A Daily Caller article cites an increase in the populations of two penguin species to dismiss "global warming scares" that climate change poses a dangerous threat to these animals. But the population "increases" are partially due to better census data, while penguins globally are declining and remain extremely vulnerable to global warming.
Two species of penguins appear to be increasing in population, according to recent census data: the Adélie Penguin and the Emperor Penguin (for reference, those are the two species featured in the animated movie Happy Feet). The Daily Caller's Michael Bastasch trumpeted these findings as a victory against "global warming alarmists, like Al Gore," who have "claimed that penguin populations are in deep trouble due to global warming." Bastasch asserted: "The global population of penguins has boomed."
Not quite. One reason for the observed population increase in Adélie and Emperor Penguins is that scientists are simply better at finding them. The scientists found that a much larger portion of the Adélie population lives in East Antarctica than previously thought, discovering 17 previously unknown colonies. This is enough to offset the decline of Adélie Penguins on the West Antarctic Peninsula, where an ice sheet is melting in warm ocean waters at a rate that in May scientists described as "unstoppable." Heather Lynch, assistant professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook University and the lead author of the study, explained in an email to Media Matters that "while the increase in abundance is real," more accurate census data played a role.
And while one species of penguin might be increasing, several others are decreasing. Lynch noted that "many" penguin species have been declining, "particularly temperate species," as well as chinstrap penguins which are "declining across most if not all of their range."
Stephanie Jenouvrier, a seabird ecologist with the Woods Hole Institute, stated to Media Matters that several penguin species are listed as endangered; at least eight as of 2011. Jenouvrier added that their work shows that Emperor Penguins -- one of the species Bastasch cited as growing in size -- should also be listed as endangered, but that "large uncertainties have so far hampered the listing," including the fact that it is "difficult to obtain [a] reliable estimate of [the] global population." Research has shown how Emperor penguins are extremely vulnerable to global warming.
Ron Naveen, a scientist who has been leading the Antarctic Site Inventory project for 20 years, stated in an email to Media Matters that Bastasch's allegation that penguin populations are "booming" is "way off base":
To suggest that Adélies are booming isn't the story, nor is it accurate. To suggest that ALL penguins globally are booming is also, way off base. The only way to know, really know, that would be to compare sat[ellite] phot[o] analyses from decades previous -- and, of course, that's not possible. The technology didn't exist back then.
The real story is that we humans now have much better tools to detect and assess change.
Scientists have been warning for years that global warming poses a critical threat for many species of penguin. Warming ocean waters and reduced sea ice cover are responsible for a major decline in the krill population, the penguins' primary food source, and sea ice loss threatens their nesting grounds. And many species are already suffering from a changed climate, with nearly 50 percent of chick deaths in the largest colony of Magellanic penguins directly attributed to global warming in one year.
Lynch stated that media "are cherry picking" her findings "for and against a climate-change story here." This is becoming the norm at the Daily Caller, which has a history of bastardizing science to dismiss the threat of climate change.
The Daily Caller may have been duped by the Cuban government when they published a series of stories accusing Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) of allegedly patronizing prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, according to new allegations. The Daily Caller previously came under fire for not sufficiently scrutinizing the story before running with it on their front page.
The Washington Post reported on July 7 that Menendez's lawyer sent a letter to the Justice Department asserting that Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence pushed the false claims in an unsuccessful effort to derail Menendez's reelection campaign. The senator is "one of Washington's most ardent critics of the Castro regime," according to the Post.
A former U.S. official also told the Post that the CIA has "obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims." According to the intelligence information, the Cuban agents helped create a fake tipster named "Pete Williams," who told FBI agents and others that Menendez had solicited prostitutes while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. The Post noted, however, that there "was no indication that the information gathered by U.S. intelligence officials alleging Cuba's role in the Menendez case had been fully investigated or proved."
The charges against Menendez were first touted by The Daily Caller in November 2012, which relied on the testimony of two alleged Dominican prostitutes who claimed Menendez had paid them. Matt Boyle, the reporter behind the first Daily Caller story, now writes for Breitbart News.
