Conservative media outlets jumped at the chance to revive the long-debunked myth of a "death panel" provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by exploiting the serious investigation into problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration.
The conservative media got their candidate with the election of former Bush administration official Ben Sasse in Nebraska's Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Sasse was endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mark Levin, and Erick Erickson, and has been prominently featured on Fox News and in National Review.
Sasse's win capped a bruising primary between him and fellow Republicans Shane Osborn and Sid Dinsdale. Politico noted there was "back-and-forth mudslinging" over conservative credentials even though there "are no clear ideological differences between the candidates, and the 'establishment' and 'tea party' labels associated with the candidates are fuzzy."
Allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a coalition of Nebraska activists supported Osburn, while outside national groups such as FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express, Family Research Council, and Senate Conservatives Fund backed Sasse.
Some of Sasse's biggest boosters were in the conservative media. National Review featured the Nebraskan on the cover of its January 27 issue, calling him a "health-care expert" and "rising conservative star." The Sasse campaign frequently touted the cover on the campaign, and promoted it in a campaign ad:
From the April 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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On April 25 the National Rifle Association kicks off its three-day annual meeting, hosted this year at the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, which will feature far-right conservative media figures known for extreme rhetoric.
Tourism officials expect more than 70,000 attendees at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium for the meeting, and attendees will be able to peruse more than 400,000 square feet of exhibition space to enjoy "over 600 of the most spectacular displays of firearms, shooting and hunting accessories in the world!" As in years past, the NRA expects that roughly 80 percent of attendees will be men.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America -- part of the newly launched 1.5 million member Everytown for Gun Safety organization -- is planning on bringing 100 mothers and 20 gun violence survivors to Indianapolis in order to urge NRA leadership to support requiring background checks on gun sales.
Attendees can also view a number of presentations, the most prominent of which include the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, the Annual Meeting of Members, and the Stand and Fight Rally. The NRA-ILA forum will feature several prominent GOP officials including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Far-right conservative figures are a mainstay of these annual meeting events. During last year's Stand and Fight Rally, keynote speaker Glenn Beck depicted then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, in a Nazi salute, leading to condemnation from Jewish groups. Other presentations at the 2013 meeting reaffirmed the NRA's hardline stance following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including the claim of new NRA president Jim Porter that President Obama would seek "revenge" against gun owners.
In addition to the NRA's own bombastic CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, this year's meeting will feature Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, radio host Mark Levin, religious hardliner Franklin Graham, and others known for their extreme right-wing rhetoric:
Mark Levin is a conservative commentator best known as the host of The Mark Levin Show, which is a nationally syndicated radio program by Cumulus Media Networks. Levin delivered a video message at the 2013 annual meeting in which he claimed that the Second Amendment protected a "well-armed militia" in case "the federal government got out of control." (The Second Amendment actually calls for a "well regulated militia.") Levin is known for his inflammatory commentary, including the recent claim that the "key" to a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 would be "her genitalia." He has also accused Obama of abusing children, compared marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, compared supporters of the Affordable Care Act to Nazi "brown shirts," and advocated for Obama to be impeached.
In the five years since President Obama's health care reform plan -- which became the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- was first introduced, the right-wing media has waged a continuous campaign to attack the law through misinformation, deception, and outright lies.
Referring to gay people as "homosexual" is a practice that's quickly falling out of favor with major news outlets due the term's often pejorative connotation and frequent use by opponents of LGBT equality. But Fox News has yet to update its language when referring to gay and lesbian people.
On March 23, The New York Times published a piece exploring the often derogatory connotation of the term "homosexual." Writing for the Sunday Styles section, the Times' Jeremy Peters noted that experts increasingly view "homosexual" as an offensive and stigmatizing term, even if many people still see the term as relatively "innocuous" (emphasis added):
To most ears, it probably sounds inoffensive. A little outdated and clinical, perhaps, but innocuous enough: homosexual.
But that five-syllable word has never been more loaded, more deliberately used and, to the ears of many gays and lesbians, more pejorative.
" 'Homosexual' has the ring of 'colored' now, in the way your grandmother might have used that term, except that it hasn't been recuperated in the same way," said George Chauncey, a Yale professor of history and an author who studies gay and lesbian culture.
