Conservative media outlets are broadly attacking clean energy and the environmental movement by falsely alleging that prominent environmental philanthropist Tom Steyer has "deep ties" to the recent scandal involving Cylvia Hayes, the fiancée of former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber who failed to publicly disclose that she was being paid by a clean energy group while also advising Kitzhaber on clean energy issues. In reality, there is no evidence that Steyer funded Hayes, or that Steyer has any other connection to the scandal.
Media are recycling old news that The Clinton Foundation accepts foreign donations when neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton hold political office to fearmonger over "ethical concerns" surrounding the donations, ignoring the fact that it is not unusual for foundations to receive foreign donations and that Clinton's record as Secretary of State makes clear that she was not politically influenced by previous donations to the Foundation.
Fox & Friends ripped off the Republican National Committee's latest hit job on Hillary Clinton, building an entire segment around the GOP's specious "Where's Hillary?" campaign without disclosing the source.
"Where in the world is Hillary Clinton?" Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Thursday. "It's been 204 days since her last press conference and 186 days since her last interview," and according to Hasselbeck, "Hillary seems to be in hiding."
Hasselbeck's report is ripped straight from a Republican National Committee (RNC) memo announcing its "Hillary's Hiding" campaign. That campaign, launched two days before the Fox & Friends segment, purports to "keep asking, 'Where's Hillary?'" and focuses on the number of days since Clinton's last press conference and interview. At no point did Hasselbeck credit the RNC for the concept that framed her segment.
Conservative media revived their Solyndra scandal-mongering to attack the proposed clean energy funding in President Obama's budget. But contrary to their claims, Solyndra did not receive the clean energy tax credits included in the President's budget, and the budget doesn't increase funding for the largely successful loan guarantee program that did support Solyndra.
Right-wing media websites continued to undermine their credibility in 2014 by peddling a number of false, ridiculous, and bigoted smears. Here are the top smears from conservative websites The Daily Caller, Breitbart.com, and The Washington Free Beacon.
Right-wing media outlets manufactured phony outrage over President Obama's recent remark on ESPN Radio that he usually watches SportsCenter while working out in the morning. In 2007, President Bush similarly admitted to watching ESPN while working.
Conservative media praised the failed theory of trickle-down economics in response to Hillary Clinton's remark that the middle class, not tax cuts for corporations, spurs economic growth, a position backed by economists.
Mainstream media figures, following in the footsteps of conservative media, are trying to manufacture a scandal out of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent argument against trickle-down economics by stripping her comments of context to falsely cast them as a controversial gaffe or a flip-flop on previous statements about trade.
Conservative media outlets rushed to vilify Clinton's stance after she pushed for a minimum wage increase and warned against the myth that businesses create jobs through trickle-down economics at an October 24 campaign event for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley (D). Breitbart.com complained, "Clinton told the crowd ... not to listen to anybody who says that 'businesses create jobs,'" conservative radio host Howie Carr said the comments showed Clinton's "true moonbat colors," while FoxNews.com promoted the Washington Free Beacon's accusation that she said "businesses and corporations are not the job creators of America."
Mainstream media soon jumped on the bandwagon.
CNN host John King presented Clinton's comments as a fumble "a little reminiscent there of Mitt Romney saying corporations are people, too," and USA Today called the comments "An odd moment from Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail Friday - and one she may regret." In an article egregiously headlined, "Hillary Clinton No Longer Believes That Companies Create Jobs," Bloomberg's Jonathan Allen stripped away any context from Clinton's words in order to accuse her of having "flip-flopped on whether companies create jobs," because she has previously discussed the need to keep American companies competitive abroad.
Taken in context, Clinton's comments are almost entirely unremarkable -- and certainly don't conflict with the philosophy that trade can contribute to job growth, as Allen suggests. The full transcript of her remarks shows she was making the established observation that minimum wage increases can boost a sluggish economy by generating demand, and that tax breaks for the rich don't necessarily move companies to create jobs:
CLINTON: Don't let anybody tell you that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs. They always say that. I've been through this. My husband gave working families a raise in the 1990s. I voted to raise the minimum wage and guess what? Millions of jobs were created or paid better and more families were more secure. That's what we want to see here, and that's what we want to see across the country.