Fox News aggressively hyped the uncorroborated allegations during at least 22 segments in the following months, according to a search of the Nexis database.
The story began to disintegrate, however, when the Post reported that one of the women had recanted her story and claimed in an affidavit that she was paid to lie about the senator. The FBI has also reportedly found no evidence backing up the tipster's claims, or even linking his emails "back to a real person."
Right-wing media have launched a campaign of mockery, victim-blaming, and denial to dismiss the sexual assault epidemic, particularly on college campuses, and the Obama administration's efforts to curtail the growing problem.
A misleading Associated Press (AP) headline sparked a storm of right-wing media accusations that former IRS official Lois Lerner targeted Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for audit, though records only show that Lerner asked an expert a legal question about an event invitation sent to Grassley and the subject of her inquiry was unclear.
Right-wing media jumped to parrot a June 25 AP headline that claimed newly released emails show "IRS Official Sought Audit of GOP Senator." The Drudge Report linked to the AP story with the claim "IRS Lerner Targeted GOP Senator," the Daily Caller argued that newly discovered emails from Lerner show "the former IRS Exempt Organizations director's attempt to audit GOP Sen. Chuck," and The Washington Times claimed that Lerner "tried to get her agency to conduct an audit" of Grassley. On the June 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Steve Doocy said Lerner decided "I've got to target that guy, even though she didn't have any of the facts."
But as the actual AP article pointed out, the email exchange between Lerner and Giuliano does not support the claims forwarded in its own headline and by right-wing media. Lerner initially asked if an event organizer's offer to pay for Grassley's wife to attend an event warranted examination. Lerner mentioned the possibility that the offer was inappropriate but did not specify whether she was suggesting that Grassley should be examined:
Is this the one where we got the copy to Grassley? Did he get one to me? Looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to Exam?
Giuliano was similarly focused on the event host. He noted that that the invitation from the group was not enough to warrant sending the issue to the IRS Exam Department, because Grassley had not yet accepted the invitation, and said the issue would only warrant further investigation if Grassley later failed to report the offer as income. In her response, Lerner didn't indicate interest in pursuing the issue further.
MSNBC's Steve Benen summarized the exchange:
Behold, yesterday's blockbuster that set the right's hair on fire. Lerner questioned whether a group had done something wrong, talked to a colleague, and then dropped the whole thing.
Right-wing media are using House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) loss to tea party challenger and anti-immigration advocate Dave Brat in a Republican primary to argue that the outcome was a referendum on immigration reform. In fact, a majority of American voters -- including Republicans in Cantor and Brat's Virginia district -- support immigration reform.
Right-wing media greeted news of the release of the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan with claims that his freedom was timed to distract from the controversy plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The Environmental Protection Agency's forthcoming regulations on greenhouse gas emissions will provide legally required protection for the health and welfare of Americans at a cheap cost, while allowing states flexibility -- contrary to media fearmongering about the landmark standards.
Right-wing media falsely claimed that newly released documents from Judicial Watch showed that Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) pressured the IRS to target conservative groups for additional scrutiny. Levin's letters simply show that he asked the IRS to hold both Democratic and Republican groups accountable to valid tax-exempt regulations, and he made his correspondence public record more than a year ago.
The Daily Caller's claim that "global warming is increasing biodiversity" is a "complete distortion" of a peer-reviewed study according to its lead author, who actually found that invasive species are changing local species compositions at an alarming rate, while the planet faces a period of mass species extinction.
Man-made global warming is having drastic impacts on biodiversity around the world, putting species at risk and driving mass extinction according to several studies. As climate changes, species are driven out of their primary habitats into different regions where they can't always adapt. As a result, the globe is currently experiencing the worst rate of species die-offs since the end of the dinosaur age, and studies show that climate change could further cause an extinction rate of up to one-third of the world's flora and fauna species.
The Daily Caller's Michael Bastasch published a May 15 article that contradicts this basic concept, titled "Global Warming Is Increasing Biodiversity Around The World." The article claims: "A new study published in the journal Science has astounded biologists: global warming is not harming biodiversity, but instead is increasing the range and diversity of species in various ecosystems."
