In coverage of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) newly-proposed standards to lower methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, several major media outlets uncritically quoted oil industry officials who claim that the new rules are unnecessary because the industry is already effectively limiting its emissions. By contrast, other outlets mentioned a new study by the Environmental Defense Fund showing that methane emissions are far higher than official estimates, part of a body of evidence that undercuts the industry's claim.
In recent weeks, The Hill has published at least six articles that quoted industry-funded front groups attacking the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan without disclosing the groups' fossil fuel ties. Many oil, coal and utility companies have a financial interest in opposing the Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, and readers of The Hill deserve to know whether groups criticizing the plan have taken money from fossil fuel companies.
Media reporting on a National Rifle Association-backed bill introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) to change the national background check system for gun purchases should know that the bill would actually weaken the system by making it easier for some people with serious mental health issues to buy guns.
Media are citing a flawed poll claiming majority opposition to the Iran nuclear deal conducted by Secure America Now (SAN) and Pat Caddell's Caddell Associates, without acknowledging that it contains a misleading question that falsely equates the Iran deal to the failed nuclear agreement with the North Korea agreement. Experts have explained that the Iran deal and North Korea agreement are vastly different, and SAN and Caddell have a history of advocacy polling and shady conservative advocacy campaigns.
Many major media outlets reported that a new Environmental Protection Agency study found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing (aka "fracking") has had "widespread" impacts on Americans' drinking water, but did not mention the EPA's explanation for why the study doesn't necessarily indicate "a rarity of effects on drinking water resources." The EPA study identified several "limiting factors," including insufficient data, the lack of long-term studies, and inaccessible information, which it said "preclude a determination of the frequency of [drinking water] impacts with any certainty."
Mainstream media outlets are misrepresenting Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's stance on pay equality, reporting on her claim that she supports equal pay without noting her opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Larry Klayman, a conspiracy theorist and WND columnist who has been at the margins of the conservative movement for decades, is behind a dubious lawsuit accusing Hillary Clinton of racketeering. Klayman is utterly lacking in credibility, having filed numerous far-fetched lawsuits targeting the Clintons over the years. He has also repeatedly suggested the Clintons "orchestrated the murders of several of their associates in the 1990s."
The Hill legitimized Republican claims that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to delay its vote on net neutrality to give the public time to review the idea, ignoring the fact that the agency received nearly 4 million comments -- which overwhelmingly favored net neutrality -- during an open-comment period in 2014.
A profile of the gun industry's trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), published by The Hill credulously adopted false claims from the NSSF to discount the work of gun safety groups in improving the national background check system for firearms sales.
In a February 3, 2015, lobbyist profile of NSSF senior vice president Larry Keane, The Hill reported that, "Perhaps the NSSF's most surprising safety effort -- at least, to gun control advocates -- is its campaign to improve background checks," before describing an effort by NSSF to encourage states to submit more disqualifying records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), an FBI-administered database used by federally licensed firearm dealers to process background checks on customers.
NICS has stopped more than 2 million prohibited purchasers from buying firearms over the past two decades, but the records contained within the system are incomplete, often due to failures by states to submit disqualifying records to NICS.
While the NSSF's efforts in improving NICS are laudable, The Hill credulously quoted false claims from Keane that suggested gun safety groups have played no role in improving NICS. According to Keane, gun safety groups funded by prominent gun safety supporter and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg "don't actually do anything" to improve NICS while NSSF "put our money where our mouth is":
All gun dealers are required to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to search for records that would make potential buyers ineligible to own a gun, such as those convicted of a crime. The system is notoriously unreliable, plagued by a lack of data and governed by a patchwork of state laws -- problems that all sides of the gun debate have long tried to fix.
Still, Keane argues that his organization is the only one with "boots on the ground."
"People will talk about it, most notably the Bloomberg-funded groups, but they don't actually do anything," he said. "We put our money where our mouth is."
