Since Iowa based radio host Steve Deace endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in August, national media outlets have continued to rely on him as an election analyst, often without disclosure of his endorsement. Television outlets like CNN and MSNBC as well as major newspapers including the Washington Post allowed him to promote Cruz's brand and attack his opponents while providing analysis ahead of the Iowa caucuses.
In endorsing Cruz in August Deace claimed that the senator was exactly "what we have been waiting for," signaling to Deace's supporters that Deace's own brand of anti-gay views and extreme rhetoric best matched Cruz's platform. However, Deace's support for Cruz was clear long before his endorsement. In March, The Des Moines Register reported that "Deace has served as an informal, unpaid consultant" to Cruz. After his endorsement, Deace advised Cruz and appeared in promotional videos for Cruz's campaign.
Yet interviews with Deace in mainstream media would overlook his attacks on the LGBT community such as his use of phrases like "rainbow jihad" to describe their advocates, Deace's support of the deceptively edited Planned Parenthood videos, or his likening of ESPN to Nazis. Media gave Deace a pass and solely focused on his position in Iowa as a "conservative hitmaker - and hitman," and a "gatekeeper."
Beyond ignoring his rhetoric, media allowed Deace to promote Cruz for months, often without disclosure of his support of Cruz. While Deace was providing analysis on the Iowa race to national media audiences he was busy consistently promoting Cruz on his radio show and across conservative blogs and outlets including The Washington Times and Conservative Review. By April 2015 it was clear that Deace was backing Cruz; however the media failed to disclose Deace's ties to the candidate during interviews with him.
The Washington Post quoted Deace as he attacked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in an April 24 article on the senator's immigration plan which Deace said was "one of the worst squanderings of political capital I've ever witnessed." The Post again quoted Deace as he attacked Donald Trump on August 13 as the host dismissed Trump's pull with evangelical voters, saying, "Everyone was paying attention, especially those who are fed up with the Republican Party, but he didn't sell them."
Though they disclosed his endorsement of Cruz, the Los Angeles Times allowed Deace to attack Carly Fiorina on September 25 by quoting Deace saying "You don't have to dig very far if you're a conservative to see some things that are troubling ... She needs to show these are not campaign conservative conversions."
USA Today disclosed Deace's endorsement but still gave Deace a post-debate analysis column that provided him free reign to attack Cruz's opponents while claiming the senator was a top performer in each analysis. After the August debate in Cleveland, Deace wrote, this time without disclosure of his Cruz endorsement, that "Jeb is Dead," "Rand Paul is on life support," and Carly Fiorina was just the "flavor of the month." In the most recent debate which many felt Cruz lost, Deace stated that "nobody really laid a glove on him."
Outlets like CNN and MSNBC also provided Deace with a television platform that allowed him to attack Cruz's opponents. In a January 26 interview, Deace was assisted in his effort when he was asked if it was "fair to pull something Trump said 17 years ago" for use in an attack ad. Deace wasted no time going after Cruz's opponent, saying Trump's comments on abortion were fair game today.
Deace has also managed to appeal to multiple audiences in different ways. For example, Deace has restrained his extreme views in order to deliver his message of support for the senator to a wider audience, such as refering to Secretary Clinton as "Killary" in his blogs and on his radio show, but reverting to "Hillary" when on national TV. Deace's code switching -- suppressing his far-right views for the camera and changing his language -- allows him to continue to be palatable for national broadcasts while providing conservative red meat to his Iowa audience.
Cruz's victory in Iowa may mean that Deace could play a larger role as surrogate for the candidate. Media outlets should note his long history of extreme rhetoric and should be wary of presenting Deace as an election analyst.
Former Meet the Press host David Gregory argued on CNN that Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio could "bring conservatives around, potentially, on immigration," failing to note that Rubio has changed his stance on immigration, walking back his previous support for comprehensive reform while gradually adopting extreme conservative positions.
