The Daily Caller

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  • Trump Calls On Only Right-Wing Outlets, Again Avoiding Questions About A Top Adviser Possibly Breaking Federal Law

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    For his second straight press conference, President Donald Trump called on only conservative reporters, this time during a joint presser with the Canadian prime minister. By responding solely to friendly press, Trump avoided answering any questions about reports that national security adviser Michael Flynn may have violated federal law.

    Reporters have been questioning whether Flynn can retain his job after multiple current and former American officials told The New York Times that he discussed lifting Russian sanctions with the country’s ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration -- a potential violation of the Logan Act, “which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in disputes involving the American government.” Vice President Mike Pence previously denied that Flynn had discussed this topic, but his assurance relied solely on Flynn’s recollection of the conversation.

    During Trump’s February 13 press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, reporters had a chance to ask the president about this pressing issue, but Trump skirted that possibility by calling on only reporters for conservative outlets friendly to Trump -- Scott Thuman of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s WJLA, the Washington, D.C., affiliate of ABC, and Kaitlan Collins of The Daily Caller, a pro-Trump outlet founded by Trump shill Tucker Carlson.

    During the election, Sinclair reportedly struck a deal with the Trump campaign to “secure better media coverage” in exchange for “more access to Trump and the campaign.” Thuman, who is also a political correspondent for conspiracy theorist Sharyl Attkisson’s Full Measure, asked Trump about how his philosophical differences with Trudeau would affect cooperation on trade and terrorism:

    The next question came from Collins, who also failed to ask about Flynn but did question Canada’s security measures surrounding refugees. Her previous work on refugees includes an article about Syrian refugees who she dubbed “Syria-sly hot,” suggesting governors opposed to allowing refugees into the country would change their minds if they saw these women:

    Many journalists criticized the selection of these reporters. Even Fox News’ national security correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, asked if the queries were “planted questions”:

    On CNN, Wolf Blitzer immediately followed the end of the presser by highlighting the lack of questions about Flynn’s future, explaining, “Presumably that’s what the White House wanted.” CNN’s Gloria Borger also questioned whether “they arranged that in advance.”

    The press conference with Trudeau followed a similar one from February 10 featuring Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where Trump also took questions from only two reporters representing a couple of conservative media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets, the New York Post and Fox Business Network. Those reporters likewise avoided asking about Flynn, even though the reporting on his possible violation of the Logan Act had come out the previous day.

  • Bogus Daily Mail Story Spearheads Latest Right-Wing Assault On Climate Change Science

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    A story by David Rose of the British tabloid Daily Mail falsely alleged that researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “manipulated global warming data” in order to “dupe” world leaders into agreeing to provisions of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. In reality, the NOAA report’s finding that there was no slowdown in the rate of global warming has since been independently verified by other experts, and it’s the Daily Mail story -- and the GOP politicians and right-wing media outlets like Breitbart News championing it -- that are  distorting climate science to score political points.

  • When Right-Wing Media Was In Love With Paid Protesting

    Current False Accusations Of Paid Protesters Don’t Match Up With Tea Party Adoration

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Many right-wing media figures have accused anti-Trump protesters of being “paid” on a widespread basis to demonstrate against President Donald Trump. Not only do these allegations lack any evidence of a systematic effort, they also ignore the fact that the conservative tea party protests of the early 2010s were “astroturfed” -- heavily supported and organized by large, outside groups.

    Evidence-free claims and suggestions of paid protesters driving anti-Trump sentiment have circulated throughout right-wing media for years but have increased since the inauguration of Donald Trump. Both Trump himself and White House press secretary Sean Spicer have repeated the claim that anti-Trump protests are, in Spicer’s words, a “very paid astroturf-type movement.” Rush Limbaugh warned that the airport protests against Trump’s Muslim ban were “bought and paid for by George Soros, prearranged. … and waiting for the moment to be cued to action.” The Daily Caller wrote that protests directed against a vocal Trump supporter at the University of California, Berkeley were “backed by a progressive charity that is in turn funded by George Soros, the city of Tucson, a major labor union and several large companies.” The claims have also circulated among fake news purveyors and state-owned Russian propaganda

    Despite the charge being leveled at nearly every anti-Trump protest, there is no proof that they protesters were systematically paid by any group. Recently, claims that a group called Demand Protest was paying people $2,500 a month to protest Trump nationwide were exposed as a hoax, much like a viral claim during the election season of craigslist ads offering $3,500 to protest Trump, which ended up being a lie created by a fake news writer to generate profit.

