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  • Did The Washington Post Just Violate Its Own Policy On Climate Science-Denying Letters?

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    The Washington Post published a letter to the editor by the Heritage Foundation’s Hans A. von Spakovsky that appears to directly violate the newspaper’s policy against publishing letters that deny the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.

    In the June 29 letter, which took issue with a recent Post op-ed by Yale Law School Dean Robert Post, von Spakovsky asserted:

    [Robert Post] called global warming “perhaps the single most significant threat facing the future of humanity.” But human-induced global warming is unproven, not an undisputed fact.

    However, in 2013, the Post’s then-letters editor Michael Larabee told Mother Jones that the newspaper has a policy against running letters that flatly deny human activities are causing climate change. Larabee stated: “It's our policy as well not to run letters to the editor that are factually inaccurate, so we wouldn't publish a letter that simply says, 'there's no sign humans have caused climate change.' … That's a broad absolute that doesn't take into account the existence of large amounts of science indicating otherwise." Larabee is now the oped editor at the Post; Jamie Riley Kolsky is now the Post’s letters editor.

    Speaking to Media Matters in 2014, Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said that climate science deniers would not be completely barred from the Post’s opinion pages. But Hiatt also reiterated that the Post seeks to avoid publishing letters that are “factually inaccurate,” which should certainly apply to von Spakovsky’s claim that “human-induced global warming is unproven.” At least 97 percent of climate scientists say that human activities such as burning fossil fuels are causing climate change, and scientists are as certain that human activities are driving global warming as they are that cigarettes can kill.

    To make matters worse, the Post also failed to disclose a glaring conflict of interest in von Spakovsky’s letter. The letter was a defense of ExxonMobil, which is currently under investigation by several attorneys general who are seeking to determine whether Exxon committed fraud by deliberately withholding truthful information about climate change from shareholders and the public in order to protect its profits. Yet the Post identified von Spakovsky only as a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, neglecting to mention that the Heritage Foundation has received almost $800,000 directly from Exxon since 1998.

    The letter by von Spakovsky also marked at least the fourth time that the Post has published the bogus claim the attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for fraud are trampling the company’s First Amendment rights. If Exxon has indeed committed fraud, “its speech would not merit First Amendment protection,” as Yale’s Robert Post explained in his June 24 op-ed.

    UPDATE (7/7/16): Reached for comment over email, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt told Media Matters:  

    Our policy hasn’t changed, but I do feel that when someone is mentioned, and especially in an unflattering way, in an article, we should lean toward allowing a response if space allows, and we should lean toward allowing the writer to say what he or she wants to say as far as possible within our bounds. In this case, the writer had been mentioned (in a June 24 oped by Robert Post); and the fact that the letter writer sides with what you describe as the 3 per cent of scientists, and wants to say that climate change is not an “undisputed fact,” is relevant to the argument that Robert Post was making. We thought it fair to let him express his view; useful to readers to understand the debate Robert Post was describing; and then fair to allow for further debate, as happened five days later with David Dunn’s July 4 letter, “Climate-change deniers are spreading a fraud.”

  • Right-Wing Media Desperately Smear Scientists To Defend Climate Deniers' Virtue

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    pollution

    Who is more likely to be influenced by money: The vast majority of climate scientists who agree with the scientific consensus that human activities are driving global warming, or the small pool of climate change deniers funded by the fossil fuel industry? The answer probably seems obvious, but some deniers are doing their best to play the "conflict of interest" card against respected climate scientists. 

    Right-wing media are promoting the myth that scientists who agree with the consensus of human-caused climate change have been "corrupt[ed]" by "massive amounts of money." Most recently, National Review published an op-ed from the Cato Institute's science director, Patrick Michaels, who wrote that the U.S. government disburses "tens of billions of dollars" to climate scientists "who would not have received those funds had their research shown climate change to be beneficial or even modest in its effects."

    Here's the bizarre thing: After arguing that money "corrupts" science that supports the consensus on man-made climate change, Michaels then tried to defend the industry funding behind the research that's used to deny climate change. Michaels wrote: "Are the very, very few climate scientists whose research is supported by [the fossil fuel] industry somehow less virtuous?"

    It should come as no surprise that Michaels himself works for an organization funded by the fossil fuel industry. The Cato Institute was co-founded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers and has received millions from the Koch family, while also receiving funding from ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute.

