As strict voter ID laws are put into effect ahead of the midterm elections, recent judicial opinions and social science studies continue to poke holes in right-wing media's defense of voter suppression.
Conservative financiers Charles and David Koch have spent far more to influence the 2014 midterm elections than progressive activist Tom Steyer, yet for months media outlets have equated the two.
The Washington Times is amplifying an attack on gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety by citing a shoddy report from discredited gun researcher John Lott.
In an October 9 article, Times reporter Kelly Riddell, who is a frequent source of misinformation about gun violence, shared a report from Lott's group, Crime Prevention Research Center, that purported to demonstrate that a recent Everytown report on mass shootings is "riddled with errors."
Riddell decided to base her article solely on highlighting Lott's claims about Everytown, even while acknowledging that Lott "is often decried as biased to the right." Riddell subsequently updated the piece with responses from Everytown that debunked the Lott claims that Riddell had credulously amplified.
Lott's purported debunking of Everytown's mass shooting report itself includes erroneous information. In one case Lott, who is an economist, criticized Everytown because of his failure to distinguish between two statistical terms.
After originally excluding mention of opinion editor David Keene's ongoing relationship with the National Rifle Association in his most recent piece for the paper, the Washington Times quietly added the disclosure after being contacted by Media Matters.
In a September 29 commentary, Keene wrote about the fight over gun legislation in Colorado, echoing the NRA's own messaging in the state. Keene, a former NRA president and current board member, is, according to the Times' own standards, "free to write about the NRA in his personal weekly column as long as he discloses to the reader in that column his continuing role with the organization." But his ongoing relationship with the gun group was originally missing from the column.
At the bottom of the original commentary, which appeared online and was the top-billed opinion piece in the print edition of the conservative paper, the following note was appended: "David A. Keene is opinion editor of The Washington Times."
Media Matters contacted Times editor John Solomon to ask about the omission, only hearing back after the column had been updated to read: "David A. Keene is opinion editor of The Washington Times. He is a former president and current board member of the National Rifle Association." (Solomon responded that the version he was viewing "has his role as current board member.")
After Keene described participating in the crafting of the NRA's 2014 midterm election strategy in a February 2014 interview with The Washington Examiner, Media Matters investigative reporter Joe Strupp asked Solomon whether Keene's continuing role with the NRA created a conflict of interest on the Times' opinion page.
While acknowledging Keene's ongoing NRA role, Solomon said, "Our ethics rules allow an employee in special circumstances to hold an outside position, if it is pre-approved and the appropriate ethical steps are followed. That's the case with David Keene and his membership on the board of the NRA. We knew when we asked David to be our opinion editor that he would continue on the NRA board. We also knew that his role with the NRA was publicly and extensively known."
Among the "set of rules" that Keene is supposed to follow, Solomon said, "He is free to write about the NRA in his personal weekly column as long as he discloses to the reader in that column his continuing role with the organization."
The announcement that Eric Holder would resign as attorney general was met by renewed attacks on his tenure by conservative pundits, continuing a long tradition of ugly right-wing smears against President Obama's top law enforcer. Here is a selection of the worst villains that right-wing media have compared Holder to over the years:
In a June 5, 2013 fundraising email, Fox News contributor and former Republican Congressman Allen West claimed Holder was a "bigger threat to our Republic" than terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took control of al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden's death. West also suggested Holder was guilty of treason. On June 7, he appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss his smears with sympathetic co-host Brian Kilmeade.
On the January 10 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh called Holder a "Stalinist" for announcing that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages in Utah.
LIMBAUGH: Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States says that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriage in Utah for the purpose of federal benefits despite the Utah governor's directive not to, pending the Supreme Court's review of the state's ban. So the states, when you've got people like Holder and Obama in office, it doesn't matter what governors do, it doesn't matter what the people of the state want. What Holder and Obama want is what's going to happen. Holder does not have this kind of power or authority but he does if nobody's going to stop him or challenge him.