    Right-wing media’s concerns about supposed liberal paid protesters also conveniently forgets times when they were enamored by protesters who were financially supported by outside groups.

    During the 2016 presidential race, Trump ally Alex Jones’ website offered a cash reward to protesters that interrupted Hillary Clinton rallies, an open attempt to pay protesters. Even more significant, right-wing media was also an ally of the Tea Party movement during the first term of former President Barack Obama, which was widely documented to be backed by big money donors.

    The Tea Party, described as “the biggest Astroturf operation in history,” was heavily financed and supported by billionaires, most prominently Charles and David Koch. In addition to financial support from conservative billionaires, the Tea Party enjoyed glowing coverage across right-wing media, most prominently on Fox News, which encouraged its viewers to head to the “conservative Woodstock.” “Party on!” Fox hosts, such as Sean Hannity, attached themselves to and tried to boost the protests, and Tea Party activists even thanked the network for its assistance in spreading their message. 

  • Fake News Purveyors Run With Bigoted Attacks On Women’s March Organizer And Google Helps Them Profit

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    The dangerous ecosystem of fabricated news stories and hyperpartisan sites and social media accounts once again capitalized on anti-Muslim fearmongering to spread disinformation about and attacks on activist Linda Sarsour. And Google is still letting these fake news purveyors cash in on the hate.

    Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist and organizer born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, was one of four lead organizers of the record-breaking January 21 Women’s March held in Washington, D.C., and in sister cities internationally. She is the executive director of the nonprofit Arab American Association of New York and co-founder of Muslims for Ferguson, and she was recognized by the Obama White House for her roles in intersectional civil rights and racial justice organizing on the national level for years. Sarsour is also a practicing Muslim who wears a hijab.

    Predictably and painfully, hyperpartisan political blogs seized on Sarsour’s religion in an attempt to devalue the success of the march and stoke anti-Muslim sentiment among readers. The poorly sourced attacks on Sarsour stemming from the conservative blogosphere -- quintessential fearmongering common in post-9/11 right-wing news -- coalesced with complete fabrications pushed by an entire network of unaccountable websites and social media pages catering more openly to an anti-Muslim audience.

    Sarsour was “relentlessly trolled on Twitter since the Washington march,” but has now drawn support from thousands who fought back against this concerted anti-Muslim disinformation campaign against her. Even as the attacks on Sarsour appear to wind down, though, Google and other advertising networks are still allowing fake news purveyors to make money from their hateful fake news stories about Sarsour.

    Attack: Sarsour “Met” An “Ex-Hamas Operative”

    On January 21, the hyperpartisan right-wing site The Daily Caller -- “an outlet for opposition research paid for by the donor class” -- published a confusing report alleging that Sarsour “has family ties to terror group” Hamas and “recently met” an “ex-Hamas operative.” The outlet’s evidence for the latter claim appears to be a single photo of Sarsour posing with a group at a large-scale Muslim civics convention where she spoke. Among those pictured is a man named Salah Sarsour (no relation to Linda, as The Daily Caller even sort of acknowledges), who was identified as an alleged financier for Hamas in the 1990s, based on several statements made by his brother at the time. And that’s it. That’s the evidence.

    The other “ties” referenced in the article’s headline hinge on Sarsour’s work with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group frequently attacked by conservative media, and a 2012 New York Times article in which Sarsour explicitly “denies having any contact with Hamas or other radical groups.” The 2012 article detailed a rise in anti-Muslim attacks spurred by the conservative tea party, including calls for Sarsour to resign from her Brooklyn neighborhood advisory panel because some “members of her family had been arrested on accusations of supporting Hamas.” Additional articles, which The Daily Caller did not cite, indicate that two distant relatives and a family friend of Sarsour’s were serving long sentences in Israeli jails. The writer of the 2012 Times piece explained, “Though she had several times denied any connections to radical Islamic groups, some people argue she should be held accountable for her relatives’ activities and views.”