  • Tumbling Down the Benghazi Rabbit Hole

    New Spin: Republicans Are In On The Cover-Up, Too

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Like a pair of investigative bookends, two bipartisan congressional reports arrived this year -- one from the Senate Intelligence Committee released in January, the other by the House Intelligence Committee in late November. Both came to similar conclusions about the 2012 terror attack on the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi. And both represented bad news for conservative cheerleaders of the Benghazi cover-up saga, as the tandem reports released enormous amount of air from the scandal balloons.

    The Senate report in January did little to quench the political thirst of hardcore Benghazi believers. Its findings, which categorically demolished the most closely-held beliefs of Benghazi true-believers, didn't stop House Republicans from establishing a select committee in May to launch yet another investigation. (Six congressional committees and an independent State Department panel had already investigated the attack, for those keeping score.) That select committee holds its second hearing this week.  

    The more recent House report however, does seem to have produced a sense of creeping panic among dedicated partisans who remain committed to keeping the story alive through the 2016 presidential campaign. The House findings run so counter to what Benghazi promoters have claimed that they threaten the viability of that strategy.

    And that's why, in a truly odd turn of events, the Republican-authored House report is now under withering attack from a cadre of Republicans and their allies in the right-wing media ("a classic Washington whitewash"!), who've logged thousands of hours over the last two years propping up the shaky cover-up tale and trying to turn it into a Barack Obama scandal brand.

    "The House Select Committee on Benghazi has stated that it will reconvene on Dec. 10. Its work will be as important as ever," the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal announced this week. (i.e. questions remain!) The Weekly Standard agreed, with its writers reporting that the latest Congressional report that debunked every major Benghazi conspiracy to date, simply confirms that Congress needs all the Benghazi investigations it can get.

    Why? "This new Benghazi "intelligence" report is little more than a C.Y.A. attempt designed to protect incompetent politicians and government agents at the expense of justice for the victims of September 11, 2012," according to Sen. Rand Paul.

    This, of course, is the language of dead-enders. It's the language of partisans with stunted capacity for reason and who won't concede the facts on the ground. Instead, they tumble further and further down into a rabbit hole of what-ifs, spending extraordinary time (and taxpayer money) trying to undermine the facts while proclaiming the next inquiry will get it just right.

    In other words, a Republican-chaired committee report that debunks Benghazi conspiracies is now being used as a rallying cry for conservatives who are convinced the report raises more pressing questions.

    Do you see where this closed, hermetically sealed loop is designed to lead us?

    In criticizing the report, note that since the release of the report from the House Intelligence Committee, conservative critics need to find an explanation for why its Republican chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), allegedly opted to tank his own committee's year-in-the-making report; why he would authorize a "messy," "bizarre and troubling" report. Did he do it protect the White House and Hillary Clinton?

    Is Rogers now part of the cover-up, too?

  • 11 Times Right-Wing Media Blamed The World's Problems On Feminism

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA MARSHALL, COLEMAN LOWNDES & LIS POWER

    Conservative media have adopted a "blame feminism" approach to many of the world's problems, including rape and the lack of infrastructure funding. Here are 11 times right-wing media blamed feminism for creating the crisis of the day:

    1. Ben Carson blamed the unrest in Ferguson, MO on the "women's lib movement."

    2. Conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds accused feminists of derailing infrastructure funding.

    3. Rush Limbaugh blamed feminism for the NFL's punishment of football players.

    4. On Fox News, Laura Ingraham suggested gender equality and "political correctness" were to blame for a security breach at the White House because the intruder was able to overpower a female security agent.

    5. In the wake of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case, the extreme conservative website WND blamed domestic violence on feminism.

    6. The Weekly Standard blamed the epidemic of campus sexual assault on feminism being "in control of America's colleges and universities."

    7. On June 15, Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday accused feminists of trying to "end" Father's Day.

    8. The hosts of Fox News' Outnumbered agreed that feminism is to blame for boys falling behind in school.

    9.  During a March 31 Heritage Foundation panel commemorating Women's History Month, conservative columnist Mona Charon cited the alleged "disintegration of family function" as one of feminism's many "failures."

