Fox News attacked the Obama administration by reviving the false claim that in 2012 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) began asking gun purchasers about their race and ethnicity on background check forms. In fact, ethnicity questions have been on the background check form for more than a decade.
On the April 21 edition of Fox News' The Real Story, guest host Martha MacCallum and Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano trumpeted the efforts of GOP lawmakers to stop the ATF from asking gun buyers about race. Napolitano argued, "I can only think that insisting upon knowing the race of the person, is perhaps so this Obama administration, so decidedly anti-gun, could say, oh by the way, such and such a percentage of whites buy -- and the amount of non-whites that buy is a smaller percentage, and we don't like that."
During the segment, an on-screen "Fox Facts" graphic wrongly claimed that ATF began "requiring gun buyers to answer questions about race & ethnicity on firearm applications" in 2012.
Contrary to the "Fox Facts" assertion, a question about race and ethnicity has been on the firearm background check form since at least 2001.
Less than one week into Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and it's a blurry image from a fast-food restaurant security video that's emerged as the defining media image. After "news" broke that Clinton, en route to Iowa to meet with voters, stopped in at an Ohio Chipotle for lunch and that the order was captured on film, the press corps basically went bonkers, treating it like a Tupac sighting and going all-in with fevered reporting.
The New York Times first got hold of the security cam video and reported that Clinton's order "included a Blackberry Izze drink, a soda and a chicken salad, and was filled just after 1 p.m." (1:20 p.m., to be exact, according to the New York Daily News.) Who carried the tray after payment? Clinton herself, the Times explained to readers.
Stories like the original Times report are not entirely out of the ordinary for campaign coverage. But the way the rest of the press went completely overboard in its wake suggests we could be in for a long and painful 19 months before the 2016 election.
More tick-tock details followed. "The newly-minted presidential candidate ordered a chicken bowl with guacamole, a chicken salad and fruit juice," according to ABC News, which interviewed the restaurant's manager. (The guacamole and fruit juice information was considered a mini-scoop; Business Insider noted guacamole "costs extra.")
For days, Clinton's Chipotle stop served as a treasure trove of information: Who made Clinton's burrito bowl? Politico sent a reporter to Maumee and determined, "The 25-year-old who cooked the chicken that went into the burrito bowl Hillary Clinton ordered at the Chipotle here on Monday makes $8.20 an hour and splits rent with two roommates." And assistant general manager Jef Chiet got Clinton her drink, Politico confirmed, "first a blackberry Izze, which she decided she didn't want after she read the ingredients, so he replaced it with an iced tea."
But campaign sleuths weren't finished. Bloomberg confirmed that, "The change from the meal totaled less than a dollar, but it was pocketed rather than deposited in the tip jar as many customers at the restaurant do."
Could any political analysis be gleaned from the mundane lunchtime stop? Of course:
"Hillary Clinton Goes Unnoticed at Chipotle In Botched Retail Politicking Bid" (Washington Times)
"Clinton Bypassed Centrist Taco Bell for Liberal Favorite Chipotle" (Wall Street Journal)
"What Hillary Clinton's Chipotle Stop Says About Her Campaign" (Christian Science Monitor)
Is it possible that maybe she was just hungry?
The Chipotle nonsense reached such heights (or depths), that even starstruck E! called out the political press for its ridiculous overreaction to the story, and the fact that "ChipotleGate 2015" triggered "all sorts of in-depth analysis, from what her choice in burrito bowl means for America, to whether her decision to don sunglasses means she's unfit to be president."
During her first week on the campaign trail, Clinton has avoided any defining, self-inflicted gaffes. The same cannot be said of the press.
News organizations have gone on a "staffing binge" in preparation for the 2016 campaign, according to the Washington Post. That means political units have to produce content, no matter how trivial and innocuous. The machine must be fed (clicks must be harvested). And right now, that machine is spitting out some dreadful, breathless, and gossipy campaign dispatches that are divorced from anything remotely connected to a public discourse.
Just think about the Chipotle story. Was Clinton in hiding at the time? Had she dared the press to find her out? Was there any reason to think her highway pit stop for food was newsworthy? No, no and no. Maybe -maybe -- if it were the final weeks of an historically close White House campaign, that kind of myopic attention paid to a lunch order would be warranted. But 70-plus weeks before voters go to the polls? It's unfathomable.
Chipotle Week was so bad it produced a sense of dismay among some media observers and practitioners, as expressed on Twitter.
