Several media outlets ignored the opening of the country's largest advanced biofuel plant -- which produces a fuel with a far lesser climate impact than gasoline that can help reduce our dependence on oil -- even though they previously claimed that such a biofuel "does not exist."
The New York Times brazenly claimed in 2012 that cellulosic ethanol, a type of fuel made from agricultural waste such as corn stalks, "does not exist" -- and many other news outlets also adopted this misleading framing. Industry journal Platts published a blog titled: "Puzzling over the US mandate for a fuel that doesn't exist yet," later clarifying that the fuel simply did not exist "in the US at commercial volumes" at the time. The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that "Congress subsidized a product that didn't exist" and "is punishing oil companies for not buying the product that doesn't exist." FoxNews.com called the fuel "merely hypothetical." National Review Online contributing editor Deroy Murdock stated "EPA might as well mandate that Exxon hire leprechauns."
However, since a new facility started producing cellulosic ethanol on a commercial-scale on September 3, these outlets have remained silent.* Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels opened the biggest cellulosic ethanol facility in the country for production, which will "convert 570 million pounds of crop waste into 25 million gallons of ethanol each year." The Iowa facility is being heralded as "a major step in the shift from the fossil fuel age to a biofuels revolution."
Cellulosic ethanol and other "advanced biofuels" are included in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires oil companies to mix fuel made renewable sources into their product. This standard was part of a bill that passed during the Bush Administration with bipartisan support -- a fact that several right-wing news outlets failed to mention in their coverage.
A lifecycle analysis from Argonne National Laboratory estimated that the type of fuel produced at the new Poet-DSM facility emits up to 96 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional gasoline. The Poet-DSM facility is the first of three cellulosic ethanol plants scheduled to start production this year, which will together produce an estimated 17 million gallons per year. Jeremy Martin, an expert from the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the plant opening "an important milestone on the road to clean transportation." Martin added: "With efficient vehicles and clean fuels like cellulosic biofuel we can cut our projected oil use in half in 20 years."
*Based on a search of publicly available content from September 1 - September 7.
Photo at top of cellulosic biofuel crop from Flickr user KBS with a Creative Commons license.
The Daily Caller defended a commentator who used the words "fag" and "trannies" in a post assailing the transgender community, blaming "politically correct" mobs for allegedly getting the post censored.
On August 12, Vice magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes published a profanity-laden post on Thought Catalog titled "Transphobia Is Perfectly Natural." In the post, McInnes argued that transgender people are just "mentally ill gays," calling them "nuts trapped in a crazy person's body":
We're all transphobic. We aren't blind. We see there are no old trannies. They die of drug overdoses and suicide way before they're 40 and nobody notices because nobody knows them. They are mentally ill gays who need help, and that help doesn't include being maimed by physicians. These aren't women trapped in a man's body. They are nuts trapped in a crazy person's body. I see them on the streets of New York. They are guys with tits and a sweatshirt. They wear jeans and New Balance. "What's the matter with simply being a fag who wears makeup?" I think when I see them. You're not a woman. You're a tomboy at best.
By pretending this is all perfectly sane, you are enabling these poor bastards to mutilate themselves.
The post generated a significant backlash, with scores of writers demanding that their work be removed from Thought Catalog. Within a week of the post's publication, McInnes was placed on "indefinite leave" from his position as chief creative officer of the ad agency Rooster.
In a September 2 article, Daily Caller reporter Patrick Howley called the criticism of McInnes' post evidence of a "politically correct hysteria" engulfing the country. Howley also interviewed McInnes, offering him a platform to denounce the "culture of psychotic harassment" that he alleged was persecuting him:
Writer, commentator and Vice magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes said that politically correct hysteria like the kind that recently cost him his job is similar to the mafia.
"It's a real quandary people who write have to face right now," McInnes told The Daily Caller. "Am I going to speak freely or am I going to hide?"
McInnes, who was in Georgia shooting a movie at the time of the scandal, is not too concerned about his livelihood. But he bemoaned the plight of young writers starting out in an industry that you'd think would appreciate candor, and instead punishes it in storms of faux-moralistic activism.
McInnes is one of the few writers in America today willing to expose the mechanics of our P.C. outrage culture, and to deflate the idea that pro-censorship Internet hordes are doing anything righteous. Will mine be the first generation in history to gauge intellectual success as a measure not of challenging taboos, but rather of maniacally defending them? [emphasis added]
An opinion column for The Daily Caller blamed gay and bisexual men for much of the military's sexual assault problem, arguing that the 2010 repeal of the armed forces' Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy had worsened the problem of rape in the military.
