A new survey of firearm experts reveals a consensus debunking the myths the gun lobby and conservative media use to try to infect the national dialogue on gun safety to create the appearance of legitimate debate.
In sharp contrast with its intense scrutiny of Hillary Clinton's private email server, the media has largely remained mum on Senator Marco Rubio's (R-FL) own habit of deleting official emails sent from a private email account. MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out that the hosts of Fox News' The Five gave Rubio a free pass on his email history, while continuing to disparage Clinton's private server.
According to a statement by Clinton's lawyer, the former Secretary of State's email server was wiped clean after she turned over approximately 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that not only did Rubio correspond with reporters on a private email account while he served as a leader in the Florida House, but when the Orlando Sentinal requested those emails, Rubio's spokesperson said they had been deleted.
In a March 31 article for MSNBC.com's MaddowBlog, Benen pointed out that while co-hosting the March 30 edition of The Five, Rubio failed to answer a direct question about whether he would publicly disclose his own private emails, writing, "At this point, Dana Perino, the former press secretary in the Bush/Cheney White House, jumped in to criticize Clinton in more detail, and Rubio never responded to the question. Which is further evidence that the politics of emails is trickier than Republican would like."
Benen went on to describe how similar the two email stories actually are:
But in an unexpected twist, it was a question from a Fox News co-host that demonstrates how easy it is to remove "Clinton" out of that sentence and put in the name of several Republican presidential candidates, including "Rubio." Consider:
In Rubio's case, the senator concedes he did official work on his private account, but he insists the deleted private emails had nothing to do with his official duties. Perhaps the way to be certain is to pursue full disclosure - up to and including careful technology scrutiny of computer servers - just to make sure he didn't do anything wrong.
Why should Rubio be trusted to make decisions on his own about which of his emails should be deleted?
I suppose the obvious answer is that the Florida senator isn't accused of any official wrongdoing, so there's no need to review his communications. But - and this is key - Clinton isn't facing any serious allegations, either, Benghazi conspiracy theorists notwithstanding.
The media also ignored former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's email habits. In the wake of a Clinton feeding frenzy, the major networks paid minimal attention to the seven years it took for Bush to comply with a Florida statute requiring him to turn over private emails.
From the March 12 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox's Dana Perino lashed out at Senate Democrats, calling them "jerks" for preventing a Republican attempt to expand the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of taxpayer funded abortions, to include fees collected from criminal human traffickers. Republicans' latest anti-abortion manuever now jeopardizes the passage of a bipartisan anti-human trafficking bill.
The Justice For Victims of Trafficking Act, a bipartisan anti-human trafficking bill once fast-tracked for approval is now on hold after Senate Democrats discovered language in the bill "that would extend the longstanding Hyde Amendment barring the use of taxpayer funds for abortions to the new Domestic Trafficking Victims' Fund," according to the Washington Post. Senate Republicans have demanded that the bill, which would establish a fund for victims of human trafficking using money collected through fines levied against convicted smugglers, "be subject to the limitations" outlined in the Hyde Amendment.
During the March 12 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino chided Senate Democrats for demanding the removal of the anti-abortion language from the bill, claiming that "the human trafficking bill is not moving forward today because Democrats are jerks on this issue":
Currently, the Hyde Amendment only forbids federal tax dollars from funding abortions. The Washington Post explained that although the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act does not specifically mention the word "abortion," the Hyde Amendment language would apply "to the new fund, which is supported by a proposed $5,000 assessment on those convicted of a wide variety of federal crimes related to sexual abuse and human trafficking." Furthermore, the anti-abortion language in the bill, unlike the Hyde Amendment which must be renewed each year, would be permanent, leaving trafficked victims of sexual violence cut off from abortion related services.
Eric Bolling, co-host of Fox News' The Five, accused Hillary Clinton of "blusters" and "lying" for saying in her press conference that she was unable to securely access multiple email accounts on one mobile phone, opting instead to use her own email server instead of using two phones. But at the time, it was reportedly not possible to have two accounts on a secure BlackBerry like the one Clinton carreid.
From the March 3 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the February 25 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Bjorn Lomborg has argued for more coal use abroad and fewer electric cars here in the U.S., both times contorting the facts to cast his position as a way to keep people from dying. In each instance, Lomborg cloaks his anti-environmental positions in supposed concern for public health, rather than addressing the canary in the coal mine: The fact that coal emissions contribute to four of the five leading causes of death in the United States.