And don't let anybody tell you, that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know, that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried. That has failed. That has failed rather spectacularly.
One of the things my husband says, when people say, what did you bring to Washington? He says, well I brought arithmetic. And part of it was he demonstrated why trickle down should be consigned to the trash bin of history. More tax cuts for the top and for companies that ship jobs over seas while taxpayers and voters are stuck paying the freight just doesn't add up. Now that kind of thinking might win you an award for outsourcing excellence, but Massachusetts can do better than that. Martha understands it. She knows you have to create jobs from everyone working together and taking the advantages of this great state and putting them to work.
Economic experts agree that job growth is tied to the economic security of the middle class.
U.S. economic growth has historically relied on consumer spending, and middle class consumers are "the true job creators," Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz points out. Right now, the U.S. economy is "demand-starved," as Economic Policy Institute's (EPI) Joshua Smith puts it. Steiglitz says that, of all the problems facing the U.S. economy, "The most immediate is that our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth."
In a testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, economist Heather Boushey noted that "It is demand for goods and services, backed up by an ability to pay for them, which drives economic growth" and "The hollowing out of our middle class limits our nation's capacity to grow unless firms can find new customers."
UC Berkeley economist Robert Reich agrees that the problem in the U.S. economy is demand. "Businesses are reluctant to spend more and create more jobs because there aren't enough consumers out there able and willing to buy what businesses have to sell," he writes, and places the blame on low paychecks and growing inequality: "The reason consumers aren't buying is because consumers' paychecks are dropping... Consumers can't and won't buy more." He says the key to job growth is "reigniting demand" by "putting more money in consumers' pockets." From The Huffington Post:
Can we get real for a moment? Businesses don't need more financial incentives. They're already sitting on a vast cash horde estimated to be upwards of $1.6 trillion. Besides, large and middle-sized companies are having no difficulty getting loans at bargain-basement rates, courtesy of the Fed.
In consequence, businesses are already spending as much as they can justify economically. Almost two-thirds of the measly growth in the economy so far this year has come from businesses rebuilding their inventories. But without more consumer spending, there's they won't spend more. A robust economy can't be built on inventory replacements.
The problem isn't on the supply side. It's on the demand side. Businesses are reluctant to spend more and create more jobs because there aren't enough consumers out there able and willing to buy what businesses have to sell.
The reason consumers aren't buying is because consumers' paychecks are dropping, adjusted for inflation.
Clinton's emphasis on the minimum wage is supported by economic experts as well. Reich says that raising the minimum wage is an effective way to generate the consumer demand that would spur job growth. It "would put money in the pockets of millions of low-wage workers who will spend it -- thereby giving working families and the overall economy a boost, and creating jobs." He also rejected critics' claims that giving low income-earners a raise hurts job growth: "When I was Labor Secretary in 1996 and we raised the minimum wage, business predicted millions of job losses; in fact, we had more job gains over the next four years than in any comparable period in American history."
EPI called the minimum wage a "critically important issue" that "would provide a modest stimulus to the entire economy, as increased wages would lead to increased consumer spending, which would contribute to GDP growth and modest employment gains" (emphasis added):
The immediate benefits of a minimum-wage increase are in the boosted earnings of the lowest-paid workers, but its positive effects would far exceed this extra income. Recent research reveals that, despite skeptics' claims, raising the minimum wage does not cause job loss. In fact, throughout the nation, a minimum-wage increase under current labor market conditions would create jobs. Like unemployment insurance benefits or tax breaks for low- and middle-income workers, raising the minimum wage puts more money in the pockets of working families when they need it most, thereby augmenting their spending power. Economists generally recognize that low-wage workers are more likely than any other income group to spend any extra earnings immediately on previously unaffordable basic needs or services.