LIMBAUGH: You have the Attorney General engaging in executive actions, executive orders. Just as if Obama were to do it. Stalinists, folks.
National Review Online published an editorial on September 4, 2013 criticizing the Obama administration's blocking a Louisiana school voucher program. NRO compared Holder to George Wallace, the notorious Alabama governor who attempted to illegally maintain school segregation. From the editorial:
It was 50 years ago this June that George Wallace, the Democratic governor of Alabama, made his infamous "stand in the schoolhouse door" to prevent two black students from enrolling at an all-white school. His slogan was "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!"
These many years later, Democrats still are standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent black students from enjoying the educational benefits available to their white peers, this time in Louisiana instead of Alabama. Playing the Wallace role this time is Eric Holder, whose Justice Department is petitioning a U.S. district court to abolish a Louisiana school-choice program that helps students, most of them black, to exit failing government schools.
On the August 22 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros claimed in a discussion about the protests in Ferguson, MO that "Eric Holder is one of the biggest race-baiters in this entire country." She added that Holder runs the Department of Justice "like the Black Panthers would...allowing them to be outside that polling place was absolutely abominable" -- a reference to a favorite Fox smear that Holder improperly dismissed voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party.
Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent claimed Obama's decision to have Holder and Vice President Biden lead the administration's gun safety task force was akin to "hiring Jeffrey Dahmer to tell us how to take care of our children."
In 2011, Mike Vanderboegh, a blogger featured on Fox News, repeatedly posted a manipulated photograph of Eric Holder dressed in a Nazi uniform:
The Washington Times is continuing its shoddy reporting about the federal form for gun background checks by misleadingly claiming gun dealers will lose their licenses if buyers inadvertently make mistakes on the form.
In a September 18 article, the Times' Kelly Riddell reported on a minor change to the form in 2012, in which a question on race and ethnicity was separated into two boxes. Riddell wrote that the change "has become a headache for firearms dealers, as many people either check off one box or the other. Failure to complete them both results in [a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives] violation. When a firearm dealer gets audited by the ATF, one violation -- no matter how minor -- is enough reason to revoke a license."
In fact, the ATF can only revoke the license of gun dealers who commit "willful" violations of federal regulations, which in this case, would entail a seller knowingly processing the flawed form. A buyer's simple failure to "check off one box or the other" is insufficient for a license revocation, contrary to Riddell's description.
Two congressional Republicans are introducing legislation that advances the conservative media's false claim that the Obama administration recently started making gun buyers disclose their race and ethnicity
Reps. Ted Poe (TX) and Diane Black (TN) are proposing a bill that would change the federal form used for gun background checks by prohibiting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from asking about race or ethnicity on the form.
The conservative media falsehood started with a September 16 article by Washington Times reporter Kelly Riddell, who wrote that a 2012 revision to Form 4473 meant that "[t]he Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling."
In 2012, the ATF split question 10 into two parts. Now, instead of asking gun buyers to indicate their race or ethnicity from a series of choices, applicants must indicate their ethnicity and race separately:
This change is consistent with similar changes made on Census forms.
Other members of the conservative media took Riddell's claim about an Obama administration "policy change" at face value, asserting that being asked to disclose race and ethnicity on the background check form was somehow a new development.
If the press release from Poe and Black is any indication, the bill is directly premised on the conservative media falsehood. The September 18 release claims, in contradiction to publicly available evidence, "In 2012, the Obama Administration quietly began requiring the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to record firearms purchasers' race and ethnicity."
Right-wing outlets are claiming that the Obama administration is using the standard form for federal gun background checks to engage in "racial profiling" and to find out "who has guns" because the form asks about race and ethnicity. But the form has asked for this information since at least 2001, and identifying information is destroyed within hours of a background check being processed.
People who buy firearms from licensed dealers are required to fill out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' Form 4473, which is processed by the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The form asks buyers for information such as name, height, weight, date of birth, and race and ethnicity.