In a February 19 USA Today column, Lomborg, the President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and a long-time electric car critic, asserted that we should "stop our green worship of the electric car," in part because it "surprisingly kills almost twice the number of people compared with regular gasoline cars." Lomborg was referring to a recent University of Minnesota study, which found that the pollution associated with electric vehicles powered by coal or "grid average" electricity result in more annual deaths than the pollution associated with vehicles run on conventional gasoline. Based on these findings, Lomborg concluded that "[i]nstead of focusing on electric cars, we should focus on making coal-fired power cleaner."
Of course, that wasn't the conclusion of the study Lomborg was citing. The University of Minnesota researchers instead emphasized that "electric vehicles (EVs) powered by electricity from natural gas or wind, water, or solar power are best for improving air quality, whereas vehicles powered by corn ethanol and EVs powered by coal are the worst." In other words, the solution is moving away from coal as quickly as possible, not scrapping electric cars.
Conservative media are reacting to a terrorist threat against Mall of America by calling for people to be allowed to carry concealed guns in more places even though no evidence exists that civilians with concealed carry permits stop mass attacks.
During a February 22 appearance on CNN, Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson told visitors to Minnesota's Mall of America to be "particularly careful," citing a video released by Somalia-based terror group Al-Shabaab that called for an attack on the shopping center. Local law enforcement say there is "no credible threat" to the mall, but that Mall of America has "implemented extra security precautions."
Shoppers visiting Mall of America are not allowed to carry firearms, although one local lawmaker is attempting to change that policy in light of Al-Shabaab's threat. As a reaction to the September 11 terror attacks, Mall of America created its own 150-member counterterrorism security force that is "modeled after similar units in Israel." Local police also have a unit dedicated to the mall.
Conservatives have used the threat to question the mall's no guns policy for shoppers and to push the myth that places where guns are not allowed are particularly dangerous.
On February 24, Outnumbered co-hosts Andrea Tantaros, Stacey Dash, and Kennedy along with guest and Fox News contributor Bo Dietl all endorsed carrying concealed guns in Mall of America. Kennedy suggested that Mall of America is a "gun-free zone" and argued that such an area "really is an invitation" for terrorists. Tantaros falsely suggested that the gunman in the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting was "taken down" with a firearm to advance the carrying of guns. In fact, the shooter in that incident committed suicide.
Fox News host Eric Bolling suggested that there haven't been any recent examples of right-wing terrorism in order to downplay a recent Department of Homeland Security report warning of right-wing extremists. In fact, there have been multiple deadly right-wing attacks in the U.S. in recent years, far outpacing other types of extremist attacks.
From the February 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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While discussing Oregon's recent political scandal, conservative media are reviving their favorite renewable energy bogeyman - the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra -- to push the false narrative that the clean energy industry is an economic failure that is widely infected with "crony capitalism." Contrary to these claims, Solyndra was never a scandal, and renewable energy sources are increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels -- despite historically receiving far less in government subsidies.
When former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced he would resign due to the controversy surrounding undisclosed consulting fees his fiancée received while advising him on energy policies, conservative media were quick to compare the controversy to the government loan guarantee and bankruptcy of solar firm Solyndra. As Politico recently explained, the conservative strategy is to use the Kitzhaber scandal as "ammunition" against Democrats and environmentalists who they claim "have propped up failed clean-energy projects" and provided government aid that "ends up financially benefiting only the politically connected companies lobbying for it." Bloomberg News similarly stated that whether or not it is accurate, "[t]he argument being made is that clean energy lobbying is a way for Democrats to get rich."
That's exactly what we've seen in the conservative media. The Washington Times claimed the Oregon scandal once again brings to light "the failures of taxpayer-funded green energy companies such as Solyndra that had political ties to party bigwigs." The National Review Online linked the situation in Oregon to Solyndra and what it claimed were other "green-energy scandals that piled up during [the Obama administration's] first term." The Daily Caller alleged that in the case of both the Kitzhaber scandal and Solyndra, "government supported green energy programs based on political connections." And Fox News also highlighted Solyndra while discussing the Oregon controversy -- twice.
But the simple truth is that the Solyndra episode was never a scandal, a fact that has been proven time and time again. The solar energy firm, which received a federal loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, filed for bankruptcy as a result of plummeting prices for solar panels, as detailed by Greenwire, among others. Conservative media responded by pushing baseless claims that Solyndra used unethical influence in the Obama administration to receive its loan, but an extensive investigation by House Republicans turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
In addition to pushing the cronyism charge, conservative media have also used the Oregon scandal as an opportunity to broadly claim that renewable energy is not economically viable in the marketplace. For example, National Review Online purported that these sources of energy can't "survive in the marketplace without giant subsidies or special tax favors." During an interview on WSJ Live, Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell similarly claimed that "wind and solar and ethanol really cannot survive without handouts from government."