Daily Beast executive editor Noah Shachtman:
Hillary's campaign is only three days old and it has already been the subject of some of the worst political "journalism" of all time.-- Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) April 15, 2015
New York Times writer Nate Cohn:
A lot of the analysis of the nascent Clinton campaign is unusually vacuous--and that says something-- Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) April 15, 2015
New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen:
Detecting a sense of dread coming over watchers of campaign coverage after the first few weeks... Plotting how to write criticism into that.-- Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) April 15, 2015
The irony was that while the campaign press freaked out over the trivia surrounding Clinton's lunch order, some pundits were simultaneously castigating the candidate for not rolling out a sweeping campaign agenda.
Politico assigned no fewer than eight reporters for an article about how, just 72 hours into her likely 18-month campaign, Clinton "has been slow" to articulate detailed positions on issues such as fast-track trade agreements and the need for reform at the National Security Agency.
The team at NBC's First Read agreed: "That lack of a message was on display at her Iowa event yesterday." Well, actually that wasn't true. NBC conceded that Clinton had already detailed four fights she wants to wage: "1) building an economy for tomorrow, 2) strengthening families and communities, 3) fixing America's political system by getting rid of "unaccountable" money, and 4) protecting the country."
Additionally, NBC reported Clinton had struck a "populist tone" and condemned income equality in America. But NBC didn't think any of that counted as much of a "message" from Clinton because she was just saying "what you hear from 90% of Democratic candidates running for downballot office."
Clinton didn't say anything entertaining and newsy! "She didn't say anything unique, which was always going to be the shortcoming of a rollout emphasizing theater over substance/message," according to NBC.
And there's the media's inadvertent punch line: It's Clinton who's guilty of emphasizing "theater over substance."
The staff at the Maumee, Ohio, Chipotle might disagree.
The conservative Washington Times published a series of bizarre conspiracy theories and claims about the Common Core State Standards, alleging that the educational standards amount to "Islamic infiltration of America."
On April 7, The Washington Times published a piece by columnist and Fox News Radio analyst Bethany Blankley titled, "Common Core ties to Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia." Blankley conflated several stories unrelated to Common Core throughout the article, including the addition of two Muslim holy days to the New York City public school calendar and "public-school sponsored trips to mosques via taxpayer expense," to allege that the state standards are "but one of many parts of an intricate plan to infiltrate every area of American society with Islam." She also included a passage supposedly demonstrating Common Core's connection to foreign countries, relying on right-wing birther website WorldNetDaily for evidence:
Globally, Common Core originated from the "One World Education" concept, a global goal orchestrated by the Connect All Schools program. Its origin is funded by the Qatar Foundation International (QFI). The director of QFI's Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics is Tariq Ramadan, grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan al-Banna.
According to the WND website, in 2011, QFI "partnered with the Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to facilitate matchmaking between classrooms in the U.S. and international schools through ... the 'Connect All Schools' project." QFI states on its website that the initiative was founded in response to Mr. Obama's infamous 2009 Cairo speech, during which the Muslim Brotherhood was seated in the front row.
Mr. Obama's mentor, domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, received $49.2 million from Vartan Gregorian, a board member of the Qatar Foundation, who also is involved with Mr. Obama's White House Fellowships Commission. Gregorian is an integral part of Connect All Schools, through which Qatar invested $5 million to teach Arabic in American public schools
Such inexplicable conspiracy theories about Common Core, however, don't come as much of a surprise given Blankley's anti-Islamic agenda. On her personal website, Blankley has published several pieces supposedly uncovering "The Muslim Brotherhood's Infiltration of the American Government," in a series titled, "The Betrayal Papers," where she implicates everything from Common Core to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the Department of Homeland Security.
Blankley's piece is just the latest in a long history of Common Core misinformation from right-wing media. Multiple conservative outlets have promoted tired myths to stoke fears about this set of state-based education standards in math and English voluntarily adopted by 45 states in 2010. The conservative media outrage machine has turned Common Core into something of a "rallying cry" over the past few years, thanks to the loud and often misinformed voices telling audiences to be angry or in some cases, to boycott the tests associated with the standards.
For more on the lies and misinformation about Common Core often propagated by conservative media, watch below:
Right-wing media attacked President Obama's Easter prayer breakfast speech, claiming he "smeared" Christianity by referring to "less-than-loving" statements from Christians.