    10. In a discussion on Fox News' The Five about a female teacher who had sex with her 15-year old student, co-host Andrea Tantaros claimed "women who do this feel like it's not as stigmatizing as it was before," insisting that "there's something about feminism that lets them know 'I can do anything that a man does, I can even go after that young boy. I deserve it.'"

    11. In 2012, Rush Limbaugh claimed that feminism is "ruining women." 

  • Conservative Media Cite Widely Discredited Research To Falsely Claim Immigration Executive Action Will Cost $2 Trillion

    ››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER

    Right-wing media outlets hyped widely discredited research from the Heritage Foundation to push the myth that President Obama's executive actions on immigration will cost the U.S. economy more than $2 trillion in federal benefits paid to those undocumented immigrants whose deportations are deferred. But Obama's exercise of prosecutorial discretion on behalf of certain undocumented parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents does not confer federal means-tested benefits and economists report that allowing more immigrants to legally work will raise revenues and boost the economy.

  • Right-Wing Media Pretend Religious Liberty Protects Anti-LGBT Employment Discrimination

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER & MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    Conservative media are condemning President Barack Obama's executive order prohibiting federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT discrimination, framing the order as an assault on religious liberty, pushing discredited arguments to claim this discrimination is legally insignificant and asserting that anti-LGBT workplace bias isn't a real problem.

    On July 21, President Obama signed an executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite pressure from some conservatives, the order did not include a broad exemption for religiously-affiliated organizations to engage in such discrimination, instead re-affirming a Bush II-era exemption that will allow a contracted "religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society" to continue to limit its hires to employees of their preferred religion. Prior to the issuing of the order, Executive Order 11246, more than 100 faith leaders signed a letter warning that the rejected religious exemptions would "open a Pandora's box inviting other forms of discrimination."

    In a July 22 editorial, National Review Online complained that the order was unnecessary due to "changing social attitudes and the pressure of market competition" and argued that "the order addresses a small and shrinking problem of discrimination at a cost to religious liberty." 

    Ryan T. Anderson, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a writer for the Daily Signal, Heritage's news site, echoed NRO's objections. Anderson flatly rejected any comparison between anti-gay discrimination and that based on sex or race and referred to sexual orientation and gender identity as "voluntary behaviors":

    Federal policy on government contracts should not seek to enforce monolithic liberal secularism. Today's order undermines our nation's commitment to reasonable pluralism and reasonable diversity. All citizens and the groups they form should be free to exist and participate in relevant government programs according to their reasonable beliefs. The federal government should not use the tax-code and government contracting to reshape civil society on controversial moral issues that have nothing to do with the federal contract at stake.

    [...]

    [S]exual orientation and gender identity are unclear, ambiguous terms. They can refer to voluntary behaviors as well as thoughts and inclinations, and it is reasonable for employers to make distinctions based on actions. By contrast, "race" and "sex" clearly refer to traits, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, these traits (unlike voluntary behaviors) do not affect fitness for any job.

    Today's executive order bans decisions based on moral views common to the Abrahamic faith traditions and to great thinkers from Plato to Kant as unjust discrimination. Whether by religion, reason, or experience, many people of goodwill believe that our bodies are an essential part of who we are. On this view, maleness and femaleness are not arbitrary constructs but objective ways of being human to be valued and affirmed, not rejected or altered. Thus, our sexual embodiment as male and female goes to the heart of what marriage is: a union of sexually complementary spouses. Today's order deems such judgments irrational and unlawful.

  • On Common Core, All News Is Bad News At Heritage's Daily Signal

    Blog ››› ››› MICHELLE LEUNG

    Daily Signal ScreenshotThe Daily Signal revealed its biased reporting on education by only covering negative Common Core news since the site's launch one month ago.

    On July 1, Education Week reported on a survey it completed with Gallup that showed about two-thirds of school district superintendents said they believe that the Common Core State Standards "will improve the quality of education in their communities," and that the standards were "just about right" in terms of level of difficulty.

    This news on the standards from educators was summarily ignored by the Heritage Foundation's new digital news site, The Daily Signal, which has a dedicated section to the subject of Common Core. The Daily Signal purports to provide "straight-down-the-middle journalism" according to Geoffrey Lysaught, vice president of strategic communications at the Heritage Foundation, but one month after its launch, the website's coverage of Common Core has limited its reporting to bad news for the state-based education standards.