In a September 16 article, Washington Times reporter Kelly Riddell wrote that a 2012 revision of Form 4473 meant that "[t]he Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling." According to Riddell, the change was made by the ATF "[w]ith little fanfare."
The change in the 2012 revision is that race and ethnicity were separated into questions 10.a. and 10.b.:
Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple is raising questions about the Washington Times' relationship with the National Rifle Association after the paper ran a "Special Report" sponsored by the gun group featuring several articles from the Times' news coverage.
Wemple highlighted an August 27 "special pullout section" in the Times that was clearly "sponsored by the NRA" and featured disclaimers on each page explaining the pullout was "A Special Report Prepared by The Washington Times Advertising Department." Instead of being filled only with advertisements, the section featured past gun-related news stories from Times reporters Kelly Riddell, David Sherfinski, and Jessica Chasmar, which Wemple cites as evidence that the paper's news coverage "pleases the mighty gun lobby."
But when Wemple asked Times editor John Solomon whether the presence of news stories in "a special advertising section cross[es] some sacred journalistic trench," Solomon defended the paper by arguing that the articles had all "already been written."
Solomon also defended the paper from Wemple's suggestion that there might be a "risk" in the Times' behavior, since reporters may "be inclined to tilt their stories" to appease pro-gun advertisers:
Though Solomon says the stories piled up in the Washington Times archive in the course of normal journalistic business, isn't there a risk here? Once reporters see how the paper monetizes their work via pro-gun advertisers, won't they be inclined to tilt their stories in that direction? No again, says Solomon: "Writers never know, and it's no different thantomorrow waking up and seeing a Boeing ad in The Washington Post and having a defense story in the newspaper."
The Washington Times has long had a cozy relationship with the NRA. David Keene, who edits the paper's aggressively pro-NRA opinion page, is a former NRA president. In a move that sparked concern from journalism experts, Keene has continued to operate as a spokesman for the gun group and sit on its board while also serving as the Times opinion editor. Solomon told Media Matters this year that Keene's dual role avoids conflict since he "recuses himself from editing any pieces in his department that are focused on the NRA."
The Times has previously partnered with anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage for a June 2014 event. The paper's "Advocacy Department" put together a "Special Report" supplement for the event with articles from its news and opinion sections. The Times has long been a platform for virulent homophobia.
One year after San Antonio expanded its non-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBT people, opponents' predictions that the measure would curtail religious liberty and free speech haven't come true.
On September 5, 2013, San Antonio's city council voted to extend non-discrimination protections to LGBT residents in housing, employment, public accommodations, city contracts, and board appointments. The ordinance was approved despite a right-wing misinformation campaign propagated by local anti-LGBT activists and national conservative media, including Fox News, Glenn Beck, and The Washington Times.
Opponents of the ordinance asserted that the ordinance could ban Christians from holding public office or winning city contracts, imperil the free speech rights of conservative opponents of LGBT equality, or even impose "criminal penalties" on anti-LGBT business owners. Those claims persisted even though the ordinance explicitly protected against religious discrimination and despite the striking of language that had raised free speech concerns.
At the time, Councilman Diego Bernal, the sponsor of the expanded ordinance expressed dismay at the "ludicrous" misinformation spread about the ordinance, telling Equality Matters, "I've been taken aback by the amount of purposeful misinformation and I find that to be very harmful."
But a year after the expansion of San Antonio's non-discrimination ordinance, even an opponent of the measure admits that horror stories about threats to religious liberty haven't come true.
Throughout the debate over the ordinance, opponents insisted that prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people would result in anti-Christian persecution and harassment. One of those critics was Allan Parker, president of the San Antonio-based Christian legal group The Justice Foundation. Last September, Parker warned that the ordinance would be used to target Christians:
[Parker] said the ordinance is vague and unclear but he believes it can and will be used against Christians, especially those in the business world who disagree with unbiblical sexuality.
"The leverage of the city to pressure any business to caving in is enormous under this," he explained.