    The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing blog notorious for hapless and irresponsible reporting that has pushed complete fabrications in the past, seized on this shoddy report from The Daily Caller  -- along with two of Sarsour’s tweets from May 2015 that joked about widespread conservative fearmongering around sharia law -- to make the additional claim that “Sarsour is pro-Sharia law with ties to Hamas.”

    Social media analytics site BuzzSumo shows that the Daily Caller article has been shared 170,000 times on various social media platforms since January 21. The Gateway Pundit post has been shared more than 405,000 times. The Daily Caller piece was also cross-posted at the Alex Jones website Infowars.

    Attack: Sarsour Pictured “Promoting The ISIS Unity Finger Sign”

    On January 22, a Twitter user posted a 2015 picture of Sarsour holding up a single finger, next to two unrelated pictures seemingly of unidentified ISIS members. The tweet asked whether “pro-Sharia” Sarsour was “promoting the ISIS unity finger sign.” 

    The January 22 tweet was retweeted less than 1,000 times, but it appears to have served as the primary evidence backing several posts from sites known for pushing fake news. The Gateway Pundit, most notably, cited the tweet in a January 23 post titled “Organizer For DC Women’s March Against Trump Pictured Flashing The ISIS Sign.” According to BuzzSumo, the post has already been shared nearly 40,000 times on social media since it was posted yesterday.

    Missing from the original tweet, the Gateway Pundit post, and the countless subsequent posts about Sarsour’s allegedly pro-ISIS stance was the context of the original photo, which was part of a social media campaign meant to show solidarity with students who had been attacked by anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller for also simply holding up their index fingers. Here is the caption Sarsour wrote for the photo:

    Pamela Geller recently was given a platform to spew hate and misinformation at Brooklyn College, thankfully booed off the stage. After the event, she circulated a picture of Muslim Brooklyn College students holding up their index fingers and associated them with terrorists. As a result of her outrageous claims, these young people have felt targeted and threatened. For me, it meant you are #1, cause you had the courage to stand up to her! I stand in solidarity with them and want them to know that they should never let an evil woman like Geller make them feel less than. Stay proud, stay strong. We got your back. #PamHates #indexfingers#OneLove #UnityAtBC #takeonhate

    Fake News Stories Combined The Baseless Attacks And Harnessed Facebook For Smear Campaign

    An avalanche of unaccountable websites pushing fake news stories, boosted by active Facebook pages drumming up shares and likes, have copied or co-opted the claims from The Daily Caller and The Gateway Pundit to spread dangerous disinformation about Sarsour across the internet. Many are lifting each other’s text directly, adding some deceptive sheen of proper citation or reporting, to fearmonger among their audiences and validate bigotry -- and they’re harnessing Facebook’s algorithm to boost clickbait headlines, misleading photos, and fabricated information. The following examples come from fake news purveying sites that rely heavily on Facebook to drive traffic to their pages, and tend to share dozens of posts per day on the social media site to generate maximum Facebook audience engagement and click-throughs to their websites.

    From fake news purveyor TruthFeed, these two posts received a combined nearly 59,000 social media engagements since they were posted on January 22 and 23:

    From fake news purveyor World Politicus (shared 13,000 times):

    And from fake news purveyor The Angry Patriot (shared 11,000 times):

    Google And Other Advertising Platforms Allow Fake News Purveyors To Profit From The Hate

    Purveyors of fake news stories not only churn out increasingly unadulterated bigotry using the power of Facebook; they also harness advertising networks -- like Google AdSense -- to profit from it. The stories highlighted above, for example, all featured Google AdSense advertising accompanying the posts about Sarsour.