During Fox News' February 1 coverage of the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Fox News figures repeatedly linked GOP candidate Donald Trump's lower than expected performance against candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) to his decision to withdraw from a Fox News debate following an argument over the debate moderator. Polls attributed Trump's defeat to Ted Cruz's overwhelming support among evangelical voters.
The Washington Post gave voice to a pair of discredited researchers who falsely blamed Washington, D.C.'s incremental minimum wage increase as the core reason Walmart went back on its deal to build stores in low-income neighborhoods, a claim belied by The Post's own reporting on the retailer's decision to scale back operations at stores across the country and around the globe.
On January 15, The Washington Post reported that Walmart plans to close 269 stores this year, including 115 overseas and 154 in the United States, as it shifts its focus toward online shopping and profitable, established supercenters and grocery stores. As part of this companywide contraction, Walmart will abandon numerous planned stores, including two in low-income neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. According to a separate January 15 Washington Post report, "behind closed doors" Walmart officials are placing some blame for the company's decision to abandon expansion plans on the city's increased minimum wage, but the heart of the problem is high construction costs and a general lack of profitability at "large urban Walmarts." The Post reported that Walmart executive vice president Mike Moore is already concerned about underperformance at the company's three stores in Washington, D.C., and company officials are worried that future stores would fail to generate enough sales.
Despite the complexity of the issue, on January 27, The Washington Post published an op-ed in its local opinion section by right-wing researchers Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute on Walmart's decision to drop two of the five stores it had planned to build in the nation's capital. The writers blamed Walmart's actions almost entirely on the city's decision to enforce an $11.50 per hour minimum wage effective July 1. The authors claimed that it would be "irresponsible" to increase municipal wages to $11.50 per hour and "downright foolish" to consider raising wages to $15 per hour in the future, concluding that "the District should ensure that it leads the region in opportunities created, not opportunities destroyed."
The misleading op-ed came after years of research by economists debunking the claim that raising the minimum wage kills jobs, and The Post gave a platform to biased researchers who had been discredited on this specific issue. Perry has attacked minimum wage increases in Seattle by cherry-picking data to falsely suggest that Seattle lost jobs after it raised its minimum wage. Meanwhile, Saltsman and the Employment Policies Institute are tied to low-wage industries that actively lobby against raising the minimum wage.
The assertion that Walmart is abandoning expansion plans in the nation's capital as a result of minimum wage increases falls apart once you consider that the company has already committed to raising nationwide wages for most of its associates to at least $10 per hour in 2016, and once you account for the fact that it is closing stores in cities and states around the country that have lower minimum wages and costs of living than the District does. According to The Washington Post's own reporting on January 31, Walmart is closing stores as part of a national consolidation plan and D.C.'s deputy mayor of economic development told The Post that Walmart's cancellation of planned stores in the city is not "a cost issue" but instead reflects the company's decision to begin "paring down urban markets" where stores are less profitable.
In addition to Walmart's global store contraction, and its concerns about slagging sales at existing D.C. supercenters, there is also some question as to whether the company was ever truly committed to bringing the low-income neighborhood stores online.
Initially, Walmart had approached city officials about building stores in the District, and the city agreed to let Walmart build three stores almost anywhere it wanted as long as the retailer also built two stores east of the Anacostia River, in one of the poorest areas of the city where job opportunities and affordable retail products are in short supply. After Walmart built the stores it wanted in gentrifying neighborhoods, the retailer announced it would not build the two stores the city government wanted in low-income communities. On January 19, Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy wrote that the "bait-and-switch that Walmart just pulled off in the District has to rank among the sleaziest ever played," and noted that it is poor residents of color who got "burned."
Right-wing media smeared the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB) after President Obama announced that it would be the first U.S. mosque he visits in his presidency. Conservative media accused the mosque, one of the largest Muslim centers in the mid-Atlantic region, of having ties to terrorism based on cherry-picked, decades-old connections and former employees.