But one year later, even Parker admits the ordinance hasn't ushered in a wave of anti-Christian legal action. Only two complaints have even been filed under the ordinance - one from a transgender man who alleged he had been fired because of his gender identity and another from a lesbian couple who said they were asked to leave an ice house after sharing a kiss.
In a statement to Equality Matters, Parker suggested that the small number of complaints was due to the city allegedly refraining from enforcing the ordinance:
I believe because of the outcry against the ordinance, the City and the LGBT community have refrained from actively enforcing it. Their major goal of "stigma removal" and the "soft tyranny" of the threat of criminal prosecution has been achieved.
But as Bernal told Equality Matters, the existing ordinance included safeguards against religious discrimination even before LGBT protections were added.
"It's not intended to persecute any group," Bernal said. "It's crafted in such a way that protects everybody."
Deputy city attorney Veronica Zertuche told Equality Matters that her office hadn't fielded any complaints of discrimination against conservative Christians in the past year.
"The issue [of religious discrimination] has not arisen," Zertuche said.
San Antonio's experience isn't unusual. A 2012 study of local non-discrimination ordinances by UCLA's Williams Institute found "almost uniform compliance" with the ordinances, with no localities reporting spikes in frivolous litigation.
The Washington Times editorial board accused Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jason Carter of concealing his support for LGBT equality in order to win over the state's voters, ignoring Carter's own words offering his full-throated support for marriage equality and mounting evidence that gay rights are decreasingly a wedge issue with voters, even in traditionally conservative states like Georgia.
In an August 19 editorial, the Times alleged that when it comes to his opinion on "homosexual demands," Carter "dodges, weaves, and deflects, eager not to offend religiously conservative Georgia." Writing that Carter can't win his closely contested race against Republican Gov. Nathan Deal if he embraces "the full rainbow agenda," the Times asserted that Carter is hiding behind statements from his spokesman and supporters in the gay rights community:
Jason Carter wants to follow in his famous grandfather's footsteps. Mr. Carter, a Democrat, is running for governor of Georgia, a position Jimmy Carter held for a term before moving on to the White House. Jason Carter is willing to say pretty much whatever it takes to win. When someone asks his opinions on homosexual demands, he dodges, weaves and deflects, eager not to offend religiously conservative Georgia. But his gay supporters are saying it for him.
Georgia remains committed to traditional marriage. The left-leaning Public Policy Polling discovered last year that 6 of 10 Georgia voters want to keep the thousands-of-years-old definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. If Jason Carter yearns to come out in support of the full rainbow agenda, he knows better than to do it before the election.
The pro-homosexual website Project Q Atlanta doesn't like the sneaky approach, either. "Jason Carter collects gay cash, but stays mum on LGBT issues," the site noted earlier this month about a fundraiser held for Mr. Carter. The event, organized and hosted by homosexual activists, raised nearly $90,000 for the Carter campaign. Reporters were barred from the fundraiser, lest the secret leak.
One man's pragmatism is another man's dishonesty. Voters deserve to know, loud and clear, what they'll get if they put another Carter in the governor's mansion on Nov. 4. Gov. Nathan Deal, the Republican incumbent running for re-election, should pressure Mr. Carter to say unequivocally whether he would be prepared as governor to fully defend Georgia's state constitutional amendment, enacted by the people, that defines traditional marriage.
It's true, as the Times noted, that some gay rights activists in Georgia expressed unease with Carter's previous relative silence on LGBT issues during the campaign. But the Times conveniently omitted the fact that this month Carter addressed those concerns head-on, affirming his longstanding support for marriage equality. This, by the Times' standards, apparently constitutes "dodg[ing], weav[ing], and deflect[ing]" on marriage equality:
Conservative media are cherry-picking Hillary Clinton's recent praise of President Bush's work on HIV/AIDS relief in Africa to suggest she was embracing Bush's leadership and distancing herself from President Obama. But in the same interview Clinton issued a sharp rebuke of Bush's record and offered support for Obama's foreign policy initiatives.
