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.
Right-wing media maligned Obama's economic policy initiatives announced during his State Of The Union address as both divisive class warfare and Santa Claus-style giveaways.
The Washington Times attacked a program started by the Bush administration, which offers free gun locks to veterans, by conspiratorially suggesting that the program could be used to create a gun registry.
In a January 6 article, Times White House correspondent Dave Boyer wrote that the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) offer of free gun locks is "raising concerns about a government-run gun registry" because a letter received by veterans asks them to return "their name, address and number of guns in the home" if they would like gun locks.
The article quoted an anonymous veteran who suggested that the letter could represent evidence of "a gun registry in disguise." The source also told the Times that he feared the letter would spark "rumors" that "Big Brother is going to take [veterans'] guns away."
The free gun lock program that the Times is fearmongering about started in 2008, during the administration of President George W. Bush, according to NPR. The program was modeled after Project ChildSafe, which is a project of the gun industry trade group National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). In 2009, the VA began to provide funding to NSSF, an ardent opponent of gun registries, to provide free gun locks to veterans.
According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "At least two studies have found that the risk of suicide increases in homes where guns are kept loaded and/or unlocked."
After the publication of this post, David Yontz, managing editor of Creators Syndicate, responded to Media Matters' request for comment about Carson.
Yontz said that though Fox News had cut ties with Carson, Creators will not make a decision until he officially announces his presidential plans.
"Given the Fox thing, I don't think we're concerned about that, but 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."
"It is on our radar, we are thinking of solutions once that does happen. As of right now we are going to keep syndicating the column until further notice."
Dr. Ben Carson was reportedly dropped as a Fox News contributor over his apparent plans to run for president. But that prospective 2016 bid, which has included a biographical documentary produced by his business manager, is apparently not enough for the Washington Times or Creators Syndicate to sever relations with the surgeon-turned-political commentator.
Fox News ended its contract with Carson last month shortly before the release of A Breath of Fresh Air, an hour-long documentary that aired on 37 television stations as a paid program in early November. The film was widely viewed as a way to boost Carson's profile for a 2016 Republican presidential bid.
Despite that, Carson is still listed as "founding publisher" on the masthead of the Times' digital magazine, American Currentsee. Creators Syndicate has also kept its arrangement with Carson, distributing his column to newspapers across the country, including the Times.
American Currentsee, which is targeted at "conservative blacks," is overseen by executive editor Armstrong Williams, who is also Carson's business manager and whose production company made the Carson documentary. The digital magazine, which is wildly supportive of Carson, often carries columns from both Carson and Williams. It recently devoted an entire issue to the topic, "Is Ben Carson in? How he could lead, how he could win."
Williams, whose own syndicated column is also carried by the Times, said Carson has not announced for president and until he does he has the right to write as he pleases.
"He's a syndicated columnist, he's not running for president, in fact I don't know anyone who has announced they are running for president, do you? Has anybody on the Democratic or Republican side that has announced for president," Williams said in a phone interview. "You know what, as his business manager, the last thing I want him to do is run for president. But you know what? That's the American way. If you are 35 years old and if you're a U.S. citizen you can make a decision to run and the American people can make a decision on whether you're the best candidate for this country or not."
Neither Creators, which syndicated Carson's most recent piece on December 3, nor The Washington Times have responded to requests for comment.
Williams claimed that the documentary that led to the termination of Carson's Fox News relationship should not affect Carson's Times connections or those he has with newspapers that run his column through Creators.
"That has to do with the fact that we aired a documentary that I produced and Fox News said it was a conflict with the contract and so we made a decision to air the documentary and they made a decision to cut ties. That was a business decision," he said about the Fox issue.
Right-wing media's outrage over President Obama's upcoming speech outlining plans to improve enforcement of the immigration system included accusations that Obama is engaging in "home-grown tyranny," calls for his impeachment, and even a Hitler comparison.
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.