This year saw clean energy technologies become cost-competitive with fossil fuels and gain prominence worldwide. The fossil fuel industry, desperate to stymie clean energy's continuing expansion, enlisted conservative media to do their bidding and attack clean technologies in every shape and form. From stoking fears about public transit being a form of "government control," to providing one-sided stories falsely predicting clean energy's downfall, here are the media's six most absurd attacks on clean energy this year.
1. 60 Minutes Produces "Poor Piece Of Journalism" To Attack Clean Energy
In January, CBS' 60 Minutes aired a report titled, "The Cleantech Crash," which attempted to label clean energy a "dirty word." The report was widely criticized by reporters, government officials, and clean energy advocates alike for offering a one-sided look at renewable energy and narrowly focusing on a few failures while ignoring the majority of clean energy's success. Two of the guests interviewed in the report later criticized it for selectively airing their comments to provide an overly negative portrait of the industy and for "fail[ing] to do the most elementary fact checking and source qualification."
Further, the report made no mention of climate change, which as energy reporter Dana Hull pointed out is "the whole point of cleantech, after all: using the promise of technology and innovation to try to wean our economy off of fossil fuels."
Conservative media haven't had the best luck in recent years when choosing which fringe protests or figures to elevate into the national conversation, often mistakenly tying themselves to extremism and bizarre conspiracy theories. In 2013, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Drudge, and other conservatives helped promote a rally of truckers planning to clog the Beltway to protest the government. The protest -- which eventually fizzled -- turned out to have been organized in part by someone who thinks President Obama and Osama bin Laden are literally the same person.
This year, conservatives threw their weight behind a Nevada rancher fighting against the federal government over grazing fees, only to be burned when he was videotaped giving his thoughts on "the Negro." 2014 also featured an unhinged conspiracy about President Obama trying (and apparently failing) to spark a domestic Ebola outbreak and a staggering amount of outlandish comments from Fox News contributor Allen West.
Media Matters looks back at the year on the fringe.
The politicization surrounding the killing of two New York Police Department officers over the weekend was amazingly swift. Fox News led the right-wing media charge, immediately claiming Democratic elected officials were somehow responsible for the gun rampage, which began in Baltimore when Ismaaiyl Brinsley allegedly shot his ex-girlfriend, and extended to Brooklyn when the mentally troubled shooter assassinated two police officers, before killing himself on a city subway platform.
On Fox, hosts and guests were sure who was to blame for the tragedy; not the gunman necessarily, but political and community leaders like President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Mayor Bill de Blasio and MSNBC's Al Sharpton. Why? Because the men, to varying degrees, have spoken out about the troubled relationship between law enforcement and the black community, and raised concerns about two recent high-profile cases, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, in which unarmed black men were killed, and police officers responsible were not indicted.
Against that backdrop of civil protest, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik told Fox News, "I personally feel that Mayor de Blasio, Sharpton and others like them, they actually have blood on their hands."
"Let's talk about the president as well," responded Fox's Jeanine Pirro, suggesting Obama and Mayor de Blasio were to blame. "The two of them have undoubtedly created racial tensions that worsens, not betters the situation for law enforcement."
Appearing on Fox News, former New York City Mayor Rudolf Giuliani insisted the message from recent Obama "propaganda" was that "everybody should hate the cops." (No such Obama "propaganda" actually exists.)
The coverage of the Brooklyn killings on Fox News has leaned heavily on assigning a larger cultural and political blame. Yet in stark contrast, as Media Matters has documented, Fox News has routinely paid very little attention to breaking news stories that feature right-wing, or anti-government, gunmen who target law enforcement officials as a way to deliver their warped political messages.
And critically, when they have touched on those deadly attacks, Fox talkers have stressed that it's not fair to blame politics. Note that in 2013, after racist skinhead Michael Page started killing worshipers at an Oak Creek, WI., Sikh temple, and then murdered a police officer, Fox's Andrea Tantaros stressed that the killing spree was an isolated event that didn't have any larger implications. "How do you stop a lunatic?" she asked. "This is not a political issue."