The lead author of the study cited, Dr. Maria Dornelas from the Centre for Biological Diversity, responded in a statement to Media Matters that the Daily Caller article was "a complete distortion of what we say" and that there "is nothing in our paper to even suggest that climate change is beneficial for biodiversity":
No, our study shows nothing of the kind! It is a complete distortion of what we say, and I had no idea this story was running.
What we do show is that despite indisputable loss of biodiversity at the scale of the planet, in most places we detect a change in the species that live there, rather than loss of species everywhere. We suggest that part of this is caused by species migrating towards the poles in response to climate change, and part to invasive species replacing local species.
There is nothing in our paper to even suggest that climate change is beneficial for biodiversity.
An author of a corresponding perspective paper on the biodiversity study in Science, Dr. John Pandolfi, concurred in an email to Media Matters, saying that the Daily Caller's claim that global warming is "increasing" biodiversity is a "gross distortion" that "directly contradicts the main message of the paper."
The study actually finds that invasive species are moving to new regions -- in part due to climate change -- and subsequently are changing the species composition of local habitats at an alarming rate. As the Daily Caller buried in its article, the study found, for instance, that "coral reefs in many areas of the world are being replaced by a type of algae," replicating previous studies finding that coral reefs are being severely damaged by human activity.
The news that an Antarctic ice sheet is disintegrating and could contribute to a dramatic rise in sea level was ignored on CNN, in contrast to other major television networks.
Two new studies found that a large section of the West Antarctica ice sheet is deteriorating due to warm ocean waters and that its loss appears to be unstoppable. Many news outlets recognized it was a rare moment in climate change reporting, with the story making the front page of The New York Times, the evening broadcasts for all the major networks and even The Weather Channel's coverage.*
On cable news, MSNBC covered the ice sheet's disintegration in six separate shows, Al Jazeera in two, and even Fox News covered it once, when anchor Shepard Smith declared that "climate change -- it is real, the science is true":
However, CNN U.S. failed to cover the story at all. Only CNN International covered the story in a segment that was simulcast on CNN U.S. at 3 a.m. on Tuesday. This is not the first time that CNN did not cover a major climate story, leading Jon Stewart to mock it for favoring sensationalist news over more important topics like climate change.
Meanwhile, the Daily Caller tried to distract from this harrowing news by pointing to Antarctic sea ice, which has grown slightly in recent decades despite warming in the Southern Ocean. The Daily Caller used this growth to claim that "[g]lobal [c]ooling" is taking place and that the "South Pole isn't melting." However, as NASA, which conducted one of the studies, explained in an online quiz, "sea ice loss in the Arctic dwarfs any gains in the Antarctic."
If the Antarctic sea ice were melting it would not measurably contribute to sea level rise -- just as if ice cubes in a glass melted, they would not raise the level of the water. By contrast, the melting Antarctic ice sheets mean that "a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries," according to The New York Times, but cutting our carbon emissions can slow the rise and avoid greater sea level rise.
A "horrendous crime" that "violates every major objective of Islam."
That's how Daisy Khan, founder of the Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality described the recent kidnappings of nearly 300 schoolgirls by Nigerian terrorist group, Boko Haram. Despite similar denunciations of Boko Haram's actions by Muslim religious leaders, activists, organizations, and intellectuals across the world, right-wing media are set on using the kidnappings as a justification for their Islamophobic narratives and their attempt to make Boko Haram the face of Islam.
Boko Haram is a marginalized terrorist organization operating out of Nigeria whose murky ideological goals include eliminating secular education. In recent history their attacks have concentrated on schools, killing Christian and Muslims alike who speak out against them. Before the kidnappings, Boko Haram attacked two mosques in August 2013, murdering more than 65 Muslims.
On May 12, Fox News turned to Aayan Hirsi Ali, the anti-Islam activist often cited to support right-wing media's Islamophobic constructs. Hirsi Ali appeared on The Kelly File with host Megyn Kelly, where she insisted that Islam not be separated from the "outcome, the kidnappings, the violence" of Boko Haram and argued that Muslims need to acknowledge "that there is something wrong in the first place." From The Kelly File:
KELLY: You want to call attention to violence of girls in the Muslim world and then we see this. In the wake of this, we have the first lady who is making a call for attention to these girls, which is good, but she doesn't mention in her radio address the girls are Christian and the captors are these radical Jihadist. Do we need to understand that?
