Image at top via Flickr user Fintrvlr using a Creative Commons License.
From the August 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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It seems like a different study attacking the EPA's Clean Power Plan pops up in the media every other week. But many of these studies are riddled with flaws and funded by fossil fuel interests, so media should think twice before repeating their claims.
A new briefing from the Energy & Policy Institute (EPI) detailed the fossil fuel funding and methodological flaws of six reports attacking the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) carbon pollution standards. One of them, a study from NERA Economic Consulting, has been thoroughly debunked by multiple experts, who say the report is completely out of date, uses faulty efficiency cost assumptions and outdated renewable energy cost assumptions, and does not acknowledge any of the EPA plan's economic benefits, rendering its findings irrelevant.
The deeply flawed NERA study also forms the basis for a new analysis from the Institute for Energy Research (IER) (not included in EPI's briefing), which concluded that the Clean Power Plan will result in 14,000 premature deaths. IER's analysis led to horrific (and completely false) headlines like this, from the conservative news site Daily Caller:
To arrive at their conclusion, IER used NERA's GDP loss estimate and converted it directly into increased premature deaths. However, using that method doesn't make much sense, as NERA failed to acknowledge the Clean Power Plan's projected life-saving health and economic benefits. Thankfully, IER's conclusion has so far been confined to the conservative media fringe.
However, numerous groups have touted the public health benefits of pollution standards, and the EPA estimates that its plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants would prevent 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children. So how does IER's analysis arrive at such a drastically different conclusion? A look at the chain of fossil fuel-funding behind IER and the NERA study may provide the answer.
The cover page of the NERA study states that it was prepared for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the Association of American Railroads, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, Consumer Energy Alliance, and the National Mining Association. Combined, they're a who's who of fossil fuel industry trade groups and advocacy organizations. EPI put together a graphic showing many of the coal and oil companies that comprise these groups:
As for IER, the group lists former Koch lobbyist Thomas Pyle as its president and is partly funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers and their political network. IER has also received funding from Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Koch-backed DonorsTrust and Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.
The other reports detailed in EPI's briefing include one from the National Black Chamber of Commerce, another from the Beacon Hill Institute, two from Energy Ventures Analysis (one of which was funded directly by coal giant Peabody Energy), and one from IER. These reports are often publicized through coordinated media campaigns and newspaper op-eds across the country.
EPI's report illustrates how multiple industry-funded studies work in concert to simulate a chorus of diverse voices attacking the EPA's flagship climate plan. But really, it's just the industry protecting its bottom line.
Image at top via Flickr user Fintrvlr using a Creative Commons License.
Fox & Friends joined The Daily Caller in an effort to make alleged terrorists Anwar al-Awlaki and Yaser Hamdi the face of birthright citizenship, falsely claiming the men were born in the U.S. to "illegal parents" and able to pursue terrorist activities without retaliation because their citizenship protected them.
Conservative media outlets are trying to cash in on Donald Trump's presidential run through paid email solicitations.
The Washington Post reported, "Newsmax Media has reached out to owners of conservative e-mail lists with a request to help raise money for Trump -- all while allowing them to keep 30 percent of what's contributed to the candidate."
The Post wrote that Newsmax sent an email stating the "Trump team is willing to pay 3rd party email list owners like yourself 30 percent of gross donations made to your email list" and "we think this will be highly profitable." Newsmax said they could provide sample Trump banners, links, and emails, and added that "these are considered paid ads, and don't imply an endorsement on the part of Newsmax or by any third party affiliate like yourself for the Trump campaign."
The Daily Caller, Dick Morris, Michael Reagan, PJ Media, and Herman Cain have sent paid email fundraising solicitations on behalf of the Trump campaign to their newsletter subscribers, according to a Media Matters search of its newsletter archive. Morris and Reagan state their emails came via Newsmax. The Caller, Cain and PJ Media emails do not mention Newsmax (the Post, which noted Cain's email, said Newsmax wouldn't confirm if Cain sent the Trump email through them). The emails sent by the outlets appear to work off the same "Urgent Letter from Donald Trump" template referenced in the Newsmax solicitation highlighted by the Post.