Consider the following phrases: homosexual community, homosexual activist, homosexual marriage. Substitute the word "gay" in any of those cases, and the terms suddenly become far less loaded, so that the ring of disapproval and judgment evaporates.
Some gay rights advocates have declared the term off limits. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or Glaad, has put "homosexual" on its list of offensive terms and in 2006 persuaded The Associated Press, whose stylebook is the widely used by many news organizations, to restrict use of the word.
George P. Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, has looked at the way the term is used by those who try to portray gays and lesbians as deviant. What is most telling about substituting it for gay or lesbian are the images that homosexual tends to activate in the brain, he said.
"Gay doesn't use the word sex," he said. "Lesbian doesn't use the word sex. Homosexual does."
Peters highlighted use of the term by anti-gay figures like Rush Limbaugh, whose comments on the "homosexual" NFL prospect Michael Sam and the efforts of the "homosexual lobby" to defeat Arizona's anti-gay discrimination bill smack of contempt.
Use of the term is also pervasive at Fox News - and not just from the likes of the network's hate group mouthpiece Todd Starnes, who recently warned that "Christians are trading places with homosexuals" in the military. Just as the network insists on misgendering transgender subjects, Fox also has no qualms about regularly referring to gay men and lesbians by a term many of them shun.
Fox employees from Megyn Kelly to Sarah Palin continue to use the word "homosexual" to describe gays and lesbians. Fox Supreme Court reporter and pro-discrimination champion Shannon Bream teased a forthcoming segment on "homosexual adoption":
Fox's "Medical A-Team" member and anti-LGBT pop psychologist Keith Ablow uses the term "homosexual sex" while criticizing pro-gay advertisements.
And Fox's Bill O'Reilly was recently mocked for a segment in which he attacked the Girl Scouts for "leaning left," seizing in particular on the organization's employment of a spokesman who participated "in a punk rock band with homosexual overtones":
Fox News treated itself to a victory lap after several Senate Democrats joined with the Republican conference and blocked the nomination of civil rights litigator Debo Adegbile, President Obama's highly-qualified pick to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
On March 5, the Senate procedural vote that would have allowed a confirmation vote on Adegbile's nomination failed, after right-wing media spent months lying about his background with racially charged attacks, even publishing an offensive caricature of Adegbile that was condemned by the nation's leading civil rights groups for invoking "the racist iconography of late 19th century America designed to dehumanize and stereotype African Americans." Outlets like Fox News continued to distort Adegbile's record in the run-up to the vote despite these denouncements, and despite the fact that Adegbile is a mainstream nominee who is regarded as one of the preeminent civil rights experts of his generation by a wide spectrum of authorities, including law enforcement executives and the American Bar Association.
After the vote, Fox host Bret Baier was quick to suggest that Senate Democrats who voted in favor of Adegbile could pay a penalty in the upcoming midterm elections. Baier went on to spread further misinformation about the nominee, falsely insinuating that he was part of an effort to overturn a murderer's conviction:
Fox News is using the crisis in Ukraine to push for the Keystone XL pipeline, an argument that an energy expert called "patently absurd."
In response to Russia's occupation of Ukrainian territory in the Crimean peninsula, Fox News personalities have been pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline to be built on an accelerated timetable, claiming that it would "weaken" Russia. But their argument has no basis in reality, as the pipeline could not realistically be built in a timetable sufficient to respond to the imminent crisis, and the tar sands oil it would deliver would not dent the global market enough to impact Russia. Energy analyst Chris Nelder explained in an email to Media Matters:
Keystone XL proponents will seize on any shred of justification for the project, no matter how tenuous. The suggestion that a very long-term project like Keystone XL, which will take a year or more to construct on any timetable, and which will deliver refined products like gasoline and diesel to a global market -- not just markets around Russia -- would somehow address the immediate situation in Crimea, is patently absurd. Further, delivering 830,000 barrels per day once it reaches full capacity will not meaningfully undercut Russia specifically in a global market that consumes 92 million barrels per day.
Yet at least six Fox News hosts and contributors have used the crisis in Crimea to push a pro-tar sands agenda:
O'Reilly: Build Keystone Pipeline To Weaken Russia. Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said that "the Keystone pipeline must be approved. Why? Because Russia is blackmailing Europe over energy ... the more oil and natural gas the U.S.A. and Canada can produce and distribute, the weaker Russia becomes on the world stage. I fervently hope President Obama understands that."
