With the nation's attention turned toward the growing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, media figures have called on President Obama to speak out more forcefully on the situation and race relations in America. But Obama's past statements on race have been met with attacks from conservative commentators, blasting Obama for "promoting racial division" and "exacerbating racial tensions."
Voices currently urging the nation's first black president to say more on race ignore the marked history of conservative media figures' accusations of race-baiting in response to Obama's previous remarks:
Conservative media figures have wrongly accused Muslim groups and leaders of failing to denounce the violent acts of the terrorist group the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), despite the fact that numerous Muslim religious authorities, advocacy groups, and Imams have come together to denounce the Islamic State's un-Islamic crimes against humanity.
From the July 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the July 21 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Media figures across the board have endorsed right-wing author Dinesh D'Souza's latest film, America: Imagine a World Without Her, despite the fact that the film is based on a book with extreme, racist rhetoric. Here are five media figures who have given D'Souza's works their stamp of approval.
From the July 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Conservative talk radio hosts lashed out at Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran for beating his tea party primary challenger, Chris McDaniel, with the help of votes from blacks and Democrats.
Fox News is reviving accusations that NASA's peer-reviewed adjustments to temperature data are an attempt to "fak[e]" global warming, a claim that even a climate "skeptic" threw cold water on.
Tony Heller, a birther who criticizes climate science under the pseudonym "Steven Goddard," wrote a blog post that claimed "NASA cooled 1934 and warmed 1998, to make 1998 the hottest year in US history instead of 1934." After the Drudge Report promoted a report of this allegation by the conservative British newspaper The Telegraph, conservative media from Breitbart to The Washington Times claimed the data was "fabricated" or "faked." On June 24, Fox & Friends picked it up, claiming that "the U.S. has actually been cooling since the 1930s" but scientists had "faked the numbers":
However, the libertarian magazine Reason noted that even climate "skeptic" blogger Anthony Watts said that Goddard made "major errors in his analysis" and criticized the implication that "numbers are being plucked out of thin air in a nefarious way."
In fact, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and NASA, which both maintain temperature records that use slightly different methods but show close agreement, have publicly documented the peer-reviewed adjustments they make to raw data. NCDC states that the "most important bias in the U.S. temperature record occurred with the systematic change in observing times from the afternoon, when it is warm, to morning, when it is cooler," and so it must correct this cool bias as well as other biases that, for example, result from moving temperature stations.
NASA's data shows that the nation has not been "cooling" since the 1930s, with several years, including 2012, ranking hotter than 1934 in the continental United States, along with a long-term warming trend. And while The Sean Hannity Show claimed that this shows the "Earth has been cooling," the continental United States makes up less than 2 percent of the Earth's surface -- global surface temperatures have increased significantly.
From the June 23 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Fox's Sean Hannity complained that Democrats are going "after a man with Parkinsons" in order to attack New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but in 2006 when Rush Limbaugh mocked actor Michael J. Fox for his Parkinson's disease and claimed he was faking the effects of the ailment, Hannity defended him.
Sean Hannity appears to be hoping for a repeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary defeat, using his considerable influence as a conservative talk show host to promote extreme right-wing candidate Chris McDaniel in a runoff election for the GOP's U.S. Senate ballot slot in Mississippi.
Hannity linked McDaniel's race to that of Virginia's 7th congressional district, which ended June 10 in a surprise victory for conservative outsider Dave Brat. In Mississippi, neither Sen. Thad Cochran nor his opponent McDaniel received more than 50 percent of the vote in the state's June 3 primary, forcing a runoff on June 24.
Conservative talk radio's influence was undeniable in Brat's defeat of Cantor -- radio hosts like Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, and Glenn Beck devoted a significant amount of time to promoting Brat and took credit for his surprise win. On the June 11 edition of his radio show, Sean Hannity continued the trend, playing a full campaign ad for Chris McDaniel and hosting the candidate himself. Hannity referenced Cantor's defeat several times and praised McDaniel, who he previously endorsed, as a "solid conservative":
HANNITY: After last night's political earthquake a lot of people saying -- remember some have been predicting the tea party is dead, even though there had been a lot of success actually this election year.
HANNITY: I have always been very, very reluctant to endorse in primaries. Very reluctant. And I decided to get into this race and support Chris McDaniel because I see him as a solid conservative.
In addition to hyping calls for Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation, Fox News hosts have advocated for two of their own contributors to fill the position.