On the July 27 edition of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS, Clinton briefly noted President Bush's work on HIV/AIDS relief in Africa, saying "whether you agree or disagree with a lot of what else he did -- and I disagree with a lot of it -- I am proud to be an American when I go to Sub-Saharan Africa and people say, I want to thank President Bush and the United States for, you know, helping us fight HIV/AIDS."
Right-wing media immediately fixated on the comment, misleadingly framing it as a rebuke of Obama. Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy called it a "shocking confession," asking if Clinton was "trying to distance herself from her former boss." Fox host Bret Baier agreed with Doocy, calling it a "subtle dig" and claiming she was "in essence, criticizing the current administration." The Washington Times concurred with the headline, "Hillary swats aside Obama."
But in the same CNN interview, Clinton issued a sharp criticism of Bush's foreign policy record while defending Obama administration initiatives.
On Iraq, Clinton said she had given President Bush "too much of the benefit of the doubt," and that his decisions had taught her "to be far more skeptical of what I'm told by presidents" (emphasis added):
CLINTON: I had worked closely with President Bush after the attack on 9/11. I supported his efforts to go after bin Laden and al Qaeda and, by extension, the Taliban, which were sheltering them in Afghanistan. And I, frankly, gave him too much of the benefit of the doubt. My view at the time -- and this is still true today -- is that the threat of force can often create conditions to resolve matters, and sometimes what we call coercive diplomacy is necessary. And I thought that that's what the president would do. It turned out not to be the case. And then following the invasion, the decisions that were made, everything from disbanding the military and disbanding, you know, the political structure turned out to be very ill-advised and we ended up with a dangerous situation, which then, you know, the Americans did not convince Maliki to allow a follow-on force that might have given us some ability to prevent Maliki from beginning to undermine the unity of Iraq.
She also stood by many of Obama's foreign policy choices. She noted that she supported the Obama administration negotiations with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which failed only after Maliki refused terms with the U.S. When asked if Obama was handling the current crisis in the Ukraine appropriately, Clinton noted that the president was facing "the same challenges that American presidents face when dealing with threats within Europe," and urged allies to fully participate with the president's efforts. And she defended the president from Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer's claim that Obama is not focusing enough on global issues (emphasis added):
ZAKARIA: Charles Krauthammer, a conservative critic, has said the world is going to hell and President Obama is playing golf. Is he playing too much golf while all these crises are popping up?
CLINTON: No. I think that's an unfair comment to make. I know from my own experience with the president where we work so closely together, and as I write in the book, you know, went from being adversaries to partners, to friends, that he is constantly working and thinking. But he also wants to do what will make a difference, not just perform. He wants to be sure that we know what the consequences, both intended and unintended are.
Moreover, contrary to the suggestion that praise for Bush's record on HIV/AIDS relief is an implicit and noteworthy criticism of Obama, Obama himself has also lauded Bush's work in Africa, saying he deserves "enormous credit." Obama told ABC News that AIDS relief was one of Bush's "crowning achievements ... Because of the commitment of the Bush administration and the American people, millions of people's lives have been saved." Former President Bill Clinton has also praised Bush's work in this area back in 2012, noting that the relief efforts "saved the lives of millions of people."
Right-wing media labeled the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to garnish the wages of polluters who have failed to pay their fines a "power grab," even though the agency is acting with authority granted to it by decades-old federal law that is already used by 30 other federal agencies.
On July 2, the EPA announced that it would implement a provision of the Debt Collection Improvement Act that would allow the agency to collect delinquent debts from polluters by garnishing their wages without first obtaining a court order. This law, which was approved by an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress and signed into law in 1996, is applicable not just to the EPA but all federal agencies. According to the text of the law and Department of the Treasury guidelines, all federal agencies who collect delinquent debts can "collect money from a debtor's disposable pay by means of administrative wage garnishment to satisfy delinquent nontax debt" without going to the courts first.