An August 10 email sent by Dick Morris, for instance, asked after the Fox News debate: "Trump or Megyn? Show Your Support for Donald." A notice at the bottom notes that Morris "is represented exclusively by Newsmax Media."
Newsmax is also peddling Trump's "Make America Great Again" hat as a bonus for signing up for a trial subscription to its magazine.
Breitbart has been accused of accepting financial backing from Trump in exchange for positive coverage, a charge the outlet denies.
It's not clear why the campaign of a billionaire who has said he's rich enough to self-fund and doesn't "need anybody's money" has to solicit donations. Media Matters has frequently documented how much of the conservative media is trying to cash-in on its followers.
To deny the fact that polar bears are in danger of extinction from unmitigated climate change, the Daily Caller turned to a Heartland Institute-affiliated biologist who dismissed scientific computer climate models as an "opinion."
"The single most important step for polar bear conservation is decisive action to address Arctic warming," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wrote this week in their draft recovery plan for polar bears, which are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The plan was issued after newly released data from the U.S. Geological Services (USGS) showed that greenhouse gas emissions are the species' "primary threat," due to the predicted Arctic sea ice loss that will diminish polar bears' habitat and food supplies.
But don't worry, polar bears are "doing just fine," according to the Daily Caller.
To refute the federal agencies' warnings, the conservative news publication turned to scientists affiliated with the fossil fuel-backed Heartland Institute. Daily Caller first quoted Canadian biologist Mitchell Taylor, who dismissed the USGS' report because he said it is "based on climate models, not empirical data." The agency's climate models are "an expression of their opinion," said Taylor, adding that "it's simply their idea of what will happen if the carbon models are correct."
Taylor prefers "empirical data" to modeled forecasts of climate change. However, the empirical data also show that Arctic sea ice has been declining at record rates. The sea ice levels recently were at their lowest for the month of May since record-keeping began in the 1980s, and have been on a steady decline since then.
Taylor was a contributing author for the Heartland Institute's "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC) report that attempts to mirror and debunk UN climate science reports. He has also signed the Manhattan Declaration, which posits that carbon dioxide -- the primary factor in human-caused climate change -- is "not a pollutant but rather a necessity for all life."
Daily Caller also quoted zoologist Susan Crockford, who dismissed the USFWS report as alarmist and "flawed," and who also co-authored Heartland's report. The online outlet frequently turns to Crockford to deny global warming's impact on wildlife.
The conservative website Daily Caller argued that President Obama's executive action to bring solar energy to low-income communities would be costly, but to prove its point, it cited a solar energy project that will bring millions in economic benefits.
On July 7, the Obama administration announced an initiative that will make it easier for all Americans -- but those in low- and moderate-income communities in particular -- to access solar energy. In response, the Daily Caller's Michael Bastasch criticized one of the initiative's key components: a program to encourage the development of community solar programs, known as "solar gardens" -- large, centrally-located solar arrays from which community members can purchase solar energy in exchange for credits on their electric bills.
Bastasch warned that solar gardens "could increase costs and bring dubious benefits." To make his point, he cited Denver's plan to power 16 city-owned buildings with solar energy from community solar gardens. But far from being costly, the project is expected to save the city $6 million over the next 20 years.
Fossil fuel advocates are criticizing Pope Francis' recent climate encyclical, claiming his call to phase out fossil fuels will harm the poor by preventing access to electricity and keeping them in "energy poverty." But fossil fuels are not economically viable in most of the communities that suffer from a lack of electricity, and on-the-ground experts have explained that distributed renewable energy sources are often a more effective way to lift the world's impoverished -- who will be most affected by the adverse impacts of climate change -- out of energy poverty.
Conservative blog The Daily Caller posted an article with the headline: "Barack Obama, Wife Beater."
The July 1 post, posted just before midnight with an anonymous "Daily Caller contributor" byline, featured just five words -- "He's wearing a wife beater" -- accompanied by two pictures of President Obama, in which a "wife-beater" sleeveless shirt is visible under his white dress shirt. The headline read "Barack Obama, Wife Beater."
As of Thursday morning, the piece was featured on The Daily Caller's homepage.
A poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 20 percent of women who attended college in the past four years were sexually assaulted, contrary to claims in the right-wing media that the problem of campus sexual assault is overblown.