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by July 1, 2015, would give an additional $51.5 billion over the phase-in period to directly and indirectly affected workers, who would, in turn, spend those extra earnings. Indirectly affected workers--those earning close to, but still above, the proposed new minimum wage--would likely receive a boost in earnings due to the "spillover" effect (Shierholz 2009), giving them more to spend on necessities.
This projected rise in consumer spending is critical to any recovery, especially when weak consumer demand is one of the most significant factors holding back new hiring (Izzo 2011). Though the stimulus from a minimum-wage increase is smaller than the boost created by, for example, unemployment insurance benefits, it has the crucial advantage of not imposing costs on the public sector.
The economic benefits of a minimum wage increase are widely accepted. Over 600 economists signed a recent letter supporting an increase, arguing, "Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front."
Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney resigned from the paper over what he calls a "breach" in the wall that exists "between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published."
McKinney, a 19-year veteran of the Sun-Times, posted an October 22 resignation letter on his personal blog explaining that he co-reported a story examining litigation involving the former company of Bruce Rauner, now the Republican candidate for Illinois governor. The piece, he wrote, was backed by "our editors and supported by sworn testimony and interviews."
However, according to McKinney, prior to publication in early October, "the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block it," including "sending to my boss an opposition-research hit piece-rife with errors-about my wife, Ann Liston. The campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue. It was a last-ditch act of intimidation." Sun-Times publisher and editor Jim Kirk later defended McKinney, calling the allegation "inaccurate and defamatory."
McKinney states that he resigned, however, because he felt the paper didn't have "the backs of reporters like me." He explained that the Sun Times subsequently penalized him and didn't allow him "to do my job the way I had been doing it for almost two decades. Was all this retaliation for breaking an important news story that had the blessing of the paper's editor and publisher, the company's lawyer and our NBC5 partners?"
His former employer also, in his view, "unequivocally embraced the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared a defamatory attack on me" by endorsing Rauner's gubernatorial candidacy. The endorsement was notable because the Republican "used to be an investor in the Sun-Times' ownership group ... The paper's endorsement of Rauner was its first since it announced in 2012 that it would no longer make endorsements."
The Washington Free Beacon was a landing site for the Rauner campaign's attacks against McKinney and his wife. The conservative site, which has financial ties to partisan operatives, wrote an October 19 article with the headline, "The Chicago Way: Democratic Super PAC in Bed with Local Newspaper--Literally."
The Beacon's attacks were amplified by partisan figures like Fox News contributor and former Rep. Allen West, who wrote on his website: "Yep, that kinda smells, but then again it's Democrat business as usual ... Never forget that Chicago is the home of Saul Alinsky, Barack Hussein Obama, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Tony Rezko, Jesse Jackson Sr and Jr, Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, David Plouffe, Bill Ayres, Bernadette Dorn - need I say more?"
Using the unfolding Ebola health crisis as vehicle for their constant attacks on the federal government, Fox News talkers are leading the right-wing media charge (with some assistance from Beltway pundits) in insisting Americans have lost faith in the government's ability to deal the infectious disease, as well as other challenges facing the country.
Pointing to what they claim to be previous bouts of Obama administration clumsiness, such as the terror attack in Benghazi, Secret Service woes, and the so-called IRS scandal, conservative commentators, as part of an increasingly unbalanced response to the Ebola story, claim Americans see the Obama administration as filled with utterly inept players who are unable to provide citizens with basic protections.
"The overriding impression is of disarray, confusion, bad management, failed communication, anomie, disillusion, corruption, and secrecy," announced Matthew Continetti at Washington Free Beacon.
The Ebola threat "is containable if government is still remotely competent," claimed the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which signaled its doubts by suggesting "these days government competence is all too often exposed as a fragile veneer."
And appearing on Fox News yesterday, Donald Trump agreed:
I think very few people trust our government as being competent," Trump told the hosts. "Let's not kid ourselves. I mean with the five billion dollar website for Obamacare, which is still not working frankly and it's a disaster. And so many other things: Benghazi, wars... IRS."