KT McFarland: Obama Should Tell Putin: "I Will Allow Keystone Pipeline To Go Ahead": In an opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Fox News foreign policy contributor KT McFarland wrote a mock conversation on what she hopes Obama told Putin during their March 1 phone call:
I will allow the Keystone Pipeline to go ahead, again on an accelerated basis. That will not only give a boost to the American and Canadian economies, it will start driving down the price of oil.
McFarland made a similar argument on-air when she suggested "go[ing] after the economic weapon: Build the Keystone pipeline."
As Russian president Vladimir Putin flexes his military muscles by invading Ukraine in violation of multiple international treaties, right-wing pundits are fawning over the "macho" leader's strength while complaining that President Obama wears "mom jeans" and is weak on foreign policy.
In the wake of Russia's apparent invasion of the Crimean Peninsula -- an area within the sovereign territory of Ukraine -- right-wing media have renewed their crush on the Russian leader, praising his strength and equestrian skills after TIME's Michael Crowley tweeted a photo of Obama on a bicycle and Putin on a horse, saying the juxtaposition "does kind of capture the moment."
Fox Nation made the photo its "Pic of the Day" and published a "highlight reel of Putin doing macho things" like "performing karate," riding a horse and a motorcycle (though disappointingly not at the same time), and tranquilizing a tiger.
Fox host Bill O'Reilly discussed the photo on his primetime show March 3rd, saying the photo depicted the "contrasting styles" of Putin and Obama. "Putin sees himself as a macho man who's going to do pretty much what he wants," O'Reilly said. "The president sees himself as a renaissance man who wants to accommodate."
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity, contributor Sarah Palin questioned the "potency" of President Obama saying, "People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates."
Other Fox pundits have followed the same theme. Foreign policy expert KT McFarland tweeted, "Putin seizes countries, Obama threatens maybe to kick Russia out of the G-8 club. Bet Putin's sorry now! Winners write history, not whiners". Frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani lavished Putin with praise, saying that in contrast with Obama, Putin is "what you call a leader."
Of course, no one praising Putin's leadership mentions his penchant for repressing dissent and stymieing the freedoms of his people. But at least he can fend off a wild animal without his shirt on.
Fox News commentators have been rushing in to blame President Obama for the Russian military's excursion into Ukraine. It's because of Obama's "weakness" that Vladamir Putin has seized the military initiative, announced Sarah Palin.
The crisis proves Obama's guilty of misunderstanding the Russians and not being "interested in American national security affairs," according to John Bolton. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Fox viewers Obama "left a vacuum that Putin is filling," and Steve Doocy complained the president hasn't done "much" to solve the situation.
Also, Obama needs to get a "backbone" and he's "lost moral authority." All this while Fox has marveled over Putin's prowess as a true "leader," and swooned his supposed physical superiority over Obama.
Please note that in August 2008, during President Bush's final months in office, a strikingly similar scenario played out when Russian forces invaded the former Soviet state of Georgia. At the time, the Bush White House sounded an awful lot like today's Obama White House. From Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino, now a Fox host:
"The United States supports Georgia's territorial integrity. We call for an immediate ceasefire. We urge all parties Georgians, south Ossetians, Russians to deescalate the tensions and to avoid conflict. We are work on mediation efforts and to secure a ceasefire, and we are urging the parties to restart their dialogue."
Yet unlike today, the Putin-led excursion in 2008 completely failed to spark the panicked rhetoric that's become Fox News' trademark since Russian troops crossed over into Ukraine last week. Notably absent from the 2008 Georgia coverage was relentless finger pointing and blaming the White House for the extreme actions of a foreign leader thousands of miles away. There was also none of the Putin cheerleading that we hear on Fox News today.
In fact, some of the Fox commentators currently stoking the flames of "crisis" were rather non-judgmental when Russian tanks moved into Georgia. "I don't think the Russians are reckless," Charles Krauthammer announced on August 8, 2008, as Russian fleets advanced into the Black Sea and Russian jets launched raids targeting government buildings in Georgia. "What they are doing here is reasserting control of this province. And when it's done, which will probably happen in a couple days, the firing will crease."