    As TechCrunch explained, while mainstream outlets “may be held accountable for exaggeration,” fake news purveyors “can focus on short-term traffic and ad revenue,” which “incentivize(s) misinformation.” Google turns billions in profits by allowing advertisers to use its advertising service on third-party websites, thereby also allowing the sites that host ads to also profit.

    The Washington Post’s Abby Ohlheiser detailed how fake news writers make money, with one interviewee telling her he makes “$10,000 a month from AdSense.” David Carroll, an expert in advertising technology and professor at the New School, estimated that one fake-news share from a person within the Trump campaign “could earn the lucky hoaxer as much as $10,000 in extra revenue” and called it a “‘huge economic incentive to create stories that they want to distribute.’”

    Google AdSense is not the only advertising network to place ads directly next to bigoted fake news stories like the ones smearing Linda Sarsour; these sites are often plastered in ads placed by multiple networks including Revcontent, Taboola, and Criteo. But this latest example is further proof that -- months after Google added and then quietly deleted new language to their AdSense policy that would theoretically crack down on fake news -- Google’s still willing to let fake news purveyors profit from spreading hateful lies.

  • Right-Wing Media's Latest Conspiracy: CNN Wants Trump Assassinated

    CNN Has Been Reporting On The 'Designated Survivor' For Years

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Right-wing media outlets have concocted the conspiracy theory that a CNN report on the protocol of a “designated presidential survivor” -- in which one cabinet member does not attend the presidential inauguration in the event that a tragedy killed the president and others in the line of succession -- is evidence that CNN figures hope President-elect Donald Trump is assassinated on Inauguration Day in order to keep the Obama administration in power. CNN has reported on the designated survivor during both President Obama’s and President Bush’s presidencies.

  • The Media Keep Failing To Publish Accurate Headlines About Trump: An Updated List

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Before and since the election, media outlets have repeatedly failed to write headlines that adequately contextualize President-elect Donald Trump’s lies. Simply echoing his statements normalizes his behavior and can spread disinformation, particularly given the high proportion of people who read only headlines. Below is an ongoing list documenting the media’s failure to contextualize Trump’s actions in headlines and sometimes on social media. Some of the initial versions were subsequently altered (and these are marked with an asterisk), but many of the updates still failed to adequately contextualize Trump’s remarks.

  • Anti-LGBTQ Junk Science And Fake News Are Poised To Harm the Future of LGBTQ Equality

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Pseudoscience and lies have long been the favorite tactics of anti-LGBTQ extremists, but now that the incoming U.S. president is highly influenced by hate groups, fake news purveyors, and far-right publications that peddle such misinformation, these smoke and mirror tactics are well-positioned to harm LGBTQ equality.

    Right-Wing Sites Regularly Peddle Anti-LGBTQ Junk Science

    For decades, junk science has been used to attack LGBTQ people as unhealthy and dangerous. Longtime LGBTQ advocate and journalist Claude Summers recently defined the purpose of anti-LGBTQ junk science as “not to persuade the scholarly community, which will immediately note its sloppy methodology,” but to “provide naïve readers some quasi-respectable justifications for their prejudices and to fuel social conservative political chatter.”

    After scientific consensus rejected the “sickness theories” of homosexuality in the 1970s, “anti-LGBT professionals retreated from mainstream scientific organizations and formed their own groups,” Summers explained. These fringe splinter groups, like the deceptively named American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) -- an anti-LGBTQ hate group with about 500 members whose name is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- funnel debunked “research” to anti-LGBTQ extremist organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC), also a designated hate group. FRC and its allies peddle this misinformation as widely as possible to be used as ammunition in the fight against equality.

    Right-wing outlets like Breitbart and The Daily Caller are the go-to platforms for anti-LGBTQ activists looking to push hateful lies and myths. Breitbart in particular regularly pushes pseudoscientific attacks on transgender people. Since March 2016, Breitbart authors have cited ACPeds to falsely claim that affirming transgender youths’ gender identity is a “form of child abuse” in at least 19 different articles. The talking point originated from an American College of Pediatricians “report,” which was quickly touted in other right-wing outlets like The Blaze and The Daily Caller. As The Daily Beast’s Samantha Allen highlighted, right-wing journalists published ACPed’s “child abuse” claim “without contrasting their primary source with the AAP.”