Conservative media figures are lashing out against tentative framework for a historic deal on Iran's nuclear program as a "surrender to Tehran," -- ignoring the widespread approval among diplomats, foreign relations and nuclear weapons policy experts of the agreement between the United States and five other nations aimed at limiting Iranian nuclear ambitions.
A new survey of firearm experts reveals a consensus debunking the myths the gun lobby and conservative media use to try to infect the national dialogue on gun safety to create the appearance of legitimate debate.
Creators will suspend Dr. Ben Carson's syndicated column in "about 30 days," according to managing editor David Yontz, who told Media Matters the move follows Carson's description of himself as a presidential candidate in his latest column. Yontz said that Creators has removed the offending column from its website.
In his March 25 column, which was reprinted in conservative outlets like The Washington Times, WND, and Townhall, Carson described the "learning curve of a candidate" and focused on how much he has "to learn in terms of becoming both a better candidate and a better potential president of the United States." Given the many concrete steps Carson has taken towards mounting a presidential run, Media Matters reached out to Creators to inquire about Carson's status as a columnist, given that he was apparently open to using the space to publish pieces that read like campaign press releases.
"In his latest column, Ben Carson talks about what he would do as an official candidate for president of the United States," Yontz said in an email to Media Matters Wednesday. "He ends the column by saying he wanted to communicate his thoughts as he 'consider(s) this monumental step.' But in the same column, he describes himself as a candidate for president. Consequently, we have decided to suspend syndication of the column, effective in about 30 days, until after he is no longer running for president, either officially or unofficially."
Yontz said the syndicate will remove Carson's most recent column from its website because, "though the column was not an announcement and Dr. Carson is still in exploratory mode, we agree that the column was misleading."
Creators' move follows The Washington Times' decision earlier this month to drop Carson as a columnist after the formation of his exploratory committee and Fox News' move last fall to end its relationship with Carson after he released a campaign-style video "introducing himself to the American people."
Yontz estimated the suspension will be completed in "about 30 days" because "it will take us some time to send letters to all of his subscribers." He explained that, "For the next month, the column will be staying away from anything that could be perceived as campaign-related."
Media Matters had initially reached out to Yontz in December after Fox News dropped Carson as a contributor. At that time, Yontz said, "he hasn't officially announced yet, it is looking likely he is going to run. But once he officially announces, we most likely will stop syndicating it, we just have to come up with a solution as to what to do, at that time."
"We have 30-day agreements with the subscribers to Dr. Carson's column," Yontz added Wednesday. "And we will also be offering alternative conservative columnists to his subscribers during this time period."
He would not reveal how many clients take Carson's weekly syndicated column, but called it "substantial"
UPDATE: Carson responded to the Creators Syndicate news in a March 28 statement on Breitbart.com, writing: "While my words may not have been precise, be assured I have not declared my candidacy for president in any shape or form. I have been, and am still, exploring a candidacy as a possibility. In an effort to be straightforward I did not follow each time the political protocol of qualifying my language with appropriate adjectives and caveats."
Conservative media are alleging that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is attempting to "punish" governors who do not acknowledge climate change by "holding disaster funds hostage." In reality, FEMA is simply updating its requirements for state disaster mitigation plans to ensure that they include consideration of climate change impacts, which is essential to reduce risk from hazards that states will face as the climate continues to change.
Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney writes that the news of Hillary Clinton's private email account is significant because it could provide evidence of her aide Huma Abedin's purported ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, his latest effort to push the bigoted conspiracy theory for which he has been widely condemned.
Her emails are of particular interest insofar as Ms. Abedin has extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. That's the Islamist organization whose self-declared mission is "destroying Western civilization from within."
The indispensable investigative group Judicial Watch has filed suit in federal court for access to these emails. It remains to be seen if they are provided and, if so, what they reveal about these ladies' contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood - and their damage-control concerning revelations about Ms. Abedin's connection to it.
Gaffney's think tank is responsible for the conspiracy theory that Abedin, who is "of mixed Indian and Pakistani heritage," has family connections to the Muslim Brotherhood that call into question her loyalty to the United States.
After then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) cited Gaffney's claims while questioning Abedin's "routine access to the secretary and to policy-making" in a 2012 letter to the State Department, she was widely denounced, including by Speaker John Boeher (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
The conservative Washington Times has dropped Dr. Ben Carson from its roster of columnists after he announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee. The paper had continued to publish Carson's column even after Fox News cut ties with him when he made several moves towards running for the Republican presidential nomination.