But the reality is that wind and solar power have become increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels -- and are actually cheaper than coal and natural gas in some markets -- despite having received far less in government subsidies over the years.
State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki and her deputy, Marie Harf, have spent the week being attacked by right-wing media. They have been targets of particularly harsh, personal attacks, using language that demeans both women and is almost never used to describe men in similar high-profile positions, regardless of what they say.
On February 19, the Daily Caller equated Psaki to a game where players take turns kicking a bead-filled ball around, when it was announced she has been tapped by President Obama to be the White House Communications Director: "Hacky Psaki: Obama Spokeslady Kicked Back To WH After Stint At State Dept."
The National Review's Ian Tuttle called the two women an incapable "hapless duo" with a "Lucy and Ethel routine" (Harf is blonde, Psaki a red head) who were trying to create a version of the comedy film Legally Blonde at the US Department of State. In a separate piece, the conservative journal of record's Kevin Williamson called Harf "cretinous" and a "misfit who plays Messy Marvin to Jen Psaki's feckless Pippi Longstocking."
It's one thing to disagree with and criticize a strategy or policy, it's another to belittle and undermine a person's intelligence and legitimacy by resorting to misogynist attacks.
I've worked with Jen Psaki, she's no lightweight. While I don't know Harf, according to her bio she spent two years during the Bush administration as a CIA analyst on Middle East leadership issues, has a masters degree in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, and a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science with concentrations in Russian and Eastern European Studies and Jewish Studies, having graduated from Indiana University with honors.
Despite their credentials, Rachel Campos-Duffy, co-host of Fox News' Outnumbered, mocked the two women by saying they look more like sorority girls than serious professionals. Duffy's comment illustrates that denigrating, sexist comments reducing women to commentary about their looks or their intelligence aren't constrained by gender; nor are they constrained by political party, as attacks leveled from conservatives about Michele Bachmann's migraines illustrated.
The media's absurd 30+ year obsession with Hillary Clinton's appearance and David Letterman's comment that former Governor Sarah Palin had a "slutty flight attendant look" make it clear that almost nothing is out of bounds when criticizing a woman regardless of what she is saying. I say that as someone who -- despite profound substantive differences -- spoke out against the attacks made on both Palin and Bachmann.
What makes the right-wing media attacks against Harf even more egregious -- despite the familiarity of the larger pattern -- is that she is essentially saying the same thing a number of high-profile conservative men have also said previously. Yet those men weren't attacked -- some were even praised.
Harf drew the wrath of conservatives for commenting that "We cannot kill our way out of this war" against the Islamic State during a February 16 interview on Hardball. For this she is being portrayed as a "a damn naïve fool" by conservatives, who ignore her full comments, suggesting that she didn't also talk about the importance of military strikes as well as other tactics:
HARF: We're killing a lot of them, and we're going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians. So are the Jordanians. They're in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need, in the longer term - medium and longer term - to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups.
You're right, there is no easy solution in the long term to preventing and combatting violent extremism, but if we can help countries work at the root causes of this - what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47 instead of trying to start a business? Maybe we can try to chip away at this problem, while at the same time going after the threat, taking on ISIL in Iraq, in Syria, and helping our partners around the world.
Rush Limbaugh certainly didn't call Admiral Michael Mullen, then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, a "little girl" or say that he sounded like a "valley girl" when he basically said the same thing about the war in Afghanistan in 2008 testimony:
MULLEN: We can't kill our way to victory, and no armed force anywhere -- no matter how good -- can deliver these keys alone. It requires teamwork and cooperation.
While they were talking about different parts of the world at different times, both Harf and Mullen are making a broader point that given the nature of terrorist threats and the strategies they employ -- from the way they utilize social media, finance their operations, recruit and train from all over the world, targeting those who are most vulnerable to their message -- America must have a strategy that is multi-faceted and multi-national. That strategy includes not only airstrikes but also social media, helping countries build democratic institutions, and stabilizing their economy with the means for people to make a living.
Fox News' Special Report used a story about a train derailment and oil spill in West Virginia to push for the passing of the Keystone XL pipeline, a common pattern for Fox, which has a long history of exploiting tragedies to push for the pipeline's construction.
Taking their cues from the Drudge Report, right-wing media are echoing a London Telegraph columnist's false claim that scientific agencies intentionally adjusted years of weather station data to show a global warming trend that isn't really there, which the author dubbed the "biggest science scandal ever." But far from being a scandal, historical temperature records are routinely subject to peer-reviewed adjustments to account for changes to measuring instruments, the time of day measurements are taken, and other factors -- and they do not negate a global warming trend.