HIRSI ALI: You have to understand that somehow it is derived from Islam unreformed. I think there is a possibility for Islam to be reformed. I think the opportunity is right here, but I think it all begins with acknowledging that there is something wrong in the first place.
Hirsi Ali is well known for her anti-Islam rhetoric, once claiming that Islam was a "cult of death." Her rhetoric has propelled her into the conservative media spotlight which has highlighted her efforts to smear Islam as a religion of violence; for Hirsi Ali and other right-wing outlets, Boko Haram serves as a perfect example to support their seemingly endless Muslim fear mongering.
The Daily Caller used Boko Haram's attacks as a new reason to bash Muslim groups, criticizing a mosque that did not "excommunicate Boko Haram", and suggesting that these Muslim organizations are responsible for Boko Haram's ideology if they do not publically condemn the terrorists. Breitbart made no attempt to veil the site's anti-Muslim views, claiming that Boko Haram's "behavior is absolutely par for the course in Islamic history," and that Islam has a history of "sex slavery, (of both boys and girls), polygamy, sex trafficking, and the brutal subordination and cyclical massacres of religious minorities."
In reality, Boko Haram is a marginalized, radical group that does not represent the tenants of the Islamic faith or the Muslim tradition. The Daily Beast's Dean Obeidallah argued that the group's views are so far removed from the religion that media should "stop referring to the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram as 'Islamic terrorist,' 'Islamists' or anything else involving the word 'Islam.'" Obeidallah cited Muslim leader Imam Shamsi Ali who called Boko Haram's leaders " 'blasphemous' for claiming the Koran sanctions their violence against innocent people since it's not only 'contrary to everything Islam stands for' but also it's 'a crime against God and humanity.'"
Muslim organizations have condemned the group and its actions. Though as Sohaib Soltan explained for Time, it should not be the responsibility of Muslim groups to constantly condemn the actions of terrorists, and that holding all Muslims accountable for "condemning evil at the hand of other Muslims" is built upon a flawed premise because with this expectation comes the "inherent assumption that somehow radical violent extremist cults can legitimately speak for Islam."
As CNN's Arsalan Iftikhar also pointed out, these murders and kidnappings are not supported by the Quran, which Iftikhar says "states quite clearly that 'oppression is worse than murder' and that nobody 'shall force girls to commit prostitution'."
Conservative media have largely ignored these outspoken Muslim scholars in favor of voices like Hirsi Ali's that help them demonize the entire Muslim faith by using the actions of a marginalized terrorist group.
Conservative media can't seem to agree whether or not Hillary Clinton's 2012 concussion was faked or was so serious she now has permanent brain damage, but whichever it is they seem ready to ignore all medical evidence in order to politicize her health.
In late December 2012, shortly before she was scheduled to testify before Congress regarding the attacks in Benghazi, Clinton sustained a concussion after she fainted due to dehydration from the flu, and was subsequently hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening blood clot in her head. The State Department postponed her testimony, and she ultimately appeared before Congress in January after her doctors confirmed she would make a full recovery.
Karl Rove reportedly dismissed this medical evidence last week when he claimed Clinton might have brain damage from the episode. Rove doubled down on his remarks today on Fox. Rove insisted that while he did not use the phrase "brain damage," he did believe she had "a serious health episode" and "she's hidden a lot" of information about the extent of her injuries. Wildly speculating about her health was reasonable, according to Rove, because she might someday run for president.
But back in December 2012, conservative media weren't worried that Clinton's health might impede a presidential run; instead, right-wing media immediately accused Clinton of faking her concussion to avoid testifying on Benghazi, taking a potentially life-threatening incident, which the former Secretary of State thankfully recovered from, and making it a political cudgel.