At Fox, that has been the pattern: These kind of deadly right-wing attacks are treated as isolated incidents that are mostly void of politics. Instead, the perpetrators are portrayed as lone gunmen (and women) who do not represent any cultural or political movement.
Radio host and Fox News personality Sean Hannity applauded and seemingly claimed credit for a federal judge's district court ruling in Pennsylvania that found President Obama's executive action deferring deportation for millions of undocumented family members of U.S. citizens or lawfully permanent residents to be unconstitutional.
The Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy blog reported that Judge Arthur Schwab, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, "declared aspects of President Obama's executive actions on immigration policy unconstitutional," in a first of its kind opinion that is already being criticized for reaching beyond its scope to decide a constitutional question not before it.
Upon hearing Schwab's opinion, Sean Hannity wasted no time claiming partial credit for the decision. On the December 16 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, he said of the ruling, "I gotta tell you something, it almost could've been written by me, because he makes the very arguments that I had been making the entire time."
Hannity's guest, Jamie Dupree, agreed that the ruling "echoes a lot of the arguments that Republicans have been making about these actions over the last few weeks."
In fact, the Republican arguments, promoted incessantly by figures like Rush Limbaugh and Hannity, have been rejected as baseless by most legal experts across the political spectrum and President Obama's recent actions have ample precedent in the past executive actions of former presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
From the December 16 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the December 12 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Fox News hosts rushed to minimize the severity of interrogation methods used by the CIA during the Bush administration in the wake of a Senate report outlining the agency's brutal techniques. Here are some of the network's worst attempts to trivialize torture.
Republican lawmakers reportedly plan to demand the suspension of first lady Michelle Obama's school lunch program in order to avoid a government shutdown, an ultimatum that follows follows a sustained conservative media campaign against her anti-obesity efforts.
According to The New York Times, congressional Republicans plan "to scale back Michelle Obama's school-lunch nutrition mandates and curtail some clean water regulations in a $1 trillion spending bill that would avert" a government shutdown on December 11. Republicans have staked their ground against a program the Times describes as an attempt to "improve school nutrition by reducing the sodium content and increasing the percentage of whole grains in school lunches."
While Pew polling has found that a majority of Americans agree that "the government should play a significant role in reducing obesity among children," Michelle Obama's efforts to combat childhood obesity have been met with consistent opposition from conservatives, including right-wing media. Here are some of the worst attacks on the first lady's school nutrition initiative:
Healthy School Lunches Are Government Fiat
Michelle Obama Is Too Fat To Lead Nutrition Efforts
Nutrition Standards Caused "Plate Waste" And Hunger
Michelle Obama's Efforts Lead To Higher Pedestrian Deaths
Conservative media celebrated the effectiveness of torture in response to news that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee would release its report on the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) detention and interrogation program, attacking the Senate for releasing the report and disputing the report's findings. Military and interrogation experts have emphasized that torture is an ineffective interrogation technique, and human rights groups support the release of the report.
From the December 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the December 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Conservative media parroted Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) claim that cigarette taxes were partly to blame in the choking death of Eric Garner by a New York City police officer following a grand jury decision not to indict the officer accused in the incident. Mainstream media outlets criticized the "fanciful" assertion, explaining Garner died due to excessive police force.
Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity recently attacked MIT economist Jonathan Gruber for referring to the "stupidity of the American voter," but both have repeatedly derided "low information voters," who they blamed for electing President Obama.
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) will be the next chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Right-wing media figures like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have championed the conservative legislator, calling him one of the "good Republicans," a leader on Benghazi, and someone who will be a "great Oversight chair."
Conservative media figures have often displayed indifference to the fortunes of the 11 million undocumented immigrants estimated to be present in the United States, claiming, for instance, that they should all be sent back to their countries or that they simply "can't be here." This attitude contrasts sharply with the empathic vision of a prominent conservative icon -- President Reagan: