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Editorial boards applauded presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s selection of “supremely capable” Tim Kaine as a “safe and solid” vice presidential running mate.
Post Editorial Board: “A Trump Presidency Would Be Dangerous For The Nation And The World”
In an editorial titled “Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy,” The Washington Post’s editorial board excoriated the Republican nominee, warning “his contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.”
Following Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention in which he accepted the Republican nomination for president, media called out Trump’s “campaign of fear,” with some saying the Republican Party “died” as a result of Trump’s nomination.
After Trump’s acceptance speech, The Washington Post’s editorial board flatly stated that they “cannot salute the Republican nominee” because of Trump’s “contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends.” The Post’s editorial board added that Trump “doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power” and that electing “Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject [the United States’ democratic system] to threat.” From the July 22 editorial:
Donald J. Trump, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.
Any one of these characteristics would be disqualifying; together, they make Mr. Trump a peril. We recognize that this is not the usual moment to make such a statement. In an ordinary election year, we would acknowledge the Republican nominee, move on to the Democratic convention and spend the following months, like other voters, evaluating the candidates’ performance in debates, on the stump and in position papers. This year we will follow the campaign as always, offering honest views on all the candidates. But we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.
Given his ignorance, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Trump offers no coherence when it comes to policy. In years past, he supported immigration reform, gun control and legal abortion; as candidate, he became a hard-line opponent of all three. Even in the course of the campaign, he has flip-flopped on issues such as whether Muslims should be banned from entering the United States and whether women who have abortions should be punished . Worse than the flip-flops is the absence of any substance in his agenda. Existing trade deals are “stupid,” but Mr. Trump does not say how they could be improved. The Islamic State must be destroyed, but the candidate offers no strategy for doing so. Eleven million undocumented immigrants must be deported, but Mr. Trump does not tell us how he would accomplish this legally or practically.
Most alarming is Mr. Trump’s contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends. He doesn’t know what is in the nation’s founding document. When asked by a member of Congress about Article I, which enumerates congressional powers, the candidate responded, “I am going to abide by the Constitution whether it’s number 1, number 2, number 12, number 9.” The charter has seven articles.
Worse, he doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power. He has threatened that those who criticize him will suffer when he is president. He has vowed to torture suspected terrorists and bomb their innocent relatives, no matter the illegality of either act. He has vowed to constrict the independent press. He went after a judge whose rulings angered him, exacerbating his contempt for the independence of the judiciary by insisting that the judge should be disqualified because of his Mexican heritage. Mr. Trump has encouraged and celebrated violence at his rallies. The U.S. democratic system is strong and has proved resilient when it has been tested before. We have faith in it. But to elect Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject it to threat.
The Washington Post editorial board lambasted Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as a “hypocrite” for calling himself a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” yet agreeing to become the running mate of Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump, “an uncharitable man who habitually insults minorities, religions and vulnerable people.”
Many conservative media figures characterized Trump’s choice of Pence as “a nothingburger” and hold reservations about Pence’s abilities to explain away Trump’s controversies. According to Indiana jouranlists, Pence has had a “divisive” tenure as governor thanks in part to his efforts to limit reproductive rights in his home state and his support for a controversial “religious freedom” bill that could have given businesses license to discriminate against LGBT people.
In a July 15 editorial, the Post wrote that Pence’s “policy record suggests he will indeed appeal to right-wing voters” that Trump has been courting, noting that the Hoosier has “waged war against Planned Parenthood while in Congress” and is a “staunch opponent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.” The paper concluded by calling Pence a “hypocrite” because he “has called himself ‘a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.’ But he has agreed to run on a ticket with an uncharitable man who habitually insults minorities, religions and vulnerable people, who wants to economically isolate the United States and who regularly displays his ignorance of the Constitution and policy”:
Mr. Pence’s policy record suggests he will indeed appeal to right-wing voters — but perhaps not many others. He waged war against Planned Parenthood while in Congress, saying in 2011 that he was willing to shut down the government in order to defund the organization. A staunch opponent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, he favored a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman. He pressed for a constitutional amendment that would cap federal spending at 20 percent of the economy, which would badly hamstring the government as baby boomers begin drawing retirement benefits. He also voted for and defended free-trade deals of the sort Mr. Trump has incorrectly blamed for hollowing out the economy.
Mr. Pence ran for governor as a fiscal rather than a social conservative, and he began his term by signing a large tax cut into law, which has made finding money for road construction a challenge. He has shown some practicality, taking federal money to expand Medicaid in his state under Obamacare as other GOP governors held out in irrational protest. His defining decision in Indianapolis, however, was signing into law a “religious freedom” bill that encouraged discrimination against LGBT people. He subsequently scaled the law back after a national uproar. Though this unnecessary foray into social issues hobbled him politically, he followed it up with a bill restricting abortions in Indiana. And while he condemned Mr. Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, he also tried to suspend the settlement of Syrian refugees in his state.
Mr. Pence appears to be executing his biggest mistake, by far, right now. He has called himself “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” But he has agreed to run on a ticket with an uncharitable man who habitually insults minorities, religions and vulnerable people, who wants to economically isolate the United States and who regularly displays his ignorance of the Constitution and policy. As he campaigns with Mr. Trump, Mr. Pence will have to add “hypocrite” to his list of labels.
Media figures across the political spectrum ridiculed the “awkwardness” of Trump’s announcement that he has selected Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) to be his vice presidential running mate. Several figures called the move a “complete mess” and “the worst rollout ever.”
The Washington Post criticized Republicans' "disheartening" attacks on FBI Director James Comey following his announcement that he would not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, arguing that Republicans, not Comey, are doing "damage ... to the rule of law" by "cast[ing] baseless aspersions on U.S. law enforcement in the service of their partisan goals."
As the Post explained in its editorial, “Republican leaders had practically promised supporters that Ms. Clinton would be indicted” as a result of the FBI investigation into her private email server. Instead, Comey “explained that the facts of the case did not conform to the fevered partisan fantasies that have developed around them — did not, in other words, merit prosecution. So GOP leaders decided to attack the fact-finder.” Republican lawmakers have announced they will question Comey on Capitol Hill about the results of the FBI investigation.
From the July 7 Washington Post editorial:
If Republicans believe the FBI director is corrupt and political, they should have the gumption to say so. Instead, many have insulted James B. Comey with slimy implications and underhanded threats since Tuesday, when he announced that he would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton relating to her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) issued a veiled threat to Mr. Comey: “If it wants to avoid giving the impression that the FBI was pulling punches,” he said, “the agency must now be more transparent than ever in releasing information gathered during its investigation,” presumably so that he and other Republicans can transfigure new details into fresh “proof” of criminality. Not to be outdone, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) will haul Mr. Comey before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for a grilling Thursday.
Several other Republicans, meanwhile, called for a new investigation and an independent counsel. As with Benghazi, their motto seems to be: Keep investigating until we get the outcome we want.
“It appears damage is being done to the rule of law,” Mr. Ryan said. He’s right, but the FBI director isn’t doing the damage. The wreckers are those who cast baseless aspersions on U.S. law enforcement in the service of their partisan goals.
All three network evening broadcasts ignored State Department spokesman John Kirby’s explanation that two emails sent to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were erroneously marked confidential after a staffer failed to change the markings on a routine email that should have been marked sensitive but unclassified (SBU).
Journalists seized on FBI Director James Comey’s July 5 statement that “a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information” to claim that Comey, in the words of The Washington Post, “directly contradicted Clinton’s claim that she did not send or receive materials ‘marked’ classified.”