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Holocaust survivors warned about the demagoguery and rhetoric espoused by Donald Trump that they say echoes back to Nazi Germany -- the same rhetoric which has been sanctioned by right-wing media and praised by white nationalist media as "wonderful."
Major newspaper editorial boards urged politicians to abandon efforts to defund and slander Planned Parenthood after a grand jury indicted two members of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-choice group that released smear videos against the women's health organization.
Washington Post's Erik Wemple pointed out the irony in how "accusations of media bias," a ploy often used by Fox to boost "its own ratings" and undermine criticisms against conservatives, are what Donald Trump claims is motivating his boycott of Thursday's GOP primary debate.
During a January 26 press conference GOP presidential front runner Donald Trump announced that he will not participate in Thursday night's Fox News-hosted GOP presidential primary debate, because of alleged bias against him by Fox News host and debate moderator, Megyn Kelly.
Fox has given Trump over 24 hours of free airtime since May, significantly more than his fellow GOP candidates and has furnished several of the talking points Trump uses on the campaign trail. However, the network has stood by Kelly and several Fox News figures have attacked Trump over his decision to pull out of the debate.
Despite the massive amount of coverage given to Trump's campaign, Trump still maintains there is a bias against him, using a tactic Fox News helped create. As The Washington Post's Erik Wemple wrote in a January 26 blog post, Trump's accusations of media bias against him mirror the "great conservative tradition" of accusing the media of an anti-Republican bias. According to Wemple, Trump has taken advantage of the media bias trope to deflect "just about anything that has been critical of him", and now, he is using this narrative against the network that helped create it, making "the ironies here circular." (emphasis original):
Tempting though it is to game out the PR and political calculations between Fox News and Trump, there's something bigger going down here. Momentous, even: The right-wing penchant for nonstop media criticism is swerving across the median, zigzagging around the road, about to wrap itself around that oak tree around the curve. Like other planks of the conservative canon -- e.g., foreign-policy hawkishness -- it has been invoked and ultimately abused by Trump. Such that it can no longer stand on its own.
See any good -- or bad -- conservative politician on the stump, and listen for the broadsides against the liberal mainstream media. They don't give Republicans a chance; they distort things; they give weight to trivial stories that harm conservatives and ignore big stories that favor them -- it's a viewpoint that stretches back at least to a seminal anti-MSM speech by Spiro Agnew in 1969.
Into this tradition of media criticism stomped Trump's presidential campaign. Whereas previous practitioners of the critique looked for quite specific signs of bias in the media, Trump has found bias or misconduct in just about anything that has been critical of him. He has railed against Politico for pointing out various truths; he has railed against CNN and just about every other broadcaster for the bias of not showing the full extent of his crowds; he has ripped pundits -- and Post columnists -- such as Charles Krauthammer and George F. Will for reasons that haven't stuck with the Erik Wemple Blog; he has gone back and forth on whether Chuck Todd of NBC News is a nice guy; and so on.
All of which tees up the Kelly thing. "Megyn Kelly's really biased against me," said Trump in an Instagram video. "She knows that, I know that, everybody knows that. Do you really think she can be fair at a debate?" (Bold text added to highlight another clumsy Trump effort to co-opt a great conservative tradition.)
The ironies here are circular. Over the years, Fox News has boosted its own ratings by frequently airing accusations of media bias. Now its ratings -- at least for Thursday night's debate -- stand to suffer over just such an accusation. Everyone tunes in to see just how Trump will bring out the worst in those who surround him. And the National Review got tossed from hosting a February debate because it dared to exercise its prerogative as an opinion journal to editorialize against Trump.
The Washington Post editorial board called out Republican presidential candidates' anti-immigrant "rancor and outright nativism" that falsely gives "rise to the impression that illegal immigration has soared to unprecedented levels" when in reality recent studies show that illegal immigration is "now at its lowest level since 2003."