In an August 27 column, writer Dave Benkof asserted that the repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service members was responsible for an "uptick in same-sex rape." According to Benkof, "[o]nly a fierce ideologue" would deny that allowing LGBT soldiers to serve openly would lead to an increase in sexual assault:
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is on the rise for both men and women, according to a Pentagon report earlier this year that was widely covered in news outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Reuters, and CNN.
But virtually none of that coverage addressed an obvious aspect of the problem: the 2011 introduction of open service by gays and bisexuals undoubtedly has increased the incidence of sexual assault against men in uniform. Despite repeated LGBT assurances that integrating gays into the military would not affect morale, an uptick in same-sex rape - especially involving straight victims - most assuredly affects morale. In fact, just the fear of increased sexual violence could affect morale.
Only a fierce ideologue would suggest that introducing many thousands of same-sex-attracted men into a mostly male service would decrease or maintain the previous extent of male-male MST.
The LGBT community, which regarding marriage has shown a willingness to use deception to achieve its policy goals, must be held to a high standard of proof. Media, legislators, and voters should do their own research before trusting gay community slogans that often turn out to be misleading, incomplete, or downright false, including:
"Studies prove that gay parenting is as good as straight parenting";
"Gays are born that way";
"Gay marriage won't harm anyone"; and
"Gay marriage is inevitable."
The next time gay activists assure you their agenda has no downside, don't trust them. Investigate it for yourself. [emphasis added]
Benkof's claim that DADT repeal is responsible for a rise in military rapes is patently false. A study by Palm Center, a research institute focused on sexuality and the military, has found no evidence that open service has led to increased sexual assault. Nor, the center reported, did repeal lead to a decline in military cohesion or morale, as Benkof asserts.
Right-wing media are parroting local Republican officials and criticizing voter registration drives in Ferguson, Missouri, the site of intense protests after the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Voting rights advocates argue that registering the electorate is crucial for the community to hold their government accountable, but right-wing media condemn these efforts as "liberal activism."
A recent study from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) claims that smog regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will cost the economy $270 billion. But the regulations, necessary to alleviate the unsafe smog pollution currently experienced by 140 million Americans, will likely achieve net benefits by reducing costs associated with medical expenses and premature deaths, while experts have said the NAM study uses "fraudulent" claims and is "not based in economic reality."
In the wake of the tragic shooting death of unarmed Missouri teenager Michael Brown, right-wing media outlets attacked President Obama's uncontroversial statement of condolences and suggested the president was to blame for the state of race relations in the United States.
Right-wing publicist and author Craig Shirley doesn't like a new book about Ronald Reagan written by award-winning (and liberal) historian Rick Perlstein. So the conservative publicist has threatened to sue for $25 million in damages and has asked for all copies of the book to be "destroyed," claiming that with Invisible Bridge: The Fall Of Richard Nixon And The Rise of Ronald Reagan, Perlstein's guilty of plagiarism for paraphrasing facts Shirley had previously reported in his own book about Reagan.
But of course, paraphrasing is not the basis for copyright infringement and that's certainly not what constitutes plagiarism.
Reviewing the supposed examples of infringement cited by Shirley's lawyers, Jesse Walker, books editor for the libertarian Reason magazine, concludes:
Facts are not copyrightable, and one pair of similar sentences does not an infringement make. I don't see a dollar's worth of damages here, let alone 25 million.
Instead, the attack on Perlstein seems to be more about partisan politics and the clash over who gets to write the history of Reagan and less to do with allegations of misappropriating work. (Perlstein references Shirley's work in the Invisible Bridge acknowledgements and cites Shirley more than 100 times in the book's online endnotes.) Conservatives have previously showered Perlstein's conservative-movement books in praise, but, "this time Perlstein is writing about Ronald Reagan. Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan--Perlstein has moved from covering a minor saint, to a martyr, to God," as Slate's Dave Weigel explains.
Nonetheless, with an unfortunate assist from the New York Times this week, which helped legitimize the dubious plagiarism allegation via a he-said/he-said accounting of the controversy, Shirley's attention-grabbing accusation has received a wider airing. Indeed, the Times article insists Shirley's dubious claim of plagiarism effectively "casts a shadow over the release" of Invisible Bridge, which is precisely the storyline movement conservatives want to create this week. (Separately, the Times, in a glowing review, recently labeled the book an "epic work.")
The Times' misguided new coverage seemed to draw a rebuke from the paper's own Paul Krugman. Denouncing the Perlstein smear campaign as a "grotesque" "sliming," and dismissing the plagiarism charges as "spurious," Krugman stressed that in cases where professional reputations are attacked via unsubstantiated claims, "this tactic should be punctured by the press, not given momentum with "opinions differ on shape of the planet" reporting."