But in his July 6 press briefing, State Department spokesman Kirby provided an explanation for the discrepancy, saying that the “markings were human error” and should not have been included in the documents, which were call sheets for Clinton. From the July 6 daily press briefing (emphasis added):
I’m not going to comment on their findings and recommendations or all the documents that they reviewed. I am aware that there have been media – a media report pointing to call sheets within the Clinton email set that appear to bear classification markings. So let me just talk to that in a sense.
Generally speaking, there’s a standard process for developing call sheets for the secretary of state. Call sheets are often marked – it’s not untypical at all for them to be marked at the confidential level – prior to a decision by the secretary that he or she will make that call. Oftentimes, once it is clear that the secretary intends to make a call, the department will then consider the call sheet SBU, sensitive but unclassified, or unclassified altogether, and then mark it appropriately and prepare it for the secretary’s use in actually making the call. The classification of a call sheet therefore is not necessarily fixed in time, and staffers in the secretary’s office who are involved in preparing and finalizing these call sheets, they understand that. Given this context, it appears the markings in the documents raised in the media report were no longer necessary or appropriate at the time that they were sent as an actual email.
NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and ABC’s World News Tonight all covered the Clinton email investigation during their July 6 broadcasts, but each ignored Kirby’s press briefing.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch closed the Clinton email investigation today with no criminal charges.
Why Did News Outlets Highlight Brock Turner's Swimming Abilities After He Was Found Guilty?
After a jury found former Stanford student Brock Turner guilty of sexual assault, The Washington Post published an article that highlighted Turner’s accomplishments as an All-American swimmer. The article drew widespread condemnation from critics who argued the Post was irresponsibly emphasizing Turner’s swimming abilities rather than focusing on the crime he committed.
But the Post’s report isn’t an isolated incident -- it’s an example of a media tendency to treat high-profile sex offenders with kid gloves, even after they’ve been found guilty.
After two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, were found guilty of raping a minor, news outlets highlighted their athletic abilities and previously promising futures. After a former college football player in Oklahoma City was found guilty of raping multiple women as a police officer, media outlets highlighted his physical strength and athletic accomplishments.
News outlets don’t highlight these kinds of details by accident -- they do it because those details run counter to audiences’ expectations about what sex predators look like. People don’t expect sex predators to be successful, popular, rich, or white, so when someone like Brock Turner is found guilty, news outlets jump at the chance to tell a “fall from grace” story.
The problem with the “fall from grace” narrative is that it can make audiences naturally sympathetic towards offenders. Spend enough time hearing about someone’s athletic accomplishments or academic success, and you might start wondering, “How could someone so great have done something so awful?”
Taken to its extreme, that framing can produce coverage that ends up treating offenders like victims. The Washington Post’s write-up stated that Turner’s “extraordinary yet brief swim career is now tarnished, like a rusting trophy.” After the Steubenville verdict, CNN’s Poppy Harlow seemed to fixate on what impact the decision would have on the perpetrators, saying they “literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”
That kind of sympathetic news coverage is arguably even more dangerous when a trial is still ongoing. Jurors are humans, and this kind of coverage doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Glowing reports about the accused’s prior accomplishments or reputation could influence the biases and assumptions that jurors bring in with them when they enter a courtroom.
The reality is that all crime reporting can be tricky -- people are innocent until proven guilty, and conflicting testimony means that news networks will always have to worry about sounding sympathetic to either side. But the coverage of Brock Turner’s case is a reminder that a bizarre double standard exists when it comes to high-profile sexual assault and rape reporting -- a double standard that almost works against victims who come forward.
FBI Director James Comey announced that he would not recommend criminal charges be filed against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. Right-wing media, echoing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, soon baselessly accused Comey of excusing Clinton’s “gross negligence” in violation of the Espionage Act.
Media outlets have had to correct numerous reports on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state due to flawed journalistic processes that favored anonymous sourcing and failed to prioritize accuracy. With the FBI calling for no criminal charges following its probe into the use of the server, Media Matters looks back at nine corrections from seven different publications.
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.”