But a new Pew Research poll undercuts all of that:
The findings, released on Monday, indicate a majority of Americans, including 48 percent of Republicans, have faith that the federal government can deal effectively with the Ebola situation, and that only a small percentage of people are "very worried" about their well being.
If the conservative site Washington Free Beacon is still paying a Republican opposition research firm $150,000 a year to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton, editors might want to renegotiate their contract. Because if Free Beacon's latest installation of its deep-dive into Clinton's past is any indication, GOP investigators have already run out of leads.
The Free Beacon news flash? Back in 1971, Hillary Clinton (then Hillary Rodham) corresponded twice with Saul Alinsky, a liberal organizer and activist of renown in the 1930s, `40s and `50s. More recently, Alinsky's been immortalized as a bogeyman by conservatives who for years have waged a fruitless campaign to portray President Barack Obama as a radical-left acolyte of Alinsky's.
And now the brief Clinton correspondence from more than 40 years ago is being trumpeted: "The letters obtained by the Free Beacon suggest that Clinton experimented more with radical politics during her law school years than she has publicly acknowledged." (Wait, Clinton's a secret commie who's also tight with Wall Street? Very confusing.)
Some conservatives on Monday strained to explain why any of this matters, and why their weird, hard-to-understand obsession with someone like Alinsky ought to be of importance in American politics today. The Free Beacon's meaningless revelation set off lots of Twitter chuckling, but the story itself went nowhere, much to the dismay of Rush Limbaugh, and for good reason: There's no there there. (Favorite line: Hillary's letters were "paid for with stamps featuring Franklin Delano Roosevelt.")
Keep in mind the attempts to attack Clinton by invoking Alinsky are nothing new. Back during the 2008 presidential campaign, conservatives tried to make hay out of the fact that Clinton had written a senior thesis about the author.
After the story failed to make an impact outside the conservative bubble, a Free Beacon editor claimed the article was never meant as a Hillary gotcha. Instead, they were simply sharing "primary documents" with voters. I guess that's one way to spin a swing-and-a-miss.
The whiff highlights what's becoming a growing problem for the right-wing media industry: After operating under the microscope during her thirty-year public career, there's not much about Hillary Clinton we don't know or that hasn't been dissected. And there's probably not much more that we're going to learn in the coming years, considering that trolling the Clintons has been an established far-right cottage industry that dates back to the early 1990s.
Based on three decades in the spotlight as a governor's wife, the first lady, a U.S. senator, presidential candidate and then secretary of state, there's simply no other public figure active in the U.S. political arena today (possibly other than the one who currently occupies the Oval Office) who's been more scrutinized by the media, who's endured more "scandal" coverage, who has been thoroughly trashed by the partisan press opponents, and who still comes out the other side marching on.
So now what?
If Hillary dominates the political landscape in the coming election cycle, how does the right-wing media pretend they're uncovering all kinds of new and startling facts about her past, her policies, her influences and her alliances? How does detailing a couple of letters Clinton wrote to a labor organizer 43 years ago fill the right-wing media need for fresh, new, and scary Clinton revelations?
Right-wing media selectively edited comments made by Hillary Clinton to falsely accuse her of endorsing Hamas' extremist tactics. But Clinton made clear that Israel has a right to defend itself and credited its measures to decrease civilian casualties.
In an interview with Fusion TV's Jorge Ramos, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton renewed her support for a cease-fire to end the current Israeli/Hamas conflict.
Right-wing media outlets co-opted Clinton's interview to dishonestly claim that Clinton was justifying Hamas' tactics and endorsing the extremist group.
On July 29, the Washington Free Beacon distorted Clinton's comments, portraying them as justification of Hamas' tactics in an article headlined "Hillary: Hamas Uses Human Shields Because 'Gaza is Pretty Small.'"
On Fox News' The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros accused Clinton of "trying to make an excuse for Hamas" and defending Hamas "for hiding rockets in places like schools."