Right-wing media have emboldened Republican presidential candidates' use of "alarmist" rhetoric and disparaging terms to describe immigrants, have pressured them into taking hardline anti-immigration policy stances, and defended the candidates who have been criticized for adopting extreme positions.
In a January 24 editorial, The Washington Post editorial board wrote that "Republican rhetoric on immigration has not caught up" with data showing that the percentage of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. "is at its lowest point since the turn of the century." The board pointed to two recent reports from the Pew Research Center and the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) showing declining immigration rates, and called on Republicans to "grapple with that reality":
THE ANTI-ILLEGAL immigrant rancor and outright nativism afoot in the Republican primary field give rise to the impression that illegal immigration has soared to unprecedented levels and that the border is no more than a line in the sand, scarcely monitored and easily crossed. The truth diverges wildly from that rhetoric, as a pair of recent studies demonstrate.
Notwithstanding the demagoguery of Donald Trump and some of his GOP rivals, the number of illegal immigrants in this country, which has declined each year since 2008, is now at its lowest level since 2003, and the percentage of undocumented immigrants likewise is at its lowest point since the turn of the century.
That Mr. Trump has leveraged fact-free rhetoric for political advantage is not news. Still, it is noteworthy that so much of the GOP-primary oxygen, at least until the terrorist attacks in Paris, was consumed by alarmist rhetoric about border security, when in fact the border is more tightly patrolled than ever, and apprehensions at the southwestern border, a rough measure of illegal crossings, have been cut by about two-thirds since Sept. 11, 2001.
Republican rhetoric on immigration has not caught up to those numbers, nor to the reality that the U.S. economy, like other Western economies, cannot function without low-wage, low-skill labor, which Mexico has supplied. An estimate 7 million-plus undocumented immigrants, most of them Mexicans, are employed in this country. Mr. Trump's fantasies of mass deportation notwithstanding, they will not be replaced by native-born Americans. At some point, Republicans will need to grapple with that reality.
A report from the Center For Migration Studies (CMS) found that the undocumented immigrant population in the United States has dropped below 11 million for the first time since 2003. CMS officials specifically noted that they "took issue with the characterizations" of immigration by Republican candidates, many of whom contended that immigration is a growing problem. Those characterizations have in fact been encouraged by conservative media, which have pressured Republican presidential candidates into taking hardline anti-immigration policy stances and defended candidates that have been criticized for adopting extreme positions.
Fox News has devoted roughly three hours to promoting the release of Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a movie about the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Libya, praising the film, repeatedly characterizing the movie as a threat to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, and hyping several debunked myths about the Benghazi terror attacks. More than half of the network's 32 segments focused on falsehoods about the State Department and Obama administration's responses to the attacks, and nearly 60 percent of the segments linked the movie to Clinton's 2016 bid for the White House.
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple highlighted how Fox News' coverage of Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi "is promoting the Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton" during her presidential run, and how the network, in doing so, is "acting as an advocacy organization."
Fox News has hyped 13 Hours repeatedly, claiming that the film would "raise a lot of questions" about the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic post and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi. In addition to using the movie to push the debunked "stand down order" myth, Fox has argued that Bay's film could "pose a threat" to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Fox's Andrea Tantaros argued, "if anyone sees this movie ... and then goes on to vote for Hillary Clinton, they're a criminal." Prime-time host Megyn Kelly, during a segment that pushed multiple Benghazi myths, said the movie "reintroduces Benghazi as a potential campaign issue that cannot be helpful to Mrs. Clinton." Kelly also attacked Wemple for a blog post that called out Kelly and her network's "obsession" with the Benghazi attacks and their potential political implications for Clinton.