A basic examination of the history of legislative efforts to improve NICS shows that Keane's claim is entirely untrue. Missing records in NICS came under major scrutiny following the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting. The gunman in that incident passed a background check to purchase two firearms, even though he should have been flagged because of a disqualifying mental health record.
In a bi-partisan manner, Congress passed legislation called the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 that offered incentives for states to submit disqualifying records into NICS. In a 2008 letter, Bloomberg, writing on behalf of his gun safety group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (which later became part of Everytown for Gun Safety), called on Congress to fully fund the legislation, which President George W. Bush signed into law.
Bloomberg's gun safety efforts have repeatedly made an issue of missing NICS records and have issued regular reports on progress to add missing records to NICS.
Media coverage of Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst's Republican response to the State of the Union failed to explain that Ernst's family farm has benefited from large government subsidies, despite highlighting her upbringing on her family farm and calls to cut government spending.
Conservative media issued catastrophic predictions and myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014, despite ample evidence that the health care law is working. Media Matters looks back at six claims about Obamacare that didn't pan out for the right-wing media this year.
New information from major health insurance companies shows that most Obamacare customers have paid their first month's premiums, evidence that undermines the right-wing media's attempts to discount the unexpectedly high number of Americans who have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On April 17, the President Obama announced that 8 million people had been enrolled for health care coverage through the ACA exchanges, exceeding previous White House predictions. Right-wing news outlets worked to downplay the health reform law's success by claiming that the numbers were inflated because some people had not yet paid their first premium.
As the enrollment period drew to a close, Fox's Chris Wallace had questioned the high enrollment numbers because he claimed "they still have no numbers for how many people have paid for coverage," while Fox News hosts and radio personalities like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh even went as far as to claim the administration was "cooking the books" in order to inflate the number of enrollees. Fox News, The Blaze, and The Hill later trumpeted GOP data that was eventually acknowledged to be "incredibly rigged" to claim that only 67 percent of the total enrollees had completed the application process by submitting their first premium payment and that the numbers contradicted to the administration's announcement.
Contrary to these myths, new evidence from Bloomberg confirms what the White House has argued since the enrollment period ended -- insurance companies estimate that between 80 and 90 percent of people have paid their first premium:
Three large health insurers including WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and Aetna Inc. (AET) say that a high percentage of their new Obamacare customers are paying their first premiums, undermining a Republican criticism of enrollment in the program.
As many as 90 percent of WellPoint customers have paid their first premium by its due date, according to testimony the company prepared for a congressional hearing today. For Aetna, the payment is in the "low to mid-80 percent range," the company said in its own testimony. Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in five states including Texas, said that number is at least 83 percent.
As the president of Washington consulting firm Avalere Health told Bloomberg, "What you have here is very solid first year enrollment, no matter how you slice it."
The Hill published an op-ed criticizing the "growing fascination with publicly funded broadband networks" and touting the "private-sector" as the best way to build telecommunications networks. But the Capitol Hill paper failed to disclose that the author is a telecom consultant and co-chair of a telecom trade association.
Larry Irving wrote an April 9 piece claiming "the specter of governments operating broadband networks in competition with the private sector, or of state or local governments serving as both regulators and owners of competing broadband networks, could stifle investment or reduce private-sector access to capital." Irving added that "with the exception of bringing or improving service to remote geographies, I don't see many problems that government-owned or -operated broadband networks will solve."
The Hill simply identified Irving as follows: "Irving is the CEO of the Irving Group and served for almost seven years as assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)."
That identification vastly understates Irving's financial connections to the industry he wrote about. Irving is the founding co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), an IRS 501(c)(6) telecommunications trade association whose purpose is to "prevent the creation of burdensome regulations," according to documents filed with the IRS. IIA reportedly receives financial support from AT&T and includes members such as Alcatel-Lucent and TechAmerica, which lobbies on behalf of technology companies. The group's 2011 IRS tax form -- the most recent one available -- states it received over $18 million in revenue.