The Economic Policy Institute Wants Nothing To Do With Trump's "Scam"
According to The Washington Post, the progressive economic think tank Donald Trump repeatedly cited during a recent speech on his trade policy agenda is slamming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for distorting the facts and ignoring other initiatives that would boost the economy -- all in an attempt to “scam” hard-working Americans.
During a June 28 speech at a metal recycling facility in Monessen, PA, Trump outlined a trade and manufacturing policy agenda that draws heavily from research performed by the progressive Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Washington Post reporter Greg Sargent was first to report that EPI president Lawrence Mishel rebuked Trump’s agenda for misleading the public on globalization and wage stagnation -- by blaming our trade policies for flat wages and fewer jobs -- while ignoring progressive initiatives like lifting the minimum wage, expanding overtime protections, and increasing union membership (emphasis added):
So it’s worth noting that the EPI — in a lengthy statement sent my way — now says that Trump’s account of what has happened to American workers in recent decades is simplistic in the extreme; that Trump is actually a lot more friendly to GOP economic orthodoxy than most observers have noted; and that Trump’s actual prescriptions fall laughably short of what needs to be done to help those workers.
Trump boasted in his speech that “under a Trump presidency, the American worker will finally have a president who will protect them and fight for them,” and repeatedly accused Clinton and other politicians supported by financial elites of “betraying” American workers by prioritizing globalization over their interests.
But Lawrence Mishel, the president of the EPI, sent me a critique of the speech. Mishel noted that Trump’s account suggests that only government officials — particularly the Clinton administration and Democrats who supported trade deals such as NAFTA — are to blame for flat wages. He argued that Trump conspicuously left out the role of Republicans in this whole tale, as well as the business community’s use of its power to keep wages down and erode countervailing power on the part of labor.
As Sargent and Mishel note, Trump has appropriated a populist tone on international free trade agreements, but his other stated positions on tax and economic policy decidedly favor the corporatist right wing. The incongruity of Trump’s positions led Mishel to conclude his response by labeling Trump’s speech for what it was: “a scam.”
For months, Media Matters has documented how media have tended to gloss over Trump’s extremist positions with a misleading “populist” veneer. According to reports, his top economic policy advisers are discredited right-wing pundits Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow -- known for their strict adherence to trickle-down economics, their willingness to distort reality for political gain, and their rank professional incompetence. Last September, right-wing media falsely labeled Trump’s tax reform plans a “populist” agenda when it was actually a budget-busting giveaway to the rich that wilted upon closer inspection. In April, experts slammed Trump’s proposal to eliminate the national debt in just eight years as “impossible” and “psychotic.” In May, Trump was criticized for his “insane” plan to default on U.S. federal debt, and then for his “disastrous” suggestion that the U.S. could solve its long-term debt problems by printing money.
Even in the case of free trade, Trump’s rhetoric may be populist, but experts and media critics argue that his positions are untenable. As CNN’s Ali Velshi pointed on during the June 29 edition of New Day, Trump’s attempt to solely blame the Clinton administration for jobs lost to globalization was “highly dishonest.” On the May 6 edition of New Day, CNN analyst Rana Foroohar slammed Trump’s nascent trade agenda as being “either a bad idea, or impossible.” (Furthermore, Trump’s penchant for comparing trade deals to the horrifying violence of “rape” leaves him far outside the rational mainstream of political discourse.)
As Sargent noted, Trump’s June 28 policy speech seemed to be an attempt “to stake out positions on trade and wages that are … perhaps even to the left of Hillary Clinton and Democrats.” MSNBC political reporter Benjy Sarlin and Fortune politics writer Ben Geier both argued in June 29 articles that the speech was an overt attempt by the GOP front-runner to court supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the runner-up in the Democratic presidential primary. Trump even quoted a common refrain from Sanders’ own stump speeches during a series of attacks on Clinton, saying she “voted for virtually every trade agreement that has cost the workers of this country millions, millions of jobs” -- a claim that PolitiFact labels as “half true” at best.