Fox contributor John Bolton accused Clinton of faking a "diplomatic illness." Monica Crowley dismissed the illness, calling it a "virus with apparently impeccable timing." Fox's The Five took the attacks a step further by mocking the Secretary's health, accusing Clinton of running "a duck and cover" and joking, "How can she get a concussion when she has been ducking everything [related to Benghazi]?" On Special Report Charles Krauthammer quipped she was "suffering from acute Benghazi allergy," a joke Sean Hannity liked so much he laughed about it later on his own show. When this mockery came under fire, host Greg Gutfeld attempted to defend Fox's actions by dismissing their remarks as mere "skepticism" and accusing journalists of "ginning up fake hatred, or outrage, towards skeptics." It wasn't just Fox, though; The Los Angeles Times, for instance, posted an online poll giving credence to the concussion conspiracy theories, asking readers "did she fake it?"
As The Wire noted, some of these conspiracy theorists quickly flipped when conservatives realized mocking a serious health condition, including the blood clot, was not a winning strategy. The New York Post, which had initially featured the headline "Hillary Clinton's head fake," followed up with a sober report on her condition noting that "Cynics in the media and in Congress sneered that Clinton was faking the concussion to avoid testimony about the attack" -- without acknowledging their own previous coverage. The Daily Caller similarly reported in February that "whispers" suggested Clinton's health was so bad she "may not even be capable of making it to Iowa and New Hampshire," after having wondered two months before why "we're supposed to just take her word for it" that she collapsed and hit her head. Fox, however, seems to be sticking with concussion trutherism; just this month, host Eric Bolling claimed Clinton purposefully "hit her head" so someone else could "take the bullet" on Benghazi.
So she either lied about a serious injury in order to avoid testimony (which she still gave), or she's now lying about being healthy in order to run for president (which she isn't currently doing). Either way, Rove's comments continue conservative media's stubborn insistence to politicize her health in whichever direction suits them at the moment, regardless of medical evidence.
A Daily Beast article relying on anonymous criticism of Hillary Clinton was latched onto by conservative media, who selectively quoted the article to smear the former Secretary of State for not officially designating the Nigerian group Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization.
As Maggie Haberman noted in Politico May 10, following the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by Boko Haram, conservatives began hyping a report from the Daily Beast which quoted an anonymous official criticizing the former Secretary of State for previously turning down requests to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization, implying that such a designation could have prevented the kidnapping.
The "actual details," as Haberman explained, revealed that experts at State were concerned an official designation would negatively elevate the group and lead to an inhumane response from Nigeria (emphasis added):
Clinton found herself on the receiving end of questions about the kidnap of 300 Nigerian girls. The Daily Beast reported that Clinton's State Department declined entreaties from congressional Republicans and others to label Boko Haram, the group responsible for the kidnappings, a terrorist organization. Secretary of State John Kerry gave the group that designation last year.
During Clinton's time at State, "The FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department really wanted Boko Haram designated, they wanted the authorities that would provide to go after them, and they voiced that repeatedly to elected officials," the Beast quoted a former senior U.S. official familiar with the discussion as saying.
Republicans have widely circulated the original Daily Beast story. The actual details of why the Clinton-run Department declined to affix the group with terrorist status are complicated- her former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, was reportedly concerned about elevating the group among extremist outfits, and potentially giving the Nigerian government latitude to go after them in an inhumane way.
Media Matters has explained that Clinton did put top Boko Haram leaders on the terrorist list, and academic experts on Africa confirmed the Department's fears that a designation for the whole organization could have severe negative consequences. Additionally, before Boko Haram was ultimately designated an official terrorist organization under Secretary Kerry, the group had been a part of peace talks with the Nigerian government which were reportedly "on the verge" of producing a ceasefire. As soon as the designation became official, they abandoned the talks.
Some of this relevant context was included in the original Daily Beast article, but was buried toward the end. Conservative media were able to conveniently ignore the details while promoting the out-of-context attack on Clinton's tenure.
The Daily Caller provided a hate group spokesman a platform to smear marriage equality and same-sex families, part of the conservative website's pattern of promoting the commentary of some of the most extreme anti-LGBT figures in the country.