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.
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?":
In a letter released today, Media Matters chairman David Brock cautioned the media against relying on The Washington Free Beacon for accurate information, noting among other concerns that the site has hired a Republican research firm to obtain information for anti-Hillary Clinton stories. The firm, M Street Insight, has numerous Republican clients this cycle.
From Brock's letter:
On June 21, Business Insider reported on how The Free Beacon obtained tapes from the University of Arkansas library, which The Free Beacon used to publish articles attacking Hillary Clinton, under the byline of Alana Goodman. According to Business Insider, it was not the reporter but one Shawn Reinschmiedt who requested and received the tapes on which The Free Beacon articles were based.
Goldfarb told Business Insider that Reinschmiedt "runs a firm that has been working with the Beacon since we launched." But Goldfarb did not explain the identity of that firm or its character.
In fact, Reinschmiedt, the former research director of the Republican National Committee, is a founding partner in the Republican opposition research firm M Street Insight. According to Form 990 disclosures filed by The Free Beacon's parent organization, The Center for American Freedom, The Center paid the firm M Street Insight $150,000 for "research consulting" in 2012.
The Free Beacon's "reporting" fails to disclose that The Free Beacon paid a Republican opposition research firm for the information it falsely published as its own journalistic work from the University of Arkansas tapes.
Reinschmiedt and Dan Comstock founded M Street Insight LLC in 2011. The two previously worked together for the Republican National Committee (RNC) and unsuccessful California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. Evan Yost, who previously worked on campaigns for Mitt Romney and John McCain, joined the firm as a principal in 2013.
In a 2011 interview about the firm's founding, Reinschmiedt said he founded the firm to give clients "research in the style that the RNC does it."
M Street clients this campaign cycle include numerous Republicans, including John Chapman for Congress (MA), Liz Cheney for Senate (WY), Sen. John Cornyn (TX), Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO), Rep. Mike Simpson (ID), and the Republican Governors Association.
The Washington Free Beacon's claim that it's being singled out by the University of Arkansas Library for unfair treatment in its reporting on Hillary Clinton-related documents was debunked by CNN, which confirmed it followed the same rules the Free Beacon was punished for not following.
The Free Beacon was informed on June 17 by the library that its access to their archives had been suspended because Free Beacon researchers had not followed standard procedures for gaining permission to publish library documents related to Clinton back in February. The Free Beacon suggested the revocation of their access was political retribution.
But CNN officials confirmed to Media Matters that its researchers were required to fill out permission forms to first gain access to the library's collection of private documents in February related to Hillary Clinton, and later submit separate requests for approval to publish the documents on its website.
"We do have policies that are in place for all researchers and we expect all of our researchers to comply," said Laura Jacobs, associate vice chancellor for university relations for the University of Arkansas. "The idea that we would single out any researcher is false. It is unfortunate that we have been characterized as trying to stifle academic freedom. It is one of the core tenets that we take seriously. Frankly, this is a simple procedural matter."
In a story on June 20 about an interview Clinton had given in the 1980's, the Free Beacon claimed it was never told to file any forms or seek permission.
"I find that hard to believe," said Jacobs. "The process is when you come in to research in our special collection, you sit down with the research manager, you sign something saying you will comply with our policies, you tell the reading room manager materials you would like to access and it is pro forma."
In fact, the University of Arkansas Library provided Business Insider with copies of the request forms that Shawn Reinschmiedt, a GOP operative who worked with the Free Beacon to provide research for the story, signed, including an email that noted that he would be required to fill out an additional form if he wished to publish.
The Free Beacon did not comment on the forms, but told Business Insider they did not believe the University had the right to restrict publication of the documents.
"You can get materials for personal use, we will provide materials for you all day long," Jacobs added. "When you ask us to duplicate materials, if you intend to publish them you are required to complete the permission to publish form."
CNN officials on Monday confirmed CNN researchers who posted a similar story in February did file such forms and requests for permission and were granted approval.