On Tuesday morning, Carson announced the formation of an exploratory committee to run for president. This committee would allow Carson to begin fundraising for an eventual presidential campaign, should he decide to move forward.
In a statement to Media Matters, Washington Times opinion editor David Keene said, "We have pulled tomorrow's column by Dr. Ben Carson at his request in light of his just announced decision to form a Presidential Exploratory Committee. Dr. Carson's contributions to the Washington Times have proved invaluable to our readers." Keene also noted that Carson "is a friend and will always be considered a part of the Washington Times family."
Carson has been making more and more explicit overtures towards a presidential campaign in recent months. Fox News cut ties with him after he released a biographical campaign documentary titled "A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America."
Despite the campaign video and public statements noting he was considering a presidential run, for several months the Washington Times continued to publish his columns and published the digital magazine he founded, American Currentsee.
Carson enjoys his current prominent role in the conservative movement in large part thanks to Fox and other conservative media outlets that repeatedly featured and hosted him after a speech to the National Prayer Breakfast where he attacked President Obama and the Affordable Care Act.
While discussing Oregon's recent political scandal, conservative media are reviving their favorite renewable energy bogeyman - the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra -- to push the false narrative that the clean energy industry is an economic failure that is widely infected with "crony capitalism." Contrary to these claims, Solyndra was never a scandal, and renewable energy sources are increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels -- despite historically receiving far less in government subsidies.
When former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced he would resign due to the controversy surrounding undisclosed consulting fees his fiancée received while advising him on energy policies, conservative media were quick to compare the controversy to the government loan guarantee and bankruptcy of solar firm Solyndra. As Politico recently explained, the conservative strategy is to use the Kitzhaber scandal as "ammunition" against Democrats and environmentalists who they claim "have propped up failed clean-energy projects" and provided government aid that "ends up financially benefiting only the politically connected companies lobbying for it." Bloomberg News similarly stated that whether or not it is accurate, "[t]he argument being made is that clean energy lobbying is a way for Democrats to get rich."
That's exactly what we've seen in the conservative media. The Washington Times claimed the Oregon scandal once again brings to light "the failures of taxpayer-funded green energy companies such as Solyndra that had political ties to party bigwigs." The National Review Online linked the situation in Oregon to Solyndra and what it claimed were other "green-energy scandals that piled up during [the Obama administration's] first term." The Daily Caller alleged that in the case of both the Kitzhaber scandal and Solyndra, "government supported green energy programs based on political connections." And Fox News also highlighted Solyndra while discussing the Oregon controversy -- twice.
But the simple truth is that the Solyndra episode was never a scandal, a fact that has been proven time and time again. The solar energy firm, which received a federal loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, filed for bankruptcy as a result of plummeting prices for solar panels, as detailed by Greenwire, among others. Conservative media responded by pushing baseless claims that Solyndra used unethical influence in the Obama administration to receive its loan, but an extensive investigation by House Republicans turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
In addition to pushing the cronyism charge, conservative media have also used the Oregon scandal as an opportunity to broadly claim that renewable energy is not economically viable in the marketplace. For example, National Review Online purported that these sources of energy can't "survive in the marketplace without giant subsidies or special tax favors." During an interview on WSJ Live, Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell similarly claimed that "wind and solar and ethanol really cannot survive without handouts from government."
But the reality is that wind and solar power have become increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels -- and are actually cheaper than coal and natural gas in some markets -- despite having received far less in government subsidies over the years.
Right-wing media are scandalizing President Obama's refusal to conflate terrorism with all of Islam, attacking the president for not focusing on "Islamic extremism" in the three-day White House summit to combat violent extremism. But the conservative outrage ignores the fact that conflating terrorism with an entire religion would harm U.S. national security and foreign policy interests by alienating allied Muslim nations and play into the hands of terrorists who claim the U.S. is at war with Islam.
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.
Matt Drudge's Drudge Report has become the leading conservative media booster of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, promoting him for the Republican presidential nomination and proclaiming him the "clear GOP frontrunner."
Right-wing media outlets used a flawed National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper to attack unemployment insurance (UI), claiming that the paper proved that UI disincentives work. In fact, experts criticized the paper's methodology and data, and one of the paper's co-authors admitted that most UI recipients look for work while receiving benefits.