Given his previous extremist economic positions, Trump’s statements on trade -- which were chided by both the right-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce and left-leaning labor unions including the AFL-CIO -- seem to be born not of conviction, but rather of expedience.
Cover model Caitlyn Jenner reflects on her athletic career, winning gold at the Summer Olympics 40 years ago, and role of recent reality TV star and transgender icon in the summer issue of Sports Illustrated. The story allows Jenner to tell her own story, while also highlighting the positive impact of transgender visibility in the media, pointing out that her story helps transgender people and their families battle intolerance and isolation.
Nearly 40 years after her last cover appearance on Sports Illustrated, the magazine again featured Caitlyn Jenner in multi-platform profile in its July 4-11 edition. The profile largely focuses on Jenner’s reflections about her journey both before and after winning the decathlon gold medal at the 1976 summer Olympics. In addition to elevating Jenner’s voice, the story spotlights the positive impact of Jenner’s media presence on transgender people, who “battle not only intolerance but also suicidal thoughts, depression and poverty at staggering rates and who are just gaining a foothold in society.”
The piece contrasts with sensationalist, irresponsible reporting that has often accompanied stories about Jenner and the transgender community. In May, The Washington Post and CBS both parroted the shoddy, unsubstantiated report of a discredited celebrity biographer, who claimed that Jenner might “de-transition.” Sports Illustrated’s profile of Jenner proves that even high-profile celebrity news can educate readers about transgender people and the importance of transgender visibility.
From the July 4-11 edition of Sports Illustrated:
If there is no medal, Caitlyn Jenner almost certainly does not become the most famous transgender person in history. She does not become a towering (literally, 6' 4" in heels) public figure who both unifies and polarizes (even within the trans community) while spurring discussion of gender issues in ways that no one else has. She has used her celebrity—earnestly, sometimes naively, on a steep learning curve, with millions watching—to help the 700,000 trans men, women and children in America who battle not only intolerance but also suicidal thoughts, depression and poverty at staggering rates and who are just gaining a foothold in society. “I feel like, now, nobody can say they don’t know a transgender person, because she is that famous,” says Chris Mosier, 35, a transgender male triathlete who represented the U.S. at the world sprint duathlon (cycling and running) championships last month in Spain. “She has brought about this awareness among people who are attuned to pop culture and media. Challenges that trans people face have really come to light since she’s come out.
If there is no medal, she does not affect the lives of thousands of families trying to find their way in a trans world that many scarcely knew existed. Says Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, adolescent medicine specialist in the care of gender nonconforming children and transgender youth at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, “For parents who are scared or nervous about having a child come out as transgender, it suddenly feels like they’re not the only one, because they remember Caitlyn from the Olympics, and this is real. And for the kids, if they know Caitlyn at all, it’s from the Kardashians, but for them, their life is impacted by their parents’ being more open to their journey. It’s a lot easier for them if they have affirming and supportive parents.”
On June 27, the Supreme Court found in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that restrictions placed on Texas abortion providers by the state’s HB 2 violated a woman’s constitutional right to abortion access. Editorial boards across the nation hailed the decision as “a major victory for abortion rights,” and “the most significant victory in a generation for a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.”
Yale Law School Dean Robert Post took to The Washington Post to completely dismantle the bogus claim that the attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for fraud are trampling the company’s First Amendment rights. And in doing so, he pointed to one of several opinion writers who have misinformed the Post’s readers by advancing this “free speech” defense of Exxon's alleged deception on climate change.
Writing in The Washington Post on June 24, Robert Post criticized “ExxonMobil and its supporters” in the media for deceptively “[r]aising the revered flag of the First Amendment” to condemn attorneys general who are investigating Exxon. The attorneys general are looking into whether the oil company committed fraud by deliberating withholding truthful information about climate change from shareholders and the public in order to protect its profits. As Post explained, Exxon and its allies are “eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate,” and if Exxon has indeed committed fraud, “its speech would not merit First Amendment protection.” He added: “Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.”