A preliminary report released by the VA Inspector General on May 28 substantiated allegations of VA officials falsifying records at the Phoenix, Arizona VA medical center, and found that at least 1,700 veterans waiting to see a doctor there were never scheduled for an appointment or placed on a waitlist. This review has prompted calls for Shinseki to step down, which right-wing media figures have enthusiastically promoted despite Speaker of the House John Boehner's refusal to demand the secretary's resignation.
But Fox was not content to simply call for Shinseki's resignation -- two prominent Fox hosts have replacements in mind for Shinseki, both of whom are the network's very own contributors.
During a May 28 interview on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly advocated for Fox contributor Colonel Ralph Peters to replace Shinseki. When Peters -- who has repeatedly defended Shinseki -- skeptically asked O'Reilly who would replace Shinseki in the event of his resignation, O'Reilly was quick to respond, "You!" to Peters' chagrin:
Fox News host Sean Hannity's attempt to blame oil spills from deepwater drilling on environmentalists rather than under-regulated oil companies was debunked by a news service that largely serves energy industry clients.
On May 22, Hannity spoke at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in North Dakota, a state that has recently experienced a boom in oil and gas production. Platts, an industry journal that specializes in covering the oil industry for those employed in relevant industries, reported in coverage of the conference that "Hannity did not know some important details about the drilling industry" including falsely claiming that oil companies were drilling in deepwater because environmentalists forced them out of shallower waters.
In the aftermath of the BP oil spill in 2010, Sean Hannity and other Fox News figures repeatedly claimed that BP was only drilling in dangerous deepwater because environmentalists had "pushed us out there." However, as Media Matters pointed out at the time and Platts is now reporting, companies were actually drilling in deepwater due to discoveries of large, potentially lucrative reserves there.
Platts also pointed out that a reporter challenged Hannity on his portrayal of the fossil fuel industry as a panacea for unemployment, noting that some states "such as Vermont, Georgia or Idaho, which have no oil production" while North Dakota has "naturally abundant resources" (North Dakota also has a very small population, making the impact of the boom on the unemployment rate unusual compared to the rest of the country). Hannity, who has been hosting fossil fuel companies on his radio show as part of a "Get America Back to Work campaign," reportedly replied that increasing oil production in some states would trickle down to other areas.
The Associated Press summarized Hannity's speech as arguing that "government needs to get out of the way" of the oil industry. However, investigative reporter David Cay Johnston argued instead that the government needs to get involved in North Dakota, where worker fatalities have soared because "preventing accidents costs much more than paying off the families of dead workers." An AFL-CIO study found that North Dakota has more workers dying on the job than any other state -- with a worker fatality rate "more than five times the national average" and "one of the highest state job fatality rates ever reported for any state." The study noted that "the oil and gas industry in North Dakota has been a major source of these fatalities" and that North Dakota's fatality rate has "more than doubled" since 2007, around the time that North Dakota's oil boom took off.
Conservative media outlets jumped at the chance to revive the long-debunked myth of a "death panel" provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by exploiting the serious investigation into problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration.
Right-wing media launched a dishonest attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by using reports of problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration to revive claims of "death panels."
The allegations facing the VA are serious and troubling and are largely the result of years of systemic issues. The Obama administration has worked to ease those problems, including reducing backlogged claims and beginning to transition claims away from the traditional paper-based systems that have largely been responsible for the backlogs. In 2012, the VA implemented the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), "a web-based, electronic claims processing portal created to give VA the ability to process Veterans' claims paper-free." According to the VA, the VBMS has allowed the agency to reduce the processing time from 272 days to 78 days. The Veterans Benefits Administration is now processing claims at a higher rate than ever before, although "the number of claims continues to exceed the number processed."
The problems facing the VA have existed long before the Obama administration. The Government Accountability Office has been reporting on backlog issues for years, such as this 2005 report that warned of "long waits for decisions, large claims backlogs, and inaccurate decisions." The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that "Since 2001, the number of claims received by the VA outpaced the number of claims completed" and noted that "the VA faced an increased demand because older generations of veterans continued to submit claims for injuries revealed by age, new veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan began to pour into the system, and the VA expanded the schedule of conditions covered to include PTSD and illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure."
While concerns over the VA are legitimate, the right-wing media have exploited the situation to launch a dishonest attack on the ACA, using the reported deaths of veterans to revive the long-standing lie that Obamacare creates death panels.
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that individuals covered by the ACA are "headed for similar potential as these deaths in the VA." Sean Hannity similarly invoked death panels in a report on the VA on his radio show.
On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Eric Bolling claimed both health care systems are examples of "a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system," concluding, "whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is":