And that's precisely what the Times dispatch failed to do in this instance.
The National Rifle Association made a botched attempt at statistics in order to defend economist and gun researcher John Lott, who famously put forward the debunked "more guns, less crime" thesis that undergirds the NRA's agenda.
In a 1997 paper Lott, along with David Mustard, purported to use econometrics to prove that the expansion of state laws allowing guns to be carried in public reduced crime rates in the United States. Since its publication, Lott's study has been endlessly cited by the NRA and other gun advocates even though the study's conclusions been repeatedly debunked by other academicians.
In an August 3 article for the conservative Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" page, the NRA's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), defended Lott's work from recent criticism in The Washington Post.
Writing that "anti-gun activists ... worked themselves into a rage over Lott's research," and that Lott has been accused by critics of "using bad data," the NRA-ILA claimed that reductions in crime since the early 1990s coupled with increases in the number of states allowing guns to be carried in public proved Lott's case:
Reality check, however. For starters, in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, firearms were used in only 21.8 percent of aggravated assaults, according to the FBI. Furthermore, from the end of 1991, the year when violent crime hit an all-time high in the United States, through 2012, 24 states adopted [right to carry] laws (not counting Illinois, which adopted RTC in 2013). And according to the FBI, between 1991 and 2012, the nation's aggravated assault rate dropped 44 percent. The rates of 39 states and the District of Columbia decreased. And while the rates of 11 states increased, most of these states are ones with relatively low populations and aggravated assault numbers, thus small increases in the numbers of assaults can translate into seemingly large increases when the trend is measured on a percentage basis.
This defense of Lott purports to explain the entire decline in crime since the early 1990s as a result of gun carrying laws without offering any evidence to explain this unfounded claim. In fact, several plausible factors have been put forward to explain the crime drop including the end of the crack epidemic and reductions in the general public's exposure to lead. The General Social Survey indicates that the rate of household gun ownership has declined over time leading to speculation that recent increases in the number of guns sold are largely attributable to pre-existing gun owners buying more guns.
House Republicans pulled a bill which would increase funding for security at the southern border after conservative media and their allies voiced opposition to it.
The bill, pushed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was tabled after he and House Republican leadership faced "a rebellion among their most conservative ranks," according to the New York Times, who also reported that the failure to pass the bill "ensures that no legislation to address what both Democrats and Republicans call an urgent humanitarian crisis will reach President Obama's desk before the August break." After the measure failed, Republicans met to discuss whether they would bring up another bill before Congress goes into recess or to scrap the legislation entirely. Roll Call reported that "chaos reigned" as it became unclear what Republican leaders would decide to do.
Conservative media darling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was reportedly whipping votes in order to stop the bill the night before its introduction, according to a Washington Post report. Cruz appeared on Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren that same night and attacked what he described as "President Obama's amnesty."
Weekly Standard founder and ABC News contributor Bill Kristol wrote a July 31 blog post demanding that the House "kill the bill." He described the bill as "dubious legislation" and argued that passing it would "take the focus off what President Obama has done about immigration."
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt agreed with Kristol, writing that the House should "kill the fake border security bill and go home until the House leadership gets serious about passing a real border security bill."
The Drudge Report highlighted opposition to the bill at the top of the site with the headline "Hill Phones Melt As Boehner Pushes Border."
The Drudge headline linked to Breitbart.com, which has repeatedly opposed immigration reform efforts. The story by Matthew Boyle noted that "The American people have overloaded the Congressional phone lines yet again on Thursday, pressuring their members of Congress to vote against the House and Senate immigration bills."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson argued at his site, RedState, that the bill was flawed because it failed to repeal the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which conservatives incorrectly blame for generating the surge in child migrants from Central America.
Erickson added, "The House GOP should be starting with closing DACA, not telling conservatives they first have to fund the President and then they'll get table scraps" and directed his readers to RedState's "action center" where they could call Congress and demand that "the House GOP must close DACA."
Daily Caller columnist Mickey Kaus promoted a campaign from the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) which urged readers to call the U.S. Capitol switchboard in order to speak to their member of Congress and demand "No New Laws" on immigration. Kaus also linked to a list of members and their direct office phone numbers.
Laura Ingraham, a talk radio host and Fox News/ABC News contributor, who has been an anti-immigration reform crusader for years, wrote on Twitter that Boehner had made a "supreme accomplishment" by pushing a bill that "manages to enrage both the political left and conservatives." She later celebrated its defeat.
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).