted by the conservative justices went beyond what even the parties in the case had requested.
The Knox decision is evidence that the Court's Republican-appointed conservative majority has decided to inject the Court into the national debate on workers' rights, according to both Justice Stephen Breyer, who dissented in the case, and Steven Hayward of the right-wing Powerline blog. Justice Breyer noted that states have taken varied approaches to nonmember rights in union workplaces, and that the political debate on this subject, especially with respect to public employees, is "intense." Now, he observed, the conservative justices have not only entered the debate, but apparently "decide[d] that the Constitution resolves it." Powerline's Hayward agrees, writing that the Knox decision's effect will be "similar to the Scott Walker reforms in Wisconsin that have devastated public employee union political capacity there. Step by step."
Constitutional scholar Garrett Epps calls Knox "the Court's Scott Walker Moment."
Conservative media are twisting comments made by an EPA administrator -- and circulated by Senator Inhofe (R-OK) -- to suggest that the Obama administration is trying to shut down the coal industry. But the official was referring to a rule that applies only to new coal plants, and which industry leaders have said "won't have much of an impact" on business.
In a speech at Yale University in March, Region 1 administrator Curt Spalding discussed the EPA's efforts to implement necessary environmental safeguards with minimal economic consequences. Referring to greenhouse gas performance standards for new power plants, Spalding said:
You can't imagine how tough that was. Because you got to remember, if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities that depend on coal. And to say we just think those communities should just go away, we can't do that. But she had to do what the law and policy suggested. And it's painful. It's painful every step of the way.
The conservative media seized on these comments as proof of the Obama administration's "plan to destroy the coal industry in America."
The Daily Caller -- once again serving as Senator Inhofe's press office -- reported that Inhofe would take to the Senate floor to "highlight a little-known speech by an EPA regional administrator who admitted on video that the Obama administration's air regulations will kill the coal industry. Likewise, Fox Business' Lou Dobbs reported that Spalding was "caught on tape admitting the Obama administration's air regulations will kill the coal industry."
Fox Nation took that one step further, claiming that Spalding revealed that "the whole point of President Obama EPA's air regulations was to kill coal." And the Blaze reported that according to Spalding, the EPA aims to "drive an entire industry into the ground for no apparent reason."
In fact, Spalding said no such thing. And to suggest that the new greenhouse gas rule would "kill" the coal industry is absurd, as it applies only to new power plants. In announcing the rule, the EPA clearly stated that it "only concerns new generating units that will be built in the future, and does not apply to existing units already operating or units that will start construction over the next 12 months."
And since few companies plan to build new coal plants anyway given the low cost of natural gas, The Economist predicts that the new rules "will only formalise a shift that had already been under way, with little immediate economic impact." American Electric Power, one of the largest U.S. utilities, told the National Journal: "We don't have any plans to build new coal plants. So the rules won't have much of an impact." Duke Energy echoed this point, saying that the new rule "means nothing to us."
On May 17, The New York Times reported on a plan presented to Joe Rickett's Ending Spending Action Fund that would highlight controversial remarks made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright and link these remarks to President Obama. Soon after the report received widespread coverage, the Romney campaign rejected the attack on Obama, despite having brought up Rev. Wright himself in Sean Hannity's radio show as recently as February. After having obsessed about Rev. Wright in the 2008 election, the right-wing media reacted to the decision by lamenting the opportunity to reignite the attack.
The New York Times article reported that in a report titled "The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama," a "group of high-profile Republican strategists" proposed a plan that:
[C]alls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.
"The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way," says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade.
The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama's former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as "black liberation theology."
The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an "extremely literate conservative African-American" who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln."
But the right-wing media has not followed Romney as he has attempted to distance himself from the ad campaign.