Three days later, Krauthammer insisted there was nothing for the United States to do as the crisis escalated: "Well, obviously it's beyond our control. The Russians are advancing. There is nothing that will stop them. We are not going to go to war over Georgia." Krauthammer's Fox colleague Jeff Birnbaum, agreed: "Because Georgia is not part of NATO, there's really no danger the United States or Europe will get in involved in what is really a civil war almost between--within this small part of Georgia."
Fox News' message to America then? Just relax. There's nothing the U.S. can do about Russia invading its sovereign neighbor and it will all be over soon.
Nine Fox News hosts and contributors are headlining 2014 fundraisers for Republican organizations across the country. The network employees are participating in Lincoln Day Dinners, annual fundraisers usually held near the beginning of the year that provide significant support for local party groups.
The Fox fundraisers include hosts Mike Huckabee, Oliver North, and Andrea Tantaros; and contributors John Bolton, Deneen Borelli, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and Allen West.
The Republican events can bring in big money for local Republicans. A Huckabee event in 2011 "grossed over $100,000" for Texas' Harris County GOP, while Ben Carson and Laura Ingraham have spoken at Palm Beach GOP's (FL) Lincoln Day events, which reportedly "typically takes in around $100,000" each year. Event tickets often reach into the $100s, and can increase with private reception opportunities, photos, and book signings. The events also often sell sponsorships ranging in the thousands.
Lincoln Dinners can also mean big money for the speakers. In prior years, Oregon's Lane County Republican Party paid Tucker Carlson $23,500 to keynote its 2011 dinner and John Bolton $28,330 to keynote its 2012 dinner, according to Oregon Secretary of State data and confirmed by Media Matters with a party official. Laura Ingraham was paid $12,500 for speaking in Palm Beach in 2013, according to local records. Then-Fox contributor Dick Morris received $10,000 to speak at a 2012 Lake County (FL) dinner. (Data for 2014 events isn't currently available through local campaign finance records, and even accessing older records can be difficult since some local governments do a poor job putting data online.)
The Lincoln Day speeches aren't much different from what's heard on Fox. In Sarasota, FL, Allen West reportedly "said that Democrats have repeatedly failed the black community." In Naples, FL, John Bolton took to "[c]alling the Obama administration's foreign policy weak, ineffective or nonexistent." In Sangamon County, IL, Ben Carson suggested the country has gone "from a free society to a communist or socialist society" because of the Affordable Care Act.
Dinner promotions have touted the speakers' affiliation with Fox News -- a regular practice with Republican events. The chair of the Sangamon County GOP told a local newspaper that they picked Carson because, "He's a conservative and (is) currently visible on TV, which makes him a celebrity draw."
Media Matters previously documented how over 30 Fox News hosts and contributors campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
The following is a list of nine Fox Newsers, and the Republican Party apparatuses they're helping so far in 2014:
The Veterans Day edition of Fox News' Hannity spent twice as much time discussing the so-called "War On Christmas" than the actual wars whose veterans we honor on that holiday.
On the November 11 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity hosted Sarah Palin to discuss her newly released book about the "War On Christmas." While Hannity wrung his hands about the latest "unbridled and seemingly unprecedented" attacks on Christmas, Palin opined that "angry atheists" armed with attorneys "want to tell us, they want to tell patriots, they want to tell traditional Americans, that no longer can you acknowledge that Jesus is the reason for the season."
The "War On Christmas" segment lasted only two minutes, but that was twice the amount of airtime Hannity devoted to covering Veterans Day. Only a brief "Veterans Day edition of our video of the day" segment at the end of Hannity's show made any mention of the nation's veterans and the conflicts they braved as part of their service.
Fox News hosts often cover the "War On Christmas" more extensively than they do real wars. During the last holiday season, Fox's Bill O'Reilly dedicated nearly an hour to segments defending Christmas from its alleged assailants, while spending a mere fifteen minutes covering military conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Gaza.
The latest strange and ugly conspiracy theory to make its way from Alex Jones' Infowars.com to Fox News contended that the pregnant, diabetic woman who nearly fainted during a White House Rose Garden speech was faking her poor health at the behest of President Obama in order to improve his image.
On October 21, Obama took to the Rose Garden to address the status of a glitch-ridden HealthCare.gov. During the speech, a woman standing behind the president, Karmel Allison, nearly fainted. The president and others turned to help Allison, who was later revealed to be a Type 1 diabetic and pregnant -- conditions that may have contributed to her unsteadiness.