While The Hill noted that Irving heads the Irving Group, it did not disclose that the firm provides "strategic advice and assistance to international telecommunications and information technology companies."
CNN co-host and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is calling for Secretary of State John Kerry's resignation for comparing climate change to a "weapon of mass destruction." However, media coverage of Gingrich's call has largely left out that Gingrich once agreed with Kerry on climate change, even standing with him on stage touting Kerry's book, in which he called climate change the "single largest threat" to mankind.
On February 18, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Kerry discussed climate change as a national security threat, saying "in a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction." Gingrich responded in a misspelled tweet, calling for Kerry's resignation:
The Huffington Post claimed in an article on his tweets, that "Gingrich has repeatedly dismissed the dangers of man-made climate change." But that article, like similar ones in The Washington Post, The Hill, and conservative media, failed to mention that less than a decade ago, Gingrich was sitting with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on a couch, agreeing we should act on climate change.
Hillary Clinton's name doesn't appear in the bipartisan portions of the Senate review of the tragic September 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, but you would not know that by looking at the media.
The report, released earlier in the week by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been a Rorschach test for the media, and as is almost always the case with Hillary Clinton, they are stretching to see something nefarious.
According to the Post, the report "is likely to provide fodder" for Clinton's political opponents, even though the Post acknowledged that the only references to the former Secretary of State came from partisan Republicans in an addendum, not from the review itself.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer said the report was "fueling heated debate, partisan debate, about her leadership," while correspondent Elise Labbott insisted that Clinton would "have to address Benghazi during" any 2016 campaign.
Inexplicably, Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin accused media of being too "incurious" when it comes to Clinton and called Benghazi Clinton's "drip, drip, drip problem." Partisan Republicans are certainly happy that the media is carrying their water. Almost on cue, Sen. Marco Rubio said the report should justify further investigations ... into Clinton.
The question of "leadership," however, has been a lopsided one as it played out in the media's campaign to use the Senate report as an indictment of Clinton.
Clinton has "deflected questions" about Benghazi, according to The New Yorker's Amy Davidson, who argued that Clinton "does not come out well" in the Senate report -- again, a report that never mentions Clinton. Davidson's explanation? "The State Department made mistakes when [Clinton] was its leader."
Clinton herself has acknowledged ultimate responsibility for any bureaucratic shortcomings that played a role to the tragedy in Benghazi. "I do feel responsible," she said under questioning by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). "I feel responsible for the nearly 70,000 people who work for the State Department. I take it very seriously."
So everybody agrees that Clinton had ultimate responsibility for leading the State Department.
That makes the question of what that leadership looks like critical, particularly since the media seems determined to parrot the right-wing narrative that Benghazi is a singular reflection on the former Secretary of State.
What is problematic about the way the media has used the Senate's review as a reflection on Clinton's leadership is that the reports ostensibly exploring Clinton's leadership make no mention of the fact that one of her last acts as Secretary of State was to fully accept and begin implementing the findings of the Accountability Review Board, an independent, nonpartisan review panel that looked into what went wrong and how to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
That review, like the Senate report that led to the latest bout of Benghazi mania, also singled out bureaucrats, not the Secretary of State, for scrutiny over diplomatic security failures. Four mid-ranked department officials were suspended for those failures; according to Ambassador Thomas Pickering, one of the chairmen of the ARB, their "future career[s]" are "finished."
One of the pillars of the right-wing's Benghazi hoax has been to accuse Clinton of being dismissive of the tragedy during her Congressional testimony when she asked "what difference, at this point, does it make" what led the attackers to target the diplomatic facility on that day.
Often left out of the sound bite is what Clinton said next: "It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again."
The Accountability Review Board laid out dozens of recommendations as to how to prevent future tragedies, recommendations largely in line with those contained in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report. Those recommendations are being implemented.
It's woefully inadequate to leave that fact out of a discussion of leadership.