In a January 19 piece for The Washington Post's Erik Wemple blog, Wemple explained again how 13 Hours "is giving the network a do-over opportunity" to "attempt to elevate the flick as a political watershed" and "revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton." Wemple noted that by "rooting for the movie to tilt the contemporary political debate," Fox has failed at "acting as a news organization, which reports events as they arise." Wemple concluded that any movie that negatively highlighted the Obama administration "could surely bank on similar excitement from the country's No. 1 cable news outfit":
On her program, [Megyn] Kelly criticized the Erik Wemple Blog for a Jan. 5 post we'd written about the love affair of Fox News with the new Michael Bay movie "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi." That movie is based on a book of similar title written by Boston University professor Mitchell Zuckoff and a team of security operators who were on the ground on the night of the tragic Benghazi, Libya, attacks of Sept. 11, 2012. The book carried a number of revelations -- including the claim of the security contractors that they were told to "stand down" before rushing to assist personnel at the besieged U.S. diplomatic outpost -- that made news upon its publication in 2014. Fox News was particularly aggressive in promoting the book.
"13 Hours" the movie is giving the network a do-over opportunity. The network is frequently running clips of the movie, interviewing the security operators -- particularly Mark "Oz" Geist, Kris "Tanto" Paronto and John "Tig" Tiegen -- and otherwise attempting to elevate the flick as a political watershed. On her Jan. 4 program, Kelly herself led into an interview with this trio by saying, "Breaking tonight a 'Kelly File' exclusive on the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House." There was really nothing "breaking" that night -- just a rehash of the same news threads that had been aired at the time of the book's release.
On her program last night, Kelly disagreed with that point of view. "Wemple of the Washington Post seems to have an issue," said the host in a segment with Fox Newsers Chris Stirewalt and Howard Kurtz. "We did that interview with those three heroes and the feedback we received from the viewers was extraordinary. They wanted to know more. They wanted to know how they could help these guys. They couldn't wait to see this movie. Wemple has a different reaction, which was, '[dismissive sound effect] What did we learn that was new?' I've got news for you, Erik Wemple. You go and you sit through '13 Hours.' You sit there, white-knuckled. When you can't move at the end of it, and a tear comes to your eye, unless you're not human. And you tell me whether this is going to have no impact on the story of Benghazi, which is relevant in this 2016 presidential campaign."
Now to the heart of Kelly's criticism. She demands, "And you tell me whether this is going to have no impact on the story of Benghazi, which is relevant in this 2016 presidential campaign." We have no opinion or projection on whether or not the "13 Hours" movie will have an impact on the ongoing presidential race, nor whether it should have such an impact. Our point is narrower: That Fox News, even after hyping the bona fide revelations in the book version of "13 Hours," is promoting the Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton. In so doing, Fox News isn't acting as a news organization, which reports events as they arise; it's acting as an advocacy organization, verily rooting for the movie to tilt the contemporary political debate. If Bay could only produce a Hollywood reenactment of Obamacare's lowest moments or of the failures of the president's Islamic State policy, he could surely bank on similar excitement from the country's No. 1 cable news outfit.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) sounded like a "dedicated Rush Limbaugh listener" at the January 14 GOP presidential primary debate, wrote Vox's Matthew Yglesias, highlighting how Cruz is gaining popularity among conservative voters by "espousing orthodox conservative views" and echoing many of Limbaugh's falsehoods and conspiracy theories.
Economists and veteran journalists slammed Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network anchor and senior vice president Neil Cavuto for framing a question in the January 14 Republican presidential debate in a way that implied President Obama was to blame for the financial crisis he inherited from the Bush administration. American financial markets peaked on October 9-10, 2007 before steadily declining as the economy slipped into recession, more than 16 months before President Obama's inauguration.
UPDATE (1/15/16): After publication of this post, The Washington Post updated its article to include the following:
Update: Supporters of wind power energy noted [the Utah State/Strata] report is backed by wind power critics, and said it's unfair to criticize the tax credits because fossil fuels have received many more government incentives than renewables over a longer period of time. They pointed to other sources showing wind's costs to be lower than for other electricity sources.