    This type of anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience isn’t confined to right-wing web outlets. On Fox News, “Medical A Team” member Dr. Keith Ablow frequently pushes harmful anti-transgender misinformation. In April, Ablow speculated wildly about medical care for transgender youth, and proposed his own harmful “treatments,” akin to conversion therapy, that go against scientific evidence and professional standards from mainstream medical associations.

    Even mainstream outlets like The Associated Press and NPR have allowed well-known purveyors of junk science to attack LGBTQ people.

    Fake News Reinforces Myths Pushed By Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

    The potential real-life impact of fake news was starting to become apparent several months before it took center stage in the 2016 election. In May, BuzzFeed spotlighted a slew of anti-transgender fake news stories that had gone viral. These fake news stories spiked largely in response to increased media coverage of so-called “bathroom bills” and North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law (HB 2). The measure broadly bans transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity in publicly run facilities and schools.

    Many of the fake stories BuzzFeed profiled -- like an “article” about a transgender women getting caught taking pictures of underage girls at Target -- stem from the anti-LGBTQ “bathroom predator” myth, which purports that sexual predators will pretend to be transgender in order to exploit nondiscrimination laws and sneak into women’s restrooms. Fake news preys on long-standing misconceptions and stereotypes and exploits them to confirm unsubstantiated fears. BuzzFeed interviewed the owner of several fake news sites, who said the stories are a way to make “easy money” by capitalizing off of “the political polarization and anti-LGBT stance at the heart of HB 2.”

    In the past, anti-LGBTQ hate groups were the ones spreading fake “bathroom predator” stories -- and outlets like Fox News fell for it. But now, the sheer profitability of clickbait fake news means that even if hate groups aren’t peddling these stories themselves, fake news is helping to buttress anti-LGBTQ talking points by relying on misconceptions and controversy for their content. A recent BuzzFeed News survey found that fake news headlines “fool American adults about 75% of the time” --meaning that all of these fabricated stories and fact-free science could have a real-life impact on public opinion about LGBTQ people.

    Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, voiced her concern that these lies -- one of which ended with a vigilante shooting a transgender woman -- could fuel anti-transgender violence. Whether because of these fake news stories or not, 2016 has been the deadliest year on record for transgender people.

    The Trump Administration Is Stocked With Purveyors Of Right-Wing Media’s Anti-LGBTQ Myths And Pseudoscience

    While pseudoscience and lies have long been staple tools of anti-LGBTQ extremist organization, the two tactics are now more likely than ever to be employed to justify anti-LGBTQ policies, given the incoming Trump administration. FRC -- the hate group with years of experience peddling anti-LGBTQ junk science -- has a growing influence on Trump’s transition team.

    FRC president Tony Perkins played a pivotal role in Trump’s campaign and helped shape the Republican Party platform. During the Republican National Convention, he was successful in adding support for “ex-gay” conversion therapy, a discredited, harmful practice that falsely claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and has been denounced by every major medical organization. Since the election, some of Perkins’ FRC affiliates have won spots in Trump’s transition team. Wired’s Emma Ellis spotlighted the hate group’s growing influence on the Trump administration, which includes the following members affiliated with FRC:

    In addition to FRC’s influence on the administration, Breitbart’s brand of anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience has a champion in Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Bannon led Breitbart from 2012 through August of this year, when he became the chief executive of Trump’s campaign. In addition to peddling anti-gay junk science, under Bannon’s leadership the site made a “noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas -- all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right,’” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions also have a history of pushing harmful myths about LGBTQ people. Combined with FRC and Breitbart, individual anti-LGBTQ extremists are well-poised to gin up junk science attacks and use them to influence policy making throughout the Trump administration. LGBTQ advocates and journalists have already documented some of their fears about the potential consequences of the resurgence of anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience, including:

    • a comeback of “ex-gay” conversion therapy programs;
    • revocation of the Obama administration’s recommendation to treat transgender students in accordance with their gender identity;
    • repeal of the Affordable Care Act and its health care protections for LGBTQ people; and
    • passage of the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act,” federal “religious freedom” legislation that would permit discrimination against LGBTQ people.