In a May 5 column, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council (FRC), an anti-gay hate group, touted Irreplaceable, a new Focus on the Family film celebrating straights-only marriage. Sprigg lauded the film for its support of "God's design for marriage." If society were to "devalue" marriage, he argued, it would "devalue being a parent," and thereby "devalue children":
If you devalue marriage, you devalue being a parent - or more specifically, being a mother or a father, since the importance of gender roles ("not deterministic, but dynamic") is emphasized.
If you devalue parents, then you devalue children. Jonathan Last, author of What to Expect When No One's Expecting, says that the sexual revolution dismembered the "iron triangle" of marriage, sex, and baby-making, and the resulting indifference in the West to creating the next generation constitutes a form of "civilizational sickness."
His column is relatively tame in the context of his career of fear mongering about gay people, including baselessly peddling the claim that gay men are sexual predators who prey on children.
Meanwhile, Sprigg's stances on other LGBT issues are no less offensive. He sits on the board PFOX, a group promoting discredited "ex-gay" therapy, and has asserted that the proper response to gay teen suicides is to encourage gay youth to change their sexual orientations. In remarks that he later walked back following fierce criticism, Sprigg said he "would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States." Sprigg is no friend of the transgender community either, having declared contrary to expert consensus that trans people suffer from "delusions."
Sprigg isn't the first hate group spokesman to be granted column space in the Daily Caller. FRC President Tony Perkins has also written for the website. In July 2013, the site published a column from Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) President Austin Ruse cheering Russia's draconian anti-LGBT crackdown, praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for taking a stand against the sexual "immorality" that Ruse claimed pervades the United States.
The Daily Caller has also published numerous pieces from National Organization for Marriage (NOM) President Brian Brown, who condemns homosexuality as "deceitful, harmful, and degrading to the human soul," and American Values President Gary Bauer, who in addition to campaigning against marriage equality in the U.S. has used his Daily Caller column space to inveigh against critics of Russia's anti-gay laws.
While Sprigg, Perkins, Ruse, Brown, and Bauer have only written for the Daily Caller's opinion section, anti-gay talking points have also found their way into the website's purportedly straight news reporting.
A new Gallup poll shows that the number of uninsured is the lowest ever recorded, a finding that punches holes in the right-wing narrative that few uninsured individuals have gained coverage under Obamacare.
On May 5, Gallup released a new poll showing that the percentage of Americans who are uninsured dropped to 13.4 percent, the "lowest monthly uninsured rate recorded since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in January 2008." Gallup pointed out that the consistent decline in the number of uninsured adults "coincided with the health insurance marketplace exchanges opening in October 2013."
Conservative media outlets have consistently tried to spin Obamacare enrollment numbers in an effort to discredit the ACA, claiming that the health care law increased the number of uninsured Americans.
Fox News led the charge in pushing the false narrative that the "net result" of the ACA was "quite negative," casting past increases in insured individuals as "practically a net wash." The network has relied heavily on anecdotal evidence from "victims" of Obamacare to stoke fears that the ACA has led to rampant cancellations and effectively uninsured more individuals than it has insured. Several news outlets employed similar tactics, despite the fact that many of the Obamacare victims' stories crumbled upon investigation.
Fox has also hyped fears that young people's failure to sign up for plans would force the ACA "into [a] death spiral" that would in turn cause skyrocketing premiums. Conservative blogs including Breitbart and the Daily Caller have made similarly egregious claims, ignoring enrollment surges and claiming that Obamacare's "current net effect is clearly in favor of cancellations."
Gallup's recent poll renders these allegations not only unfounded, but downright untenable. Any claims that Obamacare would result in a 'net loss' ignore the option to renew plans, tax credits, and Medicaid expansion, all of which have had an obvious and unprecedented effect in lowering the number of uninsured.
In a May 5 piece highlighting Gallup's finding, The New Republic noted that "the trend in the Gallup polling clearly isn't a blip," and concluded that the conservative media's fear mongering is "just not credible anymore."
With over 8 million people enrolled in private health plans, an additional 4.8 million newly enrolled under Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, and new polling suggesting the Obama's health care law is already a strong success, right-wing media may want to rethink their narrative on Obamacare.