The poll of 1,053 men and women, conducted by phone between January and March, found that 20 percent of women and five percent of men reported being sexually assaulted either by force or while incapacitated. A further 11 percent of women reported an attempted assault.
The poll also underlined the problem of under-reporting in sexual assault cases, with three-quarters of victims saying they told someone else, but only 11 percent saying they told the police or college authorities. 89 percent said no one was held responsible or punished for the incident.
Men and women in the poll were sharply divided on what they perceive to be the rate of campus sexual assault, too: "58 percent of men believe the share of women sexually assaulted at their school is less than 1 in 5. An identical majority of women believe the share assaulted is 1 in 5 or greater."
The Post story highlighted the stories of some of the women who were given follow-up interviews:
A 21-year-old at a public university in the Southeast who participated in the poll said she was raped by a male student who escorted her out of a nightclub after she suddenly became woozy and separated from a group of friends. Someone, she suspects, had slipped a drug into her rum drink.
"In the morning, I woke up and my lip was so swollen," the woman said. "I just remember sobbing and sobbing and sobbing the next day. You learn a lot of lessons."
Like most who said they had been assaulted, the woman did not report the incident to university officials or police. She said she worried about whether she would ruin the man's future and wondered what to make of what had happened: Had there been a misunderstanding? Should she have been more vehement in saying no? She remembers clearly crying during the attack. She knew it was rape. But how would others see it?
Many in the right-wing media have downplayed concerns about college sexual assault. Previous studies with similar findings caused widespread outrage among right-wing media figures when the White House cited them in its campus sexual assault strategy launch, with the Daily Caller describing a Centers for Disease Control study that found one in five women is sexually assaulted in college as "bizarre and wholly false." On an NRA News show, The Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow claimed that the "one in five myth" was driving "hysteria" on campuses. And Rush Limbaugh went so far as to call the issue of college sexual assault "fake" and "made up."
Last year, the Post's own George Will described efforts to combat such assaults as an attempt to "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege," calling a 20 percent assault rate "preposterous." Not long after the poll's publication, the Post's fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted that he was removing the single "Pinocchio" that he had given President Obama for his citation of the one-in-five statistic.
The Daily Caller misrepresented an academic essay Hillary Clinton penned in 1973 to suggest that the former secretary of state views marriage as a valid comparison to slavery. However, the context of Clinton's essay makes clear she was discussing the evolving legal status of various groups such as women, slaves and children over time.
Clinton's 1973 essay for the Harvard Educational Review "raises serious questions about what kind of America Clinton foresees," The Daily Caller claimed on June 9, because in it Clinton "compared the institution of marriage and the dependency of childhood to slavery." As evidence, the conservative blog pointed to where Clinton discussed how the "basic rationale for depriving people of rights in a dependency relationship is that certain individuals are incapable or undeserving of the right to take care of themselves" and noted:
Along with the family, past and present examples of such arrangements include marriage, slavery, and the Indian reservation system.
To claim Clinton was comparing the institution of marriage to slavery is a gross misrepresentation of the essay, which highlighted how the legal status of minorities like women, slaves, and Native Americans evolved over time as an example for how children's rights might evolve.
Clinton's article examined "the changing status of children under the law" and focused in part on the "specific direction [children's right's] reform might take." Contemplating how the law might logistically abolish minority status, Clinton referenced how the "abolition of slavery and the emancipation of married women" did not automatically bestow these groups with full-citizenship rights, citing Henry H. Foster, Jr. and Doris Jonas Freed, who argued that the children's rights movement presented "the same arguments that were advanced over the issues of slavery and the emancipation of married women." The full context of Clinton's article (emphasis added):
Age may be a valid criterion for determining the distribution of legal benefits and burdens, but before it is used its application should be subjected to a test of rationality. Assessing the rationality of age classifications could be expedited by legislative abolition of the general status of minority and adoption of an area-by-area approach (as has already been done to a degree, for example, in the motor vehicle statutes).