    Junk science can be easily debunked, as long as reporters are armed with the facts. Journalists should be prepared to counter the false narratives behind the coming attacks on LGBTQ equality.

  • Why Is The Daily Caller Using Images Of Black People With Obama Poster In Story About Food Stamps?

    Tweet Could Encourage "More Hostile Views Toward Government Programs To Assist Black People"

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    The Daily Caller included racial imagery in a story and accompanying link to a post entitled “Republicans Hint At Food Stamp Reform But Stop Short Of Calling For Overhaul” featuring an image of two black people holding “replicas of food stamps” in front of a Shepard Fairey-style poster of President Obama. 

    TV One’s Roland Martin took on the racially offensive tweet, noting they tweeted a food stamp story and show “two Black people & Obama poster. I see y’all @TuckerCarlson!”

    The Daily Caller has routinely used racially charged headlines such as “White man overruns indigenous peoples with superior technology,” which was later changed, and “Barack Obama, Wife Beater," used in a gallery of images of the President where a sleeveless shirt was visible underneath his shirt and tie.

    Vox’s Dylan Matthews reported on the problematic use of racially charged imagery in stories about government programs by highlighting a book by Princeton professor Tali Mendelberg which found images associating black people with poverty led study participants to “express significantly more hostile views toward government programs to assist black people,” and specifically that “the effect on their expressed racial views was stronger than the effect on their expressed opinions on welfare.”

    The Daily Caller is owned by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who was previously also the site’s Editor-in-Chief, a role he resigned in order to begin hosting Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News. Since the show’s debut three weeks ago Carlson has already used his prime-time platform to defend the racist past of Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-AL) by attacking the “totally discredited” NAACP, claim that “the American Nazi Party and the KKK don't really exist in a meaningful [way],” and allow a guest to proclaim that “there is very little evidence of classic racism anymore.” Carlson has recently come under fire after lecturing The New York Times about tweets from Times reporters he deemed crossed the line while ignoring the hateful rhetoric coming from his own news outlet. 

  • Reports Show Trump May Have Had Little To Do With SoftBank Deal He Took Credit For

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    On December 6, President-elect Donald Trump credited his election victory for spurring Japanese telecommunications and technology giant SoftBank to propose a $50 billion investment in the United States, which he claimed would create as many as 50,000 jobs. Later reporting from The Wall Street Journal and others debunked Trump’s boasts, but not before numerous media outlets amplified his unsubstantiated claims.

  • Conservatives Downplayed Fake News. Yesterday It Almost Had A Body Count.

    While Right-Wing Media Dismiss Fake News, "Alt-Right" White Nationalists And Misogynists Use It To Harass

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    An armed shooter opened fire at a Washington, D.C., pizzeria in order to “self-investigate” a false conspiracy about the restaurant pushed by fake news websites and spread by fringe right-wing media outlets. Yet right-wing media figures have dismissed and downplayed the impact of fake news, calling it “satire and parody that liberals don't understand,” saying it is “in the eye of the beholder,” and claiming that concerns about fake news are “silly” and “nonsense.”

  • Right-Wing Media's Failed Attempt To Downplay The Impact Of North Carolina's Anti-LGBTQ Law In Governor's Race

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Right-wing media outlets are attempting to deny the impact of North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law House Bill 2 (HB 2) in the state’s still too-close-to-call gubernatorial race between incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper. Mainstream journalists and political scientists have repeatedly pointed to the “politically obvious” costs of the discriminatory HB 2 as a “key issue” in the governor’s race, the outcome of which could mark a potential “watershed” moment for LGBTQ equality. 

  • Media Falsely Give Trump Credit For A Ford Plant Not Moving To Mexico

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media are uncritically hyping President-elect Donald Trump’s false claim that he should be credited for Ford Motor Co.’s decision not to relocate a plant from Kentucky to Mexico, despite the fact that the plant was never going to close and no jobs were going to be lost. While right-wing media hyped Trump’s claim on its face as proof of his political success, mainstream media echoed that pro-Trump spin in a series of misleading headlines, which critics have called out for being out of context and “completely wrong.”