Right-wing media outlets like The Washington Times were quick to accuse the EPA of "flexing its regulatory muscle under President Obama" to "unilaterally garnish the paychecks of those accused of violating its rules," because the EPA's proposed rule would no longer require the agency to "obtain a court judgment before garnishing non-Federal wages." The Times framed the announcement as an EPA "power grab," even though the report later pointed out that "every federal agency has the authority to conduct administrative wage garnishment." Fox News was similarly outraged over the EPA's announcement, with Townhall.com news editor Katie Pavlich appearing on The Kelly File to claim that "the EPA now is acting as judge, jury, and executioner" by attempting to adopt the wage garnishment rule.
But Fox's senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, took it even further on the July 10 edition of Fox & Friends. Napolitano complained that the EPA did not have the authority to garnish wages without a court order because "Congress never authorized it. Congress couldn't authorize it. It blatantly violates the Constitution." Napolitano went on to claim that the EPA's proposed plan was "not legal" because the rule didn't protect debtors' "right to a hearing," and that it was "the president's people" who were behind the rule change:
The conservative media is falsely accusing JPMorgan Chase of giving its employees an "LGBT loyalty test" thanks to dishonest reporting by a number of anti-LGBT activists.
In a June 29 blog post, National Organization for Marriage (NOM) co-founder Robert George shared a message from an employee at JPMorgan Chase, who alleged that an internal employee survey had included a question asking employees to indicate whether they were any of the following:
1) A person with disabilities;
2) A person with children with disabilities;
3) A person with a spouse/domestic partner with disabilities;
4) A member of the LGBT community.
5) An ally of the LGBT community, but not personally identifying as LGBT.
George baselessly asserted that the survey was a warning to anti-LGBT employees:
The message to all employees is perfectly clear: You are expected to fall into line with the approved and required thinking. Nothing short of assent is acceptable. Silent dissent will no longer be permitted.
Breitbart.com's resident anti-LGBT extremist Austin Ruse picked the story up shortly thereafter, accusing Chase of giving its employees an "LGBT loyalty test":
Ruse also reported that a second source had confirmed the existence of the Chase survey after questions were raised about the authenticity of George's original report.
In a July 4 blog post for Crisis, Ruse brought his characteristic paranoia to bear, declaring that the workplace is now "hostile territory" for anti-gay conservatives and warning that "the dominant sexually correct mafia" was coming for their jobs:
A misleading Associated Press (AP) headline sparked a storm of right-wing media accusations that former IRS official Lois Lerner targeted Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for audit, though records only show that Lerner asked an expert a legal question about an event invitation sent to Grassley and the subject of her inquiry was unclear.
Right-wing media jumped to parrot a June 25 AP headline that claimed newly released emails show "IRS Official Sought Audit of GOP Senator." The Drudge Report linked to the AP story with the claim "IRS Lerner Targeted GOP Senator," the Daily Caller argued that newly discovered emails from Lerner show "the former IRS Exempt Organizations director's attempt to audit GOP Sen. Chuck," and The Washington Times claimed that Lerner "tried to get her agency to conduct an audit" of Grassley. On the June 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Steve Doocy said Lerner decided "I've got to target that guy, even though she didn't have any of the facts."
But as the actual AP article pointed out, the email exchange between Lerner and Giuliano does not support the claims forwarded in its own headline and by right-wing media. Lerner initially asked if an event organizer's offer to pay for Grassley's wife to attend an event warranted examination. Lerner mentioned the possibility that the offer was inappropriate but did not specify whether she was suggesting that Grassley should be examined:
Is this the one where we got the copy to Grassley? Did he get one to me? Looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to Exam?
Giuliano was similarly focused on the event host. He noted that that the invitation from the group was not enough to warrant sending the issue to the IRS Exam Department, because Grassley had not yet accepted the invitation, and said the issue would only warrant further investigation if Grassley later failed to report the offer as income. In her response, Lerner didn't indicate interest in pursuing the issue further.
MSNBC's Steve Benen summarized the exchange:
Behold, yesterday's blockbuster that set the right's hair on fire. Lerner questioned whether a group had done something wrong, talked to a colleague, and then dropped the whole thing.