One of the conservative media figures that Post called out for distorting the Exxon investigations was The Washington Post’s own George Will, who penned an April 22 column peddling the false claim that the attorneys general pursuing Exxon are seeking to “criminalize skepticism” about climate change. And that wasn’t the only basic fact that Will butchered, as the Climate Denier Roundup explained at the time:
George Will used his column in the Washington Post to offer a lesson on how this campaign [against Exxon] is part of a larger progressive strategy to shut down debate. But apparently it’s Will that needs a history lesson, as he uses as evidence a story about a 2013 IRS investigation accusing the agency of targeting conservatives. But that investigation “found no evidence” that the IRS actions were politically motivated.
Unfortunately, Will is not the only voice on the Post’s opinion pages who has misrepresented the facts to defend Exxon.
As the Climate Denier Roundup noted, the same day that Will’s column ran, the Post also published an op-ed by two officials at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a think tank that peddled climate science denial while receiving funding from Exxon. The CEI op-ed repeated the falsehood that the attorneys general are seeking to “run roughshod” over Exxon’s First Amendment protections and prosecute “dissent.” It also engaged in carefully crafted legalese about CEI’s relationship with Exxon, as the Climate Denier Roundup observed:
Worth noting CEI’s careful phrasing about its relationship with Exxon, which CEI says “publicly ended its support for us after 2005.” With Donors Trust and others making it possible to anonymize giving, the key word is “publicly.”
Flashback to November 2015, and the story at the Post is much the same. Like Will, the Post’s Robert Samuelson claimed in a November 8 column that investigations of Exxon are an “assault” on free speech, and that the “advocates of a probe into ExxonMobil are essentially proposing that the company be punished for expressing its opinions.” Samuelson also repeated Exxon’s bogus talking point that a 1989 Exxon document proves that groundbreaking reports about Exxon by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times "'cherry-pick[ed]' their evidence."
Then there’s the Post editorial board itself, which prematurely concluded in a November 15 editorial that Exxon “didn’t commit a crime.” Perhaps the Post will reconsider after hearing from Robert Post on that matter.
From Robert Post’s June 24 op-ed in The Washington Post:
If large oil companies have deliberately misinformed investors about their knowledge of global warming, they may have committed serious commercial fraud.
ExxonMobil and its supporters are now eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate. Raising the revered flag of the First Amendment, they loudly object to investigations recently announced by attorneys general of several states into whether ExxonMobil has publicly misrepresented what it knew about global warming.
The National Review has accused the attorneys general of “trampling the First Amendment.” Post columnist George F. Will has written that the investigations illustrate the “authoritarianism” implicit in progressivism, which seeks “to criminalize debate about science.” And Hans A. von Spakovsky, speaking for the Heritage Foundation, compared the attorneys general to the Spanish Inquisition.
Despite their vitriol, these denunciations are wide of the mark. If your pharmacist sells you patent medicine on the basis of his “scientific theory” that it will cure your cancer, the government does not act like the Spanish Inquisition when it holds the pharmacist accountable for fraud.
The obvious point, which remarkably bears repeating, is that there are circumstances when scientific theories must remain open and subject to challenge, and there are circumstances when the government must act to protect the integrity of the market, even if it requires determining the truth or falsity of those theories. Public debate must be protected, but fraud must also be suppressed. Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.
If ExxonMobil has committed fraud, its speech would not merit First Amendment protection. But the company nevertheless invokes the First Amendment to suppress a subpoena designed to produce the information necessary to determine whether ExxonMobil has committed fraud. It thus seeks to foreclose the very process by which our legal system acquires the evidence necessary to determine whether fraud has been committed. In effect, the company seeks to use the First Amendment to prevent any informed lawsuit for fraud.