  • Wash. Post Weather Editor Debunks Myth That Hurricane “Drought” Disproves Climate Science

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    The Washington Post’s weather editor Jason Samenow debunked the claim by climate science deniers and conservative media outlets that the lack of category 3 or higher hurricanes striking the U.S. over the last 11 years is "evidence that global warming is not affecting the storms."

    This month marks 11 years since the U.S. mainland was last struck by a “major” hurricane, defined by the National Hurricane Center as a category 3, 4 or 5 storm with sustained wind speeds of at least 111 miles per hour. In response, conservative media have misleadingly cited this fact to wrongly dispute the link between hurricanes and global warming.

    For instance, The New American asserted, “The latest report from NOAA that major hurricane activity has subsided for 11 years — despite high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere — provides welcome relief from the assorted predictions made by the ‘global warming’ doomsayers of catastrophic events that supposedly will be caused by human activity.” Similarly, The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch wrote that “the hurricane drought sort of runs counter to predictions global warming will make storms more frequent and more intense.” And perhaps most notably, radio host Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that the lack of a major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. over the past 11 years “bores a hole right through the whole climate change argument.”

    But as Samenow explained, researchers believe it is just "dumb luck" that Atlantic storms with sufficient wind speeds to be defined as "major" hurricanes have remained offshore or slowed down before making landfall on the U.S. coastline. Atlantic hurricane activity also accounts for only a small portion of the total storms occurring around the world, as PolitiFact noted when it rated Limbaugh's claim a "Pants on Fire" falsehood.

    Samenow, who described the hurricane “drought” as “the most overblown statistic in meteorology,” also pointed out that many hurricanes that had devastating impacts due to extreme rainfall and flooding occurred during this "drought." He noted that because the definition of a “major” hurricane is tied only to wind speeds and not impacts from water, the term “omits some of the most consequential storms in modern history”:

    But the criteria for what makes a major hurricane is impossibly restrictive. It is tied to a single hazard, wind, and ignores impacts from water, which causes the lion’s share of fatalities and damage in most hurricanes.

    While big wind speeds grab people’s attention and sound scary, precious few people, if any, ever experience a storm’s peak winds. Such high winds are typically confined to a tiny area near the hurricane’s eye.

    But tens of thousands of people are exposed to a hurricane’s water, whether it’s freshwater flooding from heavy rainfall or coastal flooding from storm surge, the rise in ocean water as the hurricane comes ashore.

    Because the definition of a major hurricane ignores the effects of water, it omits some of the most consequential storms in modern history, which have occurred during the so-called drought.

    Consider, in the 11 years since Wilma, two of the three most costly storms in U.S. history occurred: Sandy in 2012, and Hurricane Ike in 2008 — neither of which was classified as “major.”

    Moreover, the "impacts from water" that Samenow describes are intensified by climate change. Scientists say that a warming climate is making storms more destructive due to warming air and oceans -- which lead to more rainfall -- and rising sea levels, which worsen storm surges.

    Samenow ultimately concluded: “The major-hurricane-landfall drought is an interesting statistic, and that’s about it. It is a fine metric to track and report as a curiosity, but it cannot be used to say anything useful about how hurricanes are affecting society or how their behavior may or may not be changing over time.” 

  • Right-Wing Media Ignore Role Of Subsidies, Claim Insurance Premium Increases Are A “Death Spiral” For Obamacare 

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Reports that benchmark health insurance premiums will increase by an average of 25 percent from 2016 to 2017 for plans purchased on Healthcare.gov marketplace exchanges have prompted right-wing media outlets to claim the price hike is proof of “the collapse” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and evidence of a so-called Obamacare “death spiral.” In reality, the majority of individual insurance customers will be insulated from cost increases due to proportional increases in the health care subsidies, and these premium increases are still in line with anticipated health care costs initially predicted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).