The Washington Post's Fact Checker wrongly challenged President Obama's State of the Union comments about wind energy by citing a study linked to the oil billionaire Koch brothers. By contrast, FactCheck.org cited an Energy Department analyst who confirmed that Obama was correct when he said that wind energy is less expensive than fossil fuels in the regions of the country that he mentioned.
During his January 13 State of the Union address, Obama highlighted the advancements renewable energy has made since he took office, citing the low price of wind energy as an example: "In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power."
The Post's Fact Checker conceded that the "cost of wind power surely is lower in those states than in others," but stated that "the average price of coal and natural gas ... is still cheaper than newer sources like wind," citing an analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance about the average cost of electricity nationwide (the Post attributed the stat to the Dallas Morning News).
But The Post never actually addressed whether Obama was correct when he said that wind power is less expensive than fossil fuels in parts of Iowa and Texas.
By contrast, FactCheck.org noted that Obama "rightly points out that in some areas of states like Iowa and Texas, wind energy is already cheaper than energy produced by coal or natural gas." Indeed, an analysis from investment banking firm Lazard released last November found that the high-end estimate for the unsubsidized cost of wind energy in Texas and the Midwest ($51 per megawatt hour) is less than the low-end estimate for the cost of all fossil fuel-based forms of energy nationwide (the cheapest being gas combined cycle, with a low-end estimate of $52 per megawatt hour):
Obama's statement was also supported by an official from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), who said in an email to FactCheck.org: "Both our analysis and recent market trends suggest that wind is generally lowest in cost and most competitive in the Great Plains region of the country, roughly corresponding to 'Iowa to Texas.'" The EIA analyst noted that "wind is the low-cost source of power generation in the overnight hours in many states where it exists" and that wind energy has "out-compete[d] other sources in states such as Iowa and Texas during daytime hours." He also explained that when it comes to building new power production nationwide, "wind is generally in a competitive range with combined cycle [natural gas] and perhaps even lower cost than coal, on an unsubsidized basis."
FactCheck.org also cited a March 2015 article from the Dallas Morning News, which noted that "in Texas, the country's largest wind energy producer, renewable energy plans count among the cheapest options available."
The Post's Fact Checker also took issue with Obama's remarks by claiming he "overlook[ed] the impact of the federal tax credit that has driven much of the cost of wind power down." As purported evidence, the Post cited a report by the Institute of Political Economy at Utah State University and the research group Strata, without mentioning that either entity has received funding from the oil billionaire Koch brothers. The report was led by Randy Simmons, who is the former Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State and runs Utah State's "Koch Scholars" program. He is also a senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Strata received $653,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation in 2013 alone. Meanwhile, Utah State University received over $1.6 million from the Charles Koch Foundation between 2007 and 2013, according to data compiled by Greenpeace. Then in 2015, the university confirmed that its business school -- where the Institute of Political Economy resides -- would receive an additional $1.54 million from the Charles Koch Foundation, including $540,000 in salary and benefits for two tenure-track professors at the Institute of Political Economy.
But while The Post claimed that Obama overlooked the impact of wind subsidies -- the focus of the Koch-linked report it cited -- The Post itself overlooked the fact that fossil fuels have historically received far more in government subsidies and handouts than wind or other forms of renewable energy, particularly in the beginning stages of those industries' expansion. A 2011 analysis by Management Information Services for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) found that a whopping 70 percent of the energy subsidies handed out between 1950 and 2010 were given to the oil, natural gas, and coal industries, compared to only nine percent for renewables like wind and solar. And an analysis from DBL Investors shows how the oil and gas industries received far more in subsidies than renewables during the first 30 years of those subsidies' existence:
The Post's Fact Checker did mention that experts predict unsubsidized wind energy will become cost-competitive with fossil fuels nationwide within the next decade. But only FactCheck.org managed to explain that the President was right when he noted that wind is already cheaper than fossil fuels in many parts of the country.