    Ignoring the positive Gallup and Education Week research on Common Core, The Daily Signal instead published a piece the same day based on findings from the Friedman Foundation, an organization that aims to "amplify the national call for true education reform through school choice."

    In the past month, The Daily Signal's Common Core reporting has focused on Common Core opposition from states and governors, like Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, and portrayed them in a negative light. Meanwhile, Jindal is a contributor to the site and an outspoken opponent of Common Core.

    In addition to The Daily Signal's skewed reporting on Common Core, the outlet also misinforms on the actual standards by referring to them as "national standards" when in fact, the Common Core is a set of state standards that were developed by education commissioners, governors, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and state leaders. It comes as no surprise that The Daily Signal is distorting Common Core given the Heritage Foundation's mission to push conservative, though apparently misinformed, education policies.

  • The Slow, Awkward Death Of NOM's IRS Conspiracy Theory

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    For two years, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been peddling the theory that the IRS intentionally leaked its donor list to a gay rights organization as part of an Obama administration conspiracy. Two separate investigations and a ruling by a Reagan-appointed judge have debunked that theory. But right-wing media, which have widely touted NOM's initial accusations, have largely ignored or denied the conspiracy theory's demise. 

    In the spring of 2012, an IRS employee inadvertently leaked an unredacted list of NOM's donors in response to a public records request. The pro-equality group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) got its hands on the list, highlighting past contributions to NOM by prominent conservatives like then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

    Noting that key HRC officials were prominent supporters of President Obama's re-election campaign, NOM alleged a conspiracy between the organization and the Obama administration aimed at embarrassing NOM and its supporters. 

    In April 2012, NOM filed a formal letter of complaint to the IRS. Conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and The Weekly Standard touted the complaint, focusing particularly on the revelation that Romney was one of the group's donors. For most of the next year, however, media interest in the story was scant.

    That changed in the spring of 2013. In May, U.S. Attorney General Eric holder ordered the FBI to begin a criminal probe into allegations that the agency had targeted tax-exempt conservative political groups. While the IRS actually scrutinized progressive groups more extensively than conservative ones, the IRS "scandal" became a rallying cry for right-wing media. The controversy also meant newfound interest in NOM's allegations against the agency.

    Mainstream and conservative media outlets were quick to pick up on NOM's call for an investigation into the IRS's activities.

    From Politico:

    The Wall Street Journal 's James Taranto spotlighted NOM's claims in a column on the IRS controversy, asking "How pervasive is the Obama IRS scandal?":

  • The 7 Worst Arguments In The Heritage Foundation's New Anti-ENDA Report

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    A new report from the Heritage Foundation attacks the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), mounting a perverse and fallacious defense of allowing businesses to discriminate against workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

    In advance of the Senate's expected historic vote on ENDA, Heritage Foundation fellow and "ex-gay" therapy-advocate Ryan T. Anderson published a report titled "ENDA Threatens Fundamental Civil Liberties." The report, which is the culmination of Heritage's recent attacks on ENDA in conservative media, rehashes some of the worst conservative arguments against the law, which would merely prohibit employers from harassing or discriminating against LGBT employees. Here are the seven worst arguments he uses to attack ENDA:

    ENDA Creates "Special Privileges"

    A central conservative argument against ENDA is that the law would create "special" rights and privileges for LGBT people. According to Anderson:

    ENDA creates special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Specifically, it would make it illegal for organizations with 15 or more employees to "fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity." 

    In reality, ENDA would merely extend the same employment protections that already exist under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - for race, sex, religion, age, and disability status - to include sexual orientation and gender identity. ENDA's text explicitly prohibits special privileges for LGBT employees, including "preferential treatment or quotas."

  • Republicans And Right-Wing Media Championed Discredited 60 Minutes Benghazi Report

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & ELLIE SANDMEYER

    Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.

  • Right-Wing Media's Latest Zombie Myth: Congress Is "Exempt" From Obamacare

    ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    Florida Watchdog.org, an offshoot of the Koch brothers-funded Watchdog.org, parroted right-wing media claims that Congress is receiving an "exemption" from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by receiving a "special subsidy" from the government for its health insurance. However, this zombie lie is not based in fact and is due to a Republican effort to politicize the implementation of the law.