Shortly thereafter, Alex Jones and his website Infowars.com pounced on the incident, baselessly claiming that Allison faked her fainting spell. Not only that, the website claimed that Allison is just the latest in a long line of Obama's fake fainters. In an article titled, "Was Fainting Woman at Obamacare Speech Staged?," Infowars.com reporter Steve Watson wrote that the "President has used the fainting woman spiel many times before to play crowds":
[T]his is not the first time this has happened... or the second time... or the third time... or the fourth time... It happens ALL THE TIME. He pretty much has a prepared speech that he repeats.
Commentators have previously claimed that this could also be part an effort to appear like a kind of quasi-religious or Messianic figure.
At the very least, if these incidents are not staged, they serve to highlight how Obama routinely seizes on them to uphold his public image as a "great guy".
Other fringe outlets amplified the conspiracy theory. The following day, Lady-Patriots.com published a piece by founder Dr. Sharon Scheutz, in which Scheutz claimed the fainting was "phony":
I couldn't believe how phony it was. As soon as I watched it I went to youtube to check it out from different directions. It was just as fake from any of them.
For some strange reason, Obama has to have props around him when he does one of his con-jobs in the Rose Garden, or wherever he chooses to receive his worshipers. This was no different, except that he had animated props this time. Although it was well staged there were enough holes in this little scene to drive the proverbial truck through.
Scheutz, it should be noted, is not a credible source of information. In addition to being a fainting truther, Scheutz has compared the Obama administration to Nazi Germany and just weeks ago wrote that the president was a Muslim:
If America survives Barack Obama's presidency and if history tells the truth, one word used to describe him will be LIAR. Yes, he's a Muslim. Yes, he's a Socialist/Communist. Yes, he's even a moron, and he's evil. But everything associated with him since he has been in office can best be described by one word: LIAR.
From the October 17 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
Over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the architect of the Republican effort to shut down the federal government, spoke at a Washington, D.C. rally, hosted by activists who were angry that the nation's memorials had been closed as part of the government shutdown. Sarah Palin also addressed the crowd.
Soon after Cruz spoke, and after Palin handed out small American flags, organizers turned to Freedom Watch founder Larry Klayman. Best known in recent years for his evangelical pursuit of birtherism and all half-baked conspiracies related to the debunked claim that Barack Obama wasn't born in America and that he's an undercover Muslim, Klayman told cheering activists in Washington that the president "bows down to Allah." He announced that Obama's "not the president of 'we the people, he's a president of his people," and that Obama needed to "put the Quran down."
The Obama's-a-foreigner ugliness fermented by Klayman was soon showcased after shutdown protesters marched to the White House where, according to the conservative Washington Times, the crowd numbered "about 200," including curious onlookers. Outside the White House gates, one conservative protester waved a Confederate flag, and when local police arrived to secure the area they were greeted with calls of "brown shirts," while one demonstrator commented the scene "looks like something out of Kenya."
Note also that the recently failed right-wing truck rally in D.C. was organized by a proud online birther, and that attendees to the far-right Value Voters Summit in Washington over the weekend were invited to hear addresses by birther exhibitionists Joseph Farah and Jerome Corsi.
If anyone's surprised that a proud and unapologetic birther (in 2013!) was front-and-center at a right-wing anti-Obama rally this week, or that the birther charade plays a central role in government shutdown activism, then they haven't being paying close enough attention to the conservative movement in America.
And that includes most members of the Beltway press corps.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow recently addressed the birther issue and stressed the importance of it in terms of understanding today's radical Republicans in the House:
MADDOW: They have a different sense of what is normal. They have a different sense of what counts as reasonable politics in America -- and failing to appreciate that, means that we fail to develop reasonably accurate expectations for their behavior. And that has become really important.
That failure to appreciate helps explain why the shutdown to defund a three-year-old health care law remains so perplexing to most outside observers. Viewed through the prism of traditional partisan politics, it doesn't make any sense. It's a shutdown about nothing. It's a shutdown devoid of content or purpose. (Defunding was never a realistic outcome.) It's certainly a shutdown that was executed without any clear goals by Republicans, or anything that even resembled an endgame strategy.