It could also be accomplished by judicial declaration that the present classification scheme is over-inclusive, after which the state would bear the burden of justifying its restrictions on infants. As Foster and Freed point out, "... the arguments for and against perpetuation of minority status have a familiar ring. In good measure they are the same arguments that were advanced over the issues of slavery and the emancipation of married women." The abolition of slavery and the emancipation of married women did not automatically invest previously "inferior" persons with full adult citizenship rights, but the state at least had to begin to rationalize its treatment of those groups. The abolition of minority, more justifiably, need not mean that children become full-fledged miniature adults before the law. Their substantive and procedural rights could still be limited or modified on the basis of supportable findings about needs and capacities at various ages.
The Daily Caller's misrepresentation of Clinton's essay is a decades-old attack. As The Los Angeles Times pointed out in 1992, Clinton's reference to marriage referred not to women's rights in the modern institution, but to women's historical struggle for legal identity outside that of her husband:
At various times in history--including ancient Greece, some of the years of the Roman Empire and even 19th-Century England--a wife was considered in the power of her husband, usually incapable of making contracts or governing her financial affairs.
Some media outlets are distorting comments made by President Obama claiming he admitted he doesn't have a "complete strategy" to fight the terrorist group the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). But the full context of the remarks -- which were reported correctly by a number of media outlets -- shows that Obama was only referencing the complete strategy of training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers.
Conservative media are promoting a deceptively edited video from a Republican opposition research firm that purports to show Hillary Clinton coldly demanding that a supporter "go to the end of the line," to allege that Clinton is out of touch with voters. But even as the dishonest attack made its way to Fox News, network contributor Guy Benson admitted the full context of the video "casts [Clinton] ... in a far less damaging light."
Some conservative media pundits suggested 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) may have disqualified himself from the presidency after his opposition to the National Security Agency's bulk phone collections program caused parts of the PATRIOT Act to lapse.
Conservative media are lashing out at a Columbia University student who protested her school's handling of her sexual assault allegation, distracting from yet another report confirming the widespread prevalence of the crime on college campuses.
In 2014, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz made headlines for her senior art thesis, a performance piece titled "Carry That Weight," in which she pledged to carry a mattress whenever she was on campus in protest of her college's handling of her own sexual assault complaint against a fellow student. On May 19, Sulkowicz graduated from Columbia, crossing the stage while carrying her mattress with the aide of four friends.
In a May 20 post for National Review Online, Ian Tuttle attacked Sulkowicz, accusing her of having lied about being assaulted. Pointing to a letter in which Sulkowicz expressed disappointment that her personal social media pages had been sorted through in order to find evidence to cast doubts on her claims, Tuttle wrote that all victims of sexual assault should "by definition" have to "submit one's own private life to scrutiny" if they want their accusations taken seriously and reported. Another post that same day by the Daily Caller's Jim Treacher similarly attacked Sulkowciz, promoting a "@FakeRape" Twitter campaign against her to make the debunked claim that false rape accusation are common.
Right-wing media's attacks on Sulkowicz come as growing evidence suggests that sexual assault is occurring at epidemic levels on college campuses.
A new study released May 20 in the Journal of Adolescent Health "surveyed 480 female freshmen at a university in upstate New York in 2010" and found that about one in five were the victims of sexual assault or attempted rape while in college, and the majority experienced it during their first three months on campus. As the Huffington Post reported, "The results confirm other research that has found about 20 percent of women are victimized by sexual assault in college. A Centers for Disease Control report last year showed 19.3 percent of women are victims of rape or attempted rape during their lifetimes." Quoting researcher Kate Carey, a professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University's School of Public Health, the article noted that this research is further evidence that "rape is a common experience among college-aged women" and there is an urgent need to address it. Carey explained that "if a similar number of young people were breaking their legs in their first year of school, 'we would expect that the community would do something to enhance the safety of the environment.'"
Conservative media have consistently worked to discredit research showing that one in five women experiences a completed or attempted sexually assault at college, mocking those who do come forward and dismissing efforts to address the crime as proof of a "war" on men. Their efforts to dismiss the epidemic of campus sexual assault further stigmatizes a crime that according to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network already goes unreported up to 68% of the time.
The Environmental Protection Agency is updating its air pollution safeguards for new wood-burning stoves and heaters, with the initial pollution reductions taking effect on May 15. Conservative media have frequently fear-mongered and misinformed about these standards, so here's a handy guide to rebutting the most egregious media myths that are sure to resurface in the days ahead.